The Beginning of Good

It happened that when Abba Arsenius was sitting in his cell that he was harassed by demons. His servants, on their return, stood outside his cell and heard him praying to God in these words, ‘O God, do not leave me. I have done nothing good in your sight, but according to your goodness, let me now make a beginning of good.’

—Abba Arsenius

prayer young man 1“I have done no good but allow me to make a beginning of good,” says the monk. How do we make a beginning of good? Do we go out and do a lot of good deeds, give sacrificially to others or read the Bible daily? None of those things would hurt us, and they may even help, but such actions are not the beginning of good. Jesus says that we must leave behind the things of the world and seek God. In our seeker’s journey, we will find good. That good is recognizing our helplessness in comparison to our Creator. When we accomplish that, we can then start doing the “good” things.

The beginning of good is when we learn that we are totally dependent upon God Good-Deeds-2and have the courage to admit it. Such a simple confession changes our lives and allows us to begin the path that leads to good. A professing Christian does not plan to do good but does good naturally. The Holy Spirit that lives in us guides us to situations and time that allow the light of God to shine through us.

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Who Could it Be?

I heard a story  about a Russian Monastery that was dying and declining. The brothers were growing old, many had died. The villagers had stopped coming to visit the monastery. Young men were no longer interested in dedicated themselves to the Monastic order. This decline led to worry and the loss of hope led to bitterness. In desperation the abbot went to visit an old hermit we had heard about. He hoped that the old man might have some wisdom. The abbot arrived after a long journey and explained their problem to the hermit. The hermit prayed for the abbot but said nothing more. The two men sat in silence for a very long time and the abbot patiently waited to hear some word of hope – a blessing, a prophecy, just something simple to try. Finally the abbot could abide the silence no longer and he begged the hermit for an answer. The hermit replied, “I’m sorry, but there really isn’t anything I have to tell you. I don’t know what the future holds for the monastery. I am sorry – oh, but there is this – I believe that the Messiah is in your midst.” The Messiah?, thought the abbot. Among us at the monastery. He rushed back and reported the unexpected news and the brothers began to question, “Who is it?” “Who among us is the Messiah?” Surely not Bro. Nicolaus, he gripes too much. Surely not Bro. Stavros, he is so whiney. But what if …? And on it went.

Monk Praying in SunsetAnd in time as the brothers began to suppose that any one of them could be the Messiah, they began to treat each other with respect and kindness and love. That spirit extended into the village and rumors of the Messiah’s presence continued so that everyone began to wonder if their neighbor might be the Messiah. And though no one was ever identified as the Messiah, the monastery was thriving and the village was blessed and young men devoted themselves to the faith.

Since Jesus is with us always, then discipleship is on-going and it is everyday. It is not something for a special day or a special evening or a special program. It is the pulse of every moment lived in the kingdom of God.

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Turning Anxiety Upside Down

“Some people feel guilty about their anxieties and regard them as a defect of faith. I don’t agree at all. They are afflictions, not sins. Like all afflictions, they are, if we can so take them, our share in the Passion of Christ”

― C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer

As a child who was educated in the old parochial school way, I was often told when I was anxious and worried to “offer it up.” For an eight year old that was a most difficult and nearly impossible philosophy. As I have grown older I have come to appreciate the wisdom and true meaning of that philosophy. We all know that trails and anxieties are part of living. In the midst of those soul shaking times we have some decisions to make. Do we “offer it up” or wallow in guilt or pain?

Lewis knew that many people were spiritually trained to consider any anxiety tocs-lewis be a sinful flaw in their lives. He urges us, however, to make these a vehicle to journey into the passion of the Christ. How different would life be for us if we could adopt this philosophy? Anxious days would become days of prayer and, difficult times would be time of getting to know God better. After all, knowing God is the core objective of our spiritual journey. Paul tells us to let our anxious times be a catalyst for prayer. “Don’t be anxious about anything; rather bring up all your requests to God in your prayers and petitions along with giving thanks.”(Philippians 4:6) Our anxieties can serve us rather than us serving them. Let your troubled times illuminate the nearness of God who is so near that we can feel His pain just as He feels ours.

Lord, let every anxious moment drive me closer to you so that I might experience your passion. As I walk with you in your passion, I am made strong to walk on this earth. Today, guide me to offer up my anxiety to you so that I might experience you. Amen

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The Fisher King

It begins with the king as a boy, having to spend the night alone in the forest to prove his courage so he can become king.

Now while he is spending the night alone he’s visited by a sacred vision. Out of the fire appears the holy grail, symbol of God’s divine grace. And a voice said to the boy,

“You shall be keeper of the grail so that it may heal the hearts of men.”

But the boy was blinded by greater visions of a life filled with power and glory and beauty.

And in this state of radical amazement he felt for a brief moment not like a boy, but invincible, like God,

… so he reached into the fire to take the grail,

… and the grail vanished,

… leaving him with his hand in the fire to be terribly wounded.

Now as this boy grew older, his wound grew deeper.

Until one day, life for him lost its reason. … He had no faith in any man, not even himself.

… He couldn’t love or feel loved.

… He was sick with experience.

He began to die.

One day a fool wandered into the castle and found the king alone. And being a fool, he was simple minded, he didn’t see a king. He only saw a man alone and in pain. And he asked the king,

“What ails you friend?”

The king replied,

“I’m thirsty. I need some water to cool my throat”.

So the fool took a cup from beside his bed, filled it with water and handed it to the king.

Fisher King1As the king began to drink, he realized his wound was healed. He looked in his hands and there was the holy grail, that which he sought all of his life. And he turned to the fool and said with amazement,

“How can you find that which my brightest and bravest could not?”

And the fool replied,

“I don’t know. I only knew that you were thirsty.”

This legend holds in it the key to being a missional person. Missional people act out of the heart of God that dwells in them. For such a person there is never a decision about  ministering but rather how to minister.?

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Food for Thought-5 Good Ideas for Today June 17th, 2015

Irvin J. Boudreaux:

Great List

Originally posted on Richard's Food for Thought:

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1. Are you going to love or be loved today?
2. In finding your happiness, how can you make sure you don’t exclude the lives of other people?
3. Be yourself in every interaction, however small or large.
4. Gratitude isn’t a theory. It’s a way of life that changes how you see the world and yourself.
5. The sharks in our life aren’t in water; they’re the fears we allow to control what we do tomorrow.

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The Disappearing Word

Abba Poeman asked him weeping, ‘Give me a word that I may be saved.’ But the old man replied, ‘What you are looking for has disappeared now from among monks.’

— Abba Macarius the Great

Sometimes it can be stunning how many things have disappeared from a church or a culture. As a United Methodist I am keenly aware of my church’s decline over the past 40 years. The decline has been steady and damArsenius 2aging. The recent Pew Study finds: “The decline of Christians in the U.S. has corresponded with the continued rise in the share of Americans with no religious affiliation (religious “nones”).” Upon hearing this news many that are predicted the fall of Christianity in America. We Americans are so short sited that we assume that such a time of decline has never happened before. Do not misunderstand, American Christianity has some deep wounds.

  I am always astounded at the “back door” messages that I receive from my study of the fathers and mystics. Abba Poeman goes to the great monk and seeks a word of salvation, and the great monk says that such words have disappeared from the community. I can just imagine the discussion about the good old days and how they wish to return to that wonderful time during the social hour of the monastery. Additionally, I hear the cry that monastery will soon have to shut its doors because of a multitude of troubles.

Hard times are not exclusive to our era; they have plagued the church throughout its existence. The answer for such woes is always the same, ”work and pray.” Those of us who believe that God will be faithful are compelled to do the work of the church as if we believe He is faithful. We must never neglect our prayer and even ramp up our prayers in this time of need. In taking these simple steps, we have opened the way for God to give us understanding and maybe growth.

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The Road

If a man wishes to be sure of the road he treads on, he must close his eyes and walk in the dark.

St. John of the Cross, Doctor of the Church.

——John of the Cross

John of the cross is the medieval mystic who gave us “Dark Night of the Soul.” In his work he challenges us to the work of being a Christian, and the strength that comes for the journey. He tells us that the strength comes from complete union with God. This union has a price, and it is separation from the world. In that dark night of separation John finds the peace of God.

Prayer Thought

Lord help us to seek union with you and to understand its cost.

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Suffering

“Might the authority of those who suffer bring the diverse cultural and social worlds together?” –Johann Baptist Metz

I believe this profound question about suffering, from a modern German theologian, succinctly and precisely expresses the religious breakthrough that Christ has offered humanity. It is also foundational to understanding the unique Franciscan view of the world. True gospel authority, the authority to heal and renew things and people, is not finally found in a hierarchical office, a theological argument, a perfect law, or a rational explanation. The Crucified revealed to the world that the real power that changes people and the world is an inner authority that comes from people who have lost, let go, and are re-found on a new level. Twelve-step programs have come to the same conclusion in our time.

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Richard Rhor

Both Francis and Clare had this kind of inner authority that is still part of their essential message for the world. They let go of all fear of suffering; all need for power, prestige and possessions; any need for their small self to be important; and came to know something essential–who they really were in God and thus who they really were. Their house was then built on “bedrock,” as Jesus says .

Such an ability to really change and heal people is often the fruit of suffering, and various forms of poverty, since the false self does not surrender without a fight to its death. If suffering is “whenever we are not in control” (which is my definition), then you see why some form of suffering is absolutely necessary to teach us how to live beyond the illusion of control and to give that control back to God. Then we become usable instruments, because we can share our power with God’s power (Romans 8:28).

Such a counterintuitive insight surely explains why these two medieval dropouts–Francis and Clare–tried to invite us all into their happy run downward, to that place of “poverty” where all humanity finally dwells anyway. They voluntarily leapt into the very fire from which most of us are trying to escape, with total trust that Jesus’ way of the cross could not, and would not, be wrong. They trusted that his way was the way of solidarity and communion with the larger world, which is indeed passing away and dying. By God’s grace, they could trust the eventual passing of all things, and where it was passing to. They did not wait for liberation later–after death–but grasped it here and now.

—-Richard Rhor

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Bears are re-writing the signs

Irvin J. Boudreaux:

Love this type of cartoon.

Originally posted on Mustard Seed Budget:

sin no longer sinDanger is no longer danger, sin is no longer sin.

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Desire

Cross John of the CrossTo reach satisfaction in all
desire its possession in nothing,
To come to the knowledge of all
desire the knowledge of nothing.
To come to possess all
desire the possession of nothing.
To arrive at being all
desire to be nothing.
— St. John of the Cross

Desire is a very strong emotion and it can lead us to good or bad. Our control of desire is the key to victory.

Prayer

Lord help me this day to desire nothing so that You may be able to give me more than I can imagine.

Amen

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