Time to Repent

let us return to the Lord;

   for it is he who has torn, and he will heal us;

   he has struck down, and he will bind us up.

After two days he will revive us;

   on the third day he will raise us up,

   that we may live before him.

Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord;

   his appearing is as sure as the dawn;

he will come to us like the showers,

   like the spring rains that water the earth.’

What shall I do with you, O Ephraim?

   What shall I do with you, O Judah?

Your love is like a morning cloud,

   like the dew that goes away early.

Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets,

   I have killed them by the words of my mouth,

   and my judgement goes forth as the light.

For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,

the knowledge of God rather than burnt-offerings.

~~~Hosea 6:1-6

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Question

What is God leading you to repent from this Advent?

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord, Help me to look deeply into myself as I ponder the need to repent. Too often we see repentance as something for the other. Guide me to see my need.

Amen

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Work and Prayer

When the holy ABBA Anthony lived in the desert he was beset by spiritual apathy and attacked by many sinful thoughts. He said to God, “Lord, I want to be saved but these thoughts do not leave me alone; What shall I do differently? How can I be saved?” a short while afterwards, when he got up to go out, Anthony saw a man like himself sitting at his work, getting up from his work to pray, then sitting down and platting a rope, then getting up again to pray. It was an Angel of the Lord sent to correct and reassure him. He heard the Angel saying to him “do this and you will be saved.” At these words, Anthony was filled with joy and courage. He did this, and he was saved.

~~~ Sayings of the Desert


In a recent google search I received 776,000,000 hits to my search “Prayer Book”.  Our world is searching for and hungering for a way to pray. The disciples of Jesus said, “Lord teach us to pray,” and he gave them what we called the Lord’s Prayer or the Our Father. People who seek God want to pray, but prayer is sometimes, many times, difficult to manage in the lives that we live. Most of us were taught to prioritize our lives so that we can be successful in all that we do. We are busy, anxious, stressed, depressed, tired and in the amid hustle and bustle, prayer gets shoved to the back. It is overlooked and neglected while we go about the important tasks that each day brings us.

This model was later refined by Benedict of Nursia the founder of modern Monasticism. He wrote a rule to guide those who felt the calling of God to enter a religious community. The Rule was a guidebook on how to live in a communal setting and get closer to God. Benedict used a Latin phrase- ORA LABORA –or work and prayer. The purpose of any monastic community is prayer and closer union with God. Prayer can be words, listening to scripture or simple silence in the presence of God. The Monks of his time and those of today have a daily prayer schedule called the Office of Hours. There are seven times of prayer a day for the Monk of strict observance.

Benedict and Anthony both realized that a man had to do more than pray 24 hours a day. In his Rule Benedict states – “Idleness is the enemy of the soul” and he set a path for work at every community that allowed it to thrive spiritually and physically. The Monks were given various tasks and commitments that go to support the Monastery and help the outside community. These tasks are as widespread as greeting guests, making bread, candles, and as diverse as making   coffins.  The Bible is very clear and speaks of idleness many times. One of my favorites comes from Proverbs – “One who is slack in work is close kin to a vandal.” (Proverbs 18:9) Work is essential part of our spiritual life.

Obviously very few of us are ever going to join a monastic community, but we all want to pray and get closer to God. If we are to be truly closer to God, we must develop a rhythm of work and prayer that allows us to praise God for all he has given us. We must offer our work up to God and feel that he is using us to help his creation. To do so we are compelled to find our rhythm of work and prayer. I hope that you can find a rhythm that will free you to be the person that God created.


PRAYER

LORD, I offer myself to you today. Let all that I do with my hands be credited to you. Lead me to a place where prayer and work are both natural and are a part of my service to you. Grant the peace to be able to develop a life that is pleasing to you.

Amen

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Nothing Else Matters

LUKE 15:11-32
In the grand scheme of written material, we have only a few words that Jesus actually said. Because they are so few, they are all the more precious and meaningful. Jesus often taught using parables – short, easy to remember stories that teach an important lesson in faith. Without exception, these stories are portraits of grace that stir our minds and hearts. They are forever relevant keys to growth in kingdom living that challenge our natural inclinations to prejudice, selfishness, judgementalism, misplaced priorities, and self-righteousness. They teach us that when we do acts of mercy, love, and compassion we are truly living in the kingdom of God. Parables teach us that grace is a gift of God to be passed on to all we meet, that forgiveness is not an option, that each person is of equal yet priceless value, and that knowing God is the only treasure that matters. They give us insights to the nature of the Father through the stories of the son.

One of my favorite parables is the Prodigal Son, or more accurately the Gracious Father. The central truth of this story is the Father’s eager forgiveness and unconditional restoration of his wayward child. He had lived so long with the awful gnawing fear that his son was dead. He had relived countless memories of when he was a little boy. He had remembered in detail the funny, sweet things the boy had done. He had imagined his smile and the way laughter just bubbled out of him when he played. He had thought about how he looked when he was asleep and the times he had held him when he was hurt or afraid. Now he was here! He was alive and he was home! Nothing else mattered!

The image of the Father running down the road to meet his son with open arms of love and acceptance takes my breath away. That image stays with me in one of my most precious memories.

Our son returned to Fort Hood, Texas, after a year-long deployment to Iraq. When his battalion came marching across the parade ground, I spotted him in formation just by the way he walks. When the welcome home speeches were made and the ropes holding back the families were removed, I took off in an all-out sprint! For so long I had lived with the awful fear that I would never see him again. In that year, I had recalled hundreds of sweet memories: the way he smiles, his first steps, stitches in his foot, rocking him to sleep. Now he was here! He was alive and he was home! Nothing else mattered!

So, it is with God the Father. He anguishes over our hurts and our loneliness, our rejection and our sins. But, we are reconciled to Him, because He RUNS to us with open arms of understanding, acceptance, and forgiveness. We are home! Nothing else matters!

Reflection – When has the Father run to you with forgiveness, acceptance and hope?


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An Introduction to Advent

Advent comes from the Latin meaning “a coming” or “arrival.” The season begins on the Sunday nearest to November 30th aAdvent Prayer Partners - Deadline to Signup! - The Church of Saint Clarencend ends on Christmas Eve. Advent begins our new church year as Christ comes to us again with that peace and joy needed to take us through another year.

During the season of Advent, the church celebrates two comings of Christ. First, we remember his incarnation, the coming of the Messiah, the world’s Savior. Second, we look forward to the second and final coming as reigning Lord and Judge. We thank him for His first Advent, prepare for his Second Advent, and celebrate His Presence through the Holy Spirit. It is a unique time when the past, the present, and the future realities of God are combined.

Advent gives voice to the joy and hope that the Christ Child brought to the earth and the expectation of the total restoration of God’s Kingdom. The Church looks forward to the completion of our salvation and the end of the world’s suffering when Christ comes again. The season forces spirituality into an increasingly secular Christmas and enriches our relationship to God, to each other, and those who have come before us.

The earliest recorded observances of Advent are from the fourth century. Monks set aside approximately six weeks before Christ’s Mass as a time of penitence and devotion and fasting. Advent became a time when new Christians prepared for baptism. For almost 2000 years, the church has set aside a four week period to recover Christmas as a holy time of expectation and preparation.

Today in the midst of so much despair Advent offers HOPE – the hope of the church, the hope of the restoration of creation to completeness upon Christ’s return, the hope of the salvation Christ brings. In the midst of so much war and death, Advent offers PEACE – the peace beyond our understanding, the peace that is more than the absence of conflict, the peace of Christ. In the midst of so much prejudice and hate, Advent offers LOVE – the perfect love of God, a way to love one another, the yearning to love His church. In the midst of so much sadness and loneliness, Advent offers JOY – the joy of salvation, the joy of life, the joy of heaven.

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The Source

There is no question that we battle evil at all times. Some choose to see evil as some sort of devil or demon that haunts us. Others choose to see evil as a state that has persisted on the earth since the fall of Adam and Eve in the garden. No matter how you define the presence of evil on earth, we can defeat it. Ironically, we can only do this by admitting, as the desert monk did, that it is more powerful than we can ever imagine.

After we come to this admission, we can say as the Psalmist does, “I will lift UP my eyes – from where my help comes.” When we find ourselves in a situation that we are powerless to control or defeat, we must call upon our God because He has the power to defeat ALL enemies. We are so tempted to believe that we can do it on our own.

When my son Jeremy was about two years old his mother always stressed to him how important it was to hold his hand when he crossed the street. Our oldest was always a very resourceful person so he decided that he could hold his own hand. When it came time to cross the street or to walk in the mall he would clasp both hands together and say, “ I hold my own hand.” That didn’t work too well. He did not realize that holding his own hand defeated the very purpose of holding hands. His mother held his hand to protect him, not to control. In the mind of a two year old, holding his hand was control and he didn’t want it. Most of us are more than two years old, and yet we still don’t want to be controlled. Like the commercial where the man is doing all kinds of crazy things saying, “I got this,” but really he doesn’t have anything. He’s just simply out of control. We cannot control the sources of evil on this earth without looking to the source of our blessing, of our hope, and our power.

The source of our power is found when we humbly cry out, I can’t do this on my own. The psalmist even goes further and plainly admits that the source of power comes from above and not from within himself. I fear that today, as we face the tensions and difficulties of our time, we are looking so deeply inside of ourselves that we are forgetting the source of all healing, peace, understanding, and that life really is from above. This does not mean that we should not do our best and muster together all of the resources that God has blessed us with to defeat this plague that has beset us. However, as we do it we should never forget that all that we are and all we will ever be comes from God. He is our TRUE source of ALL.

In these times we must put our trust in our Source. We should do all that we can with the knowledge that we have to fight this situation, but in the end we must lean on the strength of God. He will see us through to the end. The times that lie ahead may be difficult, but God will be with us.

LORD, we acknowledge you as the source that guides us and sustains us. In these difficult times we ask you to guide us to put ourselves aside and allow you to steer our course. Forgive us Lord for trying to be our own gods, and convict us to follow your guidance so that we may find the ultimate source of our victory.

Amen

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The True Commands of God

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Once the order was given at Scetis, ‘Fast the week.’ Now it happened that some brothers came from Egypt to visit Abba Moses and he cooked something for them. Seeing some smoke, the neighbors said to the ministers, ‘Look, Moses has broken the commandment and has cooked something in his cell.’ The ministers said, ‘When he comes, we will speak to him ourselves.’

When the Saturday came, since they knew Abba Moses’ remarkable way of life, the ministers said to him in front of everyone, ‘O Abba Moses, you did not keep the commandment of men, but it was so that you might keep the commandment of God.’

—-Sayings of the Desert



It is a difficult thing to discern sometimes whether we are acting out of religious piety or truly following the commands of God. Our community, like the community of Scetis, can confuse the two. Men have a way of making so many rules, and often these rules are just a pretense of following God. The practice of His presence is far greater than keeping the commands of a church, a class, or a community. God’s commands are made for the good of His creation. Jesus tells us, “The Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath.” The commands of God are not meant to burden, punish or diminish our value, but to allow us to know God’s love and mercy and share it with the world.



PRAYER

Lord, help me discern the true commands that you have revealed. Prevent me from wasting my life in superficial piety and guide me by your spirit to true service and obedience. Let me see that true obedience lifts burdens from my life. Your commands are the key to abundant life in the here and now.

Amen

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Musings #6 – H0pe

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Do you remember the story of Pandora’s Box? The lovely Pandora was sent by Zeus to be the bride of Epimetheus. One of Pandora’s more endearing charms was her curiosity, but that quality also proved to nearly be her undoing. One day Mercury, the messenger, sent a box to the young couple. It was meant for them to enjoy, but under no circumstances were they to open it. Well, of course, it is the old story of the forbidden fruit. Told that she could not do it, it became the thing that she desired to do the most. So, one day she pried it open and peeked inside. Suddenly out flew swarms of insects that began attacking them. Both lovers were stung with the poison of suspicion, hatred, fear, and malice. Now the once happy couple began to argue. Epimetheus became bitter and Pandora wept with a broken heart. But amid the quarreling, they heard a tiny voice cry out: Let me out, to soothe your pain. Fearfully they opened the box again, and this time a beautiful butterfly flew out. It touched the couple and miraculously their pain was healed, and they were happy again. The butterfly we are told was hope. It is hope that sustains us; it is hope that soothes our pain.

We live in a world of pessimists who want to rob us of our hope. They would prefer that we all be forlorn and dreadful, but God one has better in mind for us. He sends out butterflies in the darkest of times, and I just know that there is out flying right now one with your name on it. All we must do is open our eyes and look for it. Let us hold on to the hope that is in our faith and know that it will guide us through.

Once you choose hope, anything’s possible.

—– Christopher Reeve

We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope.

—-Martin Luther King Jr

Everything that is done in this world is done by hope.

—–Martin Luther

I dwell in possibility.

—–Emily Dickinson

May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.

—-Nelson Mandela

If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every

disappointment.

—-Henry David Thoreau

Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.

—-Desmond Tutu

Hope is a waking dream.

—-Aristotle

Hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all… As long as matters are really hopeful, hope is mere flattery or platitude; it is only when everything is hopeless that hope begins to be a strength.

—-G.K. Chesterton

I find hope in the darkest of days and focus in the brightest. I do not judge the universe.

—–Dalai Lama

While there’s life, there’s hope.

—-Marcus Tullius Cicero

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.

~~~Jeremiah 29:11

Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed.

~~~I Peter 1:13

Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful.

~~~Hebrews 10:23

Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,

even as we hope in you.

~~~Psalm 33:22

But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more.

~~~Psalm 71:14

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

~~~Romans 15:13

Know that wisdom is such to your soul; if you find it, you will find a future, and your hope will not be cut off.

~~~Proverbs 24:14

LORD, because of you I know there is always hope -

Hope for today

Hope of a better day tomorrow

Hope that my pain will end

Hope that joy will return

Help me to have enough faith to live a life full of hope. Restore my hope in days when it seems to fade. Strengthen my hope today. Amen

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Living in the NOW

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The biggest downer in life is to never enjoy the day. That temptation is one of the devil’s best tools. We spend our lives fretting about what comes next and never relishing what is now. Take some time to live in the moment God have given



Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Matthew 6:34 ESV



Carpe Diem

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Self Discovery

Musings #5





Merton challenges us to look inside of ourselves with great introspection that allows us to see ourselves as God and others see us. Many times we are shocked by the comment of a loved one or friend about something we have said or done. Our first reaction may be to say that we are misunderstood, but we will never really understand until we pause and take a deep look at ourselves. God sees in us what we cannot see in ourselves. The creator made us in his image and likeness with the knowledge that we would never live up to our full potential. Too often we hide behind our accomplishments and never take that voyage to the most difficult destination of all – our true self. Merton reminds us of this, but how do we begin that scary voyage?

Let me suggest a few possibilities.

These three possibilities are not a silver bullet to finding our true selves but some tools that will drive us deeper into that uncharted territory that lies within all of us. As we venture deeper into ourselves, God will give us the wisdom and courage to confront the bad and the joy of the discovery of the good. Remember, the image of God is imprinted in our DNA, and it is the desire of God that it comes out. Spend some time today pondering the possibility that that image can emerge and I know God will bless you.

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The Path to Full Devotion

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A brother renounced the world and gave his goods to the poor, but he kept back a little for his personal expenses. He went to see Abba Anthony. When he told him this, the old man said to him, ‘If you want to be a monk, go into the village, buy some meat, cover your naked body with it and come here like that.’ The brother did so, and the dogs and birds tore at his flesh.  When he came back the old man asked him whether he had followed his advice. He showed him his wounded body, and Saint Anthony said,

‘Those who renounce  the  world  but  want  to  keep  something  for themselves are torn in this way by the demons who make war on them’

—-Sayings of the Desert


At face value, this saying seems to be unreasonable. Meat, birds, dogs, torn flesh what a revolting picture. The real story is conditional commitment is no commitment at all. Abba Anthony is trying to tell us that a monk must fully commit himself to his calling. This same thinking applies to us who seek to be followers of Christ. The goal is to become fully devoted to the Christian journey and to hold nothing back from this way of life. As Christians, we promise to give our all to our savior. In the holding back, we invite temptation and evil to come into our lives. These forces keep us from the high calling that we have received and limit the power of the gospel that lives within us.


PRAYER

Lord, let me realize that you have given me unlimited strength to live for you. Please keep my mind focused on your strength and away from my frailties.

Amen

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