Tag Archives: Hurt

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Fire of Gratitude

Today the winds rose and the temperature plunged; my mood did as well. Fumbling at 5am with Joanie’s leash in oversize gloves, I led her out into the dark and brought back a stinking remnant of her waste on those same gloves. Not a good start.

Prayer consisted of replaying old fears and hurts until I wondered how pure my devotion to Jesus actually was. Is silence merely ground for my self-concern?

My ideas imprisoned me until I entered the kitchen and thought of Annette. How hard she had worked the day before! All our kids had been scattered on the holiday itself and so she worked tirelessly to ensure that they all could come later; she even skyped seminary-bound Katie into the mix. Then she baked and mashed and fried and whipped up a masterpiece of a meal, merrily serving us all. In the early am, the kitchen sparkled with holiday décor and memories of the love shared hours earlier, a blend of lives bonded as one through her sacrifice of love.

The realization of pure love inspired pure gratitude. Yet even the heat of the kitchen could not warm me entirely. I grabbed a favorite coat, now familiar with many Thanksgivings under its fleece as well as stubborn dog hairs. The coat was a gift from a special friend years earlier; his unrelenting faith in me shatters self-preoccupation and has set me free to do God’s will, over and over. Each time I slip into the coat, I am insulated from the chill of doubt and gloom. Just thinking of him, closer than a brother, warms my soul.

I braved the cold for communion at the church down the street. The drafty sanctuary drew a few saints fighting like me to contain the Love that is there. We gathered around the flame at the altar, hungering for the Fire from which all love derives its source. Like the centurion, we know that nothing in us qualifies us for such love. We can only hear it, receive it, believe it. ‘Lord, I am not worthy to receive you under my roof, but only say the Word, and Your servant will be healed.’ (Matt. 8:8)

In my heart, I walked stiffly then quickly until I raced like a madman to the Lord’s Table. There I consumed Heaven’s heat come down, igniting this lukewarm frame and raising it up for Love, by Love. ‘Fan into flame the gift of God…’ ( 2 Timothy 1:6 )

Mercy for the Worldly Church

Day 35 of our 40 Days of Mercy Fast

Mercy for the Worldly Church

‘O my Jesus, I beg You on behalf of the whole Church, give us holy priests. You Yourself, maintain them in holiness. O Divine and Great High Priest, may the power of Your mercy accompany them everywhere and protect them from the devil’s traps and snares which are continually set for the souls of priests. May the power of Your Mercy, O Lord, shatter and bring to naught all that might tarnish the sanctity of priests, for You can do all things.’ (1052)

St. Faustina is right in prayerfully advocating for our leaders. (I would extend this to all clergy, both Protestant and Catholic.) We must ask the Lord to strengthen leaders daily against demonic powers that deaden their authority and tempt them to infect others with a form of love that could only be described as worldly.

The first form of worldly love is love without discipline. It may be sourced in several things. ‘I am a weak leader who is not free from sin in some areas, so how can I judge you for your sin? We are all saved by grace anyway.’ Or ‘the Church has been so hard on people, I don’t want to be heavy; grace to you in your sin.’

How else do adulterers and pedophiles and others who use and abuse others in their sin get away with murder in the Church? From leaders who have become worldly, and who confuse forgiving offenders with their need for discipline.

What we fail to see is that sin hurts others, often those much less powerful than the one confessing his/her sin. And such sin grieves God badly. It infects His house. Leaders must learn to impose limits on those who risk damaging others with their sin.

Another form of worldly love is love without truth. Here leaders mirror worldly ethics for sexuality and relationships. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the homosexual question. Most ‘Christian’ higher education on the topic merely parrots secular views on the moral neutrality of homosexuality and how the worst thing you can do is to encourage the struggler onto anything higher or truer.

Why else would I hear reports of Catholic priests urging parents to celebrate the homosexuality of a child or dissuading same-sex strugglers from pursuing a course of healing? Love demands that we uphold truth-in-love regarding sexuality. When love becomes worldly, we bar individuals from their true hope in Christ.

And leaders run the risk of becoming immoral themselves, conceiving their own weaknesses into wickedness. I am appalled at the number of pastors and priests I know who regularly visit porn websites and live on the edge of crossing lines with those they serve, while others consider themselves ‘gay.’

Refusing the love that is full of truth and discipline, they succumb to the spirit of the age.

I contend that we need a new and merciful standard for our leaders. That means demanding that leaders are rigorous about submitting their moral weaknesses to mature colleagues, and fully, evidently repentant over wickedness. Until they are, they must be disciplined until they are ready to lead the sheep into holiness by their good example.

Truth and Mercy go hand-in-hand. Priests and pastors alike must repent of any alliance they have made with worldly love, that is, love unrefined by truth and discipline. We need love rich in these two minerals if we are to become a Church that disciplines her own. We will then no longer be under the world’s judgment; we will become spotless and pure, the Bride who has made herself ready. (Rev. 19:7)

‘I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching, she misleads my servants into sexual immorality. I have given her time to repent of her immorality but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her to suffer intensely unless they repent of their ways. I will strike her children dead.’ (Rev. 2:20-23)

‘Grant us a holy fear, O God, of worldly love that masks as ‘holy’. We are sick in our sin, unable to do Your will because we lack truth and discipline. Would you grant us Mercy to repent? And would You raise up repentant leaders who would lead others in genuine holiness and wholeness? Grant us holy leaders, and may each of us do our part to ensure their well-being.’

Author’s note – Each day’s entry is based a passage from St Faustina’s diary. The passage entry is the number in parentheses at the end of each opening quote or simply a page number in parenthesis. Diary of St Maria Faustina Kowalska – Divine Mercy in My Soul (Association of Marion Helpers, Stockbridge, MA 01263) is available through the publisher or Amazon.com.

Meekness and Mercy

Day 27 of our 40 Days of Mercy Fast

Meekness and Mercy

‘You shall conquer by meekness.’ (1597)

Meekness is about having power and choosing not to use it. For Love’s sake. From Love’s power. The soul that is genuinely meek is founded on the God of the Universe who stooped down in Mercy to make him/her great.

Meekness arises out of humility. The meek soul must first be a humble one, living in moment-by-moment dependence upon Mercy. At once miserable and mighty, the meek soul courageously accepts the call to represent God in his/her humanity. (S)he does not question (for long) personal dignity and honor, for to do so would be to question God’s. Mercy secures the meek soul.

So the meek do not race to self-defense. Why should they? The God of the Universe defends them, and in that shelter, they rest from the folly of mere human opinion. Of course they share the truth as they understand it, but it is a tempered truth. The still, small voice of God requires little amplification.

I have caused unnecessary suffering to others due to my lack of meekness. I have often not understood the power of my voice, and in frustration have turned it up mercilessly. That has seared the saints at times, much to my shame. Wise shepherds and sheep alike have told me this truth until I have understood it. Change takes longer.

Change requires suffering, getting and staying low before the Crucified until the heart beats and voice speaks in sync with His own. Christoph Schonberg writes of the Virgin Mary, the original Christ-bearer who is in turn a model for all Christians: ‘Mary triumphs, not with a sword in her hand, but with a sword in her heart.’

My sword is a daily reminder of the hurt I have caused others, and can still cause them, due to meekness’ lack. So I seek Him daily for the sword that pricks, the meekness that restrains, the Mercy that looses my heart and tongue as He wills.

The meek trust Mercy, and possess a quiet confidence. St. Faustina writes:

‘When my intentions are not recognized but rather condemned, I am not too much surprised…Truth will not die, and the wounded heart will regain peace in due time, and my spirit is strengthened through adversities…When I have regained my equilibrium, I say more.’ (511)

The meek trust in part the truth as they understand it; they trust in full the Truth of Mercy. All is His, and everything He has is ours.

‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am meek and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’ (Matt. 11:28-30)

‘Jesus gave me to know the depth of His meekness and humility and to understand that He clearly demanded the same of me.’ (758)

‘In Your Mercy, make us meek, O God. Truth burns in our hearts; temper it with Mercy. May our words convey a heart founded on Your meekness and humility. May less prove to be more in our efforts to convey Your truth to others. Show us how to pierce hearts with a few well-aimed and timed arrows. Make us meek warriors through Your Mercy.’

Author’s note – Each day’s entry is based a passage from St Faustina’s diary. The passage entry is the number in parentheses at the end of each opening quote or simply a page number in parenthesis. Diary of St Maria Faustina Kowalska – Divine Mercy in My Soul (Association of Marion Helpers, Stockbridge, MA 01263) is available through the publisher or Amazon.com.

The Gaze From The Cross, Part 4

Day 19 of our 40 Days of Mercy Fast

The Gaze from the Cross, Part 4  (Please also read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3)

‘When I was dying on the cross, I was not thinking about Myself but about sinners, and I prayed for them to the Father.’ (324)

Prayer for sinners to enter into God’s Mercy must become action: intercession primes our hearts with God’s intentions for them. What a privilege to steep loved ones in God’s merciful heart for them! Prayer then looses merciful words and actions toward each one.

I love that rhythm: we live out of God’s pure Blood and Water, sourced at Calvary. We live from those ‘waters’, longing for loved ones to find their place in the pool. We cry out to God to open their eyes and hearts to their need for that Mercy. In that process we become ambassadors of Mercy, an answer to our own prayers.

That requires good hard work, in prayer and deeds. Jesus describes it best in the Parable of the Fruitless Fig Tree. A man owned a vineyard with a tree that failed to bear fruit; he thus ordered the gardener to destroy it. The gardener pleaded with the owner: ‘Leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’ (Lk. 13:8, 9)

We too look at the lives of ‘fruitless’ loved ones. No longer ‘abiding in the vine’, they thus fail to bear fruit. (Jn. 15:4, 5) We cry out to God: ‘Spare them as we make every effort to fertilize their lives in prayer and action.’ We then seek the Lord, asking for divine wisdom as we seek to be timely, inspired ambassadors of Mercy for them.

My son Sam had an extended season of hurt and disappointment in his life. He wandered in the wilderness, far from home. He knew the ‘house rules’, that we would not support his addictions; at the same time, he wanted freedom from the shame of our scrutiny and freedom for his autonomy.

We ached for our beloved son. When we saw him, we ached more because we could see the impact of his wandering: an afflicted, progressively sterile soul. Because we knew him well and loved him so, it was not difficult to bear with him. We asked God to inspire little acts of kindness and choice words that might break up hard ground and mirror his fruitful potential.

We prayed for Sam to behold his own fruitlessness; we asked for incidents that might shake him and cause him to yearn for something deeper and truer within.

Jesus’ Mercy prevailed. Sam lost his job and began to lose patience with his empty way of life. He returned home. Humbled, he began to cooperate with Jesus. Hail the Merciful One who mercifully prunes and fortifies the afflicted, helping them to bear lasting fruit.

‘As God has made us sharers in His Mercy, and even more than that, dispensers of that Mercy, we should therefore have great love for each soul…’ (539)

‘If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to My Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be My disciples.’ (Jn. 15:7, 8)

‘Sow for yourselves righteousness, and reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until He comes and showers righteousness on you.’ (Hos. 10:12)

‘Jesus, we cry out for our fruitless ones. Give us time to prepare the ground of their hearts to welcome You afresh. We ask for the rain of Your Mercy in their lives; use whatever You must to break up the fallow ground. Help us to grant each what (s)he really needs. We set these ones apart for Your purposes, O God. Make them fruitful once more, in Your Name and by Your Mercy.’

Author’s note – Each day’s entry is based a passage from St Faustina’s diary. The passage entry is the number in parentheses at the end of each opening quote or simply a page number in parenthesis. Diary of St Maria Faustina Kowalska – Divine Mercy in My Soul (Association of Marion Helpers, Stockbridge, MA 01263) is available through the publisher or Amazon.com.

Discovering the Cross in Our Wounds

During Holy Week, we pause to consider Jesus’ cross and the smaller one He asks us to carry. The goal? To know Him more. Perhaps He will invite you in these days to ‘keep watch with Him’ in His suffering. We take another step toward Calvary by considering the ways we have been sinned against. He has not suffered only for our sins and foolishness; His cross-walk had as much to do with the gaps and gashes we bear due to others’ sins.

Isaiah 53:4, 5 says it best: ‘Surely He bore our grief, and carried our sorrows…and by His wounds, we are healed.’ He wants us to come to Him as readily with our wounds as with our sins. Why? Because He loves us; He wants what He has suffered to have its full effect—to alleviate our suffering.

He also knows that the wounded heart, unattended and seeking to heal itself, will naturally harden and defend itself against the damage done. We in our hurt become ugly; one infected wound can make us hateful and indiscriminate in transferring that hate onto innocent ones who represent our ‘wounders.’

Remember yesterday’s entry in which I recounted my slander of a colleague? The revelation of my sinful response to him began a long process of meeting with Jesus and a trusted brother. Behind the rage and self-vindication, I was hurt beyond words. Jesus was intent on laying claim to that wound as the basis for new life in me.

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