The Lament of Love

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The part of the marriage vow we say but hope does not happen is the phrase, “for better or for worse.” In the last few months my soul mate (Juanell) and I have seen some of the worst. Our illness have not been terminal, but very painful, weakening and seemingly chronic. Our emotional ups and downs (our grandson’s cancer, and other family members health struggles) have been at the least draining and at worst, the pit of depression. And then comes the spiritual stuggles, the likes of which we have never before had to face.

However, though the grace of God we have perserved. No, not just perserved but have received gift after gift of God’s grace and consolatons. You see, we share in the lament of our love. When things get dark, one of us looks for the candle of perseverance while the other looks for the matches of hope. We find light. Light in our devotions, our service, and in most of all, in our prayers. We do not let despondancy last very long.

Today, Juanell read these verses from her devotional, “We are experiencing all kinds of trouble, but we aren’t crushed. We are confused, but we aren’t depressed. We are harassed, but we aren’t abandoned. We are knocked down, but we aren’t knocked out. We always carry Jesus’ death around in our bodies so that Jesus’ life can also be seen in our bodies.”(2 Cor. 4:8-10 CEB)

She look at me, smiled, and I gave a semi-smile back. I knew what see was thinking and I knew it was time for my pity party to end. When your conscious is clean and your prayers of forgiveness and reliance are molded into a cup which God fills with grace, the lament of love becomes the tie that binds.

The Relationship that Heals

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I receive a daily email from, Thoughtful Mind <quotes@thoughtful-mind.com>. The quote for today (Inspiring Quote for May 17th, 2018) is this:

“If you don’t think your anxiety, depression, sadness and stress impact your physical health, think again. All of these emotions trigger chemical reactions in your body, which can lead to inflammation and a weakened immune system. Learn how to cope, sweet friend. There will always be dark days.”    ― Kris Carr

I can fully agree with this quote. And yes, there will always be dark days. Our Lord even gave us this warning, “But the gate that leads to life is narrow and the road difficult, so few people find it.” (Matt. 7:14 CEB)

Yet, I believe with all my heart, even the difficult times that stress us, weaken us, and tear us down, can become an opportunity to deepen our faith.

I have learned through experience after experience this world is not fair. I have learned that those who say they are your friends and supports can turn out to be just the opposite. I have also learned that though you try to open and transparent, there always be those who question your motives or will try to drag you down due to motives of their own.

In this midst of these challenges (even as I write this blog I get hit with another pain causing incident) our only way of coping, not escaping, burying in the back of our minds, or creating an illusion of wellness, is to recognize our own powerlessness and grab hold to the pole of patience that is anchored in our faith in our Lord.

I proclaim this often and believe it completely, Jesus said, “I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.” (Matt. 28:20 CEB)

Even when our minds and bodies cannot live by this amazing truth, our hearts can.

Holding to Consolation in the Deepest of Desolation

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Yesterday I wrote about one of the most wonderful consolations I have ever been given by God. But today, I have been thrown into the deepest desolation.

The role of pastor in this day and age (unless one is a master  of marketing a consumer-driven social structure) is difficult at best and a slow, agonizing, endeavor at its worst. God is always there, but within the mystery of divine love, free-will, and a creation under a curse, the question, “Why, Lord, why?”, becomes a mantra of everyday life.

I know my current sufferings and desolations are nothing compared to what my  Lord experienced, but still, it hurts and hurts deeply. We pray for humility but when that humility comes as we experience ripping and tearing of our integrity, despondency rises in power.

I believe Jesus knew the cross was going to be hard and hurtful, but until it was happening, I doubt he had a pre-consciousness of just how the pain would come and how soul searing it would be.

None of us know when desolation will strike, but we do know it will come. When it comes, there is little we can do to prepare for just how bad it will hurt. Still, like our Lord, we can know it will pass and it will end (though sometimes we wonder if this is true).

So today, I hold to the gift I received yesterday as a child would hold a security blanket or a lover would hold their beloved.

I am aware the issues I now face will likely pursue and disturb me as I seek to serve in a denomination of good accountability but blemished with a few who are willing to use any weakness or perceived error by someone to advance their own status or agenda. Yet, the consolation I was given yesterday reminds me the One I love and serve will open doors no human or diabolical power can close.

For this I am most thankful. Because of Jesus, we always can have hope. Because of Jesus I have hope.

A Gift from Lectio

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In my time of Lectio today, I received an echo that deeply touched my heart, my soul, and a place even deeper, a place and presence of mystery which can only be described as a gift. A gift, epiphany, an pouring of pure grace upon me. It came from the words, “Jesus raised his eyes to heaven…” (John 17:1).

It was in these words I found, or I should say I was found by, an awareness and presence that I have no words to describe.

I have been living in a state of semi-constant physical pain (from a back condition for which I am being treated) and from an deep emotional pain from conflict I have a hard time understanding and very little ability to sedate. This has produced times of spiritual despondency and futile worrisome anxiety.

My soul mate has done her best through pray and listening to sustain and support me. I have friends praying and encouraging me, still, the combined pain and spiritual barriers seemed overwhelming. Then came the gift.

Now, at this moment, the pain is insignificant. The conflict has moved far, far away, and I now write in a state of consolation I have missed for some time.

Yes, the eighth rule of St. Ignatius is so true and trustable. Our God’s grace is sufficient. Amen.

Advent, Anxiety, Adversity

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This time of the year may be the most wonderful time for many people, but for some it is a time of sorrow, regret, and stress. This is the time of the year the Christian Church looks toward the promise of Advent. A promise of the return of the Lord.
Yet, when I look to the prophets of the past, I find that hoping for the Day of the Lord, is not always a pleasant promise or one of a celebratory perspective.
What a terrible day! The day of the LORD is near; it comes like chaos from the Almighty. (Joel 1:15 CEB)
Doom to those who desire the day of the LORD! Why do you want the day of the LORD? It is darkness, not light; (Amos 5:18 CEB)
The great day of the LORD is near; it is near and coming very quickly. The sound of the day of the LORD is bitter. A warrior screams there. (Zeph. 1:14 CEB)
Look, I am sending Elijah the prophet to you, before the great and terrifying day of the LORD arrives. (Mal. 4:5 CEB)
Now if it seems like I am saying I am not looking forward to the possibility of be accepted by the Lord, I am not. The hope of heaven is the only really hope we have as human beings. What I am saying is I believe Advent needs to be set in the context of not just anticipation, but also in the reality of the Job-like experience some/many people, even Christian people, live.
So, day in and out,
He ran from the doubt,
Never finding earthly peace,
Or any sustained release,
Just seeking to cope,
In the absence of human hope.
Oh, when will come the day,
When at last in the grave
He will lay?

At last!

Advent was a sobering season in the past. The season was so serious, the Church felt in necessary to add a pink candle and have one Lord’s day focus on joy. I fully agree that people need to have times of joy, still, for some any joy is a fleeting, frustrating, and at times futile endeavor.

Yes, I know this post if dark. And no, this author is not in a state of absolute despair (well maybe 97%) and in no way, would consider the even remote possibility of ending life through a self-action.

No matter, even when pain is a constant companion, even when a person feels like the world would be better without them and it could not get worse, be assured it can!

I cannot image, or perhaps I dare not image, what it would be like trying to explain to God why you felt like you had to right to decide to end your own life. There is no excuse or explanation for something so selfish. This is true especially in the light of what God incarnate, Jesus, endured because of human life’s value. What pain could be greater than injustice, betrayal, humiliation, abandonment, crucifixion and descent into hell? Even in the worst darkness, we have no idea.

I am writing this post so that those who read it and are struggling with the feelings this season can stir and aggravate know they are not alone and that it is okay to not feel compelled to be happy, joyful when you are supposed to be (or at least pretend to be) and it is alright to cry out to God, “Perish the day I was born, the night someone said, “”A boy has been conceived.”” That day– let it be darkness; may God above ignore it, and light not shine on it. (Job 3:3-4 CEB)

What is important for those who hope is to one day be accepted into the presence of our Lord is to remain vigilant and endure knowing, “I believe that the present suffering is nothing compared to the coming glory that is going to be revealed to us.” (Rom. 8:18 CEB)

Spontaneous Prayer

Anthony Bloom, in his book, Beginning to Pray, writes, “Spontaneous prayer is possible in two situations: either at moments when we have become vividly aware of God, when this awareness calls out of us a response of worship, of joy, all the forms of response which we are capable of giving, being ourselves and facing the living God, or when we become aware suddenly of the deathly danger we are in when we come to God, moments when we suddenly shout out from the depths of despair and dereliction, and also from the sense there is no hope of salvation for us unless God saves us.”

Knowing this to be true, I write this simple, spontaneous one word prayer bead prayer today.

Cross:
Mercy
Invitatory Bead:
Help
Cruciform Beads:
Forgive
Weeks Beads:
Renew
Benedictory Bead:
Clean
Cross:
Hope

Amen………

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A Prayer During Darkness

Tragedy is a part of human life. Paradise, as a place of no problems or sorrows, is not a reality when we live in a world of decay and death. We can never know when an accident, a storm, a disease, or another person may act in a way that brings tragedy to our doorstep.

It is not a matter of if, but of when.

In American culture this tension is lessened by our ability to utilize material resources to distract us from this certainty. We are skilled at isolating tragedy and imagining that such things will not happen to us. We are very good at finding ways not to think about the terrors or transforming them into entertainment in which we can hit the reset button or change the channel.

I am told there was a time even in America, when death was more visible, real, and feared rather than denied. A time in which people prepared for the darkness rather than trying to ignore it or escape it. A time in which faith was more prominent and practiced. I believe this is true. I believe it was during a time in which places of worship and spirituality center life in a community rather than being an option on the edge of our culture.

But who am I to question such things.

Still, I pray. I try to prepare. I seek the foundation and relationship needed to face tragedy. I am striving to learn how to suffer with hope. I understand my time will come to endure the darkness. I understand, even in darkness, their is light to be experienced.

 

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Cross:

“God is light and there is no darkness in him at all.” (1 Jn. 1:5 CEB)

Invitatory Bead:

Oh Lord, in our darkness we need your light. In our struggle against the darkness, bring us to hope. In the pain inflicted by the dark unknown and even darker evil, only you can sustain, only you can rescue. Lord, be my light now, bring light to my prayer.

Cruciform Beads:

You are the one who lights my lamp– the LORD my God illumines my darkness. (Ps. 18:28 CEB)

Weeks Beads:

Because of our God’s deep compassion, the dawn from heaven will break upon us, to give light to those who are sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide us on the path of peace.” (Lk. 1:78-79 CEB)

Benedictory Bead:

Psalm 23

Cross:

Lord, bless us, protect us from all evil, and bring us to everlasting life. Amen.