On Great Friday, we remember Christ dying on the cross and his last words, “It is finished.” It is a solemn day. God became man in order to die for us. To show us a way to life.

Yet, it is this death and day of despair, that brings us hope. A sacrifice that shows us what real life is. On the 3rd day he will rise from the dead and the trajectory of mankind will be changed.

It is a tough lesson, but whatever despair you may be facing, you can use it to find hope by turning to God.

As we are told in Mark 8:35 “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.”

It’s hard to give up a life where we cling to temporal things, just ask the rich man. But when we’ve been broken, in our despair, we might just find it’s the place we find real hope.

This prayer can be said anytime, but during Lent and our preparation for celebrating the resurrection of Christ, it takes on a special meaning. We prepare in humility, on our knees, being willing to see ourselves truthfully and our need for Christ soberly.

While this prayer of Saint Ephraim the Syrian dates back to the 300s, it is as timely to our human condition today as it was then.

“O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power, and idle talk.

But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Thy servant.

Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother, for blessed art Thou, unto ages of ages. Amen.”

In a divisive world where your beliefs can get you ridiculed or worse, and the desire to point fingers and blame others is so easy to do, and terribly destructive, what can you do to change yourself and change others?

A Christian who spent at least 25 years of his life alone in the woods praying, and then after a severe injury he spent another 1000 nights on a rock praying might have some good advice for you. Our humble Seraphim lived from 1754 to 1833.

"Acquire a peaceful spirit, and around you thousands will be saved." Saint Seraphim of Sarov

What is a peaceful spirit and how do you acquire it?

John 16:33 – “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

I was reminded in a conversation the other day with a friend, that if we open our eyes and hearts, we always have something to learn from other people, even, and maybe especially, those of other faiths, beliefs, and creeds. In fact, if you aren’t willing to listen and learn, how strong is your own faith?

One such person I learned from, Thomas Merton, the great Roman Catholic monk and author.

“The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them”

― Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

My wife made the mistake of trying to pass a pickup truck on the way home from church on a slow country road. She was met with lane blocking, crazy looks, and a middle finger. All for a van full of kids to witness. Later that night as we discussed her day, it brought up a lot of questions:

How thin is the line between civilization and anarchy? What historically has kept us “civilized” and what is happening to those barriers today? Family, Faith, and Community have been our historical strength and our historical barricade to chaos. What now?

In a world where meaning is found in labels and on bright screens, what happens when people don’t gain meaning from relationships with other people?

When you are walking on thin ice, how do you find solid ground?

The wise commentator on police use of force, Lebron James, got me thinking: almost nothing is scarier than when a celebrity or wealthy person describes the greatest country on earth as being on a fast take to Nazi Germany then bows at the feet of Communist China. If they can play this kind of mental gymnastics to justify selling their souls to evil while trying to burn down the greatest country on earth, what wouldn’t they do for their own self-interests?

As I’ve talked about on earlier Pilgrim’s Odyssey podcasts, we all are complicit in a way to the rise of Red China. We buy their goods, we encourage their slave labor, we elect politicians who get fat off of their lobbyists and contributions.

We are reminded by the good book often on what happens when you sell your soul for riches:

Matthew 16:26 - For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

Hebrews 13:5 - Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.

Matthew 6:24 - No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

What happens when your master is China? You eventually love that master and hate those who stand against it. Now look at what you buy on Amazon, the things that fill your home. Who is your master? Or maybe it is food, or technology, or TV, or the Internet, consider what you love? What is your precious? And what should it be?

Law enforcement across the country is completely demoralized. Officers are leaving in droves and departments can’t replace them fast enough leaving them short-handed and stretched thin. Crime, especially violent crime, is up in the cities where they are leaving the fastest. At this rate, activists who want to see law enforcement neutered and defunded may get their wish sooner than later.

This exodus won’t end soon, and the results will be devastating. As this continues to develop, you might ask yourself, are you ready and able to live a little wild? Since the Civil War, our wars have been fought on foreign shores, our depressions short lived, and our riots relatively tame. But what is coming will be worse than anything we’ve seen on our home shores in sometime, and you might ask yourself, are you prepared?

I thought about this today as I spoke to law enforcement officers about suicide prevention, and after reading a post, accurate let me say, that said my family was a little wild. In a good way! We are wild and we are ready, are you?

April 21, 2021

A Hidden Life: Part 1

I want to talk about something beautiful today.

Flying to Madison, WI where I’ll be speaking, I watched the Terrence Malick film, A Hidden Life. I will have more to say about this incredible movie in future podcasts, but today I want to focus on one important beautiful thing it exposes.

A Hidden Life depicts the life of Austria’s Franz Jagerstatter, a conscientious objector who was put to death at the age of 36 by the Nazis, and later declared a martyr by the Catholic Church.

This depiction of his life shows that true beauty is found in those moments few people other than ourselves and those close to us see. A dinner table of smiles, hands working together in the dirt, early morning in an empty church, children laughing, a thrilling motorcycle ride, lovers embracing, the smell of spring, and friends and family gathering.

It is real. It is deep. Yet, if you don’t slow down and focus, maybe you miss them. Maybe you even stop having them. A Hidden Life makes you slow down and watch what matters to a man who has lived a good life. As Franz is broken down in prison all he is left with is his faith and his memory of the moments that mattered. They fill his head as he approaches the executioner’s block. When our hour approaches, what will fill our head?

If you haven’t yet, spend an evening with those you love watching A Hidden Life. Nothing I’ve ever seen on film better wakens one to what really matters in life.

One of my favorite services of the year is almost 3 hours long and celebrates the life of St. Mary of Egypt. It reminds us of the joy of repentance, the fact that whatever we have done, however full of despair or shame we may be, God is waiting to welcome and comfort us.

There is no greater beauty than this one of an aged, naked women walking in the desert alone for over 40 years filled with the grace of God.

Faith born from incarceration is usually a deep one. It is a faith found in despair and down on your knees, right where God wants you.

The late Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship and before that, aide to Richard Nixon, was one such person. He was introduced to Christianity by a friend who gave him a copy of CS Lewis’s "Mere Christianity" as his arrest was imminent. As he did his time for his part in the Watergate scandal, his belief in God grew into an unshakeable faith. Cultivated in his prison cell, he spent the rest of his life spreading the word to others, inside and outside the bars.

A recent article in Salvo magazine, spoke of Colson’s belief that faith needed to be “fermented” and that the best way to spread our faith was to live it and let others see it in our lives.

The article contrasted this with what our current church culture seems to do, a sort of “carbonation” hoping that a quick shot of excitement will boost someone into a deep and lasting faith. It’s what I call the "Six Flags over Jesus" phenomenon.

A better method is perhaps that of William Wilberforce who with his contemporaries worked for decades to abolish the slave trade in the British Empire. His work succeeded although he didn't live to see its success.

Live your faith deeply and patiently. Truly believe, we are not of this world when Christ lives in us.

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