Monthly Archives: June 2014

Trusting the Lord in High Winds

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A couple of years ago, a friend and I went out on the Potomac River south of Washington, D. C. Our intention was to go down river a few miles to a crab house, but the wind became so strong that we could not dock safely, so we decided to return to the marina. The Potomac widens to about three miles in this area so the wind has room to kick up.  Our boat is a cruiser with a flying bridge and a canvas Bimini on top, so there is sufficient bulk for the wind to impact the steerage of the boat. My friend, Bud, an experienced sailor, estimated the wind at 35 to 40 miles per hour with white caps everywhere.

I recalled the story of when Jesus and the disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee. A furious squall came up with waves breaking over the boat. The disciples woke Jesus who was sleeping, exclaiming that they were going to drown. Jesus gets up “and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm.” (Luke 8:24) The disciples were seized with amazement and fear, asking one another, “Who is this: He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”

I said to Bud, who is a strong Christian brother that we needed to start praying because the wind would hit us broadside as soon as we started to turn into the alleyway of the marina, causing us to crash into the boats adjacent to our slip. We started praying, “Lord Jesus, you calmed the wind and waves on the Sea of Galilee; calm these winds.   The wind did not abate.   I asked Bud to go down to the stern with a boat hook (pole) to try to keep us from hitting the other boats. We both kept praying, “Jesus, calm the wind, Jesus calm the wind!” The wind kept blowing.

As we approached the alleyway, I told Bud, “I need to come in fast to control the boat.” I was so focused on controlling the boat and yelling instructions at Bud, I didn’t notice what was happening. Bud yelled back, “Bill, the wind has stopped!” I proceeded to pivot the boat and backed into the slip without difficulty. As soon as we tied up and secured everything, the wind resumed its fury.

There are many ways we can experience high winds in life – a spouse or child who is critically ill, the loss of a job, a life-threatening illness, a boss who cannot be satisfied, a child who struggles making friends, the backbiting of a competitive work colleague, the birth of a child with a disability, a tax deficiency notice from the IRS — the list is long and varied.

Jesus is available to calm the high winds, whatever form they take. Do you call on Jesus when you encounter the winds of life? Do you have faith that he will come to your aid?

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Do Idols Compete with your Love of God?

In the early years of our marriage, I took up golf and enjoyed the game and the camaraderie of the men with whom I played. I would play every Saturday morning, not getting home until 2 PM plus once during the week after work. There was also the occasional visit to the driving range. At the time, my wife was looking after our two daughters under five with no car since we only had one at the time. I was a young attorney who had to work late some evenings and travel from time to time.

I had made golf an idol that was taking an inordinate amount of time away from the love of my wife, family, and responsibilities that should have taken a higher priority.

A couple of years later, right after the Kansas City Chiefs had won Super Bowl V, we seized the opportunity to get season tickets as the Chiefs were moving from their old stadium into the larger Arrowhead stadium. At first it was exciting, but it grew to become a project every Sunday on which there was a game. It took nearly the whole day, including the time for transportation, traffic, parking, etc. We had to get a baby sitter for our daughters for nearly the whole day. In addition to the time, it was also becoming rather costly.

I had acquired another idol, a professional football team, again to the detriment of my love and responsibilities to the family. There is nothing inherently wrong with golf or being a fan of a professional football team, but when they detract from loving your spouse and family, and expressing your love for God on Sunday, I was in danger of creating and serving idols over more important relationships and responsibilities – God and family.

The people of Israel seemed to suffer from this tendency when the Bible reports in 2 Kings: 17:41, “Even while these people were worshiping the Lord, they were serving their idols.” This eventually led to their exile in 722 BC, by the king of Assyria, after more than two centuries of unfaithfulness to God who had raised them up as a people and nation. Later, a teacher of the law would ask Jesus which was the most important of the commandments. Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:30-31)

Loving God and the people he puts in our lives with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, is a consuming task. It impacts every moment and facet of our lives. In Old Testament times, the idols people worshiped included false gods and their images. Today, our idols include entertainers, professional athletes, public officials, hobbies, careers, material things like cars, homes, jewelry, retirement accounts, etc. None of these are inherently wrong in themselves, but they can become idols if we make them so.

Do you have idols in your life that compete with your love of God and the people he puts in your life?

 

Reversing the Cycle of History

We recently returned from a vacation touring parts of Greece and Turkey. As you view the ruins of ancient Greece and Turkey, you can’t help but marvel at the accomplishments of these ancient civilizations. At the same time, however, they also reflect a never-ending cycle of progress and decline. As historian Will Durant says, all civilizations begin, flourish, decline and disappear.

One of the places we visited was ancient Ephesus, outside of modern Kusadasi, Turkey. Ephesus was the fourth largest city in the Roman Empire, after Rome, Alexandria and Antioch. One of the things that it was most noted for was the Temple of Artemis (Diana), one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World. Today, there is only one pillar standing for what was once a 127 columned temple larger than a football field. Our guide said that one of the causes contributing to the decline of Ephesus was that many of the people who lived there or who came there to visit the temple and worship the goddess Artemis, stopped doing so due to their conversion to Christianity from the preaching of St. Paul.

The Book of Acts reports that Paul preached in Ephesus for more than two years, “so that the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord. God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured.” (Acts 19:10-12) Further proof of Paul’s effectiveness was marked by a near riot which was started by the silversmiths of the city who were losing their livelihood of selling silver images of the goddess, Artemis, because people were turning away from the worship of Artemis as a result of Paul’s preaching. (Acts 19:23-41)

Throughout human history, we see empires and nations rise and then fall, usually conquered through bloody war and conflict. Even some of the Crusades, whose purpose may have been noble in their origins, resorted to the sacking, pillaging, massacre and destruction of anyone or any place that got in their way.

For a brief moment in history, St. Paul changed this pattern in Ephesus. He conquered it without siege or sword, but with the word of God and the example of his life and the lives of his early Christian converts — a worthy model still appropriate for us today.

Are You a Witness to the Resurrected Jesus?

On the day of Pentecost after the disciples experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit, Peter is trying to explain to people who had heard them praising God in various tongues and languages what was happening.  He says, “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.” (Acts 2:32)

The disciples had experienced an outpouring of the Holy Spirit as Jesus had told them in Acts 1:8 “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses…to the ends of the earth.” Four hundred years earlier, the prophet, Joel foretold, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people”young and old, sons and daughters, men and women, even servants and slaves.” (Joel 2:28)

Acts 1:15 indicates that there were 120 present following the ascension of Jesus.  Paul reports in 1 Corinthians 15:6 that Jesus appeared to “more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time.”  All of these were witnesses to Jesus and his resurrection.

God invites all of us to meet the resurrected Jesus in a way that is unique and personal to each of us, and then like Peter and the several hundred disciples who saw Jesus after his resurrection, we are called to witness to the resurrected Jesus in our own life – that we have met him, that he lives in us and that he is real.  Thirty-seven years ago, I met Jesus one October evening during a healing mass, and he took some disorder and sin from my life and offered me a new life if I would accept his healing, forgiveness and love.

I accepted his offer.  For 37 years I have been trying to witness to his resurrection and presence in my life and the life of my family and others.  I don’t always do as good a job as I should, but the reality of his presence is there nevertheless.  I have spoken about him to my family, business colleagues, bosses, subordinates; to people individually, in small groups and large groups; sometimes to strangers.  I have spoken of his love, his forgiveness, his provision, his guidance, his revelation of scripture, his presence in the sacraments and his presence in others.  The greatest challenge is being his witness not in word, but in conduct.  That takes constant prayer, God’s grace and awareness of his presence through the Holy Spirit.

Have you accepted the offer of the resurrected Jesus to live in you, and have you been a witness to this fact?