Monday, May 02, 2016

Pray



Prayer.  The sacred conversation between God and God’s breathtaking creation.  We pray in church, in times of need, to make a request, out of love, or only to become vulnerable before God.  I find that when I do not pray, I feel adrift.  When I pray, I breathe deeper, I move easier, the sense of peace is transformative.

In the movie Shadowlands, Anthony Hopkins plays C. S. Lewis and says of prayer: “I pray because I can't help myself. I pray because I'm helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It doesn't change God- it changes me.”  

The world needs prayer.  Take a moment to grasp the number of people in the world in need of our prayers.  Pick one person that you will pray for this week.  It can be someone you know or someone you don’t know.  Pray for them throughout the day, every day for a week.

A teacher, the police officer, the lady cleaning our hotel room, the waitress, a child on the playground, a prisoner in jail, the soldier away for her children, your Priest, your wife.   Pray.   That God holds them, and they sense the presence of Jesus Christ.  Share Jesus Christ with them and reaffirm in a spiritual way that they, that we are never alone.

Monday, April 25, 2016

You are worthy


A television news segment reported on the pressures facing teenagers.  During the interview, many teenagers questioned their “worth.”  Worthy of the attention of others, worthy of being accepted into popular culture, worthy of their parent's attention.  We have become obsessed with societal acceptance, or monetary worth and have forgotten our inheritance.

We are children of the creator of heaven and earth.  The one who spins galaxies in the palm of the divine hand.  The one who breathes life into the tiniest red ant.  The one who sent our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ into the world because of our “worth.”

In a daily devotional reading.  Max Lucado wrote “The Lamb of Christ over the child of God? Whenever the Father looks down on you, what does he see? He sees his Son, the perfect Lamb of God, hiding you. When God looks at you, he doesn’t see you; he sees Jesus. And how does he respond when he sees Jesus? He rends the heavens and vibrates the earth with the shout, 'You are my Son, whom I love, and I am very pleased with you'” (Mark 1:11).

You are worthy.  Jesus, I am yours.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Interesting Sacred Encounter at Grocery store







Stopped on the way home and while in check out line noticed a man watching me;   inspecting the collar.  “So, you a Priest?”  Yes, I am.  “So, you believe in miracles?”  Yes.  “Why? all a bunch of bull.”  

I smiled, put his bread on the counter and said “I am not smart enough to explain it.  All I know is I believe in Jesus; he is my everything, and somehow I know He is true. His miracles are real - even today.  It happens”  

He was never angry or pointed.  He smiled a bit.  As I was paying the cashier, I said - I consider it is a miracle that someone had the guts to ask me the question.  

Said goodbye and left told him “my brother, I will say a prayer for you tonight.”  He looked at me and said “thanks”  I am always blessed by sacred encounters.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The cross at Good Shepherd Mission

This has to be my favorite cross.  

It is located at Good Shepherd Mission in Navajoland.  The faith, the people, sheep in the far distant hills and a lone shepherd.  It speaks to who we are as followers of Christ.  Always close, always seeking, a simple profound beauty.  I am grateful for God's presence in my life and the hope in Him. 



Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Who Is Listening (Mark 3:20-35)

I read a story(1) about a woman who spent a weekend in New York City with her 14-year-old daughter.  It was their first visit, and they wanted to catch a Broadway show.   The discount ticket line in Times Square is extremely long.  Waiting in this line affords you the opportunity to take in the vast collision of opposites in Times Square.

Smiling families are taking pictures of themselves while standing next to an angry man extending a middle finger.  On one side of the street is Disney's "Beauty and the Beast," on the other side a “triple x" theater.  Men in $5000 suits walk next to men asking for a quarter for something to eat.

Peddlers sell dubious Rolex watches while street preachers claim the time has come, and the end is near. Anything that can be found will be found. The woman and daughter were listening to the conversations of those in line.  A couple was bragging as to the number of shows they have attended.  Elderly ladies were complaining about the line, the heat, and their feet.

Men were making lewd comments toward the young female students standing a few feet in front.  It seemed a typical day in our society.  The woman pulled her daughter a bit closer and then noticed a woman standing a few feet away. Plump, middle age, wearing a thick coat and a tattered hat.  Her shoes were dirty and torn.

She was one of the invisible homeless. She seemed to be mumbling to herself while feeding the pigeons crumbs of bread.  All appear to look past her, most just turned their backs and ignored her.  Most did not give her the dignity of recognition as a human being. Only the insignificant pigeons paid her any notice.

Young girls giggled and said “she is crazy” never lifting their eyes from their phones while texting.  I assume this is how people treated Jesus. This radical message was turning their world upside down, and they could not accept it. He said “live in peace, forgive, accept, love” and they turned their backs on him.

He insisted to the religious leaders everyone mattered, and no one is excluded from the God’s - they looked right through him.  Imagine the reaction when he ate with sinners, embraced men, and woman with painful pasts, how pulled people from the shadows.  They called him evil and mad.

When he told them to love and not to judge, when he told them the Fathers is good, the wanted to kill him.  Jesus was challenging all the knew about God.  They could not imagine the God he was describing.  In fact, they were quite comfortable with the convenient and predictable God the created.  One with simple answers and no mystery.

All they had to do was read scriptures, follow the rules, wait for judgment, offer a few things up for sacrifice, people, animals, and ideas, and keep out of God’s way.  Easy to appease and please.  In fact, it was a great way to control God. The problem with creating a simple God is that you never have to get to know God.

God is not allowed to transform truly your life.  This predictable God has a tendency to be unpredictable. God will astonish and amaze.  He sends Jesus with a crazy and transformative message of hope. Jesus is pointing to a divine heart filled with Goodness. Jesus was attuned to the heart of God.  They called him crazy.

At Calvary, many turned their backs on him and abandoned him.  In the truth of Easter, hearts were claimed and lives emboldened. This wondrous life and message of Jesus began to go out into the world.  It spread not by the powerful of society but through simple people like you and I. The excluded, powerless, the hurting, the sick.

All those in the desperate need of the love and acceptance of God.  And people found it in one another.  Living the message, seeking the sacred presence of God and then sharing it.  Heart spoke to heart; depth found depth.   Without power, weapons or force, this message changed the world. Over time and distance, we forget. It became easy.

That crazy message soon sounded like the mumblings of a crazy man or woman.  People began to hear it without really listening.  All those things like self, wealth, power, and exclusion claimed more of one's times. That crazy becomes routine and loses the mystery.  We lose the connection to the Divine Heart and transformative life and words.

So we cobble together an accessible version message and once again and create a convenient God of easy answers.  We quote a few words of scripture and know we understand the mind of God.  Do this and God will accept you, act like that, and God hates. And once again we have created a predictable and distant God.

A God we can control. A God we never really allow ourselves to know.  It is the what Jesus warned us against doing. Every time Jesus' followers began making rules (like no children near Jesus, don't let the crowd get too close, don't touch that person), Jesus was clear.  Stop, listen to the heartbeat of God!  What matters most is to follow me.”

This is why they called him crazy. And this is why we need to be called crazy once again.  We have this incredible God, who is always challenging us to live and pray differently.  An indescribable God who continually invites us into a mysterious Divine presence.  Heart speaks to the heart; spiritual depth finds real transformation.  Don’t settle for anything less.  Seek the heart of God.

We are being offered so much more. Sit in divine silence and acknowledge your dependence on Him.  Live in the sacred present and accept everything that comes your way as a blessing. Don’t define God, just sit in wonder.  Keep watching how he forgives, listen to his accepting words.  Learn how he loves, sense how easily he brings peace.

To the world, this is a crazy way of living, yet we have a crazy and unpredictable God. Why would we want anything less incredible? Simple explanations and easy answers separate us from astonishment.  When we are hurting, excluded, sick, tired or even joyful and happy. Do we want a simple and predictable God?

A God, who can be controlled, and, interpreted.  No.  Our God spins ten thousand galaxies in the palm of His hand, and the same instant bends down and breaths life into the smallest red ant. Find our God, who is in every moment, every being, every molecule in creation. The God, who loved each one of us so intensely that he sent His son into this world for each one of us.

Go beyond the easy answers. We need to increase our capacity for God.  When we press our faith and lives beyond mere routine, we can seek God over and over again.  When we are astounded and challenged by God, we can live in the fullness of our calling.  We can journey with the poor, help those sick in body and mind. We can bring about peace.

We can heal a hurting world with this crazy message about the Kingdom of God where everyone is welcome.   This is where the Kingdom begins.  That day in New York, something occurred.  The woman standing in line heard the mumbling and as she was turning her back noticed that the homeless women had the same round small nose as her daughter.   She felt a divine connection.

Easy answers simply would not do, and she now had questions.   Why was she on the streets?  Could this happen to her daughter?  Heart spoke to the heart and deep sought depth.  At that point, she realized the woman was not mumbling, but talking to the birds.  With a soft voice, she was telling them how much she and God loved them.

Of God's great love for the world.  She told them of God's deep sadness in seeing beautiful people dying of AIDS and mental illness. Of God’s genuine grief how we ignore one another.  She spoke of God's heartbreak that we cannot seem to love one another in the way which God has loved us.  How Jesus came to show God’s love.

Only the pigeons were listening to this beautiful crazy message of forgiveness, love, and hope.  The crazy homeless woman truly understood the heart of God. Now, The woman standing in line was in tears.If only the entire world could hear this message.   My dear ones, the whole world, can hear this message - through you and your lives.  Listen, seek and go deep.

Each moment of the day, challenge you to seek the heart of God and in doing so, you will find your true heart.  Allow yourselves to be astonished and amazed.   People may think we are crazy, but maybe we are.  We believe in a God who is crazy in love with us.  And that heart, that love, that relationship, is worth more than anything this sane world has to offer. Seek it.

1.   I must apologize.  I cannot remember the source.  It is not my story, and I paraphrased it. 
2.      Anderson. Breaking the Rules: Trading Performance for Intimacy with God (Kindle Locations 1058-1060). Kindle Edition

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Politics, Polls, Torture

Hope, peace, goodness, and love.  In this Advent time of holy expectation, the words seem more than ideals or dreams.  Our hearts yearn for the possibility; they feel real and attainable.  I want so much to feel their truth.  I am a hopeless believer.  I follow this beautiful man whose life epitomized the fullness of their meaning.   I want them to mean something.  I want to believe in those words as much as I believe in Him.

Hope, peace, goodness, and love.  And then the world groans.  Brutality by a segment of law enforcement, angry protests in response, and then news of a Mississippi teenager horrifically murdered on a lonely road. Are those words simple dreams?  I wondered as I read two small articles buried on pages 5 and 6 of the newspaper. 

132 children and nine adults murdered by the Taliban.  Innocent children filled with hope, slaughtered by hate and justified by a horrific aberration of faith.  The father of his 14-year-old murdered son wailed “My son was my dream, and now my dream has been killed.” I lose my breath at the pain.  

I read the next article and am at a loss for words.  60% of Americans believe the use of torture is appropriate and justified under certain conditions.  I read the reasons for torture: anger, vengeance, counter terrorism, self-protection.  The ends justify the means.  We knowingly condone and inflict the same horrors we so emphatically detest in others. It seems that hopelessness and fear reign.

Do we truly live in a world where violence is accepted, torture is condoned and vengeance is commonplace.  I feel much like Fr. Gabriel in the 1986 movie “The Mission, who says “ If might is right, then love has no place in the world. It may be so; it may be so. But I don't have the strength to live in a world like that.” 

It may be so; it may be so. I do not want it to be so. I pray that it is not so.  I believe in the goodness of humanity. We have seen it time and time again.  Throughout the centuries where the worst of mankind was present. There were people who believed in the power of good. Through the periods of genocide, greed, starvation, lust, cruelty, hate, and hopelessness; these women and me of goodness gave life a breath of hope.  

Women and men who have believed in the power of hope, peace goodness, and love. Fellow sojourners who envisioned a different world.  Hopeful people whose lives expressed a deep and abiding love for all of creation. A world where forgiveness is stronger than revenge, where empathy abounded over hate, acceptance mightier than exclusion and that the light of love shone brighter than the darkest of hearts. 

I follow a man who said, “put down the sword” as he was being led to the torture chamber.  Jesus whose dying words spoke forgiveness for his torturers.   I am struggling to learn that by following this beautiful man, I do not have a choice.  I cannot pick and choose his message.  I cannot choose who to love, accept or who to forgive.  I must follow him; all or nothing.  

By following him, I know. I know inherently that choking a person to death while they scream for a breath is unconscionable.  I know that vilifying every law enforcement officer is wrong.  That flying airplanes filled with innocent civilians into buildings is horrific and against God. Killing children in the name of God is evil.  I know that torturing another human created in the image of God is simply beyond His and our understanding.  

Hope, goodness, peace and love goes far beyond the obvious.  We know that no child should be abused, trafficked  or die of starvation.   No one should live on the margins because of who they love or where they live. We know this because we are made for hope, peace, goodness and love.  Because of this, I know we cannot accept a world where children will be slaughtered at school and humans accept torture.  

I believe in my brothers and sisters who share this small place called earth.  I know that we are inherently good, and we will shout “no more.”  Hope, peace, goodness, and love are not simple words or far away dreams.  These words represent who we are.  It is our only path we have for a world that has a tendency to slip into the darkness.  May we all believe in the transformative power of hope, peace, goodness and love.  May it be so, may it be so. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Five Lost Souls

Three Hispanic teens are out late searching for someone to be the target of their pain. Two homeless Navajo men are sitting in an abandoned field strewn with rocks and glass, drinking away their pain, dulling whatever path that has led them to this place. Two broken roads meet last Saturday night, and we are left wondering if can ever call ourselves a civilized or caring community. For no other reason than rage and hate, the three teens spend the next hour bashing the men in the field with hands, feet, cinder blocks and poles. Through splattered blood and cries of pain, the teens shout " eat mud bitch. "

The next morning the homeless Navajo men are found under a mattress. The faces of these beautiful children of God are mutilated beyond recognition. They are caked in blood, brain matter and mud. Unrecognizable in death as they were invisible in life. No one seemed to know who they were, only that they were the nameless homeless. The three teens walk home with blood on their hands and clothes. Who is at home to notice their appearance? One of the teens looks into the mirror and tells the arresting police that he saw the “devil” in his reflection.

This story transcends heartbreak. It prompts outrage, questioning, disbelief. Nevertheless, it goes far deeper. One cannot begin to describe the depth of incomprehension. Three teens are shackled for their appearance in court. We learn they dropped out of school.  One cannot find a parent. Another was at one time homeless. What were the origins of this torment and hatred that were unleashed upon the world in that abandoned field? I suspect we will find a myriad of abuse, poverty, isolation and neglect. During those hours, they walked the streets of our city - did we see them? When they were booked into jail - did we intervene? When they were ignored by society did we bring them in? I am at a loss for these children of God.

Two lost Navajo men far away from their sacred home. They are sitting in the dark, in an empty field next to a busy street. Their last hours are simply horrific. Forsaken by society, they are not identified for three days. No one knows who they were, or that they were in a morgue. Who cared for them? We become immune to the pain felt by the Navajo homeless. We simply forget the homeless - ethnicity is of no factor. I suspect we will find a myriad of poverty, neglect, cultural oppression and abuse of some kind. All those hours walking the streets of our city - did we see them? When they were booked into jail - did we intervene? When they were ignored by society - did we bring them in? I cry for these children of God.

Five lost people on the streets of Albuquerque. Many are calling for justice and vengeance while politicians now talk of protecting the homeless. There will be media headlines and sad vigils; what has changed? The reality is that we did not care about them before this horrific night, and I suspect that over time, this story will become a dusty old story. Will we even remember their names in six months? Who will be the next lost soul? Thousands of dropouts will continue to walk the streets; gangs will grow. Homelessness will continue, and lonely souls will drink in abandoned corners.   Children of God will continue to die violent or lonely deaths on our streets.

It is difficult to find the Kingdom of a God in this story. However, maybe there is hope. I pray that abandoned field will be a step toward creating that Kingdom. Maybe our community will understand that one lost soul, five lost souls, or 1000 lost souls are unacceptable. Through the pain, bewilderment, and sadness, we may have the courage and compassion to care. Someone has to care; something has to change. Please don’t let this be the end of the story. " The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine you did for me.”