Author Archives: Bill Dalgetty

Friendship with Jesus

“I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ.” (Phil. 3:8 NIV) 

St. Paul considered his friendship with Jesus the most important thing in his life. It exceeded his ministry, preaching, miracles, prophesies and every aspect of his life. He said Jesus seemed to confirm this priority in his final words to the disciples when he prayed, “Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God and the one whom you have sent, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) The knowledge that Jesus was referring to was not just knowing about God and himself, but knowing the Father and the Son as a person and friend.

Is it possible to have a real friendship with God who we can’t see, or Jesus who died as a human person 2000 years ago?

The disciples and the 500 other people who saw Jesus after his resurrection would likely say yes. (1 Co. 15:6)  Paul, who had been persecuting Christians met Jesus in a vision on his way to Damascus and was given specific instructions about what he was to do next. Paul later describes how he was taken up into heaven to hear indescribable things. Various saints throughout history have had similar experiences.

Many years ago I was at a healing mass in which a priest asked us to engage our imagination to experience Jesus. You may think this sounds phony, but Jesuit author William A. Barry in his book, A Friendship Like No Other, says that a major way in which God communicates with us is through our imagination, memories, insights and thoughts. Whether they are from God is a question of discernment, which is often determined by the fruit of what follows.

At that gathering, I imagined that I met Jesus on a country road, south of Kansas City, Missouri on the way to my wife’s grandmother’s farm. I asked him to take a particular burden from me. He did. And my life has never been the same since. I can describe every detail of that encounter – the gravel road, the farm house nearby, where the mailbox was, and what Jesus looked like and said. It was so real!

For over 40 years I have been meeting with Jesus nearly every morning for coffee. We are friends like my best friend who is my wife; like a few Christian brothers who know me inside and out. The change and fruit in my life following this encounter would indicate that it was authentic, though I am still capable of messing up.

Jesus told the disciples, “I have called you friends because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.” (John 15:15) We have the benefit of scripture to learn about the Father and the Son, and their offer to dwell within us. (John 14:23) We also have our God-created ability to think, imagine and receive insights. This, in combination with the anointing of the Holy Spirit and the sacraments of the church enable us to establish a friendship with the Father and the Son.

Friends share knowledge and experiences. A husband and wife share intimate details about their respective lives. Good friends share joys, sorrows, and the mundane.

Have you sought this kind of friendship with Jesus?

Pride Undermining Success

“But after he had become strong, he became proud to his own destruction and broke faith with the Lord.” (2 Ch. 26:16)

How difficult it is to handle success without pride overtaking us!

Uzziah became king of Judah when he was 16 and reigned in Jerusalem for 52 years. At first he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. He sought God through the prophet, Zechariah. He built up the defenses of Judah, raised a large army that defeated the Philistines and constructed public works. As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success.

But the Bible reports he then presumed to enter the temple to burn incense, a duty reserved to the descendants of Aaron. They challenged him, he became angry and as he was raging at them, leprosy broke out on his forehead, which caused him to be isolated for the rest of his life.

In my 38 year career with a large oil company, I saw a number of good men who experienced success, only to see a pride build up in them that led to overreach in the exercise of their authority and subsequent downfall. I too, struggled at times with pride in how I related to others, and in allowing my position to define who I was.

Even the disciples, James and John, sought the position of sitting at Jesus’ right and left. The others became indignant, but Jesus said, “Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant…For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” (Mk. 10:43, 45) The reason Jesus said it was easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than a rich man into the Kingdom of God is because of the pride that often accompanies wealth and worldly success.

Our daughter, Emily has Down syndrome. I have learned so much about humility and the love of God from her. She does not presume any special position, only to love her family and friends and to experience our love in return.

One of the problems with how we handle success is its definition. The world views success in terms of position, authority, power, and wealth, while God views success in terms of whether we are fulfilling his will for our lives. If our focus is on seeking God’s will, we might be better able to handle success however it is defined.

In my morning prayer I sometimes recite a Litany of Humility given me by a friend.

“O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, deliver me from the desire of being esteemed, loved, extolled, honored, praised, consulted or approved. Deliver me from the fear of being humiliated, despised, forgotten, ridiculed or wronged. Grant me the grace to desire that others might be loved more, esteemed more, chosen, praised, preferred, and become holier than I, provided that I become as holy as I should.”

How do you deal with success and pride in your life?

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Trusting God in High Winds

“He awakened, rebuked the wind and the waves, and they subsided and there was calm.” (Luke 8:24)

We may recall the story 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 rebukes the wind and the raging waters. The disciples were seized with amazement and fear, asking one another, “Who then is this, who commands even the winds and the sea, and they obey him?” (Luke 8:25)

A few 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 said to Bud 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 any 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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Telling People about Jesus

“The first thing Andrew did was look for his brother, Simon and tell him, ‘We have found the Messiah (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus.” (John 1:41 NIV)

Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist. John saw Jesus passing by one day and observed to his disciples that Jesus was the “Lamb of God!” Andrew then followed Jesus and spent the day with him.

After meeting Jesus and spending time with him, Andrew, who was also Peter’s brother, immediately went to Peter to share that he had found the Messiah and wanted to introduce him to Jesus.

When I was in my mid-thirties, I met Jesus in a new and personal way, different from anything I had experienced before in the practice of my Catholic faith. While I have shared the details of this encounter in prior blog posts, let me just say that it had the effect of enhancing my faith in God and the Church. It gave me a desire to pray more on a daily basis, read scripture and experience everything about my spiritual and faith life in a more intense and real way.

Like Andrew, one other thing it did was give me a desire to tell others about my experience of meeting Jesus. I was so excited about my encounter and the effect it had on my life that I wanted to share my experience with family, friends and even co-workers.

I remember writing lengthy letters to my parents and a cousin, who was a nun, explaining in great detail all that happened. I shared my experience with a couple of close work colleagues who seemed to accept what I had to say. One of them retold my story to other work colleagues. Some friends invited me to share my experience at a church prayer meeting. One invitation seemed to lead to another.

For over forty years, I have been responding to opportunities to tell people about Jesus, including this weekly blog. Yes, there have been times when I have missed or failed to act on opportunities. But telling people about Jesus and introducing them to him seems to be the way Jesus started out with Andrew, Peter and the others he called. Andrew introduced Peter to Jesus, and Peter, Andrew and the other disciples, with the help of the Holy Spirit, were Jesus’ “witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

We might ask ourselves, have we sought after Jesus like Andrew, and have we sought to introduce him to others?

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Trusting God like Joseph

“Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” (Mt. 2:20)

Three times God speaks to Joseph through an angel in a dream. The first time was to tell him to take Mary as his wife after he had decided to divorce her quietly because she was pregnant. The second time was to flea to Egypt to escape Herod’s efforts to kill the child Jesus. The third time was to return to Israel when it was safe.

The Bible does not reveal many details, so we don’t know the time periods involved or all of the circumstances. Whatever the time, perhaps years, Joseph’s response to the sequence of events exhibited great trust and confidence in God. He accepts an explanation for Mary’s pregnancy that defies all human experience. Then he takes his wife and new baby to a foreign land in reliance on a warning in a dream.

We see the faithfulness of God to Joseph in his multiple words, signs and the evolving circumstances. The angel’s message about Mary giving birth to a son, who was to be a “Savior” and “The Messiah,” was subsequently confirmed by some unknown shepherds who report that angels told them the same thing. (Luke 2:11)

By the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth recognizes Mary as “the mother of my Lord.” (Luke 1:43) Further confirmation comes through the words of Simeon and Anna during the presentation of Jesus in the Temple. (Luke 2:2-38) Then God directs three kingly men from foreign lands to find Jesus, Mary and Joseph and give them gifts that probably sustained them in their flight to Egypt. (Matthew 2:1-12)

Finally, Joseph receives one more message that it is now safe for them to return to Israel. We see trust and faithfulness in Joseph in his willingness to act on the words he had received and in his submission to the circumstances.

What is our level of trust and confidence in God when he gives us that gentle nudge or whispers in our ear? Do we hear him when he speaks through others? Do we see his faithfulness and desire for us in the circumstances of our lives?

Lord, let me trust in you like Joseph.

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Unlikely Heralds

“When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed at what had been told them by the shepherds.” (Luke 2: 17-18)

God chose shepherds, one of the humblest of occupations, to be the news media to spread the word of Jesus’ birth. They were told by an angel that a Savior, the long awaited Messiah had been born. They were told where they could find him and how they would recognize him — in Bethlehem, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in an animal’s feeding trough.

We can only imagine the reaction of Mary and Joseph to having some shepherds, complete strangers, visit them and share a story that confirmed what they, too, had been told by an angel – that the son born to Mary was the son of God, Savior and Messiah.

The news of a savior of the world being born is of course pretty amazing stuff. The good news the Shepherds first proclaimed 2000 years ago is just as important to the world today as it was then.

A savior has been born! The creator has become one of his created! God has become one of us through the cooperation of an unknown teenage girl in a remote area of the world under the most humbling of circumstances. The anointed one has come and is present to reconcile God and humankind, and humankind with one another. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, this savior offers to dwell in us, to be present to us and enable us to be and bring his presence to the people and circumstances in our lives.

Like the shepherds, we may consider ourselves unlikely heralds that Jesus is still present in the world today. He is present to all who accept his offer to dwell in them. Like the shepherds, we also have the opportunity to spread the word about Jesus in what we have seen, heard, and experienced.

Are we spreading the word about Jesus, like the shepherds who were the very first to give witness of him? Are we spreading the word by how we live that Jesus Christ is present in the world today through us?

All who hear and see his love, peace and joy through us will be “amazed!”  

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An Incarnation Analogy

Do you ever struggle with grasping the full meaning and purpose of God becoming one of us in the person of Jesus Christ?  

For many years radio commentator Paul Harvey shared the following story at Christmas to help us understand.

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The man to whom I’m going to introduce you was not a scrooge; he was a kind, decent, mostly good man; generous to his family, and upright in his dealings with other men. But he just didn’t believe all that incarnation stuff which the churches proclaim at Christmas time. It just didn’t make sense and he was too honest to pretend otherwise. He just couldn’t swallow the Jesus story, about God coming to Earth as a man.

“I’m truly sorry to distress you,” he told his wife, “but I’m not going with you to church this Christmas Eve.” He said he’d feel like a hypocrite. That he’d much rather stay at home, but that he would wait up for them. And so he stayed and they went to the midnight service.

Shortly after the family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window to watch the flurries getting heavier and heavier and went back to his fireside chair and began to read his newspaper. Minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound…then another, and then another. Sort of a thump or a thud…at first he thought someone must be throwing snowballs against his living room window. But when he went to the front door to investigate he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They’d been caught in the storm and, in a desperate search for shelter, had tried to fly through his large landscape window.

Well, he couldn’t let the poor creatures lie there and freeze, so he remembered the barn where his children stabled their pony. That would provide a warm shelter, if he could direct the birds to it. Quickly he put on a coat, galoshes, tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the doors wide and turned on the light, but the birds did not come in. He figured food would entice them.

So he hurried back to the house, fetched bread crumbs, sprinkled them on the snow, making a trail to the yellow-lighted wide open doorway of the stable. But to his dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs, and continued to flap around helplessly in the snow. He tried catching them…he tried shooing them into the barn by walking around them waving his arms…instead, they scattered in every direction, except into the warm lighted barn.

And then he realized that they were afraid of him. To them, he reasoned, I am a strange and terrifying creature. If only I could think of some way to let them know that they can trust me…that I am not trying to hurt them, but to help them. But how? Because any move he made tended to frighten them and confuse them, they just would not follow. They would not be led or shooed because they feared him.

“If only I could be a bird,” he thought to himself, “and mingle with them and speak their language. Then I could tell them not to be afraid. Then I could show them the way to safe, warm…to the safe warm barn. But I would have to be one of them so they could see, and hear and understand.” At that moment the church bells began to ring. The sound reached his ears above the sounds of the wind. And he stood there listening to the bells, listening, listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas. And he sank to his knees in the snow.

Merry Christmas!

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