Church of St Julian, Norwich (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
“The greatest honor we can give Almighty God is to live gladly because of the knowledge of his love.”
—-Julian of Norwich
Julian was an anchoress. An anchoress is one who lives a solitary life, and dedicates that life to getting closer to God. Very little is known of Julian beyond her work, “Revelation of Divine Love.” She is the first woman who wrote a theological work in the English language. Her sufferings and wisdom still speak loudly today.In the coming weeks I will be blogging about the works of Lady Julian now and again. This quote is just the beginning.
The heart of any ministry is prayer. May we all commit ourselves to prayer as the fiber that holds us together.
One of the important insights Willard’s The Spirit of the Disciplines repeats time and again is the necessity to live the disciplines as part of our regular life. If we want Christ to transform us, if we want to live the kind of life He lived, if we want to be able to have Gospel responses to the stimuli that surround us, we need to engage in regular patterns of disciplined living.
Otherwise, the disciplines are just for show (they could be, either way, of course). Otherwise, we will not have the inner strength of character to turn the other cheek, bless and not curse, control our thoughts, resist unhealthy food/books/images/etc, not lie, and so forth.
Engaging in disciplines does not mean we are holy — but it is the only way to get there.
Apparently, my minister back in Edinburgh (I’m in Germany at present) was saying this same…
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“The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.”
–― Mother Teresa
I found myself sitting in a nicely appointed hotel room in Baton Rouge and in the solitude of the moment my mind began to wander to things that seem far off and long ago. My attention was drawn to the desk in the corner of the room. It was a fully equipped desk with all the trappings that one might expect, a phone with an extra jack for a laptop, a comfortable chair, a reading lamp an, of course, the pad and pen that bore the name of the hotel. The little pad and pen combination took me on a trip back to a more simple time of my life.
It seemed as if yesterday the pad and pen were the most important items in the room and were to be coveted and cherished. They were, after all, very special to my little princess, better known as my daughter. I would always grab them up quickly and put them in my bag to be presented to her when I returned home. To her they were special treasures that Daddy would bring to his little princess; it was our little father-daughter ritual. As my mind returned to the reality of the day, I knew the pad and pen duo was not nearly as important to me as it once was. My daughter is now an adult, and those treasures that were once so special are now insignificant. Our relationship is no longer based on a daddy’s love for his make believe princess who sees that pad and pen as a treasure to be cherished, but the love of a father who sees his daughter in a whole new light.
It would be a real tragedy for me to expect that my relationship with my daughter would never grow or change in any way. Such a warped way of looking at a relationship would probably end in no relationship at all. So it is with our relationship to God .It must grow and mature and change with each new discovery and challenge in life. Christians often come to a standstill in their spiritual lives based on some pad and pen theology formed long ago.
The writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us” for everything there is a season and a time for everything under the sun.” Yes, there is a time for pads and pens for God, but if we are to grow spiritually we must move to a more mature approach to God. Let us always cherish those special things from the early days of our relationship with God, but do allow the season to pass. God always has greater things ahead for us. He allows us to grow, mature and reach new heights as we continue to pour ourselves out to him.
All that said, I still thank God for my time of Pads, Pens and Princesses.
My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think that I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this,
You will lead me by the right road.
Though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always
though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me.
And you will never leave me to face my struggles alone.
– Thomas Merton
Abba Peter said this about the holy Macarius: ‘One day he came to the cell of an anchorite who happened to be ill, and he asked him if he would take something to eat, though his cell was stripped bare. When the other replied, “Some sherbet,” that courageous man did not hesitate, but went as far as Alexandria to fetch some for the sick man. The astonishing thing is that no-one knew about it.’
—–Saying of the Desert
The brother is saying that he traveled over 50 miles through the desert to get the ancient equivalent of Ensure for an ailing friend, and he told no one about his good deed. Such a willing, generous spirit is not a common thing now, or then. Yet it is the teaching of Jesus in His Sermon On the Mount. He says,” But when you do your giving, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” The practice of charity (love) is not a source of pride or accolades, it is an act of devotion to God and His creation. We learn a valuable lesson from the desert today. Become a humble and generous giver of life, not a spectacle of self aggrandizing good deeds. Even if your actions are extraordinary, as were the actions of Macarius, we must do them to the praise of God and the benefit of His creation
In today’s rush towards relevance, we can forget what is basic. The Apostles Creed is basic. In one short confession, we affirm our faith in the resurrection, and embrace our baptism. In the early days of the church, there was a great cry to understand basic beliefs, and the Apostles Creed was an answer to that cry. Today’s world is full of “spiritual but not religious” people who are searching for answers. Perhaps this short confession can be used as a launching point of spiritual inquiry and it could lead to further examination of the faith.
My suggestion is simple. Make the creed a part of your daily prayer life, and allow it to be the basis for your discussions with spiritual seekers. I have found that if we stick to the ancient, but basic, documents of Christianity our impact is far greater. The creed is presented below. Recite it like you have never heard it before, and allow the words to be food for thought
I believe in God the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.And in Jesus Christ, his only Son our Lord, who was conceived from the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to Hell; on the third day he rose from the dead; he ascended into the heavens; he is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. Thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead.I believe in the Holy Spirit; the holy catholic Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.
Twentieth century existential psychologist Rollo May said, “It is an old and ironic habit of human beings to run faster when we have lost our way.” The more I think about that statement, the closer I get to full agreement with Dr. May. We often think that the faster we work, the quicker we can solve a seemingly unsolvable problem. How many times do we find ourselves lost in our problems and never stop long enough to evaluate our options? In my life I can recall times that I didn’t know where I was or what I was doing there, but I continued to busy my life with frantic activity.
After a very tiring day of ministry, Jesus said to his disciples; “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” He had found himself in a situation where rest was necessary for more ministry to follow. In the same way, we can lose ourselves in good things, works that make a difference, and literally become exhausted and unable to accomplish our goals. In these times we are lost, and hurried activities will not solve our lostness.
We must allow ourselves “breathing space” to think, to rest and to find ourselves. Never have I heard a story of a lost person who found his way by moving faster, but often we find our center as we slow down. If you find yourself feeling lost or overwhelmed, take time to do an inventory. Breathing space can make all the difference in the world.
Help us, O Lord, never to nurse the grievance that separates us from you and from one another. Grant us grace to forgive those who have wronged us. May we know that no sin is so great that it cannot be confessed; no wound so deep it cannot be healed and no sinner so lost that grace cannot bring them home. Amen.