This seemed like an appropriate poem to share today. Wendell Berry is one of my favorites.
The summer ends, and it is time
To face another way. Our theme
Reversed, we harvest the last row
To store against the cold, undo
The garden that will be undone.
We grieve under the weakened sun
To see all earth’s green fountains dried,
And fallen all the works of light.
You do not speak, and I regret
This downfall of the good we sought
As though the fault were mine. I bring
The plow to turn the shattering
Leaves and bent stems into the dark,
From which they may return. At work,
I see you leaving our bright land,
The last cut flowers in your hand.
Contemplation is no fantasy, make-believe, or daydream, but the flowering of patience and steady perseverance. There is a deep relationship between the inner revolution of true prayer and the transformation of social structures and social consciousness. Our hope lies in the fact that meditation is going to change the society that we live in, just as it has changed us. It is that kind of long-term thinking that God seems to be involved in and kindly invites us into the same patient process.
I know the situation in the world can seem quite dark today. The negative forces are very strong, and the progressive development of consciousness and love sometimes feels very weak. But the Great Turning is indeed happening, as people like Joanna Macy, David Korten, Byron Katie, and Thomas Berry believe and describe.
In his Letter to the Romans, Paul has a marvelous line: “Where sin increases, grace abounds all the more” (5:20). In so many places, there are signs of the Holy Spirit working at all levels of society, almost in tandem with the emergence of unbelievable violence, fear, and hatred all over the world.
Carl Jung from Getty Images
It seems to me that true progress, or the hope that we have, is not naively optimistic, a straight line, or without regression. Spiritual progress, ironically, develops through tragedy and through falling. As C. G. Jung said, “Where we stumble and fall is where we find pure gold,” the gold of the Gospels, the hidden gold of our own souls, and then the beautiful soul of the whole creation.
Bless to me, O God
Each thing my eye sees;
Bless to me, O God
Each sound my ear hears;
Bless to me, O God
Each odor that goes to my nostrils;
Bless to me, O God
Each taste that goes to my lips;
Each note that goes to my song,
Each ray that guides my way,
Each thing that I pursue,
Each lure that tempts my will,
The zeal that seeks my living soul,
The Three that seek my heart,
The zeal that seeks my living soul,
The Three that seek my heart.
Catherine MacLean — Alive Now Magazine September/October 2014
In her play, “The Zeal of Thy House,” Dorothy Sayers imagines a stonemason working on an intricate carving for the chancel of Canterbury Cathedral. He then drops his carving tool and ruins the stone. This devastates him because the valuable and custom-cut stone is ruined. The designer, however, takes the tool out of the stonemason’s hand and begins restoration. He brings forth out of the spoiled stone a new and different figure which has its own part to play in the Cathedral, and then permits the blundering mason to complete it in all its glory. “So works with us,” concludes Dorothy Sayers, “the cunning craftsman, God.”
As I tell this story, I cannot shake the phrase from my mind: “The cunning craftsman, God.” In this situation, the word cunning does not mean some kind of craftiness or deceit. The word is taken in its purer sense indicating skill, wisdom and ability. The phrase then really means that the Master artist God can take our awkward efforts and make something useful out of them. He takes our mismanaged lives, our failed efforts, our missed marks, our shameful deeds, our alien attitudes, our sinful lives and with His divine resourcefulness He saves the day. He creates something new, worthy and wonderful that still has usefulness and beauty in the divine plan of things. We desperately need this type of assurance.
- The History of Stonemasonry (askinslittle.wordpress.com)
Abba Abraham told of a man of Scetis who was a scribe and did not eat bread. A brother came to beg him to copy a book. The old man whose spirit was engaged in contemplation, wrote, omitting some phrases and with no punctuation. The brother, taking the book and wishing to punctuate it, noticed that words were missing. So he said to the old man, ‘Abba, there are some phrases missing.’ The old man said to him, ‘Go, and practice first that which is written, then come back and I will write the rest.’
—–Sayings of the Desert
I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarrelling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations?
—–1 Corinthians 3:2-3
In my office there are many books, some I have read, and some I have not read. Within my collection are books that I have not read since my seminary days. Somehow I am comforted by the clutter of words that surround me and forget that a book is no good unless it is read. The Abba and Paul hit this subject head on.
If we do not use what we have, how can more be of any use to us? Most of us, like the Corinthians and the brother of the story are crying out for fullness and never use what we already possess. We have to begin our spiritual journey by applying the knowledge we possess to our pilgrimage .As we are nourished by the milk we have been given, we then push forth to a higher plain of knowledge. Our spiritual passage begins with the life messages that God has given to us and our application of them. Far too many times we get well ahead of ourselves and begin drowning in an overload of spiritual information with the false illusion that more is better. Only later we discover that we have wasted precious time for blessing by coveting more that we can apply.
Lord help me to absorb with diligence and humility all that you have revealed to me. May I spend my days trying to grow into the Christian that you created. This day I give to you what I know and understand, and I will wait with patience for what is to come. Amen
Irvin J. Boudreaux:
Some interesting thoughts.
Originally posted on The Culture Monk:
By Kenneth Justice
~ Raised in a conservative Evangelical Christian home, belief in God has been paramount to the very meaning and purpose my life. However, despite my upbringing I’ve always gone through seasons of doubt,
—) Does God really exist?
—) If God exists why do evil people prosper and good people die?
—) Where is God amidst tragedy?
One of the toughest issues related to my belief in God is the nastiness I’ve seen come from the very people (Christians) who purport to have a stranglehold on the doctrines and philosophies related to all things god. It’s tough to believe in God when Christians have been so evil towards me and in a more global sense; so evil to people throughout the world and throughout human history.
My podcast partner Kylie has recently abandoned her Christian faith (click) in favor of a more agnostic outlook on…
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My wife is a preschool teacher and she wrote this prayer for her class. I just want to share it.
MAY THE PEACE OF THE LORD CHRIST BE ON THIS ROOM.
MAY THE BEAUTY OF THE LORD BE ON EACH TEACHER.
MAY HE BLESS THE WORK OF OUR HANDS.
MAY THE BEAUTY OF THE LORD BE ON EACH CHILD.
MAY HE BLESS THEM WITH JOY.
MAY WE LEAVE THIS PLACE EACH DAY
REJOICING AT THE WONDERS HE HAS SHOWN US.
Filed under Prayer, School
The soul defines itself by expansion and inclusion-not by saying “no,” but by offering a kind of courageous, risky “yes”: “Yes, I am like everybody else, capable of the same good and the same bad. They are all my brothers and sisters.” The soul knows that we are all equally naked underneath our clothes. Can you feel the scariness in that? When you allow the face of the other, the opinion of the other, the worldview of the other, to break through your barriers and boundaries, there is always a bit of fear, as in the first moments of nakedness or intimacy.
I can see why Jesus said, “For the gate is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:14). He is talking, first, about life in this world. On the unconscious level, I know that true intimacy with anything is going to change me. And if there is one thing that the ego hates more than anything else, is to change. I know that if I keep meditating, it is going to change my worldview, my priorities, and my preferences. It will be a new world, and I am comfortably hunkered down in this old one. It is a wonder that anyone continues the dangerous journey of prayer, step-by-step, into divine and soul intimacy.
Dancing Standing Still: Healing the World from a Place of Prayer
By Richard Rhor
- The Creator Of Intimacy (authenticlove789.wordpress.com)
A man who receives something from another because of his poverty or his need has therein his reward, and because he is ashamed, when he repays it he does so in secret. But it is the opposite for the Lord God; he receives in secret, but he repays in the presence of the angels, the archangels and the righteous.
—-Saying of the Desert
The concept of shame and poverty being coupled is very strong in our society. From the earliest of times, we have been taught, and rightly so, to be responsible hard workers. Our goal is to be able to care for ourselves and never be a burden to others. When the time comes that we have fallen short and necessity sends us to someone for help, a person does everything possible to keep this event secretive. He even pays back in secret.
The opposite is true of the Lord. He receives in secret, but rewards in a very open way. By that action, we see that the Lord is a Lord of grace. His grace is not about how much we give but how much He gives. Our reward, given in the presence of heavenly and earthly beings, is God’s joy to give. Our Lord does not want to keep His grace giving secretive, and He never does. He implores us not be showy in our devotion to Him. We pray and give in secret, and then He rewards for all to see. May we catch the spirit of our Lord and learn to bestow grace on all along our path.
Henri Nouwen, the great spiritual writer, was going to a monastery for a retreat. The monks observed vows of silence and the retreat was to be meditative and prayerful. Nouwen was delayed and was late getting to the Monastery on a very miserable, rainy night. Upon his arrival, he rang the bell and was met at the door by one of the brothers. He warmly greeted Henri, took his wet coat, took him to the kitchen and made him a cup of tea. They chatted into the late night hours and Nouwen began to relax and feel ready for the retreat. He knew this monk was supposed to observe silence, so he finally asked him, “Why are you willing to sit and talk with me?” The monk replied, “Of all the duties of the Christian faith and the rules of my order, none is higher than hospitality.”
The church is a community as well, and hospitality should be a primary focus. Today’s church should be a place of welcome to all who come our way. There should be no connotation that only “rule followers” are welcome at the church. I fear that we have forgotten the concept of radical hospitality and confused it with assimilation into our group. If the church is to practice true hospitality, it must practice inclusiveness. That means no one is barred from total participation in the life of the church. I am concerned that we have lost sight of a most important tenet of Christianity. I thank the monastics for giving us a reminder.
Prayer Thought – Lord help me to remember that the open door of hospitality can have eternal consequences.