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

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Lonesome Valley

Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there . . . If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, Even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me (Psalm 139:7-10).


Some in the Church think,
others believe,
and yet others live,
as if they walk
a lonesome valley
by themselves.

Alone.

That nobody else
walks it
with them.

But how can that be
When God Himself
says –

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
nor will the flame burn you. (1)

Can a woman forget her nursing child
and have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.
Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands;
Your walls are continually before Me. (2)

I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (3)

No.
We do not walk a lonesome valley
by ourselves.
Alone.

Forgotten.

To think that,
to believe that,
to live as if that
is true
is to think,
believe,
and live

a lie.

Oh!
Who will tell them
the truth?


(1) Isaiah 43:2
(2) Isaiah 43:15-16
(3) Matthew 28:20

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

At What Point?

But you shall utterly destroy them . . .  so that they may not teach you to do according to all their detestable things which they have done for their gods, so that you would sin against the Lord your God (Deuteronomy 20:17-18).

Joshua waged war a long time with all these kings. . .  For it was of the LORD to harden their hearts, to meet Israel in battle in order that he might utterly destroy them . . . (Joshua 11:18,20).
 
The Hittite,
Amorite,
Canaanite,
Perizzite,
Hivite,
and Jebusite nations
ruled
beyond the Jordan.

God commanded Israel to destroy them
so they would not learn –
and then practice –
the wickedness
of their
child sacrifices,
sexual perversions
murders,
and unfettered violence.

And suffer the same consequences.


God hardened the nations
so they would meet Israel in battle.

And be destroyed.

But they did not know
they were being hardened
so God’s purpose would be served.

---
Do our child sacrifices
(we call it ‘abortion’),
sexual perversions,
murders,
and violence,
make us as guilty as they?

And if God hardened them for judgment
and they did not know it,
is He hardening us for judgment
and we do not know it?

At what point should we all the more
beg God for mercy?
At what point is our point
of no return?



Sunday, April 24, 2011

He's Alive!

If you haven't yet read my post on Friday here, please first do so. Today's post is the sequel. It makes better sense after reading Friday's post.
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He’s alive! I don’t know how. A miracle. A glorious wondrous miracle. He’s alive. I saw him die. I buried him. But he’s alive! Alive!

I talked with him. Even ate with him. At first we didn’t know it was him. But Oh! how our hearts burned when he spoke with us about the Scriptures.

He broke bread. And then . . . then he was gone. Vanished. Suddenly. Before our eyes. But Oh I remember His words, and I know what was finished when he shouted, “It is finished.”

Death, yes even death's power is finished. They killed the Prince of Life, but Jesus swallowed up death. And now, everyone -- everyone who believes and obeys him will live, even if he dies. And everyone who lives and obeys him will never die. Oh death where now is your victory? Grave, where now is your sting? We know the sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law, but Almighty God has given us the victory over death through Jesus our Lord.

God’s wrath against us for our sins is finished. We went astray. We turned, every one of us, to our own way. But God laid all of our iniquities on him. His wrath is finished because God reconciled us to himself through Jesus’ death by making him to be sin on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God in Christ. Now we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our sins according to the superabundant riches of God’s grace which he lavished on us.

He’s alive. He is the alpha and the omega. The beginning and the end. The first and the last. He holds the keys of death and of hell – and He’s alive. All authority in heaven and earth belongs to Him. It is finished. The battle is over between life and death, good and evil, hatred and love – it is finished. It’s the end of the conflict. It is finished.

And Jesus is lord.

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My note: I thought it appropriate to add this piece from Handel's Messiah. Happy Resurrection Sunday :)

Friday, April 22, 2011

He's Dead

I don't know how to say it. Words choke in my throat. My stomach heaves. Grief grips my chest. We thought he would deliver us. That God would restore our kingdom, keep His promise to our Fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob.

But that won’t happen now.

He died today. Mocked. Spat on. Bloodied. Cold.

I watched him die.

His last words confused me. I am still confused. Without warning, he stiffened his legs and pushed his feet against the nails. At the same time he thrust out his chest, pulling mercilessly against his hands also nailed to the cross. He lifted his face toward heaven, as if seeing something unseen. But his expression. It seemed out of place. No hint of anger. No pain. Almost . . . almost . . . I think ‘satisfied’ best describes how he looked.

Then he cried out – so sudden, so loud even the soldiers stopped and looked at him.

“It is finished!”

His voice rang clear. Strong. Confident. Almost like a shout of triumph.

That’s what confuses me.

Triumph?

And he went limp. Like an old cloth. His arms, still held by the nails in his hands, pulled against his shoulders. From where I stood, it looked as if his arms had been pulled out of joint.

One of the soldiers picked up a spear and thrust it deep into Jesus’ chest. Blood and water gushed from the wound, but Jesus didn’t so much as flinch.

When the soldiers let us, we took Jesus from the cross and gathered around him. We cradled him in our arms. His skin felt cold. His eyes were gray. Dull. Still.

Joseph wrapped him in a burial cloth and we carried him to the tomb Joseph had given for Jesus’ burial. We rolled the stone over the entrance. And we walked away.

But what did he mean, “It is finished”?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Please, Lead Us Not Into Temptation

I read an important article on CNN the other day. You can read it here.  The author's piece got me to thinking of an essay I wrote many years ago. Let me preface my posting of it below by saying it is quite difficult for me to publish it on the blog. I don't like to air my proverbial laundry for the world to read. But I know I am not alone in this problem. I share it with many, many others. More than most people probably realize. And we all need your help, ladies. Please. Lead us not into temptation.
----------------

Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:10).

It’s not something Christian guys usually talk about. We aren’t supposed to have these thoughts. But when I approached a friend from church, his answer encouraged me to poll another friend. Then another. Then another. Age doesn’t seem to matter. It’s the same for all of us – teens, college age and older. Even much older. Everyone I spoke with grapples with the same temptation common among many Christian men.

I don’t know much about women’s struggles with their sexual nature, but I sure know about men's conflicts. Society bombards us with sexual images. Billboards, photos in weekly news magazines . . . even some lingerie advertisements in local newspapers can rival centerfolds in earlier era Playboy magazines. Short hemlines can fuel a man’s imagination to full throttle. Tight clothes that accentuate every nuance and curve can drive us to distraction. Plunging necklines and unfastened blouse buttons – ladies, let me be completely honest. We need your help.

At work, at play, even at church – most Christian guys wage nearly constant battle with their thought-life. Sometimes we win the skirmishes. Sometimes the battles rage so fiercely we not only lose, but we feel wounded even after bringing our sin to the Cross.

Yes, we understand the desire to look attractive. Who among us does not care about personal appearance? The multi-billion dollar weight-loss, clothing and grooming industries give evidence of that basic need in each of us.  However, when our Christian sisters adopt the world’s definition of attractiveness they often become, instead, seductive.

We don’t deny responsibility for our own sins. We don’t rationalize God’s commandment to take “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).  But we do ask you, please be considerate of our conflicts and, in Christian love, don’t add to our sensory overload.

St. Paul said he would never again eat meat or drink wine, if doing so would cause a weaker brother to stumble (Romans 14:1-23). “Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food” (verse 20). I don’t think it misses the Holy Spirit’s intent to add, “or for the sake of fashion.”

Ladies, when it comes to sexual thoughts and lust, we are indeed your weaker brothers.  So we plead – be beautiful. Be graceful. But also seek God’s view of beauty and grace. And seek, too, Biblical standards as to how to dress in public.

We will be very grateful for your loving response.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Husbands -- Love Your Wives

Some time ago -- maybe a year and a half, now that I think about it --- I sat in my prayer room and pondered the crucifix on the wall opposite me. Suddenly and without a hint of warning, these words from Ephesians 5 formed in my mind's eye below the cross. They were so clear I could actually read them.

I am sorry I forget them so often:



 Husbands, love your wives

The rest of the verse -- and its significance --  filled in from my memory. You can read it here.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Three Months Wages

For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.' And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt.

"But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, 'Pay back what you owe.'So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you.'B ut he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. Then summoning him, his lord said to him, 'You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 'Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?' 

And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart"(Matthew 18:23-35).

A talent was worth 15 years of wages for a common laborer.
The man owed his king ten thousand talents.
He could have never repaid the debt.
But his lord forgave it all. Every penny.

A denarius was worth a day's wage for a common laborer.
The slave owed the man 100 denarii.
About three months wages.
But the one who had been forgiven so much
would not forgive him who owed so little.

And Jesus drove home the point about our willingness to forgive others
when we have been forgiven so much.

Perhaps we don't so readily forgive is because
we believe we owed the Great King
three months wages,
and not 10,000 talents.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Acts of Nature or Acts of God

The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent word to them again and again by His messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place; but they continually mocked the messengers of God, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, until there was no remedy. (2 Chronicles 36:15-16)

‘[As I live!]' declares the Lord God, 'I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die . . . ?' (Ezekiel 33:11)


A few days after the cataclysmic earthquake and tsunami that devastated parts of Japan, Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara said the calamity was “divine punishment” for what he called the wickedness of his people during the past generation. In the United States, some radio and television personalities also weighed in on the Japan tragedy, suggesting such “Acts of Nature” are, in reality, evidence of God’s increasingly frequent and powerful warnings to humanity to repent.

On the other hand some people, such as professor Ronald Green of Dartmouth College, believe it “mean spirited” to declare such calamities signs of God’s judgment on sin.*

I will not enter the debate. I do not know why the earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan, or why Katrina barreled through New Orleans, or why the earthquake and tsunami leveled Haiti. If, as Professor Green believes, calamities such as these are merely ‘Acts of Nature’ then we have nothing to worry about – so long as we don’t live on a fault line, or near the ocean.

However.

As I recently read through the prophet Daniel’s prayer (Daniel 9), I wondered if it would be prudent – especially for those who believe God’s Word to be His eternal truth – I wondered if it would be prudent at this time to take a clue from the Scriptures in which calamities such as these are ‘Acts of God’ designed to warn wayward humanity to return to holiness.

If that be the case in the latest rash of ‘Acts,’ then we might be wise to consider making Daniel’s prayer our own: "Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances. . ."

"Open shame belongs to us, O Lord . . because we have sinned against You . . . Thus He has confirmed His words which He had spoken against us and against our rulers who ruled us, to bring on us great calamity . . . .” 

"O Lord, in accordance with all Your righteous acts, let now Your anger and Your wrath turn away from [us] . . . O my God, incline Your ear and hear! Open Your eyes and see our desolations . . . . for we are not presenting our supplications before You on account of any merits of our own, but on account of Your great compassion. O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! For Your own sake, O my God, do not delay . . .” 

 Like professor Ronald Green, we can dismiss calamities as mere “Acts of Nature,” and continue to live as we do, without much thought of God or eternity. Or we can consider such devastations to be ‘Acts of God,’ warning us to return to holiness.

Oh, Holy Spirit, Who hath spoken through the prophets, help us make the right decision. Amen.

* http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/japan-earthquake-tsunami-divine-retribution-natural-disaster-religious/story?id=13167670&page=2

Saturday, April 2, 2011

No Urge to Flee

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from His presence, and there was no place for them.
(Revelation 20:11)


I stopped reading
and mused,
How will that look?

All of creation
fleeing His presence.
Suns, moons,
mountains, oceans,
forests, deserts,
myriads and myriads
of people,
beasts,
fish,
and fowl;
Racing from
the ineffable power
and glory
and majesty
of God.

But in my muse
I stood still
and silent.
Creation blurred past,
yet I sensed no urge
to flee;

But only to run
toward my daddy
who art in heaven.