Desert Highway

A Calloused Heart?

A friend of mine has the habit of finding Bibles. He doesn’t find them in second-hand shops or antique stores, but on the highways of Northern California. For as long as I’ve known him, more than 20 years, he has had a mission of Bible finding that reads at times like a new ‘Highway to Heaven’ series. This week he found Bible #508 (that is not a type-o). And the story touched me profoundly and I thought you might enjoy it too (with his permission of course):

Bible 508 (#1 for 2014), a Promise Keepers Men’s Study Bible, New International Version was discovered at 10:43 A.M. Tuesday, January 28th, 2014.  It was located on Hwy. 99 (S), Fresno, CA.

A co-worker, Steve and I were enroute to a business meeting in Lindsay, CA.  Just prior to the discovery, Steve, who is involved in a Twelve Step Recovery program was sharing, that Monday night was his Birthday night.  He was celebrating 29 years in the program.   He recounted, that when his 29 years was announced, people began to clap.  He politely stopped them.

Steve’s words:

“Thank you, however, I must ask you to give credit where credit is due? I have a tremendous ego, I’m afraid, if you clap for me I will take credit for being here before you tonight. It is God that got me here. God has given me the eyes to see and the mind to know the benefits of this program. You need to give God the credit.”

I was so impressed with Steve’s humility,  that I asked him to repeat his words.

Shortly, thereafter,  I noticed a book lying next to the center cement highway abutment.  It seemed a bit larger, than the books I’m accustomed to seeing. I would say it was about the size of two building bricks.

Upon first glance I had a knowingness that it was a Bible.  Got it!  I immediately took the next exit.  I moved so quickly and without notice, that it scared Steve.

“What are you doing”, he pensively blurted out.

“I think that I just found a Bible”, was my response.

I quietly prayed my usual pre-discovery “hedge of protection” prayer.  “Lord, please clear the way and let no one be injured as I go to retrieve this Bible.”

The pages of the Book were blowing back and forth, as a result of the back draft caused by the passing traffic.

I picked up the Bible.  Yes, I had just found Bible 508.  It was open to the 13th Chapter of Matthew.  The Parable of the Sower.  I put my thumb on the center of the page next to the editor’s teaching message.  ETERNAL INVESTMENT – RETURNS – GUARANTEED.

I would later discover that the teaching discussed how one needs to prepare the soil of their heart, so that the Word of God (seeds) finds fertile soil.  This in turn will yield  a massive spiritual harvest in your life.  How does one do this?  Follow the example of the farmer.  Good soil requires; planning, nurturing, cultivating and a good deal of effort.  One needs to set aside time daily to examine his heart.  Weed out every; thought, word, deed and act that chokes out the effectiveness of God in your life.  Cultivate ones heart through prayer.  Water it  by meditating on God’s the purpose for your life.   A heart prepared in this manner will allow the Word of God to take root, thus enabling them to receive an abundant harvest.   (Teaching paraphrased)   

I handed the prize to Steve.  Without hesitation I blurted out, “Here is your message!”  For a brief moment I had second thoughts.  I had no idea what was to be revealed.  Back in the car, we were off to our meeting.

Steve was overjoyed to be part of the discovery.  Over the years he has heard stories of what it feels like to partake in a Bible find, however, 2nd hand stories never adequately describe the reality of the firsthand experience.

“Read it Steve!”


“Yes, God has a message for you!”  The scriptures reference, Jesus speaking to His disciples.

(14b) You will be ever hearing but never understanding, You will be ever seeing  but never perceiving.  For this people’s hearts has become calloused; …

“Stop that’s not it!   You are not calloused, if anything….!”

Steve began again, “(16) But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.  (17) For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”

The first words out of Steve’s mouth, “that exactly what I said last night!  God has given me the eyes to see and ears to hear the value of this program…”  I would liken the reverence in Steve’s voice akin to the awe one might have in witnessing the birth of one’s first child!

We just looked at each other for a moment.  Words cannot adequately describe Steve’s excitement, joy, exhilaration.  He almost cried.

I told Steve, “the Holy Spirit has just given you a true Birthday present.  He has acknowledged your humility and profession of faith.  Praise God!”

If I could have used the energy, that was in my car at that very moment,  I could have driven to New York and back without refueling.  I thought we were going to a business meeting.  The Holy Spirit had planned a Birthday celebration.

The question now comes to you and I.  What is Jesus saying?

“Will you be ever hearing but never understanding?  Will you be seeing but never perceiving?  Has your heart become calloused? This is an invitation from Christ Himself.  All we have to do is ask!  He will give us the eyes to see, the ears to hear and the mind to comprehend the blessing He has in store.

God bless,

The Highway Bibleman

Choices: Its Not About Us

One of my encounters with a teenager who had gotten himself into some serious trouble, led to a serious discussion about the choices we make from day to day and how they impact our tomorrow. I shared with him, that although he can’t take back what he’s done, his choice does not have to define him and his future. He can accept the bad choice and its consequences and use the rest of his life to do good. History has shown us heroes whose character had been defined through the pattern of choices they made, and how they lived up to their mistakes and worked to live good and virtuous lives. And in the process, maybe do something that changes – or saves – the life of another:

The video does a good job of telling a story in three minutes. The boy has to make a decision to either help the girl live, or let her perish. Because he helps her escape, he is reprimanded harshly. He could have chosen differently and received reward, but to what end? To whose sacrifice?

This month of September has two important feasts dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God. On the 8th, we remember the Birth of Mary; and on the 15th, we commemorate her under the title of Our Lady of Sorrows. In the example of her life, she was willing to make a choice that changed her life forever; and in her offering of her life to God in this way, she became an instrument that changed our lives too.

What choices do we make? Whose lives are made better because of them? Can we, like Mary, put ourselves aside and realize its not about us?

Mary, Mother of God, pray for us!


Artwork by Tahnjah

pharisee & publican

Which Way to Holiness?

In many spiritual writings I am often struck by the paradox involved in our call to holiness. Words often used to describe this quest linger in my mind: progressing, striving, climbing, self-discipline, reaching heights or levels, with each of these expressions of action able to mislead us. They suggest a physical movement, an effort we make to obtain holiness through our deeds and acts of piety. If we are not careful, we can leave our ‘ascent’ towards God at this level – a self-made, false, holiness and forget the true source of our sanctity which lies outside of our human grasp.

Let’s use the scene from Luke, chapter 18 as an example. We have the Pharisee on one hand, who was probably a model citizen, well respected, and externally a tower of piety. He gave to the poor, fasted and prayed, was honest in his dealings with others, and yet, he fell short before the eyes of Jesus. Our culture today, like the Pharisee, often determines one’s worth by his accomplishments and status. It is easy to look upon others, such as the publican, who externally seems less, with contempt or simply presuming they ‘got what they deserved’.  But how does Jesus see the publican? He doesn’t look at him on the basis of his status in society, nor in the eloquence of his prayer, nor by the works he has done, but solely in his reverence of God and his humility before the Almighty. “O God, be merciful to me, a poor sinner”. No eloquence here. The publican sees the truth of who he is in the light of God, and clings to God’s mercy as his hope. This is the power beyond our own capacity; we remain small and allow God to be great.

Imagining these two figures in a dark room makes their contrast a stark one. The publican is bathed in light as he ‘humbly ascends’ towards God. The Pharisee, only feet away, is stumbling in the dark trying with all his might to illumine his own greatness so that others may see how high he has ascended. As was a common theology of his day, the Pharisee believed that his obedience to the law and man-made perfection equate with sanctity. The thrust of Jesus’ praise of the publican’s prayer opens a before-concealed door to the heart of God; it reveals how much God doesn’t want us to be self-made saints, but rather made holy through Him who is refuge and mercy.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that perfection passes through the cross and that there is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle (CCC 2015). Renunciation is evident in the publican’s display of humility. It was once described to me that the spiritual battle as filled with often imperceptible barriers which mask themselves under the name of virtue; a virtue that in the end deceives us into climbing up the rungs of the wrong ladder disguised in our prayer and works of mercy. The problem with going up the wrong ladder is when we meet with obstacles of fatigue and unpleasant situations, we have nothing solid to stop our fall – it crashes down like a house of cards. We begin to think like the Pharisee that believes he has done everything right, so “why is this happening to me?” Our failing in these circumstances lead to discontent, envy, and maybe even despair. These feelings are signs we are going in the wrong direction. The right direction is pointed out to us by the publican whose prayer is focused solely on God, and who was perfectly comfortable to admit his lowliness.

It is in moments such as these, we can choose to be the Pharisee and cling to our external shows of piety, hoping all will notice our virtue. Indeed, the world will congratulate us for our ‘goodness’. We have a choice, and can dare to follow the publican’s ascent down, off the ladder of external practices and perfectionism, into the depths of true humility where we risk to lose position and esteem before others. It is here, before God, we are not afraid to cry out, “Have mercy, O God, I am a sinner” and be wrapped in his grace. Here we can place ourselves before the Lord, in His light which reveals how truly small and broken we are…and not be afraid to be home there.