Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God (Matthew 5:8 NIV).
“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world” (Matthew 5:8, The Message).
Guess what, despite the circumstances of life, despite those who try to control us and to dictate how we should think, feel, live and respond to our world, and despite those days when our “faith is dry and prayer seems useless”* we are blessed.
How is that you say? We are blessed because our Savior Jesus, who understands the unpredictability of this world (see Mark 14:32-41), advocates for us daily. In this season of Lent, we are reminded of Jesus’ sacrifice. We are reminded that even when our minds and emotions are fragile, frayed or frustrated; when our faith is weak, when it is hard to believe in a God, much less see God; the Spirit prays for us (Roman 8:26-27).
It is all right to feel that your mind and emotions are fragile. It is all right not to feel that you have a “pure heart” because Jesus paid the price to help our doubts. I was reminded about the man who said to Jesus, “I do believe help me overcome my unbelief” (Mark 9:24)!
Jesus knows what it is like to be human; therefore, His grace fills the gaps in our faith. It overrides our shortcomings. God’s grace can’t be undone by an emotional outburst or doubt. So rejoice that God loves us enough to have given us the grace of Jesus Christ.
Let us pray: God, we thank you for loving us in our anger, in our doubts and providing us an avenue, through the Holy Spirit, to speak our needs to you when we cannot. Thanks for reminding us that we are in your care and yes, we will see you. Amen.
*Sacred Space, The Prayer Book 2012, p.91)
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted (Matthew, 5:4 NIV)
“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you” (The Message).
What a paradoxical statement! How can that be? Let’s think this through? What’s dear to us can vary over time and/or we can have many things that are dear to us:
Our jobs (careers)
Our brothers, our sisters, our homes, you name it.
For me it was the loss of a job and to certain extent a career that I spent 30 years building.
But you know I am surviving. I am embracing the process and learning to live by faith one day at a time.
I trust God to take care of me; yes, for the essentials (shelter, food, clothing, etc) and for the existential (the meaning of life, why me God, etc).
Yes it is scary, but I embrace this uncertainty, this mystery because the Lord has taught me that He is my shepherd and I shall not want (Psalm 23:1) and that He will carry my burdens daily (Psalm 68:19).
So in this time of loss, uncertainty and yes, questioning, my faith in my God is unwavering.
I know that God hears my sighs, sees my tears and even when I cannot pray intercedes for me with groans that words cannot express (Roman 8:26); and because of this, I know without doubt that I am in God’s care and in His will. Amen.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3 NIV).
“You are blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule” (The Message, Matthew 5:3).
God, I am at the end of my rope right now. In fact, I am losing my grip. I wouldn’t want to wish this _____________ (you name it) on anyone. But you said that I am blessed.
How can that be? Explain that to me? It is like I am in an endless pit. Teach me the secret of more of you. I want that reality for my life.
But then it hits me. If I put my focus on you instead of my problems I will feel blessed; blessed in such a way that I want to help others. One writer said that when we allow God to translate our problems into a ministry that our pain becomes someone else’s gain.*
We learned that when we are poor in spirit, we have more of God; and, isn’t that what we pray for anyway.
So as I pray daily, I remain hopeful, even as the grip gets tighter, in the words found in Ecclesiastes 7:8:
The end of a matter is better than its beginning,
and patience is better than pride.
*Batterson, M. (2006). In a pit with a lion on a snowy day.Colorado Springs: Multnomah Books
I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy” My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God” (NIV).
As we, the faithful contemplate your silence; we can come dangerously close to questioning your existence. Where are the angels, do we really have a Heavenly Parent? Who is this Jesus, “the supposed Son” and oh yes, our comforter, the Holy Spirit? It is easier, but not comforting, to believe the “foolish ones;” who say when we die we simply cease to exist or disappear into a great, dark abyss.
How else can we explain the killings and assaults on human lives? How else can we explain the hatred, the injustice and discrimination of the vulnerable or those who are different?
How else can we explain the loss of lives and properties by tsunamis, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, hurricanes and other storms that this evil world creates; how else can we explain 9/11 and the purposeful goal of one group to annihilate another. Our history, the world’s history bears this out.
What loving God would allow such destruction, such evil?
O, but then, a gentle spirit reminds us of the great mystery; the mystery of the Cross and the desires of our hearts to fight for justice, to right the wrongs and to help the helpless and the loss.
What causes us to praise YOU in the midst of these injustices; even when they are at our front doors? O God, we are “as the deer that desire cold fresh water, our soul pants for you O God. Our soul thirsts for YOU, the living God.” (Psalm 42:1-2).
Some say that you thirst too; you thirst to have a relationship with us. Some believe that you too cry along with us as evil tramples upon us. So, why the silence; aren’t you the omnipotent one? So what’s the answer Lord? Is life meant to be a struggle always?
So as I anxiously waited and prayed, with multitude of doubts, God gave me a glimpse of heaven; yes, I had a peek. I had a peek of heaven, not visually, but within my soul. O what an adventure. It is hard to put into words, but my soul was fueled with joy and thanksgiving. It was a wonderful gift; a miniscule sample of things to come.
So in this silence God strengthened my faith and I realized that things happen in this world that is unexplainable. So will my lot in life improve because of this, not really? I am no different from anyone else who has suffered and will suffer. My job is, to partner with God, to the best my understanding and abilities, to make heaven on earth for others.
“I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders” *
God, I often find it hard to shout for you; to praise you for the things that you do for me.
What are those things? Oh, it may be surprising. It is not those earthly, material things that are needed to survive. No, it is the things that are not often seen by the naked eye.
It’s that inner peace, that inner comfort and inner joy. It’s that unexplainable, undescribed knowing—that vision, that hope, that desire of my heart to be a part of you. It is that desire to be with you, to share you with others. It’s that spiritual resource, the fuel that I need to go another day. To be all I can be until I can dwell in you completely.
I decided to check several other versions:
“…for he shall pluck my feet out of the net.” (The New King James)
“…If I keep my eyes on God, I won’t trip over my own feet.” The Message Bible
Oh yes, that’s the one for me; “I won’t trip over my own feet. How many of us have done that—trip over our feet or put our foot into our mouths.
God, this verse speaks to us today. How can we go wrong, if our thoughts are always on you? Who can hurt us, if our trust is always in you?
God as we hunger for you; guide us toward your truth and teach us your ways. We don’t want to falter; nor do we want to hurt or to be hurt.
Our wish is to serve and to show others your way. Amen
Waiting for something better? How soon we forget the miracles of our past and yes, even the miracles of today. Today, I want to share with you a prayer that I shared with my faith community on August 1, 2009 and later published at Upward Edge (www.upwardedge.com). It’s time to share it again. I hope that this short prayer will bring to your remembrance your everyday miracles.
“So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing?” John 6:30
God help us not to forget the miracles we have witnessed in our life time. Don’t let today’s burdens make us forget your love for us and your willingness to share our yoke.
God help us not to forget the miracle:
Of having a place to call home
Of having that job to pay those long overdue bills
Or finding that special friend and the love of our life
God help us not to forget the miracle:
Of being parents—when we and others thought it was not possible
Or re-uniting with family and friends that we thought were long-lost
God help us not to forget the miracle:
Of having spiritual mentors and heroes who strengthened our faith
For witnessing the physical healing of family and friends; we thought would long be gone
Of holding the hands of a dear brother as he departed this world or to be in the presence of friends as they too left us.
God help us not to forget your peacefulness, your assurances and the promises you have laid on our hearts.
I pray that as we remember the miracles in our lives that we will use our “gift of living” to help others who have forgotten their miracles— to bring hope to the hopeless; to provide shelter for the homeless and like Jesus feed the thousands.
When we remember our miracles we, like Jesus, can speak boldly the words of Isaiah 61:1-3a:
“The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon (us)…; God has sent (us) to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…; to comfort all who mourn; 3 and provide for those who grieve…”
Will you share with us your miracles?
Should I be delighted that God has chosen me for this journey? What journey you say? I don’t know, but I am on this journey with God.
This journey is about discerning God’s will for my life. This journey is about waiting and trusting God to meet my needs; to be obedient to that “special prompting.” This journey is about me not being in charge; to not be my stubborn self, but to trust the God I cannot see, the one who promised me, many years ago, to be with me always to the end of my time. It is this God, the one in our “Holy Bible,” who has set so many free.
So I am on this spiritual journey that requires me to be prayerful, open, alert and yes, faithful to the spirit’s prompting. A journey that requires me to be attuned to every facet of my life and “to pay attention on many levels: to consult scripture, to seek the advice of trusted advisors, to heed the sensus fidelium (the collective sense of the faithful), to read widely and deeply the best ancient and contemporary thinking, to pray, to attend to the prick of conscience and to the yearnings and dreamings of (my) heart, to watch, to wait, to listen.”*
God, I like taking trips, but the stubborn, take charge person that I am is not ready to go on this particular journey. But you, oh Lord, in your wisdom has chosen this journey for me. I worry about my health, the loss of friendship and oh yes, security. Waiting, being patient and trusting that my needs will be provided by someone other than me is really scary. But yet, I take this journey. A journey that my “angel heart” has prepared me for–because my provisions, my comfort, my salvation is in your hand for “you are my shepherd and I have everything I need” (Psalm 23:1).
I pray that as I travel on this journey that I am faithful and can speak these same words as assuredly as Paul when he said: “…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:11-13).
Should I be delighted?
* Wendy M Wright, in Rueben Job’s book: A Guide to Spiritual Discernment, 1996, p.86.