TREASURE

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

—–Luke 12:27-34

I have a little rock, smaller than the palm of my hand and shaped like a perfect heart.  On a summer day while taking a walk with my grandfather, he noticed it on the ground and gave it to me.  That was more than fifty years ago, and after moving sixteen times and a lot of life, I still have that little rock.  It is one of my greatest treasures.

Jesus spoke of treasure.  He had been telling his followers that the things we worry about – the material things like clothes and food, where we live and how much is in our “storehouses” ahave already been provided by the Father.  He encouraged them to look at the beauty of the lilies of the field and the helpless birds fed by their Creator.  No greater provision could have been made for them.

Your treasure becomes what drives you.  Your treasure determines how you spend your time and money and energy.  Your treasure dominates your thoughts and consumes your passion.  Your treasure defines your soul.

Jesus had just told the parable of the rich fool.  This man had planned and horded and saved.  He had become the rich owner of many storehouses and was proud of his hard work and accumulated abundance.  One night – he died.  He had a great wealth of the world’s temporary treasure all put away in a “safe” place, and a poverty of eternal treasure stored away in heaven.

Jesus has told us to make sure our treasure is in heaven, to make sure that what is important is eternal, to make sure that what is precious to us is of God.  Christ has told us that what we cherish must be spiritual, must last past the few years of our lives, and must live on in the souls of those we have served.  Our spiritual footprints should help others who journey behind us to find the way to Christ.  Then our treasure is forever safely kept by God.

There is an old Creole proverb that says, “Tell me who you love, and I’ll tell you who you are.”  Jesus said your heart all of who you are determines what you treasure.  Jesus warns us, we cannot serve two masters.  We will choose to give our hearts to the world’s temporary treasure or God’s eternal treasure.

While you ponder and wait this lent be honest about whom you love and what you love.  Take the time of this season to store up that eternal treasure, that real treasure so rare and precious it cannot be bought.  It can be found in unexpected places and unexpected people as we serve in the name of Jesus Christ.  Jesus said, “Your heart and your treasure will be in the same place.”


Prayer– Lord, Teach me the value of eternal treasure. Forgive me for desiring the world’s treasure.

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THE GREAT ENCOURAGER

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Matthew 6:25-34


We’ve all felt it. We’ve all struggled with it. We’ve all been overcome by it. Discouragement! People or circumstances in our lives that have eroded our courage and resolve much as the endless waves of the sea wash away the precious shoreline. At times, we are robbed of our confidence a small piece at a time, hardly aware that we are losing ground. Other times, we are so devastated that in one monumental, horrible event our entire beach of personal determination and fortitude is washed into the ocean of fear and dismay.

I have often been comforted by reading of Jesus’ discouragement when He was here among men. God encouraged Jesus when He was baptized by sending a Jesus--quote-2-15-17dove from heaven and assuring Him by His own words that He was loved and pleased His Father (Matthew 3:16-17). After enduring forty days of tortuous fasting and temptation, God recognized Jesus’ need for encouragement and sent angels to attend Him (Matthew 4:11). God even sent Moses and Elijah to have an inspiring talk with Jesus in the midst of His ministry among men who didn’t understand (Matthew 17:3). On the last night of Jesus’ life, when the disciples offered only discouragement in the Garden of Gethsemane, God sent an angel to strengthen His precious son for the horror of the crucifixion the next day (Luke 22:43).

The Bible is filled with reassurance and hope for daily discouragement. Here are a few examples. Do you ever worry? Jesus confronted worry with the promise that if God cares for a little sparrow, He most assuredly will take care of you, the most precious of His creations (Matthew 6:25-34). Do you ever feel that doing good doesn’t pay? In Matthew 5:11-12, Jesus supported those who are persecuted for doing what is good and right by confirming for them a great reward in heaven. Do you ever feel hindered by fear? According to Matthew 10:30-31, God has every hair on your head numbered. Do you ever feel utterly exhausted? In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus invites the weary to come to Him for rest. Do you ever feel all alone? Jesus guarantees us, “I am with you always!” in Matthew 28:20.

Whenever you feel overcome with depression of feel demoralized by people or events that repress your courage and sap your joy, look to the Great Encourager – Jesus! He made encouraging other’s His life’s work. He still does!

Monica Boudreaux


PRAYER:

Father – Give me encouragement along mu journey. Show me others who need my encouragement.

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Thoughts on Compassion

Compassion Quotes

Compassion is the ultimate expression of your highest self.

—-Russell Simmons

My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.

——-Maya Angelou

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.

——Dalai Lama

The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.

—–Albert Schweitzer

 

compassion-2

The Bible on Compassion

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

Ephesians 4:32

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;

Colossians 3:12

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5

If there was ever a time that we all need to practice compassion, it is now. Terrorism is an everyday occurrence around the world, depression hits the most unexpected people, we have lost confidence in our government, and life is changing so fast and the world is so brutal that we all cry for compassion. Compassion is a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering. Christ followers should wake each day with a strong desire to ease the suffering that surrounds us. Compassion is the key. Let’s look at some ways that we can be compassionate.

BUILDING BLOCKS OF PRACTICED COMPASSION

  • Pay attention – Make a real effort to see the suffering around you.
  • Understanding – Seek to understand the plight of those you encounter.
  • Love with connection – Don’t just say, “I love you,” find a way to connect with people.
  • Sensing the sacredness – See ALL people as a creation of God.
  • Bring new life – As you encounter the others God gives you, have a true desire that they flourish.
  • Act – Ask yourself, how can I restore this person to life?

Prayer

Lord allow me to catch a glimpse of what life would be if we truly had compassion upon one another. Open our minds to the new concept of being a truly compassionate people. Lead us to see each day as an opportunity to help others. In doing so we can find a quality of life that we never dreamed was possible. Let us take the advice of the Master and engage in compassionate actions this and every day.

AMEN

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Peace Within

May today there be peace within. May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content knowing you are a child of God. Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us.

—–Teresa of Avila


We sometimes lose sight of our own purpose and how we are meant to play a part in bringing peace to the world. So often it starts here: with internal peace–a peace with Our Lord and a deep sense of rest in the creation He has made us. Such a peace radiates out into our families and our communities. Cultivated in each of us, it could bring about great change in our world. And yet, suffering and death, pain and loss, will all continue to be part of our experience. Let us pray to be instruments of peace even in moments when it seems the battle is lost. Let us never submit to the lie that violence is victorious.

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Relaxation and God

A hunter in the desert saw Abba Anthony enjoying himself with the brethren and he was shocked. Wanting to show him that it was necessary sometimes to meet the needs of the brethren, the old man said to him, ‘Put an arrow in your bow and shoot it.’ So he did. The old man then said, ‘Shoot another,’ and he did so. Then the old man said, ‘Shoot yet again and the hunter replied ‘If I bend my bow so much I will break it.’ Then the old man to him, ‘It is the same with the work of God. If we stretch the brethren beyond measure they will soon break. Sometimes it is necessary to come down to meet their needs.’ When he heard these words “the hunter was pierced by compunction and, greatly edified by the old man, he went away. As for the brethren, they went home strengthened.

——Abba Anthony

It is a novel thought for most people that relaxation and rest are an important part of life. The average American works 11 hours more per week that they did in 1970. That is a somewhat startling little fact. I wonder how much more we are really accomplishing than we were forty seven years ago. Without a doubt the rise in use of pain killers, sleeping pills and people who suffer depression are linked to our lack of rest. The number of prescriptions for sleeping pills alone, grew 30 times over between 1994 and 2007. Hospitalization for clinical depression has been on the rise since 1975.

Why is this happening?

The wise man of the desert pointed this out to the hunter, and it changed the hunter’s life. We need to rediscover the value of rest, and to acknowledge that it is necessary for physical and spiritual wellbeing. God knew this when  He gave us the Sabbath. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. The Hebrew word Sabbath literally means “to cease.” Just as God rested from His creation work, we are to rest from our day-to-day occupations and refocus on what’s really important. It’s a day to push the reset button. Anthony and God were on the same page here. All of us need to “relax the bow” before it snaps.

Plan a personal SABBATH, you need it!


Prayer

Lord give me that courage to pause. The world threatens me if I dare to think that I can take time to renew my body and my faith. Long ago you gave us the command to do so. Too often we see your commands as chores rather than pathways to blessings. Help us to see the bright pathway that is illuminated by Sabbath rest.

Amen

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The Great Work of Man

Abba Anthony said to Abba Poemen, “This is the Great Work of a man: always to take the blame for his own sins before God and to expect temptation to his last breath.” He also said, “Whoever has not experienced Temptationtemptation cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.” He even added, “Without temptation, no one can be saved.” Abba Pambo asked Abba Anthony, “What ought I to do?” and the old man said to him, “Do not trust in your own righteousness, do not worry about the past, but control your tongue and your stomach

—-Abba Anthony of the Desert

There are several very biting suggestions made here by the old Monk. Perhaps we can use his advice to bring us a little closer to God. I am convinced that all men seek closeness to God. Some call this closeness getting in touch with their inner bein., Others may call it karma, but I just call such closeness prayer, and prayer allows me to know  God. He is my creator, friend and redeemer.

Our first step is to take blame for our own sins. A good expression for this is “owning up.” We live in a world of excuses and explanations, but raw truth is always best. I confess to being amused when I heard the expression”alternative facts” this past week. Anthony tells us to simply take blame for our own failures. The scripture says, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” That is the beginning of our path to heaven and peace on this earth.

He reminds us to expect temptation every day of our lives. On face value that is very depressing, but temptation drives us to the grace of God. The scripture reminds us that we have all sinned but it also says,“Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Simply put, temptation drives us to a choice – God or self satisfaction. God created us with a free will and salvation is a choice, a serious and demanding choice that we all have to make. Our easy, comfortable and pleasure seeking world resists the concept of choices that limit our “freedom.” For those that choose Jesus, there is no greater freedom to be had.

Allow me to chase the “sin rabbit” for just a moment. God offers forgiveness and the world offers forgiveness. There is, however, an astounding difference between God’s forgiveness and the forgiveness of the world. Convicted felons Forgive-Forgetwho have served their time and even expressed genuine remorse for their crimes are excluded from voting and holding public office, have limited credit privileges, can be denied a job,cannot serve on some juries, and are excluded from other rights in ways that vary from state to state. They have served their time, but their crime is not forgotten. ALL of us, whether we admit it or not , are unable to forget the sins (we may forgive and even move on) of those that have offended u., Only God can do that. God’s offer of forgiveness and salvation is the one that we can’t pass up. No one, I mean no one, offers such a gift but God.God says, “For I will be merciful towards their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” God is so good to us!

Now back to the monk, “do not trust your own righteousness but control your tongue and stomach” The tongue has the ability to destroy others and ourselves. When we utter a false wittiness against some we have the potential of denying that person so much. With our tongues we can cause people to lose their relationships, reputations and in some cases their lives. In World War Two there was an expression,”Loose lips sink ships.” The importance of keeping confidences and telling the truth cannot be underestimated. Control of the stomach is an analogy for controlling our carnal nature. We should think before we use our bodies in ways that dishonor ourselves and God. Control your carnal nature or it will be the end of you.

Work-of-Man

The great work of man is to trust God and control our nature with the tools He provides. I found a poem that calls this an act of wisdom.


He, in whose bosom wisdom’s seed is sown,

To waste a single day was never known;

Either he strives to work God’s will,

Or else exalts the cup, and works his own.

Omar Khayyam


Prayer

O Lord as I embark on my great work this day I do so fully aware of my dependence on you. Walk with me and keep me aware of your company. Rebuke when I need rebuking. Give me encouragement when I am down. Most of all remind me when I have moved into my own path while forgetting your path. In doing these things you give me the richness of your grace and the benefit of your remarkable love.

Amen

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The Conflict of Soul

We are caught in a bitter conflict between flesh and spirit. Jesus has delivered us from sin, but not from the weaknesses and desires of the flesh. We have to reproduce in our life the Cross of Christ so that, having died sacramentally to sin in baptism, we may also put to death sin in our flesh by restraining our evil desires and bad tendencies. This is the basis of monastic asceticism. (Or the Christian walk)

—-Thomas Merton

Baptism

Not one among us who has not felt the tug of war caused by the conflict of flesh and spirit. This conflict of soul lives in everyone, and the battle rages with little relief. As we face this reality and own it, the conflict takes on a new aspect. The acknowledgement of our fleshly weaknesses allows us to turn to the spirit that is promised by Jesus. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.(John 14:26) Through this Spirit we can achieve small victories over our desires, but we have to work at it and be vigilant.

Merton points to a very important and the often neglected reality of sacramental grace. Through our baptism the community lifts us up so that we 1-18-17-Postmight die to sin. That grace is an important tool in our battle with the flesh, and one that should not be neglected. When the congregation (community) says, “we will so order our lives after the example of Christ, that this child, surrounded by steadfast love, may be established in the faith,” that pledge is the communion of saints in action. We must never abandon the strength that can be garnered from the sacramental community.

We must all desire to be a part of the sacramental community that has been provided for us. Regular church attendance and partaking of communion is an essential means of grace. Our very participation in times of worship allows us to receive the grace that so freely flows when the community is gathered together for word and sacrament. Seize every opportunity that you can to be a part of your sacramental community. Our strength is boosted by the community.


Prayer

Lord help me this very day to resist the temptations that surround me. Give me the foresight to garner the grace that you so freely provide, for it is that grace that strengthens me in times of need and temptation. I ask you to protect and strengthen me for the journey that is mine.

Amen

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A Word for Me

I have always been fond of the words of the Gospels and have found more recollection in them than in the most carefully planned books. If I keep close to this Master of wisdom, He may perhaps give me some thoughts which will help you. I do not say that I will explain these Divine prayers, for that I should not presume to do, and there are a great many explanations of them already. Even were there none, it would be ridiculous for me to attempt any.

…….Teresa of Avila

The words of the gospels have more recollection than the most carefully planned books. This observation of Teresa of Avila was made long ago and yet it resonates in our day. We have a plethora of books, websites, blogs and digital downloads that clamor for our attention and promise to make life grand and Teresa-1glorious. All that said, the words of the gospel can speak volumes to us today. In times of trouble, in times of need such words can be an anchor to the otherwise shifting sands of life. Teresa referred to the gospels as prayers. They are “God prayers” directed to us.

Just like Teresa I cannot begin to dissect or explain why these prayers/words are still so relevant. I can say that they are still real and reliable. The truth of the gospel is not subject to popularity or current event relevance. The Gospel stands head and shoulders above all else. There is not a subject vital to life that escapes discussion in the Word. God covered the bases for us.

The tragic mistake made by unnumbered generations is to try to improve on the perfection of God’s revealed Word. Gospel means “good news’ and the news of our redemptive and grace-filled God can never be changed or improved. By this assertion I do not mean to engage in the age old “inerrancy and infallibility “arguments that have squandered the real gift of the Gospel. The gospel is God’s living word to YOU; its speaks to YOU in the ways that YOU need. The voice of God can say different things to different people and all these revelations are true. The singular interpretation of scripture leads to broken relations, war and even murder – all these horrible things done in the name of God. I urge you to read the scripture and let it act as your personal guide to life. Let us allow the words of the gospel to guide us in the way we should go. Look at Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as your personal life coaches. The words that they write are like text messages received from a close friend. Treasure them and remember them by applying them to your life. The world has spent far too much time interpreting the Word rather than applying it to our individual lives.

Here are a few topics and quotes from the Gospel of Matthew –

Compassion and Forgiveness

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors […] For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:12-15)

But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. (Matthew 9:36)

Hypocrisy

Therefore when you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. (Matthew 6:2)

When you fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. (Matthew 6:16)

Sin

And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21)

He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad. Wherefore I say unto you, ALL MANNER OF SIN AND BLASPHEMY SHALL BE FORGIVEN UNTO MEN: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. (Matthew 12:30-31)

Those are but a few topics from the Gospel of Matthew that require no interpretation or explanation but only application.


Prayer

Lord help me this day to allow your Gospel to speak to me as thought it was written exclusively for me. I ask you to cast out all my thoughts of distance from you and invite an intimate closeness that you desire. That closeness will allow your words to speak in every situation in which I find myself. May I know that you are present and have the best in store for me. Lord give me the faith and patience to believe and endure.

Amen

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Choices

Choices – they seem unending, especially at Christmas.  The Scriptures can be our guide as we observe the way God chooses and the way he challenged others to choose.  From the very beginning when Adam and Eve chose their own way over God’s provision, each person who has ever lived has faced that decision.

Martha, out of self-righteous frustration, reprimanded Jesus because he would not condemn her sister, Mary, for not helping her with chores.  Jesus simply tried to help her understand that Mary, in choosing to simply sit in His Presence and internalize his every word ,had indeed chosen “the good part.”  Mary chose the part that never goes away, never gets old – the part that is eternal.

The rich young man expected a quick, easy answer from Jesus.  He needed to know how to inherit eternal life.  He could not imagine that inheriting eternal life could be any more challenging than inheriting his father’s wealth.  But Jesus told him he would have to make a choice between what the world could give and what God could give.  The rich young man chose the part that goes away – the part that is temporary.

The Christmas narratives portray God’s nature by the choices He made.

  • God chose a teenage peasant girl, not a daughter of a ruling Pharisee.
  • God chose a carpenter, not a king.
  • God chose Nazareth, not Jerusalem.
  • God chose a stable, not a palace.
  • God chose a feeding trough, not an ornate cradle.
  • God chose shepherds, not rabbis.
  • God chose to show his star to Gentiles, not Jewish royalty.
  • God chose poverty, not wealth.
  • God chose humility, not position.
  • God chose service, not recognition
  • God chose earth, not heaven.

This Advent, this season of endless options, is a perfect time to evaluate our decisions, to align our choices with the eternal and holy and divine.  Jesus told us that a good person with a heart full of good treasure makes good choices, lives a good life, recognizes holiness, and lives in the Kingdom of God.  He told us that choices reveal our souls, our decisions come from what dominates our hearts, and our lives mirror the Master that controls them.


A Prayer About Choices

O God, you know that today-or very soon-I must make a decision which is going to affect my whole life.

Help me to choose rightly-and to choose the right way.

Grant me your guidance, and with it grant me the humble obedience to accept it.

Help me not necessarily to choose what I want to do, but what you want me to do.

Grant that I may not be swayed solely by fear or by hope of gain, by selfish love of ease or comfort or by personal ambition, by the desire to escape or by longing for prestige.

Help me today in humble obedience to say to you, “Lord, what will you have me to do?” and then await your guidance, and accept your leading.

Hear this prayer of mine and send an answer so clear that I cannot mistake it.

This I ask for your love’s sake!

Amen

William Barclay

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Chosenness

The truth, even though I cannot feel it right now, is that I am the chosen child of God, precious in God’s eyes, called the Beloved from all eternity and held safe in an everlasting embrace… We must dare to opt consciously for our chosenness and not allow our emotions, feelings, or passions to seduce us into self-rejection.

——Henri Nouwen

Ponder on the reality that you are a child of God and perhaps life will be a lot lighter.


Prayer

Lord we acknowledge that you have chosen  us to be the centerpiece of your creation. Let us accept that privilege and live in a manner worthy of it. In doing so we can manifest your glory in our lives. That glory makes us and the world an easier and lighter place.

Amen

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