Romans 8:37

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors [hupernikomen] through him who loved us. Romans 8:37

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Psalm 63:1-4

Psalm 63
English Standard Version (ESV)
My Soul Thirsts for You

A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah.

1 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
    my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
    as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
    beholding your power and glory.
3 Because your steadfast love is better than life,
    my lips will praise you.
4 So I will bless you as long as I live;
    in your name I will lift up my hands.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Unexpected Blessing

The Lord provides blessings in the most unexpected ways.

Last night around 9:30 I was returning home after a 12 hour day, which ended with our weekly ministry to the children in our neighborhood.  Briefly, this is something like trying to establish an orderly ministry on Peter Pan's Island, or under the direction of The Lord of the Flies. So, I was exhausted.

I stopped at the local grocery store for a couple things, and as I was checking out noticed that the checker had a hand-written note pinned to her apron.  It read simply "Philippians 1:20-25".  There was no one else in line so I said, "I'm straining to recall what that section of Philippians is about." Her eyes twinkled and she related a gist version of the following:

20 For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. 21 For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. 22 But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don't know which is better. 23 I'm torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. 24 But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.  25 Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith. [NLT]

I then asked her, why this passage was meaningful to her.  She said that people [assuming Christians] need to be more focused on living for Christ than themselves.  And, that they need to be out ministering to other people.

I had to hold back the tears, because I knew that was an encouraging word from the Lord.  And, to encourage her, I told her how blessed I was by what she said, because I was just returning from a difficult evening of ministry.  The checker smiled brightly and said "Yes!  That's what I'm talking about. That's great that you want to do that."  But I corrected her and said, "No. I don't WANT to do it, unfortunately.  I'm just being obedient."  "Good, that's even better - keep it up!"  She replied enthusiastically, and then welcomed the next customer who walked up to the register.

I rarely find bumper stickers and buttons that people wear to be of much influence, but that little note the checker had pinned on was a great blessing.  I had entered the grocery store worn, haggard, and depressed.  I left the store in joy feeling like Jesus walked up smiling and patted me on the back saying, "Stop feeling sorry for yourself!  Everything is fine. You're doing a good job - just keep going."

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Mary and Martha

The Confession of Saint Peter - January 18, 2012

On the Feast of the Confession of Saint Peter, I celebrate the tenth anniversary of my ordination as a priest.  As I do every year, I take the day to go on a retreat, to pray, reflect and write.  This one day retreat has come to be more valuable to me than the celebration of my birthday or any number of other significant dates.

Ordination is marriage to our Lord – even for those who are also married to a wife.  Of course, Baptism is also marriage.  It is the first step in our marriage to Christ – it is the believer entering the Church and becoming the Bride of Christ.  Confirmation is the renewal of our baptismal vows, ideally a moment where we recognize that we need to take our marital vows more seriously. Ordination in part, is another renewal of vows, but it is more than that.  It is the commitment to spend the rest of one's life encouraging the whole body of Christ to be faithful to their marriage vows to Christ, and to invite others to become the Bride of Christ.  Of course all Christians share in this responsibility, but clergy bear a unique responsibility in this effort.  [Consider Hebrews 13.17]

I have come to this retreat exhausted and spiritually famished.  This has been one of the most trying years of my life.  The reason for this was made obvious within the first hour of my retreat: I am so busy and stressed that I hardly remember what is to be a human being. As the Bride of Christ, I am spending very little time with my husband.  I am spending a lot of time cleaning His house, but very little time just enjoying His presence, and I am bitter about it.  I'm tired of listening to everyone's problems.  I'm tired of trying to solve everyone's difficulties.

Now if we take this analogy the wrong way, we might start to think in human terms like, “Why doesn't he clean-up his own messy house!”  We could slip into that bitterness that Martha felt when she saw Mary just enjoying being with Jesus.  [Luke 10.38-42]

Luke tells us that “Martha was distracted by all of her preparations.”  We can easily imagine her frowning red-faced as she pointed to her sister Mary and scolded her Lord saying, “Do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone?”

Martha's frustration pretty well sums up my prayer life over the past several months: “Lord, do you not care . . .”  Ironically, I suspect Martha wasn't as irritated with her sister's lack of help as she was with feeling like she was missing out on the best part of being a disciple – because she was!

And that is what Jesus tells her.  Listen to Jesus' tender reply:  “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered by so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

“Only one thing is necessary” spending time with Jesus; being in his presence.  It is the very heart of humanity: we have friends because we want to spend time with them.  We get married because we want to enjoy one another's company.  We become Christians because we want to live with Jesus.  But we become so worried and bothered about unnecessary things, that we lose our friends and family, we suffer from loneliness and divorce, and some even leave Christ and His Church.

Jesus' answer to Martha is the same answer that we need: “Only one thing is necessary, spending time with Me.”  Nothing is more important.  Don't you see it?  Jesus was not condemning Martha's service.  He just wanted her to understand that all of her worry and bother for Him was pointless without taking the time to be with Him.

“Jesus I've forgotten the words that You
have spoken pomises that burned within
my heart have now grown dim with a
doubting heart I follow the paths of earthly
wisdom forgive me for my unbelief
renew the fire again

Lord have mercy Christ have mercy
Lord have mercy on me

I have built an altar where I worship things
of man I have taken journeys that have
drawn me far from You now I am returning
To Your mercies ever flowing pardon
my transgressions help me love You again

I have longed to know You and all Your
tender mercies like a river of forgiveness
ever flowing without end so I bow my heart
before You in the goodness of Your
presence Your grace forever shinin like a
beacon in the night” 

[Lord Have Mercy – by Robin Mark]