Fired by love's urgent longings, I am his rocketman.
PEACE

PEACE

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.  (1Thessalonians 5:18)

Another translation reads “Give thanks in every circumstance …”  What if we made it our aim to do that today?  What if we are actively thankful for each and every thing that happens today?  And then what if we add tomorrow to today; and then the next day after that and the next day after that?  What would our lives be like?  What would the lives of those around us be like?

Suppose the first thing we do when we wake up is to take a few minutes and think about just some of those things that make us happy?  Think how you might feel inside if you do the same thing at night just before you fall asleep?

For sure, we will grow in faith because it takes faith to be thankful in every circumstance.  Think how strong our faith will become as we give thanks over and over again, especially when our natural inclination is to do just the opposite?

Also, think about how quiet we will become inside as we fill our minds with good thoughts, thankful thoughts, happy thoughts.  Wonder at silencing much of the chatter that howls through our minds like autumn winds through leafless trees.  Better yet, contemplate driving away the enemy who prowls about like a roaring  lion.

monolakewidesunrisesinemacropemail150dpiIf we simply choose to be thankful, we can become very different people, better people; but what if we take it a step further and add joy to thanksgiving?  What if we choose to rejoice always?  What if we choose to delight in every circumstance? What will happen then?

Peace will happen, deep peace, peace that passes understanding.  Peace that cannot be explained, only experienced.  The kind of peace that changes the atmosphere around us; peace that is so pervasive you can cut it with a knife.  First in us and then in those around us.  Heavenly peace!

 

Happiness

Happiness

I believe we all have a longing inside of us to love fully, to be loved completely, to be good and to do good.  So often these feelings remain unfulfilled because we not sure exactly what it is we want and usually we have no idea how to get from where we are to where we want to be.  This longing is really a deep desire for wholeness, holiness.  It’s not holiness the way we normally think about it — that is a kind of “super goodness” where we do everything right all the time.  Rather it’s a through and through goodness that grows effortlessly out of being perfectly loved and responding in kind with all of our love in return.   This idea is articulated very well in the passage that follows.

“My Jesus, it is truly easy to become holy; it just takes a little good will! And if He finds this minimum of good will in a soul, He quickly gives Himself to her. And nothing can stop Him, neither our faults nor our falls, absolutely nothing. Jesus hurries to help that soul; and if the soul is faithful to this grace from God, she can in a short time reach the highest level of holiness that a created being can attain here below. God is very generous and does not refuse His grace to anyone. He gives even more than we ask for. The shortest road is faithfulness to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit.” (p.142 St. Faustina Kowalska, Diary: Divine Mercy in my Soul)

This is a message for people who aspire to holiness, people who want to respond as far as possible to God’s love.  Perhaps you have never aspired to love God as much as he can possibly be loved; if not, beg the Holy Spirit to put that desire in you.  Beg Him to leave you restless until you have that aspiration.  Then you will be really happy for: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6)  (Thoughts from “In the School of the Holy Spirit” by Jacques Philippe)

Maybe we should pray for the desire to love the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit as much as we possibly can and for a restlessness until the Holy Spirit places that desire in us, not just one time, and not half-heartedly, but every day,  and whenever we think about it throughout the day.  After all, what do we have to loose, but the very life that leaves us discontent day after day after day.  Grace and peace!

10,000 Hours

10,000 Hours

“Morning by morning he wakens, he wakens my ear to hear as those who are taught.  The Lord God has opened my ear …”  (Isaiah 50:4-5)

What would happen if we lived our lives waking every morning to hear the Holy Spirit opening our ears to hear?  What if we made it our sole aim in life to cultivate an ear that hears what the Spirit wants to teach us?  What if we spent 10000 hours, one morning at a time, developing our inner ear to listen to Jesus and then doing whatever he tells us to do?

That is exactly what Jesus did.  Morning by morning he woke to listen to the Father.  And then he went about doing what the Father showed him needed to be done.  He demonstrated exactly how we are intended to live, life at the highest level, morning by morning, one day at a time.

Of course we have important things to do, goals to achieve, tasks to accomplish, people to see, work to be done, lives to be lived.  But how can we live the way we are meant to live, the way we want to live, unless he opens our ears to hear?  And how can he open our ears unless we generously dispose ourselves to listen?

We try so many things to make our lives better — to be better — to experience happiness and fulfillment.  We dabble in this and experiment with that — always looking for something that will unite our splintered hearts and finally make sense of it all.  We look everywhere but fail to see that which is hidden in plain view?

No doubt we have tried to open our ears before without seeing any real results; just like hundreds of other things we have flailed at that promised benefits they never seemed to deliver.  But I am describing something entirely different:  the idea of laying hold of a relationship with the Holy Spirit and not letting go, no now, not ever, no matter what happens — whether we see immediate results or not.  This is radical, even violent and not for the faint of heart, but it will deliver results.  The apostle Paul describes it as “… forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, [pressing] on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 3:13-14)  It is the choosing of the better part (see Luke 10:42) and building your life on, in, around and through it.

We all have dreams, things we want for ourselves and those we love.  Often, we are afraid that if we really choose the “one thing” we will loose everything else.  But the truth is everything we want in life is hidden in Him.  Deep down we know this; deep down we want this.  Maybe it’s time to do something about it  — be radical, practice a little violence on yourself.  Begin now to open your ear to the Spirit who is ready to teach anyone with an open ear.

Choices

Choices

Sometimes circumstances in our lives make us feel as if we are trapped  with no escape.  No iron bars hold us, no chains are locked around us, no doors imprison us, yet we feel and act as if we are surrounded by armed guards whose sole purpose is to keep us right where we are.  Notwithstanding the difficulties we face, we are not helpless!

I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done.”  (Psalm 118:17)

We have options.  We can decide to live in an entirely different way.  It’s simple really, but no one can do it for us.  We can continue to allow these make believe, illusory walls and limitations, define who we are and how we live or we can use our God given wills and decide to walk in the freedom of the children of God.  It’s entirely up to us.

… I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live … ” (Deuteronomy 30: 19)

We often forget how much power we have in the choices we make.  We are not required nor expected to live life according to the idea that “what will be will be”.  Meaningful living requires choosing on our part.  We are not free to just accept whatever comes our way.  The Lord sets a choice before us:  we can choose life and blessings or death and curses.  If you feel like your life is going nowhere fast and you just can’t catch a break, maybe you need to choose something else.  We cannot ignore this issue; not to choose is to make the wrong choice.

A lot more is at stake here than just our personal happiness, though that, in of itself is enough to make it worthwhile.  When we choose life and blessings, we do so not only for ourselves but also for our descendants, our families and our friends.  Choosing life and blessings releases a stream that will flow down to those who follow us and will refresh those around us.  The choices we make really do matter.

We are surrounded by enemies and we are engaged in a spiritual battle.  The Lord promises to fight for us, but we must also choose to fight for ourselves and for those who depend on us.

Certainly, we face real challenges.  We need faith to believe that God will give us whatever we need in the present moment to overcome our current difficulties.  We also need hope to believe that the choices we make today will mean real change in our lives over time.  Finally, we need love to sustain us in our pursuit of life and blessings.

Photograph compliments of Jim Begley

 

Time

Time

I was at a meeting earlier in the week with a group of people.  On the way out, I was looking for someone with whom I needed to speak.  Before I could get to that person, a friend stopped me to thank me for some advice I had given him and to explain how much it helped him.  I recognized that my friend was excited to share this with me, but, honestly, at that moment I was more interested in my own mission.  So I found myself half engaged in one conversation thinking about another one.

While praying the next morning, I realized that I had missed the more important conversation pursuing the conversation that mattered more to me.  In my mind I immediately and almost involuntarily asked my friend to forgive me for missing the opportunity, for not caring enough about him in that moment to give him my full attention.  Then, one after another, image after image, came to mind where I had done something similar to others.  So my prayer continued:  please forgive me, please forgive me, over and over again and again.  I was suddenly aware of all the times I missed what was right in front of me to see, to hear, to love because I was more caught up in my own little world.

Thinking about all of the encounters with various people that I have had in the last forty years, I started to do the math.  If I just missed one opportunity a day (not much of a stretch there), that’s 365 a year for forty years — which calculates out to 14600 offenses, most of which never even showed up on my radar.  I resolve to do better!

Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God … For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night … Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.  (Psalm 90:2,4,12)

I often wish I had more time.  Sometimes I regret that I haven’t used my time better.  Undoubtedly I feel like I have wasted time; but just as often, I feel as if I have used every moment available to me.  I suppose that I am bothered less by what I have done or failed to do in a given moment than I am by the overall sense that I have failed to use the time I have been given to do “those things” that come to mind at odd times, in quiet moments and in the middle of the night — “those things” that I never seem to get around to doing — “those things” that follow and cling to me like a shadow.

milkywayIn my weaker moments, I blame it all on time.  I tell myself if I just had a little bit more time, or a little bit less to do, I would get “those things” done.  Deep down I know that I am mostly doing what I want to do and “those things” that aren’t getting done, aren’t getting done because I don’t want to do them bad enough.  Once again having come full circle, like the proverbial dog chasing its tail, I am confronted with the truth:  the problem is me — I am always the problem.

Conversion is needed here, deeper conversion and more love.  I have enough time to do what he wants me to do.  But I need more love  to recognize what that is and to do it.  Love changes a foolish heart into a heart of wisdom.  Love opens the door of time to the timelessness of eternity.  Love opens our eyes to the truth and it makes faith possible.

Love is working in me.  I know this because I am beginning to see where I couldn’t see before.  I see the need for change, radical change.  Love gives me hope that real transformation is possible and, in fact, is happening — slowly but surely, little by little, I am becoming new, better.

I want to live today, just today, with an awareness of God’s presence and with an understanding that there are “those things” he wants me to do today.  Today, I want to keep my eyes, ears and heart open to what the Holy Spirit is doing, so I can participate — so that the time I have been given will converge with God’s time and make a difference for eternity.  Love will find the way.

Photos compliments of Jim Begley

 

Burning Bush

Burning Bush

I want to be a burning bush.  My heart yearns, aches really, to be surrendered to Jesus so that he can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants.  I have been reading a lot of stories over the last several months about ordinary (very ordinary) people who have been extra-ordinary by so disposing themselves to the love of God that his love flows out of their hearts in streams of living water.  I long to be like that.

Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Mid’ian; and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.  And the angel of the Lord appeared to him out of the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed.  (Exodus 3:1-2)

Everything about this story is especially ordinary except the burning bush.  Moses, alone in the wilderness, is taking care of his father-in-law’s sheep.  Nothing about this scene suggests that something awesome is about to occur.  No musical score is playing in the background to alert us that Moses is about to encounter the living God; but then it happens — something amazing appears right before his eyes — the bush radiant with fire, but not consumed by it.

Lots and lots of things about my life are ordinary.  But when I pray I feel the fire burning in me.  Sometimes the fire rages and I can feel its energy inside me.  At other times it may just be smoldering, and from time to time, I cannot tell if it’s burning at all; but, whether I am aware of it or not, I know it burns.

www.wowphotoshdr.comI want the fire to consume me — to take away all of my darkness, to purify me.  Because, I believe if I can just dispose myself more to him, he will make me better, and you will be able to see more of Jesus in me.  “So I strive for … holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”  (Hebrews 12:14)  For, when it is all said and done, I do not want to be the reason you do not see him.

Even so, the holiness I strive for is not an external holiness.  I do not long to look good on the outside; rather I yearn for purity and goodness from the inside out.  The kind of purity and goodness that comes from the love of God being poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.  I am looking for the holiness that comes from the life of Christ dwelling inside — the fire that never goes out.

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Today is my birthday.  Do you know what I want for my birthday?  More!  More love, more power, more faith, more joy, more Jesus, more Holy Spirit.  I would like to say that I am content or that I have everything that I need.  But I don’t.  Or if I do, I am not aware of it.  All day I have felt a longing inside.  I want more, for me, for you, for all of us.  I hope this year is a year full of seeking, knocking and finding.  I know there’s more and I hope to find it.

Photo compliments of Jim Begley

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Care for a Drink?

Care for a Drink?

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.  (Matthew 5:6)

Have I ever really been hungry or thirsty for anything?  Many times I have said, “I am hungry” or “I am thirsty”.  Sometimes, I have even claimed to be starving or dying of thirst — but not really.  On those occasions, I was just a little bit hungrier and more thirsty than usual.

Of course there are people, lots and lots of people, who experience extreme hunger and desperate thirst.  Although I have never seen it myself, I know from TV and other reports that many people die in famines and droughts.  They literally die of hunger and thirst.  Nothing I have ever experienced comes close to that kind of desperation.

But what about hunger and thirst for righteousness?  I wonder if my hunger and thirst for righteousness has anything in common with what Jesus was talking about?  Maybe the hunger and thirst I experience is as dissimilar to what Jesus meant, as my experience of physical hunger and thirst is, to what people experience in famine and drought.

Sometimes I think my longing for God, my desire to please him, my hunger to be in close relationship with him, is really something.  I feel it passionately at times.  But then, I will encounter someone else whose longing, desire, hunger and thirst, makes mine pale in comparison.  I know from experience that it is not usually helpful to make comparisons, but I think, on occasion, it’s good to take stock of where I am and, from time to time, the Holy Spirit will use others to help me see what’s really going on, in and around me.

One thing is certain, I know there is more, more hunger, more thirst, more desire, more longing — and I know I need more.

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and proclaimed, ‘If any one thirsts, let him come to me and drink.  He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, “Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.'” (John 7:37-38)

This verse refers to the Holy Spirit and speaks of “rivers” of living water.  This sounds like lots and lots of rapidly moving water.  I think Jesus was talking about more than just a trickle.

He will drink from the brook by the wayside.  Therefore he will lift up his head.  (Psalm 110:6)

high falls dupont forest workingThe word for brook in this verse means “torrent”.

Is it possible, Jesus intends for torrential rivers to flow out of our hearts?

If so, why would I be satisfied with a trickle?

Maybe it’s because that’s all I want.

Perhaps, if I desire I torrent, he will give me a torrent?

 

Photos compliments of Jim Begley 

 

With Jesus It’s Always Personal

With Jesus It’s Always Personal

One day, when Jesus was in Jerusalem, he went to a pool near the Sheep Gate where there were a large number of sick, including those who were lame, blind and paralyzed.  Apparently, from time to time, an angel would go down into the pool and stir up the water; the first person who entered the water afterward was healed.

One man who had been sick for thirty eight years was laying beside the pool.  Jesus saw him and knew that he had been laying there day after day for a long time.  Jesus went up to him and asked him:

Do you want to be healed?  The sick man answered him, ‘Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is troubled, and while I am going another steps down before me.’  Jesus said to him, ‘Rise, take up your pallet, and walk.’  At once the man was healed, and he took up his pallet and walked.  (John 5:6-9)

Little is revealed about the man in this story, but we do know a few things.  He was sick and couldn’t walk.  He wanted to be healthy.  He believed if he could get into the pool first after the angel troubled the water, he would be healed.  He had no one to help him get into the pool and couldn’t get there by himself.  He had laid down beside the pool day after day for a long time.  Presumably he had watched others enter pool and come out of the water healed.

What do we know or can we deduce about his character?  He was patient; he was certainly long suffering.  He had at least some faith.   He must have had some measure of hope, though you have to wonder how after so many disappointments.  The story reveals no hint of bitterness despite the fact that he has no one to help him, as he watched, time after time, others reach the water before him.  Apparently he was polite for he addressed the Lord as “Sir”.  He was obedient, because he did exactly what Jesus asked him to do and he did it promptly.

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What does this story reveal about Jesus?

Sometimes we go looking for him and other times, he comes looking for us.  It is always personal with Jesus; he encounters individuals not crowds.  He sees things in us we don’t see in ourselves.  He has his own reasons for doing what he does.  He doesn’t give up on us even if we are tempted to give up on ourselves.  He acts in his own time.  He rewards faith; he honors perseverance; he gives help when no one else can; and, his love never fails and it never runs out; it is always enough.