Thursday, October 29, 2009

Each Important; Each Insignificant

I like the description of us as being members of the Body of Christ. It emphasizes the importance of each of us – when considering what we are part of, and our uniqueness, and it also emphasizes the insignificance of each of us – when considering the size of the whole, and our role compared to others. I think we sometimes get confused, however, on this dual role, and overemphasize only our importance – both to Christ and to the other members of his body, and marginalize our insignificance.

I was reading a very good book recently, and the author was writing about Hope: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col 1:23-27). As I read along, I found myself interested and nodding in agreement with his thoughts. Suddenly, he transitioned to discussion about our “common calling” and our differing hopes, and what we must do together, for instance in Latin America “where hopes and social transformation are at stake”. What?! The topic went from me finding hope and my reason for being, into what WE must do to change a foreign society. Noticeably and importantly, the transition cited did not include mention of God, or his Church accompanying what WE must do. This gave me pause. I think the author had jumped from his primary topic to a separate issue on which he had some strong personal feelings. He couldn’t help himself -- or see what he had done. It’s a transition we all often make, to justify those strong feelings (and perhaps true God-given insights) we sometimes have. (We may be seeing something similar in political actions being put forth in our country today, what WE must do.)

I must be careful that the “I” of my life, my worth and my purpose to the degree that I have found it, does not excite me into a: “I’ve found the way; WE must go forth in faith.” No! It is still “I”. Others must find their own “I”; others must find their own path. My path will not be the same as theirs. My path is not the only one, nor perhaps the most important. A bit of humility is called for.

Jesus did not send the apostles out to change the world as an army, but as leaven, to change individual hearts in the world. Jesus speaks of his leaders as shepherds, and his followers as lambs. Mohammed is said to have espoused conquering the world for Allah, to force his kingdom. We need to remember the distinction.

Some of us burn with an anxiety: “The Lord has shown me the way”, and we want to share that way with others. I understand this, and I myself often want to act in a similar way. But if I act this way, I am wrong.

God calls and loves each of us uniquely. I am not you, and you are not me. My call, the purpose of my being is not yours, nor yours mine. To my understanding, I was not called to be a pastor, a leader of God’s flock. I am but one of the sheep. If I try to lead the whole flock based on some understanding of what I am called to be, I may lead others into danger – they may not be called to go where I go. As one who is called to be a pastor sins if he does not try to lead the flock, so I sin if I try to. This is not to say I live alone in the world, and that I don’t look out for the good of the flock; I am one of them. If I find some good grass, I’ll tell my neighbor: “Hey! Try this; I think it’s very good.” If I see a wolf sneaking around, I’ll say: “Look out! I feel there’s danger there.” And if I hear the Shepherd’s voice and the others don’t, I’ll try to describe it to them so they can hear it also – although describing someone else’s voice (especially God’s) is a very hard thing to do. But I’ll try; it is important. These are right and good things for me to do: I love my neighbor, my fellow sheep.

When I say (or write in this blog) that God has sometimes shown me some truth, let’s be clear. I search for Truth in this life, but there is truth, and there is Truth. When I think I find some truth of my being, or Truth of God’s being, I wish to share this with others. But the truth of my being may help others find good things or stay away from bad in their walk. Maybe. The Truth of God’s being, his voice, may help remind them of their destination and to hear his voice, and help them persevere.

Making you aware of what I think is important for me may turn out to be insignificant for you, because I am insignificant. Helping you be aware of what I think is important from God, is important for both of us, because TOGETHER WITH HIM, we are significant.

So don’t tell me of some great insight you have of how you must lead your life, and be disappointed if I don’t want to follow you. And I’ll try to act the same. And I’ll tell you of what great things he has done for me, and be happy for all the good things he has done for you, because you are my friends, and I care about you deeply. And perhaps, with God’s help, you may learn from me, and I from you.

So talk to me, anytime! I’m sure there’s much more I need to know.


Sometimes lessons jump right in front of us.

I was heading down the city street this morning when suddenly a small squirrel ran out into the road. I stopped to let him cross, and as I started ahead I said aloud: “Mr. Squirrel, are you having a bad day? That’s a parking lot you crossed to; there’s no food there.”

I went to the post office drop point, deposited my bill payments and went to return home. Arriving at the same point, I stopped again as the same squirrel ran across the 4-lane road from the parking lot towards the trees and grass on the other side. I said aloud: “See. I told you so.”

I guess the lesson is, from one point of view, that when things seem sparse where we are at, it doesn’t hurt us to go out and try new things, as long as we have confidence that someone is watching out for us and making sure we won’t get run over. I believe we do, and I trust in him. From another view point, I guess we should be accepting of those who ARE venturing out in search of greener grass, even if we know they’re heading to nothing but a parking lot. We don’t have to run them down to stop them; we don’t even have to talk to them to convince them not to go; we just have to be friends (and parents) and let them learn some things on their own, and to the degree possible, keep them from harm. And when they return to safety, not be compelled to say to them: “See, I told you so.”

You can say the words to yourself as I did this morning, satisfied in the knowledge that you did a good thing; you don’t have to prove it or seek accolades. Just act in love.

I think God watches over us like that.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

I Must Drive You Crazy

Orig 12/13/07

Thursday, December 13

Fear not, O worm Jacob, O maggot Israel; I will help you, says the Lord. - Isaiah 41:14

Yikes! Talk about tough love. It's strange how loyal and generous God is to his people while still not seeming very fond of them.

I think I know where God is coming from, though. I talk to my children this way sometimes (albeit under my breath). ""What can I do for you (you little monster)? Of course I'll help (problem child). What do you need (you big whiner). I guess we all have love-hate relationships, especially with the people closest to us. I love my daughters like crazy, but sometimes they drive me crazy. My husband does too. But they couldn't make me so nuts if I didn't love them so much.

I imagine that's how God feels about me sometimes. I know I do things that would make any good parent cringe. I'm sinful. I'm neglectful. I'm ambivalent. But if I exasperate or disappoint God, I guess it's only because God loves me enough to mind. I wonder what God would say about me under his breath.

God, I must drive you crazy. Thank you for loving me that much.

- Living Faith Magazine

Where Is Your Legacy?

Orig 11/29/07

Where is Your Legacy?

You... are a letter from Christ,... not on tablets of stone but on... human hearts. - 2Cor 3:3

We celebrated my parent's birthday by hosting a dinner for them with family and church members. During the reception, guests told how their lives had ben touched by the gospel as shared by my parents. It was a gospel, these friends said, that was revealed by my parents' love, compassion, and generosity much more than through mere words.

As I listened to the heartwarming, sometimes tearful, remarks, I thought how great a treasure it is for any of us to know we have impacted another life! When it comes to lifetime achievements, the ones that will endure will not be the financial or material accomplishements but the living memorials -- men, women, and children whose lives are better because of what we have done. Maybe we taught someone to read or showed a neighbor how to grow things. Maybe we held someone who was broken with grief; maybe we showed others how to laught at themselves. One way or another, we showed people our love. That's what the apostle Paul was saying to the Corinthians: you are my living legacy.

Where is your legacy? Will it be written only on a tombstone -- or on the hearts of men and women?

Lord Jesus, I want to leave a legacy that will not pass away. I want to lay up treasures in heaven where they will never become rusty.

Between Sundays Thursday, Week 26 - Shawn Craig

A Letter To Pastors

Orig 12/30/05

My Dear Fathers;

I presently am the “adopted” father of a teenage boy – he lives with me because of difficulties he had in his home. We sometimes have conversations about what has happened in his life, and what he thinks or hopes will happen in the future. From a human-success viewpoint, he has much potential, and from a faith viewpoint he has much underlying strength. As I read Morning Prayer this day, some of his words and thoughts of others spoken to me came to mind. And I feel compelled to share them with you.

“The saying ‘Know yourself’’ means therefore that we should recognize and acknowledge in ourselves the God who made us in his own image” were in the Morning Prayer. I believe we often acknowledge the God who is within us right at this moment and perhaps even feel Hope for the God promised to us, but fail to remember the God of our past. The building blocks which got us thus far in our journey to holiness are not merely a foundation in the past, they must be reflected upon and used in the present, or we shall run astray of the many temptations or despair of the present hour, and urges to trust our own wisdom that say: “come, this is the way”.

My “adopted”’ teen reflects sadly about how he used to attend a local teen program, which was cancelled. “It spoke to me in a way that I understood God”, he says. Not aware of it myself, I spoke to other parents, who voiced the same opinion that: “it was killed by the local parishes who forced the diocese to end it; I guess they were losing parishioners”. Your parishes. How sad if true: a program which feeds the flock is killed by the shepherds, in hopes of having more sheep. But whether true or not, it is the belief of many who had children in the program, those children who now fail to attend mass and whose parents despair.

Last night, I had a local parishioner complain to me of the lack of education, and outright fear by many about the tribunal process for divorced Catholics. She has a master’s in theology and is a licensed social worker in the state, and wondered aloud how she might start some type of education program. I picked up my church’s Sunday bulletin and read to her about a nearby talk being given on annulments by a tribunal judge. Her “WHAT!!!!!” echoed off my walls. “How can they get a tribunal judge to come out and talk, and we can’t get MENTION of annulments in our parishes?” We then read through the many other talks and support groups in the parish bulletin, from Job Seekers, to Theology of the Body, to converts, to Catholic Literature Reading and contemplative spirituality groups – along with the usual bible study groups. All supported and routinely meeting in parish facilities. Catholic-education focused groups. And a Discernment retreat article was next to the one asking for prayers for the many men from the church in formation for the priesthood. “Your parish is very blessed,” she said. But I think not.

I’ve been in and to your parishes throughout the past 35 years; I helped build some of them. And reflecting back, much makes me sad. There was much opportunity in the growth that occurred. And in some ways, I believe that opportunity squandered. Oh, I won’t deny that we have very big, beautiful churches in our community, tons of wonderful social programs – outreaches to the poor – the best that money can buy. And perhaps, for most of our parishioners that is the definition of a successful parish, a well-run Catholic church.

But is that the definition that should satisfy you?

Augustine had many wonderful sermons about the duty and burdens laid upon the shepherds of the flock. I myself would undoubtedly fail were I to be given such burdens. But God has chosen them for you. With this new year, and my humble reflection on weaknesses of the past, I would ask you to go back and read Augustine’s reflections. Read the words of Thomas a’Kempis on how we should be imitating Christ. Reflect on the examples I gave you of friends who are disappointed, your parishioners. Reflect on how you should be leading His flock.

It is not too late to become as we should be. I don’t judge, but reflect on what I see and hear. We are all challenged to grow in faith, throughout our lives. Challenge your flock. Get them to grow in their faith, not just works. Their and your performance isn’t just how much they donated last week, or how much debt remains on the parish books. It’s: How many men are in formation to the priesthood? How many women to religious life? How many teens choose Catholic high schools; how many choose Catholic colleges? What portion of your parish donations are tithed to the poor? How many parish baseball teams win not championships, but have a team which also counts wins as reaching out to those in need? How many adults attend Catholic education classes, and learn that contrary to the politically-correct teaching: “we have and must speak up for our rights”, but also that “we have and must live out our moral obligations”. How many study the catechism? How many went South to re-build Catholic colleges and high schools damaged by hurricane Katrina – the schools that receive no government aid for re-building? How often do we pray for our pope, our president, our soldiers and others who represent our country abroad? (Not as a prayer I recently heard for “those in church and government positions who live out the gospel” – implying we only pray for some of our leaders who believe as we do. So, do we not pray for the others?)

My dear fathers: I don’t know why I feel compelled to write this; I wish to get back to my prayers. I only wish to say: Don’t give up; GET up. Come let us be on our way; there is much work to be done. Don’t be parish administrators or cheer leaders; become leaders. Don’t become social leaders in your parish or among other churches in the area. Your main area of leadership should be in teaching the faith. Given that strong foundation, your flock will reach out to other churches, to other people in need. That is what you, by acting in persona Christi, will have taught them. Don’t give up that parishes must be closed for lack of priests – find them or educate them. Cardinal George has brought priests from Poland to his parishes. There are more than enough there, or Uganda or Brazil for our parishes. Any difficulties CAN be overcome. As a businessman, I know that the easiest solution is usually not the best. As a Catholic who looks to the example of Christ, surely you know and believe the same. Get up! Ask Christ to show you the path, and bless your work, then be on your way. Much is expected of you.

I pray for you always, that you may have the strength to bear the burdens given to you.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Sorrowful Mysteries

Sometimes when I think on the Sorrows of Jesus’ life, I confuse it with my own sorrows. But then I remember how he suffered but overcame it all, and why. And it gives me strength and comfort. And I know I am not alone.

The Sorrowful Mysteries

1. The Agony in the Garden
- I have pains now; but worse may come
- Can I accept God’s will? For me?
- Friends abandon me; no one cares; I seem all alone
- I’ll accept life’s sorrows for you, my God, for you
- I’ll choose to do your will
- Who will listen to my words? Who will remember?
- Who will walk with me?
- Who will abandon me?
- Good or bad, I am resigned. I will go on.
- My sorrows are nothing compared to yours

2. The Scourging at the Pillar
- The first pains, no more anticipation. Finally! I will do this
- Pain is a consolation; it takes my mind from what will come
- I understand now: my pains are so little
- Bad things just continue. Can I do this? Can WE do this?
- God help me! I feel alone, and hear no answer
- Continuing non-stop pain; continuing
- Rhythm develops. I can ignore this pain if I will it
- In my life the pain seems to constantly change; it is hard to ignore
- By myself I would give up, but you are there. I know that
- In my sorrow, My Jesus, I Trust In You

3. The Crowning With Thorns
- Why this torture? Few pain receptors in my head
- A deeper pain here: all my life’s seems in vain. No one pities; all laugh.
- Retirement? Usefulness? Alone; forgotten. What value all my work? All forget. Why did I exist?
- More. Any memory of me is ridiculed. Christ – King? Church – Salvation? Eternal life? Ha-ha! Why? No one understands my ‘why’
- Does it matter if I go on? Who benefits from my suffering? Should I abandon friends – as they do me?
- In my deepest pain: quiet. Alone; no one cares
- Father, I believe in You. But You are quiet.
- The sharp pain I can concentrate on, can accept. The quiet pain hurts more.
- All the accomplishments, all the lauds – gone.
- In my sorrow, My Jesus, I Trust In You

4. The Carrying of the Cross
- I’m strong, but I never expected this weight
- The heaviest weight is the loneliness
- Noise – but it is the quiet speaking even more loudly: “They don’t care”.
- I remember Peter’s betrayal. He is not here.
- My mother cares. Her sorrows hurt me more than mine
- I can only count on my mother’s love
- How often I fall; alone I cannot lift myself up
- Many cry, but only in pity, not love. I know the Father loves me
- I thank the Father for giving me friends, help for the journey
- I know I can go on. In my sorrow, My Jesus, I Trust In You.

5. The Crucifixion
- Few came; only the curious
- Curious, not firm, despite all my work? They doubt
- All my work? Will it be remembered?
- This is my agony. This I finally accept. For Love – I will to Love. Despite all, I will to Love
- I trust in You. My Father, I trust in You.
- They can mock me from all sides, it matters not.
- I can see death nearby, I welcome it
- I always had doubts, but they were in me, never in you, Father. Never you
- Glory and praise be to you, now and forever
- In my sorrow, I see the never ending Joy arrive. I trust in you.

Friday, October 23, 2009

For The Divorcing and Newly Divorced

One piece of advice I offer to any friend who has recently gone through a divorce is to turn off his emotions. If you thought your ex-spouse was the enemy, he is nothing compared to the enemy within if you cannot control it. You thought you experienced as much pain as you could bear – my friend, it’s just starting if you can’t WILL it to stop.

A divorce opens and re-opens many wounds. They cannot easily be healed during the divorce process. And once it is over, our bodies crave the healing. They want peace; they want understanding; they want joy; they want love. But while these are in need of healing, we very easily accept partial healing. Our emotions need TOTAL healing, but we easily accept physical healing, not considering the spiritual healing that is also necessary. Using our human senses, we want perceived healing, but we fail to use our spiritual senses to will, again, to GIVE healing. Our human bodies easily betray our spiritual will, and certainly our society encourages this – to take what you “deserve”, and to satisfy your every sensual craving. And our cravings after a divorce are immense. We NEED healing. And we want it now. And when something or someone provides a balm to our wounded emotions, there is simply no other way to describe it: it feels good.

But is it?

A person found dying in the desert can kill himself with too much water, joyfully drinking too quickly. A teenager who is the last of his friends to finally get a driver’s license can kill himself in his newfound joyful freedom – and inattention. And a divorced person seeking to heal his many, many wounds, can kill himself, too, through seeking to appease his natural longing for healing.

The simplest, wisest thing you can do as a newly divorced person is to will to turn off your emotions. All of them. Don’t be angry, don’t be irritated, don’t be sad. Don’t be happy, don’t be deliriously laughing, don’t be joyful. Don’t find undue peace with spiritual things. All these things are irritants or salves to your human emotions, but you need time to get your spiritual emotions healed to balance these physical ones. And spiritual growth, or healing, does not come quickly. I always recommend an arbitrary timeline of one year. Turn off your emotions for a year to allow them to heal. This doesn’t mean you should never be angry, irritated, sad, happy, joyful, or laugh, or should never pray to God. Besides being impossible to totally eliminate these emotions, it would make you impossible to be around. But what you can to is to eliminate relishing, dwelling in, and seeking to stoke these emotions – using them as a crutch to “feel” healed of your wounds. Or to somehow feel “justified” in your divorce.

As Christians, we know a divorce is a bad thing. In some cases it may be a necessary thing, but the bible says that in some cases so is cutting out our eye. It may be necessary, but it doesn’t make it a good end in itself. It is just a means, a painful one, which we are promised we will see happening throughout our lives if we follow Christ. We will know pain. But it is no more right for the early Christians to say martyrdom itself is evil than it is for us to say divorce is evil. It causes pain. And pain itself is not evil.

Seeking or accepting friends who will confirm our anger, irritation, or sadness helps heal our human egos – it’s not our fault, or it is totally justified. Seeking or accepting friends who bring us happiness, joy, or sexual release helps us forget our pains, not heal them – if I ignore them they will go away. Neither of these “healings” stokes our spiritual healing, which requires a focus which these distractions put to the deep recesses of our mind. It is very easy to forget or ignore God as we focus on healing ourselves without Him.

Speaking from personal experience, and that of friends, it can take many years to find spiritual healing if we seek or accept physical, sensual, comforts. We can eventually feel physically healed of a divorce, but most often the healing tears even deeper wounds in our spiritual being. For some, they never heal spiritually. I see the spiritually unhealed in friends who quickly bring new “daddies” or “mommies” into their children’s lives – or, worse, who introduce a new “friend” who will live with them. I see them in friends who live in bars, and are always asking me to stop for “one”’ after work. I see them in friends whose “reading” materials consist of pictures. I see them in friends who can’t seem to concentrate at work anymore, and go out for a smoke when they had never smoked before – I’m sad when they lose their jobs. I see them in friends who I never run into in church anymore. And for a few of them, they never seem to leave the church – they abandon the example of Christ as “a life too hard to follow” and think that like the holder of the oil-less lamp, the bridegroom will let them in anyway because of their good intentions. He won’t.

All these friends will tell me that they’ve gotten over their divorce and moved on. Life is good for them. They are “happy”.

All these are still my friends. I still see them. I am still there for them if they need me – anytime. But I am sad for them. Their divorce destroyed what I found to be so desirable in their friendship – they were truly, loving people. They not only accepted gifts, they gave them. Their lives were not focused on wanting things to make themselves happy; they were focused on giving to others, making them happy. Everything we do in our lives influences other people – no man is an island. The saying in our society about “I can do anything I want if I don’t hurt anyone else” is a lie, because our lives are not to be lived for ourselves and avoiding hurting anyone else, but to be lived with others and seeking to help them. For many of my friends, they helped me most by being truly loving people – their example gave me sustenance. They showed me they were truly living the life example of Christ, and I knew they were one with me. I was not alone.

Fortunately, I have many friends who are these examples for me. And it strengthens and grows me spiritually. It’s why I read the lives of the saints and spiritual writers, to find new friends like these. And I do find joy and peace in them – and in our participation in the life of Christ. And without my trying, I become an example and a source of peace for them.

If you are recently divorced, I would encourage you to decide to turn off your emotions for at least a year, and focus on a total healing of your pain. So when the cute guy smiles at you in the restaurant, when the friend wants to “comfort” you at the social gathering, and when you are alone and need “something to take away the pain”, accept the moment - but WILL to turn off the emotions. The smile doesn’t have to lead to a date; the momentary comfort does not have to lead to late night phone calls; the drink to help you sleep does not have to be a continuing “medicinal” aid. Dousing extra iodine on a wound doesn’t help it heal any faster. Time does. Covering up the wound and concentrating on other pleasures won’t help it heal at all. It needs attention, both physically and spiritually. Don’t give up. This is just one pain in your life; you will have others. But you will have joy also. Have faith. Seek to do what God made you to do, and trust the results and healing to Him. And trust in the everlasting joy and peace, and do not focus on seeking the short-term fix.

And I, my Christian friend, and your other friends are here for you, not as crutches, but as real friends. We wish you well. 2 Timothy 4:18

Thursday, October 22, 2009

What To Pray For

I’ve only been putting down words in this blog format for a few months, but already it seems some have forgotten why. I received a comment asking why I print words of others versus my own meanderings of mind. The words of others are not as simple to understand. (Let me tell you truthfully, I have had many men much wiser than I tell me they could not understand MY words.) The simple answer to the question posed, however, is that the words of others and mine are no different, at least to me.

Sometimes in my reading, or praying, or sometimes just in the quiet, “the light bulb goes on”, and I see clearly something which seemed vague or unimportant before. Surely you’ve had similar insights – suddenly, you understand something. I’ve mentioned before that the one thing I routinely pray for is Wisdom, both because I have so little of it for a start, and because I believe it to be the ultimate destination of my earthly journey – why I’m even here. I’m here to gain Wisdom. I pray to God for Wisdom because he IS Wisdom; he IS Truth. I want to know the truth, about everything.

I read the works of the great philosophers because they are also searchers for the truth. The saints were also. Sometimes it seems to me that God provides me some small smattering of truth, of wisdom, and I share it with you, even though I realize that my searching and the paths I take to find the truth may make my discoveries difficult for you to understand as I do – you are on a different path with your life, than I with mine. But we are both seeking the same destination, and so whatever I believe helps me may, perhaps, help you. I do care about you.

And so it shouldn’t really be something strange for you to understand that there are many others who have taken, and are taking even now, the journey we are on. The journey of life. While I appreciate God’s insights given to me, I recognize that he has given Wisdom to many others also and they, like I, have often written it down. While much of what they wrote is of little benefit to me, for the reasons I gave earlier, some things resonate as Truth with me as much as any Wisdom given me directly. So I share with you both what I perceive to be the most insightful words of others and my own pitiful thoughts.

I pray the Wisdom I am given, and find, will help us both have food for the journey.

And with that preface, I’ll share with you now some words I found in today’s readings on prayer. They seem to say an awful lot in a few words, and with some meditation on them I felt that I found yet another snippet of Truth, which I hope I can retain -- and share.

Power shines forth more perfectly in weakness. These words were written to prevent us from having too great an opinion of ourselves if our prayer is granted, when we are impatient in asking for something that it would be better not to receive; and to prevent us from being dejected, and distrustful of God’s mercy toward us, if our prayer is not granted, when we ask for something that would bring us greater affliction, or completely ruin us through the corrupting influence of prosperity. In these cases we do not know what it is right to ask for in prayer.

Therefore, if something happens that we did not pray for, we must have no doubt at all that what God wants is more expedient than what we wanted ourselves.
From a letter to Proba by Saint Augustine, bishop

Monday, October 19, 2009

Faith: Trust and Courage

Some days God seems to open my heart to new insights, showing me, perhaps, hope for the journey. Other days, he seems to remind me of the past, kind of like: “You think things are bad now? Let me remind you how bad they’ve been – and I was there for you then! And I will be here for you now.”

The words of today’s daily readings seemed to start with of the latter.

Put to death whatever in your nature is rooted in earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desires, and that lust which is idolatry. These are the sins which provoke God’s wrath. Your own conduct was once of this sort, when these sins were your very life.
You must put that aside now: all the anger and quick temper, the malice, the insults, the foul language. Stop lying to one another. What you have done is put aside your old self with its past deeds and put on a new man, one who grows in knowledge as he is formed anew in the image of his Creator.
Because you are God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with heartfelt mercy, with kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another; forgive whatever grievances you have against one another. Forgive as the Lord has forgiven you.
Col 3:1-17

When Jesus reproved the disciples for their “lack of faith”, he meant their lack of trust and courage. It started with Abraham; God challenged his trust. The beginning of faith is pure trust. God said to him “Go out of your father’s house into a land which I shall point out to you.” And later, God promised that his offspring would be as numerous as the sands on the seashore, but asked him to sacrifice his only son – and he was prepared to! That’s trust. That’s faith.

Trust takes courage. A friend gives you a present, and you say thank you even before you open it. “God has a way of putting time bombs into pretty packages. We know that from past experience.” Yet we say thanks for God’s gifts, even if “it might blow me to pieces. But even if it does, I trust that this is just what I need right now.” That’s trust all right. Growth in faith does not mean accumulation of beliefs. It means, rather, learning to make the basic gesture of faith in more and more difficult circumstances.
from Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer, by Br David Steindl-Rast

Sunday, October 18, 2009

I Was Running Late

I was running late. It started when mom’s caregiver arrived a few minutes later than usual, but I wasn’t concerned, as I headed out towards church and my regular midnight adoration time. I still had 30 minutes to make the 20 minute drive.

I thought I had time to stop at McDonald’s for my usual “wake-up” coffee. The car in front of me at the drive-up order site, however, seemed to have some difficulty deciding what to order, and kept changing their minds. I noticed the minutes were beginning to pass. When it finally moved up, there were 4 cars in line to the pickup window. More minutes passed. When I reached the payment window I considered asking the young lady there to just get my coffee, so I could get on the road faster. I didn’t have to ask; she very considerately volunteered, and I cut out of the pickup line and was finally on my way.

I missed the first light in town, but made the second, and thought I’d have no trouble arriving at church on time. Even the 5 cars in front of me, traveling at 40mph in the 45 zone didn’t trouble me too much; I knew they’d quickly turn off into one of the many housing tracts. But one didn’t.

When the speed limit increased to 55mph, it didn’t seem to affect the slow moving car in front of me, as it kept its 40 – 45mph pace. As we got out into the darkness and open spaces of the two-lane road, it curved and curved, and curved. No place to pass. The only thing passing, I noticed, was time. The car now close behind me, with its bright lights on also seemed anxious to go faster. But we didn’t. I drank my coffee and tried to not stare at the clock on the dash.

When we finally rounded one last curve, the car in front of me slowed to a stop. So did I. On the shoulder in front of us were parked cars with their lights on, and people walking nearby with flash lights. Steam came up from the radiator of a car which lay totally smashed, head-on, into a large tree. I saw no one moving inside.

The car in front slowly started forward again, as did I. Added help did not seem to be needed. The pokey driver in front, his mission seemingly done, turned off at the next crossroad. I sped up, hurrying to church. A few miles later, the emergency vehicles passed me, heading back to the wreck.

I arrived at church right on time but I think God would have understood if I were late, since I believed his angels may have my car from becoming the one smashed in the tree. I’ll never know what happened. A deer in the road? A car passing in the opposite direction suddenly in front of the vehicle as it came out of the curve? I gave thanks for being late, and prayed for the safety of those in the wreck.

I reflected on the 10 minutes I was delayed: the slow McDonald’s line, the long traffic light, the pokey driver, the endlessly-curving road. If I were ten minutes earlier, would that have been me coming out of that last curve, into a sudden, critical end to “my plans” for that night?

At that moment in church, I believed so.

Did someone perhaps lose his life in my place last night? Am I worth anyone dying for? Why would this possibly be? I don’t know, but I looked up at the monstrance and remembered that someone DID die for me, about 2000 years ago. And yet I still wonder, why would this possibly be? For me?

How many things are giving you anxiety because they’re not going as you would like? Late to a meeting? The baby crying? Burned dinner? No money for the mortgage this month? A child sick, or a parent dying? A lost job? Things we don’t want to happen; we had other plans.

One thing I’m sure we’ll never know, though, is how REALLY bad these things are, versus “our plans”. Perhaps these bad things are blessings, and are preventing something even worse from happening to us. We rarely see the wreck we avoided; being alive, we can’t see the death that – but for the grace of God – lay unavoidedly in our path.

Do not be anxious, and in all things give thanks. God IS good, even if sometimes that does not seem to be so.

Count your blessings, not your sorrows – for they may be blessings, too. Thank God for every day. Every day. Until that day you are safely with him forever.

Be safe, my friends.

At church, I later picked up a book and noticed its bookmark, a card a friend had given to me. It read: “I am a Roman Catholic. If I am injured, or if I am sick, please call a Catholic priest.”

I thought of the events earlier in the evening. I put it in my wallet.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Grace the Lord Willed for Martha

A further great grace is to feel neither trouble nor fear, nor anxiety, whether about your present state or about the future, as though you had become insensible to all things. For that is the fruit and the happy effect of your complete self-abandonment. As you have abandoned all to God, he takes all in his care, driving from your soul all trouble, fear, and anxiety. He deprives it of all sensibility to its own interests, leaving it sensible only to himself. This condition is the firm foundation of the completest security a soul can enjoy: this life has no greater happiness nor any surer sign of God’s goodwill.

Divine goodness does not refuse to grant you from time to time a few crumbs of consolation and of strength to help your weakness in those deserts which that goodness forces you to pass through.

You must not be surprised that your interior troubles have no effect upon your behavior towards your neighbor and that they do not diminish your patient equanimity or your kindheartedness during spiritual ordeals. Moreover, it is during spiritual ordeals that we are possibly more fit to help, console, relieve, and serve others.
Fr Jean-Pierre de Caussade, (d1751)


Orig 01/05/09

How often we pray “Lord, hear me”. What a silly prayer. Of course He hears us. In fact, He hears even the words we do not say – He reads our hearts. Rather than pray for Him to hear our words, better that we pray to hear HIS words. For we concentrate on him hearing us, and so little on our hearing him. We need a conversation with God, and so we need to listen. For what He has to say to us is so much more important than our words to Him. Listen!!

The problem is that we find if difficult to be humble. We are so focused on ourselves, our needs, our wants. Why not ask Him what HE wants? Why He created us? For what purpose we were put here? Now, at this time?

There is a play written in the 60’s titled “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead”. The two main characters of R&G were minor characters in the play Hamlet, who were killed in that play for no reason they understood. In R&G, the opening scene showed one of the characters finding a coin, and flipping it while talking with the other. “That’s 50 times in a row now that it’s come up heads; that’s most curious”. The other character takes the coin, checks both sides, and hands it back. As they continue, they talk about fate, and what has happened in their life. And the coin flipping and counting continues: 51, 52, 53.

I have some good Christian friends who say they believe in miracles: Christ’s resurrection, the blind made to see, the miracle of the feed of 5000 with 12 loaves of bread. Yet they flock to any preacher, any book, or any movie which says it didn’t happen that way -- there is a reasonable explanation. If you discuss the movie with them, they’ll agree “Of course, I know the movie is fiction; I believe God works miracles … but maybe …”

Faith means believing without seeing. Even though I didn’t see Christ rise from the dead, I believe He did. Even though I didn’t witness the Nazi’s slaughtering of millions of Jews, I believe they did. It’s not too difficult, however, to find people who don’t believe in either event. Why?

Do you believe in miracles? Really? Or are you like some of my friends, who believe … but … are open to hearing alternative explanations. They will look into things contrary to their “faith”, seeking support for the most bizarre explanations, but not look at their “faith” with the same interest. They’ll read books about how Martians might have murdered Jews in WWII, but not go to look at the death camps, the lists of names, the pictures, the witnesses’ books. They’ll believe that Jesus’ rise from death “might” really have been faked, because a movie said so, but not read the words of many historical documents of those who say not that it might have happened, but they saw, they spoke with those who saw, and who believed so much that they died willingly to proclaim it happened. I wonder how many movie or book writers would willingly die in support of what they say “might have happened”?

So what of our faith, in Jesus then and now, and in miracles then and now? Jesus’ miracles then stoked the flames of faith, that people might believe and believe stronger. Many of his miracles were worked on people who said “I believe”, and who asked. He said if you ask with faith, you could move mountains. Do you believe in miracles today? What would it take for you to REALLY believe in Jesus and His promises? How many wonderful things must happen in your life for you to say “I believe”? Or are you like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who see 50 coin flips of “heads” and say: “That’s most curious”.

I know some people who would look at 5 coin flips in a row of “heads” and proclaim it’s a miracle, and I know of some, sadly, who would look at 50 thousand flips of “heads” in a row and say: “Well, it’s just the odds; somewhere else the odds are someone is flipping 50 thousand “tails” in a row”. These same people believe there really “might” be an alternative universe where an infinite number of monkeys are now sitting at an infinite number of typewriters typing out all the works of Shakespeare. No matter how bizarre, they’ll accept anything which can be explained by natural reason, natural senses, before they’ll accept God or miracles of His love in our lives.

How sad.

They’ll accept the possibility of infinite universes of dumb monkeys before they’ll accept one spiritual universe of a living, loving God. How weak is their faith, how limited their reasoning, how alone they must feel.

The Didache

Orig: 10/29/07

The so-called Didache of the apostles, a book that dates from about 90 or 100 A.D., records a tradition that had long been accepted as a matter of course: "Assemble together on the Lord's Day, break bread, and give thanks, having first confessed your sins to that your offering will be pure" (Did 14:1). We can be certain of this, then: it is not the role of the Church or of any individual CHristian to decide whether or when we should celebrate the divine liturgy or what we should decide to do with our Sunday. Someone may object: But I dislike the bad air in the church and the worn-out hymns. It bothers me to kneel crowded together will all kinds of people whom I do not know and to hear the priest recite prayers that I cannot understand. I prefer to go up into the mountains, or into the woods, or on the water, and I am more pious in God's free nature than in a congregation that has nothing to offer me. IN reply one might say: It cannot be that we choose for ourselves whether or how we shall worship God: what is important is that we respond to him in the place where he gives himself to us. We cannot decide on our own terms where GOd is to meet us, and we should not strive to reach him by our own efforts. HE can come to us and let us find him wherever he chooses. WHat matters is not just some pious feling of ours that relegates religion to the realm of the nonobligatory and private but the obedience that hears GOd's call and accepts it. The Lord does not want our private feelings; he wants to form us into a community and to build the new community of the Church on faith. The body must share in the divine worship as must the community wih its hardships and discomforts. That is why it is false to ask: "What do I get out of this?"

Co-Workers of the Truth Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Hey! Can I Hitch A Ride to Heaven?

Sorry! As much as I might want to, I cannot get you into heaven. As much as you might want to get me there, you cannot make me go. I think of these thoughts when I reflect on the command to Love My Neighbor. How should I do that? And perhaps more importantly: why?

Is it for his sake that I am to love him? Well, certainly from an earthly point of view, yes. For his earthly needs, I give him love in the form of food, shelter, and clothing – his “basic needs”. These are on Maslov’s hierarchy of human needs, but Maslov doesn’t include heaven on his chart. Heaven is a spiritual need; I cannot “give” it to anyone. It is not mine to give. So, on the more important spiritual level, why do I love my neighbor?

The primary reason I choose to love my neighbor is, for most of us, for me. It is part of my working out my way to heaven, following the commandment to love my neighbor. “My working”, those are key words. I can’t delegate this task; it is for me to work out. You can’t do it for me. Certainly you can pray for God’s graces and mercy for me, and I for you, and this is a good thing, but you can’t give me heaven, nor I you.

But perhaps you might say, that you know the commandments and for my sake you think you can literally force God to let me into his kingdom. Right after I confess my sins, or do some great deed, what if you choose to kill me – won’t that assure me of dying in good grace and heaven? The answer is no, it won’t. You cannot gain me heaven by any of your actions, and by killing me you might DENY me the possibility of gaining heaven, since I could no longer work to accept this long-awaited gift myself. Despite your good intention, killing me doesn’t satisfy my obligations in this life, and it ends my possibility of fulfilling them. You cannot, by your actions “buy” me into heaven.

This reflection also goes through my mind as I see the current debates about the role of government here in my country. There are many who say: “Look at the poor; look at the weak; look at the untreated sick! Surely the government must help! This is a good thing!” They recognize the government’s money comes from them (or from others “who have too much”), and they want to willingly give it to the government to distribute “to love my neighbor”. Isn’t that a good thing?

I think not. It is trying to buy earthly needs for my neighbor, certainly a good thing, but it will not buy him (or us) heaven. And like the killing of a person to gain him heaven, our forcing of a remote, unloving charity upon him (through government), fulfilling needs that are his (and ours) to work out, may be killing his opportunity to work out his salvation – and perhaps by this “paying of the government to love our neighbor”, perhaps it is killing our heavenly opportunities also.

What should we be striving to use our government for? Would it be an ideal thing if everyone worked and received no wages, but all their wages were used to pay for anything earthly they or others might need? No one hungers; no one needs shelter; no one needs clothing – all is given by the government.

Perhaps you might read something of Catholic teachings in this area: “The principle of subsidiarity is opposed to all forms of collectivism. It sets limits for state intervention. It aims at harmonizing the relationships between individuals and societies.” (CCC 1885)

Or would the ideal be exampled in the streets of Calcutta? The poor dying in the gutters, many starving, having no food or no shelter, and seemingly no one caring?
In my opinion, the example of Calcutta is better for me to get to heaven, and better for the poor and dying, than the example of the government doing all. Jesus commanded that WE love our neighbor, not that we pay someone else to, nor even form some commune in which we would all love and share together. He points to our actions and obligations.

Without a Calcutta example, there would be not Teresa of Calcutta, and her individual sisters. Without the dispossessed lepers of Molokai, there would be no Damien. Without any earthly needs of ourselves or others, how many of us would feel a need for God, or for heaven? We’d think it is here right now.

Heaven is not here, my friends. No matter how well off you are financially, no matter how happy with your job, your marriage, or your children, this is not heaven. You cannot buy it for yourself or others. We each, individually, work our way there, through how we live out our lives. You cannot force me there, nor I you. It is a gift promised to us, if WE accept it.

And regardless how bad our earthly life is for us now, or perhaps even how “heavenly” it is for us now, “eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.” (2Cor 2:9) Let us show our love for him by OUR actions, not those we bid someone else to do.

I look forward to meeting you there.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Lord, I Am Not Worthy

Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” (Gen12:7)
Lord, I am not worthy.

God called to him … “Moses, Moses! … Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring forth my people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.” (Ex 3:4,10)
Lord, I am not worthy.

The Lord came to Nathan, “Go and tell my servant David, … I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son.” (2Sm 7: 5, 12-14)
Lord, I am not worthy.

Do not be afraid, Mary, … you will conceive in you womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High.” (Lk 1:30-32)
Lord, I am not worthy.

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. (Mt 1:18)
Lord, I am not worthy.

Take, eat; this is my body. (Mt 26:26)
Lord, I am not worthy.

None WERE worthy; all were called to greatness. So are you.

What call is God making to you that you don’t feel worthy of? What big thing does he seem to be asking of you? All these others in scripture were told of great things being expected of them. Don’t you think they were afraid and felt unworthy?

Despite these great things he asked of them, these men and women were given the strength to answer the call – and even more. Abram accepted an order to kill his only son. Moses walked in on the most powerful man in the world, and told him what to do. David faced Goliath. A young, pregnant Mary faced her neighbors. Peter said he loved Jesus three times, and meant it, even to his death.

How many unknown people in history have accepted a call which resulted in great things being accomplished, despite their fears of pain, ridicule, and of being unworthy?

How is God calling you to bear witness now? What great and difficult thing is he asking of you? What pain is he asking you to bear? It’s OK to be afraid; it’s OK to ask for help, even “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass”. But if this call, this challenge is handed to you, stand tall. He will give you the strength to answer the call.
Lord, I am not worthy, but only say the word, and I shall be healed.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Easy Road

Enter through the narrow gate, for the gate is wide and the road easy that leads to destruction. Matt 7:13

As I received communion, I pondered this, and was disturbed. “Lord, let no one walk this wide path to hell, but, please, guide all to the eternity you prepare for us, you PROMISED for us.”

Then I saw this truth. The path to heaven is narrow, but there are no limits on how many may pass. I just assumed a limit. It’s a narrow path, so we need to tread slowly and carefully, but many can walk this path. (Work out your salvation with fear and trembling. Phil 2:12) In fact, if we all hold on to each other’s hands, being responsible for helping one another, the path really is safe. And easy. And together we can find joy in the journey.


And if we still feel weak, and look down at the deep caverns below us, and litterly become too terrified to move, all we need to do is call out. The one who told us to follow this path, and said: “Trust me”, won’t abandon us. He himself will take our hand and lead us safely.

“The more we confidently entrust the future to God, without trying know it or master it, the more secure and peaceful we are.” - Called To Life (p15) by Jacques Philippe

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Do I Have A Vocation to Religious Life?

I visited another city and went to mass. This is an excerpt from a letter I later wrote to the pastor of that church:

Orig: 10/16/04

A few years back I attended a weekend conference at Notre Dame, and saw something I will never forget for the rest of my life. Over 3,000 people attended the conference, and as was typical at such events there were booksellers, etc. galore. Looking at their wares on the Saturday morning, I saw a small display from a monastery in Wisconsin asking people to sign up to attend a weekend focused on vocation discernment. Not surprisingly, there were only 2 names on the list. What was surprising were the events that followed. That afternoon a priest gave a talk about Faith—as you did. At the end, he asked those who had at one time thought about religious life, but had never done anything about it to raise their hand. A few dozen were raised. But then he did something surprising. He said, “That’s not good enough. I want you to commit here and now that you WILL do something about that small calling you heard. I want you to walk down here to this stage, and make a commitment to these gathered people, and to God, that you WILL take the time to seriously ask Him: ‘Are you calling me to a religious vocation?’” With further prodding, a few began to walk down to the stage, but THEN, to my great surprise, a veritable flood of people began walking forward. Well over 300 people jammed the front of the auditorium, prayed, and pledged to God to investigate His call. To be honest, despite my shock, I doubted they’d follow through with their commitment. I know human weaknesses.

The next morning, wandering through the booksellers outside the auditorium, I again passed the Wisconsin monastery display. “How’s things going”, I asked. The man behind the display said: “If you want to sign up for the vocation discernment weekend, we cut off at our 120 limit, but we have 50 names on a list, and as soon as we can arrange for another weekend, we’ll give you a call”. I don’t think I answered him. I just walked away stunned! All the speaker did was sincerely ask, and hundreds came forward and took concrete actions to discern if they had a vocation. I thought I know how humans would react. I learned how just little faith I had.

Last Sunday, you delivered a homily on Faith, then announced a meeting of laity on what to do about priest shortages. So I assume you know that to be an inevitable fact, and you must do something about it. You spoke of Faith, then demonstrated so little of it. I don’t pretend to have definitive answers to what is happening to vocations in this country; everyone has their ideas. What I do have is some talents that God has blessed me with, a strong business acumen, and a very tiny amount of Wisdom, inspired by His Holy Spirit. I have seen what a little preparation, a heartfelt sermon, and a sincere asking of individuals can accomplish towards an increase in vocations. I have seen dioceses where vocations far outstrip the size of the diocese – in business I know to learn from and benchmark others’ successes. And I have learned how little I really know of God’s plans, and how much I can trust in His promises. I have grown in Faith, because I have seen its results.

Father, remember “Ask and ye shall receive”? Ask. Ask God; ask youth; ask your parish members – old and young: “Is God calling you?” I have seen it work.

Have Faith. He said His church will not pass away. Don’t assume Him wrong, but assume Him right – even if you can’t see how it will happen. Spread that type of Faith, as you so eloquently did (in your homily)last Sunday. There is no one at my employer so tightly bound by logic, reason, and facts to be used in making decisions than myself. But I still have Faith. If you must seek solutions, seek them in line with your Faith – God gave you opportunities to speak for more vocations; he gave you example of others who might show you His ways; he gave you a sister parish which might supply you with priests should you become short. Cardinal George in Chicago is actively bringing priests to his archdiocese from overseas.

Ask. Trust. He will be with you always, to the end of time.

Wishing you blessings in all your endeavors,

In my parish there are now 22 men in study for the priesthood and/or religious orders.

"The number of priests has grown steadily from 2000 to 2006".
Source: The Pontifical Yearbook, as quoted on, 2/29/08

When God's Voice is Unreasonable

Orig: 10/24/07

Go, Sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her. -- Genesis 16:2

God made Abraham a promise: "'Look up at the heavens and count the stars -- if indeed you can count them.' Then he said to him, 'So shall your offspring be'" (Genesis 15:5). "Abraham, I will make of you a great nation. Your offspring shall be as the sands of the sea" (Genesis 12:2 and 22:17). For a while Abraham believed. But eventually the facts of life set in, and Abraham started to think, I am an old man. Perhaps God wants me to do something to make things happen.

You know the rest of the story -- how Abraham heeded his wife's advice and fathered a son by her servant Hagar. Today when we see the strife between Israel and the Arab nations, we are seeing the result of Abraham's impatience, the emnity between Hagar's son Ishmael and Sarah's son, Isaac. Thousands of years later the world still pays a price because one man lost hope for a moment and yielded to the voice of reason instead of to the voice of God. Let's face it, God's ways often do not make sense to our earthly minds. It just didn't make any sense for God to wait until Abraham was in his nineties to make the kind of promise to him that he made. But we need to let God be God!

Father, I know your timing is perfect. Give me an undivided heart to wait for your promise without wavering.

Living Faith -- Daily Devotional

(Of course we also thought that this is a prime example of what happens when you listen to a woman ..... :-) )

Friday, October 9, 2009

Extra! Extra! Read All About It!

News is things we do not know, things “new” – things which interest us because they might affect our lives. News is also the unusual, the curiosity. And in this category, unfortunately, what is almost always reported are things which are unusually BAD. And this type of reporting has been shown to be, in itself, “bad news”.

In our lifetimes, this country has had a deterioration of morality, of virtue. And the unusual things being reported as news have had a role in this decline. Unusual bad things – murder, rape, theft, and public adultery -- when constantly, daily, almost endlessly reported, gradually become NOT unusual. They become the norm. They become talked about on radio, acted out on television. We come to think of them as behavior we could easily see ourselves imitating – and many do.

And our family, our neighborhood, our church, and our country suffer for it. And so do each and every one of us. Non-stop reporting bad things had led to many people doing bad things. Even us.

Reporting of unusual things, the satisfying of human curiosity is not wrong in itself. What has proved to be wrong is reporting ONLY unusually bad things. Highlighting, going into deep detail WHY people choose bad things; justifying their wrongs via a form of empathy, sympathy, making us understand why people do these wrong things. It leads us to justify evils as “not that bad”, or not bad if there were some intended good outcomes from them. These relativistic views, promoted by the news, have dimmed our awareness that some things are inherently bad, and some are inherently good. We’ve come to view the laws of God as something we can judge to not apply some times, but they are not our laws, and we are not the judge. And we seem to have forgotten the admonishment not to do so.

You know, there are many unusual good things happening in the world. With bad now becoming the norm, and not so unusual, will we see then more detailed news reports of unusually good things? People who stand up against the bad, who make hard choices to be good? Will we see reports of why they choose to be good, so that we can have empathy and sympathy with them – and, perhaps, justify our becoming good also?

Will we ever see a newspaper with an emphasis on reporting good news? We can only hope – and pray.

We have written here only of the influence of news which we read, but what of our lives, our actions? Our lives are not meant to be lived watching and reading about others. We were told to go out and proclaim the Good News. We were shown how to live our lives to proclaim it by our actions, by the man who has had more written about him than anyone else who has ever lived.

You are to the example of Christ in the world today. YOU are the news. You are to proclaim his love by showing yours. By your actions, you are to BE the Good News that others can see – and perhaps, God willing, read about. But even if not, then be the Good News that others don’t have to read about, because you touch their lives. Love your neighbor as yourself; it’s a start of virtue others can see. It’s a start for changing the morality of our country. The apostles started out in a country which didn’t believe the things as they did, but they showed them, they lived lives that other people talked about, and changed the world.

That is the example, the Good News has given to us, for he touched our lives that we might touch others. Things seem bad in our country, but they can change. Do not be anxious!

Extra! Extra! Read all about … the Good News!

It starts with us.

Read and Think

Some things take more than one reading to understand:

I willingly boast of my weakness, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I am content with weakness, with mistreatment, with distress, with persecution and difficulties, for the sake of Christ; for when I am powerless, it is then that I am strong.
2Cor 12:9-10

I willingly boast of my weakness, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I am content with weakness, with mistreatment, with distress, with persecution and difficulties, for the sake of Christ; for when I am powerless, it is then that I am strong.

I willingly boast of my weakness, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I am content with weakness, with mistreatment, with distress, with persecution and difficulties, for the sake of Christ; for when I am powerless, it is then that I am strong.

I willingly boast of my weakness, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I am content with weakness, with mistreatment, with distress, with persecution and difficulties, for the sake of Christ; for when I am powerless, it is then that I am strong.

It is then that I am strong.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Cancer -- Oh No!!

Your mom is getting on in years. Her coordination is getting worse: she shouldn’t be driving! Her hearing is getting worse: she won’t get a hearing aid! She repeats herself so often: doesn’t she know how annoying that is!

She was diagnosed with cancer: Can’t she arrange her chemo appointments to consider my work schedule?

I understand. I’ve been there. Now you need to understand.

My mom has lived longer than I ever expected. My time with her has proven to be a blessing – for ME. I’ve learned to use this time well – to appreciate what a blessing she was in my life. To appreciate what a blessing she IS in my life.

You need to learn.

This time you are given with your mom is a blessing. She could have died in a car crash. She could have died in bed of a heart attack. I think we sometimes believe this quick death would be a blessing for them – and perhaps it would. But it would be a tragedy for us, one we might never recover from, an opportunity to make ourselves, our lives, better.

If you have time with an aging, dying parent, spouse, or child, it is a blessing – for YOU! Don’t waste the time in anger, in bitterness. Accept the blessing, and thank God for the time YOU were given.

Cancer of a loved one may not seem to be a blessing for them. God, in his wisdom and will, however, may be using it as a blessing for YOU. This may not be really about them; it may be about YOU!

Give thanks.

What Should I Do?

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace

There is so much wrong: in our government, in our community, in our church. I want to tell everyone what I think is wrong with THEM, to sit down and discuss facts and reach some reasoned consensus. I want to tell others why THOSE people are wrong, and gain support for my ideas. I want to make something happen.

I think and pray about what I want to do, and what I can do. I think about the balancing between my will, and God’s. I think about the gifts he has given me, and his expectation that I will use them. To those who are given more, more will be expected of them. I think about the underpinning of my faith: Trust in God. But where is the balance between me doing things and me trusting in HIM to do things? Where is the balance between me pointing out others’ wrongs, Admonish the sinner, and me judging: Judge not, lest ye be judged?

And what of the things I believe should be done, but I can’t do them? How much faith do I put in leaders who are in a position to do things: How much do I support them; how much do I admonish them? In my smallness, what should I do?

Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice (Mt 23:3)

I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be offered for all men, especially for kings and those in authority, that we may be able to lead undisturbed and tranquil lives in perfect piety and dignity. 2Tim 2:1

“Reprove yourself if ever the devil or your own short-sightedness should do you the disservice of making you want to force all my servants to walk by the same path you yourself follow, for this would be contrary to the teaching given you by my Truth.” (104) “Even when they see something that is clearly sinful they do not pass judgment, but rather feel a holy and genuine compassion, praying for the sinner and saying with perfect humility, ‘Today it is your turn; tomorrow it will be mine unless divine grace holds me up.’” (100)
-The Dialogue of Catherine of Siena

It is hard for me to not speak out: “I’m right! Listen to me!” It’s hard to not speak bluntly of sins I see. It’s hard to pray for others, especially some of our “leaders”, trusting that it is for God to judge, not me.

It is hard.

Do not be Anxious.

It's Never Too Late to Love Your Neighbor

I heard a radio commentator speak: "The government must take action to help people now! It used to be that when people lost their jobs, got into financial difficulties, they could turn to their family or their neighbors. But that type of closeness doesn't exist anymore. And so the government must step in to fill the role of who the people can turn to in their difficulties."

My response: Why? Why can't we turn to our family? Why can't we turn to our neighbor?

Even if you don't even know the NAME of your neighbor, he is still your neighbor. You can still love him, and he can still love you. And in our times of difficulties, we CAN help one another, without turning to an anonymous government, and an uncaring entity, to help us in our needs. To show love for us.

It's never too late to love your neighbor.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Beyond The Open Door

Orig: 10/02/07

Behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it --- Rev 3:8

The life of the believer has been compared to climbing a mountain, walking a road, sailing the ocean, or fighting the good fight. Always, the central element in such comparisons is movement or becoming, as God works in us to "do of his good pleasure"' (Phillipians 2:13), bringing us from glory to glory.

This moving forward isn't always comfortable for us. After all, it is the familiar things that bring us security. We often oppose change because it pushes us into the unknown and requires us to evaluate and adjust to new situations. Moving into new circumstances requires us to judge what is familiar to us and discern whether the change will be a positive one. Without question, the major hindrance to forward progress is letting go of the familiar to reach for the unfamiliar.

What change is God trying to work in you? What revelation are you resisting because of your death grip on the old and familiar? God has set before you an open door, a fresh anounting, a new realm you have never experienced. But to enter that new world you must abandon the past and trust him to lead you safely into a greater power than you have ever known before.

Lord, show me what I have been unwilling to relinquish. I want to forsake all and follow you wherever you may lead.

Between Sundays

October 2nd is the Feast of Guardian Angels

He has given his angels charge over you to guard you in all your ways. Let them thank the Lord for his mercy; his wonderful works are for the children of men.

The prayer I learned as a child: "Angel of God my guardian dear, through whose God's love commits me here; ever this day be at my side, to light to guard to rule to guide."

Hope you have a good day, and the angels are watching over you.

Molding Our Will to God's Will

Orig: 09/14/07

"The people complained against God ...."' Numbers 21:5

In the exchange between the people and Moses that dry, dusty day, I don't think it was the food and water that created all the havoc with the snakes. I believe that it was the power of their wills and the direction they were pointed that made all the difference. If our wills are pointed toward the self, then something as small as a drink of water can perpetrate a big argument. There are a hunded reasons to demand the water now. If our wills are pointed toward God, in a relationship of responsibility toward truth and goodness, we discover freedom and are given glory even in the devastating horror of public humiliation and complete failure. The Gospel makes clear that our wills are always in relation to Another's: for God loved, God sent. May we recognize as we grow older that it is this letting go of how we need to have things done that opens the way to discover what Jesus came to show us: that the utter glory of the human creature is obedience.

Fri Sept 14 ----Living Faith Devotions

Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

... taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death ...

... for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God

Philippians 2 3-14

Friday, October 2, 2009

Trust In God

You know how these meditations arise. Sometimes I read something which I consider very well written, which opens my mind to new paths of understanding. The best, I share with you. Truthfully, these others write much better than I, but still I feel compelled, sometimes, to write of insights I have found, things I have meditated on, things which have given me peace. Because that’s the title of this blog: Do Not Be Anxious. It’s meant to help us all in troubled times.

On rare occasions, I am struck by something is “old hat”. Something I knew, something I thought I understood, something which I would normally read past at a great speed. But I don’t.

These “old” things sometimes need to be read, and read again, and thought about. I put the reading I had this morning in that grouping. As I sat in front of the altar, I read it and was all set to move on, but I had to pause – and read it again. Then I underlined the words in my prayer book. They are worth noting again in the future, as important words. Words we need to meditate upon. Reminders of the basic promise and command: Do Not Be Anxious.

The Lord is near; have no anxiety. The Lord is always near to all who call upon his help with sincerity, true faith, sure hope, and perfect love. He knows what you need, even before you ask him. He is always ready to come to the aid of all his faithful servants in every need. There is no reason for us to be in a state of great anxiety when evils threaten; we must remember that God is very near us as our protector. The Lord is at hand for those who are troubled in heart, and he will save those who are downcast in spirit. The tribulations of the just are many, and the Lord will rescue them from them all. If we do our best to obey and keep his commandments, he does not delay in giving us what he has promised.

But in every prayer and entreaty let your petitions be made known to God, with thanksgiving. In time of trouble we must not grumble or be downhearted; God forbid! We must rather be patient and cheerful, giving thanks to God always in everything.”
From a treatise on the letter to the Philippians by Saint Ambrose, bishop