Monthly Archives: April 2015

Finding God

Many people living secluded lives on the mountain have perished by living like people in the world. It is better to live in a crowd and want to live a solitary life than to live a solitary life but all the time be longing for company.

—-Amma Matrona

Many people yearn for a place apart, our own little corner of the cosmos where we can discover our true selves and touch the hand of God. Our first inclination is to “get away” to a place of solitude and surely God would be there. The wise desert mother tells us that solitude is first and foremost a matter of heart. Many people have sought to escape only to find that they are trapped by their own fallen nature no matter where they find themselves.

Woman in prayerWe all seek our Creator and feel that if we could just be relieved of the pressures, bothers and interferences of everyday life we would find Him. Not so says Amma Matrona. Solitude is a state of mind that begins long before we escape to our desert. The real key is to empty ourselves and allow that void to be filled by God. No amount of social interaction or physical isolation can bring us close to God. This is achieved as a matter of heart.

3 Comments

Filed under Desert Mothers, Monasticism, Solitude

The Imagined Self

All mature religion must and will talk about the death of any notion of a separate, and therefore false, self. (Most of the time when you read the word “sin” in the Bible, if you substitute the word “separate” you will understand the core problem being pointed out.) The True Self can let go of any false autonomy and self-sufficiency because it is radically safe at its core.

The True Self is then like a baby that can crawl away from its mother (God), knowing fully she will grab him back if there is any danger whatsoever. What confidence and security that gives the True Self—to actually do whatever it is it has to do. Only the True Self can understand Augustine’s dangerous line: “Love God and do what you will!” To tell that to the False Self would be disastrous. It would be like telling a seventeen-year-old boy to trust his hormones.

self-centeredThe separate self is the False Self, and this fragile identity will need to over-define itself as unique, special, superior, and adequate. What a trap. So Jesus must say, “Unless the single grain of wheat dies, it remains just a single grain. But if it does die, it will bear much fruit” (John 12:24).

Whenever you are loving someone or something else, you have died on some level—and let go of your separate self. As Stephen Levine, the master teacher on dying, said, our fear of death comes from an imaginary loss of an imaginary self.

These seeming losses are not loss at all but actually expansion. Please think and pray about this. It will allow you to overcome your fear of death. Our False Self is precisely our individual singularity in both its “Aren’t I wonderful!” and “Aren’t I terrible!” forms. Each are their own kind of ego trip, and both take the tiny little self far too seriously.

The true saint is no longer surprised at his littleness or her greatness. A mouse in a mansion does not need to take lessons in humility.

—–Richard Rhor

3 Comments

Filed under Richard Rhor

Happiness

518822642When a chap is in love, he will go out in all kinds of weather to keep an appointment with his beloved. Love can be demanding;in fact, more demanding than law. It has its own imperatives. Think of a mother sitting by the bedside of a sick child through the night, impelled only by love. Nothing is too much trouble for love.

—-Archbishop Desmond Tutu

There is a tale that in the first century a man came to Tertullian, a father in the early church. And in trying to justify some compromises the man had felt he had to make, commented, “I have to live, don’t I?” to which Tertullian is reported to have said, “Do you?”

The only certain happiness in life is to live for others.

—-Leo Tolstoy

Life is experienced at its best and fullest when we are loving and giving to others. Whether we are speaking of some random philanthropist or of the sacrifice of Jesus we are always touched when we see someone put others first. Such behavior moves our hearts and brings out the best in us. Giving behavior motivates us to become better people. Jesus said, “It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave.” Believers should be mindful that our calling is to give more that we receive. I agree so strongly with Tolstoy that the key to true happiness is to live for others, because that allows us to focus away from ourselves.

Leave a comment

Filed under Devotional Quotes

Silent Healing

PoemanAbba Poemen said of Abba Nisterus that he was like the serpent of brass which Moses made for the healing of the people: he possessed all virtue and without speaking, he healed everyone.

—sayings of the desert

There is great power in silent centering on God. We are pressed to be vocal and aggressive – even in prayer. I can well remember when the reason I didn’t want to pray in public was because I lacked the spontaneity of some others I knew. The monk tells us that we see great healing when we silently approach God with the needs of others. There are certain times when just being in the presence of prayer heals.

1 Comment

Filed under Desert Fathers, Silence

Self Denial

 

“To reach the supernatural bounds a person must depart from his natural bounds and leave self far off in respect to his interior and exterior limits in order to mount from a low state to the highest.”

 

—-John of the Cross

 

Cross John of the CrossThe medieval mystic John of the Cross gives us advice to move towards “supernatural bounds.” Self-denial is a big step in that journey with Christ. This concept (self-denial) is at odds with our culture of more. As with all disciplines, true self-denial is developed slowly and with care. Begin with living more simply, caring for the small things of life, living a life of thanks and seeking to touch someone in need.

1 Comment

Filed under John of the Cross, Mystics

The Ugliest Word

A journalist once asked Carl Sandburg, “What is the ugliest word in the English language?” After a few minutes Sandburg replied, “Exclusive.” The ugliness of exclusive depends upon whether we are among the included or the excluded. old-man5We pride ourselves on being members of exclusive clubs, living in exclusive neighborhoods, dining at exclusive restaurants, vacationing at exclusive resorts, belonging to exclusive churches. Being an insider carries with it a sense of pride and security. Most of us, however, have been excluded often enough to agree that exclusive is an ugly word. When we are among the marginalized, the rejected, the pushed-aside, or the left-out it hurts!

Our question is simple. Who is excluded from the love of God? The answer is simple – no one. That demands the next question. Who is excluded from the church? Of course, the right answer is no one, but we know better. Unfortunately, no one is not the right answer. People are excluded from the church because of tradition, sexuality, financial status, race, “not fitting” and a whole host of other reasons. Let us pray and do all that is in our power to make sure our church is not exclusive.

4 Comments

Filed under Christian Living, Devotional Quotes

A Calling

“Our vocation is not simply to be, but to work together with God in the creation of our own life, our own identity, our own destiny….To work out our identity in God.”

― Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

 Some would think a bit old fashioned to think of our lives as a vocational calling, but Merton hits this issue head on. We are all called to go far beyond mere existence, or simply to plod along in our weakness. Our God, and creator wants us to find our identity in Him. When that is accomplished our lives are transformed, and we soar to heights that only he can take us. You are a creation of a loving God, and He want you to claim that identity.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Art of Pleasing God

“Someone asked Abba Anthony, ‘What must one do in order to please God?’ The old man replied, ‘Pay attention to what  I  tell  you:  whoever  you  may  be,  always  have  God before your eyes; whatever you do, do it according to the testimony of the holy Scriptures; in whatever place you live, do not easily leave it.  Keep these three precepts and you will be saved.”

—sayings of the Desert Fathers

Abba Anthony gives us three simple, and yet difficult principles, that we must do to please God. Monk in prayer 1

  • Always have God before your eyes
  • Live in harmony with scripture
  • Have stability of place in your life

The challenge is to keep God before our eyes when our sight is so cluttered with the saga of life. Additionally, we are called to live with the scripture as the ever present guide for our lives. As if that were not enough, we are then instructed to “stay put” even when things are tough. Our world tells us quite clearly to keep focused on the earthly, while perhaps giving some attention to God, and to move on whenever life gets uncomfortable. Perhaps if we all developed a vision of God and followed that vision where we are planted, we would find that peace that eludes us.

4 Comments

Filed under Abba Anthony, Desert Fathers

If You Give a Monk a Fishing Net

A great desert story.

The Golden Echo

Monastic Monday Br. Monday is now wondering why the abbot made him a fishing net…

Three old men, of whom one had a bad reputation, came one day to Abba Achilles.

The first asked him, “Father, make me a fishing-net.”

“I will not make you one,” he replied.

Then the second said, “Of your charity make one, so that we may have a souvenir of you in the monastery.”

But he said, “I do not have time.”

Then the third one, who had a bad reputation, said, “Make me a fishing-net, so that I may have something from your hands, Father.”

Abba Achilles answered him at once, “For you, I will make one.”

Then the two other old men asked him privately, “Why did you not want to do what we asked you, but you promised to do what he asked?”

The old man gave them this answer, “I told you I would not make one, and you…

View original post 129 more words

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Voice Recognition

The British writer Arthur C. Clarke proposed three “laws” of prediction that are known as “Clarke’s Three Laws.” Here they are: 

Law 1) When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

Law 2) The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

Law 3) Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. 

Taking Clarke even further, some historians of science have argued that the roots of science in the mists of time lie in magic, that science began as magic. According to these scholars the astrologers and magicians parted company: those who sided with the astrologers accepted fate and the destiny of the stars; those who cast lots with the magicians looked for ways to change our future and manipulate the world. 

For people of my generation, we are living in a magic renaissance. Science and technology are awash in magic with things like 3-D printers, which are now printing human organs and 3500 square foot homes in 24 hours. Have you seen how they work? That’s magic. Then there are Google glasses and Amazon drones. That’s magic. 

But some of the biggest magic around is voice recognition. As a young Samuel was instructed to speak by his mentor Eli, “Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth.” Our technology now is saying to us, “Speak, Lord, for your servant hears and obeys.” We “speak,” and our toys turn on and do our bidding. Your voice is enough to get the GPS systems in your car to be your digital concierge and report back to you with a voice of our choosing. X-Box One recognizes who is speaking to it and obeys the voice of its “master” instantly. It’s all magic. But to our kids, it’s not magic, it’s normality. 

But Voice Recognition didn’t begin as magic, or as science. It began with Jesus….

Leave a comment

Filed under Christian Journey