Monthly Archives: January 2013

Evil

Saint Macarius of Egypt and the Cherub. Venera...

Saint Macarius of Egypt and the Cherub. Venerable Saint Macarius (ca. 300- d. 391, Scetes, Egypt) is one of the most prominent desert Fathers of the Church, known also as Macarius the Great. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

‘A mother came here with her little child, possessed with a devil, who said to his mother, “Get up, woman, let us go away from here.” She replied, “I cannot walk any further,” and the little child said to her, “I will carry you myself.” I wondered at the devil’s tricks and how eager he was to make them flee.’

 ——-sayings of the Desert Fathers

I would be the first to say that this story is a myth, but we must be reminded that myths and legends put forth great truths. The actuality of this story is that evil can appear to be helpful. If all that was destructive in our society would hurt and destroy, then most of us would never go in that direction. Sin, evil comes in various disguises that fool us into thinking that it is the proper thing to do.  The wisdom of the fathers is that evil will do anything to get away from good. It will promise success, fame and fortune but it will always flee from what is good and right.

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A Real Person

English: Roman Centurion

English: Roman Centurion (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bible shows us a very real person. He can be found in the book of Luke 23:47&48. Rome had many burly, manly men. They had been hardened by war and the type of depravity that came with it. There was a Roman centurion in charge of Jesus following his arrest. His behavior can serve as an inspiration about being real.

My assumption is that he was like all other centurions of his day. He had proven himself in battle. His loyalty to Caesar was unquestioned. The Centurion was a man to be looked up to and modeled. All these things, as good as they are, do not make you a real person. The Centurion did, however, possess some qualities that made him real and worthy of being a role model for us today.

1.The real person Listens.
The Centurion walked with Jesus as he carried his cross up to Calvary. He heard those who ridiculed him . He saw those who worshipped him. He heard it all.

2. The real person Acknowledges.
When all was said and done, the Centurion looked up at Jesus on the cross and said, “ This was truly the son of God .”

3. The real person Feels
I believe the Centurion felt the pain of Jesus as he went through torture, public humiliation, and finally a very painful death. Throughout all of this he became increasingly empathetic with Jesus.

4. The real person Takes Risks.
When the Centurion acknowledged Jesus as the Son of God, he opened himself up to criticism from all sorts of places. The Romans could say that he was not worshipping the gods of Rome. The Jews could say he was just crazy. It didn’t matter, because he was real.

Let’s all try to be as real as the Roman Centurion. I don’t know about you, but I like real people.

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The Good of the Gospel

From:George Whitefield: a biography,

From:George Whitefield: a biography, (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Stripped image of John Wesley

Stripped image of John Wesley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Although George Whitefield disagreed with John Wesley on some theological matters, he was careful not to create problems in public that could be used to hinder the preaching of the gospel. When someone asked Whitefield if he thought he would see Wesley in heaven, Whitefield replied, “I fear not, for he will be so near the eternal throne and we at such a distance, we shall hardly get sight of him.”

Every day I pray that God might get me to George Whitefield’s point and really mean it. This point of is commitment to the good of the mission and totally suppresses my ego and allows me to rejoice with all who disagree with me so we may strive together as we offer the world hope. This worthy goal is my daily prayer. Our world desperately needs the type of peace that can only come from a total commitment to the Good News of Christ. This week there have been two instances of violence that have made the news in a big way. The shootings at the MLK parade in New Orleans and the Lone Star Community College in Houston. Both undoubtedly were connected to disagreements that certainly were not bad enough to end in such violence. They were rooted in ego and the need to have things “my way”. May our God guide us to respect and cherish one another even in the midst of our differences.

 

 The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.”

― Henri J.M. Nouwen

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Capacity

St Catherine's Chapel

St Catherine’s Chapel (Photo credit: http://www.ruffrootcreative.com)

Abba Mark asked Abba Arsenius ‘Is it good to have nothing extra in the cell?  I know a brother who had some vegetables  and  he  has  pulled  them  up.’  Abba  Arsenius replied, ‘Undoubtedly that is good but it must be done according to a man’s capacity.  For if he does not have the strength for such a practice he will soon plant others.’

——Sayings of the Desert Fathers

I suppose the toughest part of the Christian journey is to discover my capacity. I want answers, handles, methods to live my life as a devoted follower of Christ. The wisdom of the desert tells me that there is no one answer, but our loving God accommodates my “capacity”. What does that mean? It seems to ring the tone of situational ethics but no, it is really scriptural.  First Corinthians 10: 13 tells us that we will not be given more than we can bear. In our “one right answer society” we expect everyone to be of the same belief, actions and journey but that is not reality. God gives each person a capacity of faith that we offer to him and He, in turn, gives a faith journey that we can accomplish.

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Filed under Christian Living, contemplative, Desert Fathers, Evil, missional, Monasticism

Missing the Very Best

A childhood accident caused poet Elizabeth Barrett to lead a life of semi-invalidism before she married Robert Browning in 1846. There’s more to the story. In her youth, Elizabeth had been watched over by her domineering father. When she and Robert were married, their wedding was held in secret because of her father’s disapproval. After the wedding the Brownings sailed for Italy, where they lived for the rest of their lives. But even though her parents had disowned her, Elizabeth never gave up on the relationship. Almost weekly she wrote them letters. Not once did they reply. After 10 years, she received a large box in the mail.  Inside, Elizabeth found all of her letters; not one had been opened! Today those letters are among the most beautiful in classical English literature. Had her parents only read a few of them, their relationship with Elizabeth might have been restored.

English: Portraits of Elizabeth Barrett Browni...

English: Portraits of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A closed mind and an unforgiving heart can cost us the very best that life has to offer. At that season of “peace on earth and good will towards all men” might we consider who we are holding at arms length because of some old grudge or misunderstanding. Many times people have walked into my office and told “if only“ stories of missing out so many thing in life. All to often these missed opportunities were cause by an unforgiving heart, a heart that was closed to the Spirit of the love and grace of God. Take the time to examine your own heart and ask whom am I holding at a distance? Let me urge you to then go top that person and embrace them in the Spirit of the God who loves them just as he loves you.

Jesus said “ I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly.“ Is there a box of closed letters in your life? Are there people that have “nothing’ to say to you? God came to this world to show His love for us. He does not want us to suffer and languish in a spirit of bitterness and unforgivness.

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A Place to Belong

Revolutionary War Pension Claim for Abijah Hub...

Revolutionary War Pension Claim for Abijah Hubbard signed by John C. Calhoun (Photo credit: Special Collections at Wofford College)

There was an episode of The Andy Griffith Show in which the Women’s Historical Society had discovered that a living descendant of a Revolutionary War hero was living right there in Mayberry. The news generated excitement and curiosity throughout the town as people made plans for recognizing the hero’s relative. Barney Fife, of course, twisted his own family tree to the point that he put himself in line for the honor. The rest of the townspeople felt special just because someone among them was related to the hero.
Everyone was shocked when the news came. A careful analysis of the genealogical records determined that the hero’s descendant was Otis Campbell, the town drunk. Despite instructions to find a “substitute Otis” for the presentation, the real Otis showed up for the ceremony. When the ladies gave him the plaque which they had engraved especially for him, Otis gave the plaque to the town. He said, “Just because you’re the descendant of a hero doesn’t make you one. So I would like to present this plaque to the town of Mayberry, to which I am just proud to belong.”

There is nothing more important in life than having a place to belong. For too many people this is so elusive today. This results in depression, adiction and so many other problems. The gospel is so simple. It says to come. Come as you are, not as you should be. Allow the Holy Spirit to help you find your place.

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The Heart of Change

Sacred Heart Church of Gibraltar

Sacred Heart Church of Gibraltar (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 A brother questioned Abba Arsenius to hear a word of him and the old man said to him, ‘Strive with all your might to bring your interior activity into accord with God, and you will overcome exterior passions.

—-Sayings of the Desert Fathers

 The message of the old man is simple. Change your heart and the rest will follow. Too many of us make the mistake of thinking that we can change our behavior and our hearts will change. True change, God given change, begins with a change of heart. Jesus said, “It is what is inside of a man that corrupts .”

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Virtues and Hard Work

Someone said to blessed Arsenius, ‘How is it that we, with all our education and our wide knowledge get no- where, while these Egyptian peasants acquire so many virtues?’ Abba Arsenius said to him, ‘We indeed get nothing from our secular education, but these Egyptian peasants acquire the virtues by hard work.’

 ——Abba Arsenius 

Virtue

Virtue (Photo credit: Leonard John Matthews)

It would do us all well to learn the lesson of humble work. Such work is the prayer of the desert Monk. In our world we tend to devalue the work of our hands, hard work that builds our character and spirit. We replace it by such sayings as,”Work smarter, not harder.” While I would be the first to advise smart work, I must add that true work builds virtue, the kind of virtue that stands against the temptations of the evil one.

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Evangelism

St. Francis of Assisi (circa 1182-1220)

St. Francis of Assisi (circa 1182-1220) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One day St. Francis of Assisi invited a young monk to join him on a trip into town to preach. The young monk was so honored to get such an invitation from St. Francis that he quickly accepted. All day long he and St. Francis walked through the streets and byways, alleys and suburbs, and they rubbed shoulders with hundreds of people.

At the end of the day the two headed back home however, not even once had St. Francis addressed a crowd, nor had he talked to anyone about the gospel. The young monk was greatly disappointed, and he said to St. Francis, “I thought we were going into town to preach?” St. Francis responded, “My son, we have preached. We were preaching while we were walking. We were seen by many and our behavior was closely watched. It is of no use to walk anywhere to preach unless we preach everywhere as we walk!”

In today’s world the word evangelism has become a despised and dirty word. I feel that is because we have confused evangelism with marketing. When we market something it is our goal to get the target audience to “buy” our product. For us to achieve that goal, we try to convince the audience that they are dissatisfied with the present product. When Christianity is marketed to the world, it becomes no better than a Wal Mart commercial or an infomercial. No wonder people consider evangelism a bad word.

Francis of Assisi gives us an alternative. He says, “No use to walk anywhere to preach unless we preach everywhere as we walk!” That is the real goal of evangelism. We must become the “good news” for all that we touch. They are watching and waiting to see and hear from God. The world yearns for good because there is so much bad.

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Rest and Spirituality

 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 said 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. 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 well being. Anthony and God were on the same page here. All of us need some to “relax the bow” before it snaps

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Filed under Antony of Egypt, Christian Living, Desert Fathers, Monasticism, Prayer, Rest