Author Archives: Bill Dalgetty

We All Want Purpose

“My food is to do the will of him who sent me and finish his work.” (John 4:34)

Jesus’ disciples were urging him to eat some food, and Jesus responds that his food was to do God’s will.  From his words and actions we know that God’s will for him was to save us from our sins, to show us “the way and the truth and the life,” and to defeat death by his death and resurrection.

I have never met anyone who didn’t want to have purpose and meaning in their lives.  Rick Warren has sold over 35 million copies of his book, Purpose Driven Life, indicating a fairly high level of interest in the subject.   

As Christians, the Church teaches us that we are called to come to know God, to love him and to serve him and others in this life, so that we can be with him now and into eternity.  How this plays out in real life varies with each individual, for God creates each one of us with unique characteristics, skills and purpose. 

For me, I came to know God through the Christian heritage of my parents, as well as through a personal encounter with Jesus Christ many years ago.  Early in my adult life my primary purpose was to love and support my wife and children and advance in my career as an attorney as far as possible.  I didn’t give much thought to whether those two objectives were God’s will for me.   

My wife and I practiced our Catholic faith by going to church every Sunday, raising our children with Christian values and getting involved in a few church activities.  It wasn’t until we experienced a renewal of our faith through the power of the Holy Spirit in our mid-30’s that I began to look at the purpose for my life through the lens of God’s will for me. 

Through that renewal experience, God enlarged my perspective of purpose.  Loving and serving my family, and serving my employer and others well were part of his desire for me.  I also came to understand that God wants us to be good stewards of the talents, time, possessions, responsibilities and people he entrusts to our care.  Just as he commanded Peter at the end of John’s Gospel to feed and take care of his sheep, he commands us to love and take care of the people and other responsibilities he puts in our lives. 

He also places us in the garden of his creation “to work and take care of it.” (Genesis 2:15)  Our work is important to God.  His plan is for us to be good stewards of his creation and the advancement of civilization that results from our work.  Like a cloth made up of a multitude of threads weaved finely together, each one’s individual work contributes to the civilization that has evolved from God’s creation.

What purpose has God revealed to you in terms of your unique characteristics and gifts?

A More Innocent Time

“You have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.” (Psalm 61:4 NIV)

Heritage and history are important to all of us.  They impact how we were raised as children and how we carry what we experienced into our adult lives.  If we marry and have a family it affects how we raise our own children, often repeating what we experienced with our parents or adjusting accordingly.

I am reminded of my 60th high school class reunion in Mason City, Iowa, which I attended a few years ago. Mason City is a town of about 30,000 in northern Iowa, known mostly for Meredith Wilson’s birthplace and being the model for River City in his musical, Music Man.

Out of a class of 340, one hundred ten of us showed up from California to Virginia and Texas to Idaho.   We came to catch up with old friends, become reacquainted with others we didn’t know so well and relive memories from long ago.

What was noteworthy was that everyone had a genuine interest in one another.  There were no agendas.  There was no competition in sharing about family or what was going on in people’s lives.  People shared more about family than careers or past accomplishments.  There was no discussion involving politics, the public arena or world affairs.

We reminisced about a more innocent time when as children we could walk several blocks to our elementary schools without our parents and concerns for safety.  We could ride our bikes to any part of town at any time of day or night without worry of being mugged or molested. 

We still said the pledge of allegiance in our schools “as one nation under God,” and we sang Christmas carols at school Christmas concerts.   God was not banned from the public square and the Christmas crèche still appeared in the town’s Central Park.

We said grace at the reunion’s dinner, and remembered the 95 members of our class who had passed in a beautiful slide show.  We parted with lots of hugs and well wishes, realizing that for those of us who came from quite a distance, it might be the last time we would see one another. 

In reflecting on the weekend, what struck me was that everyone present had worked hard all their lives at whatever their occupation was, raised and loved their families to the third, and even the fourth generation in some cases.  Whatever their religious faith or background, they evidenced a belief in God.  They experienced the challenges and blessings of life, but were still motivated to do the right thing.

How can we bring our heritage to bear on our current lives? 

Erroneous Assumptions

“Don’t be afraid, just have faith.” (Mark 5:36)

These were the words of Jesus to Jairus, a synagogue ruler whose twelve-year-old daughter was dying.  Jairus had come to Jesus pleading for him to come and lay hands on his daughter and heal her.  Shortly thereafter, Jairus’ friends came to say, “Your daughter is dead.  Why bother the teacher anymore?” 

Jesus ignored the friends and went with Jairus to his house, and found people crying and wailing loudly.  He said, “Why all this commotion and weeping?  The child is not dead but asleep.”  But they laughed at him.  He put everyone out of the house, except for Jairus, his wife, Peter, James and John.  He went to where the daughter was, took her hand, and said, “Little girl, I say to you arise!” Immediately the daughter stood up and everyone was completely astonished. (Mark 5:39, 41)

Like the friends of Jairus, we too, may sell God short and assume that he can’t do something or won’t act in response to our prayers.  Therefore, we forgo praying for a loved one with a serious or terminal illness; we observe the actions of a friend and presume that our prayers for conversion will have no effect; we refrain from praying that God will change the heart of an adversary; or we neglect to ask God to give us the right words to diffuse a controversy.

A Christian friend, who specializes in physical therapy at rehabilitation center in Phoenix, tells the following story of a co-worker.  The co-worker had to have an MRI every two years in connection with brain tumor surgery she had a few years earlierIt is always a time of anxiety for her because there was a piece of the tumor that could not be reached in the surgery and continues to be seen on the MRI.  She always fears that a new MRI may show the tumor growing.

When the time came for the co-worker to have another MRI, my friend asked a small group of women that she meets with every week to pray in the name of Jesus that the tumor would be gone.  It just so happened that that my friend got to see her co-worker just before she left for her appointment.  “I kept asking the Lord if he really wanted me to share our prayer with her.  I didn’t want to hurt her with an incorrect word.  Well, there she was, telling me it was time for her appointment and looking very nervous.  I shared with her that our group had prayed that the MRI would show that the tumor was no longer there.  Then I placed my hand on her forehead and blessed her. She gave me a hug and went out the door.

“The next time we saw each other, I was walking down the hallway past her office when she yelled, ‘The tumor is gone!’”

My friend concludes, “This experience has also impacted me.  I am much more alert to whether the Lord wants me to reach out to others and be available to talk with them and to pray with them if the need arises.” 

How often do we sell God short by not praying for him to act? 

Light Piercing Darkness

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” (Matthew 25:35-36)

This scripture reminds me of the people who rescued my brother, Jay, and his wife, Sharon, during the floods in Houston in 2017.  For more than a week we saw pictures of flat bottom boats rescuing people stranded in their homes by the rising waters of Hurricane Harvey.  What made this particularly challenging was that my brother was bound to a wheel chair with a medical pack continuously delivering medication to his heart, further complicated by a broken hip. 

Through a remarkable set of circumstances it appears that God’s protective arm was always close at hand.  Fortunately, my brother’s daughter was at their house as the waters started to rise.  She just happened to look out the front door and saw a man in a boat proceeding down their street.  She hailed him down and said she needed help in evacuating her parents.  She explained that my brother could not get out of his wheel chair, and somehow had to be lifted into the boat, wheel chair and all. 

She was told not to worry, that he would go get help.  He returned with three other men who lifted my brother and his wheel chair into the boat.  They then walked the boat through a swift current to higher ground quite some distance away. 

God’s provision did not end with the rescue.  Friends from their church took them in and gave up their first floor master bedroom.  During the flood, water reached five feet in their first floor destroying nearly all furniture, appliances, personal possessions, and their car.  The furniture and other items tumbled from room to room.  Almost nothing was found in the room in which it had been placed.  As the workmen were cleaning up, someone brought a large bucket with the label, “The Blessing Bucket from God’s Pit Crew” with the following message, “We pray that the contents will bless you.”  Among the contents was a new NIV Bible, the very kind that Sharon lost in the flood.

Sharon had a couple of electronic candles on the book shelves beside the fire place that could be turned on by a remote control.  As the workmen were cleaning up, the candles came on and started to flicker.  The remote was nowhere to be found.  No one knows how they came on.  Sharon thought the candles were letting the workmen know that in spite of all that had happened the light of Christ was still present.  The number of volunteers and circumstances would seem to confirm Christ’s presence.

How have you brought the light of Christ to others?

Seeing God’s Face

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see the face of God.” (Mt. 5:8) 

What does it mean to be pure in heart?  Is it to be holy as God is holy, to seek to do what is right and be righteous?  Is it to seek the truth in all things?  Is to strive not to sin, though the Bible says we are all sinners?  Is it to be like Jesus?

Thomas A Kempis in his book, The Imitation of Christ, offers over 250 pages of counsel and meditations on growing in the presence and likeness of Christ. 

St. Gregory of Nyssa said, “When the mist of sin no longer clouds the eye of your soul, you see the blessed vision clearly in the peace and purity of your own heart.”  Jesus seems to confirm this when he says, “The kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21)  When Phillip asked Jesus to show the disciples the Father, Jesus said, “Don’t you know me, Phillip, even after I have been among you such a long time?  Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”

The psalmist says, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit with me.” (Psalm 51:10)

Mother Theresa said she saw the face of Jesus in the poor and dying which she served in Calcutta. 

Over the last few years I have had the privilege of serving on the Board of Porto Charities, an organization that raises funds to support children with intellectual and developmental disabilities through the establishment of special education programs in the Catholic schools of the Diocese of Arlington.  Among the characteristics common to these children are joy, simplicity, and purity of heart.  Whenever I look at their big beautiful smiles, I see the face of God.

In many of these programs, the schools invite students from the general student body to serve as peer mentors to the students with disabilities.  Many of these peer mentors speak of the blessings that flow from their association with the students with special needsIt seems that their joy and purity of heart have inspired several peer mentors to take up careers in special education.   

How can each of us seek greater purity of heart?

Christian Friendship

“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business.  Instead, I have called you friends, for everything I have learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15) 

Jesus is sharing his last words with the disciples after washing their feet and instituting the Eucharist at the Last Supper.   After having been their teacher for three years, he says that he has taught them everything that God has taught him, so he no longer calls them students or servants, but friends.  He says as the Father has loved him so does he love them and instructs them to love one another in the same way.  He then sets a very high standard for true friendship and love when he says, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

For the past forty years I have experienced the blessing of close Christian friendship with a group of men, some of whom are in the adjacent picture.  We usually get together one evening a week to share what’s going on in our lives, pray with one another for various needs and enjoy each other’s company.   

Sometimes we study and reflect on a particular scripture, review a spiritual related book or discuss what’s going on in the Church and the world.  Over the years, we have assisted each other with various house or yard projects.  When one of us is sick or hospitalized, we visit and pray with him.  A few years ago we were at one of the brother’s bedside, reading his favorite Bible verses and singing his favorite hymns as he passed from this life to the next.  What a blessing and privilege it was!

We celebrate birthdays and special anniversaries, and socialize with each other’s families.  One of the brothers and his wife have had birthday dinners for our daughter with special needs and her friends.      

Catholic theologian and author Scott Hahn observes that while we may be the most connected society ever from an electronic standpoint, we are the most unconnected when it comes to genuine friendships. 

It is no small thing for Jesus to offer us his friendship and dwell in us through the Holy Spirit.  It is an added bonus when we come to know others who share in this common experience.  The result: beautiful, committed friendships in Christ – part of God’s desire and plan for all of us.

Have you considered seeking out a small group of Christian brothers or sisters to share life and your common experience of friendship with Jesus?

“Love, Not Judgment”

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged.” (Mt.7:1-2) 

Frightening!  Jesus  goes on to ask why we look for the speck in another’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in our own.  He says, “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Mt. 7:5)

After receiving communion on Easter Sunday a few years ago, the words, “Love, not judgement,” came into my mind.  I was thanking God for his suffering, death and resurrection for us, and the blessings that my family and I have experienced as a result. 

In reflecting on these words at the time, I was quite aware that I have struggled with the sin of being judgmental for most of my life.  How often have I been quick to analyze someone’s circumstance without knowing all the facts and coming to a judgment? 

Upon further reflection, I asked myself and the Lord what I should do to counter this tendency.   “When you see a person, whether a stranger, acquaintance, close family or friend, your first thought should be, ‘how can I love this person.’”  Perhaps there is a need for encouragement and affirmation.  Sometimes there may be a need for prayer; perhaps, just a need to listen.  Being judgmental derives from the sin of pride, of which I have an ample supply. 

In my work as an attorney for an oil company one of my early assignments included representing our marketing department and the various managers of that department for a particular region of the country.  I was told to watch out for a certain District Manager who had a reputation for ignoring some of the legal requirements of our business and was generally very difficult to deal with.

I was subsequently invited to attend a marketing managers’ meeting where I sought out this manager and spent some time with him.  We played some tennis during an afternoon break and I got to hear about how he viewed the challenges of his job, about his family and interests in life.  It appeared to me he didn’t deserve the reputation that was following him.  I never had any problems with this manager, nor did we ever have any legal problems coming out of the sales district he oversaw.  Fortunately, I withheld judgment, as the need for critical judgment was not apparent.

The obvious lesson from this incident is not to make a judgment until you know the facts.  But an even better approach when we encounter people is to ask ourselves:

How can I love this person here and now?

Body and Soul

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. (Mt. 10:28)

Matthew is describing how Jesus sent out the twelve disciples. Jesus is offering them guidance in the event they encounter persecution.  He is clearly making a distinction between body and soul, and implying that the soul can live on even if the body is killed.

Being raised in a Christian family, I was aware of the idea of a body and a soul and the two being distinct since I was a child.  It wasn’t until many years later when a secretary with whom I worked died of colon cancer that I began to really understand the distinction.

Her name was Rita.  She was not only a highly competent secretary, but a lovely, gracious person.  She was always kind and fair with the other secretaries she supervised.  She had a joyful and peaceful spirit.  Everyone loved her.  I watched her decline through two surgeries and multiple regimens of chemo therapy.  On my last visit with her before she died, I was shocked by her physical condition – how she went from a vibrant women in her mid-40’s, so full of life, to a near skeleton of a person ravaged by cancer and chemo therapy. 

That evening I was thinking about her condition, and I believe God gave me a special understanding of the nature of our being and the distinction between body and soul.  Most of the characteristics that determine who a person is are not related to their physical nature.  Whether a person is kind, loving, truthful, and gracious comes not from a person’s physical presence, but from their inner being, their soul, and what we often describe as their heart. 

Cancer can kill our physical nature, but it can’t kill the inner person or the soul that lives on.  The soul is eternal just as the Bible says.  The next day I wrote Rita a letter sharing these same thoughts, which her family read to her.  I was told that a knowing smile came across her face.  She died the next day. 

I believe that I experienced a moment of God’s special grace after my last visit with Rita.  He shared a bit of his truth about life for both my benefit and Rita’s.  It was a moment I will always remember, and one that has re-enforced my Christian faith and changed my outlook on life. 

What makes you primarily who you are?

Listening to Jesus

“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him!” (Mt. 17:1-9)

A few years ago, a close friend experienced a massive brain hemorrhage and was taken to the hospital.  A brain scan indicated that he would not survive.  I went to the hospital in the morning and then again in the afternoon to support him, his wife and family.

While the prognosis was fairly certain, the timing was not.  After spending most of the day at the hospital, I decided to go home for dinner.  After dinner, I was tired and my first inclination was not to return to the hospital, but then the question started coming into my mind, “What if he dies tonight?”  The question started to nag at me.  It wouldn’t go away.  Then it dawned on me to ask, “Is that you Lord?  Do you want me to go back to the hospital?”  I grabbed my Bible and headed out the door.

When I arrived in his room, there were now more friends beside the family.  We gathered around my friend’s bed and began to pray, read psalms and other passages from the Bible.  We sang hymns that were familiar to him and his family.  Our mood went from being somber to a realization that we were assisting our good friend in his passage from this life to the next.  We began praising God for his life, and what he meant to his family and the rest of us

The monitor started to show an irregular heartbeat, and the intervals between breaths were growing longer.  After a few minutes the line on the monitor went flat.  My friend had passed on to the embrace of God. 

I believe that nagging question I heard after dinner, “What if he dies tonight?” was from Jesus and his Holy Spirit, leading me back to the hospital.  What a privilege and blessing it was for me to be physically present as his soul and spirit left his body to be with God!

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke all report on an event known as the transfiguration of Jesus.  In it, Jesus takes Peter, James and John up to a mountain where Jesus’ face and clothes begin to shine like the sun.  Moses and Elijah appear and begin talking with Jesus.  A cloud covers them and a voice from the cloud makes the opening statement above. 

What a remarkable occurrence!  God is speaking audibly and directly to the three disciples, confirming that Jesus is his son and that the disciples should listen to him. 

We are blessed to have four different gospel writers handing down a treasure trove of Jesus’ words, teachings, and actions.  One way for us to listen to Jesus is to read what he has to say, digest the meaning of his parables and observe his actions for the example they give us.  But Jesus and his Holy Spirit can also speak to us in our thoughts.

I believe that Jesus wanted me to be with my friend and his family when he died.  If I had not listened to him, I would have missed both the opportunity and the privilege. 

Have there been times when Jesus has put a thought in your mind about something he wanted you to do?

Our “Yes” to the Kingdom of God

When considering kingdoms, we tend to think of nations, countries or groups of people in a collective sense.  Yet, when the Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of God would come, he replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20-21) 

The kingdom of God is not visible in the same way a worldly kingdom is with a king and his subjects located in a defined geographic area.  The kingdom of God is also different in that membership is not determined by residence or citizenship, but by individual choice.  The Individual chooses whether he or she wants to be a part of God’s kingdom.  God gives individuals complete freedom to choose or reject his kingdom.

Jesus had a lot to say about the kingdom of God and used the parables to explain what the kingdom is like.  He tells us the kingdom has great value, like a fine pearl or treasure, and we should be willing to give everything we have to attain it.  He says it can grow from the tiniest desire similar to a mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds, into the largest of plants.  It can coexist with and overcome evil like good seed planted in a field where weeds may also spring up.  God’s kingdom, whether one individual or a few, can impact the world around it like a small amount of yeast impacts a large amount of dough.(Mt. 13:1-36)

Jesus tells Nicodemus that no one can see or enter the kingdom of God unless he is born again of water and spirit.  A spiritual rebirth is necessary. 

So, the kingdom of God is wherever there are individuals who accept God’s offer to dwell in them through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.  The Church, the successor to Jesus and the apostles, facilitates the growth of the kingdom of God through the sacraments and its many forms of outreach.    

Yet, the kingdom of God starts with individuals making a decision to accept God’s offer to dwell within them one person at a time.

Forty-five years ago, in response to a priest’s prayer at a healing mass, I turned over the sin in my life to Jesus Christ.  I met him in as real and personal a way as I can possibly describe.  When I started to wonder whether this really happened, another priest in praying over me later that evening confirmed it was true.   Over time I have tried to make Jesus the center of my life.  I am still capable of messing up, but I will never forget his immediate and loving willingness to take my sin.  

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.”  (Rev. 3:20)

Do you experience the Kingdom of God?