Tag Archives: Courage

Peace of God, If My People, Day 3

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Philippians 4:6-7

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

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It is with a heavy heart that I begin my blog tonight for Day 3 of If My People forty days of prayer for our nation.  Sadly, as most have heard already, another heinous act of violence has occurred in Nice, France, during their Bastille Day celebrations earlier today.  A terrorist drove a lorry into people leaving the fireworks display, killing 80, injuring 100 with 18 of those in intensive care at last count.  Ismail Khalidi, an American-Palestinian writer, described the scene immediately following the attack in these words, “I’ve never seen a stampede like that. I have never seen that level of chaos and hysteria and terror and a total lack of information about what’s going on.”  Now, both presidential candidates are speaking of the US engaging in war against the terrorists though using different strategies.  My heart aches with sadness at the incomprehensible, unwarranted violence that we as a global community are once again faced with tonight.  Trying to make sense of the senseless and feeling the anxiety of “if them, then me.”  When will we start seeing this type of violence on our streets?

In my Bible reading today, I came across this verse Job 37:1-2At this my heart trembles and leaps out of its place.  Listen to his angry voice and the rumble that comes forth from his mouth.”  Though Job is describing God and His Majestic thunderous voice which brings marvels to all under the heavens, it feels like Job is describing the terrorists who we see across all medias with their angry voice rumbling, roaring their hate-filled, venomous ideology at those who are different than they. There is great evil in the world as we have seen in our country since terrorism began to effect us directly on 9/11.  And we tremble with anxiety and fear at it.

So we come to Him with our anxiety, our fear, our grief and tears.  St Paul says to us in today’s Word, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication…let your request be known to God.”  St Paul gives us a way to overcome our anxiety, our fear, our frustration with the way our world is going; we are to hand it over to God.  For He is capable of bringing great change to our world and unsurpassable peace to our hearts. He is aware that the world will have trouble, but we might have peace in Him as He has conquered the world (John 16:33).  So we humble ourselves and bow to Him, pleading for mercy, grace, protection.  Then we wait until we hear once “again His voice roar, His majestic voice thunder; He does not restrain them when His voice is heard.  God thunders forth marvels with His voice; He does great things beyond our knowing.” (Job 37:4-5).  As in Egypt in the time of Moses, God now hears the cries of His People in bondage to the fear of terrorism which is plaguing our world.  He will answer our prayers for an end to this evil and  He will bring us peace just as He freed the Hebrews from the Egyptians.

Thunderous voice

We live in a world of great evil.  However, when I calm myself by being in God’s presence in prayer and spending time in His Word, I know in my very being that there is greater love, greater goodness, greater mercy to be seen.  I recall these words from the movie Love Actually, General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.

Though we saw once again a very disturbed man bring great evil to innocent lives, I encourage all of us to be anxious for nothing.  To come to God with our prayers and supplications and with thanksgiving give Him our fear, our frustration and our anxiety over terrorism and world events.  Knowing that when I give my God who is almighty all that I am, He will give me His peace, which surpasses all understanding and guard my heart and mind through Christ Jesus.

Praying for His Peace to wrap around each of us and the people of France tonight so that the God of hope (will) fill (each of) us with all joy and peace in believing, so that we may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13).

May you find gratitude and peace in every moment.

Joan

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Eternal rest grant unto them who passed in the terrorist attack in Nice, France, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace.

Amen.

Seek My Face, If My People, Day 1

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2 Chronicles 7:14 If then my people, upon whom my name has been pronounced, humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and heal their land.

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My forty days of prayer for our nation began today.  Out of the gate, I am already called to ponder that which fears me the most, differences among people.  Looking at 2 Chronicles 7:14, which is the verse that my friends and I have been praying over today has a number of “if you” behaviors performed by us, “then I” consequences from God.  If we as Christians humble ourselves, pray, seek His face, turn from sin, then God will hear us, forgive us, and heal our land.  Sounds simple enough.  Except for the fear part.

My family of origin is white bread all the way.  I grew up in a small town where we had one  black family attend our school for maybe six months total.  I once met a Jewish kid at an summer theater program.  Other than that, we were all white, Christian, and nondisabled in the area of town I lived in.  Back in those days- before social media created a global community within our world, there was absolutely no discussion of homosexuality and no one even knew about transgender issues.  Just all of us the same, day in and day out.  It wasn’t until I went to college that I realized there was a kaleidoscope of beautiful colors and abilities and lifestyles in the world.  Life was not all white bread.  It was wheat, rye, pumpernickel, and even a touch of sour dough.  And it was beautiful.  I thought that I was living the dream, free of distant family prejudices and fears, unfounded beliefs of differences.  To me separation and segregation and discrimination were just words that had no bearing on my life and thus I assumed were not real to other people.

Then 9/11 happened.  The illusion of safety our country lived with was broken.  America was vulnerable and life became us and them.  Them being terrorist, people of the Muslim religion.  My first moments of discrimination leaking through when my husband hired a Muslim man to work in his lab and I asked why he would hire this man after the planes had just taken down The Towers.  His reply was “Mohamed wasn’t a terrorist on the planes.”  Come to find out Mohamed’s family had suffered tremendously under Saddam Hussein’s rule in Iraq.  Mohamed showing way more courage than I could ever have when forced to enter the country secretively to check on his mother with the real threat of being caught and killed for doing so. However, fear is strong and it comes to all who lend a blind eye to it.  I felt comfortable with my fear of Muslims, terrorists, ISIS.  Who in our country was not afraid of these people?

Then Trayvon was killed and suddenly we had #BlackLivesMatter.  I could not figure this one out in my thinking.  Of course black lives matter, white lives matter, all lives matter.  To me, there was no white privilege.  There was no discrimination as I knew and had heard over and over that there were laws to protect black people from being discriminated against.  Then Dallas happened and sixteen innocent police officers were shot, five of whom died (Lorne Ahrens, Michael Smith, Michael Krol, Patrick Zamarirpa, Brent Thompson), at the hands of an obviously mentally ill, hate filled man who chose evil over good, violence over peace at a #BlackLivesMatter protest rally over the recent deaths of two black men in two different states, Alton Sterling and Philando Castille.  This was the moment, when many of us opened our eyes and realized that we as a nation are severely wounded.  Prejudice and discrimination are still alive and well in our country. Suddenly it was time to pray, pray, pray.

So today I’m looking at 2 Chronicles 7:14 and I keep focusing on “seek my face.”  The quiet whispering of the Holy Spirit encouraging me to place my faith in God’s perfect love to cast out my fear (1John 4:18) when seeking God’s face.  Seeking God’s face seems insurmountable as 1John 4:12 tells us that “no one has ever seen God”. but we are to find hope in His promise that “if we love one another, God remains in us, and His love is perfected in us.” (1John 4:12).  If God’s love is in us, then we may seek the face of God in those around us; others met in our day to day lives, strangers and loved ones alike, those who look like us and those who are very different from us.  It is easy to seek God in those I love and am familiar with. However, God challenges me to seek Him in those who are different than me, whose race, religion, culture, sexuality are not the same as mine.  This challenge has been overshadowed with feelings of fear and indifference sadly by many in our nation.  But our God remains in us and others, nonetheless.  He never leaves nor forsakes us, calling us to be brave and courageous in our seeking of Him (Deuteronomy 31:6).  It is through God’s grace, my intention to find Him in those very different from me, and with prayer that I seek and find Him in others.  If I can overcome my fear of those different from me, I can transform my heart.  In transforming my heart, I can transform my life.  In transforming my life, I can transform the world.  Prayer, grace, intention these three things, but the greatest of these is love.  Perfect love that casts out my fear of those who are different than me and allows me to seek the Face of God in all….

Jeremiah 29:13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

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May you always seek the face of God and may you always be blessed with recognizing His face in the faces of others.

Wishing you gratitude and peace in every moment, Joan

 

 

 

 

You, Jesus, Complete Me.

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Philippians 1:6 “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1:6. God Completes What he Starts. Art Within the Ar

Artwork by Mark Lawrence, Copyright.  The Battlefield of the Mind Collection inspired by Joyce Meyers.

Giving my heart to him again and receiving his special words to my soul.  Music that made me dance and music that made me cry.  Witnessing that got to the heart of the matter of the struggle to follow His footsteps.  Quiet time to sort out my life and pray and find buttercups in full bloom in the grotto of the retreat center.  Reconciliation to give Him my sorrow over poor choices in the past and present and to find forgiveness.   This was my past weekend at our Parish Woman’s Retreat.

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Buttercups in the Grotto.

Sunday morning, as I entered the chapel, I realized that I had not yet signed the altar cloth and it was “last call” so to speak.  So up I headed, purple fine line marker in hand with final instructions that I could leave a message if I so desired with my name.  I stood pondering what message to leave on an altar cloth that will be brought back to the retreat year after year.  What words to write in this tiny little space that I found had not been written on yet….  It came to me fairly quickly.  The Bible promise that I have held on to since those early days of parenting and MOPS and not knowing what I was doing with my life and being filled with anxiety and struggles just to make ends meet while my husband finished medical school.  The promise that He would complete me, Philippians 1:6.  So I wrote on the altar cloth the simple sentence with a prayer that it would bless the other women present now and to come:

You, Jesus, complete me.  Joan Marie 2016

I headed back to my seat and waited for the big group celebration and then Mass to close out our retreat.  As they had all week-end, our group celebration began with a Bible verse.  Surprisingly it went like this:  “A Letter from St Paul to the Philippians.  ‘I give thanks to my God at every remembrance of you, praying always with joy in my every prayer for all of you, because of your partnership for the gospel from the first day until now.  I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. ..And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception to discern what is of value so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.'” Simply put, it was my God promise that I had just prayed over my sisters in Christ not ten minutes earlier.

While I sat there contemplating the meaning of this “coincidence,” the group went on to sharing time.  Woman after woman bravely standing and speaking into a microphone sharing what the retreat had meant to them.  Woman after woman sharing their struggle, their lepers, their pain.  Sexual molestation, substance abuse, death…  I sat listening with my own struggles and heard that small, still voice saying to me “speak My promise to these woman.”  Alas, I am not so brave as to stand in front of just shy of 200 woman and be vulnerable.  I just could not bring myself to raise my hand, though I tried and tried to gather up the courage to say what I knew He wanted me to say.  For that I am sorrowful.

So I am here saying to each of you, now, in this place to take courage.  Do not see yourself as the leper whom others fear.  Do not look at yourself only through your pain and struggles feeling that you are the only one.  We all have pain and struggles.  We all have death and illness and abuses somewhere in our lives or the lives of loved ones whom we care for.  Suffering comes to all of us.  But He, the one who created us, bore our sins, and overcame the sting of death, looks down on us with steadfast love and tender mercies and He completes each of us.  He never leaves nor forsakes us.  He is in each of us helping us through whatever suffering this life brings by giving us whatever it is we lack to get through it.  I am small, weak, and cowardly.  Yet, with his merciful heart and outstretched arms, Jesus wraps Himself around me in those moments of suffering and weakness and completes me so that I am able to stand strong and brave and proclaim His love to all my suffering Sisters and Brothers in Christ.  He promises to do this for you as well.

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Praying that each of you can find the confidence to know in your very being that He who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus, as well.

Amen, Joan Marie

Flee to the Lord

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Mark 14:50-52, “And they all left him and fled.  Now a young man followed him wearing nothing but a linen cloth about his body.  They seized him, but he left the cloth behind and ran off naked.”

It is Holy Thursday in this reading of Mark.  Jesus has just celebrated the Last Supper in which he proclaims to his most beloved Apostles that his body and blood will be given up for each of them as well as each of us who follows him.  Judas, the misinformed zealot Apostle has made his choice and gone to the authorities to hand Jesus over.  Jesus goes to Gethsemane to pray for his Father’s will to be done.  While there, he is handed over to the authorities with a kiss from Judas.  There is a scuffle and a miracle and suddenly the Apostles flee, distancing themselves from their Master, the one who has come to set all of us free through His captivity.  Now this is the part that gets interesting in Mark, where each of us can identify in some way.  Just three short sentences with an unknown character.  A young man follows the posse with Jesus in their midst wearing only his linen cloth, think underwear or loose robe.  Most likely his disrobed body draws attention and the young soldiers grab his cloth trying to seize him.  He flees as well in his nakedness and shame for all to see.

Who is this young man?  Some say Lazarus, who is wearing his burial linen cloth.  Others think Mark is making a brief appearance to show that he was actually present at the time.  Still others claim everything from the owner of the garden to the man who appears again at the end of Mark announcing our Lord’s resurrection.  Will we ever know the true identity of this man?  Is it important that we know who he really was?  Perhaps what is of more importance is to look at why the Holy Spirit felt it important to inspire Mark to include this unknown man in his account of the Passion of Jesus, note that only Mark includes this part of the Passion Story.

This young man causes us to think about frightening or difficult times, when we are asked to faithfully follow Jesus rather than running to those things which bring us comfort.  We have all had these experiences, though different for each of us.  The single mother who must find a way to put food on the table for her children and pay the rent with not enough money for both.  The teacher who struggles to keep the brightest children in her class challenged while encouraging the children with learning disabilities to try and keep up.  The son who must find time to deal with his angry elderly mom while meeting the responsibilities of being a husband and father to his family.  The teen who yearns to be popular but realizes how unsafe it is to follow the crowd into sexual experimentation and substance abuse to gain that popularity.  The missionary in the Middle East who lives with the threat of terrorism daily but knows that God is leading their life to bring His Word to this troubled part of the world.

We all struggle…..  And yet, we are each faced with a choice.  Do we leave Jesus and flee when the going gets tough?  “Thanks, Lord, but no thanks.  I’ve got it from here on my own.  I can take care of this problem better than you.  It’s getting scary and tough to be associated with the likes of you, Lord.  Sorry, but heading out to keep myself safe on my own.”  Perhaps, we head towards Jesus in the midst of our fear and trembling, almost naked, for all to see.  “Lord, it is getting scary here.  Time for a miracle.  I am needing a little help here.  You going to do something to make it better.  No worries though Lord, I’ll take care of this little area over here on my own.”  Yet, when they see we are looking to Him for our answer, we back away and run with our sin naked for the world to see, abandoning Jesus just like his Apostles and the young man in his skivvies did the night of Holy Thursday.

Me, I prefer to keep my  eyes on Jesus, clothed or otherwise.  “Lord, I am frightened here.  I don’t want to grumble.  I don’t want to die.  I have things that I want to do and see and be for You and Your glory.  Even when times get tough, overwhelming, alarming, I hold to Your promise that in the midst of all this mess, You ‘will never leave me nor abandon me’ (Hebrews 13:5).  You, Lord are my refuge so that no one may say ‘flee like a bird’ (Psalm 11:1).  I am strong and courageous as You have promised to always go with me  (Deuteronomy 31:6).  I need not turn and flee when frightening times come to me knowing that you are ever present (1 Chronicles 28:20).

So I take heart that when the others fled Jesus in his moment of great strength, which appeared to human eyes as weakness, there was this lone young man who ventured towards Him.   In his nakedness, he followed Jesus for as long as He dared.  And though he turned and fled when the world seized Him, I am sure that Jesus looked upon Him with great compassion as He does to each of us in those moments.  Knowing each of our hearts, with open arms, He claims over us His steadfast love and tender mercies through the most terrifying of times.  With this we know that unlike this lone young man, we have nothing to flee in fear from.   And so we run into his outstretched arms for the strength and courage we need to endure those most difficult times to bring glory to Him, our Master and Savior.

Aside

As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, that is the son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting at the side of the road.  When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout and cry out, “Son of David,  have pity on me.”  And many of them scolded him and told him to keep quiet, but he only shouted all the louder,”Son of David, have pity on me.”  Jesus stopped and said, “Call him here.”  So they called the blind man over, “Courage,” they said, “get up; He is calling you.”  So throwing off his cloak, he jumped up and went to Jesus.  Then Jesus spoke, “What do you want me to do for you?”  The blind man said to him, “Rabbuni, let me see again.”  Jesus said to him “Go, your faith has saved you.”  And at once his sight returned and he followed (Jesus) along the road.
And so it is even today:
The little one, who knows that home is not a safe place.  Parents who are suppose to protect and nurture and provide for are only capable of neglect and violence.  She is unsafe in her bed, her home, her neighborhood.  She knows too young that evil lurks and safety is at bay.   “Courage.  Get up.  Jesus is calling you.”
The teenager,who is looking for answers.  She turns to drugs and the occult because she finds acceptance with other misled friends and is unaware of the dangers that she is exposing herself to.  The thoughts in her head constantly running amok as she tries desperately to find a place to fit in, be accepted, be strong. So she chooses to numb her mind with drugs and booze.  She chooses what looks exciting to her and her other broken friends by dabbling in the paranormal and vampire movies and Ouije boards.  “Courage.  Get up.  Jesus is calling you.”
The young man, who married too soon while trying to find independence and love.  He tries so hard to finish his schooling, but there are bills to be paid, food to be bought, babies to care for.  Feelings of fatigue from the daily grind of school, work, study, school, work, study, school, work….  Never enough time to just be with his children, his wife, his aging parents.  “Courage.  Get up.  Jesus is calling you.”
The new mom, who is so worn out having just given birth after forty weeks of hormonal shifts and weight gain and preparations for the coming little babe in her life.  She has not slept a full night in months between the uncomfortable-ness of her body in the late weeks of her pregnancy and now caring for the newborn in her midst.  Once again, the babe is crying in the night.  And she is just so tired and does not know if she can find the strength to get up and care for the babe one more time.  “Courage.  Get up.  Jesus is calling you.”
The father, who thought he had a good, safe job working the factory line.  It wasn’t a career, but the bills were paid with money left over for him and his sweetie to have some fun on the week-ends.  Now he finds himself holding a pink slip in his hand and waiting in the unemployment line.  His sweetie is at the local food bank trying to get food to put on the table for them and their two children.  Their savings account long gone in the first month of his joblessness.  Confusion reigns in his head as to how they came to his point in life.  He has no idea how to get them back on track before they loose their house.  “Courage.  Get up.  Jesus is calling you.”
The proud momma, who always put her children first.  Now they are young adults and flying the nest.  She finds herself sitting in a large home with a stranger that she barely recognizes as her husband and more frightening, a stranger that she barely recognizes as herself.  She is so proud of the people her children have become. Yet, she wonders how she and her husband lost themselves in the raising of their children.  She is afraid to continue on to this next stage of life, yet does not know what else to do.  “Courage.  Get up.  Jesus is calling you.”
The career woman, who put her job first in her life.  She needed no one.  Not a husband who she might be held accountable to.  Not children who would depend on her during her most productive years. Not her parents, who did little for her other than provide her her very life and little else.  She has gotten to where she is on her own two feet.  Now, she is in the winter of her life, facing retirement, and realizing that it is lonely where she finds herself.  What will she do once she gives up the only thing that has brought meaning to her existence.  “Courage.  Get up.  Jesus is calling you.”
The elderly man, who would have been married for 53 years this March, had “the cancer” not taken his beloved wife six months ago.  He walks around in numbness and grief.  He hears his children and grandchildren pleading with him to go on with life.  Yet every night, when he says his prayers, he pleads that Jesus will take him in his sleep.  And yet, every morning,he awakes once again without her by his side.  “Courage.  Get up.  Jesus is calling you.”
The dear granny who was a “looker” in her day, but now finds herself bent over and barely able to walk with “the osteoarthritis.”  She remembers how she used to sway those hips and the workers on the sidewalk would whistle and  hoot when she went by.  Now she sits in her wheelchair in the nursing home, barely able to feed herself and dependent on others.  Her family has forgotten her in the busy-ness of their lives.  She is bored with the remainder of her life and envious of the young nursing assistants who are there to help her.  She thinks to herself that someday this will be their lives too.  “Courage.  Get up.  Jesus is calling you.”
And so it goes….  In our inequities and despite ourselves, Jesus calls us to have courage and get up and follow Him.  Like Bartimaeus, our faith in Jesus saves us as we follow Jesus down the road of our life.   *Format adapted from homily by Father Dustin, St Monica Parish, Indianapolis, In, 12-2012.

Have Courage! Get Up! Jesus is calling you!