Author Archives: stevedalgetty1

What Do We Really Need

If Jesus asked you what you wanted him to do for you, what would you say?

That happened to Bartimaeus, a blind man sitting beside the road outside of Jericho, as Jesus and his disciples were leaving the city. When Bartimaeus heard that it was Jesus passing by, he started yelling, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” Those nearby rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the louder, “Son of David have mercy on me.”

Mark reports that in spite of the large crowd and the efforts to suppress Bartimaeus’ shouts, Jesus stopped. He was willing to let his journey be interrupted by this man. Though he could see that Bartimaeus was blind, he did not presume to act on his need. Instead, he asked, “What do you want me to do for you?”

What an opportunity for Bartimaeus! He knew his need – “Rabbi, I want to see.” Jesus granted his request. “Go, your faith has healed you,” and immediately Bartimaeus received his sight and followed Jesus. (Mark 10:46-52)

If you were able to meet Jesus face to face, how would you respond to Jesus’ question, “What do you want me to do for you?”

Sometimes we don’t know what our true need is. Even though Jesus may know, he may want to give us the opportunity to decide what to ask, for what we ask reveals where our heart is. James suggests in his letter that when we don’t receive what we ask for, we may be asking with the wrong motives. (James 4:3) Our physical needs are always more obvious, but sometimes we need other things such as eliminating a particular sin in our lives or offering and receiving forgiveness. Sometimes we ask for the wrong things, like James and John asking to sit at Jesus’ right and left hand when he came into his glory.

Many years ago, a priest suggested that I imagine that I was alone with Jesus and give to him any need I had. For whatever reason, I found myself alone with Jesus on a country road on the way to my wife’s grandmother’s farm. I asked him to take the disorder and sin then present in my life. Like Bartimaeus, he did so immediately and completely. It was a watershed moment renewing and empowering my faith.

Solomon asked for wisdom instead of riches and God gave him both. I have never asked God for money or position, but he has more than provided for the needs of our family. I have had countless requests for my wife, children and grandchildren, and most of those requests have been answered. God loves to give us the gifts of the spirit described in Isaiah 11:2-3 and 1 Corinthians 12:7-11, and the fruits of the spirit described in Galatians 5: 22-23.

What do you want him to do for you?

Peter Wept

No doubt we have all regretted something we have done or said.  It may be an emotional response lashing out in anger in reaction to a word or action.  It may involve giving into a temptation or weakness.  It may be a careless word offered without much thought.  It may be an action lacking courage taken out of fear.  It may be a misleading statement to gain an advantage motivated by greed or competitive drive.

We are all familiar with Peter’s denial of Jesus following his arrest – a denial which took place only hours after Peter had proclaimed that he was ready to go with Jesus to prison or death.  When Peter realized his failing with the crowing of the rooster, “he went outside and wept bitterly.” Luke 22:62

Peter’s failings included pride in his proclamation, fear of being associated with Jesus after his arrest and deceit in his response.  It is ironic that Jesus chose a symbol of pride, a crowing rooster, to humble Peter and make him fully aware of the extent of his failure.

The positive thing about regret is that it is the first step toward repentance.   In weeping bitterly, Peter reveals a repentant heart, which leads to God’s forgiveness.  Some commentators suggest that Jesus’ forgiveness took effect immediately upon Peter’s act of sorrow.  Scripture tells us that Jesus did appear to Peter after his resurrection. (Luke 24:34)  I am sure Peter sought and received Jesus’ forgiveness.

In fact, seeking forgiveness is one of the best antidotes for regret while also helping overcome the hurt and anger in the people often affected by our wrongdoing.

Over the course of my life, I have experienced both actions and words that I deeply regret.  I was recently reminded of one incident in which I didn’t even realize my failing until years later.  It involved an invitation from my father’s boss to a dinner to honor of my father’s retirement from the H. J. Heinz Company after 40 years of service.  I had just taken a new assignment with the company I worked for in New York.  The dinner was in Iowa.  I thought I was too busy in my new job to travel to Iowa to be with my Father while he received this honor.  To use today’s language, I was “clueless” about the Fifth Commandment’s call to honor your father and your mother, to say nothing of the obsessive self-focus that dominated my life at that time.  Like Peter, I bitterly regret and weep over my failing.

While a word once spoken or an action taken cannot generally be taken back, we can take solace in David’s psalm: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” Psalm 51:10-12

Connecting God and Work

How much do we connect our work with God?  In a recent seminar I attended on the subject of living out our faith in all aspects of life, including work, most of the people in my small group discussion of 12 said that they never thought of their work as having anything to do with God or their faith.

Our increasingly secular culture would like to keep God and faith confined to Sundays and inside church buildings.  But that has never been God’s plan. He created us in his image and likeness and put us in the garden of creation to work and take care of it.   St. Francis de Sales said it is error to banish the devout life from work.  The Second Vatican Council said, “This split between the faith which many profess and their daily lives deserves to be counted as one of the more serious errors of our age.”  In commenting on this condition, St. John Paul II said, “A faith that does not affect a person’s culture is a faith not fully embraced, not entirely thought out, not faithfully lived.”

I always remember the response by a legal secretary in our company when she was being counseled about her poor performance in serving the attorneys assigned to her. “I don’t serve anyone but God,” she indignantly declared as she angrily reacted to her job being described as “serving” her assigned attorneys. She was obviously confused about what serving God entailed — that we serve God when we faithfully serve the people and responsibilities in our work.

As Christians who have accepted God’s offer to dwell in us, we serve God and take care of his creation when we bring his presence into our work, seeking to bring his love, truth and excellence to our jobs and the people and circumstances of our workplaces.

James Hunter, in his book, To Change the World, says that the “great commission” has long been interpreted geographically in terms of sending missionaries to faraway places.  But the great commission can also be interpreted in terms of the church going into all realms of social structure, including skilled and unskilled labor, the crafts, engineering, commerce, art, law, architecture, teaching, health care, volunteer service, family life, etc.  He says, “When the church does not send people out to these realms and when it does not provide the theologies that make sense of work and engagement, the church fails to fulfill the charge to “go into all the world.”

We serve God and take care of his creation when we do our jobs to the best of our ability no matter how significant or insignificant we may view them.  We are acting in God’s plan for us when we bring his presence, truth, love and excellence into the performance of our jobs.  You can read 50 real life stories about how this happens in Hope for the Workplace—Christ in You.

Passing on the Good News

Are we passing on the Good News to the next generation, particularly our children and grandchildren? Psalm 71:18 says, “Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.”

As parents, we have a profound duty both to instruct and to witness to the reality of God, his plan for creation, his son, Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit so that the next generation might know God, experience his presence and understand his purpose for their lives.

In today’s world, many parents may no longer be experiencing God’s presence in their own lives, so it may be difficult for them to pass on much to their children. Even if parents believe in God and are practicing Christians, they often leave this instruction up to the church in the form of Catholic schools, CCD and Sunday school. While the church does indeed have a role, parents still have the primary responsibility.

I know of many Christian families who do indeed fulfill this responsibility in a variety of ways — reading stories from a Children’s Bible; praying together at meals, the beginning of the day or at bedtime; establishing family traditions during Christmas and Easter, and otherwise nurturing faith and knowledge of God. Just as important is the personal example parents can provide to their children. While I never made a show of it, I never hesitated in letting my children see me in my personal prayer time as they came down stairs before breakfast. More important was for them to see my wife and me treat each other with love and respect, acknowledge our mistakes, seek forgiveness when we messed up, and let our actions generally reflect love, truth and service. While we didn’t always fulfill these objectives, we tried.

Today, our children are adults with families and children of their own. We are blessed to see how they are passing on their love of the Lord and the importance they place on his presence in their lives. As grandparents, we now have the opportunity to let our words and conduct be a subtle witness to our grandchildren – even yielding to their favorite form of communication, texting.

In a culture and time when traditional Christian values seem under attack on so many fronts, what better gift can we provide than to let the next generation see through our lives that God is real, that we can have a personal relationship with him, and that the Holy Spirit empowers us to bring his presence to the people and circumstances of our lives — all for the purpose of bringing about his kingdom and will “on earth as it is in heaven.”

Do We Trust God Like Joseph?

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.  “Get up, and take the child and his mother to Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are now dead.” Matthew 2:20

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.

He Came for All People

Do you believe that Jesus came for all the people you encounter daily in your lives? The angel told the shepherds, “I bring you good news and great joy that will be for all people.” (Luke 2:10)

The “good news” was not just for the shepherds or just the Jewish people, but for all people. All people included the unbelieving and pagan world of the Roman and Greek cultures at the time. It included people who later became Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu. It includes the atheists of our day. Whether they know it or not, Jesus is everyone’s savior.

For us, “everyone” includes the check-out clerk in the grocery store, the telephone solicitor who we hang up on, the person at work who is difficult to get along with, the person asking for money outside the metro station, the person who talks during church services or the children who can’t sit still. “Everyone” includes those who think different politically than we do and even those who wish to do us harm.

Lord, when I see people you put in my life, let me look upon them with the understanding that you came for them just as you came for me. It doesn’t matter who they are, what their religion, race, position or financial status is. Your offer of salvation and new life is available to them. Let me use the opportunity to introduce them to you first through my conduct and second by my word, as you give me the opportunity. John’s Gospel tells us that all who accept you, Lord Jesus, and believe on your name will become sons of God. (John 1:12)

As we move to the end of the Christmas season and begin a new year, we might pause to consider this message of the angel that could easily be overlooked.

Unlikely Heralds

Are we spreading the word about Jesus, like the shepherds who were the very first to give witness of him? They were told by an angel that a Savior, the long awaited Messiah was born. They were told where they could find him and how they would recognize him — in Bethlehem, wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in an animal’s feeding trough.

God chose shepherds, one of the humblest of occupations at the time, to be the news media of the day to spread the word about God becoming one of us through the cooperation of an unknown teenage girl in a remote area of the world in the most humbling of circumstances.

“When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” (Luke 2: 17-18)

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! An 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 by our witness and how we live that Jesus Christ is present in the world today through us? It is part of God’s plan for us. All who hear and see his love, peace and joy through us will be “amazed!”  

Why We Celebrate Christmas

After hearing the Christmas story over and over, year after year, we might be tempted to take it for granted. Yet if we think about it, God’s willingness to become one of us is the greatest act of humility and love in all of human history. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” John 1:14

Here we have God, the Father, creator of all that exists, creator of the millions of galaxies and the billions of stars whose distance is measured in light years; this God who created the atom and the molecule whose size is measured in nanometers – that’s one billionth of a meter; this God who created the human being with a body, soul, spirit and mind, became one of his created in order to free each of us from our sins and the world from its bondage to sin – to reconcile us to him and one another.

Father William Barry, in his book, A Friendship Like No Other, says, “God took humanity seriously enough to become one of us, and we do God no service if we downplay what God has done in becoming human.”

God in Jesus was a real human being, born of Mary in the humblest of circumstances in a cave or stable with animals nearby. He had to be toilet trained, learn a language, be raised by real parents, work out his vocation and discern the will of God just as we do.   His family was forced into exile to Egypt to escape the sword of Herod. After assuming his public ministry, the leaders of his own religion handed him over to the Romans to die a horrible death. God is no stranger to suffering. God in Jesus knows what human life is like from the inside. His desire for friendship and to dwell with us and in us knows no bounds.

A cobbler does not become a shoe, a cabinet maker does not become a cabinet, but God the Father and creator of all that exists became one of us. Little wonder that history’s calendar is measured in terms of before and after this event.

Let us celebrate the birth of Jesus for what it is – the greatest act of humility and love in all of history.

No Room in the Inn for Jesus

How ironic! Jesus experienced rejection even before he was born. “She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7) There was no room for Jesus in the inn, so Mary and Joseph had to settle for a cave that was used as a stable for animals.

While these circumstances may have served God’s purpose in taking on our humanity in the humblest of settings, you have to wonder what the innkeeper might have done had he known who Mary and Joseph were and what was about to happen.

We should not be too harsh in judging the innkeeper, for how often have we failed to make room for Jesus in our lives? There have been times in my life when I made more room for my career than I did for Jesus. There have been other times, when, like the innkeeper, I did not recognize Jesus in a colleague looking for someone to talk to or the street person looking for help on the streets of New York.

The good news is that God never ceases to give us opportunities to make room for him through his son, Jesus. He is always inviting us to open the door of our hearts so he can reproduce himself in us through the power of the Holy Spirit. He is always inviting us to love, to forgive, to serve — to build his Kingdom on this earth in the daily circumstances of our lives.

As we celebrate the day when the God of all creation became one of us at a specific time and place in order to change our lives and the course of history, let us renew our yes to him, our yes to Jesus and our yes to the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Am I making room for Jesus today in how I relate to my spouse, my children, my colleagues at work and the stranger for whom there is no room in the inn?

Freedom to Choose – God’s Gift

Do we appreciate the gift of freedom that God has given us?

When the angel Gabriel visited Mary, we see that God did not force himself or his will on her, the person he desired to be the mother of his son. We may tend to take her decision for granted, but it was not automatic. However holy and righteous Mary may have been, it was still within her power to decline the role God desired for her. He gave her freedom to reject his invitation, but she chose to say yes. “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38)

How precious is the gift of freedom which God gives to each of us! He preserves it even in the midst of his most important act after creation – his incarnation – the intention to become one of his created in order to overcome evil and save the world from its pattern of acting outside his desire and plan.

We honor and revere Mary for her decision of faithfulness and obedience to God’s desire. As we read Luke, we may tend to gloss over all of the real and practical complications, second guessing, and judgments Mary must have endured in saying yes to God’s messenger. Even Joseph intended to divorce her until God spoke to him in a dream.

Without this freedom to choose, love, faithfulness and obedience have no meaning. They cannot be tested. Their integrity is suspect. A coerced love is no love at all. Freedom is a precondition to love. It’s the way God set things up, and Mary illustrates it perfectly in agreeing to be part of something that had never happened before in human history. Even Jesus had the freedom to choose in the agony of the garden. He prayed that the cup of sacrifice, torture and death he was facing be taken from him, but then he submitted, “Yet not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)

Like Mary and Jesus, God has given us the freedom to make choices. Several years ago I was offered a promotion in my work that would have required our family to move. Everything in my work experience was calling out to me to accept this apparent advance in my career, but my wife and I discerned that it was not God’s will for us. We will never know what might have happened had I accepted the new position, but we do know what has happened – an apparent initial sacrifice was transformed into a cup overflowing with a multitude of blessings over many years for our Christian family of five children that has now evolved into four additional Christian families and thirteen grandchildren.

How will we use this freedom God gives us? Will it reflect love and faithfulness to God and the people he puts in our lives along with the blessings that follow, or will it reflect the epitaph that “I did it my way” and the “success” that follows in the eyes of the world?