December 11, 2017

Good Friday

 

Wisdom, power, and adoration 

To the blessed Trinity

For redemption and salvation

Through the Paschal Mystery.

Now, in every generation,

And for all eternity. Amen

 

(taken from the conclusion hymn, to be sung during the Adoration of the Cross liturgy)

 

Silence and Peace: by Dan Jurek

Often I read scripture, and a phrase grabs hold of my spirit and I stop to wonder and ponder it’s meaning for me. I’ve read the verse or passage many times before, but in a specific moment in time, the Word steps into time and speaks to me – personally.

Tonight was one of those moments. Reading Psalm 131: “Truly I have set my soul in silence and peace. As a child has rest in its mother’s arms, even so my soul. Oh Israel, hope in the Lord both now and for ever.”

Setting my soul in silence and peace – resting – waiting – being.  Advent continues to “set my soul” and place it in the context of the silent night. I don’t place my soul in a void or an empty abyss. Like a child rests in its mother’s arms, I set my soul in the arms of Abba, my Father. I set my soul in confidence that His presence is real, alive and creates a safe place for me to just be.

Come O Lord and set us free, bring your people peace!

Waiting in Joyful Hope: by Dan Jurek

I marvel at this time of year. Advent. Waiting in joyful hope. Waiting… Waiting… Waiting to be transformed. Waiting to overcome my fears. Waiting to break through the hesitation and embrace the fullness of Christ. Waiting to fulfill the dreams that lay in storage yearning to be found like a lost treasure. Waiting to love deeper. Waiting for something that has not yet … yet I know I will recognize it when it appears and makes itself known. 

God the Father did not wait. He anticipated the coming of His Son from the beginning.  He formed into clay – human. Man and Woman in His image and likeness. He set His plan into motion from the beginning. The first parents, Adam and Eve prepared the way for the foreseen incarnation of Christ.

Tertullian writes: “Think of God as totally occupied with and given over to this – with hand, perception, labor, counsel, wisdom, providence and, above all, with love itself, which produced its features. For although it was clay that was being molded, it was Christ who was in mind as the one who was to become man, because the Word was to be both clay and flesh, just as the earth was at that time.”

So the Father created man and woman – and He waited, for the fulfillment of time. Then the angel declared unto Mary, and she conceived by the Holy Spirit, and the Father waited for the birth of His Son.

And so I wait. I wait for the Lord to come during this liturgical season of Advent. I wait for the Feast of Christmas when He was born of the Virgin and took the form of flesh. I wait for His coming again in Glory. Whether it’s when He calls me to himself in death or when He comes again in Glory to Judge at the end of time, I wait with joyful hope.

During these days of Advent, I prepare and wait for His coming into my life on a deeper level. Through my own on-going conversion from death to life – repenting of my sin and failings. I remind myself of the dreams and desires He has planted in my heart; the ones that I have allowed to become cold and distant. I lean into the fire of His Holy Spirit and pray for the warmth that comes from the love of the Incarnate Word – Jesus.

And so I wait, with the Church universal. I wait for His coming at Christmas. I wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ. “For the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory are Yours, Almighty Father, now and forever!”

Come Lord Jesus!

Challenging our life of faith

During my years as a high school campus minister, I referred to this wonderful simple story often to challenge my student ministers (myself included).  We can’t become complacent and comfortable living the gospel life. I hope you find it as inspiring and challenging as I still do.

The Story of the Lifesaving Station  by: Theodore Wedel

On a dangerous sea coast where shipwrecks often occur, there was once a crude little life-saving station. The building was just a hut, and there was only one boat, but the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea and with no thought for themselves went out day and night tirelessly searching for the lost. Some of those who were saved, and various others in the surrounding area, wanted to become associated with the station and give of their time and money and effort for the support of its work. New boats were bought and new crews trained. The little lifesaving station grew.

Some members of the lifesaving station were unhappy that the building was so crude and poorly equipped. They felt that a more comfortable place should be provided as the first refuge of those saved from the sea. They replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in the enlarged building. Now the lifesaving station became a popular gathering place for its members, and they decorated it beautifully and furnished it exquisitely, because they used it as sort of a club.

Fewer members were now interested in going to sea on lifesaving missions, so they hired lifeboat crews to do this work. The lifesaving motif still prevailed in this club’s decorations, and there was a miniature lifeboat in the room where the club initiations were held.

About this time a large ship was wrecked off the coast, and the hired crews brought in boatloads of cold, wet, and half-drowned people. They were dirty and sick, and some of them had black skin and some had yellow skin. The beautiful new club was in chaos. So the property committee immediately had a shower house built outside the club where victims of shipwreck could be cleaned up before coming inside.

At the next meeting, there was a split in the club membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club’s lifesaving activities, since they were unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal social life of the club. Some members insisted upon lifesaving as their primary purpose and pointed out that they were still called a lifesaving station. But they were finally voted down and told that if they wanted to save the lives of all the various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters, they could begin their own lifesaving station down the coast. They did.

As the years went by, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old. It evolved into a club, and yet another lifesaving station was founded. History continued to repeat itself, and if you visit that sea coast today you will find a number of exclusive clubs along the shore. Shipwrecks are frequent in those waters, but most of the people drown.

Thank God I’m Wrong By: Melissa Lowery, M.A.

Melissa Lowery is an Associate with me at the Pax Renewal Center. Not only is she a great therapist, but she is an insightful, excellent writer. I hope you enjoy this.  Dan Jurek

I was inspired by a recent women’s event at Asbury United Methodist Church to think on my own spiritual journey, and if I had my own pearls of wisdom, or “pearls of faith” to pass on, what would they be? It simply comes down to one pride-swallowing admission: Thank you, Lord, for being so much smarter than I am.

I am a planner. I will not say that I am a control freak (who wants to admit that?), but I do like for things to go predictably according to my expectations. No one likes the feelings of disappointment and anxiety that go along with adjustment and, dare I say it, being wrong. But, I am infinitely grateful that my mistakes and well-intentioned plans are overseen by someone who knows so much more than I do about what is right for me.

So, how do we engage in a relationship with God that is not equivalent to that of a petulant child (“Here, Lord, I give this over to you… No, now I want it back… No, you can take it… No, it’s mine.”)? Is it humanly possible to trust God more than we trust ourselves? Larry Crabb suggests there are steps in the spiritual process that allow for pain, change, and healing, all in the journey of bringing us closer to God through self-awareness:

1)    “Shattered dreams are necessary for spiritual growth.” We often feel we know what is best, and we establish dreams and hopes in pursuit of that perception. So, we experience disappointment and even grief when they do not go according to plan. Some dreams need to be broken in order to proceed the way God intends.

2)    Something wonderful survives everything terrible, and it surfaces most clearly when we hurt.” Looking back, some of my most challenging times in life brought on the strongest, most fervent efforts of soul-searching. I was open to new emotions, insights, and relationships, because I recognized whatever I was previously doing had not worked.

3)    “Some dreams important to us will shatter, and the realization that God could have fulfilled that dream pushes us into a terrible battle with Him.” When a most cherished dream is shattered, such as the death of a loved one, our nature is to question God – why did He allow it, or why did He not prevent it? At some point, we experience tension with God.

4)    Only an experience of deep pain develops our capacity for recognizing and enjoying true life.” If I always give my daughter candy, she will never learn to like vegetables. Just as we experience lesser wants to our satisfaction, we never know to strive for something greater.

5)    “No matter what happens in life, a wonderful dream is available… That experience, strange at first, will eventually be recognized as joy.” The past is not to be recaptured but to be used as a launching pad for new, joyful dreams as God designs.

If we trust God’s dreams for us, not our own, we are open to experience joy. If a dream is shattered, we should feel as we need to feel – hurt, sad, confused – then, we open ourselves to what is next on our path. The more confidence we have in God, the more confidence we have in our own judgment to make sound and faithful decisions for our lives.

 

 

 

An Investment Bankers Advice – A Fisherman’s Wisdom

(I read this post from an email on SmartMarriage.com. I’m not certain of the author. I really like what it says to me ….)

The investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked.   Inside the small boat were several large yellow fin tuna.  The investment banker complimented the fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The fisherman replied, only a little while.

The investment banker then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish?

The fisherman said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.

The investment banker then asked, but what do you do with the rest of your
time?

The fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life, senor.”

The investment banker scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you.  You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat.

With the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution.  You can leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The fisherman asked, “But senor, how long will this all take?”

To which the American replied, “15-20 years.”

But what then, senor?

The American laughed and said that’s the best part.  When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions.

Millions, senor?  Then what?

The American said, “Then you would retire.  Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

Touching Souls

This is one of my favorite quotes:

We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature- trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.

                                                   ~Mother Teresa

Watching People of Courage and Faith

“At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus”.

The Gospel reading from Matthew’s gospel (chapter 14) constantly strikes me as a call for courage and faith. I can only imagine that the others in the boat with Peter were amazed at his courage. At the moment they may have thought it was foolishness and more than a little crazy. Looking back though, it took great courage and great faith to get out of the boat and walk.

When reading this passage over the years, I often focused on Jesus walking on the water. It spoke of His Lordship, His power, His dominion over all of creation.  Years ago, I was meditating on this passage and came to another “life changing” reflection. I’m really not surprised that Jesus was walking on the water – I’m in awe that Peter walked on the water. Wow! Disciples of Christ are called to exercise their faith with great courage. They are called to keep their eyes on Jesus during the storms of life and find they indeed have the strength to get through … to walk on the water!

I often think of the many people who have witnessed that faith and courage to me on a daily basis. They have stepped out of their boats stricken by sheer desperation in the storms of their lives and just walked toward the Master.

I think of a woman who pregnant with her third child, discovers the baby in her womb will be born with Downs Syndrome and a heart condition. With great faith she has embraced this storm and walks on the water of courage and faith every day to love, nurture and care for this “precious one”.  I think of a man, happily married for over 20 years with 5 children under 16 years of age. He comes home from a family activity to discover his beloved bride on the floor of their kitchen unconscious after having a stroke. She is now a shell of the woman he once knew. His storm rages and he cares for his bride and the children they birthed with courage and faith. He loves like no man I know. His children experience it, his wife feels it, we all get the privilege to see it.

I am inspired by the many “Peters” who cross my path on a daily basis. Men, women and children who witness to me the power of exercised faith that overcomes despair.  The power of the gift of courage to face the unimaginable and not retreat into fear. They challenge me, during the storms of my life, to stand up, step out of the boat and walk towards Jesus.

Who has inspired you with this kind of courage and faith? Who has modeled Peter’s bold action and walked on the water? I would like to hear your stories. I invite you to share them. Post them. Proclaim them. So that all of us might be inspired to “walk on the water”.

Communication or Making a Connection?

“Let your speech be always gracious and in good taste, and strive to respond properly to all who address you.”   Colossians 4:6

John and Diane, like most couples who come into my office for marriage counseling want to learn communication skills. They have been married for 11 years and have four children under the age of eight.

They tell me they just don’t seem to be able to get along anymore. “All we do is fight”, said John. “I say something – almost anything and Diane interprets it to mean that I’m telling her she’s doing something wrong. She get’s defensive, I get angry and World War III breaks out.”

Diane sees it a little differently. “Whatever I do is never good enough for John. If I clean the house, it’s not clean enough. If I get 20 errands run in my day, he wants to know why I didn’t get 25 errands done. I don’t know if I can do this anymore. We have got to find a better way.”

John and Diane know how to communicate all right, though they’re not doing it in a healthy or effective way. As a matter of fact, they have gotten so good at communicating poorly that they literally push each other away instead of drawing each other close. They are disconnecting and not communicating to connect.

In order to communicate to connect, John and Diane have to create a safe and sacred space between them. They have to tune out the distractions and tune in to each other. They have to learn to touch each other gently and “invade” each others personal space to create a spousal sacred space.

Good communication is not about what we say, as much as about what we hear. The most important communication skill that I know of is listening. Attentive listening, hearing what the other is saying and meaning leads to intimate connection.

John and Diane have begun to apply these principals as they relate to one another. Along with other skills, strategies and techniques that I have taught them, they are discovering intimacy again – deep sharing that connects them and brings them closer to each other.

“A Bug’s Life”–And Staying in Love

One of my favorite all time movie clips comes from the animated movie, A Bug’s Life. A scene opens in the movie as night descends on an SUV parked next to a lone camper. The night sky is beautiful, the air is calm, the stars are bright, the bugs are buzzing, and the crickets are chirping under a gorgeous night sky.
The focus immediately shifts to a bug light hanging from the front porch of the camper. Two small bugs are flying together. As they pass the bug light, you see one of the bugs veer off from its partner toward the light. The other bug screams at the top of its voice, “No Harry no, don’t look at the light”. Continuing to fly straight toward the light, we hear Harry, in a hypnotic like, trance induced voice, “I can’t help it, it’s so beautiful”.  In that instant, the bug light flashes and you hear the dreaded, yet inevitable electrical surge. Harry screams and falls to his apparent death. The temptation allured Harry the bug by its beauty and warmth, but ended up killing him.
Whenever I hear a client, or a friend, or a member at church say to me, “Dan, I don’t know what to do. I love my wife/my husband, I’m just not in love any more”. When I hear those words, I am absolutely convinced someone else other than their spouse has become the focus of their attention; luring them, distracting them, causing them to lose focus.Yet, like Harry the bug, they still want to say, “I can’t help it, it’s so beautiful”.  The temptation almost always turns out to be more lethal that beautiful.Usually, people around these folks tempted “by the light” are saying, “don’t go toward the light, look away, look away.” They can see the danger, the inevitable disaster ahead.Yet again, the light is seemingly too beautiful, too perfect, too alluring to turn away.”Love at first sight is easy to understand; it’s when two people have been looking at each other for a lifetime that it becomes a miracle” (Anonymous).

There are many distractions out there. Spousal Love is a decision. It’s a choice everyday to honor the covenant relationship of marriage. More about ‘love is a decision’ another time.

“I give you a new commandment: Love one another; you must love one another just as I have loved you.” (John 13:34)

Click the link to watch the short clip of the movie I described above – enjoy!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=coGBgkjGQ9g&feature=related