A Precious Container of Enough

I’m doing this Ignatian Spirituality Daily Devotional this month. It’s been great! Today’s was especially encouraging. I was listening to it on my run through the neighborhood.

A prayer I needed this morning. What I have (and offer) is enough…because it loves You!

“Lord,
I am a precious container of love,
genuine and costly.
When it is time to pour it out,
don’t let me get too lost in calculation,
or worry about wasting it.
Don’t let my desire to love others
get drowned out by the voices that tell me it’s pointless.
Give me the courage to break the jar,
and let me hear you say that what I offer is enough,
because it loves you.”

Jesuit Prayer inspired from the Gospel of Mark ch.14

https://www.pathwaystogod.org/day-22-challenge

Roots and Storms

When life gets crazy, what habits and practices do you turn to for grounding and rootedness?  Storms will come and shake us up.  No doubt about that.  

Sickness.
Finances.
Dark nights of the soul.
Relationship stress.
Lack of direction in life.

What or who do you turn to for help and grounding?  When you’re in the storm, we may get rattled but we can turn towards our roots that help us make sense of what is happening.  

ROOTS

For me, faith, friends, and family are a source of rootedness in the middle of the storm.  And I’ve misfortune this year.  I’ve had to turn to my three F’s (LOL!).  When I’ve felt overwhelmed and lost, I’ve reached out as best as I could.  

The other day, I was lying down on the floor, symbolic of Psalm 23 (He makes me lie down in green pastures) and was transported to a field.  I felt the wind, the brush, and the Presence.  Just then, my son bursted through the door and says in his teenage voice, “Dad, what are you doing down there!?”  I told him, “I’m praying, duh!”.  LOL!

A storm had just hit our family and I needed to be reminded that the Lord is our Shepherd and that we lack no good thing.  I then reached out to friends and family for prayer and shared with them my struggles and feelings.  I felt the Presence of the Shepherd with me through my faith, friends, and family.  They helped me return to my roots.  

During this Thanksgiving season, may you return to your roots that have helped you through the big storms.  May we be able to say thanks and give our friends and family the gift of embrace, as they have to us.

Peace

Prayer: God’s Nearness

Reading 1, Deuteronomy 4:1, 5-9
Responsorial PsalmPsalms 147:12-13, 15-16, 19-20
GospelMatthew 5:17-19

“…God is near us whenever we pray to him…”
[wind has been a sign of the Holy Spirit]

Are you freaking kidding me?!  Read those words again…slower….
let
them
sink
in.

Big themes in the bible again….one of them is us being made in his image and likeness.  We are very impressionable people, influenced by what we read, watch, think about, and who we allow to speak into our lives.  It makes sense to me to create the space to be with the Lord Almighty–who is, who was, and who is to come.  God, the one who saves, redeems, heals, and imparts wisdom through his decrees and word, longs for creation to reflect His image.

So when we pray, we are promised His Presence.

I don’t always “feel” God.
I don’t always “sense” God’s presence.

But time and experience tell me that God is present–directing, guiding, loving, blessing, healing.

I have a friend’s face in mind.  A family member of his was sick.  He asked for prayer.  We wrote down the prayer and he shared it with the family member.  I received a call a few hours later that all the symptoms were gone…miraculously!  His face went from down-trodden to sheer joy and shock.  “Your God listens to you!”

I am also picturing a young man who is experiencing some deep pain from past trauma.  During our times together, we sat in silent prayer, staying present to the pain but all the while staying present to how God was with him in the pain and what God might be saying to him.  Tears.  Relaxed.  Rested.  Hopeful.  Those are the words he uttered after praying.

I’m also aware that there are some prayers that feel like they’re falling on dead ears.  My friend being shot at multiple times (gun violence).  A friend who has cancer and it’s getting worse (health issues).  A friend who didn’t get a career opportunity because he didn’t fit the typical role (systemic racism and injustice:  he’s latino and NOT aggressively charismatic).

We don’t stop praying when we don’t hear the response we’re looking for.  We lean into God’s faithfulness to hear the words, “I’m with you…I’m sorry…Be strong and courageous”.

A Prayer of Desire by Thomas Merton

Source:

A Prayer of Desire by Thomas Merton

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

 

Words at the end of Life

In the 12 years of doing marketplace ministry, I’ve now had more experience doing bedside visitation at the time of impending death and loss.  It has always felt like an honor to listen (when possible), pray, and bless during this time.

The other day, I went to visit a 91 year old man in his home.  He lives in my “parish” (about 3 minutes from me).  He was recently diagnosed with brain and lung cancer.  He is now receiving hospice care.

During the visit, we were getting to know each other and I heard him say, “I’m in misery and pain, I feel useless, and I’m ready to go.”  His words were sincere and even apologetic for saying he was ready to go.  I was moved by his words and feelings, asking that God would help me to listen attentively, and also hoping to see how God was present.

I was compelled to ask Rich (pseudonym) to give a young buck like me some advice for life, noticing that even at 91 and sick, he was sprite and caring.

Rich said,

Be nice to others.  Be good to others.  It will come back to you.

If you have family, love them and spend as much time as you can with them.

Always work on yourself and never stop growing.  I never went to college but had one of the highest positions in my naval department that a civilian can have.  One door closed, and another one opened.

I’ve had a lot of ups and downs but I’ve tried to keep getting back up when I fell down.

He went on to share some more stories about his life that made it feel like he did the best he could to be caring and loving.  The tone was hopeful and bountiful in the room.  This is isn’t always the case.  Some people have lived tough lives and for reasons beyond me, it was hard for them to put their lives together in such a way that their death could give life.  It saddens me when I see this and am moved to ask for God’s mercy for the person, but also for myself so that I might see my life put together in a such a way that it will bless others.

We talked about how Jesus, at the moment of death, committed His spirit to the Father, and breathed His last breath.  I think Rich was comforted by this image of Jesus. Rich is Catholic and was deeply touched by his faith.  When I asked what prayers he might have in his heart, he immediately said, “the Our Father”.  I reached out for his hand and began to pray for God’s mercy and peace to be with him.  And then we both prayed “The Our Father” together.  His 91 year old voice.  My 39 year old voice.  A man at the end of life.  Me in the middle of life.  Him a Catholic, having lived a good life.  Me, a follower of Jesus, trying to learn to live the good life.  Both hands clasped together, incarnating the Body of Christ.

I think that when visitations go well, both patient and priest feel like each has been blessed by the other.  Both feel God’s presence and consolation in different but unitive ways.

His thoughts on being good and loving your family struck a chord in me.  My parents had just finished getting on the train to head back home after a weekend visit.

Rich, thank you for your life of service and your words of blessing.

Listening: the art of Pastoral Presence

When I think about our work, I think of the God who listens.  He hears our cries, petitions, longings, and hopes.  In Jesus, we find the Good Shepherd making space for others to share their stories (i.e. Samaritan woman, the blind man at the pool).  We see them share specifics as Jesus asks poignant questions.

When we listen to the stories of others, we entering into a dialogue that is already happening with the person and God.  The Spirit is active, working to heal, save, and renew.  So as the people share, we are being invited into the work of the Spirit in their lives.  

  • Be attentive to the specifics.
  • Notice the words, pictures, thoughts.
  • What feelings are you most present to?  
  • How might the Spirit be stirring?

We learn to listen in silence and solitude.  We can only learn to listen as we take moments throughout the day to be still and know that He is God.  God spoke to Elijah in the silence.  Jesus got away to be with His Father…to listen.  

We can deepen our ability to listen through contemplative prayer—the prayer of active silence.  Try it for a few minutes in the morning.  See how it changes the inner contours.  See how you’re more attentive and able to listen.

In contemplative prayer, we silence the mind and heart of anything that is heavy, burdensome, and release it to the One who can carry it.  We even release all thoughts of good intentions, our gifts, and words so that we might receive the Word.  And it’s in receiving that we can then return to the world with a heart that is able to listen.

On Seeking God’s Help…

A prayer of participating in God’s redemptive work…He’s not a puppet master that pulls strings.  He has created us to be coworkers, co-creators, co-participants.  That means we do His work WITH him.

“If I am actually to do it, I must ask for your help
and mercy, ask you to fill with wind the sails
I have hoisted for you and to carry me
forward on my course—to breath, that is,
your Spirit into my faith . . . and to enable me
to continue . . .”
(Hilary of Poitiers, 4th c.)

Church, It’s not you….it’s me!

I’m a victim.  

I was a victim of some bad church experiences.

I don’t trust [some] leadership or church communities.

I have [some] negative feelings towards church.  

I’m tired of trying to analyze, understand, and “get over it”.  

I’ve known many people with the same experiences.  Many have found peace and are in a thriving church community.  I’m not.

I’ve known many people who overcame their bad church experiences and are now pastors of a church plant.  I’m not.

I’ve heard of people who had bad church experiences and abandoned God and the Church.  I haven’t.

I’ve heard stories where a pastor or priest said an inappropriate, hurtful comment during a trying time.  And the victim wants nothing to do with God or the Church.  I was there.  I’m not anymore.

To be honest, I’m a disgruntled Church person who is lost.  I miss being part of a church community, having a leadership role and finding ways to help people connect with God.  I miss that.  But I’m deathly emotional about being part of a church community.  What if the pastor is an idiot and is teaching a bunch of crap?  What if I disagree with the way the service is being run?  What if I’m not participating and just sitting on the pew?  What if there’s another church split?  What if I disagree with the church’s theology and orthopraxy?  

What if my kids lose out on knowing God through a church community because I can’t figure this out?  What if I do a poor job of passing down my faith to my kids and they grow up with no sense of wonder of God?

I had aspirations to plant a church.  I had aspirations to pastor a congregation.  I had aspirations of providing a caring presence to others where they could share their experiences with God and we could journey with one another.  I think I still have them….but I’m not sure.

Honestly, I’m tired of not having this all resolved and sounding like a record player.  It’s the same story…over and over again.  I’m tired of it.  I want closure.  But more importantly, I want direction and faith that it will all work out somehow.  

There are some things/people/communities I’m very grateful for:

1.  my immediate family.  My wife has been my partner through this hell.  I love her to no ends.  My boys are compelling me to think through my faith.  I’d do anything for them!

2.  http://coastvineyard.org.  They were our previous church community and we enjoyed our time there.  They’re in La Jolla so it doesn’t make sense to be there still (though, if they were local, I’d be there!).

3.  www.northcoastcalvary.org.  I’m so impressed with this mega church!  They’re big AND small!  They’re the most missional mega church I know.  We’re currently attending this community but I feel lost.  I feel useless there, but not because there’s not any opportunities to serve.  It’s more that I want to be leading/pastoring in a community.

4.  The sites I get to serve as a company chaplain.  I LOVE all the employees I get to serve.  They have saved my faith!  I’m so grateful for them and their lives.  They’ve given me a gift I would never have imagined.

I may have shared some of these things here and there with you.  But I feel like, in some way, I’m “coming out of the church closet”.  I love God deeply and the Church.  I’m just struggling with figuring out how to do this within a church community.  Pray that God would come to my aid and help me.  At times, I feel so lost that I’m not sure which way He is guiding.  I do hope that you see this post as more of a cry for prayer and for hope.  This is not a dig at the church or that I hate the church or that I’m leaving the church or that I’m completely lost.  I have a lot of great things happening.  But I’m an external processor and need others to know where I’m at.  

Thank you.

Bless you.

Peace be with you.

Roy