Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Day 30 Angels We Have Heard on High

Well, today is the last and final posting in our 30 Day Retreat. It has been a good process and I hope that everyone learned something about the gospel and our common calling to follow the Lord. I also hope that you have found my book, A 30 Day Retreat: A Personal Guide to Spiritual Renewal edifying. If you like my book please spread the word to friends, family, colleagues, fellow parishioners, etc....

The last and final installment in our 30 day journey are angels. Very often we think of angels as cute cuddly cherubs floating on cotton ball white clouds strumming their harps and playing their flutes. Yet when we read scripture we see an altogether different version of angels:

In Genesis Jacob is depicted as wrestling with an angel all night long

In Luke's gospel an angel comes bearing good news that Mary will bear a son and her first reaction is fear

In Matthew's gospel an angel of the Lord comes to Joseph telling him that Mary will have a son and his first reaction is fear and the notion to divorce her

When the women come to Jesus' tomb in order to anoint his dead body they meet an angel in the garden and their first reaction is fear.

Why so much fear with angels?

Well, I'd be scared to if an angel appeared to me speaking the Word of God. After all it's much easier to have God at an arm's length, and quite another to have his Word come face to face!!!

Yet angels come and go in scripture.

The word "angel" literally means "messenger" and the angels are messengers of God bringing news.

So our Hollywood and Hallmark versions of angels are not very biblical. Yes they might be cute and cuddly and warm and fuzzy but they are not the angels that we see in either the Old or New Testament.

Angels are sent to bring the good news of the gospel which is the message of repentance. The message that we have new life in Christ and that we have the opportunity of eternal life with God for ever and ever.

This is wonderful and exciting news!!

Today we thank God for his messengers.

I hope everyone continues to read Scripture on their own. I also hope that you are active in your parishes in order to help build up the Body of Christ wherever you find yourself.

God bless all of you.

Thanks for spending the past 30 days with me.

I plan on taking a few days off with blogging and will be return posting on July 12.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Day 29 Catching the Spirit

Only two more days for our online retreat together. It was surely a discipline to write a blog entry every day for a month. I didn't know what to expect. However, the process of blogging every day and writing a short reflection was a good practice. I hope that you enjoyed this month together and that you learned something about the Christian faith.

Today we read about the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost which is found in Acts 2. The Holy Spirit came upon the disciples as tongues of fire, each disciple receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is very powerful too.

In Genesis the Spirit was hovering over the waters

The Holy Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness for forty days

The Holy Spirit came down upon Jesus in the Jordan River

The Holy Spirit was given to the disciples at Pentecost

Pretty impressive if you ask me.

This Spirit was given so that the disciples would be strengthened and could preach the gospel boldly throughout the ends of the world. The disciples had a lot of work to do; Peter, Paul, Barnabas, Silas, and others preached, taught, healed in the name of Jesus. They were witness of God's Kingdom, reminders that Jesus was Lord and Savior and that people could have new life.

Wow, I am still amazed when I read Acts 2.

Take some time today out of your busy schedule and read Acts 2.

What does it say to you?

How can the Holy Spirit change your life?

What does the Holy Spirit mean for your discipleship?

Let's share

Monday, June 28, 2010

Day 28 He Was Known to Them in the Breaking of the Bread

I love this picture of bread and wine, it looks so earthy to me, the wine sitting in a pottery chalice and a large loaf of bread broken. Every Sunday Christians around the world remember our Lord Jesus in the "breaking of the bread" as we recount his final instructions to "take eat" and "drink of it all of you." Every Sunday I stand in the altar of our little parish reciting those last words of Jesus and it never stops to amaze me how new those words sound every Sunday, "take eat" and "drink of it all of you."

These words have been said for 2,000 years and they have comforted people.

Personally I love to eat and there is nothing better than a glass of wine and a hunk of bread and very often I eat cheese with it; brie, English Stilton, or some Port Salut, ummm, makes me want to go and get some now.

The Sacrament of Holy Communion, also called the Eucharist, is very earthy, incarnational. Jesus takes basic things in life such as bread and wine and tells his followers that when we eat of this bread and drink of this wine we are remembering Jesus and making his Presence felt again in the community.

This is truly awesome.

Take eat

Drink of it all of you

Jesus is known to us in a meal

How revolutionary!

Let's share. What are your thoughts on the Eucharist?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Day 27 Walking with the Lord

I love to walk. Every day I walk my dog at least twice, once in the morning and once at night. I also walk on the treadmill at the local YMCA for at least an hour. I noticed that a lot of people are walking these days, mostly to keep healthy.

Walking is a theme found throughout the Bible

God walked with Adam and Eve in Paradise

Moses and the Israelites walked through the Sinai to the Promised Land

Jezebel and her friends walked in sin

Paul reminds us to walk in the light and in righteousness

Walking can be a dangerous activity is we do not pay attention to where we are going.

We can fall, hurt ourselves, get lost, or sprain an ankle.

If we don't bring water with us we may pass out or if we do not pay attention to where we are going we could get hit by a car.

I bet you never realized how important walking really is?

Paul reminds us to walk with the Lord, to follow Him each and every day. Before we start walking we have to do a few things:

1. Listen, we can't follow if we don't know where God is leading us

2. Be obedient. In my life as a pastor there are quite a few things that I either don't enjoy doing much or wouldn't choose to do on my own, yet because I am a pastor I must do them.

3. Be careful. If you are walking and talking with a friend you have to keep one eye on where you are walking lest you fall and trip or get hit by a car.

The Lord requires that we follow these basic teachings as well: listening, obedience, and alertness keeps us out of trouble.

Take a good look at your life right now.

Are you always a good listener? Do you follow through with your commitments as a sign of your obedience? Are you alert and awake to the people and events around you?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Day 26 Waiting For Jesus

I admit I can be impatient at times, well, a lot of the time actually. I don't like waiting for things or persons, especially:

waiting for the light to turn green

waiting for medical tests

waiting in line in the grocery store

waiting on the phone

my laundry list could go on and on but I think you get the point.

We spend so much of our lifetime waiting.

The Israelites spent a lot of time waiting for the savior to be born didn't they?

All of those poor prophets and righteous people in the Old Testament, Abraham, Moses, Hosea, Amos, Isaiah, Ruth, Naomi, they all had to wait. They never saw the messiah either; too bad.

Yes, God makes his people wait and for good reason. My mom had a saying that she always shared with us, "good things come to those who wait" boy was she right!!!!!!!!

What are some of the things that you don't like waiting for????????????

How can you better learn patience in life?????

Let's share some of our thoughts

Friday, June 25, 2010

Day 25 Looking for God in All the Wrong Places

Looking for that mountain top spiritual experience? Waiting for the Angel Gabriel to come and bring you a message like he did with the Virgin Mary? Waiting for a vision of St. Francis or St. Mary Magdalene?

Sometimes people do experience very powerful and strong feelings of God or the Divine or have visions of a saint or of Jesus himself.

This is rare.

The saints also remind us that we are not to wait and look for these things. If they happen so be it and glory to God. They also tell us not to broadcast it upon the waters, but to keep it and ponder the message or vision or presence in our hearts. The New Testament reminds us that even Satan can visit like an angel of light so we have to be on guard and test all spirits.

It has been my experience though that we feel God's presence in the small things of life, the everyday routine stuff:

the birth of a child

the peaceful death of a loved one

the baptism of a newborn baby

a person who confesses their sin and repents

the comfort of a caregiver for those who are sick

the generosity of the bus driver who helped me today (I needed directions and she was very gracious)

If we are so busy seeking those "Mountain top experiences" we might loose sight of the everyday events that are small messages and reminders that God is still with us and cares about us.

Let's keep our eyes open and see the glorious hand of God everywhere, in a conversation over coffee and yes, even while changing diapers or making a pot of soup for a sick parishioner.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Day 24 The Poor You Shall Always Have With You

I am always shocked that in America we have such a high rate of homeless, hungry, and poor people. I once knew a woman who worked at the Salvation Army shelter and said that every night they have to turn people away because there are not enough beds.

This bothers me.

This should bother you too.

Loving God requires, even is demanded upon us, to love our neighbor too.

Christians have so many opportunities to show our love and care for the other person

Lending a listening ear

Reaching out when they are sick, suffering, or hurt

Collecting food for the hungry

Donating used clothing for the local shelter

Serving at a soup kitchen or food bank

Volunteering at a local outreach center

There are a million ways in which we can serve our fellow brothers and sisters.

Jesus came to show compassion on the less fortunate. He came to teach us through both Word and action what God wants from us.

Yet we don't always listen do we?

We are not always the best and brightest disciples?

What's our problem??????

Let's share today

(Only 6 more days for this retreat. It has been a bit challenging. I must admit there were days when I didn't feel like posting because I felt like I didn't have much to say or that I had other things to do. Yet the sheer act of writing a short post every day has been a good discipline. I hope you have felt a little more inspired and encouraged in the process).

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Day 23 Gardening With God

Okay, how many of you like to garden? It's summer and my garden is fully into growth mode. I have tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, basil, parsley, as well as roses, tiger lillies, zinnias, and daisies growing. From May - Sept I have my hands full.

The New Testament is full of gardening imagery:

Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene in the garden

Jesus was betrayed in a garden

Jesus talks about growing vines and vineyards

Paul talks about planting, sowing, and reaping

Jesus talks about the importance of harvest

The world of Jesus was an agrarian society and people knew full well about the ups and downs and the ins and outs of gardening. For one thing it ain't easy.

Planting is hard work

Watering and reaping is hard work

Keeping away those varmits like squirrels and mice is hard work

When I"m in the garden I sweat a lot and my back hurts me.

Gardening is a powerful metaphor for our life together

The Apostle Paul says that he planted, Apollos watered, but God gives the growth.

In other words we have the responsibility to prepare the soil (us---our hearts and minds) to receive the Word but God gives the increase.

I always plant wild flowers and sow seeds hither and yonder and I am always amazed that some seed begins to sprout and others do not.

It's not up to me.

It's up to God

How is your garden growing today??????????

Let's share

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Day 22 Become Like Children

Today is one of my favorite topics. Jesus tells us that if we want to enter into the kingdom we have to turn and become like children. We need to be careful, he didn't say "childish" he said, like children.

And what are children like?





Dependent on parents (i.e in our case, God)

Live in the moment

Engaging the world

Gee, aren't those wonderful qualities to have?

After reading this chapter I wondered to myself, "what happens to us adults???" We start out fine as children and then we mess things up don't we?

Adults put on our social faces, live our lives according to rules and driven by material concerns. We forget the basics of life, that life is a gift from God and we are to enjoy every minute of it in the fullest, as the Latin phrase goes CARPE DIEM seize the day!!!

Jesus tells us to become like children.

I love to watch children playing on the playground or making mud cakes and pretend to eat them. I love to watch children dance and put on plays. Children are so full of life.

We know that Jesus didn't have his own family and didn't have children of his own, but he certainly must have understood the nature of children. He was onto something.

How can we regain a child like nature? How can we once again turn and become like a child?

Let's share today...............

Only 8 more days in our virtual retreat.

(The radio interview on KNEO radio in Missouri went well yesterday. The show will be streamed and podcasted during the week of July 12. I will let you know when it becomes available. Also, help spread the word about A 30 Day Retreat, pass on my website to anyone who you think might be interested,

Monday, June 21, 2010

Day 21 Locusts and Wild Honey

John the Baptist seems weird to me. Yea, you heard me, weird. The descriptions that the gospels give of this man, probably thin as a waif, long strangely hair, wearing leather sandals and a leather belt around his waist, eating locusts and wild honey. I mean, really, who eats locusts and wild honey these days! Sure I like honey on my toast, but locusts?

John the Baptist came eating locusts and wild honey. He also came preaching repentance. The word repent means "to change."

He preached a new way of life which means that those of us who follow have to change our lives, or have our lives changed by God, whatever way you want to put it.

Change is hard.

I don't want to change.

I am fine the way I am thank you very much.

Why do I need to listen to a crack pot prophet in the desert telling me to change my life?

Because, that prophet was sent by God so that we can get our lives back on track.

This God of ours is sure persnickity, he likes to cajole and to prod and to get us wear we don't want to go.

He sent plenty of people like John; Amos, Hosea, Ezekiel. They all preached the same message too: change, change, CHANGE.

Why after all these millenia do we still have problems with change, with repentance?

What are your thoughts on this?????????

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Day 20 Dying With Christ

Before I begin I want to wish everyone a HAPPY FATHERS DAY. Wishing all of you Father's a great day today. I hope you enjoy it.

Today's reflection is a hard one: dying with Christ. Oh, the joys of discipleship! Yea, right. Not much joy in dying. I don't mean physically dying, I mean spiritual deaths.

To follow Christ, as the Apostle Paul says, we have to die to ourselves, in order to live for God.

Yes, die. Die every single minute, hour, day, week, month, and year.

We have to die to sin of course but also to our ego, our agendas, negative attitudes, judmentalism and all the "ism's" that seem to get the best of us. Yep, die every single moment to those.

We die in order to live. Sounds strange doesn't it.

I don't like dying much. No one does I guess. But to be faithful to Christ and to the gospel we have to.

Well, that's my two cents today. You can read more about it chapter 20 of my book.

By the way, only 10 days left in our 30 day retreat. Wow, time does fly.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Day 19 And Who is My Neighbor?

Okay, now this is where I draw the line. I really don't like Jesus teachings that much, they're too hard. Yea you think being a Christian is easy but I challenge you to try to love people unconditionally, forgive people up to 70 times 7 as Jesus tells Peter, give generously (until it hurts), and don't be angry, lustful, or jealous. When the rubber hits the road I don't do too well on the Christian litmus test of discipleship.

And today's lesson is up there with the impossible ones, loving ones neighbor.

Sure, its easy to love your spouse, children, parishioners, and close neighbors. But what about that guy or gal in the office who just drives you crazy with their snide comments or your boss always harping you to get that project done ASAP.

Or what about that neighbor down the street who always thinks its okay to let their dog out during the middle of the day so the dog can pee and poop on your lawn?

Surely you can add your own two cents on this laundry list of neighborliness.

Yet Jesus tells us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength AND our neighbor as ourself.

Oh well, I guess I better start at the drawing board.

What about you? Do you find being a Christian easy?

Do you always love your neighbor?

How are you doing with your walk of faith?

Let's share today.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Day 18 Tending the Vineyard of the Lord

I love wine. I like mostly red wine though, merlot, cabernet, pinot noir. I also enjoy wine tasting and visiting different vineyards. During our honeymoon my wife and I had the opportunity to go wine tasting in the Napa and Sonoma Wine Region. We drove up and down rolling hills and valleys and took in gorgeous scenery along the way.

Jesus uses the image of a vineyard in the gospels to teach us about the kingdom. It is the Lord's vineyard and we are merely workers or laborers in it. Our job is to tend the little patch of ground that we are given; the patch of ground is our local family, our parish, our neighborhood, our co-workers, etc....our job is not to take care of the entire vineyard, that would be impossible! No, God wants us to take care of our little row of grapes.

But you know what the temptation is? To worry about what is going on in the other rows of grapes. To spend all of our time thinking about who is doing what, when, where, and how; meanwhile we are not focusing on the little row of grapes that God has given us.

I fall into this trap all of the time. Pointing my finger at what is not getting done or the people who are lazy or not working hard.

Then I realize that my job is just to take care of that little patch of land that the Lord has given. To cultivate those grapes, weed them, prune them, fertilize them, and let those vines grow and produce wonderful succulent grapes for the harvest.

Of course I"m not just thinking about wine here. Growing grapes is a great image because we are preparing our lives for the harvest. God wants to see fruit from our lives, the fruit is love, mercy, kindness, gentleness, and so forth. These are the fruit that Jesus is speaking about.

If I am too busy about who is doing what when where and how I'll never work hard at growing fruit for the kingdom!

How is your vineyard these days?

Are you worried about what other people are doing or not doing?

Are you tending the little plot of land that God has given you?

Let's share today.......................

(I'm excited about a radio interview that I will have next Monday. I will make sure to post more about it next Tuesday. The program will be recorded and then broadcasted two weeks later.)

Need a book for your prayer group or book club? Why not read A 30 Day Retreat? I know of at least one parish who will be using my book for their summer reading. The short chapters allow for a lot of discussion and sharing faith stories. Pass the word around!!!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Day 17 Finding God in Narnia

I don't remember reading any of the Narnia books when I was a child. However, I did read them as a young adult and did get a chance to see the movie. CS Lewis is a magic storyteller, weaving tales of talking animals, a place called Narnia where it always snows but it is never Christmas, and tales of great big lions like Aslan fighting the wicked White Witch.

While reading the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe it is amazing that Narnia is a world so different than our own but the funny thing is that it is not too far at all, its just on the other side of the wardrobe. Lucy and Peter and the rest of the gang just have to walk past all those old musty coats and scarves and voila, they enter Narnia.

Isn't that similar to Jesus saying that the kingdom of God is near or in other places that the kingdom of God is within you? Jesus talks about a world vastly different than our own:

where the poor are taken care of

where there is no more weeping or need

where the orphans and oppressed are loved

where those who are hurting find their healing

This is the "kingdom-world" that Jesus speaks about. It might seem light years away but it is just on the other side of our heart, just like Narnia...............

What do you think about that.

Read Chapter 17 and lets discuss.........................

Enjoy the rest of your sunny summer day

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Day 16 My Ways Are Not Your Ways

Most of the time God does not agree with my ideas, I'm pretty sure of that. I have some thoughts about the Church, world, politics, culture, and how people should act or not act. I also have thoughts about how people in Church administration should be or not be. Yet God doesn't concur, at least that's what the prophet Isaiah tells me.

Isaiah has a wonderful passage in Chapter 55:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Basically Isaiah is telling us that God has an alternative plan for us, we usually think we know what is going to happen, but nah, in the end things will turn out different.

I don't like that fact that Jesus was derided and ridiculed most of his life............but that was a part of God's plan......

I don't like that fact that Saint Paul went through all of those trials and tribulations, prisons, and beatings.............but that was a part of God's plan.........

I don't like the fact that I have to go through sufferings from time to time, but that too is a part of God's plan..................

Yes, Isaiah is onto something, apparently so is God!!!!!!

What do you think??????

Let's share

(Next week I will be interviewed on a Christian radio station in Missouri. I will update you with details later. I am very excited about this. The program is broadcasted in five states!!!!!!!)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Day 15 Don't Be Late For Dinner

Besides being a pastor, author, teacher, gardner, daddy, and husband, I am also a very good cook. I do all the cooking in the house, from simple things like chef salads (which we had last night for supper) or large meals like coq au vin (that's a fancy French name for chicken with wine!) and rice pilaf, I can do it all. Cooking gives me pleasure. Eating gives me pleasure too. There is nothing like sitting down with friends or family and having a big meal and sharing stories and life together; that's the best.

Jesus liked to eat too. Not sure if he was a good cook or not but he certainly fed 5,000 people one day with five loaves of bread and two fish. He also told people that he was the bread of life. He changed water into wine. After his resurrection he sat down and ate some broiled fish on the shore of Galilee.

Yea, I think Jesus liked to eat well. He didn't eat alone either. He shared what he had with others.

Eating with family, friends, or even a stranger is an intimate act. I am not talking McDonald's takeout when you bring your own meal and sit down. I'm talking sharing from the same bowls and plates. Swapping stories and laughing and crying together.

Jesus used many eating images for the kingdom of heaven too. He said that the kingdom of heaven is like a banquet that a king gave for those who were invited. Yet those folks never came. They turned down his offer.

Did he cry and put the food back in the fridge? No.

He invited others, as the gospels say from east, north, south, and west, which means from all corners of the world to come and join him at his table.

What a wonderful image to have for the kingdom, a culinary feast, of all types of food with all types of people who hear that call to come and eat and drink for ever in God's house. Hope to see you there one the table that is!!!!!!!!!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Day 14 Jesus Irritates Me!

It's hard to believe but tomorrow we will be halfway through our 30 day retreat. I hope that you find this series of postings helpful and that you are enjoying my book. Last night I had a wonderful time giving a public reading and book signing at Malaprops Bookstore in Asheville, NC. It is a great independent bookstore near the Grove Arcade. Go out and support your local bookstores, they need readers like you to keep their doors open!

You might be befuddled by today's title: Jesus Irritates Me. Well, at least I'm honest. The other day I told a friend of mine that if you read the gospels with an open and honest heart that Jesus will do or say something that will strike a cord with you. He will do something that goes against your deepest convictions. For example:

He touches a leper---------in the 1980's how many of us would even be in the same room with much less touch a person who had HIV, when those with HIV were so stigmatized. Yet that was what lepersy was back then, a social and religious stigma.

He spends time with prostitutes and unsavory people. Now come on, I enjoy a mug of beer and a glass of Merlot and usually drink it at a restaurant with dinner. How many of us would hang out at the local seedy tavern with these people? Yet Jesus does............

I could go on and on. I think you get the point. My title is tongue in cheek, a little sarcastic twist. Jesus irritates me because deep down I realize how far I am from being his disciple. I say that I am a Christian but I seem to fail the test miserably.

How are you doing these days with your faith?

Are you irritated by Jesus? Does he shock your system with his crazy teachings about love, forgiveness, and mercy?

If not, maybe you ought to go back and re-read the gospels. If you and Jesus are "fine together" maybe one of you are not paying attention, and I have a bet its not him either!

Lets share today.......................

(If you enjoy a 30 Day Retreat make sure to read my other book, Our Father: A Prayer for Christian Living which is also a practical and reflective book about the Lord's Prayer. You can find it on or Barnes and Nobles online, etc.....)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Day 13 How Do You Read?

The Apostle Paul certainly has a way with words he wrote the following, "For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction." (Romans 15:4)

Paul of course was referring to the writings of the Old Testament or often called the Hebrew Bible. He was referring to the prophets, psalms, proverbs, as well as everything else that we find in the Old Testament.

Paul was reminding the new Roman Christians that those writings were written for them, i.e the current generation of Christians. That these writings pertained to their salvation. That these writings were for their edification, inspiration, encouragement, and hope.

These writings are for us too.

But do we read them?

Most of us would answer NO. I know because people tell me they are too busy to read Scripture because:

They have to do the laundry

Walk the dog

Make dinner

Go to work

Cut the grass

and on and on and on.

Well, I can understand, life is pretty hectic. Let's face it many people work all day, come home and make dinner and then get the kids to bed.

I hope though that you could find a few minutes in each day, even five minutes to read. To fall in love with the Word of God.

Start small. Start with the Psalms. Read one Psalm a day. Then go to a smaller book like one of the prophets like Jonah or Amos or Hosea. Read a gospel, Mark is short it's only 16 chapters. Read one chapter per day.

Anyway, I don't care where you begin just begin!

If you need encouragement join your parish Bible study.

As Paul reminds the Romans and us, those writings were written for our salvation so its good for us to know them.

I wish you well on your new journey into the Bible.

Day 12 Blessed is He That Comes in the Name of the Lord

Have you ever traveled to a desert? Several years ago my wife and I went to the southwest United States. We were excited to go there because we had never been out West. Wow, what an experience. Vast vistas of nothing but rocky hills and mountains, dry air, low growing shrubs, and not much plant life. We drove through Santa Fe, Sedona, Phoenix as well as through the famous Painted Desert in Arizona.

The desert is a good metaphor for our spiritual life.

Have you ever been through a spiritual desert before? It's not fun.

Have you experienced the death of a loved one? Suffered a debilitating disease? Hard time finding a job or worried about the health of your newborn child? Going through a divorce?

These are just few of the many spiritual deserts that we go through in life. Believe me, its not fun either. We feel alone, isolated, unsure of where we are going.

Yet the Lord promises that He is with us. He is there in our pain. He is there in our suffering. He is there in our darkest and hardest moments.

He leads us to the quiet waters of rest, to the Promised Land.

We can't do it by ourselves either. We think we can but we can't.

When we were driving through Sedona there was nothing for miles and miles just wide open roads. I wandered, what happens if you get lost out here? What happens if you car breaks down? There was no food, shelter, or gas for miles.

People are encouraged never to travel alone in the desert for that very reason, it is rough and tough. You need a travel mate, someone to be with you and guide you to your destination.

Jesus promised his disciples and us that He will lead us out of our spiritual deserts and find the quiet and rest that we seek.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Day 11 God Doesn't Give Handouts

I know this title of today's reflection sounds strange, but its true, God doesn't give handouts! When I think of handouts I think of people who just receive, receive, receive, and there is no accountability or responsibility on their part, every day its a free lunch. Now don't get me wrong I think that one of the central themes of the gospel is concrete acts of love and charity, such as food banks, homeless shelters, and so forth. I am not against social justice by any means.

There is an old saying, give someone a fish and they'll eat today, teach someone to fish and they will eat for the rest of their life. Now that is what I am aiming at.

Jesus came not to give us cheap grace as the Lutheran pastor and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer often said, but divine grace which is the path to the kingdom.

Jesus wants us to be mature Christians, upright and mindful of the well being of others. He wants us to be kind, gentle, meek, and mild, but he also wants us to be responsible for our actions.

Jesus gave us the ultimate act of responsibility by going to the cross. The cross is the gospel way of showing love which is a hard pill to swallow for most of us. Divine love seen in total sacrifice and humility.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Day 10 In The Groove

It's hard to believe but we are one third through our 30 Day Retreat. If you have been following this blog posting we are doing a 30 Day Retreat with Jesus based on my book, A 30 Day Retreat: A Personal Guide to Spiritual Renewal (Paulist Press, 2010). I hope that you find this retreat uplifting and beneficial. Spread the word too, we still have 20 more days to go.

Today we see Jesus in the groove. Being in the groove means that he has a flow, he knows where he is going, he knows what he is doing. Being in the flow means there is clarity of goal, direction, and aim.

Jesus is headed towards the cross. He knows that he has to die. Jesus is the sacrificial lamb that takes away the sins of the world. He is our Paschal lamb slain for the life of the world and its salvation.

Three times in the gospel of Mark Jesus predicts what will happen to him.

He will be betrayed

He will be arrested

He will be put on trial and put to death.

Three times he says this and three times his disciples don't get it.

James and John bicker about who will get the best seat in heaven.

Peter denies that Jesus has to go to the cross.

And on we go.

Jesus reminds us that discipleship, being his followers isn't all roses sometimes. There is suffering connected to it: sometimes physical and other times spiritual. There is selfless service and humility. Following Jesus is not about boasting, self interest, or pride, its about love, humility, and service.

Discipleship means taking up our cross with him and following.

You can read more about Jesus and the groove in Mark 10:32-34

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Day 9 Long and Winding Road

First let me apologize for the glaring typo in the book in the chapter title, it reads "wending" rather than "winding" this mistake escaped the eyes of me (author), my editor, and another copyeditor. It goes to show you that perfection is only in heaven I guess!

Anyway, we have all been on a long meandering road that goes over hills and across farm land, through green verdant forests and up snow capped valleys. Some of my most vivd memories have been car trips that I have taken. Sometimes we get lost, at least I did and still do!

The younger son in the Parable of the Prodigal Son really got lost, he was a great example of the American teenager about 16 years of age, although of course Luke doesn't tell us those nitty gritty details, but in my mind this boy is self- centered, self-interested, vain, and could care less about anyone else.

He sets off on his journey, away from the security of family, away from parents, away from life. He gets himself into a mess, he goes down a lot of windy meandering roads.

He spends all his money

He is lonely

He is probably scared

He misses home

He wants to return..............

Rather than point a nasty finger in his face and say "I told you so" like many parents would his loving dad runs out, puts a new robe on him and gives him a grand party fit for a king. The only problem is that his older brother, the one who was faithful, steadfast, hard working, gets zilch.

Well, you can read the rest of the story on your own, its in chapter 9 of my book and in Luke 15:11-24.

The point is that we have all been like this teenager at least once in our life.

Self willed

Self directed


Inconsiderate of others

Spiritually immature

Yet, God the Father is always waiting for us with open arms. He wants us to leave our meandering windy roads to no where and get back on the narrow path which is headed for goodness, peace, faithfulness, and self-control.

Are you still on that meandering path or have you taken the narrow road, the road that leads back home, home to our heavenly Father?

Below are two short reviews of A 30 Day Retreat, you can click on either one below to read the reviews.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Day 8 The Man in the Mirror

"Mirror mirror on the wall whose the fairest of them all?" I have heard that a lot lately as I read Snow White to my girls at least once a week. The mean witch would look at that mirror all day asking the mirror to tell her how beautiful she is, pure vanity!

Well, its vanity which is the theme for the parable of the Publican and the Pharisee found in Luke 18:10-14. The Pharisee prayed to God by telling God how wonderful his life was, how much he prayed, how much he gave alms, and so forth, even telling God that he was better than that poor Publican over there standing in the corner of the Temple.

And how did the Publican pray?

He simply said "God be merciful to me a sinner" a prayer of simplicity and humility.

Humility is hard to come by sometimes.

We get so wrapped up into our own psycho-dramas.

Yet this short parable reminds us about what God wants from us, not boasting, not our names on large banners, but simple service, acts of kindness, and gratitude, since after all everything we have is from him anyway.

Do you find humility a hard virtue to cultivate in your life?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Day 7 Today Salvation Has Come

The picture here is a sycamore tree in the central square in Jericho. Sycamore trees are very big. I had the chance to actually stand in front of this very tree last year when I was on pilgrimage in Israel, but unlike this picture we didn't climb it!!

This Sycamore tree plays an important role in the gospels. Jesus was coming through Jericho when he met Zachaeus, a rich tax collector. The gospel of Luke (19:1-10) tells us that Jesus told Zachaeus to come down out of that tree because Jesus wanted to come to his house because "salvation has come." What's the big deal you say?

Zachaeus was a combo of the mafia and the IRS, shaking down people to pay their taxes and he gleaned some off the top for his own income. To make matters worse he was Jewish.

Despite all of this Jesus tells Zachaeus that salvation has come!

Salvation in Hebrew means "healing" or "restoration"

Zachaeus was very much a pariah during his life, no one liked him.

He was considered a traitor.

He was considered a Roman sympathizer.

He was considered an outlaw.

Jesus came to his house because and restoration has come.

Zachaeus didn't deserve it or do anything to win Jesus' love or grace. It was a free gift that day.

Salvation has come to our house too. Jesus comes to each and every one of us saying salvation has come despite the fact that you don't deserve it.

Salvation is pure grace.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Day 6 Do You See What I See?

(If you have just joined us I am leading a 30 day retreat based on my book A 30 Day Retreat: A Personal Guide to Spiritual Renewal (Paulist Press, 2010). You can learn more information about the book at

Is the glass half empty or half full?

Is it sunny outside or partly sunny?

So much of your life is based on perception or vantage point. Very often there are other ways of looking at the same situation from a different angle and voila we see something different.

There is a story in Chapter 6 of my book about a bunch of elementary school children looking at an icon of the Virgin Mary. One child asked why there is a sun in the picture and when I looked at the icon I realized that what really is a "halo" around her head was "sun" to her. Again, it all depends on perception and vantage point.

Very often I find myself being able to see physically but being virtually spiritually blind. I fail to see the goodness around me and would rather dwell on the bad, I find fault with people and events rather than see the positive contributions that they are making to neighborhood, church, or community.

I have two very good eyes but I am blind, or at least half blind.

How about you?

How is you spiritual vision lately?

How do you see the world?

Lets share................

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Day 5 Let Your Light Shine

I have a hard time letting my light shine these days. It's hard following Jesus when your tired, cranky, irritable, and a host of other things. Very often I think my light is hidden somewhere deep inside me. I don't "feel" like I'm illuminating anyone or anything!

Jesus tells his disciples to let their light shine so that everyone will see their good works and give God the glory.

Jesus tells his disciples that he is the light of the world

I realize however that even when I'm down and out, cranky and tired, and not very nice that my light is still there. That even though I may not "feel" very spiritual or nice or kind that somehow people see something of God in me, of grace, and goodness even though I may not be able to feel it.

I could give a sermon which I think went "so-so" and someone will come up to me and tell me that they felt that I spoke directly to them, that whatever I said or how I said it touched their heart. This always suprises me of course, but that is the light that I am talking about.

Are you letting your light shine?

Are there days that you don't "feel" very spiritual or kind?

Let's share..................

Friday, June 4, 2010

Day 4 Whose Child is This?

What's in a name you say? A lot. When I was young I was very tall for my age and kids at school called me "Billy the Jolly Green Giant" I hated that name. There was a TV commercial for frozen vegetables starring this tall green giant.

Kids at school were called a host of names, most of them hurt:


Skinny Minny

Four eyes

Buck tooth




Names hurt especially if you are eight years old.

Jesus was called names too, some of the Jewish leaders called him Beelzebub which means the prince of demons. Other people couldn't believe that Jesus came from Nazareth.

Jesus was also called a host of names too, or titles as we say:

the Christ (which means savior)

Son of David (after the namesake of the great king David)


King of Israel

Very often we live under the masks of bad names. It took me a while to get rid of Jolly Green Giant mask.

What bad names do you live with?

Did it hurt when people called you names?

How can you learn to be totally and fully yourself?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Day 3 Peace Be With You

Today's theme is peace. Peace you say? How can you talk about peace when we read about these headlines in the news:

International flotilla skirmish near Israel, 9 dead

Recently the US military reported the 1,000th solider dead in Afghanistan

The war in Iraq is still brewing

The US recession is still in place


Well, yes, peace, but not peace as we think we know what peace is. Every day I read headlines like the ones above and think "oh no, not something else."

Jesus came to bring the peace, love, and joy of his Father's Kingdom. It is not the kind of peace that we think, I'll meet you half-way type of deal. No, God's peace is the ultimate peace of the Kingdom of God.

In in the Eastern Church we begin our first petition of the Divine Liturgy with "In peace let us pray to the Lord" we cannot do anything else before we beg God for his peace.

Over and over again in the Liturgy and in the Mass (if you are RC) the priest bestows the "peace of God" upon the people.

We seek the peace of God each and every day but it seems like an up hill battle (pun intended!). It may seem impossible at times but we try.

Christians are called to be peacemakers

We have many examples of peacemakers who tried very hard to bring peace and reconciliation among peoples:

Mother Maria Skobtsova

Martin Luther King Jr.

Dorothy Day

Mother Teresa

Brother Roger of the Taize Movement

and a host of others

Are you a peacemaker?

Do you try to bring peace to those around you?

Do you find that being a peacemaker is challenging?

Lets share today and talk about peace in our lives, or the lack of it.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Day 2 Love One Another

"All you need is love" sang the Beatles and so did Tina Turner in her 80's hit "what's love gotta to do with it?" Romantic love is so fleeting, here one day gone the next, the stuff of Hollywood movies, chocolates, and roses. Real love, the love that Jesus talks about in the gospels requires humility and sacrifice. My understanding of love has changed over the years. It meant one thing when I first got married 13 years ago and quite another when our two daughters were born; diapers, feeding, potty training (oh my!!), car pool, soccer games, whinning "but Daddy...........", and then quite another when I became a parish priest.

Jesus gives us many examples of love in the gospels:

washing feet
the cross
stories like the good samaritan
talking with the Samaritan woman at the well
sticking around with his band of crazy and thick headed disciples for three years!!! (this always confounded me)

Love is easier said than lived, I struggle with it daily. Do you?

Has your idea of love changed over the years?

What is the biggest challenge to you as you struggle with love?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Day 1 Walking by Faith

Well, its finally here, our 30 Day Retreat that is. Actually this is an experiment of sorts. When my book was published we wanted to create an exciting way to spread the news about the gospel and we came up with a cyberspace retreat, pretty nify huh? Anyway, welcome and I hope you will join me for the next 30 days to create a virtual community of Christians who want to share and learn more about our Christian faith and heritage.

Our first stop in our 30 days together is the theme of faith. Faith means "trust" as in if you put your trust in something or someone it means that you totally and completely have faith in them.

Well, according to the gospels we are supposed to have our faith in God, but I don't know about you but I surely fail half the time. I have strong doubts about faith and where my life is headed. Human nature gets the best of me and I want to be in the control seat, I want to know all the answers about life and want to know them now!

What about you? Do you have a strong faith?

Do you have doubts about God's love, grace, and forgiveness?

Did you have low moments in your life?

Lets start sharing on this journey and learn from one another................

(Note: picture above is the Sea of Galilee in the early morning)