Saturday, April 25, 2009

Handle with prayer

Lord, open my eyes to see and my ears to hear You today. Let me see Your reflection in everything around me. Keep me humble as I take risks in faith. Thy Will be done.
How do we handle the frailness of life?
For many of us, the answer is prayer - communing with our Lord through our words and in His Word. It may be early in the morning on our knees are sitting in our favorite chair watching the sunrise. Or maybe we pray while we're driving or doing the dishes. Really, our life is a prayer when we live it through our love for God.

Without Him, I am nothing. I couldn't get through one minute without His grace.

Think about that statement: Without Him, I am nothing.

Too many in our world only know the second part - I am nothing. They don't know Jesus. They only know what the world tells them to worship - self, money, clothes, stuff... The world tempts them to believe that things will complete them. If they acquire the things, they soon realize that those things don't bring lasting happiness. When the things are lost, they feel like they are nothing.

Because many of us were raised in Christian homes, we may take for granted that everyone knows Jesus or at least about Him. Knowing about Jesus as a person who lived long ago is very different from knowing and trusting Jesus as a friend.

Today, I met a soft-spoken young woman (V) who believes in God, but knows nothing about Jesus other than she has heard "He was a nice man."

What is a "nice man" to a woman who's been abused within her family? Can she really comprehend the gentle love of Jesus?
This beautiful woman is hurting physically from cancer and emotionally from a broken life. She has two young children, but is all alone now because they have been placed in foster care. As a mother, I can only imagine the ache she lives with after months of not being able to see and hug her children. She doesn't have a faith community and was raised "unchurched."
Life is fragile. Handle with prayer.
All the while we're talking I'm silently praying, "Lord, be with us now." V was very reserved, but looked like she could use a hug. I asked if I could give her a hug and she embraced me so deeply I could feel her love, loneliness and pain. "Jesus wants to meet you right where you are. He loves you and knows your pain," I told her.

Can you pray to Him?"
"I could try," she said shyly.
As we were talking, a little girl (daughter of one of my friends who was there helping serve lunch and talking with people) came up and offered V a little prayer card. The prayer card had the 'Footprints' poem on it, and V started to cry as she read it. The little girl had no idea that this was the perfect card for this young woman. God was truly at work.

"Thank you very much," V said to the girl.

We continued talking. She gave me another big hug and said she was very glad to have met us.
I was glad to have met her. Talking with her opened my eyes wider to God's enormous love and how we can do nothing to earn it. Dressing up for our Savior at church and singing praises to Him is beautiful. God loves that. More importantly, though, He looks at our heart - not our clothes -and really wants us to sit in silence with Him and trust Him. Doing this would be a big risk for V.
Life is fragile. Handle with prayer.

How else but prayer can we handle a meeting like this? Her life, my life can only be mended with prayer - communing with our Heavenly Father, the Divine Physician, Who can lead us on the road to healing if we would just call out to Him in faith.

For those of us that have a relationship with Jesus, we are obligated to share His love and forgiveness with others. Our faith is a gift to be handed on to everyone we meet. The spiritual gifts God bestows upon us through the sacraments are not merely for our own use. They are to share with our brothers and sisters - the mystical body of Christ.

There are so many stories in the lives of friends that we meet each week. On the drive home, my heart swells with so much love and ache I can barely hold back the tears. I am in awe of the Creator and how he intertwines our lives. Life IS fragile. We must handle it with prayer.
Through faith and union with our Lord Jesus Christ - we are given the grace to handle not only our life, but the lives of those around us. In doing so, this will certainly mean taking a risk.
Isn't that really what faith is all about?
Taking a risk to believe in One whom this world can't prove everything about? Taking a risk to build our whole lives around One whom others question and disrespect? It's a risk to live for the One whose life is a mystery - who suffered, died and rose because He loves us so much.
It was risky for Jesus to talk to the woman at the well, to forgive the sins of the paralyzed man, to speak the Truth.
It's risky to put our life on the line because others may laugh at us, torment us, or criticize us.
What is the big risk? Our pride. Our pride keeps us from so receiving so many miracles from the Lord.
But, but... we say, others may laugh at me, torment me, or criticize me. That can be a blow to my pride. Well, pride will only shut out the Lord and keep us from full relationship with Him. Maybe some want this, but I certainly don't.
Is there a remedy to pride? Yes - humility!
Humility is the greatest weapon against the devil.
Humility means not desiring to be praised, approved of, preferred or noticed above others.
Humility means not fearing rejection, ridicule or humiliation.
Next time we're humiliated and don't react negatively, we should praise the Lord as He has just given us the opportunity to grow in the virtue of humility! Of course, it's not so easy. We have to ask the Lord to be on guard for us.
Humility and taking risks for the Lord go hand in hand. If we're not taking risks in the name of faith, then how can we expect to see miracles happen?
Lord, increase my faith that I may believe the unbelievable and take risks for Your glory.
Do you think that it was easy for the young virgin Mary to risk her life to become the mother of God? It was a HUGE risk!
"In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!" But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be.
And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there will be no end."
And Mary said to the angel, "How shall this be, since I have no husband?"
And the angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the Child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible."
And Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her."
Each day, the Lord calls us to risk our lives through little annunciations. Pray this week that we can be "handmaids of the Lord" and step out in faith to meet Christ in the lives of those who may have no one else to talk to. Pray to believe the unbelievable or for those who are lonely and unsure to believe and trust in the One who is unbelievable to much of the world.
What annunciation is God calling you to this week? However fragile it may be - handle it with prayer.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Jesus walks with us

First off, we are praising God for his blessing of a job for our friend, Andy. We greeted him outside the library this past Saturday where he shared the good news, along with a big hug. Seeing the smile on his face and hearing it in his voice was one of the highlights of my week. It's been quite a journey for him since last fall. He opened us his life to us,sharing hopes and discouragement. I kept telling him that God was making plans for him and to stay strong.
Why we connected to him, in particular, is a mystery to me, but surely not to God.

Now, Andy is on to a new chapter. Please continue to pray for him - that he trusts and acknowledges Jesus Christ as His Savior Who is in control of all that happens to him.
Through our relationships on the streets - whether they last for five minutes or five months - I have seen how strong faith can be in those who live from one day to the next, not knowing where they will sleep or how they will provide for their basic needs.
"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." Hebrews 11:1

Looking into the eyes of so many that we meet each week, there is this raw faith. Sometimes they admit it, many times they shy away from sharing. It's easier that way - or so it seems.

My faith is strong in many aspects (though I pray each day for stronger faith), but I don't have to wonder about meeting my basic needs of food, shelter, work. I trust in God for His providence, though at times, I'm sure I supersede His hand when I become impatient. When the people of the world who are forgotten by many -through their homelessness, joblessness or addictions- become impatient, they are forced to be more patient. What's the alternative?

When those who are homeless, jobless, without family put their trust in God, they are like the woman crawling through the crowd stretching to touch the hem of Christ's robe so she will be healed of her hemorrhaging. The crowds of people ignore her or tell her to go away, but she will not be deterred. Her faith is stronger at that moment than Christ's own disciples who were with him every day, yet did not fully understand Him.

And Christ Jesus says, "daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace." Mark 5

Her faith made her well. Jesus can not heal us without faith. Never assume that because of the way someone's life looks that they don't have faith.

Many prayed that Andy would get a job, but also that he would have faith in Christ - faith that Christ is always right there walking with him on his road, just as He was with the disciples on the road to Emmaus in the above picture.

Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.” - Luke 24:13-16

Jesus came up and walked along with them. Doesn't that bring to mind such love and hope? Jesus knew of their doubt. He knew of their sadness and confusion. In His immense love, He sought to open their eyes and comfort them. The same is true for us. We may not recognize Christ, but He is always there waiting for us to invite him along on our walk.

When did the two men finally recognize Jesus? "When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?"

The disciples, like us, could not recognize Christ because they were focused on His death at Calvary. They were stuck thinking about "the failure" at the cross, instead of the promise of His Resurrection. So Jesus opened up the Old Testament scriptures to them along the way. He didn't leave them and say, "these no-good knuckle heads! I've tried time and time again, but they just don't get it! I'm done with them." Thank God for that! Thank God He doesn't do that with us or we would cease to exist.

We all get stuck in our daily trials at times - looking too intently on the details of the day instead of keeping our focus on Jesus Christ who told us, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33
As children of God, it is our duty and privilege to help and encourage our family members (family means all as God is Father Creator of all) on the road of life. We are also to allow others to encourage us. "See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness." (Hebrews 3:12-13)

I am encouraged by the faith and fortitude of the many friends I meet each week in the park or around Division Street. I am encouraged and humbled by Christ, who is Mercy itself.

Every day, I pray to walk in His Mercy, to look out with His eyes of Mercy, to listen with His ears of Mercy. When I succeed, all the glory is His.

During my youth when I was in the depths of a sinful life, spending some time on the street and very close to being without a place to live, God was covering me with His grace. I certainly didn't acknowledge this. I had turned my back on God, His commands and His Church and didn't believe I was worthy of His love.

He didn't turn His back on me though. There were many times He tried to reveal Himself to me, but I couldn't recognize Him because I was focused on myself and my sins, instead of His Mercy.

At the lowest point in my life, I cried out, "save me, LORD!" In an instant, He was right there, bringing His Peace. It flooded my soul, and the next day I was making plans to leave that life behind. Still, His Peace was foreign to me at that time, so it took awhile before I believed and trusted fully in it. Thankfully, He has immeasurable patience and continues to save me every day.

Though I have left my former life far behind and am a new creation in Christ, I can not forget that it is only by His grace that I was saved, am saved and will be saved. He calls us to abandon ourselves to Him fully and share His peace with those who are hungry, sick, imprisoned or lonely, whether they be in our neighborhood, in the next town or across the ocean. In meeting their needs and communing as a family - we meet our Savior Jesus Christ.

May your eyes be opened to the truth of Jesus Christ on your walk this week.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Seeing Jesus

Guest post by Todd G.

We saw Jesus this past Saturday. The Holy Spirit led us right to him. What a beautiful morning--cool and lots of sunshine. We set up our table with food and drinks for the less fortunate in Veterans Park. Sitting in the park were at least eight people waiting for a nice meal.

Needless to say, it was a busy morning. I saw Jesus in the eyes of every person I met. Have you noticed how kind these people are? Or how they always ask “what church are you from?” or “God bless you”.

“Love thy neighbor as yourself” was all I could think about. During the short time we were there, I could not believe how many scripture versus came to me….what a grace!

Anyway, the time went swiftly by as we served the continuous line of folks coming for something to eat. Chili was a popular order with everyone--as we ran out once again…along with the hot chocolate. Remember the miracle of the five loaves and fishes? Well, I was praying. Chicken noodle soup and sack lunches went out faster than an order of fries at Mickey Ds.

Yes, we saw Jesus many times over, and my heart was touched by The Father’s love.