Evil and Innocence

We spend an inordinate amount of time bemoaning the evils of our day. Each day brings a new political and social organization whose primary focus is to turn our country toward “Christianity.” There is a sense that the world has never been worse than is right now.

Nearly 60 years ago C. S. Lewis said:lewiscs34

“The practical problem of Christian politics is not that of drawing up schemes for a Christian society, but that of living as innocently as we can with unbelieving fellow-subjects under unbelieving rulers who will never be perfectly wise and good and who will sometimes be very wicked and very foolish.”

The problem then and now is not that the society is a failure, but that individuals fail to see the role of innocence in their lives. Innocence means believing and doing the “red letter” words of the Bible, and accepting that they are the words of Jesus.

Then we can believe:

  • Innocence is turning the other cheek even when we have the advantage.
  • Innocence is trusting in people that are not saints.
  • Innocence is giving a second chance, and the second, second chance.
  • Innocence is going tone more mile for someone who doesn’t deserve it.
  • Innocence is believing that God will win in the end, and we don’t have to make it happen.

When we can embody these principles and more, we become world changers. Our live and our influence become a great factor in the lives of others. Therefore, by our practice many others are led to a knowledge of the love of God and the reality of Jesus as Savior of the world

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Fasting, Medicine, Approval and Purity

Francisco_de_Zurbarán_043

Today I share some wisdom from Desert Mother Amma Syncletica. The Desert Mothers were women Christian ascetics living in the desert of Egypt, Palestine, and Syria in the 4th and 5th centuries AD. They typically lived in the monastic communities that began forming during that time, though sometimes they lived as hermits Their writings are largely lost because of the male dominance of the church in this time period.

Most of us can relate to medicine tasting bad, and in the same breath admit to it Amma Syn1doing our bodies some good. The wise Amma brings fasting and medicine into the same conversation. Quite often I have had people approach me about the reason and necessity of fasting as a spiritual discipline. Some say that they get absolutely nothing out of fasting except pangs of hunger. Fasting, like any other discipline, must be approached in an attitude of faith. Fasting and prayer are often linked together .Too often, the focus of fasting is on the lack of food. Instead, the purpose of fasting should be to take your eyes off the things of this world and focus more completely on God. Fasting is a way to demonstrate to God, and to ourselves, that we are serious about our relationship with Him. Fasting helps us gain a new perspective and a renewed reliance upon God. With that awareness, we have received a dose of Spiritual medicine that leads us toward our goal of being “one with Him.” Might I suggest that a day of fasting and dedication to our awareness of God could do us all a bit of good.

An undue amount of time is spent byAmm Syn 2 all of us seeking the approval of one person or another. The Amma tells us that if approval of all is necessary, we will spend our lives begging for a mere earthly goal. Instead she suggests that purity of the heart should be our goal. This whole concept of universal approval is an impossibility, however, purity of heart is a difficult but reachable goal. As we seek to live the Christian life, we should learn the wisdom of seeking purity rather than approval.

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Living the Gospel

All of Jesus’ rules of ministry, his “tips for the road,” are very interpersonal. They are based on putting people in touch with people. Person-to-person is the way the gospel was originally communicated. Person-in-love-with-person, person-respecting-person, person-forgiving-person, person-touching-person, person-crying-with-person, person-hugging-person: that’s where the Spirit is so beautifully present.

The challenge is to preach a gospel that is livable, believable, and life-giving. Perhaps that is the most simple criterion by which we can discern Jesus’ teaching. It is always a call to death but is always life-giving in the long run. When you see life being created between people and within people, you see God. Where you see God, you will always see freedom. Restraint and passion—that is the paradoxical experience of the Holy. It takes time to learn. You grow into the ability to love another in a way that totally gives yourself and entrusts yourself and yet respects that person and stands back.

Prayer Thought

Lord help me to grow this day so that I might be able to better understand your holiness. Amen

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The Dark Journey

We May say that there are three reasons for which this journey made by the soul to union with God is called night.

· The first has to do with the point from which the soul goes forth, for it has gradually to deprive itself of desire for all the worldly things which it possessed, by denying them to itself; the which denial and deprivation are, as it were, night to all the senses of man.

Zurbarán_St._John_of_the_Cross· The second reason has to do with the mean, or the road along which the soul must travel to this union — that is, faith, which is likewise as dark as night to the understanding.

· The third has to do with the point to which it travels — namely, God, Who, equally, is dark night to the soul in this life.

These three nights must pass through the soul — or, rather, the soul must pass through them — in order that it may come to Divine union with God.

—- John of the Cross from Ascent to Mt. Carmel

The writings of John of the Cross clearly point toward the ultimate mystery of attempting to reach into the inner sanctum of spiritual development. In this small excerpt from his “Ascent to Mt. Carmel,” he points out that the end of every path there is night (mystery) as we ascend to a meaningful relationship with God. We often think we can understand and reach union with God without encountering the pain of mystery. Such a path does not exist. Let us examine these three reasons we experience this night.

Preparation for the journey, any journey, is always stressful. There are plans to be made, things to be done that are not always things we look forward to doing. In the case of spiritual preparation we must learn to deny ourselves. Jesus asks us to take up a cross and follow Him. Fasting, denial, even simple living are among the things that can bring us into the night. All these disciplines, and more, are what it takes to journey closer to God.

Faith for the journey is a tall order. In the simplest of terms “… faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” We live and breathe in a world that is constantly seeking to understand, prove or discover all manner of truth. Conversely, faith on the road to God cannot be understood, proven or discovered in any tangible way. Faith is clearly a journey into the night that only has God at the end of a dark tunnel.

Focus for the journey is found in an unshakable belief (most of the time) in the person of God. There is much darkness in not seeing. We can’t see or touch God and yet we spend our lives trying to get closer to Him. That is a remarkably dark and lonely place to be. Through resolute behavior and unshakable faith we can reach into the inner sanctum and find God.

May we all commit ourselves to this ascent to God, for in it we find a heavenly Peace.

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Orthodoxy vs Orthopraxy

Orthopraxy is usually distinguished from orthodoxy. Orthodoxy refers to doctrinal correctness, whereas orthopraxy refers to right practice. What we see in many of the Eastern religions is not an emphasis upon verbal orthodoxy, but instead upon practices and lifestyles that, if you do them ,end up changing your consciousness.

Let’s get out and do something for God.

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Scripture

Merton quote 5-1-15

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May 1, 2015 · 5:15 am

Finding God

Many people living secluded lives on the mountain have perished by living like people in the world. It is better to live in a crowd and want to live a solitary life than to live a solitary life but all the time be longing for company.

—-Amma Matrona

Many people yearn for a place apart, our own little corner of the cosmos where we can discover our true selves and touch the hand of God. Our first inclination is to “get away” to a place of solitude and surely God would be there. The wise desert mother tells us that solitude is first and foremost a matter of heart. Many people have sought to escape only to find that they are trapped by their own fallen nature no matter where they find themselves.

Woman in prayerWe all seek our Creator and feel that if we could just be relieved of the pressures, bothers and interferences of everyday life we would find Him. Not so says Amma Matrona. Solitude is a state of mind that begins long before we escape to our desert. The real key is to empty ourselves and allow that void to be filled by God. No amount of social interaction or physical isolation can bring us close to God. This is achieved as a matter of heart.

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The Imagined Self

All mature religion must and will talk about the death of any notion of a separate, and therefore false, self. (Most of the time when you read the word “sin” in the Bible, if you substitute the word “separate” you will understand the core problem being pointed out.) The True Self can let go of any false autonomy and self-sufficiency because it is radically safe at its core.

The True Self is then like a baby that can crawl away from its mother (God), knowing fully she will grab him back if there is any danger whatsoever. What confidence and security that gives the True Self—to actually do whatever it is it has to do. Only the True Self can understand Augustine’s dangerous line: “Love God and do what you will!” To tell that to the False Self would be disastrous. It would be like telling a seventeen-year-old boy to trust his hormones.

self-centeredThe separate self is the False Self, and this fragile identity will need to over-define itself as unique, special, superior, and adequate. What a trap. So Jesus must say, “Unless the single grain of wheat dies, it remains just a single grain. But if it does die, it will bear much fruit” (John 12:24).

Whenever you are loving someone or something else, you have died on some level—and let go of your separate self. As Stephen Levine, the master teacher on dying, said, our fear of death comes from an imaginary loss of an imaginary self.

These seeming losses are not loss at all but actually expansion. Please think and pray about this. It will allow you to overcome your fear of death. Our False Self is precisely our individual singularity in both its “Aren’t I wonderful!” and “Aren’t I terrible!” forms. Each are their own kind of ego trip, and both take the tiny little self far too seriously.

The true saint is no longer surprised at his littleness or her greatness. A mouse in a mansion does not need to take lessons in humility.

—–Richard Rhor

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Happiness

518822642When a chap is in love, he will go out in all kinds of weather to keep an appointment with his beloved. Love can be demanding;in fact, more demanding than law. It has its own imperatives. Think of a mother sitting by the bedside of a sick child through the night, impelled only by love. Nothing is too much trouble for love.

—-Archbishop Desmond Tutu

There is a tale that in the first century a man came to Tertullian, a father in the early church. And in trying to justify some compromises the man had felt he had to make, commented, “I have to live, don’t I?” to which Tertullian is reported to have said, “Do you?”

The only certain happiness in life is to live for others.

—-Leo Tolstoy

Life is experienced at its best and fullest when we are loving and giving to others. Whether we are speaking of some random philanthropist or of the sacrifice of Jesus we are always touched when we see someone put others first. Such behavior moves our hearts and brings out the best in us. Giving behavior motivates us to become better people. Jesus said, “It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave.” Believers should be mindful that our calling is to give more that we receive. I agree so strongly with Tolstoy that the key to true happiness is to live for others, because that allows us to focus away from ourselves.

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Silent Healing

PoemanAbba Poemen said of Abba Nisterus that he was like the serpent of brass which Moses made for the healing of the people: he possessed all virtue and without speaking, he healed everyone.

—sayings of the desert

There is great power in silent centering on God. We are pressed to be vocal and aggressive – even in prayer. I can well remember when the reason I didn’t want to pray in public was because I lacked the spontaneity of some others I knew. The monk tells us that we see great healing when we silently approach God with the needs of others. There are certain times when just being in the presence of prayer heals.

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