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

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Only One Endures

Now these are the kings who reigned . . . Then 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.

Rulers, all.

Mighty, all.

Great, all.


Who spoke
and people

followed.

Who judged
and people

feared.


But the staccato-like rhythm of death
serves to remind
of the grave’s
certainty.

In its presence, political power is

meaningless.

Popularity
hollow.

Beauty
vain.

Wealth
empty.


When our eyes close,
only
what was done for Christ
endures.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

It is Sufficient

The Lord said to Moses, "Is the Lord’s power limited? Now you shall see whether My word will come true for you or not (Numbers 11:23).


Is God’s power limited? That’s the easy question.

Creation.
The Red Sea.
The Virgin Birth.
The Five Thousand.
The Resurrection
The Ascension . . . .

No, nothing
is too difficult
for God.

But the more problematic question is – Where is He?

Where is He
in tragedy,
in loss,
in suffering,
in death . . .

The answer depends
on the answer
to something
more fundamental:
Is God good
all the time
and in
all circumstances?

If no,
then we have reason to believe
God is absent
in our heartache.


If yes,
then faith in His
goodness
and love
and mercy . . .
will be
for us
sufficient.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Another Nail

How then can I do this wicked thing, and I sin against my God?
(Genesis 39:9)


By God’s grace,
Joseph prospered
above every other slave
in Potipher’s house.

He alone enjoyed access
to all his master owned.
The best food,
drink,
clothing,
comfort –

access to everything
except
Potipher’s wife.


But she wanted Joseph.


For days,
perhaps months,
he resisted her
bold
invitations
to her bed.

When at last
she cornered him
he fled,

leaving
only his cloak
in her fist.

Joseph said to her,
“How then can I do this wicked thing,
and sin against my God?”
And his question still probes
the essence
of life’s meaning.

Joseph recognized
what I must never
forget.
When I sin,
I do not sin
only against others.

I sin against

God.


Oh, Holy Spirit,
open my eyes to see Christ
recoil from the whip
that slices His back
with my every transgression.

I do not want to drive another nail,
or draw another drop
of His sacred blood.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

As Dust

God . . . breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being (Genesis 2:7).


By the time God formed Adam from dust,
He had already created a world
flourishing with life.

Yet only for the man
did He bend close
and breathe life
into his lungs.

That’s something
we sometimes
overlook,
and always overlook
to our loss.

Are not five sparrows sold for
two cents?
Yet not one of them
is forgotten
before God.

Then Jesus added,

The hairs of your head
are all numbered.
Do not fear;
you are more valuable
than many sparrows
*

That's something
we also sometimes
overlook,
and always overlook
to our loss.

God knows our name.
He knows our tears
in the darkness,
our sighs
in the shadows,
our loneliness
in the crowds.

And He asks only
that we trust Him
to breathe life
into what seems to us
as dust.




*(Luke 12:6-7).

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Little Ways

And let us not grow weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart (Galatians 6:9).

It happened in early 1973. I parked my car at the edge of the pier and stared through the windshield. A storm loomed on the horizon. Waves churned and smashed against the breakers.

And a spiritual storm churned inside me as well.

I’d only recently turned my life over to Christ, but things were not turning out as I had expected -- although if anyone had asked me what I expected, I don't think I would have known.

I stepped out of the car and carried my Bible toward the end of the pier. The temptation to throw it – and my new faith – into the swirling waters rose like a two headed beast.

I stood there, wrestling with my thoughts.

That’s when the other vehicle approached. As it pulled alongside my car I recognized the elderly man behind the wheel. He and his wife were members of the church I’d recently begun attending.

I don't remember his name. I don't even remember what we talked about, except that he told me he spotted me on the pier and thought he’d stop and chat with me. But what I clearly remember is after our chat I returned to my car and placed my Bible on the seat beside me.

Thirty-seven years later, I have no doubt that the man’s simple act of taking time to talk with me broke the heat of my moment and helped me re-group to continue my walk of faith.

Through the intervening years I have learned many important spiritual truths. But the one lesson I find myself most frequently in need of reminder is this: Sometimes I spend so much time searching for the big and flashy ways to serve Christ that I miss the hundreds of little -- and probably more important -- opportunities all around me to serve Him.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Whose Report?

We went in to the land where you sent us; and it certainly does flow with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. Nevertheless, the people who live in the land are strong . . . and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight (Numbers 13:27-33).

It’s not like God didn’t know the enemy's strength
when He told His people to conquer the land
He’d given to Abraham centuries earlier;
a land into which God had promised
to walk with them.

A land flowing with milk and honey.

But except for two faithful men,
the fearful declared the enemy too strong
to risk the attempt.

So Israel wandered the wilderness instead.

It’s not like God doesn’t know our adversary's strength
when He tells us to conquer the valleys of
disappointment, loneliness, heartbreak . . .
valleys through which He has promised to walk with us.

Valleys flowing with a peace beyond our understanding.

But except for a few voices of faith,
the fearful say the adversary is too strong
to risk the attempt.

So we wander our wilderness instead.

And God still asks:
whose report
will we believe?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Mourning to Joy

[Jacob] . . . exclaimed: "My son's tunic! A wild beast has devoured him! Joseph has been torn to pieces!" Then Jacob rent his clothes, put sackcloth on his loins, and mourned his son many days. Though his sons and daughters tried to console him, he refused all consolation, saying, "No, I will go down mourning to my son in the nether world . . . " (Genesis 37:33-35).

It would be more than twenty years
before Jacob learned Joseph
was alive.

During those decades
Jacob lived
with the wrenching memory
of a blood-stained tunic,
and the belief that his son
was dead.

I hate death.
I mourn the grave that robbed me
of my beloved.

My father-in-law.
My step-dad.
My brother-in-law.

I thank God
I have not had to mourn
my children.
Seeing one in a coffin
would tear my heart
the rest of my life.
I won't permit that image
to even linger in my imagination.

Death. Mourning.

And then I think
of God.

What grief is like His
when we choose
another path
and die outside His arms?
What anguish is like His
when so many of us
turn away?

But what joy is like His
when even one repents
and reunites
through the blood
of Golgotha's cross?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Trusting in Ourselves

They journeyed from the wilderness of Sin and camped at Dophkah. They journeyed from Dophkah and camped at Alush. They journeyed from Alush and camped at Rephidim; now it was there that the people had no water to drink (Numbers 33:12-14).

So, this morning I’m reading (scanning, actually) this section of Numbers. Starting at verse one, it’s quite a tedious list of the places Israel visited on their journey through the wilderness.

My eye glossed over verse 14 on its way to 15. And then it went back to 14: They . . . camped at Rephidim; now it was there that the people had no water to drink.

As I reread the verse I remembered how God led them through the wilderness -- with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. When the cloud lifted from the camp, the Israelites followed. When it settled, they pitched their tents. So when I read here in Numbers that the people landed at a desperate place in the wilderness, it is clear that their arrival was not an accident.

God Himself had led them there.

That, for me, was a significant point. Why would their Protector, Redeemer, Savior . . . why would God lead them to a place like that?

As if to answer the question, my thoughts jumped to Psalm 23 and 2 Corinthians 1.

Sometimes the paths of righteousness lead us straight into a dark place (Psalm 23:3-4). Sometimes “we have the sentence of death in ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:9). And though the idea disturbs my preconceptions, God does, at times, lead us to places without water, or light. Places of confusion, despair, and even heartache.

Why?

Maybe to remind us He is in the valley with us. Maybe to remind us that as He brought water to Israel from -- of all things -- a rock (Exodus 17:1-7), so He will quench our thirst in the midst of our own valley -- perhaps also from the most unlikely of sources.

And maybe also to teach us not to trust so much in ourselves, but rather in Him who raises even the dead.