Monthly Archives: July 2018

This Life We Shape

St. Anthony said, “Whoever hammers a lump of iron, first decides what he is going to make of it, a scythe, a sword, or an ax. Even so, we ought to make up our minds what kind of virtue we want to forge, or we labor in vain.”

—-Sayings of the Desert

There are three possible components to shaping our lives.

Shaping-2

Change –

Anthony says “Whoever hammers a lump of iron.” What is the implication of that statement? Quite simply it means that the lump of iron must change its shape to become useful. Our lives are very much the same. We are raw and unprepared to live the virtuous life. The scripture tells us, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” With that message, it is clear that change will be a part of our lives as we move toward God.

Change doesn’t come easily. Anthony speaks of the hammer as the instrument of change. We all know that the blows of the hammer to the stubborn lump changes its shape. The iron will not change without the violent blows of the hammer. The same is true with us. We change when we are struck with the imperative to do so.

Vision –

The next element in shaping our lives is vision. Without vision, we continue to be shapeless. In speaking of the iron worker, the Monk asserts that first he must decide what he will make out of the lump raw iron. Blow after blow can be stuck,Shaping3 but without vision the effort is worthless.

Our lives are exactly the same. Blow after blow can come and we can still lack shape and form. Suffering and hard times are not the key to shaping our lives but only the tools by which we are shaped. The key is vision. What should we be? How do we get there? In Proverbs the writer asserts,” Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Vision is the first consideration when we begin our Christian formation.

Focus –

Have you ever been to a “visioning” workshop and come away confused because the visions were so diverse and so many? Anthony was aware of this problem over a thousand years ago. Make up your minds on what virtue you are seeking or your labor will be in vain. Without vision we perish, but without a focus we perish as well.

Therein lies the key to shaping and forming our lives for Christ. We must discover our gifts and work to develop them. God has given to each of us the possibility of greatness and all too often we go around hammering ourselves without a clear vision. Yes, we are suffering servants but we suffer in vain. Earnestly, sincerely and deeply seek the vision of God for your life. When it is discovered God will give you all the grace you need to suffer the blows and become the person that God created.

Shaping-1Change, vision and focus are three powerful concepts as we seek to shape our lives for the Christian journey. These are essentials that we must master to move forward. Open your lives to the change that God has in mind and capture the vision and place He has for you. Mother Teresa said, “Become the change you want to see in the world That statement means that we must commit to visionary targeted change in our lives.


Prayer

Lord, as we seek form and shape to our lives help to have clarity of vision. Assist me to ascertain and apply virtue and purity to my life so that I may go forward in a path that is good for me and pleasing to you.

Amen

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Filed under Abba Anthony, Desert Fathers

The Path

My son, do not stray away from God seeking what is perishable; but rather remember what you have decided in the time of your fervor, and do not forget the seal by which you were purified before. Remember the tears of repentance, and the prayers that were raised on your behalf, and flee from the evil thoughts lest you be lost. My son, leave your bed every night, and wet your bedclothes with your tears, and supplicate to the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, your renewal, and for help in the good deeds so that you may inherit His eternal heavenly kingdom.”

—Abba Anthony of the Desert

path-1When I was a small boy there was an undeveloped piece of property at the end of our very urban neighborhood. I imagine it was about 4 acres. That piece of land was surrounded by hundreds of houses built on forty to fifty foot wide lots. For a boy of 8, it was a jungle. My “jungle’ was made more exciting by the paths that had been walked down by people walking through our jungle. These paths were safe because we didn’t trip over anything as we would if we headed out through an untouched wooded area. One day, a few of us that frequented this urban jungle decided that we were going to cut a new path. We geared ourselves up with knives and axes and went out like the pioneers we envisioned ourselves to be. The work was hard but we made a new path that joined the two existing trails to one another. We felt that we accomplished a great work that day. If our path would not have led back to the original trail, it would have led nowhere and been a useless dead end. Many years later I returned to that area and found that the path that we created was still there.

Abba Anthony addresses that path by which we stay with God and get closer to him. In his words, he teaches us the difference between the world’s path and the God path. Here are some observations.

Never forget your starting point.

The day we discover that God loves us we are filled with joy and confidence. We really believe that our faith can move mountains. Strive to revisit that place when necessary and never forget that it IS real.

Remember what it felt like to decide to follow God.

The decision to be a believer gives us a new sense of life. The Monk refers to it as a fervor or eagerness to soak up all of Him that we possibly could handle. God’s grace is so overwhelming that it brings tears to our eyes. Keep in mind the present reality of that faith.

Be reminded that you are never alone.

Many prayers are offered for us as we begin our journey down the path. These prayers are still with us and God wants us to grow in Him every day of our lives. We are part of the “holy catholic church” and are surrounded by a great community of faith that is always in prayer for its partners.

communion-of-saints

Be ready to seek God at all times

There are times that we back off from God and go it alone. Remember this is never necessary because He wants us to seek Him in good times and bad. God is an ever-present partner and loving guide.

There are times when we stray from the path but God is always there clearing a new path when we call upon Him. The purpose of this new path is to get us back on the pathway that leads to sanctification. Don’t be confused by what the world has to offer and always be ready to get yourself back on the pathway to God.


Prayer

Lord, allow me to see the times that I have strayed and give me the consciousness to come back to you, please allow me to know that I am never alone and You and the community are ready to help. Give me the faith necessary to acknowledge this.

Amen

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Troubles

I hired a carpenter to help me restore an old farmhouse. After he had just finished a rough first day on the job, a flat tire made him lose an hour of work, his electric saw quit, and now his ancient pickup truck refused to start.

While I drove him home, he sat in stone silence. On arriving, he invited me in to meet his family. As we walked toward the front door, he paused briefly at a small tree, touching the tips of the branches with both hands. When opening the door, he underwent an amazing transformation. His tanned face was wreathed in smiles, and he hugged his two small children and gave his wife a kiss.

Afterward, he walked me to the car. We passed the tree and my curiosity got the better of me. I asked him about what I had seen him do earlier. “Oh, that’s my trouble tree,” he replied. “I know I can’t help having troubles on the job, but one thing’s for sure, troubles don’t belong in the house with my wife and the children. So I just hang them up on the tree every night when I come home. Then in the morning, I pick them up again.”

“Funny thing is,” he smiled, “when I come out in the morning to pick them up, there aren’t nearly as many as I remember hanging up the night before.”

– Author Unknown –

I had the opportunity of being acquainted with Dr. Myron Madden. He was a counselor with a Christian perspective. One day he told me the story of what he offered to his clients when they were troubled. At the end of the session, he would reach up to his shirt pocket and open it as wide as possible. Then he would say,” I want you to put that problem in my pocket and I will carry for the week. Next week, we will take it out and look at it, if it’s still important.” The concept, much like the trouble tree, is that we can hang things up for a while and they may actually heal themselves. The other choice is to dwell on them and let our troubles rule us. Allow me to offer a few suggestions.

Make time to clear your mind

I would like to note that in the story the trouble tree and the counselor’s method there was a decision to allow the trouble to rest for a while. For one it was hungJuly 11 post on a tree, the other it was put in someone else’s pocket for them to carry it around. In both cases, it was given a respite so that they could have distance and have relief from their troubled mind.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus

Philippians 4:6-7

Allow yourself to move from place to place.

Fascinatingly the carpenter put his troubles on the tree and walked into his smilehome with a big smile and lots of hugs to offer. Dr. Madden told of the people who left his office with a smile and a determination to allow their troubles to be in his temporary custody. Such attitudes allow us to be productive and happy in the situations in which we find ourselves. We can deal with our troubles when we should and not force the rest of the world to be part of our troubles. There is a place for trouble and a place for smiles.

He hath made everything beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.

Ecclesiastes 3:11

Put your troubles to sleep before you try to go to sleep.

If we can possibly use the suggestions above we allow ourselves a space to rest. Fatigue is one of our greatest enemies. People who are tired can be angry and depressed. How can we truly put our troubles to sleep? I would suggest that we can begin by turning them over to God. He has promised us that we can take god for sleepanything to Him. We can know with certainty that if we don’t rest we will never get better. Secondly, we can find someone or something that will carry our troubles through the night. Thirdly, we can find time to be silent and still before we try to sleep. Offer this silence and stillness to God and ask Him to empty your mind so that there is room for Him and He will give you rest. I might also suggest that a practice of Sabbath rest would do us all some good. The Sabbath is a day or even a few hours when we dedicate ourselves to the presence of God in our lives. This rest puts us in a better frame of mind for the days ahead.

Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Jesus of Nazareth

These three suggestions will not rid us of worry. My hope is that they can give us a few handles that will allow us to thrive. Clarity of mind, having a helper, being able to be present for those who need us and discovering a way to truly rest will take us a long way.


Prayer

Lord, send me stillness and peace. Help to discover the place or that person that will take my troubles into their care. May I find rest and slumber so that the load of tomorrow will be lighter than the load of today. I trust you because I know that you love me.

Amen

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Filed under Self Help, Self-Control