Saturday, April 07, 2012

Saturday, 04/07/12

Psalms: 95, 88,27
Old Testament: Lam 3:37-58
Gospel: Rom 8:1-11
New Testament: Heb 4:1-16
The LORD is my light and my salvation—
   whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life—
   of whom shall I be afraid?”
(Psalm 27)

Dad is sick again.  He has a persistent cough.  No matter what he does, he can’t seem to shake it.  He is also losing weight, and he is losing it rapidly.  With coolness and an air of nonchalance, he goes about his day, fixing, organizing, cleaning, running errands, and eating his favorite foods.  I see his daily actions as the equivalent of a “nesting instinct,” but one in anticipation of an ending as well as a beginning.

Dad speaks freely of dying.  He openly says he isn’t afraid.  He says God has blessed him in huge ways, and that God continues to bless him every day in small, almost imperceptible, ways.  He calls these, “milagros pequeños,” “little miracles.” 

Dad prays often, and his faith is strong.  Recently, he did admit to worrying about leaving Mom, his wife of 61 years.  “What will she do without me?” he said.  Almost immediately his thoughts and words turned to God.  He remembered how, 74 years ago, God came to the aid of a 12 year old orphaned, impoverished, and uneducated Mexican boy.  “Eso fue un gran milagro.” he said, “That was a great miracle.”  That memory was enough to ease his fears, enough to remind him to simply trust God.

I’ve watched Dad all my life.  I’ve watched and I’ve listened.  What Dad lacked in education, he made up in wisdom.  What he lacked in formal training, he made up with hard work and determination.  By watching Dad live his life, I learned to value hard work, honesty, and patience; and I learned the importance of kindness and compassion.

Now, as I watch Dad inch his way toward God, it is not a fearful, stooped and frail body that I see; I see one respectfully bowed in faithful prayer, complete trust, and quiet anticipation.  Dad is not afraid, and neither am I…..but I will miss him dearly.

Heavenly Father, I place all my fears at the foot of the cross. 


Thursday, April 05, 2012

Thursday, 04/05/12

Gospel: Mark 14:12-25
Old Testament: Lam 2:10-18
Psalms: 102,142, 143
New Testament: 1 Cor 10:14-17, 11:27-32
Whenever I read this passage from Mark’s gospel, I am always struck by the conversation between Jesus and his disciples when Jesus suggests that he will be betrayed and “ by one they say to Jesus ‘surely, you don’t mean me?’” 

“Surely you don’t mean me…” They each seem to take a moment to reflect on their lives and on their actions, assessing if they have betrayed Jesus.  Since the passage says, “…one by one they asked…,” I assume Judas asked the question, too.  Did he think his actions were honorable?  Did he know that he was betraying Jesus?  Or did he NOT realize what his actions would do until after Jesus was arrested?

On a personal note, this questioning makes me look at my own life, at my own actions.  Is it possible that I may have betrayed Jesus?  Are some of my well-intended actions, in reality, betrayals?  There are certainly times when I’ve hurt the feeling of another simply by not thinking through something before I’ve said it.  Maybe there are times I have not been true to my faith or true to Jesus simply because I’ve acted on a momentary impulse and not really thought through how my actions could be perceived?  Am I motivated by something other than faith?  Sometimes.  I just hope and pray that those times do not bring about actions that are contrary to the Gospel and ultimately betray Jesus. 

I pray, wherever I am and whatever I do, that I may genuinely reflect the true faith of a Christian and that I may be a true witness for the Gospel.  Amen.


Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Wednesday, 04/04/12

Psalms: 55, 74
Old Testament: Lam 2:1-9,14-17
Gospel: Mark 12:1-11
New Testament: 2 Corinthians 1:23-2:11
When reading through my assigned verses the first few times, there were none that really jumped out at me.  I picked them back up every few days and, after a week or so, I highlighted a few that seemed to stand out from the rest.  For me, all of the readings had some reference to people harming other people, or people grieving.  Those aren’t the kind of thoughts I like to meditate on; so I put them aside for a while -- again.  What was in these readings for me?

God works in mysterious ways.  A little more than a week ago, a dear and longtime friend of our family died suddenly.  Our entire family was filled with grief.  Each of us would show it and eventually come to peace with it in different ways and at different times.  I went back to my readings.  One of the verses I had highlighted was Psalm 55, verse 22, which says:

“Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.”

This verse I highlighted many weeks ago reminded me that I can trust God to give me His peace when I most need it.  When filled with grief, I can trust in Him.  This verse helped me come to peace with the passing of our friend.  I pray for him every day and will continue to do so for forty-nine days, as this was a practice that he had followed every time someone he knew died. 

May you also find peace in God’s Word when you need it.


Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Tuesday, 04/03/12

Gospel: Mark 11:27-33
Old Testament: Lam 1:17-22
New Testament: 2 Cor 1:8-22
Psalms: 6, 12, 94
"When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.” 
(Psalm 94:19)
When I hear the word “hospital,” images of stark white walls, solemn faces, stern staff, fear, tears, and sadness come to mind.  Walk into any hospital and there’s bound to be several cancer patients I can think of fewer things more evil than cancer.  Worse – childhood cancer.

That’s why last year, when my company gave me the opportunity to participate in a service trip to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, I jumped at the chance.  I expected it to be a somber trip.  Nothing could have been further from the truth. 

From the moment I arrived until the time I left, I felt God’s immediate presence in the hard work of my coworkers, the selfless work of the hospital staff, and the determination, strength, and beautiful smiles of the patients.  I was humbled and honored to participate and to experience the purest form of love, service, and commitment alongside a group of incredible people.  It was truly a turning point in my life – a recognition that in our darkest times, the light of God is always shining on us.  Thanks to the work of St. Jude and other hospitals like it, the overall survival rate for childhood cancers has increased from less than 20% in 1962 to 80% today. 

But statistics aside, what matters is that when I saw the parents AND the kids at St. Jude, I saw hope rather than fear.  Whether or not they knew it, God is that hope; and that hope continues every day at St. Jude.  I felt like the luckiest person on Earth to experience it.


Monday, April 02, 2012

Monday, 04/02/12

New Testament: 2 Cor 1:1-7
Old Testament: Lam 1:1-2,6-12
Gospel: Mark 11:12-25
Psalms: 51:1-18 (19-20), 69:1-23

When Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians and spoke about sharing abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, he was speaking not only about the suffering of Jesus on the Cross for our redemption, but also about the suffering that early Christians were experiencing as they proclaimed their belief in Jesus as our Savior.  Indeed, their persecution was great.  By comparison, our lives as Christians seem far easier.  Yet, our lives are not without suffering.  We see it every day as we look at the people around us, people who are having tough times. 

Paul tells us that we are comforted in our sufferings so that we can comfort others.   One reason I am so proud to be a part of Saint Matthew’s is that as a community we are so willing to reach out to those who are suffering.  We recognize that God blesses us with much and comforts us in our troubles, and we in turn reach out to help and comfort those in need.  While this is noticeable in many of our outreach projects, I see it most profoundly on our mission trips.

On mission trips I see young children receive attention, encourage ment, and validation;  homeless people share their stories and receive prayer as well as badly needed supplies; homes built and repairs made; schools built; toys, books, and games given; food prepared and served to feed the hungry; clothes offered for those in need; physical jobs done for those who can no longer do the work themselves; and people being comforted in their grief through word, song, and prayer.  Most importantly, I see those who are suffering not use their suffering as an excuse to turn FROM God, but as a reason to turn TO God.  

My prayer for all of us at Saint Matthew’s is not only that we find comfort in our sufferings, but that in our lowest moments, hardest times, or loneliest day, we may turn TO God, not FROM him. 


Sunday, April 01, 2012

Sunday, 04/01/12

New Testament: 1 Timothy 6:12-16
Gospel: Luke 19:41-48
Psalms: 24, 29, 103
Old Testament: Zech 9:9-12, 12:9-11, 13:1, 7-9
Paul told Timothy to “Fight the Good Fight.”  Does that evoke images
for you of powerful people at war?  During the American Civil War, soldiers for both the North and the South fought for what they
believed to be right and prayed for God to give them victory.  As we know, the North won and the South lost.  Did that mean the South failed to fight the good fight?  No, the soldiers from both sides fought with incredible valor.

As a kid, if someone told me to fight the good fight, it usually meant to give maximum effort to whatever task was at hand so that I might be successful or, if not successful, at least I could be unashamed of the job I did.  That is still good advice.

Paul’s call to fight the good fight of faith was an exhortation to resist evil in all forms and to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.  That is a much tougher task than to physically confront another person in battle or to try our best.  It requires us to make a commitment in mind and spirit to always do what is right.  Being right doesn’t mean to be the most popular, richest, beautiful, dominant, or any of the other quantifiers our society uses to measure success.  It simply means to put full effort into living according to the professions we made to God during our baptism.

Fighting the good fight is a daily struggle.  Every day brings choices to make, and I trust God to give me the strength to make the right ones.  Resisting evil requires more strength than I can muster by myself, and I don’t believe I can be successful without the Lord’s help. 

What do you think?