Feb 252012
 

Girl praying at window

Sheep Among Wolves

It is no news that we live in a crazy world today. Jesus warned us that we would be like sheep among wolves. And we know that in order to survive in this crazy world where we live, we must be wise and prudent. In fact, as Jesus himself acknowledges, we are to be as wise as serpents in order to avoid getting devoured. All of us, while studying in this school of hard knocks, do tend to become wise as a result of the many challenges that we encounter. So, what’s the problem?

But…

For some reason, Jesus has this admonition for us to have faith like little children. What? Jesus tells first tells us that we must be wise as serpents, and now He tells us that we need to have faith like little children? He even drives this point home by stating that unless we have that childlike faith, we will not enter His kingdom. Rather strong words indeed!

Why Faith Like Little Children?

Why do you suppose that it is so important to our Lord that we have that childlike faith? Well, let us take a look at the normal characteristics of little children. They do not worry about their provision, for they just know that Mommy and Daddy will always provide for their every need, whether it be food, clothing, shelter, protection or emotional well being. They have an unshakable faith and trust that Mommy and Daddy will always be there. They have complete  openness and transparency with their parents, and hold nothing back. They know that they are loved at the deepest level, and that love gives them the confidence and courage to explore the world around them.

Trust in Our Heavenly Father

Well, guess what – these are the same exact qualities that our heavenly Father wishes us to have with Him. Why else would He repeatedly refer to us as His beloved children? Because of the sin in the world, the enemy of our souls has succeeded in stealing from us that childlike faith and trust in our Father. And yet, everything that the Lord allows to happen in our journey of life is geared toward one ultimate purpose, and that is to reestablish, renew and solidify our trust and faith in Him. It is His deepest desire that each one of His beloved children trusts and loves Him so completely that we will honor Him even if everything is taken away. Remember what happened to Job?

Epitome of Childlike Faith

For an endearing example of childlike faith in the love of our Lord, let us consider little 11 year-old Chiara. Her body was riddled with cancer, and her family flew her to Medjugorje in the hope of finding the healing touch of God for her. Despite her condition, Chiara was full of joy, serenity, simplicity and a pure heart. Some of her comments during that trip include:

You know, Jesus will decide for me, I know that He will make the best decision. I am confident! Either I will be healed and I am happy, or I will not be healed and I am happy too! In both cases, I win because I know that it is He who decides.

If I die, I will go to heaven and I will wait for you there!

You know, Vicka, I am not afraid to die! If I live, I win. If I die, I win! In both cases I’ll be with Jesus!

Wow, talking about power coming from the mouths of babes!

As for Me

Do I have this kind of absolute trust in our God, no matter what happens? Admittedly, I am not there myself – yet! But I am a lot closer now than ever before. For over the past few years, the Lord allowed almost everything that I hold dear to be taken away. Things like my career, my nice house, my health, my independence, my dreams, and even my ministry, they were all taken away. Of course I initially tried to fight to keep these blessings; after all, God gave me the name Michael for a reason. But as I slowly let go of those things, my faith in our Lord slowly became stronger and more deeply rooted. My certitude in the love of our Father is now stronger, but still nowhere near that of Chiara.

What About You?

How much do you trust our Lord? Is your faith still contingent upon whether or not He answers your prayers or gives you what you want? I think that you already know this, but let me gently remind you that this kind of selfish faith is shaky at best, and ultimately spells disaster for your soul. Do you want the kind of faith that Chiara has? It is free for the taking; all you need to do is ask your Father for it. My heart-felt prayer is that all of us will come to have this unmovable faith in our Father.

the Word

Matthew 10:16
Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.

Mark 10:15, Luke 18:17
Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.

Photo credit: kelsey_lovefusionphoto via photopin cc

Feb 192012
 

God’s Word is Inspired

You know, there is a passage from the first book of Kings where God was teaching Elijah how to hear His voice, and it is one of my favorite passages from the Old Testament. I guess it is so dear to me because at an early point in my walk with the Lord, He spoke to me very clearly and distinctly through this portion of His inspired Word. But before we dive into this verse, let me take a short detour here: When you hear someone say that God’s Word, the Holy Bible, is inspired, know that it is absolutely true! It is inspired on at least two fronts. First of all, the Bible itself was inspired by none other than God’s Holy Spirit Himself. How else can you explain a literary work that is written by many different people, from many different cultures, from all walks of life, over thousands of years, in many different languages, and yet has a consistent theme all throughout? Without the anointing, direction and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, you simply can’t. How else can you explain that it is as fresh and relevant for us today as it was when originally written down? You can’t.

The Word is Alive

God’s Word is inspired on a second front as well. It is alive and full of power, quite literally. It is not, as the enemy of our souls would have us believe, merely an old classic that consists merely of words printed on a bunch of pages. Oh no, no, no, that is a lie straight from the pit of hell. It is full of life, the very life of God Himself. How do I know this? From personal experience. All too often, when I read sacred (yes, it is sacred) scripture, a verse will have a completely different meaning for me than it did the last time I read it. Another common experience  for me – I will read a verse, and it will jump off the page (or screen) and hit me with such force and vitality that it grabs the attention of my whole being. My usual response at these times is “Ok Lord, I hear you.” That is the Holy Spirit speaking, and making the Word intimate, relevant and personal to me. Can dead, printed words do that? No way!

Looking in the Wrong Places

Now back to the verse from Kings. Why do you suppose that it seems to be so difficult for many of us to hear the voice of God? Well, could it be that we are looking for Him in all the wrong places? Being the humans that we are, living in this busy and noisy world of ours, we look for and hope to find Him in the loud and dramatic. But, as the Lord showed the prophet Elijah, He cannot be found in all the places most of us look in vain. He is not in the strong wind nor in the earthquake. He is not to be found in the fire. After showing Elijah all the glitz and glamor of His mighty power, the Lord finally revealed Himself in the most unexpected manner imaginable – a tiny whisper.

Tiny Whisper

What??? The Lord God Himself, who is the Creator of the entire universe, the wielder of all power and glory, can only be found in a whisper? Oh, come on now, it cannot be! Yet, as counter-intuitive as it seems to us, that is precisely the lesson that He was teaching Elijah. And it is the same lesson that He continues to teach His beloved children today. Like I shared in my recent article Does God really speak to ME?, He does speak to us, we just have to quiet our hearts down so that we can hear that whisper. We don’t have to look “out there” to find God; He is living in our hearts, patiently waiting for us to listen. As you make the time and effort to quiet yourself down so as to hear that whisper in your heart, you WILL be pleasantly surprised at what you hear Him say to you. And let me tell you, again from personal experience, this journey into your heart will eventually open up the entire universe, and even eternity itself, to you. Are you ready to take the first step on this journey? Go ahead, just do it, and don’t look back!

One more thing – do you feel a warmth and peace deep in your heart as you read this article? That, my friend, is the Holy Spirit encouraging you to come into your heart and listen to His voice speaking to you personally.

Hear the Whisper?

Have you heard that still, small voice, that tiny whisper in your heart? Please share it in the comments below, to provide encouragement to others in their journey to the Lord abiding in their hearts. We are all on this journey, so let’s join hands and walk together!

the Word

1 Kings 19:11-13 (NAB)
Then the LORD said, “Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will be passing by.” A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD–but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake–but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire–but the LORD was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.

Hebrews 4:12 (NAB)
Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.

Photo credit: NuageDeNuit | Chiara Vitellozzi via photopin cc

Feb 112012
 

 

Leap of Faith

Last night, my wife and I were watching a new episode of Blue Bloods titled “Leap of Faith”. The major theme for this episode is an ongoing debate about whether God speaks to His children today. Some of the characters believe that He does indeed speak to us, others believe that He does not, and the rest just aren’t sure. The clincher is that one word, heard by one of the characters seemingly out of the blue, and completely unrelated to the case at hand, leads to the solving of that case.

Conversations with God

Well, this show sparked something in me and got me thinking: are there actually Christians out there who truly believe that God does not speak to them? Quite honestly, this concept is rather foreign to me, for I have heard the Lord speak to me personally for as far back as I can remember. It is not an audible voice like talking with another person face-to-face; rather it is that “still, small voice” deep down in the recesses of my heart. When He says something to me, and I recognize it as such, it is like an unshakable knowing beyond knowing that my heavenly Father is talking. Most of the time, this Word spoken to my heart is accompanied by a sense of peace, certitude and strength.

People do not hear His voice?

Because of this lifelong two-way dialog with the Lord, it is admittedly difficult, and in fact almost impossible, for me to understand that not all people hear the voice of God. Conversation with God has been such a natural part of my life that I cannot fathom anybody going through life not knowing this and experiencing this for themselves. But I guess that not everyone has caught hold of this blessing; most likely, precious few folks today really do hear God’s voice, even among committed Christians. There are many reasons for this, which we will likely explore in future articles. But for now, let me reassure you…

God really does speak to each of us

Yes, it is true, He does have, or desires to have, conversations with each and every one of us, we who are His beloved children. This intimacy is NOT, as most people would have us believe, reserved for the holiest of saints. No, it is available to us all, if we would but trust Him and open ourselves to Him.

How can I hear His Voice?

Do you want to hear the voice of God spoken to you personally? Here are some practical pointers:

  • Have the faith to believe that He really wants to talk with you one-on-one.
  • Have the fortitude to quiet your heart down so that you can hear that still, small voice within you. This means: stop everything, shut up, and just listen.
  • Cultivate the trust that it really is Him speaking to you.
  • Let go of your fears, doubts and intellectual objections (aka rationalizations, excuses, etc.), and open yourself to Him.
  • Have the courage to obey what He tells you in your heart, for the more you obey, the more clearly you can discern His voice.
  • Embrace the peace and certitude that comes with hearing His Word spoken to you.
  • Recognize that He speaks to you in many different ways, all through the day.
  • Expect that He will teach you many wonderful things as you walk together in this journey called life.
  • Believe that the Lord wants to be your friend.
  • And finally, embrace the infinite Love that He has for you!

 

I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends,* because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. (John 15:15)

 

Photo credit: db Photography | Demi-Brooke via photopin cc

Feb 012012
 

I was hauling about three tons of scrap steal and had a blow-out on one of the trailer tires. I was on hwy 40 in Chesterfield. I found out that the tire was not a common one. I had no jack and no cash on me. Sounds pretty bad right? Well check this out. I was blessed to have a motorist see the flat and tell me. I was able to limp the truck and trailer off the highway. After several inquiries with no luck finding a tire, I drove just one more mile and found a tire shop that had the tire I needed! And to top it off, my friend decided to follow me home (which he never does) and he paid for the tire. See, it is all about the perspective! Nobody got hurt and there were blessings all around.

– Shared by my friend Donald Matzker

 

Photo credit: wildpianist | Chris Tarnawski (CreativeCommons)

Jan 272012
 

Why bother praying?

You know, these past few months have been a real struggle for me. It has been very difficult for me to have a regular routine of prayer. I have been asking myself and the Lord why my prayers have seemingly fallen on deaf ears. I have even been questioning the real purpose of prayer. Questions like “Why bother praying when You already know what we will ask?” have been coming to mind. I am tired and exhausted from fervently praying for lofty things and seeing the opposite come about.

Going deeper

I know from past experience that whenever the Lord seems to pull back from me, it is usually to either 1) see how much I really believe in what I am professing, or 2) lead me on a deeper exploration of the true meaning of the subject matter at hand. I have this sense that the Lord is trying to teach me some foundational truths about prayer.

Silence and stillness

Over the past couple of weeks, the same message has been popping up repeatedly for me, often in the most unexpected ways and places. The message? That I need to be still and silent, resting in the presence of the Lord. Everywhere I turn, I hear the same thing: “Be still and know that I am God.” It took me a few days to catch on, and a few more days to start obeying His directions for me. So now I am finally spending quiet time with the Lord.

Cart before the horse

During one of my quiet sessions with the Lord, a realization struck me. I was putting the cart in front of the horse, so to speak. I was working so hard to develop my intercessory prayer repertoire that I had totally neglected the most important part of prayer – that of listening for His voice speaking to me. Yes, I did set aside a little bit of time for quietness and silence, but it was always at the end of my prayer times, and often almost an afterthought. I really had put the cart before the horse, no wonder I was not getting anywhere with my prayers! Like the picture above, I was trying to pull the wagon with my own feeble strength instead of allowing the mighty horse-strength of the Lord to pull me and all my burdens.

The 80/20 rule

Is it any wonder, then, that so many of us struggle with our prayer lives? We come to Him with a laundry list of requests and demands, and we get bent out of shape when He doesn’t give us what we ask for, at the moment we ask for it, and in the manner that we ask for it to be given us. (Silver platter, anyone?) We conclude that our God either does not care for us, or does not listen to us, and eventually withdraw from prayer like it was a failed experiment.

I propose that we simply have it backwards. Instead of spending 80 percent of our time talking to the Lord and 20 percent listening, the Lord wants us to reverse this ratio – 20% praying and 80% listening. The writings of the saints down through the ages support this, as well as the example of the Lord Jesus Himself.

Oh my dear Lord Jesus, I am so sorry that I put the cart before the horse in my prayer life! I hear Your voice in my heart, and do want to return to the heart of prayer. Give me the grace to be silent before You, and to be attentive to Your words to me. Help me to quiet my heart and silence all the worldly distraction so that I can hear You clearly. My dearest Lord, I love You, I bless You, I honor You, I adore You, I praise You, and I worship You!

 

…but he would withdraw to deserted places to pray
Luke 5:16 (NABRE)

 
Photo credit: emilio via photopin cc

Jan 162012
 

 

Did you ever wonder why it is so popular for people to make resolutions at the beginning of each year? I guess I always wondered about it in the back of my mind, but honestly never really gave it much thought. Until, that is, I read an incredibly insightful post by blogger Jason Shen titled The Real Reason Why New Years Resolutions Matter. And I never would have equated it with death.

Whether we want to admit it to ourselves or not, a new year reminds us that death is coming. Like the old adage goes, the only things certain in this life, are death and taxes. For us believers, death is (or should be) but just a crossing of the threshold from this temporal life into an eternal existence. Read The Enormity of Eternity for a reflection on this. The new year is one of the Lord’s ways to remind us of this, and offers us an opportunity to stop and reexamine our lives and make any changes as needed.

As seen in his first letter to the church at Corinth, the Apostle St. Paul had an acute sense of the brevity of life, and of the utter importance of making the most of it. The Lord has given each of us a unique calling and gifting to have a positive impact upon His kingdom in the here and now of this life. Let us use this time to honestly assess how good our stewardship has been thus far.

Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.
1 Cor 9:24-27

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Dec 102011
 

A couple of months ago, I shared a morning prayer that I pray everyday. Honestly, there are some days, when I am beaten down by life’s craziness, that this is the only meaningful prayer that I can offer to the Lord. But regardless of whatever is happening, I make it a point to start the day with this prayer.

This is a living prayer, which I modify from time to time, as inspired by the Holy Spirit. This morning, I felt led to share the “new and improved” version with you. I hope and pray that you will be able to use it to jump start your prayers at the beginning of each day.

Morning Prayer of Consecration

✝ Good morning, Lord!

I adore You,
I bless You,
I love You,
I praise You,
I thank You, and
I worship You!

Lord, I consecrate this day to You, and call upon the fullness of:

Your anointing,
Your grace,
Your guidance,
Your healing,
Your power,
Your presence,
Your protection
Your provision,
Your revelation,
Your understanding, and
Your wisdom

to permeate everything that I do today.

I ask all this boldly and confidently:

To the eternal glory of God the Father ✝
In the mighty name of Jesus the Son ✝, and
Through the awesome power of the Holy Spirit. ✝

Amen, amen and AMEN! ✝

the Word

Matt 6:33
But seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.

Photo credit: Fr. Stephen Cuyos, MSC under CreativeCommons license

Nov 152011
 

Last weekend (February 12, 2011), was the boxing match between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez. My good friends Abe and Jing Adriano hosted the third iteration a fundraising event around this match, and called it “Fight for a Cause III”. The proceeds from this event went to three different Charities:

To help promote this event, Abe asked me to put together a video as a way of thanking the people who gave to help the charities. I spent all last week putting this video together, and here is the end result:

Fight for a Cause III (on YouTube)

I was really surprised at how well this turned out, especially this was my first ever attempt at producing a video. I had a blast learning iMovie and putting all the various pieces together. And the audience seemed to enjoy it as well.

(Matthew 25:37–40 NIV)
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

Oct 312011
 

Let me tell you a little story. There was a man named George, who was happily married to Maria. George and Maria were very wealthy, and highly respected in the community because of their integrity and extreme generosity. Now one day, they had a son named Thomas, and there was great joy in their household. George and Maria made sure to train Thomas in the precepts of God not only by word, but also by the witness of their daily lives. They provided him with the best education available, and made sure that his every need was attended to. But they were not overprotective of Thomas, for they let him make mistakes so that he could gain wisdom. This Godly couple loved Thomas very much, and did not hold anything back from him. They wanted the very best for their beloved son.

As Thomas became a teenager, he began to rebel against his parents; at first it was just a passive resistance, but it soon developed into a full-blown and outright rebellion. In Thomas’ eyes, his parents just did not get it. They were woefully out of touch with the modern world and all that it promised. So he finally upped and left his parents, confident that he knew better how life should be lived. George and Maria were heart-broken over this. They had poured out their full love upon their son, and had great dreams of his future. Yet, in the midst of the pain, suffering and rejection, they continued to love him with their whole hearts and cover him with their prayers. However, when their neighbors visited, they could sense a deep, unshakeable sadness in them.

Many of us, as we go throughout our lives, act just like this fictional Thomas toward our heavenly Father. We think that we know what is best, and put God on the back burner in our daily goings-on. When we do come back to the Lord, usually out of desperation to fix some mess we get ourselves into, it is always predicated on our own terms. In essence we tell the Lord, “Ok Lord, I will come to You, but will only do such-and-such. I will pray to You, but only in my own way. I will to talk to you, but I will only give You a few minutes each day. I will follow You, but only as long as You give me what I want.” Are you seeing a pattern here, and does it not seem strangely familiar?

Do you remember how sad George and Maria were when their son left them? Well, our heavenly Father is infinitely more heartbroken whenever we put limits on our surrender and submission to Him. One of the reasons for this is that He has great plans for us, but our own rebelliousness thwarts those plans. He knows what potential we have if we would just trust Him fully. And it causes Him untold grief to see us fall short because of our own self-centered, short-sighted pride. Not only do we stunt our growth in this life, we also come far short of Hs plans for us in eternity. So no, it is not a good idea for any of us to be mediocre in our love for the Lord and the things of God. May we allow the following verses to pierce our hearts and re-ignite the flame of His love in our whole being.

I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, ‘I am rich and affluent and have no need of anything,’ and yet do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
(Revelation 3:15–17 NAB)

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’
(Matthew 7:21–23 NAB)

Photo credit: davidking via photopin cc

Oct 292011
 

Consecrate defined

The Merriam-Webster dictionary lists consecrate as:

to make or declare sacred; especially:to devote irrevocably to the worship of God

to devote to a purpose with or as if with deep solemnity or dedication

Dictionary.com lists one definition of consecrate as:

to make or declare sacred set apart or dedicate to the service of a deity:

One of the first things that I do every morning is to consecrate the new day to the Lord. This simple prayer is my way of expressing my deep love for the Lord of all creation. In it, I acknowledge my need of all that He has, that everything I have, everything I do, and everything I am comes from Him. Through it, I somehow elevate even the most mundane to His glory.

Morning Prayer of Consecration

✝ Good morning, Lord!

I love You,
I bless You,
I praise You,
I worship You,
I honor You
and I adore You!

I consecrate this day to You, Lord, and call upon the fullness of

Your grace,
Your presence,
Your wisdom,
Your provision,
Your anointing,
Your protection, and
Your presence

to permeate everything that I do today.

I ask this

to the glory of God the Father ✝,
in the name of God the Son ✝, and
through the power of God the Holy Spirit ✝.

Amen, amen and AMEN! ✝
I share this with you out of humble obedience to the still, small voice of God whispering in my heart. This has been my intimate prayer of love for a while now, and I invite you to make it yours as well. I can see the face of God beaming with joy every time we speak it from our heart.

the Word

Matt 6:33
But seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.

Photo credit: Fr. Stephen Cuyos, MSC under CreativeCommons license

Oct 262011
 

This post is a departure from my normal topics, for sure. You see, I am completely redesigning this blog from the ground up, with lots of ideas to make it a much more enjoyable user experience. I am doing extensive research to see what other web developers have learned. I am teaching myself the many different parts that go into a great website, including WordPress, PHP, MySQL, HTML, and CSS, among others. As one part of this endeavor, I have installed MAMP on my Mac, which gives me the ability to use my home machine as a fully functioning web development and test server.

I was successful in getting this development environment up and running. However, I am having a little trouble with sending emails, as detailed below. I have posted the following write-up on several forums, but have not yet gotten any replies. I post it again here, in the hope that someone will have the answer that I need.

I have installed MAMP 2.0.5 on my iMac (OS X Lion) to use as a test and development platform for my WP blog site. I am having trouble sending emails from within WP, for they are being sent with a return address of “msheaver@michael-sheavers-imac.local”. This is causing them to be rejected by my ISP (Comcast) SMTP due to invalid sender domain, and understandably so.

Where within WP can I set the mailer to use a correct domain name? It appears from digging around that this is set in wp-includes/class-phpmailer.php. It looks like it is coming from the LOCALHOST and LOCALDOMAIN global variables, or possibly the SERVER_NAME variable.

I could manually make changes in this file, but want to know the proper place to set the outgoing so that future WP updates will not wipe this out. In other words, where is the proper place to define the outgoing email return address as “mailid@michaelsheaver.com”?

I do thank you for your prayers, support and patience as I pursue this endeavor. They are greatly appreciated!

Oct 102011
 
Infinite Lord

The other day, the Lord had me reflect on the infinite vastness of His presence and power. He reminded me that this earth that we live on might seem to be huge to us, but in reality, when we look at all of His created universe, our beloved planet is but a single drop of water the the ocean, comparatively speaking. He Himself created every bit of this universe simply by the word of His mouth. Not only that, but everything that happens in it is ordered and sustained by His infinite power. This is simply mind boggling when we dare to ponder it, would you not agree?

No Miracle is in the Least Difficult for Him

After meditating on this mystery for a while, the Lord whispered to my heart, “If I created all this, do you really think that it is difficult for Me to answer the cries of your heart?” I answered Him, “No, not at all!” As I reflected on this, I began to realize just how infinitesimal my biggest challenges are when compared to all of creation. Next He helped me to understand that it will take absolutely no effort for Him to give me every miracle that I have been asking for. At this I replied, “Ok Lord, thank You for revealing this to me, and for refreshing my faith. I will continue to come to You with expectant faith, for I now know just how easy it is for you to do miracles! Like the woman in the parable of the persistent widow, I will keep coming to You until you answer me.”

Difficult for Him to Say No or Wait

But the Lord still was not done with this conversation. While continuing to ponder on it, He whispered to my heart that as easy as it is for Him to do miracles, it is so much more difficult for Him to hold back on the miracles that we ask Him for. It causes Him untold grief to have to say no or wait to His beloved children. But He loves us so much that His deepest desire is to give us His very best. Quite often that love constrains Him to delay His response to our prayers and pleas.

Reasons and Responses

There is one final thing that the Lord showed me in this amazing conversation. He reminded me that there is one, and only one, reason that we are given this brief moment (see The Enormity of Eternity) on earth. And that is to prepare us for an eternity with Him. Whether or not we want to accept or believe it, everything that He allows us to experience here is geared towards getting us ready for our heavenly home. Every disappointment, every joy, every suffering, every victory, in short, everything that we encounter can be a means to our sanctification.

Our Response

However, the final outcome is completely contingent upon how we choose to respond. I don’t know about you, but I am going to accept everything that I encounter as His pruning work, preparing me for an eternity with Him. And I will never stop praying and believing for miracles every day, for I know they do indeed happen, both tiny and great.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asks for a fish? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.
(Matthew 7:7–11 NAB)

Oct 022011
 

For the past few months, the Lord has been speaking to my heart about my need to develop and cultivate a lifestyle of prayer. He has been having me reflect on the fact that Jesus was shown in the Gospels as often retreating away in the evening to spend time in the presence of His heavenly Father.

"Move It Out!' by Fr. Tom Forrest

My dear friend and former spiritual director, Fr. Tom Forrest, wrote a wonderful book titled “Move It Out!“. Fr. Tom had been a close friend to both Mother Theresa and Pope John Paul II when they were here in this life, and one chapter in this book was about John Paul. We all know how this man we now affectionately refer to as John Paul the Great was truly an anointed man of God. He impacted the modern world in a way that few others could ever dream of. There are countless stories and testimonies that relate how just being in the presence of this man was enough to make grown men cry. I remember reading about how, when he attended the World Youth Days, whole cities would feel an almost palpable presence of the Lord. Where do you suppose that this Pope got his charisma from? Well, as Fr. Tom described the daily routine of the Pope, the answer jumps out at you: Pope John Paul, one of the busiest and most sought-after men on the planet, always made the time to devote at least 6 hours each day to be in the presence of the Lord. As a man, a shepherd, and an apostle of the Lord, the Pope knew where his everything came from, and his daily life routine reflected it. Because he was willing to devote so much of his time and being unreservedly to his Savior, the Lord showered (no, flooded) his being with incredible graces.

We have yet another powerful example of the need to devote time in prayer daily, and that is the Lord Jesus himself. If you really think about it, this just blows your mind! Here is the creator of the universe, the very son of the living God, the one who made and sustains everything that we can touch and feel. And He needed to devote much time to private prayer and communion with the Father? Oh, come on! Yet, Jesus knew tha everything he needed came from the Father, so He made a daily investment of his time just to be with the Father one-on-one. As a result, he was able to perform great miracles, speak the truth even when it was inconvenient, and even obediently die on a cross.

Now, if these two great men of God recognized and obeyed the need for intimate daily time with the Father, how much more, then, do we mere mortals need to do the same! In response to this revelation, and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, over the past few months I have developed and refined what I call my daily spiritual exercises. It consists of prayers, scripture readings, personal reflections, and spiritual reading interspersed throughout the day. If I complete them all, they amount to about two hours devoted to the Lord. The cool part is, that even on the days where I am unable to complete all of the exercises, I can still get at least one hour in.

Since these activities are distributed throughout the day, they do not individually take up a lot of time. But when they are added up, they represent almost ten percent of  the time allotted to each day. (Sound like a tithe?) Since implementing this daily regimen, the Lord has been helping me to hone and sharpen my skills in using the many weapons of spiritual warfare that He has entrusted into my unworthy hands. I feel like I am in spiritual bootcamp all over again. Another difference that I have noticed is an enhanced sensitivity to that “still, small voice” of His in my heart. And of course, there is a deeper sense of peace and certainty inside me, amidst the storms that we continue to experience.

One final note, before incorporating this daily routine, I was wasting 4 or 5 hours a day watching television. Now I watch almost no TV, and you know what? I do not miss it one bit. In fact, it feels so good to have my spiritual fire back after having lost it for several years. My challenge to you is: Are you willing to give up just one hour of TV each day to devote it to the Lord? If not, then you have allowed TV to become your God, and you can probably guess how He feels about that.

Luke 5:15-16
The report about him spread all the more, and great crowds assembled to listen to him and to be cured of their ailments, but he would withdraw to deserted places to pray.

Matthew 14:22-23
Then he made the disciples get into the boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone.

Mark 1:35
Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.

Matthew 26:40-41
When he returned to his disciples he found them asleep. He said to Peter, “So you could not keep watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

May 052011
 

Is there someone in your life, past or present, whom you know in your heart that you have not fully forgiven? Perhaps it is an old boyfriend or girlfriend whom you deeply loved but either could not or would not return that love. Maybe it is a beloved child that you are trying to show “a better and more excellent way” (1 Cor 12:31) but he or she simply responds with open rebellion. Or it could be a spouse who, for some reason hidden to you, stubbornly refuses to see what the Lord has so clearly shown you about a situation that you are dealing with. Could it be a parent who seemingly continues to do the stupidest stuff possible, despite your best efforts to “educate” them? It may be that you are hard on yourself because you have set high expectations and consistently fail to reach them. Maybe you are angry at life in general because of the really bad hand of cards that it dealt to you.  Or did you pour out your heart and being into your job, only to find your employer stabbed you in the back? Perhaps you prayed with your whole being for someone dear to you who was sick and he or she died, and now you cannot forgive God. Or maybe you are angry at His Church because it refuses to bend to your “”enlightened” wisdom regarding some matter.

If any of these situations strikes a chord within your heart, that is a good sign that there may still be unforgiveness somewhere deep inside. Well, let me firmly warn you, that is not a good thing to carry around with you. During the homily in a recent Holy Week service, our pastor made a point that really struck me, and has stuck with me since. We are all very familiar with the Lord’s Prayer, especially the line that says “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.” The pastor stated that a better and more accurate translation from the original of one line of this beloved prayer would be “forgive us our trespasses insofar or inasmuch as we forgive those…” This change puts a subtle yet huge twist on this prayer. In other words, the Lord is trying to tell us that His forgiveness is predicated upon our own willingness to forgive others. In the plainest language possible, He is reminding us that if we do not fully forgive the transgressions of others, whether they or in fact real or perceived, then He is unable to fully forgive us.

Now don’t go and get mad at the Lord for this. This is a natural law that is built into the very core of our existence by the Creator Himself. Simply put, unforgiveness at any degree blocks or negates the grace of forgiveness in us. The enemy of our souls might try hard to convince us otherwise, but this law cannot be broken without negative consequences. Now do you see why Jesus put this into the prayer that He taught His disciples? He knows it is of utmost importance in our growth toward holiness, and wants to remind us of it every time we recite this divine prayer. And our Church understands the importance of forgiveness, which is why it has elevated the act of penance to the level of a sacrament.

✝ Oh my loving Lord Jesus, please forgive me for the unforgiveness that is still lurking in my heart. I do not want anything to get in the way of your grace of forgiveness in my life. Just the mere possibility of Your inability to fully forgive me because of my own unforgiveness is enough to strike trembling fear inside of me. Lord, with your endless grace and mercy, help me to truly forgive each and every person whom I perceived has slighted me any any way. Help me to release any claims for retaliation or retribution into you loving hands, and give me the grace to love and pray for them as you desire me to do. I thank you Lord, and pray this in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen, amen and AMEN! ✝

Matt. 6:14-15 (NAB)
If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.

1 Corinthians 12:31 (NAB)
But I shall show you a still more excellent way.

Matthew 6:9-13 (NAB)
This is how you are to pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread; and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors; and do not subject us to the final test, but deliver us from the evil one.

Apr 302011
 

This morning, a long-time friend of my family (gosh, 40+ years) sent out a wonderful email containing Jeff Foxworthy-like observations about St. Louis.. It was too good to not share with you all, so here it is, with a few items that I have added from my own experience. I grew up in St. Louis, and can testify that every one of these observations is absolutely true! Thanks, Jeanne!

  • If you’ve worn shorts and a parka at the same time, you might live in St. Louis.
  • If you’ve seen a tornado touchdown and ONLY thought “Darn it, I just waxed the car”, you might live in St. Louis.
  • If you’ve had a lengthy telephone conversation with someone who dialed a wrong number, you might live in St. Louis.
  • If you measure distance in hours instead of miles, you might live in St. Louis.
  • If you have switched from ‘heat’ to ‘A/C’ in the same day and back again, you might live in St. Louis.
  • If you drive 75 miles through 2 feet of snow during a raging blizzard for some White Castles, you might live in St. Louis.
  • If you carry jumper cables in your car and your wife knows how to use them, you might live in St. Louis.
  • If you take I-Farty-Far to Six Flags, you might live in St. Louis.
  • If someone says concrete and you think of Ted Drewes instead of pavement, you might live in St. Louis.
  • If you design your kid’s Halloween costume to fit over a snowsuit, you might live in St. Louis.
  • If the speed limit on the highway is 55 mph — you’re going 80 and everybody is passing you, you might live in St. Louis.
  • If you’ve ever skipped school, work, or even a court-date because you had tickets to an afternoon Cards game, you might live in St. Louis.
  • If you can say the words “Cahokia Mounds” and not think of a candy bar or b–bs, you might live in St. Louis.
  • If driving is better in the winter because the potholes are filled with snow, you might live in St. Louis.

Here are a few more that I have added:

  • If someone mentions the Hill, and your first thought is Italian food, you might live in St. Louis.
  • If while giving directions anywhere, they use landmarks instead of street names, you might live in St. Louis.
  • If you move out of town and call home in exasperation because the local diner does not serve gravy & biscuits, you might live in St. Louis.
  • If someone mentions the Blues and you do NOT think of music, you might live in St. Louis.
  • If you see a shiny clean pickup truck drive by the house and remark “They shore ain’t from around here, are they?”, you might live in St. Louis.
  • If you have an out-of-town visitor and they are shocked to find all the stores and restaurants closed by 10:00 pm, you might live in St. Louis.
  • If someone mentions “Our Lady of the Snows” and you immediately think of Christmas light displays, you might live in St. Louis;.
  • If someone mentions the Arizona Cardinals and your first instinct is to pull out the shotgun, you might live in St. Louis.

Yes, the one about Whites Castles is true! Several times during college, my friends and I would take a break from our studies and make a “midnight White Castle run”, which was 85 miles away.

Share Your Own Funny Observations
Do you have anything to add to this list? Please do, using the comments box below.