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Priorities in a Time of Plague

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Devotional Thought of the Day:
31  “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32  These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33  Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
Matthew 6:31-33 (NLT2)

Raise magnificent buildings? Construct sumptuous palaces? Let others raise them. Let others construct them. Souls! Let us give life to souls—for those buildings and for those palaces! What fine dwellings are being prepared for us!

There is a balance to life, especially a religious life.

It is hard not to worry about the food we will eat this week or next.  It is hard not to see the pictures of the lines. It is hard not to try and make large plans, and make decisions that affect our people. It seems every other day that the government is changing what restrictions are out there, and foreseeing the impact on our people is hard.

As I get to work, my instinct is to lay aside my devotions, to get right to work. There is so much to do, so many people to talk to, care for, so many different things to consider, how do I have time for 30-45 minutes (or preferably 75-90 to catch my breath and remember I  dwell in God’s presence?

My devotional readings this morning were kind of bland.. which didn’t help. I didn’t see anything much to think through that was applicable to my day until I got to St. Josemaria.

Soul care!  What German Lutherans call seel-sorge – this is our calling as the church. Making sure our people are looking to God – realizing that even now, we still need ot seek Him, and lay our burdens down.  Then take the guidance He offers, and go about our lives, assured of His peace.

So I will let those who make the decisions, make the decisions.  I will care for those who come to me and go to the ones who are mine. I will point them to Jesus, and find ways to help.

God is with us, and the peace that news brings gives us the ability to live, and love those around us.

Seek Jesus first!

It will make a difference.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

We Need to Make the Time for the Miracle…

church at communion 2Devotional Thought for our Day:
“No, my lord,” Hannah replied. “I am a woman with a broken heart. I haven’t had any wine or beer; I’ve been pouring out my heart before the LORD. 16 Don’t think of me as a wicked woman; I’ve been praying from the depth of my anguish and resentment.”
17 Eli responded, “Go in peace,  and may the God of Israel grant the petition you’ve requested from Him.”   1 Samuel 1:15-18

Does our daily anxiety about life seem so important to us that we can find no time to look above it? There is the daily anxiety about food and lodging for ourselves and for those who are dear to us; our profession, our work; there is our responsibility for society in general, for its improvement, and that injustice may cease to exist in it so that all of us can eat our bread in peace and freedom. Does not all that seem so urgent that everything else seems of no consequence? And is that the whole problem? Today more and more individuals are of the opinion that religion is a waste of time, that only social action can make a significant contribution to man’s well-being. As a result, it will require a kind of miracle to make us let ourselves be lifted up to what is higher. But God be praised, such miracles do occur even today.

Christ as a light illumine and guide me.  Christ as a shield overshadow me. Christ under me; Christ over me; Christ beside me, on my left and on my right. 
This day Lord, be within and without me, lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Be in the heart of each to whom I speak, in the mouth of each that speaks to me.  This day be within and without me, lowly and meek, and yet all-powerful.  Christ as a light, Christ as a shield, Christ beside me, on my left and my right.

Joseph Ratzinger’s words this morning, written perhaps 20 years ago or more, ring so true today.  We see so many things that need to be done, so many things that need to be corrected, so many things that cause anxiety, so many things that have to be addressed, otherwise, we cannot find the time to eat our bread in peace, truly free. 

These things are so urgent that everything else seems. not to matter, not to be of importance.  Including our religion, our walking with God, our taking the time in prayer, to pour out our hearts like Hannah did.

Last night in our church service, I saw something I have long dreamed of and encouraged.  People staying at the communion rail, emptying themselves, even through the tears, finding the freedom that comes as we, having received the Body and Blood of Christ, find that we cannot leave until we have emptied ourselves until we are confident that God has heard us.

Do I like the fact that these people’s lives are so challenged, so anxious that they must look for comfort, for peace there at the rail?  No, but I do love that they have come to recognize that it is the place where miracles begin. Where they can unburden, where they can drop the stuff that oppresses them and find hope, where they can find the peace they need. 

We need to pray, we need to know what the ancient Celtic Christians reveled in, the presence of God in every moment of our lives.  God so intimately involved, so compassionate that He will bear our burdens, that He will help us cope with anxieties, (whether we know what we are anxious about or not) 

Prayer isn’t about duty, it isn’t just another task in our calendar, it is where we find the miracle of peace, where we are reminded He is there, where we can pour out our heart, and ask for the faith to leave the burdens behind. 

God is with you… prayer makes that truth come alive!!!!  

So take the time, see the miracle begin and lead in freedom and peace!  AMEN!

(and anytime you want to come and prayer… you are welcome too!)

Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.

from the daily office: morning prayer of Celtic Daily Prayer:  Book 2

Walking with God…..

Devotional Thought of the Day:DSCF1421

22  They came to Bethsaida, where some people brought a blind man to Jesus and begged him to touch him. 23  Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village. After spitting on the man’s eyes, Jesus placed his hands on him and asked him, “Can you see anything?” 24  The man looked up and said, “Yes, I can see people, but they look like trees walking around.” 25  Jesus again placed his hands on the man’s eyes. This time the man looked intently, his eyesight returned, and he saw everything clearly. Mark 8:22-25 (TEV)

212      Let us marvel at the lovable paradox of our Christian condition: it is our own wretchedness which leads us to seek refuge in God, to become “like unto God”. With him we can do all things.  (1)

15 years ago this month, I was a young pastor, at my first church a little over a year.  I was starting to crumble when a query about a church conference turned into an opportunity that changed my ministry career.  I was offered the chance to replace a pastor that had dropped out of an exclusive preaching program at what was called the Fuqua School of Christian Communication.  The Basic course was supposed to have 25 students, and one backed out.  It was held at the Crystal Cathedral, in conjunction with other seminaries who made it part of their DMin program. 

It required me to be videotaped during a short sermon, 15 minutes or so. 

Most of the other pastors were from churches of 350-1500.  Some were on television, some pastored famous churches.  I was pastoring a church in the desert, one many have given up on.  We would work 5 to 1 with some of the most famous preachers and christian communicators in the USA.  My mentor was Juan Carlos Ortiz. If you’ve never heard him, in English or Spanish, you should.  He is one of the most dynamic, deep preachers you will ever hear.  He had the first megachurch in his home country of Argentina, came to the USA and started a church for people speaking Spanish at the Crystal Cathedral.

As I watched him shred the first four pastors in my group, I became more and more fearful.  I was very stiff, monotoned and tried to stuff 45 minutes into 15.  I could anticipate every comment he would make, and already feeling overwhelmed by my “peers”, I was wondering if his advice would be similar to what I had heard before.  That I wasn’t cut our (some said I didn’t have the gift ) to be a preacher.

That’s not what Juan Carlos did.  After shredding (very politely constructively and with the skill and elan of a world class fencer ) the more renowned and skilled preachers, he focused only on a 75-second portion of my message.

There, I told the story of the picture above, although thirty-five plus years in the past. Instead of my son and I, I was the son, my dad beside me, on the same road along the shore of Lake Ossipee in Salem New Hampshire.  Then and still, this is the relationship we are to have with God, walking hand in hand down the road together.  Sharing the problems of life, our doubts, our joys, our anxieties. We would ask questions about this life that puzzle us,  Asking for help in making life right. (confession)   And sometimes, it is simply walking in silence.

It is this communion that is what the life of a Christian is to be.  It is how Jesus ministered to the blind man as well, taking him by the hand, and walking with Him.  It is as St Josemarie talked of, where our problems, our anxieties, our fears, our sins are the very thing that drives us to God in the first place. There. everything becomes right.

What Juan Carlos told me was to tell this story, the same way.  To get people to know the God who walks with them, as a father walking with his son.  If I did that, everything else would fall into place.

Today I took that walk with my son…. today, I thought back on that lesson… today, perhaps you need to get back on that road you used to walk with your Father in heaven.

It’s time – let’s all go for that walk….

Amen.

 

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 926-927). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

How Do I Survive the Dark Times

Devotional Thought of the Day:Concordia Lutheran Church - Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday
4  The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. 5  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. 6  God sent a man, John the Baptist, 7  to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. 8  John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. 9  The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. John 1:4-9 (NLT)

862         When darkness surrounds us and our soul is blind and restless, we have to go to the Light, like Bartimaeus. Repeat, shout, cry out ever more strongly, Domine, ut videam!—Lord, that I may see… And daylight will dawn upon you, and you will be able to enjoy the brightness He grants you.  (1)

When darkness hides His shining face, I’ll rest on his unending grace….. (2)


I’ll admit, even as a Christian there are times when darkness settles in, where my soul is restless, anxious, stressed.  Where the struggles of life get to me, and I can’t abide the stillness I need, the quiet I need to be able to listen, and hear the still small voice of God.  To be able to see through the blinding darkness, to be even able to see enough to fire off an emergency flare.

This world’s evil can do that to us, as can grief, as can unresolved brokeness, and unreconciled sin.  We live as aliens in this world, and it is a world that is plunged into darkness.

Because we have been in the light, these momentary (compared to eternity) moments scare us, frighten us, disorient us.  We don’t know how to deal with it, because we know life, the life we have been given in Christ.   This isn’t it.

Yet out of such times come hymns like “A Mighty Fortress”,  “It is Well”, “Amazing Grace”, “On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand”,  the great Psalms 8, 51, 139, modern praise lament music by people like Michael Card, Tori Hunter, and Casting Crowns. (Can anyone hear her?) All are written from insid e the darkness, even as the faint ligtht is seen, even as the cries we’ve poured out with all that is within us come to being.

We might recognize this on our days in the light, but it takes a trust that is well acquainted with God’s nature, that has experienced being pulled out of the darkmess to relax, to be still, to know that God is there, even when we can’t feel it, even when darkness is suffocating us. And even then, in those first moements when the storms crash, when the waves threaten, when darkness coalesces and gains strength, we can lose sight of who we know, and His history of rescuing us from sin, and Satan’s attacks, and the anxiety of death.

It is at that time we need to remember that we can cry out, that it is not a sign of surrendering to our problems, or the darkness, but a realization that only God’s light can penetrate it, only His light can alleiviate it.  Only His love can bring us the assurance that we are in His care.  The situation may not change, but His light, His promises, His word, His presence makes all the difference!

So we learn to wait, with expectation, with the knowledge that God’s plan will see you through the time.  Hear the voices of people sent to minister to you, to bring that light.  Be still, know He is God…. and that His light will indeed shine.

 

  • Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3533-3536). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
  • Lyrics to On Christ the Shining Rock

Stressed? Anxious? Worried? Simple Fix….Really

Devotional Thought of the Day:photo(35)

1  A pilgrim song: GOD, I’m not trying to rule the roost, I don’t want to be king of the mountain. I haven’t meddled where I have no business or fantasized grandiose plans. 2  I’ve kept my feet on the ground, I’ve cultivated a quiet heart. Like a baby content in its mother’s arms, my soul is a baby content. 3  Wait, Israel, for GOD. Wait with hope. Hope now; hope always! Psalm 131:1-3 (MSG)

 

Part of me hopes, as I read the verses from the Psalms above, that I would have learned this lesson by now.  That I would simply accept that God is in charge, that I would relax, that I would drop my anxieties, my fears, my worries at His feet.  It is not easy, but over the years, I’ve become better and better at it. Or so I thought.

Sunday was a time for a lesson in humility, as I was struck with a flu bug that caused me to end up in the ER. I had Sermon studies to write, because others depend on them. Worship services to plan, and annual report to write.  I have another couple of critical issues I thought I had to deal with, some people i care deeply about who are facing incredible trauma, one situation where someone in need was begging to talk to me in person, and I could barely stay awake.

And I had to lie there, in bed, like the proverbial child ( is pslamial a word?) and simply let God be God.

Peace didn’t come easily, or maybe it was the fever that caused me to toss and turn?  No, let’s be honest, it was trying to fix everything, or at least come up with a fix, or 22,538 possible fixes!

Two days in bed (okay the second was in my recliner – doing the sermon study and worship plans on my laptop) and finally, here on Wednesday, I am back in my office.

God’s worked out some of the issues, given me the peace to enable me to deal with another, and well, the others will be dealt with, as God enables.  Some will be long term struggles, some will be able to imitate the psalmist. I can only point to the fact that when we let God be God, He is… and when we try to play God, He still is, and will call us back to Him, waiting to heal us, waiting to show us mercy, waiting to hold us in His arms. Waiting to dance as His prodigal child again returns home.

The simple way to deal with stress, and anxiety and the worries of the world?

Be His…. oh wait – you are!  So remember you are His….

 

Sleepless Nights, Murphy’s Law and My Fatalism

Devotional Discussion of the Day,

It seems to be a common thing I am noticing on FaceBook, and on Words with Friends.  Many, many people up later at night, (at least 12 in the last couple of nights) looking for some interaction with others.

Of course, for me to notice this… yeah – pretty much I can be up that late as well.

Usually it is because I am trying to discern Mr. Murphy’s strategy to wreck my life.  How Mr. Murphy tries to twist me, those around me, and the situations I encounter – to assure that it will screw up royally, and my life won’t come up smelling like roses, but instead the stuff that makes roses grow beautifully.   How much of my life is determined to counter these things – how many ways will I either try to deny, argue, bargain, coerce life into being easy, or enjoyable or happy.    But in order to comprehend doing that, I have to plan for every variable, ever twist, every turn, every option, and my mind goes into high speed, and does not rest.

My usual tactic is to play a game on my phone – one which causes me to function at such a high level of thought – that I emotionally fall asleep and crash.  Or I put on my CPAP mask – and responding in a Pavlovian sense – my body overrides my mind and it shuts down. Sleep occurs – but the dreams don’t provide enough rest.

So where is our hope?  Where is our rest – where is the ability to stop doing what so many of us do, tossing and turning as our mind tries to play God.

Yeah – I said it – we try to play god.  Instead of creating gods in our own image, as the ancients have done for millenia, we just determine that we have to make all the decisions, we have to have all the answers, we have to be prepared for everything.  And when we can’t – we either become fatalism ( “Life a “b@*#&” and then you die” was the phrase in the 80’s.  “Life is pain your Highness” is how a very favorite movie stated it ).  I am a master of that – resigning myself to the ineventual mess ups that occur.  Or we rev – and rev and reve – trying to figure out how to beat this fatalistic ending we “know” is coming.

And we forget the option that is the simplest, and the most effective.  Read these words and realize what they mean:

6  So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. 7  Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. 1 Peter 5:6-7 (NLT

 3  Trust in the LORD and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. 4  Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires. 5  Commit everything you do to the LORD. Trust him, and he will help you. 6  He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun. 7  Be still in the presence of the LORD, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes.Psalm 37:3-7 (NLT)

Give your burdens to the LORD, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall. Psalm 55:22 (NLT)

As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God! 

Realize that God desires, wants you to depend on Him, it is the very relationship He created you to enjoy.

Let Him take over being God…. He’s got the wisdom, the experience, the power – and most of all – the love for you which uniquely qualifies Him for the job.

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