Wednesday, April 29, 2015


I am borrowing a term from nature and sports as an analogy for spiritual life. Catch and release” is a practice within recreational fishing intended as a technique of conservation. After capture, the fish are unhooked and returned to the water before experiencing serious exhaustion or injury.

I'm applying it to myself with another analogy I've previously written about (See my blog archive for February 22, 2015) of fish jumping into my boat. Under certain conditions and in certain areas fish actually do jump into a fishing boat—a reverse phenomenon! I’ve viewed it on a sportsman’s TV show.

“Fish,” in the most positive sense and in the sense that Jesus used, refers to people whom God brings into my life when I make myself available to Him. I offer myself each morning as a habit of my life, “Lord, today bring into my life anyone or anything in Your will and for whatever purposes You intend.” That includes anyone who touches my life in person, by snail mail, phone call, e-mail, thought, reminder to pray, literal knock on my door, through my web site, blog, and any other means that the Holy Spirit may choose to use. I boldly pray for that to happen on a daily basis.

More often than not I experience my boat—my daily life, the hours of my day—filled with “fish” who have jumped in and I welcome each one as sent by God. My boat is frequently overloaded. As in the biblical event of the fishing net being so full of fish after Jesus miraculously makes it happen for Peter, he has to call for help from his fishing partner friends in another boat. That is when I call on my prayer partners, my “Praying Eagles,” to help me.

In one sense the Lord expects us to bear our own burdens, the crosses He lovingly puts into our lives to transform us into the image of Christ. But we are also to reach outside of ourselves to “bear one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). We are to pray for and share the concerns of others, and if need be, act as Simon of Cyrene did in helping to carry the cross of others, in his case, the cross of Jesus. When two carry any burden it becomes lighter.

I often find myself in overload with the burdens and cares and needs and tears and griefs and anxieties of others. I willingly “catch” them when they jump into my boat because I perceive that they arrive according to God's purpose. 

But if I embraced each one permanently to myself, my heart would soon be too full. That is when the “release” action becomes necessary. If a friend asks me to pray for him or her for some crisis situation or pending decision, I must intercede right away. I am persuaded that it is not I who am able to answer that prayer, but God. I must back off and release it to Him. He answers through the mediatorship of Jesus and the action of the Holy Spirit who edits my prayer to be acceptable to the Father's will by the time it reaches Him. (Romans 8:26-28)

I must continue the “release” action to “take your burden to the Lord and leave it there...” as a classic hymn instructs us. I should not be anxious about the answers or the solutions to the situations or consent to bear them myself, thus compounding the anxieties. I must release them to God with thanksgiving and trust that He will take care of them according to His perfect will and time and in His way. I must let the burdens I am asked to share slip from my shoulders to His, and open my hands from gripping them to myself. "I relieved his shoulder from the burden; his hands were freed from [carrying] the basket” (Psalm 81:6). One translation for “basket” indicates “brick load.” If I were not to release the burdens of others to God, they would be as heavy as a load of bricks to me.

The purpose of “catch and release” in fishing is to avoid exhaustion and injury to the fish. I've also read that if dozens of fish suddenly jump into a boat it can endanger the fisher-person—flapping, flopping, large, agitated fish can actually injure him as they bombard his head and face! So it can apply spiritually to me as a fisher-person. Prayer is peaceful and gentle as an exercise in faith and trust in a God who answers prayer. It is also intense and emotionally consuming—a heart and mind spiritual exercise. I can potentially exhaust myself and suffer spiritual burnout as an intercessor, if I don't practice “catch and release.”

When I do release to God the burdens others have asked me to bear with them and for them, I have room in my boat, in my heart and prayers, for more. Jesus claimed that His yoke was easy and His burden is light. I must internalize that truth as I “catch and release” so that one day if Jesus sends me 153 of them all at once, as He did for Peter, my boat won't sink!

Saturday, April 18, 2015


“A barnacle is a type of arthropod constituting the infraclass Cirripedia in the subphylum Crustacea.” 

Well, that's probably more than you need or want to know. In plain language, barnacles are small marine crustaceans, saltwater animals with a protective, external shell-like covering.

They are attachers.” They join themselves permanently to ships, wharves, and rocks, and to other marine animals. Clinging to the hull of a ship they can reduce the vessel's speed. The ship must then be put in dry dock to have the bottom scraped. To prevent barnacles from clinging to ships, the hulls are either treated with toxic paint or coated with plastic.

Many of us are like some ships at sea which are loaded down with barnacles clinging to them. We are weighted down, slowed down from pressing on to the best plan God has for our lives. We should confess unwanted attachments and negative feelings, accept God's forgiveness, and then release them, let them go!

Sometimes we are hindered by barnacle-like negative thoughts or feelings of unforgiveness toward others. We unnecessarily cling to offenses against us, real or imagined. They continue to multiply exponentially. We remember hurts and keep the wounds open by reviewing them in our minds. We may cling to anger long after the situation is resolved which was the cause of it. We should let it go!

We can't seem to forget events of the past when we were slighted, disappointed, occasions when we were sinned against or taken advantage of. They are barnacles. We should let them go!

Sometimes we ourselves are the barnacles clinging to relationships that are over, trying to resurrect friendships that should be relegated to the past. There may be people we should allow to leave our circle of friendship if they have so chosen or whom God wants out of our lives. We may be clinging to a wrong relationship or addiction. There are many so-called “legitimate” addictions that we happily cling to. Perhaps we are holding on to something or someone that God doesn't intend to belong to us and was never intended for our life. We should let it go!

We might be holding on to some thoughts of evil or revenge, planning to get even with someone for what her or she did to us. We must let it go!

If I am stuck in the past and God is trying to take me to a new level in Him, I should turn my back on the past, let it go, and let God do His new work in us! If I keep trying to help someone who doesn’t accept or want my help, I should back off and let it go! If there is a particular situation that I am used to handling myself and God is saying 'take your hands off of it,' then I need to let it go!

Each of us has his unique list of barnacles that need to be scraped off.

Of course, letting go is not easy. Having negative barnacles scraped off of us is sure to be painful. But it is not too hard for me. Jesus Christ is my strength. I will be blessed. I will be lightened to “press on to the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus...” (Philippians 3: 13, 14.)

The Lord will bless me with a fresh start in a new direction if I allow the barnacles to be scraped off of my life. Those of us who are older in calendar years have a greater accumulation of barnacles from which we need to be detached. But no matter what my age or how complicated my circumstances, God is sufficient to turn them around if I am willing to let it go, detach myself from the “clingers,” forget the past, and take action to surrender myself totally into His hands.

Thursday, April 16, 2015


Leona Choy

Spring startled me today
as I shook out the dust mop.
He took me by surprise
for I didn't realize
he was around yet.

He slipped behind me
ruffled my hair with the wind
kissed my cheek with the sun
and then laughed
to see me blush.

His warm breath caressed my neck
teasing me, making me restless
as I swept winter from the porch.
I tried to get him off my mind
by staying inside at humdrum tasks.
Spring rustled the curtains to get my attention
and flirted with me
through the open window.

I can’t resist him!
I must run away with him
right away today, so I race
with trowel and seeds in hand
to our garden rendezvous
our "special place"
eager once more
for the touch of the rich mulch
and sweet earthy scent
of Virginia country soil.

Despite the lingering chill
of the retreating March wind
in ecstasy I kneel
in the moist flower bed
breathing hard, delighted to feel
basic nature and the hope of life
incipient in the seed
that is about to experience

So I yield to my impulse…
I cast off my winter inhibition
and yield to the thrill
of Spring's embrace!

Saturday, April 11, 2015


“Meanwhile we groan....” (2 Corinthians chapters 4 and 5) Some of us do at times. And then feel guilty about it.

What is a groan? “A low, mournful sound uttered in pain or grief; a guttural, almost inarticulate sound; a deep sighing due to a sudden or prolonged overburdening, as with a great weight or pressure,” defines the dictionary. That describes how we sometimes feel in our mortal bodies, these temporary buildings or tents, as our limitations and weaknesses increase, when our burdens grow heavy, and when our age weighs on us.

Some of the things that the Scripture lists which cause our groans are:

afflicted in every way (hedged in, pressed on every side)
perplexed (troubled and oppressed)
suffer embarrassments
unable to find a way out
persecuted (hard driven, pursued)
struck down (to the ground)
death (actively) working in us
earthly tent being torn down, destroyed, dissolved
being burdened
our outer man (progressively) decaying and wasting away

I wonder with how many of those situations we can identify? Especially when we find ourselves in prolonged, chronic weakened and painful situations.

There is a time to bear our suffering silently, enduring and persevering through the trials. And there are times when to “groan” and express our feelings helps to release our inward suffering. That is not the same as complaining. Doesn’t the Holy Spirit Himself groan with too-deep-for-words sounds as He intercedes for us? So He hears and understands our groans. The Spirit carries our often ill-formed and misdirected, and self-focused prayers directly to the Father through Jesus. But before they reach God, the Spirit shapes up our prayers and groans to be acceptable to the Father as promised in Romans 8:26-28.

Christ in Gethsemane must have groaned with the agony of anticipation of the trials and intense pain that was ahead of Him. He had a body of flesh like ours. His sweat was like drops of blood. He knew how physically helpless He would be when nailed to the cross unable to move and with the most excruciating suffering.

But the bright side of groaning is that we “don’t lose heart” -- “become discouraged, utterly spiritless, exhausted, and wearied out, despondent with fear, faint with weariness...” (Eph. 3:13; Gal. 6:9; 2 Cor. 4:16). Whatever the trials or afflictions, we are not:

cramped or crushed
not driven to despair
not deserted to stand alone
never struck out and destroyed
the life of Jesus is manifest through us
our inner self is being (progressively) renewed day after day
we have from God a building, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens

If we find ourselves in a groaning situation, let's take courage and continually draw on God's strength until we see our Lord face to face. There is never a day or a night when we don’t need to lean hard on Him, even after a lifetime of walking close to God. Let's press even closer in afflicted times...and “groan” without feeling guilty.

Sunday, April 5, 2015


                                    Thoughts For Holy Week and Easter

On a pilgrimage to the Holy Land years ago I visited both MOUNTS. I confess that I only made it half way up massive Mount Sinai in our trek in the dark before dawn, although many of our tour group made it to the summit to view the sunrise. Moses must have been in good physical condition! The contrast between the two locations caused me to reflect.

Leona Choy

Sinai thunders “Do!”

Calvary whispers “Done!”

As Moses climbed Mt. Sinai
so I will try
sweating and straining
stumbling over rugged rocks
slipping on steep slopes
attempting Sinai's pinnacle
making it only half way.
Sinai thunders “Do!”
THE LAW, imposed for the good of man
measures with a perfect divine ruler
man's inability to attain
a "mission impossible" standard:
breaking one law
I stand condemned by all.

Calvary whispers “Done!”
GRACE, bought by the blood of the One
who dragged a rugged cross
over rough cobblestones
up Calvary—instead of me
and made it all the way
bought my freedom from the Law!

Sinai thunders “Do!”
Calvary whispers “Done—once for all—
Jesus declared:

Saturday, April 4, 2015


"And they all left Him and fled. And a certain young man was following Him, wearing nothing but a linen sheet over his naked body; and they seized him. But he left the linen sheet behind, and escaped naked." 
Mark 14:50-52 (Mark is the only Gospel writer who records this incident.)

The early Church is practically unanimous in ascribing the Second Gospel to Mark, the cousin of Barnabas and associate of Paul and Peter. Strong tradition also supports the assertion that in this Gospel is recorded the recollections and preaching of Peter, who calls Mark "my son" in 1 Peter 5:13. Most scholars hold that this is the earliest of the four Gospels, safely dated between A.D. 50 and A.D. 70.
Leona Choy
(An imaginary scenario)
What happened to Jesus’ sandals?

No one wanted them!
Soldiers jerked them off
to nail His bare feet
to a rough-splintered cross
callously casting lots
for His seamless garment.
They tossed aside His filthy sandals
caked with mud
and stained with blood
from scourging and His painful struggle
up Golgotha's hill
—not worth a throw of dice.

Then I noticed the sandals
hugged tightly under the arm
of a frightened youth.
They called him John Mark.
Where had I seen him before?
At the synagogue door?
Or helping his mother
host them all at the Last Supper?
Perhaps in Gethsemane
running naked from the grasp
of Jesus' enemy?

What would that lad do
with the precious sandals?
Were they just a souvenir
of a grizzly spectacle
that even in a later movie age
would be rated "R"
for violence and brutality?

Hiding alone in the shadows
on the fringes of the crowd
the young man watched wide-eyed
the suffering, dying Man on the cross.
Without Parental Guidance to explain
would he grasp the meaning
of this scandalous documentary?

Would this wide-eyed youth
understand the dreadful drama
he beheld that historic day
outside the city wall?
Would he realize God had planned
this event from Eternity?

Would God provide a mentor
to relate the significance
of the death of this Man
who laid aside His sandals and robe
in the Upper Room
and stooped to wash
the feet of His friends?

Would that youth ever wear 
those sandals? Would he dare?
Would he be found worthy
and chosen eventually
to walk in the sandals
of that Man of Galilee?
Would they be to him
like the mantle of Elijah
enduing him doubly
with power for service?

Would he wear those very sandals
to take the Good News
 one day far away
on missionary journeys?

YES! And he would write
in the Gospel that bears his name
for those who weren't there
those scattered everywhere
down the corridors of time
what he had seen firsthand
with his youthful eyes
and received from the keen memory
of Peter the fisherman-disciple
who had known
the beloved Christ of Galilee
and followed Him
in his own sandals!

Friday, April 3, 2015


(Encore blog post by request for Easter Triduum)

I never thought very deeply about the story of Simon of Cyrene helping Jesus carry His cross. 

Wasn't he just a man in the wrong place at the wrong time, an insignificant, curious passer-by, as he was referred to in the Scripture, who was randomly picked from the crowd? What was so important about that event that all three synoptic gospel writers would record it? In one of the Stations of the Cross we commemorate it. There must be more here than meets the eye!

Where is Cyrene? I was surprised to find that it is in North Africa not far from the modern day city of Benghazi in Libya which has been prominently in the news since the terrorist attack of September 11, 2012!

I searched for more information, I found that a condemned person was always forced to bear his own instrument of torture, in this case at least the heavy crossbeam of a cross. But the soldiers didn't want a prisoner to die on the way up the hill to his crucifixion because that would spare him from the planned cruel torture of a deliberately slow and painful execution. A criminal was deliberately crucified in a public place where it would serve as a warning and deterrent to would-be evildoers. Jesus was already staggering under the weight of the crossbeam and falling repeatedly from extreme weakness after his agonizing, prolonged scourging by the soldiers.

In various translations of this biblical passage Simon was said to have been “pressed into service” or “seized” or “compelled.” He obviously didn't volunteer; he had no choice; he was forced to do so at the point of a spear. 

Who was this Simon whom Mark so precisely identifies that he even records the names of his sons and that he had come to Jerusalem from “the country” or “the fields.”  Since Mark wrote his gospel for Jewish believers, it is likely that by the time he wrote the gospel story the inclusion of the names of his sons in Mark 15:21 may suggest that they were of some standing in the Early Christian community. Tradition says that Simon's sons Rufus and Alexander became missionaries of the gospel; It has also been suggested that the Rufus mentioned by Paul in Romans 16:13 is the son of Simon of Cyrene. 

Libya is separated from the Holy Land by Egypt. Simon would have had to cross Egypt by land or come by sea. Libya was under Roman rule at that time but there was a Greek colony in North Libya along the Mediterranean Sea with a large settlement of Judean Jews.  Most of Libya is covered by the Sahara desert except for that special long strip of Northern coastline where eighty percent of Libya's people live. Cyrene became an early center of Christianity in the centuries after the Church began to spread. Some also link Simon with the "men of Cyrene" in Acts 11:20 who preached the gospel to the Greeks—the Cyrenians would have known how to speak Greek. 

Why was Simon there in the crowd that was following Jesus to Golgotha? Were his sons with him? Were they adults or children? Was he a laborer or a wealthy foreign businessman? Was he a Jew from the diaspora or a dark-skinned Libyan native? Was Simon a believer in Jesus already when he carried Jesus' cross? Was he a devout Jew who was making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Passover according to the requirement of Judaism?  Or was he only a curious pagan caught up in the drama of a Roman execution until he became part of what was a life-changing event for himself and his sons and perhaps his heritage for generations to come?

Simon, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” Did you stay at the cross after you carried it up the hill for Jesus and watch salvation history unfold? Were your sons at the crucifixion with you?  “Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?” Did you become a Christian as a result of seeing Jesus die on the cross or perhaps hearing the witness of the disciples about Jesus' resurrection? (Someone ought to write a novel about this man!)

Simon, “Were you there when the Holy Spirit came?” Were you among the 120 in the Upper Room? In the biblical account of the birth of the Church on Pentecost in Acts chapter two in the list of places from which people were present at the event, “the districts of Libya near Cyrene” was noted. Simon, “Were you there?” We can only speculate.

What is the take-away insight for us from this special event? In His suffering humanity and to accomplish His mission from His Father, Jesus allowed Simon to help carry His cross. He could have called ten thousand angels to strengthen Him to carry the heavy cross, but He permitted and welcomed a mortal man to help Him. In His teaching before the crucifixion Jesus spoke about the necessity of taking up our cross and following Him. (Matthew 16:24) On the way to Golgotha Simon didn't carry his own cross; he carried Jesus' cross.

We can't do what Simon did. We can't carry Jesus' cross. Jesus gave His life once for all on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins and to obtain eternal life for us. So then, how can we bear Jesus' cross for Him now? Jesus declared that whatsoever we do for others or to others, we do as if we did it unto Him. The Lord receives it as literally done to Him! (Matthew 25:35-46) In practice then, we are to bear one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

Each of us have unique personal crosses to bear as well as burdens, afflictions, and problems. There is a sense in which we must with courage and God's enabling accept and bear our own cross, the cross that God has given us in His love. By this we glorify Him and give witness to Him. However, there is a further sense in which we should reach out in love and compassion to help others shoulder their crosses as Simon of Cyrene did for Jesus. By so doing, we are privileged to partake in Jesus' suffering, “For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for His sake.” (Philippians 1:29)


The everlasting God has, in His wisdom,
foreseen from eternity the cross
that He now presents to you
as a gift from His inmost heart.

This cross He now sends you
He has considered with His all-knowing eyes,
understood with His loving mind,
tested with His wise justice,
warmed with His loving arms,
and weighed with His own hands,
to see that it be not one inch too large
and not one ounce too heavy for you.

He has blessed it with His holy name,
anointed it with His grace,
perfumed it with His consolation,
taken one last glance at you and your courage,
and then sent it to you from Heaven,
a special greeting from God to you,
an alms of the all-merciful love of God.
Saint Francis de Sales