Monthly Archives: December 2013

A Canticle from Northumbria Abbey

Monasterboice, West cross

Teach us, dear Lord, to number our days;
that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.
Oh, satisfy us early with Thy mercy,
that we may rejoice and be glad all of our days.
And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us;
and establish Thou the work of our hands.
And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us;
and establish Thou the work of our hands, dear Lord.

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More through Grace

JulianThe passion came to my mind as a result of my prayers. I had a great empathy with the passion of Christ but it was clear that God could give me more through His grace.

—-Julian of Norwich

Lady Julian lived the simple life of a hermit, but she knew that she could experience limitless revelation through the grace of God. One of her great desires of life was to feel the pain and abandonment of the passion of Christ. This knowledge would allow her to better understand the depth of God’s extravagant love towards us.

Like Lady Julian, we can have more of God through His grace. Words could not adequately express how much more God wants to give to us if we only ask. We have long settled for second best, because we have depended on our ability and not his grace to take us on this quest. Julian urges us to call upon His grace.

She was keenly aware that she could never really attain her goal of viscerally experiencing the pain and sorrow of the passion of the Christ except through grace. The kind of grace that allows us to achieve beyond our ability or strength is what desire. What a sad fact it is that most people turn to “self-help” and expect to find the answers to life’s great mysteries in manmade formulas. This lesson of Julian is that grace is the way to achieve more.

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Grace Rules

Child psychologists tell us that children not only need, but want rules.  “They require set limits to ensure them of the security and sense of control needed for proper development.”

Adolescents balk at rules.  They seem to go all out to prove the old saying that, “Rules are meant to be broken.”  They, too, are desperately groping for a boundary of comfort and safety, however.

Adults are generally regarded as “rule setters.”  We use our wisdom and life experience to make those rules we feel are important for our children’s well-being.

I don’t know about you, but when I am exhausted by life’s demands or find myself out of resources to deal with a difficult situation, I long for a set of rules for the game of life.  I would enjoy giving up the gut-wrenching decisions and judgment calls of life, for a set of rules that would free me of the awesome responsibility of the moment.

If you have ever wanted someone to tell you what to do and relieve you of your burden of responsibility – GREAT NEWS!  Romans 12:9-21 gives us ten rules for a successful life:

1.  Love sincerely.

2.  Hate evil.

3.  Honor others.

4.  Have joy, hope, and patience.

5.  Pray.

6.  Share.

7.  Be good to your enemies.

8.  Get along.

9.  Don’t be conceited.

10. Don’t get back.

Paul wrote these words to a group of beleaguered and persecuted Christians in the huge pagan city of Rome almost 2,000 years ago.  The payoff for following the rules for those first century Christians is exactly the same for us today and is found in verse 21.  “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  Be assured of this promise – good overcomes evil – always!

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Psalm 23

Psalm 23

 

The Lord is my Good Shepherd

THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD

These words imply that I live in an unpredictable, frightening, and even cruel world where bad things can happen to me.

These words imply that in this life I will need a shepherd.

I will need God to come and find me when I have lost my way.

I will need God to comfort me when my grief is too great to bear.

I will need God to encourage me when I am devastated.

I will need God to protect me from others and from myself.

I will need God to know my name when I feel all alone.

I SHALL NOT WANT

Because the Lord is my shepherd – I shall lack for nothing.

Because the Lord is my shepherd – I have everything that I need.

Because the Lord is my shepherd – His grace fills in the empty spaces in my life:

·          The dreams that never came true –

·          The goals that were never achieved –

·          The people I have lost and never stop missing –

·          Those times when not one other person can understand the ache in my soul.

HE MAKES ME TO LIE DOWN IN GREEN PASTURES

I instinctively retreat outside to feel His presence.

My soul craves the colors of the sky and the trees and the flowers.

The company of his creation calms my spirit.

HE LEADS ME BESIDE THE STILL WATERS

As water keeps my body alive, God leads me to that which sustains my life and my soul.

He stills the chaos in my life as Christ stilled the storm on the Sea of Galilee.

God’s stillness makes the world livable and melts away my anxious fears.

HE RESTORES MY SOUL

When I am so busy that I neglect my soul – God restores me.

When I am so beaten up by the world that my soul feels lost – God restores me.

When I selfishly repress the spirit God has given me – God restores me.

When my soul is so diminished by my own sin that it seems it is almost gone, by His grace and through my confession and repentance – God restores me.

 

 

HE GUIDES ME IN STRAIGHT PATHS FOR HIS NAME’S SAKE

I learn to trust the path that God shows me

Even if I wander in a round about way, He will bring me back to that straight path, and I will end up going in the right direction.

As I walk my path in trust; others may be drawn to Him as they witness His faithfulness to me.

God’s name will be glorified.

THOUGH I WALK THROUGH THE VALLEY OF THE SHAWDOW OF DEATH

I know this shadow.

I fear death, but the remedy to this fear is that I am never alone, especially at death.

Knowing death is so hard for me; God shared it and experienced it for himself in the worst way.

When I lose someone I love, this valley is one I must walk through.

It is not meant to be my permanent home, and I dishonor God’s plan to go through the shadow when I refuse to walk with Him.

Even if I am crushed by life, I cannot stay in this seductive shadow where it is hard to leave, but impossible to live.

I walk through the valley with the Shepherd.

I WILL FEAR NO EVIL

This means evil is a reality.

This means that I will face it.

Because I am a Christian I am not exempt, actually I may be even more confronted with evil.

The promise is that God is real and He is with me.

He is on my side and that makes all the difference.

I am protected from evil.

Light always overcomes darkness.

Good always overcomes bad.

I have nothing to fear – God is with me.

THY ROD AND THY STAFF, THEY COMFORT ME

The shepherd’s staff of God helps, supports, and disciplines me.

It gives me strength and help when I fall, and corrects my path when I stray.

The rod and staff holds me accountable and reminds me that some behaviors dishonor God’s spirit and are toxic to my soul.

It comforts me to have the surety that I am supported so that my soul is not diminished, and God is not dishonored.

The shepherd’s rod gives me assurance that God does provide justice in the world and that ultimately evil does not win.

 

 

THOU PREPAREST A TABLE BEFORE ME IN THE PRESENCE OF MY ENEMIES

In contrast to the people around me who have disappointed me, turned against me, even tried to destroy me, You, Father, prepare a feast of blessing and love and joy for me.

Your banquet of blessings is so much more nourishing than anything negative my enemies prepare for me, that I can move on in my life strengthened by your abundance, not weakened by cruelty or disappointment.

THOU ANNOINTEST MY HEAD WITH OIL

As ancient kings were identified as the ones chosen and set apart to serve your people by the anointing with oil, so have you anointed me to serve you.

By accepting your anointing, I also must accept the responsibility that comes with such a special gift.

Help me to live up to the calling you have blessed me with.

Remind me of my task when the world distracts me.

Remind me of my joy when I am discouraged.

Remind me of your presence when I feel alone.

Let me put my hand on my head and touch again the oil of your anointing when my responsibility to serve you overwhelms my soul.

MY CUP RUNNETH OVER

My basic response to your grace is gratitude.

My thankfulness for God’s blessing is rooted in the sense that life is a gift and that all good things come from God.

For all the blessings you pour in my cup, Father, I thank you, even for those gifts I never recognize.

I thank you because life is often hard – you have blessed me with all I need, you have restored my soul over and over, you have guided my path, you have held my hand and walked me through dark valleys, you have protected and corrected me, you have prepared a feast of blessings to nourish my soul and you have called me to know and serve you.  Truly the cup of my heart cannot hold all these gifts.

SURELY GOODNESS AND MERCY SHALL FOLOW ME ALL THE DAYS OF MY LIFE

Because you are shepherding my life, I will feel good about living.

I will recognize your goodness everywhere – in your creation, in your protection and blessings, in your provision.

Every place I turn, I will see your goodness.

Because you are shepherding my life I will recognize your mercy everywhere in your forgiveness, in your discipline, in my unearned love from you.

Every place I turn, I will see your mercy.

Because you are shepherding my life, I will leave behind me goodness and mercy.

It will follow me

·          as I stop wanting and start giving

·          as I take care of your world

·          as I accept your stillness

·          as you restore my soul

·          as I travel along the straight path

·          as I live out my calling to your work

·          as I trust you to protect me from evil and enemies and the dark, shadowy valleys of life

·          as I acknowledge your abundant blessings…

I will leave behind me a trail of YOUR goodness and mercy.

You will bless others through me and the shepherd will be glorified.

AND I SHALL DWELL IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD FOREVER

God’s promise to me is not immunity from this world full of struggles with hurtful people or fear or my own spiritual battles – even death.

God’s promise to me is a home – HIS HOME FOREVER!

No wandering aimlessly, no loneliness, no solitary battles, no unfulfilled needs…

He shares with me His Home – where there is:

·          No want

·          Green pastures

·          Still waters

·          Restoration

·          Straight paths

·          Light

·          Courage

·          Protection

·          Correction

·          Comfort

·          Abundant blessing

·          Calling

·          And…PRESENCE

The presence of the Holy, Almighty God – My Creator, My Savior, My Sustainer

My HOME…

FOREVER

 

(Some thoughts for Psalms 23 from reading Harold Kuschner)

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Morning Glories

Blue and dark-blue

Morning Glories

Morning Glories 

 

rose and deepest rose
white and pink they

are everywhere in the diligent
cornfield rising and swaying
in their reliable

finery in the little
fling of their bodies their
gear and tackle

all caught up in the cornstalks.
The reaper’s story is the story
of endless work of

work careful and heavy but the
reaper cannot
separate them out there they

are in the story of his life
bright random useless
year after year

taken with the serious tons
weeds without value
humorous beautiful weeds.

——Mary Oliver

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Lady Julian Chapter 1

(I am in the process of drafting a paraphrase of the writings of Julian of Norwich and will be posting them from time to time. Your comments and feedback are welcomed.  —— Irvin J. Boudreaux)

Church of St Julian, Norwich

Church of St Julian, Norwich (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Revelation of Divine Love
Chapter 1

I desire three graces from God.

 

The first is the fully experience the pain of the passion of Christ.

The second is to experience serious physical illness.

The third was to experience the three wounds of Christ.

 

The passion came to my mind as a result of my prayers. I had a great empathy with the passion of Christ but it was clear that God could give me more through His grace. It seemed to me that if I could have been there with Mary Magdalene and the other lovers of Christ and been an eyewitness to the passion that Christ suffered for me and experienced pain they felt as they watched him suffer on the cross I could be more fully devoted to him. In all ways I have believed the teachings of the Holy Church as they are manifested by icons and crucifixes that have been made the grace of God. These have been made with all the skills and intelligence that man has to offer. I still desire that I might be an eye witness to his passion so that I might have the fullness of knowledge of the bodily pains of Christ and feel the compassion of his mother Mary and all those who loved him. Is my greatest desire that I might have been present with them and suffered their pain and grief. No other showing of God do I desire more than this one in this lifetime and I trust that God will grant it. I wish for the showing so that I might truly know the pain of the passion of Christ.

 

As for my second desire, it came to my mind with contrition and freedom and with a truly willful desire to have God’s gift of serious physical illness. This illness must be one that that leads to death so I might receive all the rites of my church and believed in my heart that I would die. It would be perceived in such a way that all those around me with think that I would die.I have never wished for a comfortable earthly life on this earth. In this illness it is my desire that I should experience all the pains that are faced as death approaches. My wish is to experience all the attacks of the evil one short of losing my soul. With this experience I will learn to welcome my home going to the Lord when my time comes.

 

These two desires – feeling the passion, and experiencing serious physical illness and spiritual warfare– I desire with a condition. In my prayer I asked: “Lord you know what I desire ,I pray that is in your will to give me my desire. If it is not your will, I will not be bitter for my greatest desire is to do your will”. This physical illness I pray may come to me when I am 30 years old.

 

 

As for the third I once heard a man of the Holy Church tell the story a blessed St. Cecilia. I’ve heard it she received three blows to her neck from an executioner. These blows did not bring immediate death but she died three days later. By this I desired that I would seek from my Lord that he would grant me these three wounds in my lifetime: The wound of contrition, the wound of compassion, and the wound of actively seeking God’s touch. As I asked for the first two with condition, this third one I asked without condition. My first two desires left my mind but the third desire never departed.

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Work

Francis of Assisi

“He who works with his hands is a laborer.

He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman.

He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.”

― St. Francis of Assisi

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O Come All Ye Faithful

significance_0014_O Come All Ye Faithful_intro

The narratives of the birth of Jesus recorded in the Scriptures are told through the adoration of the baby by ordinary individuals like the shepherds, the magi, and Simeon and Anna.  They all recognized the baby as the Messiah, the Savior of the World.  They worshiped Him acknowledging that He was the one present at creation, foretold by the prophets, the long awaited Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world.  He was God come down from heaven where He was worshiped and adored by angels for eternity – to be a man.  He would walk the earth, give himself up to die, and provide the grace to save the whole world.  He would rise from the dead; ascend back to heaven from whence He came to be eternally adored by the angels and the saints of all time.

 

My grandfather and I sat on his front porch one mild December afternoon.  My Grandfather was a man of simple but great faith.  I asked him what his favorite Christmas carol was.  He rubbed his chin, as was his habit and said, “Oh, that’s easy.  I love the one that tells us to come and adore Him.”

 

My grandfather with his beautiful tenor voice and I sang “O, Come All Ye Faithful” together that afternoon.  It is one of my most treasured memories of him.

 

During Advent, the faithful Church is invited back to Bethlehem to revisit Christ’s first coming to the world.  We are invited to listen to the choir of angels that sang to the shepherds.  We are invited to travel with the Magi and follow the star.  We are invited into the stable to behold the King of Angels and simply adore Him.

 

Needless to say, my favorite Christmas carol is “O, Come All Ye Faithful.”  I love to think of my grandfather in heaven adoring Christ face to face and singing with the voices of all of heaven’s hosts in that beautiful hymn of praise.  And every year during the Christmas season, I still sing it with him as surely as I did that day on the porch.

 

Reflection – Spend some time in simple adoration of Christ.

 

Monica Boudreaux

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Sacred

View of Bethlehem, 1898

View of Bethlehem, 1898 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Emperor’s registration has been a great boon for business, but a mass of confusion, crowding, and short tempers here in Bethlehem.  Since our humble village is the birthplace of the great King David those of his lineage have been required to come here to be counted.  Our sleepy little country town has been inundated by hordes of irritable citizens inconvenienced by the journey.  I warned my wife weeks ago that the inn would be filled to overflowing for these days. Together we made as many advance preparations as possible – more lamp oil, food, linens.  Still the rush has been more than we bargained for, and we’ve met some real characters.

A few nights ago, a most peculiar thing happened.  An exhausted young man came in just before sunset.  He had just arrived from Nazareth with his very pregnant wife and was desperate for a room.  I told him that I regretfully had nothing to offer him – there was not a corner to be had.  Something about his manner really captured my attention, though.  He wasn’t angry or annoyed as most were, but he just thanked me and turned to her with such concern and care.  For some reason it was terribly important that I help them.  It occurred to me that the cave in back which serves as a stable was empty.  When offered such humble accommodations they gratefully and readily accepted without a word of complaint.

Sometime during the night, I was awakened by a small group of shepherds that claimed to be looking for a baby.  I was bewildered, thinking perhaps they had had too much wine, but they hurriedly explained their reason for coming to the inn.  They related that angels had appeared to them in their field and told them of a Special Child they were to come and worship for He was the promised Messiah.  The angel instructed them to look for a baby in a manger.  I must say, I felt the strangest sensation and thought of the young couple in the barn.

We went back to see and before us was the most beautiful sight.  The young woman had given birth to a baby boy.  Her husband, I think he said he was a carpenter named Joseph, had cleared out the animals’ manger and put in fresh hay, and there the baby lay all wrapped in warm cloths.  The shepherds fell to their knees.

Although, I was confused and somewhat skeptical, I can truly say this was no ordinary child.  In that smelly old barn, there was a holy presence.  I have been drawn back in there many times in the last few days.  Something lingers – something sacred.

Look for opportunities to give compassion. Wherever Christ is, there is a holy presence.  Something lingers – something sacred.

Reflection – When has your spirit sensed a sacred presence?

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Juan’s Story

Juan was a tiny eight-year-old boy in a little Mexican town quite untouched by any other influences.  In its simpleness and poverty, time had stood still for 100 years.  Juan was one of the town’s orphans.  He had lived on the streets as long as he could remember and had no memory of how he came to be there.  The church with the convent next door was where he could be found more often than not.  The nuns saw to his basic needs as best they could.  They shared meager rations of food with him and left the door of the church unlocked on cold nights.

Thseason of Advent was Juan’s favorite time of year, because the church was so magnificent with its candles and crèche on the altar.  Inside those four walls, he felt embraced by light and warmth and security, but he also felt the mystery of God’s presence, which gave him a sense of the only love and peace he knew.

On Christmas Eve, one of the sisters invited

English: A Cuzco native participates in a live...

him to join the other children of the town in the traditional processional as they brought gifts to thChrist Child.  Juan’s joy at being included was soon replaced by sadness at the realization that he had nothing to bring as a traditional gift to present the baby.  All day he thought and prayed and not long before the service was to begin, he found a piece of paper and made his gift.

The processional began.  The infant Jesus was laid in the manger on the altar and the children presented their gifts of fruit, flowers, and sweets.  Last of all Juan walked up to the Nativity and laid in the manger the piece of paper he had found and fashioned into a paper doll.

The next day a kindly nun asked Juan about his gift.  This was his story:  “Sister there are many nights that I am cold and alone.  I had no gift to bring to Christ, so I made myself from a piece of paper and thought I would just lie next to the Baby to keep Him warm.”

The old nun with tears in her eyes said, “Juan, you truly gave to Christ the best of all gifts.  You gave him yourself, all that you are.  You gave Him your heart.”

Christmas is a time for gifts.  I do not believe that God who created all things is impressed with any grand gift we could give Him, but I know God is overjoyed when we offer Him our hearts.

Reflection – What must I do to truly give God my heart, all of who I am?

Monica Boudreaux

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