One of the paradoxes of the mystical life is this: but a man cannot enter into the deepest center of himself and pass through that sensor into God, unless he is able to pass entirely out of himself and empty himself and give himself to other people and the purity of a selfless love.
Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
One of the greatest tasks of living the Christian life is to die to self. Dying to self means that we must set aside our wants, desire and way of seeking God and turn ourselves over to God’s Spirit and direction. When we take such a step we become God dependent not self dependent. Suddenly, we can see through new eyes and hear through new ears. We see and hear as God hears and many things that made no sense to us before now make sense. Merton calls it emptying ourselves in order to see others as God sees them. This new sight brings us into a life changing relationship with God and our fellow man.
This brings us the purity of selfless love. With that purity secured in us , we are ready to pursue the kingdom of God in the here and now. We can empty ourselves and learn to serve those around us with joy and not bitterness or reluctance. We can give without expecting something in return. We can now have a full understanding of the concept “turning the other cheek.” With this attitude we can live a life of victory.
Jesus tells the same story to his disciples when he speaks a parable. The seed(wheat) must fall to the ground and die before the fruit is brought forth. The seed must give up its identity as a seed and become a plant to produce what it was created to produce. That is the product of dying to self.
A good challenge to us would be to examine how our lives would be different if we truly died to self. Who would we serve? How would we serve them? What would our priorities be? How would we carry them out? By asking these questions and more we can determine just how much we have died to self.
Lord, Help me to understand what you mean when you tell us to die to self. Guide me to examine everyday whether I have died to self and risen in you. It is only with constant self examination and communication with you that I can stay on the right path. Guide me this day to find that path and follow it where its leads, because I know that is where I will find YOU.
The word healing brings many images to mind. Some people may think of a healing crusade. That is one of those events where a preacher claims that he can cure your sicknesses by the power of God. We can think of a convalescent hospital where people stay for extended times to heal their bodies. Healing means being made whole again, and we all want to be whole.
There is also the healing that comes with peace of mind. This healing cures the restless and tormented spirit. We live in a time when our country needs healing that can soothe the restless and angry soul and will bring peace and satisfaction. When the Psalmist said, “Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are shaking with terror,” he could well be thinking of times like these. True healing can only come from God. We have exhausted our resources and failed.
Healing brings with it a peace allows us to settle down and live as people of God. I would love to see a world that had this God inspired healing. It would be a world full of people who were truly healed of their strife and pain. Such a world is a place of calmness and satisfaction.
Healing cures the seeds of anger and mistrust that lead to violence and ultimately war. How many deaths could have been prevented if we had only asked God for healing? How many relationships would have been saved if we had understood that God can heal? Let us not waste another minute when healing is possible.
Healing is to be made whole and be restored.
The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing…not healing, not curing…that is a friend who cares.
Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.
The greatest healing therapy is friendship and love.
~~~Hubert H. Humphrey
Nature heals under the auspices of the medical profession.
Fear imprisons, faith liberates; fear paralyzes, faith empowers; fear disheartens, faith encourages; fear sickens, faith heals; fear makes useless, faith makes serviceable.
~~~Harry Emerson Fosdick
Family quarrels are bitter things. They don’t go according to any rules. They’re not like aches or wounds, they’re more like splits in the skin that won’t heal because there’s not enough material.
~~~F. Scott Fitzgerald
You can promote your healing by your thinking.
~~~James E. Sweeney
I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.
The time for the healing of the wounds has come. The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come. The time to build is upon us.
Poetry heals the wounds inflicted by reason.
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and do not forget all his benefits—
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the Pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing;
O Lord, heal me, for my bones are shaking with terror.
The Lord protects them and keeps them alive;
they are called happy in the land.
You do not give them up to the will of their enemies.
The Lord sustains them on their sickbed;
in their illness you heal all their infirmities.
As for me, I said, ‘O Lord, be gracious to me;
heal me, for I have sinned against you.’
My child, be attentive to my words;
incline your ear to my sayings.
Do not let them escape from your sight;
keep them within your heart.
For they are life to those who find them,
and healing to all their flesh.
A cheerful heart is a good medicine,
but a downcast spirit dries up the bones.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
O Lord, be gracious to us; we wait for you.
Be our arm every morning,
our salvation in the time of trouble.
You have condemned and murdered the righteous one, who does not resist you.
Lord, I feel that we live in a time of great contradiction. Our time needs healing that only you can bring. We have so widened the gaps that exist between us that our talents fail us. We have so divided ourselves that our ideas are lacking. We call upon you to send us wisdom and healing that are products of heaven and not earth. We ask for divine healing on earth. Amen
We must be saved from immersion in the sea of lies in passions which is called “the world.” and we must be saved above all from the abyss of confusion and absurdity which is our own worldly self. The person must be rescued from the individual. The free son of God must be saved from the conformist slave of fantasy, passion, and convention. The creative and mysterious inner self must be delivered from the wasteful, hedonistic, and destructive ego that seeks only to cover itself with disguises.
~~~ Thomas Merton
When I was a college student someone asked me if I was Christian. I replied, yes. The conversation went further and, he then asked me if I was saved. Though I was vaguely familiar with the terminology, it did not go over too well with me. It was one thing to watch a Billy Graham service on TV and see all those people responding to being saved, than to be challenged to be saved myself. I was an avid churchman. I was friends with my pastor. I read scripture on Sundays. I helped with the distribution of Communion. I just had to be saved, but why did he ask?
This encounter set forth a search that would last for several years and end up with my leaving the church of my childhood and attending seminary. I wanted to be saved, but it seemed that their formula of being saved was too simple and “me” centered. This began what has been a lifelong search for the heart of God. Who is he and how does he relate to me? What do I have to do to discover him? Lets look at those questions for a little while.
Who is he and how does he relate to me? God is my creator, and he created me in his image. I was created to be God’s companion in the midst of the garden. He created me in his image, so that I would be comfortable with him. He put his image inside of me so that I would understand his love and his grace. I can relate to him because I bear his image.
What do I have to do to discover him? That was the hardest question of all. It seemed so simple to just ask him, and I did, but the more I thought about it the more confused I got. Is God really going to condemn so many people to eternal punishment because they did not ask him with a man made formula? They were that salt and light of the world Jesus spoke about with such conviction . At that point, I began to understand what people like Merton were talking about when they said, “We must be saved from immersion in the sea of lies in passions which is called ‘the world’” and that sea of lies could include Pharisaical Christians. That was the true challenge-simply not to be dragged along with the riptide of harshness and worldly pursuits that are so much a part of me.
Being saved is not a man made formula, but a mysterious “God thing” that no one can control. He once again takes possession of His image in you. Then you see him in everything. It is not enough to simply ask him, you must learn to be his image for the world. His image is one of forgiveness, grace, non -judgementalism and so much more. We can all be saved, and it is much more than waiting for heaven one day.
Lord, We all long to be saved. This life we have chosen for ourselves can get very difficult. You have created us in your own image, and we have buried it so deeply in passions, pursuits and hedonism that it is very difficult to find. Help me to let you in and find yourself in me, so that I might know the true meaning of being saved.
The poet Kahlil Gibran teaches us, “Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother.” Most of us spend a lot of time doubting many things. We were taught to think of doubt as inherently evil force in my life. The advice of the poet leads us in a new direction. He tells us that perhaps doubt is a gateway to faith. To have a great faith, we must look carefully at what we believe and allow the discernment of our God-given image to speak to us.
Doubt is not the enemy of faith but the partner of faith. In our doubts we get to understand what and why we believe. All true faith begins with doubt. As we examine our doubts and fears, we begin to seek solutions to them. The upfront and obvious solution to doubt is faith in the God that made us and his ability to deliver us.
Jesus says over and over, “Why do you doubt,” but it was their doubt that caused them to seek him. When doubt overtakes us, we examine our thoughts, our actions and our motives and are driven to seek an answer.
Doubt can also be the great killer of ambition and progress. As doubt and fear join forces, they produce the personal “perfect storm” that has led to demise of many a person A “doubt storm” can prevent us from fulfilling God’s creative purpose for us. Doubt is tricky but necessary because without it we never really know who or whose we are.
Next time you are in doubt I urge you to look at why you are doubting, who you are doubting and what you are doubting? By asking these questions you can determine your solution. Serious introspection allows us to seek the wisdom and take the time to access our situation. Such an assessment allows us to know if our doubts are from within or without and thus leads us to call on that image of God that we all possess for a solution. Our God image can really allow us to prioritize our lives in quick fashion. I hope these observations will give you few things to ponder this week.
Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin
One of the ego’s favorite paths of resistance is to fill you with
Love is strongest when we learn to trust in spite of the
When in doubt, throw doubt out have a little faith.
Doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith.
The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.
Uninstall self-doubt from your mind.
The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of
~~~Franklin D. Roosevelt
When you doubt your power, you give power to your doubt.
~~~Honore de Balzac
Never let self-doubt hold you captive.
Worry, doubt, fear, and despair are the enemies which slowly bring us down to the
ground and turn us to dust before we die.
If you are going to doubt anything in life, doubt your own limitations.”
Doubt everything. Find your own light.
Successful people have fear, successful people have doubts, and successful people have
worries. They just don’t let these feelings stop them.
~~~T. Harv Eker
But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of
the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In
all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise
in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to
your flesh and refreshment to your bones.
And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt,
you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to
this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will
Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of
little faith, why did you doubt?”
Truly,I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the
sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come
to pass, it will be done for him.
And have mercy on those who doubt.
Fearnot, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen
you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right
And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not
for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come
and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek
me with all your heart.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not
Relieve me of the guilt of doubt when it allows me to discern.
Allow me to see doubt as of way of growing in faith.
Give me the strength to cast away my doubts that cripple me.
Never allow my doubts to define me.
Relieve me of the pain of feeling I have to always be perfect and please Lord guide me as I go through this day.
Even when I try to please God, I tend to please my own ambition, his enemy. There can be imperfection even in the ardent love of great perfection, even in the desire of virtue, of sanctity. Even the desire of contemplation can be impure, when we forget that true contemplation means the complete destruction of all selfishness – the pure poverty and cleanness of heart.
~~~ Thomas Merton
Ambition, by itself, is not evil. When we have ambition, we improve ourselves and the world. Ambitious business people have built great companies that have provided goods and services to people and improved their lives. Doctors and scientists have developed medicines, vaccines and medical procedures that have saved the lives of untold numbers of people. The entrepreneurs and others were ambitious people who wanted to make a difference. Ambition does have a dark side. It turns dark when it is no longer shares with the welfare of others, but it is simply for self-satisfaction and aggrandizement.
Merton says that we even try to please God and yet simply feed our ambition. If we are seeking to love, serve, be virtuous or live out the fruits of the spirit for our own satisfaction it is worthless. Even in contemplation we can feed our selfish ambition. We must seek to please God outside of our self-satisfaction. God is not impressed with the works we do, the purity we possess or the prayers we pray unless they are offered to Him and not for our own drive to succeed.
In my years as a pastor and teacher I have seen this scenario carried out countless times. A person is so driven to be a model Christian that they for forget why they should be Christian. Their works are so big that they make others look small. Their words are so high and mighty that they put others down by their very nature. Their walk with God is truly a walk with themselves. This is the type of spirituality that Jesus warns about in the Sermon on the Mount. “Be careful not to perform your righteous acts before men to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 6:1)- This is what ambitious Christianity can evolve into, and it is the opposite of the selfless lives we are called to live.
Merton gives us some sound advice and direction. He directs us to please God by emptying ourselves of self. The emptying of self means that we offer all that we do to our creator without expectation of return or praise. We may not even be deemed successful by our neighbors and peers. Remember God sees in secret what we do in secret and rewards us greatly. This allows us pure poverty and cleanness of heart.
Lord, Allow me to use my ambitions to please you and not myself. Help me to discern the difference between selfish ambition and pureness of heart, a pure heart the prays and serves to please you and not myself. It is extremely hard in our driven and competitive world to keep a selfless focus but with your grace and help I know that it is possible. Keep me on the right path this day and give opportunities to live out my mission to you.
One of the qualities that we all desire is faithfulness. We all want to be faithful to the people and tasks that are given to us. If one is faithful, they will accomplish much in life. The world is driven by a thirst for success, and success is much easier if we are faithful to the tasks and opportunities that that come our way.
Practicing faithfulness means not being self-centered, stubborn, unbending or anything else that hinders us from doing what is good and right. I found this poem which speaks of the virtues of a faithful friend. It gives an idea of the benefits of faithfulness.
“A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter;
he who finds it finds a treasure.
A faithful friend is beyond price,
no sum can balance his worth.
A faithful friend is a life- saving remedy,
such as he who fears God finds.
for he who fears God behaves accordingly,
and his friend will be like himself.”
Having such a friend shelters us from harm and adversity. That friend is of immeasurable value and is a treasure to our lives. He or she can be, and often is, the one who saves us when we are in harm’s way. They are a friend that can model for us the fear of God and help us to grow into a healthy person.
The value of faithfulness in us and those that surround us is priceless and makes us and the world a better place.
Hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles.
By faithfulness we are collected and wound up into unity within ourselves, whereas we had been scattered abroad in multiplicity.
Nothing is more noble, nothing more venerable than fidelity. Faithfulness and truth are the most sacred excellences and endowments of the human mind.
~~~Marcus Tullius Cicero
Kindness and faithfulness keep a king safe, through kindness his throne is made secure.
I meant what I said and I said what I meant.
~~~Dr. Seuss, Horton Hatches the Egg
The ragamuffin who sees his life as a voyage of discovery and runs the risk of failure has a better feel for faithfulness than the timid man who hides behind the law and never finds out who he is at all.
Being faithful in the smallest things is the way to gain, maintain, and demonstrate the strength needed to accomplish something great.
There have been times of late when I have had to hold on to one text with all my might: “It is required in stewards that a man may be found faithful.” Praise God, it does not say “successful.”
Because faithfulness is not a human question, but a divine one.
~~~ Sebastian Barry
God has been faithful since the beginning of time. Even today, nothing can make Him change, who He is. He remains the same and what He said, will remain the same
~~~Gift Gugu Mona
Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house,” bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future.
So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.
1 Peter 4:19
God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
1 Corinthians 1:9
The Lord answered, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.
What if some were unfaithful? Will their unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness?
Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions
For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.
1 Corinthians 4:17
And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise.
For this reason Jesus had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.
But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory Hebrews 3:6
Lord, This day I desire to live with a knowledge that faithfulness brings fullness of life.Let me be faithful to you, so that I may be a faithful servant to all that is entrusted to me. I ask you to allow me to be a model of faithfulness to all our encounter. May I achieve this through your grace.
To be “lost” is to be left to the arbitrariness and pretenses of the contingent ego, the self- smoked that must inevitably vanish. To be “saved” is to return to one’s inviolate and eternal reality and to live in God.
What one of you can enter into himself and find the God who utters him?
“Finding God” means much more than just abandoning all things that are not God and emptying oneself of images and desires.
If you succeed in emptying your mind of every thought and every desire, you may indeed withdraw into the center of yourself in concentrate everything within you upon the imaginary point where your life Springs out of God: yet you will not really find God. No natural exercise can bring you into the vital contact with him.
~~~ Thomas Merton (New Seeds of Contemplation)
The church is obsessed with methods, reasons, ways, times, and places to be “saved.” Conversely, the church also seems to love to point out how easy it is to be “lost.” This dilemma has led to the formation of such things as Canon Law, Church Covenants, Catechisms, thousands of denominations, and sects to instruct us how to get saved. The problem is that these are human centered rules and promise what they cannot deliver.
Merton addresses this problem in his words above. He asks us to question why and how we are approaching God and suggests a course of action that might work. Most of us are very content to approach God with ways and methods that are comfortable to us.
Most commonly we use the “rule” method. Rules are easy to create but hard to follow. In military conflicts it is a common thing to deploy a “smoke screen” so that your enemy will fail to see you. Merton asserts that we all have a ‘self-smoke’ that we believe hides us from God and frees us from the responsibility of truly getting to know the ways of God. The question is posed, how can we find our creator by looking into ourselves, His creation? He formed us and we cannot find Him in our own egos.
There are those who manage to follow the laws and rules sufficiently enough to give an appearance of succeeding. We can isolate and empty ourselves from the things of the world and really feel that we may be touching God, but we would be very delusional if we thought that God was found in emptiness. He is the God of fullness and abundance. We do not find God in the natural but the supernatural.
Jesus and his inner circle said unnatural things:
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. ~~Matthew 11:29-30
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.~~ Galatians 2:20 (Paul the Apostle)
And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Another of his disciples said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” ~~~Matthew 8:20-22
These sayings of Jesus and others, a yoke that relieves burden, crucified, being homeless, abandoning family, giving up all that you have are not natural but supernatural(spiritual). Getting to know God requires that we give up on ourselves and turn to Him. The problem with most organized religion is that it continues to get more organized. I have been a Pastor for more than 40 years and I have learned one thing that I can say is undeniably true; we cannot find God with our own skill set. God is found outside of all the world has to offer. The best the church can offer is to give time and space for people to find God and then help them to get to know Him better. All of our rules and rituals are ways of communicating to the God that we have already found. Let me assure you, you can find God because he loves you and is always seeking you. He asks one thing-forget yourself and listen to him.
Lord, I need to put myself aside, because in all my worldly wisdom I will never truly find you. May I this day turn to the wisdom that only you possess. I am sure that you were just waiting for me to turn away from myself and turn toward you. Give me the courage to do this in a world that is so focused on what humankind can do that we fail to remember that we were created in the image of God. Help me this very day to turn to that image of God that is inside of me but hidden buy my own personality and wants. I ask you that you guide me by your wisdom and knowledge today. Let me find you today.
“On behalf of the President of the United States and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service.” In my role as a clergyman of over 40 years, I have heard those words countless times. I want to zero in on the word grateful. There are many words that could be said at the death of one who has served in the United States military, but the one I remember most is grateful. We say to the family that we are a grateful nation. Why are we grateful? The answer in the case of one who has served in the military is quite simple. They served, they sacrificed, and we are simply recognizing those actions.
In addition to service we should have an attitude of gratitude about so many things. We can be grateful that we are in good health. We can be grateful for the blessings that God is giving us. We can be grateful for just waking up this morning. We can be grateful for our friends, our jobs, our churches, the communities we live in and more things than we can really mention.
Gratitude is being able to step outside of yourself to know that other people and experiences make life worthwhile. We are not self-sufficient. A person without gratitude can be very miserable. The Roman philosopher Cicero said, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all others.” Let us strive somehow to truly live by that philosophy and , make the world a far better place.
We are experiencing some exceedingly difficult and trying times in our world today. Perhaps if we would take the time to express gratitude for our blessings, while still wanting change, our world would change. I believe that the answer always begins by counting our blessings with gratitude. As we count blessings, we truly realize that change and reform are possible and that everyone being created in the image of God is a fact. Because we are all created in the image of God, we can learn to see God in all who surround us.
Let us live the day in gratitude, thankfulness, and appreciation for each other and for the world that God has given us.
our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of
us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame
is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul.
turns what we have into enough.
is a powerful catalyst for happiness. It’s the spark that lights a fire of joy
in your soul.
makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for
Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude. Gratitude
is the completion of thankfulness. Thankfulness may consist merely of words.
Gratitude is shown in acts.
cannot be traveled to owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the
spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude. –
the simplest form of gratitude.
who achieves success does so without the help of others. The wise and confident
acknowledge this help with gratitude.
ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give,
and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.
is when memory is stored in the heart and not in the mind.
is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all others.
Rejoice always, pray
without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God
in Christ Jesus for you.
Do not worry about
anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let
your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all
understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ
Philippians 4: 6 – 7
But thanks be to God,
who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus
We must always give
thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters, as is right, because your faith is
growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is
2 Thessalonians 1: 3
O give thanks to
the Lord, for he is good; for his
steadfast love endures for ever.
1 Chronicles 16: 34
For from him and
through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory for ever.
I will give thanks to
the Lord with my whole heart; I
will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
Devote yourselves to
prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving.
And let the peace of
Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And
Then I heard every
creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that
is in them, singing, ‘To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be
blessing and honor and glory and might for ever and
But I with the voice
of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed
I will pay. Deliverance belongs to the Lord!’
Then he took a loaf of
bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying,
‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of
Lord, I am grateful for this day and welcome the blessings that it brings. I ask you to guide me through the difficulties that I encounter, so that I may be able to live through them and learn from them. As I live the virtue of gratitude, I will find strength to live and thrive no matter what comes my way. Inspire me to spread gratitude to all that I meet this day.
Physical solitude, exterior silence and real recollection are all morally necessary for anyone who wants to lead a contemplative life, but like everything else in creation they are nothing more than a means to an end, and if we do not understand the end we will make a wrong use of the means.
We did not go into the desert to escape people but to learn how to find them; we do not leave them in order to have nothing more to do with them, but to find out the way to do them the most good.
~~~Thomas Merton (New Seeds of Contemplation)
Many times in our lives we find ourselves caught in turmoil, and all we seem to be able to do is react. I believe that the underlying reason for reactionary thinking is that we never have taken the time to be alone with God. This alone time with God gives us a perspective that we can never find in any other place. Merton reminds us that silence, solitude and recollection are morally necessary to living a life that is joined with God. When we do so, we can be of greater service to the world. Doing the most good has the prerequisite of finding unity with God. Too many lay and clergy attempt to deal with the world through the means of the world. They are usually angry, utter failures who are only venting to the world in the world’s own language. I lack answers for the great dilemmas of the world, but I have some suggestions about solitude, silence, and recollection.
Solitude is a scary word that we have all come to know from one experience or another. Most times of solitude are forced upon us by some outside circumstance such as a broken relationship, sickness or even a global pandemic, but God-centered solitude is voluntary. It is a solitude that we go into to seek the face of God. Most of us do not have gobs of time for solitude, so let us begin with 15 minutes to an hour of purposeful solitude each day.
Silence is boring in a world that demands noise. The purpose of silence for the Christian is to hear the “voice” of God. When we are silent, we are open receptacles of the words of God. His words are crowded out by the white noise of day to day living. As we practice silence our ears are open to His gentle nudging. That nudging leads to words and wisdom beyond our imagination.
Recollection is painful because it requires us to examine our selves for the good and the bad. It is not until we can face the reality of our failures that we can win the real victories that God wants to give us. Take time every day to recollect your day, from the eyes of God, and you will be surprised where it takes you.
Solitude, silence, and recollection can help us to march on to the highpoint of the Christian life. Through these simple practices we find the means to be the light of the world.
Lord, Help me to see the necessity of taking time to be in solitude, silence, and recollection every day. Assist me to find the time necessary for these practices. I trust that you will use my practices for not only my benefit but the benefit of all creation. I ask you this day to allow me to grow in such a way that I will be pleasing to you in all that I do.
In his book Loving God, Charles Colson draws attention to an incident involving an Indiana judge named William Bontrager. Bontrager had to pass sentence on Fred Palmer, a decorated Vietnam veteran, who was found guilty of burglary. The crime was caused partly by involvement with drugs and alcohol. Indiana law required a sentence of ten to twenty years for Palmer’s offense.
However, new regulations designating a lesser penalty had gone into effect eighteen days after Palmer’s arrest. To complicate matters, Palmer had become a Christian in jail and seemed to have changed. Should the judge sentence Palmer, a man who had never been in jail, to ten years or more? Or should he declare the older statute in violation of Indiana’s constitution and give him a lighter sentence? Bontrager did the latter. Fred Palmer was out of jail in seven months, had a job, and was paying back his former victims.
The events that followed received national attention. The Indiana Supreme Court reversed the judge’s decision and ordered Fred Palmer sent back to prison. The judge’s attempts to fight the court’s decision during the next two years led to his own indictment for criminal contempt of court and, ultimately, his forced resignation. Fred Palmer was sent back to prison, but was released twenty months later by the governor. The judge’s convictions cost him his job, but not his integrity.
The writer of Proverbs says,”It is better to be poor and godly than rich and dishonest.” (Proverbs 16:17) That lesson is hard for our society. We seek to be “rich” at great cost to ourselves and our families. Our upwardly mobile society puts a high price on success. We sacrifice a great deal to be successful. If we sacrifice our integrity, then our wealth is worthless. Without integrity we cease to be fully human and the image of God fades within us. What we could have been becomes a sad memory.
God want us to be rich in mercy, abounding in grace just as he is to us. Without integrity this is impossible. We must stand for what we know is right even when it has a cost. Integrity gives us the fortitude to stand when others fall, to walk when others run and to truly know who we were created to be.
Let us live this life not being corrupted by our surroundings but strengthened by the integrity that comes from being followers of Jesus.
Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.
~~~C. S. Lewis
The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively.
We learned about honesty and integrity – that the truth matters… that you don’t take shortcuts or play by your own set of rules… and success doesn’t count unless you earn it fair and square.
The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home.
Subtlety may deceive you; integrity never will.
When you make a commitment to yourself, do so with the clear understanding that you’re pledging your integrity.
The qualities of a great man are “vision, integrity, courage, understanding, the power of articulation, and profundity of character.
When you are able to maintain your own highest standards of integrity – regardless of what others may do – you are destined for greatness.
It is true that integrity alone won’t make you a leader, but without integrity you will never be one.
The integrity of men is to be measured by their conduct, not by their professions.
Human beings exist that have integrity, that know how to keep their mouth shut, that know the bigger picture, that don’t sell out their friends.
Openness, respect, integrity – these are principles that need to underpin pretty much every other decision that you make.
First for the Lord grants wisdom! From his mouth comes knowledge and understanding. He grants a treasure of good sense to the Godly. He is their shield, protecting those who walk with integrity. He guards the paths of justice and protects those who are faithful to them.
Follow the steps of good men instead, and stay on the paths of the righteous. For only the upright will live in the land, and those who have integrity will remain in it.
Do not envy violent people; don’t copy their ways. Such wicked people are an abomination to the Lord, that he offers his friendship to the Godly. The curse of the Lord is on the house of the wicked, but his blessing is on the home of the upright.
The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, which shines ever brighter until the full light of day.
Teach the wise, and they will be wiser. Teach the righteous and they will learn more.
We all have happy memories of the godly, but the name of a wicked person rots away.
Those who are godly hate lies; the wicked come to shame and disgrace
The life of the godly is full of light and joy, but the sinner’s light is snuffed out.
The Lord hates the sacrifice of the wicked, but he delights in the prayers of the upright. The Lord despises the way of the wicked, but he loves those who pursue godliness.
LORD, fill me with the wisdom and strength to live a life of honesty and integrity. I seek to a live a life that is full of freedom from the corruption of the world. Guide me by your spirit to use your strength to achieve this life, because when I achieve it a great weight will be lifted from me.