Love’s Eye

Acts 2: 1-11; I Cor 12: 3-7, 12-13; John 20: 19-23

I was talking to some new pastors this week up at the seminary so of course part of the conversation was on prayer.  It is not only central to us priests but to all of us.  I was surprised when one of them had told me that he didn’t pray.  So, of course, I asked him why, and as surprised as I was to hear that he didn’t pray I wasn’t all surprised by the why because I had heard in many times before.  When I finally sit down to pray, to stop, to quiet down, it seems at that point my mind takes off, a million miles a minute along with all my fears and anxieties, unresolved conflict, and all the rest begin to surface.  That’s the reason why you have to pray in those moments.

I use the example often, now that we are into the summer and it is hurricane season, to imagine a satellite image of a hurricane.  Most have a well-defined eye.  Crazy enough, that’s where you want to be in the hurricane.  It’s the place where the sun shines.  There’s peace and tranquility.  That’s the place of center we take with us into the storm, into the million miles a minute, otherwise the wall collapses and the storm consumes our lives.  This feast we celebrate today at the end of the Easter Season defines our center, that place of peace and tranquility that is hopefully leading us and navigating us through the storms of our own lives, as individuals, community, country, and world.  We certainly know that that’s not always the case.

When the early community begins to form and that we heard of throughout this Easter season from Acts of the Apostles, they too found themselves often trying to find that center and allowing it to be their navigation tool through often tumultuous times.  It was not an easy go for them when community was beginning to form around this new identity in Christ.  Like any community, there is self-interest, there are people that are trying to satisfy their own needs, there are people that are trying to drag us into their own storms, into the chaos of their own lives that will often challenge that center, that navigation tool.

The same was true for Corinth in whom Paul writes today.  It’s a section of that letter that we are all familiar with when he speaks of different gifts but the same spirit being manifested in the life of the community.  He’ll go onto to speak about the different parts yet one body and culminate in the next chapter with his message of love that we are familiar with from weddings.  There was dissension in the ranks of the community because they thought one person’s gift was better than the other, thinking that speaking in tongues was somehow better than the rest.  It created riffs.  Like the world we often find ourselves in today, there was selfish motivation, which of course, at that point, loses its purpose of being a gift in the first place!  One gift is not somehow better than the other, but rather, Paul will go onto say that no matter the gift and no matter the person, at the center of the community, the great navigation tool, will be that of love.  That becomes the eye of the storm and it becomes the navigation tool that the disciples will have to take into the storms that await them on that Easter day.

There seems to be no great Pentecost experience with them when we encounter them in today’s Gospel.  There they are, caught in the midst of a wild storm as the witnessed the death of Jesus, the one who had been their center up to this point.  For John, though, he’s going to want to take us back to the beginning and not to just the beginning of the gospel but back to the beginning of Genesis, when God breathes life into creation.  Here we are now, locked in the upper room, filled with fear and doubt, wondering and questioning, feeling like they’re being consumed by the storm and all that they had known falling down around them, and Jesus appears.  But not to just pick back up where they had left off on Good Friday but to give them a new center that goes deep within them and yet so far beyond them.  Jesus breathes on them, not just into their mouths, but into their very being the gift of the Spirit.  That will become their place of authority, their place of deep love, their own navigation tool as we see them go forward throughout Acts of the Apostles.

As we draw this Easter season to a close today, we pray for that same Spirit to be breathed into us, making us aware of where our center is in life.  Do we find ourselves much more comfortable in the storminess, chaos, fear and anxiety, that at times consumes our lives or are we being led to a place of peace that expands truth and makes space within us for all peoples?  Maybe we’re at a place where we need to quiet down, slow down, even if our minds want to go a million miles an hour.  That’s exactly where that navigation tool is leading us, to expand that place of peace and tranquility within us.  The last thing the world needs is more chaos, fear, and anxiety.  It leads us to reacting to everything that comes our way, sucking us into the storminess of lives and feeling overwhelmed by it all.  Like the disciples, on this day God desires to breathe that life, that Spirit into each of us so rather than being defined by the storminess we become the agents of change by brining that navigation tool, that eye, that deep source of love to an often hurting world to bring about the redemption that is freely given to each of us.

 

Road Less Traveled

Genesis 12: 1-4a; II Tim 1: 8b-10; Matthew 17: 1-9

Life is difficult. It’s the first line in the book, The Road Less Traveled. The author, Dr. Peck goes onto say just after that sentence that it takes a great deal of acceptance of that statement to finally let it go and move on, accepting reality for what it is and now what we think it should be. It’s why so many choose not to take the road less traveled because it means change and letting go and remaining open to something new in our lives. We’d often rather just wallow in our challenges and difficulties, somehow victims of a God that doesn’t seem to give me what I want when I ask.

The spiritual journey is no different. It’s difficult and like life, probably why so many choose not to take the road less traveled. It’s much easier to make my relationship with God about what I do on Sunday rather than a daily affair of prayer and silence. The problem, though, is it starts to close us off from even needing God. We begin to settle for something less than we really are and plant our stakes deep in the ground, often even cutting us off from God. As much as we sell ourselves short in life, we can do the same in our spiritual lives, knowing they are so intertwined, often settling for death over life.

I think it’s why the story of Abraham and Sarah is such a model for us in our lives because they did often choose the road less traveled. Listen, pretty much everything up to this point in the bible ends in disaster. It ends with war and violence. It ends in destruction. But when Abraham and Sarah enter the story, there seems to be the dawn of a new day in salvation history. You know, the two of them have every reason to be like so many that had come before them and there lives just ending poorly. They’re 75 years old and it seems as if God never gives them what they want. They could live their lives as victims of circumstances and give up. They can just dig the stakes of their tent in deeply and settle for less. However, that’s not what they do. Here they are, well into their lives, and now being called to embark on yet another journey from a God that hasn’t come through for them the way they wanted. They don’t him and haw about it but rather set out for an unknown land. Despite their age, there’s still a sense of adventure and there’s still something that calls them forth in their lives.
Here’s the thing, unlike for most of us, there’s no going back. If we leave home we can often return to that location. For Abraham and Sarah, it was giving everything up. They were being called to pull of the stakes and take, once again, the road less traveled. They once again will head out into the unknown simply because of a message from the Lord to Abraham. It’s as if they recognize that it’s not about this world and see themselves as passing through. There’s no reason to dig in to deeply because when the Lord calls them to do what would seem impossible and even crazy to us, they go forward. They don’t allow the pain of the past or failed expectations to stop them from heading out to the unknown and once again living with this sense of adventure and child-like trust in God.

Now we couple that with today’s gospel and the disciples who witness the transfiguration. As quickly as Abraham and Sarah are willing to pull up the stakes and head out on the road less traveled, accepting the difficulties of life and yet trusting God and the unknown, Peter quickly wants to settle down. He quickly wants to build and altar, drive in the stakes of the tent, and call it quits. It’s not that they didn’t know life was difficult. They were fishermen which was not and is not an easy life. They understood that. But with Jesus, maybe they thought differently and react to what they see and decide to end the journey there.

Jesus, like Abraham and Sarah, though, still knows that the road will become much more narrow and very much less traveled as they make their way towards Jerusalem. The ultimate test will be the cross and whether they have what it takes to push through and be pushed through such pain and agony. It’s the moment when the spiritual and life intersect and we’re left with the decision whether we want to settle down, drive in the stakes, and erect the picket fence, or allow ourselves to experience yet another adventure by God calling us forth. It really is the reality of our lives anyway, always in transition, always being called forth, always being led to the great unknown, deeper mystery, that leads to the fulfillment of life that we truly desire. It’s easy to not change. But it also makes me miserable, fearful, and well, quite honestly, so self-consumed that I can’t see anything beyond my hurt and pain. We’d rather hunker down in Good Friday than experience the newness of Easter.

As we continue this journey through Lent, our prayer is that we have the perseverance that Abraham and Sarah exhibited in their lives and their own acceptance of the difficulties of life and yet not allowing themselves to become attached to it all. They remained open to change and to whatever it was that God was calling forth in that very moment. When we don’t limit ourselves to experiencing God simply on Sunday, but rather as a way of life, making the time for prayer and silence, we become more attuned to the voice of God as they did. Maybe that’s what scares us the most. When we do hear that voice, it may ask us to do something crazy or impossible, thwarting our own plans for life. But like them, when we choose the road less traveled and persevere, the promise of Easter remains a promise. It doesn’t mean it won’t be difficult. That’s a reality. But it will be an adventure, a change, free of burying our own stakes in the ground, and an openness to wherever God may lead.

Silence

For those who venture to enter into Silence, don’t be surprised if you find yourself leaving with more questions than answers about the struggle of faith of the lead, Father Rodrigues. Both him and Father Garupe, young priests with a sense of conviction, find themselves questioning where it is that God is leading them, firmly believing that they are being called to head to Japan, despite the known reality that they are to face of severe persecution, living in constant hiding, and the possibility of death as so many others had to face.

Father Rodrigues is a rather complex character throughout the story, especially in relation to the faith of the Japanese who are willing to go to their death because of their faith. Yet, throughout, on a deeper level, Father Rodrigues has this aching fear of death as he watches them, one by one, marching toward their own. Both Rodrigues and Garupe make this journey, despite the doubt of their superior, in order to seek out their once mentor who was believed to have renounced his faith. Garupe never makes it that far. From the beginning there seems to be an intersection of faith and lived reality for him, a disconnect that often follows Rodrigues throughout. Garupe’s blood will be spilled long before Rodrigues encounters their former mentor.

But for Rodrigues, it’s more than just seeking the mentor who, in his mind, could not have apostatized. For Rodrigues it was about seeking this truth that he becomes angered over many times in his questioning by the Inquisitor. The Inquisitor, who’s about as creepy as you can get, feels him to be arrogant. It may be the one quality of his that the Inquisitor is correct in identifying. That place of arrogance, which stands in the way of him finding the deeper faith, in the form of pride, becomes the place of rub for Rodrigues. He knows the truth, which for him, is a belief that he knows it all and is the bearer of it all, a gap between the intellectual faith and this faith he witnesses in the people, and in Garupe, for that matter, at times only seems to wane. He struggles greatly allowing this penetrating silence to enter into the depths of his heart and soul, to feel the pain and be one with the pain that the people experience.

The simplicity of the faith of the people only makes it a more stark contrast to what it is that Rodrigues seeks and believes. They seem to lack the fear that he has held onto about this God. It’s as if they know something that even he doesn’t know about the Christ, willingly accepting before renouncing. As the story progresses, Rodrigues questions time and again who it is that he’s praying to in the moment. He seems to simply pray to silence without any answers, despite knowing what he knows and questions who this God is. It is this God, or image, that seems to crumble with each persecution and death that Rodrigues witnesses but holds to so tightly. The Japanese believers, on the other hand, question who’s willing and able, living not from a strength that follows pride, but one that follows love.

In the end there seems to be no resolution nor reconciliation with Rodrigues. The look on his face mirrors a man who continues to angst up to the bitter end. In the end he too will have to confront his own demons of surrendering while beginning to know deep in his heart that he had done something wrong. He still hangs on to an image of who this God is supposed to be rather than opening himself to a bigger God, a God that can somehow even embrace a mentor who has disappointed and a friend who has betrayed, while he continued to allow perfection to stand in his way. The fear of the Japanese was that the spread of Christianity would begin to break down the world order that they had experienced and created, opening the door to questioning and revolt. Yet, they never much seemed to fear Rodriques, despite their persistence in persuasion. Maybe deep down they too knew of his own fear and didn’t see him as that same threat as it was for the people. It wasn’t the power of fear that threatened, rather, the power of love; and for Rodrigues, it was his deepest fear and struggled to accept.

Glacial Sanctuary

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This is the first post I’ve been able to do since boarding the cruise. The blessing and curse of this experience, and certainly cruising up here in Alaska, is there’s been very little phone connection and even less internet connection! There’s a gift in being able to disconnect in that way and reconnect with the world around you. Even as I type this, I’m looking out into Glacier National Park, chunks of ice floating around me and the sunshine beckoning so many different shades of blue, among others, all around me.

Before we arrived in Glacier, we listened to one of the Park Rangers here explain what it is we were going to see and experience, but he also pointed out his own experience and moving from Virginia to Alaska with his family and living without any regrets. He mentioned that people come for a variety of reasons, but once here something begins to happen. There truly is that disconnecting from the wide world and reconnecting with a world that is so often beyond words and often only experienced. Even typing this I know I want to say something but I know fully I can never express what it is I have experienced here in Glacier.

There are also a wide range of animals that migrate here each year, none other than the hump back whales. You would think, why on earth would they migrate from the stark beauty of Hawaii and travel thousands of miles to glacier country in Alaska. But like many of us, this too has become sanctuary for them. It is the place they come to be fed. It is the place they come to give birth to their young. The glaciers provide a safe haven for them to come, not only for that place of sanctuary, where birth can take place, but also the sustenance that they need for the continued journey. As crazy as that sounds, there is even a species of bird that flies from Antarctica to glacier country in the summer for the same reason only to prepare them for the journey that is to come as the weather begins to change here and ever so slightly, nightfall begins to return to the land of the midnight sun.

It’s quite the spectacle of not only learn about but also witness with my own eyes and heart. As I step out on deck right now, sailing down Glacier Bay, all I can hear is the sound of the sea gulls, the gentle flow of the water below, and from time to time, the crashing of pieces of glacier into the chilly waters. That alone is a spectacle to witness in this sanctuary as the thunderous roar awakes you from a nap, a sanctuary of my own, of sorts.

There’s been nothing quite like it in my experience, what it is I have seen up here in Alaska. Beyond vacation and a bucket list trip, I am amazed of the never-ending places I have called home in that sense, that brings you back to your core as a person, to a personal sanctuary that connects you in ways that you sometime lose in the day to day life. From the hustle and bustle of city life, work, relationships, and all that comes with it, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s available to us and what has been made available to us not only by a God that creates in such a way and allows us to participate in this great wonder, but also the many people and generations that have gone before that have made these lands a priority for what they are, a place of sustenance and sanctuary for so much wildlife but also for everyone that has been given the opportunity to step foot on land and ice over the years, and now myself included among them.

Like life, it can all be so fickle. As beautiful as it is cruising by right now, I also know the weather in this sanctuary can change in an instance. With great, high peaks around us, weather has a tendency to get caught up, raining down clouds, fog, and even some wet snow these days. Yet, despite it all, we keep returning and they keep returning to a place that is so much more than a vacation destination. For those of us who do sometimes get caught up in the rat race of life, myself included, it’s easy to lose sight, even when you try to make mystery a priority in life.

With each passing day it seems as if we move ourselves further away from what’s most important, and I have made note throughout this trip that we’ve been lucky enough to miss both political conventions, and we seem to have such short-term memory when it comes to this great mystery and what we’re called to in life. But in these moments, and the opportunity to share it in these words, coming to what is sanctuary for so many living beings, provides the space to disconnect in order to reconnect to the sanctuary that provides the eternal sustenance we desire in life. If it works for whales and birds traveling halfway around the globe to come to this place, then why not for us. The paradox of it all, we should’t even have to leave the confines of our own home and yet we do and so we did to come to this glacial sanctuary that offers warmth and care to so many.

The Longing of Silence

Isaiah 63: 16-17, 19; 64: 2-7; Mark 13: 33-37

In 1964 Simon and Garfunkel released their hit Sound of Silence. Of course, many of you know it was a tumultuous time in the world and country, let alone the Church at that time. The Vietnam War was escalating and dragging on, bloodshed in the streets, the civil rights era was growing as segregation comes to a head, and even post-Vatican II in the life of the Church, felt like everything was in upheaval. In the midst of this all, this song, Sound of Silence is released, prophetic words at that time and possibly today as well when it feels as if we are right there again, tumultuous times in the country, community, and world, facing upheaval. What makes their words prophetic was their recognition of how comfortable we had become with darkness, even referring to it as friend. It’s as if we become accustomed to fear and violence, often leaving us feeling helpless and saying, “that’s just the way it is.”

In our own words of faith, they speak of the longing for the voice of reason and the voice of God to speak and rise up to something new. It is that which is squashed and told we are to fear, leaving us lonely and longing on a deeper level, wanting more, and yet, feeling like we must settle for what was. At times, feeling as if the silence is deafening and uncomfortable that we’d prefer to stay put rather than sit with what is uncomfortable, the longing within. Even the naysayers pick up on it all and convince us that the world is about to end, fear mongering, and it is in this present form, but as people of faith, we must also look at it as a birthing of something new and a letting go of what was, making space for our longing to give birth to new life, to a new way of living. Whether we like it or not, it is almost always coupled with violence, but isn’t the birth of a child somewhat painful and violent? Yet, life breaks forth beyond the pain and darkness.

Much of what we hear during this season, especially from the prophet Isaiah is an acknowledgment of that longing of people Israel and us as well. We hear that today, that over time, the hearts of people Israel have grown hardened by avoiding the silence and the longing within, thinking it can be answered and fulfilled outside themselves. It takes place following the exile as Isaiah crafts this prayer for a return of God’s favor to the people, an intervention by God into their lives. You would think a people that experienced the violence, bloodshed, famine, and overwhelming death would be quick to change their ways, and yet, what Isaiah witnesses is a people that slowly return to their old ways, a return to what brings comfort, trying to fill the longing of their hearts as individuals and a people in ways that just won’t work. As time passes, the voice of God begins to silence and the people are left wandering in their own lostness, wondering, where is their God who had led them out of exile, the God who had moved them beyond exodus, over and over again, the faithful God and potter who Isaiah speaks of in this prayer.

The disciples will quickly learn as well about that deep longing within as the ministry of Jesus ends at this part of Mark’s Gospel which we pick up in this new year, and from this moment on, the voice of Jesus, like it did for people Israel, will grow silent. As his voice grows silent, the disciples and Jesus experience violence and bloodshed. Once again the political and religious leaders will use fear, as is so often done today, to control and to squash that voice and eventually, kill it on the cross. Jesus and the disciples know all to well about that longing and the deafening silence that often ensues in these tumultuous times, times of uncertainty that leave us running for something else and something more, thinking it will be filled in other ways rather than sitting with our own uncomfortableness, our own interior silence and longing.

We know all to well during this season that there are many things that grab our attention and fill us with excuses as to why we don’t have time for prayer and silence. We have shopping to do, somehow trying to find that perfect gift, we have baking, card writing, and all the rest, and before you know it, it’s Christmas Eve and Advent has passed us by. My experience, that longing then begins to show itself the day after Christmas, when we couldn’t meet expectations, when it wasn’t the right gift, and so on, and we start to feel it within. As we enter into this season of Advent, these prophetic voices invite us into silence. They invite is into our own uncomfortableness. When we sit with it long enough, even if it’s a few minutes a day, God can begin to transform the longing into life, rather than us buying into the fear over and over. We all have it within us and we all need silence otherwise we act out that longing in so many different ways. The sound of silence can be deafening and avoided quite easily in our lives, but in giving birth, which itself is quite painful, God wants to meet us there to give birth to that longing into a newness of life.

Only Weird if it Doesn’t Work

Exodus 17: 8-13; Luke 18: 1-8

In listening to the First Reading from Exodus today, the first thought that crossed my mind was actually a commercial.  If you watch any sports, you’ll probably be familiar with it.  It’s the Bud Light commercial that ends with the line, “It’s only weird if it doesn’t work.”  It’s the commercial where the guys are rooted in their superstitions about what they wear and how they hold their beer bottles, thinking it has some impact on their team or leads them to the victory they are looking for.  It’s only weird if it doesn’t work.  This first reading sounds more like superstition with Moses holding his arms out until it hurts thinking somehow if they were to fall, defeat would be at hand.  It’s only coupled with this Gospel that the necessity of prayer makes any sense.

However, as kids, isn’t how we are often taught to pray?  We have to say all the right words and do all the right things and somehow, if we do all of that, God will somehow find favor upon us.  But over time, we hold out our arms like Moses, over and over again, leading to frustration because it seems like God doesn’t listen or I don’t feel anything, and we give up on it.  Yet, if I stop, somehow God is ready to pounce on me and take me out, bringing defeat as they feared in the first reading today.  We start to think that I must be doing something wrong or not saying the right words because God doesn’t seem to be responding. As I get older, I begin to realize it doesn’t have much to do with what I say, but how I listen.

Just maybe, that’s the time that we begin to realize that it’s time to grow up in our prayer.  We do so well at teaching and learning all these prayers, that eventually begin to feel empty because it isn’t satisfying the soul, and yet, it’s the only way we know.  Jesus, however, is teaching yet another way to pray.  Prayer is a theme of Luke’s Gospel and Jesus goes off and prays in silence and meditates.  Silence must be a part of our prayer, even if it is ten minutes in the morning and another ten at the end of the day.  I did have someone come up to me and say, “But every time I have silence, my mind starts running an million miles a minute.”  I know, we all have that!  But take a step back and look at these thoughts that aren’t really us to begin with.  So often they are irrational fears and worries that we have absolutely no control over, and yet they control us!  Entering into silence and meditation begins to provide the freedom to let those thoughts go.  Again, it’s only weird if it doesn’t work, but it does work.

So quickly we then want to give up.  We give up because we fear the silence.  We give up because nothing seems to happen.  We give up, especially in this instantaneous world, because things don’t happen quick enough.  Yet, these readings today touch upon that persistence that is needed, especially in those times.  I think of Mother Theresa who went years with emptiness, darkness, and dryness, yet, she remained faithful to silent meditation and look where it led her!

The widow in the Gospel today becomes a model for us in our prayer.  Here’s a woman who’s facing desperation.  How many of us turn to God most in times of desperation?  Again, it’s only weird if it doesn’t work; and it works!  She has lost her husband, the income he brought, and has even lost her voice since he too would have been that for her.  Most would think that a poor widow would have just walked away meagerly, but not this one.  In her persistence, her shadow is also revealed in the judge.  This guy who is ruthless fears being shamed by the woman; literally in the translation, that she’s going to punch him in the face.  Out of fear of this shaming, he gives in.  In reality, it’s her shadow, that fear would have been hers because that was what society would have expected from her but she doesn’t give into it and persists, even in this moment of desperation.  It’s only weird if it doesn’t work, but it does.

At some point in our lives, we have to grow up in our faith and in the way we pray.  It’s not that all those prayers we learn and the way we learn them no longer work, but it’s not the only prayer that disciples are called to in life.  There is a deeper prayer that can lead to fullness of life, and it so often begins with silence.  I know we are all very busy and silence evokes great fear in our lives, fearing what we are going to face.  We too often want to give up, but that’s often because we keep doing the same thing over and over again, thinking the words and the formula are what it’s all about; maybe that was ok when we were kids, but as adults, we need something more out of our prayer.  We need something more than superstitions like Moses holding out his arms, we need faith that leads us through the grey of life.  Faith and prayer that leads us to a bigger God that embraces all. Faith and prayer that leads us to acceptance and patience.  Faith and prayer. that moves us beyond the box into something greater in life.  It’s only weird if it doesn’t work, but it does as long as we remain committed to persevering and allowing God to push us through the emptiness that it sometimes brings to the other side of life.

Giving it All

1Kings 19: 16b, 19-21; Luke 9: 51-62

There is a quote that goes something like this…”If you give God half your heart, you’ll experience half God’s power.  If you give God your entire heart, God will change your life.”  In a very brief way, it is the message that Jesus is sending out to the disciples and us today.  In an age when we have a tendency to over-commit in many different directions, the one we don’t often have time for or the one that gets pushed aside, is our faith and prayer life and a time for silence.  Although the language of Jesus sounds rather harsh, it is making a point about not fully committing ourselves to this faith process and prayer.

Both Elijah and Elisha are great examples of giving it all, but also the gradualness of the process in our lives.  If we look at the larger context of the reading, Elijah is running from where God is leading him; he doesn’t want to hear it nor do it for that matter, and so he goes in search of his purpose.  He finds himself in a cave before he can begin to hear the voice of God in the silence which leads him to placing the mantle on Elisha as the prophetic voice being raised up.  Elisha goes to the extremes to show his commitment.  He slaughters the oxen and burns the plowing equipment to mark the end of the old way of life and the beginning of where it is God now calls.  

But this commitment of giving God our entire hearts is never an easy one, just like Elijah.  It is often the places we don’t want to go where God is leading us in order to give it all.  For the disciples, and all Jews for that matter, the place they didn’t want to go was the Samaritan villages.  There was a constant battle between the Jews and Samaritans about who held the truth, which led to much fighting and bloodshed, so the Jewish people on their way to Jerusalem would find round-about ways to get there and avoid the villages.  However, like Jesus does for them, it’s where he leads them.  It sometimes comes down to identifying those Samaritan villages within ourselves and the places we try to avoid within ourselves that keeps us from giving God our entire hearts.  God doesn’t want half a heart or 3/4 of a heart, God wants the whole thing and if we can give it, God can change our lives as well.

The summer months is often the best time for us to commit more fully to prayer, faith, and silence in our lives.  Many of our other commitments end for a few weeks and so there is more time readily available.  The challenge for us this week is to be more aware of those times, like the people in the gospel, that we are making excuses from following.  I’ll get to it as soon as I finish…; that’s probably the invitation God is sending and the time we are most receptive to hearing the voice of God in the silence.  Half of heart isn’t enough; 3/4 just doesn’t cut it.  If we want our lives to change, then we must give God our entire hearts.  When we do, we’ll be changed forever.