If you are looking for my blog titled, The Contemplative Catholic Convert, you are at the right spot.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Prayer Strategy Number Three



This is the third of my twelve prayer strategies found in my book, Prayer Strategies – A Series of Helps. These tools help keep me focused when my mind starts to drift, and energized when boredom begins to settle in. These strategies can help energize the prayer life of anyone who seeks to grow closer to the Master.  The book can be found on Amazon at this link: http://tinyurl.com/hvc7skx
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Prayer Strategy Number Three

Lord, teach us to pray (Luke 11:1).

Another strategy I use from time to time is what I call the spontaneous alphabet prayer, because the 26 letters of the English alphabet form its basis. For example, using the sequential letters ‑ A, B, C, D and so on, my ‘made up’ prayer might sound like this:

A: All heaven declares Your glory. And so, O Lord, I proclaim it as well. There is none like you ‑ in holiness, righteousness and compassion. With all the saints around your throne, I bow in worship and adoration. 

B: Before time, you are God. And after time, you are God. And in time, in my time, you are God. Where can I go that you are not? Day and night, east and west, to the furthest horizon or the lowest ocean depths, you are there. And that comforts me.
C: Come, Holy Spirit, I need you. Woo me back to Calvary where the Savior suffered and died for me. Capture my heart, mind, soul and spirit. Protect me from turning aside to worthless treasures. Keep the eyes of my heart focused on Jesus, the author of life and the source of faith.

While I pray I don't pay attention to grammar, nor do I worry if I repeat myself. God is not grading my prayers according to the rules of English. Like a parent loves to hear his toddler speak, our heavenly Father is pleased to hear us speak to Him.
Each prayer does not always begin with the letter for that section. However, at least one word in each section will begin with the appropriate letter. For example:

 D: Father, Don't ever cast me from thy presence. Don't take thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

E: You have given me Eternal life because you enabled me to believe that Jesus bore my sins in His most holy Body, that He became sin for us, that we ‑ in Him ‑‑ might become Your righteousness.

And so I continue through the rest of the alphabet.

The letter X poses a minor problem because not many English words begin with it. But this problem is easily circumvented. For "X" I use the letter's sound ("ex")" as the basis for the prominent word in that section. For example, "O Lord, how EXcellent is thy name in all the earth."  Sometimes I modify a Scripture, such as the first verse in Psalm 127, which reads, "Unless the Lord builds the house they labor in vain who build it."  I adjust the prayer, "EXcept the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it." Or Psalm 139, verse 23: "Search me, O God, and know my heart," I modify to, "EXamine my heart, O God."

Z is more difficult, but still workable. For example, "Lord, as your servant Zaccheus climbed the tree to catch a glimpse of you, make me willing to go out on a limb, risk the disapproval of others, risk reputation and fortune, just so I might see you."

Because so many words begin with (or sound like) the various alphabet letters, my prayer changes nearly every time I use the format. Let me give you another few examples of A through E:

"Lord, you command me to Abide in You and to let your words abide in me. Help me to abide. Help me in my unbelief and weariness to keep my heart focused on you. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Lord, bring peace to my heart so I might work for peace in our world. Comfort me, Lord Jesus. Unless you are my comforter and counselor I cannot know the peace that passes understanding. Help me Die to myself and live more fully devoted to You who are from Everlasting to everlasting . . . .
Praying through the alphabet is a useful tool to help me "pray without ceasing." I've used the alphabet pattern during my twenty‑five minute commute to and from work. I've prayed the letters during my morning time with Jesus. Sometimes I am unable to get through all 26 letters because I have to give my attention to daily chores, but finishing the alphabet is not the point. Drawing closer to Christ, is. And I am discovering through each letter, each word and each syllable, I draw closer to the One who died so we might live.

Next, prayer strategy number 4

Monday, July 25, 2016

Prayer Strategy Number Two

I’d always known prayer was a battle, and that prayer required effort. Sometimes a lot of effort. But I was largely unaware of the various prayer tools available to the Christian to help ensure victory in the battle. 

This is the second of my twelve prayer strategies found in my book, Prayer Strategies – A Series of Helps. Using these tools helps keep me focused when my mind starts to drift, and energized when boredom begins to settle in. These strategies can help energize the prayer life of anyone who seeks to grow closer to the Master.  The book can be found on Amazon at this link: http://tinyurl.com/hvc7skx

 Strategy Two -- Acrostics

            In addressing the battle of prayer, the Church offers another bit of advice:
            Finally, our battle has to confront what we experience as failure in prayer: discouragement during periods of dryness . . . disappointment over not being heard according to our own will; wounded pride . . . . The conclusion is always the same: what good does it do to pray? To overcome these obstacles, we must battle to gain humility, trust, and perseverance (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Paragraph 2728. See the general link to the online Catechism listed in the Word of Introduction ).

            I do not usually employ only one strategy during my time with the Lord. I often mix and match two or three. Strategy One dealt with prayer lists. Strategy Two covers my use of acrostics to keep me centered on prayer. I call one of those: CROSS.

            C— I meditate on the Crucifix on the wall in front of me and I let my imagination wander to what Christ’s crucifixion might have been like for Him. What did the cross accomplish for me? How did my sins cause His agony and death? My thoughts often take me to Gethsemane, or the courtyard where He was whipped, or the road to Golgotha, or the courtyard where soldiers hammered the spikes into His flesh. Sometimes I can almost smell the dust in the air, or hear Him cry out in pain.

            R— Then I meditate on the Resurrection. What might it have been like for the women to arrive at the tomb, only to find it empty? How does that empty tomb validate God’s promise of redemption, salvation, forgiveness and the offer of eternal life? What promise does His resurrection hold for me when I die? What might it be like when I am resurrected on that last day, and I stand before Him who died and rose again for . . . for me?

            O— After the Crucifixion and Resurrection, I meditate on the “Our Father” (the Lord’s Prayer—Matthew 6). Instead of simply reciting the prayer, I pause at each verse, and sometimes each word. For example, what does “Our Father” really mean in context with the whole Church? Who are my Christian brothers and sisters? Sometimes my thoughts take me across the world to places such as Sudan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran where Christians are, at that very moment persecuted, tortured, and imprisoned for no other reason than their faith in Christ. My prayer continues to “Hallowed be thy name.” Have I forgotten the holiness of God? Do I misuse His name by how I act toward others? Do I live in such as way as to give unbelievers reason to sneer at His name? And so I move through the rest of the prayer in similar fashion. Meditating word by word and sentence by sentence through this prayer can take quite some time.

            S— the first S is for Supplication. At this point, I begin my prayer for others . . . family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, politicians, students in my classes – whomever the Holy Spirit brings to mind and who might not yet be on my prayer list.

            S— the second S is for Sacrifice. Now I offer myself as a living sacrifice to God. Using a prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola, I ask Him to take my memory, my freedom, will, understanding, health, wealth, talents – everything I have and cherish – and use them for His Kingdom.

            Like prayer lists, acrostic prayers like this one help me maintain focus on the battle. Perhaps this strategy will also be useful to you. And now let’s look at some others. 

Strategy Number Three is next.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Part of the Ten



Today’s OT reading is about Abraham’s dialogue with the Lord about the destruction of Sodom. If the Lord finds only ten righteous residents of the city, Abraham asks, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” (Genesis 18:25). And God promises He will not destroy Sodom for the sake of the ten.

Americans who believe God’s word is an inerrant history of why God judges nations also fear our nation is in mortal danger because of our many sins.

“Lord, if You find an equivalent ratio of the ten in Sodom’s population to America’s population, shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?”

He did not find ten in Sodom. Be part of the ten here.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Centurion

This appeared in my third book, Learning to Lean.
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They brought Him to the place of Golgotha (which is translated Place of a Skull) (Mark 15:22).

I haven’t slept for two days. His eyes still haunt me.
         
The governor handed me the placard. “Nail it above his head when you’re done crucifying him,” Pilate ordered. I smirked as I read it. “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews.”

‘King,’ I sneered.

I hate this dung-hole called Palestine. Hot, thirsty and dripping sweat, when we finally reached the hilltop I was not a little angry. We nailed him to the cross and hoisted it upright. He groaned as it rocked back and forth before settling into the hole we’d dug for it. I ordered soldiers around the site perimeter for protection, and I sat on the dirt a few yards from the three crosses.

And watched.

And waited.

And then I remembered I’d forgotten to place the placard. I cursed under my breath, pushed myself to stand and grab a ladder. The top rung bounced off his shoulder as I climbed toward the top. When I was at eye level I stopped, sneered at him, and shoved the placard in front of his face.

“What d’ya think, Jew? Quite the king, are ya?”

I spit at him. My saliva dripped from his cheek and caught in his beard. How I despised that Jew.

And that’s when I saw his eyes. They didn’t look at me. They looked through me. Deep into me. I froze, unable to move or even to look away. His eyes, they weren’t angry. Or vengeful. They were – how  can I describe it – they were love. And sadness . . . sadness not for himself, but sad it seemed for me.

Love and sadness. For me?

We stared at each other a long time, until he freed me from his gaze. I slowly climbed the last two rungs, hammered the placard above his head, and quickly descended. I avoided his eyes as I passed him.

An hour crawled into two. Then three. I wouldn’t look at him, except to steal a glance from time to time. But our eyes never locked again. They didn’t have to.

Four hours. Five. At the sixth hour he suddenly cried out so loudly, so sorrowfully, it startled me to my feet: “Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabacthani.” Then he trumpeted a shout of . . . of victory – more triumphant than I’d ever heard even from our most decorated soldiers on the battlefield. His words pierced the heavens: “It is finished.”

I watched him release his last breath, slump forward – his body held only by the nails – and die.

It was then I remembered his eyes. I still remember them.

And I knew, no – I know . . . “Surely, this man was the Son of God.”*

*Mark 15:39

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Listening for the Trumpet -- YouTube Message



When angels announced Christ’s first Advent only a few people heard about the birth in Bethlehem. But when the Trumpet announces His second advent  – it will NOT be a secret. And every eye will see Him. https://youtu.be/YPxoRqoGTrY

Friday, July 8, 2016

Live Wisely

When we seek truth in God’s word, the Holy Spirit will always lead us to truth. He did that once again for me when I recently read this passage in Luke’s gospel: “For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:25-26)

I put the book down for a moment as I then remembered a portion from Genesis. It reads like this: Then [King] Bela died . . . Then Jobab died . . . Then Husham died . . . Then Hadad died . . . Then Samlah died . . . Then Shaul died . . . Then Baalhanan [died]. (Genesis 36:31-38).

Seven times in seven verses the litany of death cycles through the names of kings – each of them rulers. Each mighty. Each great. They spoke and people obeyed. They judged and people feared.

But the staccato-like rhythm of death in that passage in Genesis, and the sober warning of Jesus in Luke’s gospel, should remind those with eyes to see of the grave’s absolute and unyielding certainty. And it should also remind us that in death’s reality, political power is utterly meaningless. Popularity is hollow. Beauty is vain. Wealth is empty.

When our eyes close one final time, only what was done for Christ will endure.

Live wisely.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Keep Hypocrisy Far From Me



His first name was Ron. I wish I remembered his last name. I’d try to locate him on one of the many social media networks of cyberspace.

It’s been 40 years since we last saw each other. We worked together at the Communication Station on the Yokosuka Naval Base. The Lord reminded me recently of the brief conversation we had on the cement interior steps leading to the second floor of the windowless building. I’d just finished the administrative check-out process and was on my way to the airport for the flight back to the states.
Ron told me he would miss me. And then he thanked me.

“For what?” I was puzzled.

Ron and I spent nearly four years in the same duty section. We often hung out together with many of the same friends from work. During all that time I never hesitated to share my Christian faith with him – or with anyone else, for that matter. But Ron could never bring himself to a place of commitment to the Jesus I loved. Even at my invitation, he never attended church services at the military chapel  with me. Yet when we shared a few last words with each other before I got on a plane, Ron thanked me.

“For what?”

He answered plainly, “Because you have always been consistent in what you said and how you lived.”

Christian, this is important.

You and I are often the only representation of Jesus many will ever see. If that doesn’t scare you, then you read that last sentence too quickly. How we live will always speak more loudly and more persuasively than what we say.

I’ve prayed for Ron from time to time through the last 40 years. And I prayed again for him as I thought of our last goodbye.  Although I was unaware of it at the time, God used me to plant a seed in Ron’s heart. I can only hope someone else came along and watered it – so that God would get the increase.

So that God will get the increase.

Isn’t that what we want? Which is why and all the more we ought to ask God every day, “Lord, make me a good influence for Christ in the lives of those I live with, and in the lives of those I will meet today. Keep hypocrisy far from my heart. Amen and amen.”