Wishful Thinking/Tuesday with Tom for 5.22.18

“For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” – –Romans 8:23-27

Not long ago I entered a chapel completely lit with candles. I’d come in from the daylight so even though candles were all over the place it appeared very, very dark. It stayed that way for quite a while. It was a chapel new to me, so I didn’t know it. Evening Prayers were being sung responsively by a duet; a soprano and baritone. The words encased the 40 or so of us in the darkness. After some twenty minutes I could see clearly. All that was in there…was there the entire time, of course. It’s just we couldn’t see it clearly until we had been still in His presence. At one point I prayed, “Lord, help me adjust to this darkness.” A few minutes later I noticed how beautiful the room was now that I was adjusted to His light in this space. The entire room was radiant with the light. I could see the faces of others clearly now.

You know, I think this is not unlike what Paul was trying to share with the early church. He was encouraging them, and us, to hold on to our faith. A week or so later I found myself seated on the plane next to a 30 yr. old and we chatted some. He asked about my work and I his. He didn’t have the job he really wanted. Then I asked: “If you could do whatever you wanted in life, what would that be? What would bring you joy?” Immediately the frustration took over his composure. “I keep asking that and NOTHING happens. I just keep asking the good Lord for a light and I don’t get a thing.” How conversations similar to this have started to flood my days these last several months is simply amazing. These words from Paul came back to me in that moment. I told him about the darkness I experienced in the chapel a couple of weeks earlier and how just because it appeared to be dark it didn’t mean God wasn’t at work there amidst the darkness. He glanced up for a minute and nodded with the epiphany. I said: “Perhaps God’s timing is rarely what we would like or expect. So, sometimes we sit in the dark and be still while He works. As we wait patiently, the place eventually lights up like it did for me that night in the chapel. From the darkness I began to see things clearly in a new light that was there all along.”

I think it’s in those moments in our lives when we are weak or feeling like there is no direction that the “Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with” … catch this… “sighs too deep for words.” Think about that for a minute: “Sighs too deep for words;” sighs from the Holy Spirit herself. I wonder when She sees such in us if the plea “How long oh Lord” falls from her lips in a deep sigh. How long will it be before we simply turn to him in complete surrender? It’s when that surrender happens in a life what comes is more than one could hope or imagine. We just have to be patient. What counts is we step out and wait it out in faith.

That approach gives wishful thinking new light indeed.

Tending the vineyard,
Tom Welch

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Grace Notes/Tuesday with Tom for 5/15/18

“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness…..for when I am weak, then am I strong.”
-2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (KJV)

A couple of weeks ago I heard a sermon that began with a few chords being played on the piano from an opera, by Pietro Mascagni titled Cavalleria Rusticana. It really caught your attention. Granted, it was in New York City where they sing that kind of stuff with some routine. Naturally, I pulled it up on YouTube when I got back home. It took a while to find it in English. I never could find it in “Southern” English.

As I have listened to it these last several days I’ve thought of how even in weak moments of music, as in weak moments in life, there truly is beauty and strength in those moments. Recently I have spoken with a friend in recovery who is living a very isolated life in county lock-up. He got there through heroin addiction and a series of other bad decisions.

He often speaks such wisdom, this young man, constantly looking to our Heavenly Father for strength in his every moment. He speaks to the grace he finds through his weaknesses, the strength he finds in the peace of God and the fervent prayer to surround himself with the people of God when he gets out in a few months. He’s even given me some sage advise.

Grace notes in our lives come in many different forms. I pray you find the eternal from your moments of grace. More importantly I hope you recognize them when the moment is not a memory.

Tending the vineyard,
Tom Welch

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House Manager/Tuesday with Tom for 5/8/18

“Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven” -Matthew 6:10

These last few days I’ve been in Manhattan and Long Island working. While here I stepped into St. Malachy’s – The Actors Chapel by the Shubert Theater on W. 49th St. to say a prayer for those I know who work in the arts and/or hope to one day. It is a lovely little chapel. I have a hobby of routinely dropping into chapels of all denominations.

As I left this particular chapel that day I shared with a friend that I remembered in the biography, Reflections with Ricardo Montalban (many will remember him from the TV series Fantasy Island) a story of how Ricardo struggled with this prayer, the Lord’s Prayer. You see, there was a time in his career when it was really taking off. It required him to be away from home, his wife and very small children for months at a time. He became friends with one of the stage hands and they often attended mass in this chapel together. He had made more money than ever before. His bank account was flush.

One run had been particularly good and long, but Ricardo was ready to go home. As he knelt by the altar he was praying to God the run would end soon, then he caught himself glancing at his friend as he too was praying just inches away. In his heart he heard his friend and stage hand praying “Father, don’t let this run end, I really don’t know how I would feed my family if this were to end right now.” With that Ricardo looked to the altar at the Holy Mother with her Child in her arms and prayed: “Father, thy will be done; not mine.”

God constantly gets prayers from his children with opposite petitions to the same situation, doesn’t he? We see it throughout history, in our own lives as well. In the end, we all must leave it to the House Manager and trust His will for us all will be fulfilled.

Tending the vineyard,
Tom Welch

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The Remains Mission Accomplished/TUESDAY WITH TOM for 5.1.18

“Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”

-John 15:9-11 (NIV)

Recently I’ve begun reading a book for the 2nd time; a rarity for me aside from the Good Book. I’ve caught many powerful thoughts as I’ve done the 2nd read that either I didn’t catch the first time or may have forgotten.

As I came across these words from John 15 a few dats ago it dawned on me that Jesus gives us this story as he knows his time left is short. You know how much you enjoy loved ones who don’t ever get to spend enough time with you? Do you remember the feelings you have in their absence? It’s like they are still with you. Some things remain constant even if they aren’t with us anymore. In your mind’s eye look at the memories you have of grandparents or other relatives who may now be deceased.

For me, I think of the way my grandparent’s home smelled. They lived on a reservoir in Louisiana. It always smelled a little fishy there! I think of another relative’s home and how we felt in fellowship just shelling purple hull peas on the back porch of a hot July afternoon in south Mississippi. What remains even though they are gone is the joy my heart still has from their days I did share with them.

Christ knew there would be a sadness and perhaps some fear after He was gone, so He gave us this wonderful story as shared in John 15. He asks us to keep those warm thoughts in our hearts and to live as He did in relationship with one another and our Heavenly Father. What “remains” from that will never die. So, beloved, you may want to look at the whole chapter. As you do I bet “the remains” come back to life. As they do; mission accomplished.

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Your lights are on/Tuesday with Tom for 4.10.18

“This is the message that we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all ….. if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another…”
-1 John 1: 5-7 (NIV)

One of the things that strikes me with this book of 1 John is that there is really no specific mention of a geographic area to which John addresses. It’s left wide open. We know it was likely written in what is now Turkey, but the audience in reality is the whole world.

There have been times when with the body of believers you can see the light in their eyes. It is very real, very evident. When we are out in the “real world” we may lose sight of the light. The real world often can involve derision within our own soul, our community and even our church; places you would think could be safe. I think it most often happens when we’re running around with our lights off.

Think of those people in your days who always, or nearly always seem to have a peace about them. With some investigation or nurturing of a meaningful relationship of them in my own life what I have found is that they always have their lights on because they are routinely in prayer and study and service or action. Those three items change things both within and corporately.

I think what John was trying to say way back then was to remind us that by routinely being in the community of believers we can better reflect the light of Christ into the world all of our days, just not the ones when we’re at church. So, leave your lights on next time you step out into the world.

Tending the vineyard,
Tom Welch

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Sunday, Sunday/Tuesday with Tom for 3/27/18

EDITORIAL NOTE: After 15 years of writing these, every now and again there is one worth repeating. This is one of them; first published in 2015. This time I have an added gift. One of the finest sopranos the world has ever known, Mississippi native Leontyne Price shares “Were You There?”

“And it was about the 6th hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the 9th hour. Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, ‘Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit.’ And having said this, He breathed His last.”
Luke 23:44-46(NKJV)

When my daughter was in the 5th grade she and I made our way to spend Easter Weekend with dear friends in Winchester, Virginia. It was a long drive. We were on no set schedule so we left the interstate a few times to see the communities interstates invite a driver to speed right by.

On Good Friday we left the interstate minutes after we crossed the Tennessee/Virginia state line. As we drove through one of the towns we approached a church whose sign announced a Good Friday Service at noon. “Daddy, we are here just in time! It’s 11:50. We have to go in.” We did just that. On the way in from the parking lot we walked by one fine Harley Davison motorcycle. When we entered the fairly small sanctuary there were about two dozen of us there. A few rows in front of us sat a guy who looked to be about 60, one of the roughest, biggest, most tattooed guys I’d ever seen. He looked like he belonged to a motor cycle gang.

The service was nothing more than praying the “Stations of the Cross,” so I knew we’d be on our way in about 30 minutes. As we got to the portion in the Gospel story where Jesus fell a third time this gentleman began to cry quietly. When we got to the lines of the mallet striking the nails that pierced the hands and feet of Christ his cry became a little louder. As we were kneeling my daughter looked up to me and reached for my hand, clutching it tightly. When Christ was lifted in the air this guy wasn’t crying any more. He was wailing. Tears swelled in my daughter’s eyes. She whispered: “This was a really hard day for Jesus, wasn’t it Daddy?” I nodded in the affirmative as my eyes started leaking… (You know real men don’t cry. Ha!). As we were into those last three Stations, the wailing continued. The man’s shoulders were now shaking as he wailed. He just couldn’t stop crying. By now even the priest began to tear up. The whole room was in tears. I’ve never experienced anything like it before or since. Before we knew it, the service was over.

At its conclusion this precious child of God went up to this biker dude(also precious in His sight) and patted him on his arm as she looked up, said something to him and gave him a hug. He was clearly touched. This huge man gave her a big bear hug, lifting her up off the floor for a moment. I heard him say: “Thank you. Thank you so much. You’re absolutely right.” Aside from that conversation we all did as instructed, leaving quietly, got back in the car and left for the interstate again. After a few minutes I just couldn’t take it anymore. I had to ask. “Sweetheart, what did you tell that man?” Her reply: “It was simple, Daddy. I told him it would be all better on Sunday.”

As you may struggle through Holy Week, as I often do, remember: Sunday, Sunday, oh glorious Sunday, for Christ our King lives again. https://youtu.be/DrhlsD859rc

Tending the vineyard,
Tom Welch

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Mirrors & Windows/Tuesday with Tom for 3/20/18

“As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born from blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.”-John 9:1

There are times when we might ask why a circumstance has come upon us or others. Is it because of a misdoing, fate, payback or just what? Some are born into poverty, some with birth defects, some are beset with ailments in the prime of life.

I think we should not dwell on what happens or why it happens. Rather what we make of the circumstance is what matters. How we look at Christ during such times can bless us in two ways. If we look at Christ as in a mirror, we will see his humanity. If we look at Him as in a window, we will see Him as divine. In either event, we will see ourselves in and through him. As we do, we will see beyond Him to the Father, I believe.

I think we get a larger portal on either view when we stay in fellowship with the body of believers. Mirrors or windows; we glance toward the Father.

Tending the vineyard,
Tom Welch

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