Monthly Archives: December 2013

Divine Union

Liturgy of Saint James. Russian Orthodox Churc...

Franciscan Friar and contemplative Richard Rhor asserts the following: “Divine union, not private perfection, is the goal of all religion.” In that very short statement we can find the heart of our faith walk. Our world is busy chasing many goals and movements to find the perfect way to “do church,” and it stares us in the face. Religion is union with the divine. That union is not found in a series of rules that seek to bring us to a state of personal perfection but in quiet steps that bring us closer to God.

This union with the Divine has to start with prayer that carries us away from the ordinary and allows us to reach for the Divine. Perhaps the best start would be a time of silence when we offer ourselves to God, and remain still long enough for Him to respond.

Union with the Divine is found in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. In this Holy Mystery, the Divine comes to us. Countless hours are spent looking for God, and without a doubt, He is present in the sacrament. Do not neglect the concept of frequent communion that is so forcefully expressed by Methodist founder John Wesley for in the practice of this Holy Mystery we find Divine union.

Jesus cries to us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. “ Let us make coming to union with the Divine the driving force of our lives.

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Christmas Hope

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There is a wondrous poem found in many places on the Internet. Maybe you have seen it. It does a wondrous job of reminding us of that truth. It is titled, “Do You Still Have Hope?” I’m going to shorten it just a little bit, but hear its message:

If you can look at the sunset and smile, then you still have hope . . . If you can find beauty in the colors of a small flower . . . If you can find pleasure in the movement of a butterfly . . . If the smile of a child can still warm your heart, then you still have hope . . .

If you can see the good in other people . . . If the rain breaking on a roof top can still lull you to sleep, If the sight of a rainbow still makes you stop and stare in wonder . . . If the soft fur of a favored pet still feels pleasant under your fingertips, then you still have hope . . .

If you meet new people with a trace of excitement and optimism . . . If you give people the benefit of a doubt . . . If you still offer your hand in friendship to others that have touched your life, then you still have hope . . .

If receiving an unexpected card or letter still brings a pleasant surprise . . . If the suffering of others still fills you with pain and frustration . . . If you refuse to let a friendship die, or accept that it must end, then you still have hope . . .

If you look forward to a time or place of quiet and reflection . . .

If you still buy the ornaments, put up the Christmas tree or cook the turkey . . .

If you still watch love stories or want the endings to be happy, then you still have hope . . .

If you can look to the past and smile . . . If, when faced with the bad, when told everything is futile, you can still look up and end the conversation with the phrase . . . “yeah . . . BUT . . .” then you still have hope . . .

Hope is such a marvelous thing. It bends, it twists, it sometimes hides, but rarely does it break . . .  It sustains us when nothing else can . . . It gives us reason to continue and courage to move ahead, when we tell ourselves we’d rather give in . . . Hope puts a smile on our face when the heart cannot manage . . .  Hope puts our feet on the path when our eyes cannot see it . . .  Hope moves us to act when our souls are confused of the direction . . .

Hope is a wonderful thing, something to be cherished and nurtured, and something that will refresh us in return . . .  And it can be found in each of us, and it can bring light into the darkest of places . . . Never lose hope . . .

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Show Up or Else: The So-Called Scandal of the Semi-Churched

Bryan shares a some thoughtful words on this subject.

pub theologian

pew[1]

Apparently there is a new category for the less-than-faithful-church-goer: not the ‘unchurched’ or ‘de-churched’ or ‘sick of church’ or even the ‘nones’, no, these new targets of evangelical exuberance are the semi-churched. Which probably describes many of you. Probably even me. Who are the semi-churched? Those who go to church usually, but not always.

Well, the word is out. A pastor in Michigan is on to your scheming and conniving ways. You’d think a pastor concerned with the kingdom of God might have an issue to speak about like hunger, or armed conflict, or global warming, or local housing issues, or building up his own community. Because there are real problems and challenges facing churches, neighborhoods and all of us.

But instead, who is the target? That empty pew from last Sunday. The pew that should have been filled with the sophomore college student in his congregation who didn’t show…

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A Prayer from Claire of Assisi

Saint Clare and sisters of her order, San Dami...

May You Reflect the Glory of the Lord

May you reflect the glory of the Lord. Place your heart in the divine substance through contemplation. Transform your being into the image that we reflect, the Godhead Itself. Then, you will feel what love is. Then, you will feel the sweetness that is revealed to us through the Spirit, what no eye has seen and no ear has heard, the love that God has for His lovers.

—Clare of Assisi

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Waiting

Icon of the Presentation

Isaiah 40: 28-31

God seems to bless those who wait. Waiting is a timeless discipline with eternal rewards. The scripture has many stories of those who waited and learned.

Noah waited for years as he built a boat on dry land and learned the lesson of deliverance. Jonah waited three days in the belly of the fish and learned the lesson of obedience. The prophets waited for centuries to see the Messiah and learned the lesson of faith. Joseph waited in prison and learned the lesson of forgiveness. Zacharias waited to speak and learned the lesson of humility. Anna and Simeon waited a lifetime to see the Savior and learned the lesson of perseverance.

Waiting during the season of Advent can serve as a discipline to teach us many spiritual truths. While waiting we can develop patience and true obedience. We can glimpse the hugeness of God’s love and grace and learn to recognize holiness when we encounter it. Waiting nurtures our compassion and opens our eyes to see others in need. It opens our hearts to service and fosters a freedom to give and encourage others. As we pause and wait for God, we have time to assess our priorities, discover happiness where we are and develop an appreciation for what we have.

Advent is a time to deal with our fears, our anger, our disappointments, and learn to both give and receive forgiveness. It is a time to internalize the cleansing joy of repentance and to know the peace of taking last place. While we wait, we can use the unknown time to realize that living with mystery builds faith, and suffering and sacrifice reveal God to us. While waiting we acquire a dependence on God, we gain hope, and we become sure that while we wait we are never alone.

During Advent, the Church waits to celebrate the first Advent of God into the world and waits for completeness and perfection at the Second Advent. In the waiting, we find our peace.

Reflection – What have you learned from God during those waiting times of your life?
Monica Boudreaux

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Temptation

English: Detail of Religion mural in lunette f...

“The distinctive mark of a monk (Christian) is made clear through temptations.”

——Abba Poeman

The things that persuade us are the things that rule us. Instinctively, we are led away from certain behaviors and towards others. The mark of the Christian is to live in an area that allows us to give honor to God. Honor to God is given in worship, prayer, service, and hospitality. Those four things are not an exhaustive list of all Christian virtues, but at least a place to start. Let’s take them apart in a few statements.

Worship is honor paid to God at its simplest definition. Many times we are tempted not to worship God in an organized or in any other way. “I don’t go to church, and I don’t know one person who does,” says Brian Kenny, 39, who is studying psychotherapy and counseling at Dublin Business School. “Fifteen years ago, I didn’t know one person who didn’t.” In 1980 85% of the people of Ireland attended worship on a weekly basis, now it is less than 50% and dropping rapidly. Untied States statistics are not far behind.

Prayer is communication with God. I would hate to think how little people really talk to God. With growing numbers of people who never attend a church of any kind it would be difficult to expect that prayer would be on the rise.

Service in the way the Abba is using it means some type of assistance or good that is done for someone else. Do we really serve others out of a sense of being part of the family of God? I really doubt it.

Hospitality is freely opening your inner domain to friend and stranger alike. A few days ago I ran out of gas (yes I do stupid things like that) and a total stranger offer me the hospitality of his truck, gas can and gas that was in it. That is hospitality, and he opened what was his inner domain and shared with me without expectation of anything in return. Are you a person who practices hospitality?

I would venture to say that if you are tempted and tried by your reluctance to worship, pray, serve, and practice hospitality you are being marked as a Christian.

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Lost and Forgotten

The Lord is my Good Shepherd

12What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.

Matthew 18:12-14

Jackie Turner posted a Craigslist ad asking to rent a Mom and Dad for Christmas. She was willing to pay $8 an hour just to have someone to talk to and be with for Christmas. Jackie is an honor student at William Jessup University who has come a long way from her broken and abusive background. The happy ending of this story is that Jackie got numerous responses and, with help of others, is planning a giant party for everyone who responded to her ad. What an encouraging turn of events!

The letters of the scripture passage are written in red because they are the words of Jesus. In a new movement called Red Letter Christianity, Christians seek to pay careful attention to the words of scripture that are spoken by Jesus and base their Christian walks on His direction. We would all do well to be become Red Letter Christians, especially at Christmas time.

Jesus instructs us to remember the lost sheep, but lost sheep like Jackie are often forgotten. Pray that God will give you wisdom to seek out the lost sheep of your neighborhood and community. Take the time to speak, to notice and to touch people around you with His love. It is truly the spirit of the season and the Christian life.

No one should be lost and forgotten at Christmas.

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Change

A toddler girl crying

One time a mother walked in on her 6 year old son who was sobbing. “What’s the matter?” she asked. “I’ve just figured out how to tie my shoes.” “Well, honey, that’s wonderful. You’re growing up. But why are you crying?” “Because,” he said, “now I’ll have to do it every day for the rest of my life.”

Change is difficult for us all. Everyone will have some rough times ahead, storms that will challenge us, throw us off course and even scare the living daylights out of us. Has change come ripping through your life at a pace so violently that you just want to quit? Remember there is never a change so difficult that God is not there to help you cope.

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Expectations

Rembrandt Simeon houdt Jesus vast

Rembrandt Simeon 

Luke 2: 22-35

The season of Advent gives us many opportunities to develop spiritual disciplines that become part of our faith journey all year long. As we look forward to the celebration of the birth of Christ and anticipate his Second Coming we find that being faithful in times when the road ahead is unclear builds our dependence on God’s grace.

We can learn from Simeon about keeping faith. The Scripture tells us that he was a just and devout man in Jerusalem who had been promised by God that before he died he would see the Christ. As Mary and Joseph were taking the infant Jesus to the Temple to present Him to the Lord and make a sacrifice, the Spirit led Simeon to the Temple, also. When he saw the baby he immediately recognized Him as the Messiah, blessed Him, and made a prophecy about His mission. Then Simeon spoke to God and told him he was ready to depart this world in peace because his promise had been fulfilled, his longing had been satisfied, and his waiting had been rewarded. After a life time of expectation the reality of the Messiah had been confirmed to Simeon. His life’s goal of actually seeing the Christ had been accomplished.

Simon had spent those long years of faithful anticipation as an opportunity to know God more intimately and to practice his devotion more fully. Some lessons can only be learned in a time of spiritual darkness or uncertainty, so God gives us the blessing of this time to realize the rewards of faithfulness. He gives us a sure hope that binds us to the assurance of holy promises. He frees us from the limitations of the measure of earth’s time or human standards of success or achievement.

When Simeon did see the Lord, he knew Him at once because his years of waiting had given him a clear understanding of God’s revelation. When finally realized, our expectation brings the joy and affirmation that God’s promises are real. A transcendence of head knowledge engages the heart and soul – that eternal part of us that is made in the image of God. We find that God’s promises are a certainty not a possibility. We can be sure of the outcome, not doubtful of the end.

Advent is a time of spiritual expectation and longing, a time of confirmed promises, a time of unashamed hope of Christ’s Second Coming. Advent is the celebration of the realization of God’s promise to Simeon and to us – Christ has come and Christ will come again.

Reflection – What spiritual lessons would you like to learn this Advent?
Monica Boudreaux

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Bones for Christmas

Morning Story and Dilbert

Sir, I don’t think I can do this. My family has a trip planned for Christmas.” Lily could hear her mom, Susan, urging the caller on the phone. “Are you sure you can’t wait just a couple more days? No? Fine, I will come and pick him up.”

Lily crept into the kitchen and found her mother with her head in her hands.

“What’s wrong, mom?” Lily asked.

“Sweetie, I need to go and save a stray dog from a farm. The farmer who found him is ready to take him to the pound. He says he can’t wait until after Christmas.”

“Oh no, we can’t let that happen. When are we going?” Lily loved helping her mom rescue animals.

“Well, it will mean canceling our trip to Grandma’s house-so are you sure about this?”

“You bet!” And with that Lily rushed up to her mom and squeezed her tight…

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