Satisfaction in parched places

 

If you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom will be like the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. ~Isa. 58:10-11

What I most desire for you is a certain calmness which recollection, detachment, and love of God alone can give. St. Augustine says that whatever we love outside God, so much the less do we love [God]. It is as a brook whence part of the waters is turned aside. Such a diversion takes away from that which is God’s and thence arise harassment and trouble. God would have all, and [God’s] jealousy cannot endure a divided heart. The slightest affection apart from [God] becomes a hindrance, and causes estrangement. The soul can only look to find peace in love without reserve. ~From The Royal Way of the Cross: Letters and Spiritual Counsels of Francois de Salignac de la Mothe-Fenelon

May I this day O Lord, allow my steps to be guided by you. I seek your calmness as I recall that you will meet all my needs. Make my bones strong in this parched desert. Send your waters to quench my thirst. May You not find my heart divided but filled with you. Amen.

Christian living

 

By his divine power the Lord has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of the one who called us by his own honor and glory. Through his honor and glory he has given us his precious and wonderful promises, that you may share the divine nature and escape from the world’s immorality that sinful craving produces. This is why you must make every effort to add moral excellence to your faith; and to moral excellence, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, endurance; and to endurance, godliness; and to godliness, affection for others; and to affection for others, love. If all these are yours and they are growing in you, they’ll keep you from becoming inactive and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Whoever lacks these things is shortsighted and blind, forgetting that they were cleansed from their past sins. Therefore, brothers and sisters, be eager to confirm your call and election. Do this and you will never ever be lost. In this way you will receive a rich welcome into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. ~2Peter 1:3-11 (CEB)

As a young adult I knew there was more to being a Christian than just being saved. “But what does God require of me? “, I would wonder. It was only after much reading that I began to realize that God does tell us how He wants to live out our Christian lives. Here in 2 Peter 1 we find that God has given us everything we need for life. God gives us faith, morality, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, affection for others and love. All of these are mine to claim. These verses tell me I have these things right now but I need to embrace them and allow them to grow.

To think that I cannot do these things means I have forgotten that I have been washed clean of my past. There was a time that I may not have had self-control, but now I do. There was a time that my morality was on shaky ground, my endurance was not strong and I didn’t always love others as I should. That is the past. Today I can claim anew faith, love, knowledge, morality, endurance, godliness and affection for others. I have been called to these things and as long as I go after these things I will never be lost. Following after what I have been called to enriches my life.

Heavenly Father, Help me claim anew this day the characteristics You have promised me through Your word. Give the Your strength as I  go through this day. May my steps not falter from Your path. Amen.

Change

There’s a season for everything and a time for every matter under the heavens: a time for giving birth and a time for dying, a time for planting and a time for uprooting what was planted, a time for killing and a time for healing, a time for tearing down and a time for building up, a time for crying and a time for laughing, a time for mourning and a time for dancing, a time for throwing stones and a time for gathering stones, a time for embracing and a time for avoiding embraces, a time for searching and a time for losing, a time for keeping and a time for throwing away, a time for tearing and a time for repairing, a time for keeping silent and a time for speaking,  a time for loving and a time for hating, a time for war and a time for peace. ~Ec c 3:1-8 (CEB)

Change, we have a love hate relationship. There are times I long for change, other times that I dread change.

Today will be our first day back to school. Starting school back is both a return to a certain structure and also a new beginning. As I contemplate this first day of our new school year I can’t help but wonder at the other changes on my horizon. I both anticipate and fear them at the same time. One part of me wants things to freeze in time; the other part of me is excited at the possibilities and long for them to hurry up.

But today I will concentrate on this season: the season for new books, and snuggles while reading, a time for teaching, a time for correcting. With this season I hope to remember to stay present in the moment not looking forward or back. The seasons, they are changing but here in this moment I will love and laugh and appreciate the now. I will remember to love and to smile. I will not let the fears of change threaten the excitement that newness holds.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for all seasons. Walk with us this day as we embark a new season of life. Guide our steps, help us remember to love and to laugh among the serious moments.

Do you want to get well?

A certain man was there who had been sick for thirty- eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, knowing that he had already been there a long time, he asked him, “ Do you want to get well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I don’t have anyone who can put me in the water when it is stirred up. When I’m trying to get to it, someone else has gotten in ahead of me.” Jesus said to him, “ Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” Immediately the man was well, and he picked up his mat and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath.~John 5:5-9 (CEB)

“Do you want to get well?” These words always jump out at me.  Who wouldn’t want to get well? Thirty-eight years is a long time to be unwell.  After such a long time you might get used to being sick, and developed some strong bad habits that keep you sick. After closer inspection I am forced to ask, do I really want to get well? Sometimes I am so attached to my illness (or my addiction) that I prefer being sick. It has become comfortable. Or it could be the crutch I use to hide.

God doesn’t bring healing unless I want to be whole. I am asked to be part of the healing process. Even in miraculous healing I am expected to participate in the process. The mental desire to be well must shift to a physical act. I am asked to walk through the doors of healing.

If I am to be well I must be careful that my time is not spent in the waiting to be healed. Do I lists reasons why I can’t get well? Do I blame my circumstances? Do I blame the people around me? Am I hanging out with others who are sick as well?

I can blame my circumstances or I can allow the healing waters inside of me to be stirred. In the getting up and rolling up my mat healing can occur.

Heavenly Father, stir the waters in my heart. Give me enough strength for this day to live healthy. Bring me one day closer to complete healing.  Amen.

Freedom

We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. ~Romans 6:2

When I say I long for freedom, freedom from what? Freedom from the illusion of control, that if I can just make sure things line-up “just so” nothing bad is going to happen. Freedom from the need to be right all the time, that sometimes I simple just don’t know the answers.  Freedom from the fears of serious things, like being lost, getting sick, the death of a loved one.  Freedom from irrational things like an organized house will bring peace and the feeling of order or that making everyone else happy can by some miracle make me happy.

When I say that “I can’t”, when I see that “God can”, when I take the action of letting Him handle all things, then I can experience freedom. Freedom from the try-hard life where I stay strong, put on a good front and think that I can handle all things my-self. When I trust, allowing my “self” to fall to the ground like a seed, that shell of my self-life can burst allowing the Healers life to burst forth.

New life brings freedom. God’s life allows me to experience a freedom I can never find on my own. I just have to allow myself to be buried with Jesus so that I may also be raised into a new life free of trying hard (and missing the mark).

Heavenly Father, I find myself trying so hard. I want to control everything and know all the answers. Please free my from my “self” so that I may have true life through You. Amen.

Margin

Early in the morning, well before sunrise, Jesus rose and went to a deserted place where he could be alone in prayer. ~Mark 1:35 (CEB)

It is that time of year again when I begin to live out that which I have planned out. There is something comforting in the laying out of information and the putting plans on a calendar for me to follow. There is nothing like having “life” laid out on paper (or computer) and knowing where you will be and what you will be doing when. At the same time it is very daunting as well. Sometimes after getting into the new schedule I find there is little or no margin. I have learned just because it works out on paper doesn’t mean that it will work out in real life.

So as I look at lesson plans, art projects, Bible studies, music lessons and gymnastics, I am reminded that I must allow some breathing room in my schedule for the “what-ifs”.  I am reminded that a schedule that I am able to begin with is not necessarily the same one that I can keep up with. I need room to breathe. I need margin in my schedule before I begin to feel that there is not enough of me to go around. As I plan out how I am going to take care of those around me, I need to also remember to give myself some space.

Jesus realized that he needed times to have space to breathe. He regularly took time to slip away for time with God. No matter the needs of the people there was still his need for quiet to spend time with his Father.

When I don’t plan some margin in my schedule so that I can find places of rest and times to connect with God I find that I can’t keep up with things. Then I find that it is tempting to cut rest and quiet to make up for my lack of time to get other things done. How crazy is that? The most needed things, rest, quiet, time with God are the things that slowly get left out when we scramble to keep up with our life.

Heavenly Father, in my planning help me to stick to the need for margins that will allow me the time I need for quiet, rest and most importantly, time with You. Amen.

A neighbor not like me

A legal expert stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to gain eternal life?” Jesus replied, “What is written in the Law? How do you interpret it?” He responded, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live.”  But the legal expert wanted to prove that he was right, so he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” ~Luke 10:25-20 (CEB)

I grew up watching Mister Rogers.  One of my favorite parts was him singing “won’t you be my neighbor?” I would have given anything to have a neighbor like Mister Rogers living next door to me. He was after all looking for a neighbor. But I never really knew my neighbors growing up. We moved too often to get to know any neighbor really well.

Getting to know your neighbor sometimes requires that you are the one to seek out a relationship. You can’t rely on the other person to be the one to do the seeking. Often times these days our closest friends come from school, church, the work place or other group of people similar to ourselves and this seems enough. Our own circles seem to complete us. When we stick to familiar ground and people we know we cannot grow in our understanding of others.

“We become neighbors when we are willing to cross the road for one another.  There is so much separation and segregation: between black people and white people, between gay people and straight people, between young people and old people, between sick people and healthy people, between prisoners and free people, between Jews and Gentiles, Muslims and Christians, Protestants and Catholics, Greek Catholics and Latin Catholics.

There is a lot of road crossing to do.  We are all very busy in our own circles.  We have our own people to go to and our own affairs to take care of.  But if we could cross the street once in a while and pay attention to what is happening on the other side, we might become neighbors.” ~From Bread for the Journey, by Henri Nouwen

It is hard to think that today we still keep ourselves separate from people who are different from ourselves. Only when we cross the road can we widen our horizon of understanding. The more variety of people I meet the more understanding I have for others. I don’t always agree with other views but my world has been enlarged beyond myself. Sometimes though I learn that I may have been wrong in a pattern of thought I have held.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for always pushing me out of my comfort zones. I thank You for the people You have put in my life to help me to grow more in Your understanding of the world around me. May I walk this journey with Your eyes and Your ears and may I have Your heart in all my dealings with Your people. Amen.

At other’s mercy

But you, my Lord, are a God of compassion and mercy; you are very patient and full of faithful love. ~Psalm 86:15 (CEB)

There have been times that I have found myself in a place where I have had to rely on someone’s mercy for my basic needs. I have found myself relying on someone to provide a place for my stuff, food to eat and a space to lay my head for sleep. It can be awkward and uncomfortable being left to someone else’s discretion for meeting these basic needs. I may not get to eat the type of food I like to eat. I may have to share a small space with my whole family that normally would accommodate just one. There may be no guarantee of when I will get to take a shower and even then I may be rushed through it because others need to use the same bathroom. This can cause moments of discomfort, like when I am hungry, tired or frustrated at different ways of doing things.

A recent experience with this has had me thinking about the homeless families who struggle with finding a space to put their stuff and who find themselves at the mercies of others. Unlike my circumstances where I was simply visiting family for a short time where the minor discomforts were countered with joyous times, there are families who have found themselves at others mercies because of tragedy. Unlike my situation, they don’t know the end of their time of depending on someone else to provide for their needs. There are no guarantees that they will be given the basics of food and space.

It can be easy to blame someone for their circumstances and to look the other way. It is easy to say well they did this to themselves so I am resolved of any responsibility. Well the Bible has a lot to say about mercy and that we are to be hospitable. But it is also easy to dismiss a “group” of people. It is harder when I come into contact with individuals and learn about their circumstances. It is hard once I get to know someone not to have compassion.

Compassion is having God’s heart to look past someone’s faults or how they got into their circumstances, yet loving them enough to show them mercy. Mercy could be the shot in the arm that someone needed to rise above their circumstances. Being filled with God’s patience and faithful love I can make a difference in an individual life. I may never change the masses but I may be called to serve in an individual life.

Heavenly Father, when opportunities arise to serve, may I be Your love and mercy. I thank You for those who have showed mercy and compassion to me. Amen.

For the lost and the least

“Now when the Human One comes in his majesty and all his angels are with him, he will sit on his majestic throne. All the nations will be gathered in front of him. He will separate them from each other, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right side. But the goats he will put on his left.

“Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who will receive good things from my Father. Inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world began. I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you gave me clothes to wear. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me.’

“Then those who are righteous will reply to him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? When did we see you as a stranger and welcome you, or naked and give you clothes to wear? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

“Then the king will reply to them, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Get away from me, you who will receive terrible things. Go into the unending fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels. I was hungry and you didn’t give me food to eat. I was thirsty and you didn’t give me anything to drink. I was a stranger and you didn’t welcome me. I was naked and you didn’t give me clothes to wear. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

“Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and didn’t do anything to help you?’ Then he will answer, ‘I assure you that when you haven’t done it for one of the least of these, you haven’t done it for me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment. But the righteous ones will go into eternal life.” ~Matthew 25:31-46 (CEB)

I have never felt ashamed to look at the cross until one day when a young woman came with her child in her hands. She said to me she had gone to two or three different convents asking for a little bit of milk for her child.

She was answered, ‘You are lazy. Go and work!’ And so on.

By the time she came to our house, when I took the child it died in my hands. I felt ashamed to look at the cross because Jesus has given us so much and we could not give even a glass of milk to this little child.” ~From My Life for the Poor by Mother Teresa

Almighty God, in every age you have called out men and women to be Your faithful servants. We believe You have now called us to join that great company who seek to follow You. Grant unto us today and always a clear vision of Your call and strength to fulfill the ministry assigned to us. We pray in the name of Christ. Amen.

To follow

“I assure you that when you were younger you tied your own belt and walked around wherever you wanted. When you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and another will tie your belt and lead you where you don’t want to go.” He said this to show the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. After saying this, Jesus said to Peter, “Follow me.” ~John 21:18-19 (CEB)

“To follow Jesus Christ, who was betrayed, wept, bled, and died before he rose again, is to be at high risk of being taken where we had not intended to go. Eugene Peterson pinpoints the trouble with praying: We are often asked to respond in ways that we never intended when we first began to pray.

It matters little where or in what century we are called to live out our Christian life. The witness of those who have gone before informs my own experience, telling me that we are often taken to places where we receive unwarranted accolades and to other places where we receive unwarranted suffering and pain. A disciple, one who chooses to be student and follower of Jesus, is not a ‘self-made person’ and is not on a personally designed journey.

The key word in this theme is taken. Just as Jesus was taken into the wilderness after his baptism, so we are taken into the experiences  of discipleship that we do not necessarily choose for ourselves. We choose to follow Jesus and then Jesus chooses where we will go. It is that simple.

The saving truth here is not that we are taken where we do not want to go; rather the saving truth is that we are not alone. There is One who leads us and foes with us. Jesus arose from baptism and ;the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness’ (Mark 1:12). But even there the angels (messengers of God) were with him and tended to his needs. While we may not choose the place to go, we can choose to remain with the One who sends us and there find comfort, companionship, grace, peace, and joy.” ~Ruben P. Job

Almighty God, help me this day to present my body as a living sacrifice, holy, and acceptable to you. By the power of Your holy spirit make us strong to fulfill my ministry this day. In the name of Christ. Amen.

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