Pray First, Get Fortified, Then Go
This had to be one of the most challenging weeks of my life. The Black Forest Fire in one of our local neighborhoods, claiming two lives and 483 homes. It was just devastating and very difficult to wrap our minds around.
One of my co-workers and her family were evacuated. Parishioners were evacuated or on pre-evacuation. We had just gone through this last June with the Waldo Canyon Fire and its devastation. So many of us were in shock as we tried to make sense of what we were seeing and hearing once again.
But with a catastrophe such as this one the communities pull together to provide shelter, meals and care for those displaced by the fire. Our church was reaching out to the fire victims and families in ways that they could, especially with providing shelter and safe places for them.
But, we were also reminded of the order with which to do things in responding to a crisis or catastrophe such as this one. We gather together first in our church sanctuary to pray and lift each other up and pray for those in need. We pray and seek to be fortified, hearing the Word of God, receiving Holy Communion to give us food for the journey, then roll up our sleeves to go to work in the sanctuaries outside the church doors, bringing the face of Christ to those devastated or fearful, uncertain of the future following the fire.
We are called to be the hands and the feet of Christ in these situations to comfort and help others. But, to be the hands and feet of Christ, we have to come to him first to ask him to strengthen us first since we cannot act alone on our own.
Have you ever noticed that the only line at the checkout filled with happy people is at the garden center? They aren’t grumbling, complaining or waiting impatiently to reach the check out. They are dreaming of the potential for their flower gardens, or vegetable gardens and landscapes as they wait with bags of soil, seeds, potted plants, flowers and rock or mulch in their carts. They chat lightheartedly with each other or comment on the plants or flowers of the person in front of them in line or behind them, interested in what they intend to do with them. Even the clerks are interested in their customers’ purchases as they ring them up, striking up such friendly conversation.
Garden bliss, peace and beauty. They give us hope for the warmer days of spring and summer, backyard gatherings and barbecues in our personal scenic landscapes. It is no wonder that God uses such beauty to draw us to Himself.
Jesus, Others, Self 3, June 2013
While shopping at my favorite Christian books and gift store for my dad’s Father’s Day gift I ran across this really nice bookmark. It caught my attention because it said, “Jesus, Others, Self, in that order”.
I try to live by that motto, of seeking the Lord first, and it is challenging to do, but when I choose to put Jesus first in my day whether by a quiet moment in prayer with my morning coffee, reading a short devotion, or by attending morning Mass, the rest of my day comes together better with joy in Him.
Thinking of others before myself once I take the time to pray and praise the Lord first is easier for me to do as well. If I choose to follow this order throughout my day, it makes me a less grumpy and impatient person and I can face just about anything, and for me that is so important because my job is in service to others at my church. I really notice the difference in the days when I rush into the day, forgetting to pray first or to praise the Lord just for being able to wake up to a new day. I wind up feeling harried and impatient with things and in turn with others.
Jesus helps me to be a good receptionist when I rely on him and when I choose to put others and their needs ahead of my own.
God is always near. But sometimes it feels like He is so far away, as though He doesn’t hear us or care about us. But He is always with us.
There is a saying, “when God seems far away, who moved?”
So, when He feels far away from me, I seek Him out and do my best to stay close to Him by trying to keep Him first in my life.
Tears are such a gift. How many times do we see them shed during joyous events like weddings, graduations, watching a great movie, listening to a concert or to a great speaker? Tears of joy and tears of sadness. Tears cleanse our eyes and even our hearts when we grieve.
How many times have we handed a tissue to someone we see crying? Our dear friends, family and co-workers? Someone in mourning?
I recently heard that what we believe is well-meaning in offering a tissue to someone in tears may not be helping them, but doing just the opposite. It may shut them down rather than let them heal or release what is making them cry. It may send the message that they shouldn’t cry when they may need to. I have handed out many tissues thinking that it is the right or kind thing to do. But, I recently learned that it is better to let them cry their tears and even shed a few of my own with the person instead. After all, tears are a gift given to us by our creator who weeps with us.
I love this verse from Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” I believe that is where our passions come from regarding the things we enjoy doing or are gifted with doing such as our talents. God gives those gifts to us to use for the good of others.
I really enjoy sewing and handiwork of all kinds. Some of it seems to come naturally and I do look back at my grandmothers who were also gifted with these talents. They are now gone, but I wonder if they look down from Heaven with a smile and delight when they see that their gifts are passed on.
Only God could do something like that!
In light of the events of the last few days, whether it is the Boston Bombing or the Texas Industrial Explosion of the fertilizer plant, our hearts go out to all of those suffering trauma and loss. We should continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in need of God’s love and ours.
It is true that united we stand, divided we fall. Let us remain united but not just with each other. We must turn to our God and seek Him and His help and strength to get through this tragic time.
Spring is a time of new life and rebirth for all that has remained dormant all winter. It is beautiful to see the grass greening up, the trees budding, the flowers coming up, the days growing warmer and longer, along with hearing the birds singing sweetly and busily gathering twigs and straw for nesting.
On the inside we start thinking of spring cleaning, sweeping up the dust bunnies and cobwebs that have gathered over the winter months, wanting to freshen everything once again.
So it is with our minds, hearts and souls being refreshed and renewed with celebrating Easter recently, celebrating our Lord’s resurrection along with the stories of the Road to Emmaus, the story of Thomas and of Peter. The disciples not knowing who their companion journeying the road to Emmaus with them, later noticing their hearts were burning as he spoke and later recognizing him in the breaking of bread. Thomas doubting that the Lord is risen when the disciples excitedly relay the news to him, declaring he wouldn’t believe until he can touch and see the wounds in our Lord’s hands and side. Then Jesus telling him as he stood before him that “blessed are those who did not see and yet believe.” Thomas then asks him to help his unbelief. Then there is Peter, who at first denies knowing Jesus three times before his crucifixion, now being asked by our risen Lord if he loves him. And Jesus asks him not only once, but three times if he loves him. Peter, not really understanding and being offended by the contiuous test, asks for help with his lack of love.
Spring is a great time to renew our faith to strengthen it and to renew and strengthen the love we have for our Lord and for one another in living out our belief in the risen Christ by how we treat each other and conduct ourselves in our every day living.
I was driving down the main road to work today and it was foggy and cold. But, on the radio I heard the song, This Is the Day that the Lord Has Made. I was singing along when out of the fog along side of the road came a herd of deer just leaping along. The lovely sight of their leaping caused me to feel like rejoicing in the Lord just at the song calls us to be glad and rejoice in the day He has given.
It didn’t feel so cold or seem so dismal with the fog any longer as I thought about the day the Lord had given me. Especially since this was my Monday on Tuesday. The whole day seemed full of blessings!
Today is Good Friday and I want to share this joyful story. My son has been trying to sell his home for about two years now, off and on with the weak economy. It was a heart wrenching challenge for him. It was a small, older Victorian house and now that he and my daughter-in law have a little boy, and hope to have another child one day, they had outgrown the house.
But, today, he closed on it, selling and closing on it at the hour of mercy on this Good Friday. What great love and divine mercy shown to him for persevering in very trying times! What a great, loving Lord we have, who still has mercy on us today and always!