Merry Christmas to you and yours;
May you experience genuine peace … despite your circumstances … this Christmas and all through the new year as you begin to truly realize God’s amazing love shown through his son, Jesus.
John Muir exclaimed, “As long as I live, I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can.”
I recently enjoyed hiking in the Silver Falls State Park in my home state of Oregon.
To be the first human on the trail in the early morning … approaching a waterfall … the sound of it crescendos as you draw nearer, causing an uncertain yet knowing anticipation … a reward difficult to express, … but certain praise to the Creator … for a beauty so serene that melts “self” and it’s concerns away. Time with my Creator is always well spent.
The “Winter Falls” is a 134 foot waterfall that relies on winter runoff and is its best in winter, spring, and early summer.
“I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” (John Muir, 1938) ….. I wonder if John Muir was acquainted with Saint Francis. Happy Trails!
After Jesus identifies Judas as the betrayer and sends him out he addresses his disciples:
“Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son himself, and will glorify him at once. My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.”
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (Jn. 13: 31-35)
This is painting I noticed walking through the Vatican Museum last year while “Chasing Francis of Assisi”. It caught my attention because I thought Pedro Cano was able to create the heart felt emotion of a loving embrace between two men, Pope Paul II and Cardinal Wyszynski.
I came from a family that never hugged or outwardly showed loving affection. But with time well spent around my wife’s family and in our “Christian family” circle I have come to truly appreciate a hug. We all need to be valued and accepted as we are. And I believe that we as individuals are beginning to love one another … no matter what church we are attending … nondenominational, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Catholic, Franciscan ….
But what about our various church denominations and their leadership? Are our churches really exhibiting the love of Christ? Does the “world” know the collective “body of Christ” by the love we have for one another? Are we working together in our communities to help the poor, feed the hungry, and house our homeless?? Could we not accomplish so much more for Jesus by working together?
Jesus is alive! “Peace be with you.”
Let us break bread together.
And love one another. “The most excellent way.”
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (I Cor. 13)
“Do this in remembrance of me.”
“This, this is the God we adore,
Our faithful, unchangeable friend,
Whose love is as great as his power,
And neither knows measure nor end.” Joseph Hart (1712-1768)
How can we understand such a deep, infinite, compelling, and transforming love? I can not but only begin to comprehend it in the very same love He has lavished on me through my family and friends. Thank you for your Living Word … may my will be washed in submission … yielding and rejoicing in Heaven’s best for the sake of others and for the glory of your name. Amen
Have a blessed Easter.
Best laid plans …
My original intent was to post a photo everyday while in Assisi and Rome. However that was not meant to be. Perhaps it was for the best, though … since Father ‘does’ know best. Not being able to ‘send’ from my MacBook enabled me to “let go” of the burden to blog daily and just take in the whole adventure and capture more in the camera.
Despite about 10 hours now of patient and expert help from the Apple team I am still not able to ‘send’ from my MacBook, but am remaining patient. More help is on the way:)
I have been posting ‘Animoto’ shows on my Facebook page. This is my first post here on “Franciscus Meus” since our fabulous ‘pilgrimage’ to Assisi.
This photo is a ‘close-up’ from a copy of the crucifix/cross that originally “spoke” to Francis in the church of San Damiano. This copy is found in the Chiesa Nuova (New Church) built in 1615 and is located at the location of St. Francis’s home.
I can truly understand why Francis was moved by this cross of Jesus. I blurred all but his face in this photo that you, too would be moved by his face. As I study his eyes I sense a deep compassion and love, and a longing for me to let Him to be my “all that matters.”
He seems to be asking, “Who do you say that I am?”
Outside are two statues of his mother and father, holding the chains by which his father held him prisoner, attempting to hold him back from following Lady Poverty. But his mother released him. In this case mother knew best.
Inside the church you can view the dungeon where Francis was held prisoner. There are beautiful paintings of early Franciscan themes. There is a stairway that leads down to what used to be a workshop and now shows a copy of the crucifix, some excellent art of St. Francis and St. Clare and a wonderful stained glass window. It is indeed a perfect place to spend some time with the One who yearns to be my “all that matters.”
This photo was taken in old town Mazatlan, Mexico
One of my favorite things to do when in other countries is to visit their churches. They come in many sizes and shapes. Some are rather simple and non assuming, while others are quite beautiful and extravagant. As a child I was always drawn to a church with a choir and pipe organ. There seems to be something almost super spiritual when being in the presence of so many voices in harmony along with the power of a huge pipe organ that helps you forget the cares of this world.
But I have also been moved to tears by a small group singing a hymn or praise song when the words reached deep into my heart and touched me personally.
In the passage from John 4 Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well and after a few interchanges she says, “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
Jesus declared, “Believe me woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4: 19-24)
Immediately after Jesus gave up his spirit “the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” allowing us direct access to the throne of God. (see Matthew 27: 51)
The writer of Hebrews encourages us to “then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Thus we can worship God in spirit and truth in any “sanctuary”. I have many favorite “places” : Cornerstone Christian Church, our ‘home’ church, the living room in our home, the beautiful beach in Bandon, etc. But sometimes I am caught by surprise and I hear a song on the radio while driving and my car becomes my “sanctuary.”
This will be my last “Francis blog” from home. I will be leaving for Italy Easter morning. Lord willing, I will send a few blogs from Assisi after worshiping in the same “sanctuaries” where God spoke to Francis’s heart and changed the direction of his life.
So, my Jesus, let the pilgrimage begin. I am the clay. You are the potter. All praise and glory belong to You.
“STAY HERE AND KEEP WATCH WITH ME.”
Jesus’ agony in the garden of Gethsemane
“Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”
He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer.” (Matthew 26: 36-45)
This passage has always been a sobering one to me. I can so easily identify with the disciples. “The Spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” If ever there was an area in my spiritual life that needed improvement this is it. Becoming like Francis and shirking all possessions, wealth, and position would in some ways make this process easier …. but what a price! Certainly there must be a ‘middle road’ of sorts for a “post modern Christian” like myself.
As I embark on this ‘pilgrimage’ I am hoping that I will be able to balance the role of “photographer” and that of “pilgrim”. I hope to find (perhaps I will need to “make”) time to spend in prayer and meditation. I have set a goal of attempting spend all such time NOT thinking of ‘self’ but rather waiting in silence for what God puts on my heart. This will likely be very difficult.
We ‘pilgrims’ that are “Chasing Francis” all desire to become more and more like Jesus as we follow him. “Stay here and keep watch for us.”
As I read Corbett’s and Fikkert’s book I am continually humbled. I feel that I have failed my Savior in one of his primary missions.
Jesus’s mission was to preach the good news of the kingdom in word and deed. We see numerous examples of him spreading the good news among the hurting, the weak, and the poor. God intended Israel of the Old Testament to be a foreshadowing of what Jesus would be like. “Throughout history God’s people have been commanded to follow their King’s footsteps into places of brokenness.”
This was even demonstrated in the Sabbath laws.
“For six years you are to sow your fields and harvest the crops, but during the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what they leave. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove. Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest and the slave born in your household, and the alien as well, may be refreshed.” (Exodus 23: 10-12)
The Jubilee Year was the year for canceling all debts, allowing the release of slaves and returning land to its ‘original’ owners (Leviticus 25: 8-55). There were other laws that ensured the poor would be cared for each day of the year. “There should be no poor among you, for in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the Lord your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today.” (Deuteronomy 15: 4&5)
Wow! “There should be no poor among you.” Old Testament Israel failed.
The only deduction? We are God’s people of the New Testament Church. Now this is our task …. the task of the Church. Now we are to be a picture of or preview of Jesus:
“I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”
I must confess that I do not go about my day with the humbling truth that I am a part of his body and that His fulness is in me. In fact this is our “inheritance” just as the promised land was Israel’s “inheritance.” The reality of this, not to mention the responsibility of it seem overwhelming.
When Jesus sent out “the twelve” they were to “preach the kingdom of God and heal the sick” (Luke 9:2), and the “seventy two” to “Heal the sick who are there and tell them the kingdom of God is near you” (Luke10:9).
The early church in Acts were on track: “There were no needy persons among them” (Acts 4:34). The authors remind us that “while Israel failed to care for the poor and was sent into captivity, God’s people have been restored and are now embodying King Jesus and His kingdom, a kingdom in which there is no poverty (Rev. 21:1-4). Indeed, throughout the New Testament care of the poor is a vital concern of the church (Matt. 25:31-46; Acts 6:1-7; Gal.2:1-10; 6:10; James 1:27).
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.“
Dearest Lord Jesus, although I have a noble vocation and I hope that by your grace I am in some ways impacting the world you have given me, I can not help feeling that my life falls quite short of the way you lived, or the early apostles, or the way Francis of Assisi lived. Soften my heart and show me what you want of me as I continue to “Chase Francis” and read this eyeopener “When Helping Hurts.”