Monthly Archives: August 2018

God the Craftsman

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

—– Anthony of the Desert

Blacksmith

In her play, “The Zeal of Thy House,” Dorothy Sayers imagines a stonemason working on an intricate carving for the chancel of Canterbury Cathedral. He then drops his carving tool and ruins the stone. This devastates him because the valuable and custom-cut stone is ruined. The designer, however, takes the toolStone mason church out of the stonemason’s hand and begins restoration. He brings forth out of the spoiled stone a new and different figure which has its own part to play in the Cathedral and then permits the blundering mason to complete it in all its glory. “So works with us,” concludes Dorothy Sayers, “the cunning craftsman, God.”

As I tell this story, I cannot shake the phrase from my mind: “The cunning craftsman, God.” In this situation, the word cunning does not mean some kind of craftiness or deceit. The word is taken in its purer sense indicating skill, wisdom, and ability. The phrase then really means that the Master artist God can take our awkward efforts and make something useful out of them. He takes our mismanaged lives, our failed efforts, our missed marks, our shameful deeds, our alien attitudes, our sinful lives and with His divine resourcefulness, He saves the day. He creates something new, worthy and wonderful that still has usefulness and beauty in the divine plan of things. We desperately need this type of assurance.

I joy in the fact that I can dwell in that state of assurance. God has promised to be with us always even in the lowest valley of our lives. he is always eager and ready to reshape and rebuild us.


Prayer

Lord, I open myself to you and ask you to reshape and restore me in the way that you intended when you created me. May my life be shaped, with fire if necessary, to resemble your beauty and majesty. This is my prayer.

Amen

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In Time of Trouble

While I was in trouble with my feet and very weak, some of the brethren came to see me and ask me to tell them something about the cause of my sickness. I think they had a double purpose, first to comfort me by distracting me from my pain and second to set me off talking about something profitable.

—Dorotheos of Gaza

I truly believe the monk’s assertion of the two fold purpose of any visit to those that are in need is very valid and weighty. When we comfort someone that is hurting, we have a tendency to turn them away from their pain, but more significantly we make them feel a sense of value. The monk was sitting in his cell probably thinking of nothing but the gout that caused him so much pain, but his day was interrupted with a joyful distraction. This interruption lifted him away from the routine of the day and gave him value to the brethren even in the midst of his pain.

Dorotheos gives us a very valuable lesson in his words. This lesson reframes the purpose of visiting the sick and lonely. When we comfort someone in need, we not only minister to them, but we give them an opportunity to minister to us. The brothers visited the monk in his time of suffering, and they gave him the chance to feel whole again. Dorotheos teaches us that we should never stop sharing and never stop serving. In this serving and sharing, God allows us to be disciples no matter what our condition may be.


I have always gotten great comfort from prayers of the Celtic tradition. Perhaps this one will mean as much to you as it has to me.

A Prayer of Thanksgiving

You are the love

of each living creature O God

You are the warmth

of the rising sun

You are the whiteness

of the moon at night

You are the life

of the growing earth

You are the strength

of the waves of the sea.

Speak to me this night O God

Speak to me your truth.

Dwell with me this night O God

Dwell with me in love.

Amen


 

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It Begins With You

“Pray for me.” The old man said to him, “I will have no mercy upon you, nor will God have any, if you yourself do not make an effort and if you do not pray to God.” St. Anthony meant that we should not rely on the prayers of others without having our own prayers and spiritual struggle. Regarding resisting the evil thoughts, St. Anthony advises us saying, “Tire yourself in reading the holy books, as they save you from the evil thoughts”… “Tire yourself in reading the books, and following the commandments, so that the mercy of God comes upon you speedily.”

—– Anthony of Egypt

All of us want the prayers of others as we go about the challenges in our lives however, we often forget that our own prayers are the most important of all. The Monk said plainly, perhaps bluntly, to the inquirer that he cannot have mercy on his soul unless he had first turned it over to God. The one who requested the Monk’s prayer was apparently one who did not pray for himself. In a sense, he was asking for a parole to enter rest. In immigration law, a parole visa is issued to someone when they cannot enter the country on their own but are paroled in under special circumstance. We cannot be paroled into spiritual unity with God but must be worthy on our own. How can this happen?growth 1

Develop a personal relationship with God.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with soliciting the prayers of others. The problem is when we see their prayers as a magic formula for us to get what we desire. There is no such thing as special holy men or prayer formulas that allow us to get the desired results. In reality, climbing a holy mountain does not make us holy. Personal holiness comes with a personal relationship with the Holy One. That relationship is built by prayer and study.

Develop a practice of prayer.

Prayer_an-invitation-to-prayerCommunication is always the starting point of getting to know anyone. Interaction is the key to understanding and relationship. For anything to be of quality there must be consistency. That is why I use the word “practice,” because a practice of prayer means discipline and planning. For our prayer life to truly be genuine, it must be thought out and become a part of us. It matters little how and when you pray as long as you know how and when you will pray. There is no prayer practice that is superior to the other, but each person must develop a way of prayer.

Develop a discipline of study.

The study of the divine revelation of God to man is a must for any follower of Jesus. Anthony says, “Tire yourself in reading the holy books” to keep on the path of holiness. The study of God’s word is a key component in building a strong and healthy relationship with God. Each time you open the Bible something new will emerge even though you have read it many times. That’s what makes it a living word. Just as the scriptural writers were guided by the Holy Spirit, so will it be for you as you develop a discipline of study.

I share these thoughts today with the hope that they can be of some help. Always keep in mind the advice of the Monk to begin inside of yourself as you seek spiritual peace and deliverance. Make the time to pray and study and God will bless you beyond measure.


Prayer

Lord, I know my need and cry out to you to hear me. Guide me as I develop my life in a way that will lead me to be closer to you. Keep my hands steady as I develop better spiritual disciplines. Allow these efforts to be productive for me and all I touch.

Amen

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What Good Work Should I Do?

Once St. Anthony was asked, “What good work shall I do?” And he answered. “All works are not equal, the scriptures said that Abraham was hospitable, and God was with him. And, Elijah loved quiet, and God was with him. And, David was humble, and God was with him. What therefore you find that your soul desires in following God, that do, and keep your heart.”

—-Sayings of the Desert

What a great place to start! All of us who seek to follow the path of God areGood Works 1 anxious to find a way to do good works. The world tells us that some works are better than others. We get the idea that unless we are doing certain things, in very precise ways, God is disappointed with us. Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” The point that was being made was in reference to children but the truth holds. In the time of Jesus, children were possessions and nothing more. With that in mind, Jesus said that doing good or bad things to them was significant. That says to me that all works are significant.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates has given away 28 billion dollars to charitable causes and good works since 2013. That’s a lot of good works. My giving, good works and all that I have cannot match such a figure in worldly terms, but God blesses my good works with the same blessing as he blesses the billions. This lesson is so important to learn that the Monk felt compelled to teach it. The world functions by size and impact. God functions by the impact that our works have on our souls and the souls of others. The message from the desert is simple.Good Works 2

Bill and Melinda Gates visiting a Foundation supported worksite.

ALL GOD DRIVEN WORKS ARE EQUAL

The prophets cited by the Monk were doing the works that God had put into their souls. We all have a certain spiritual DNA that gives us a way to gloriously serve God and our fellow creation.

YOUR GOOD WORKS ARE OF VALUE TO GOD

Low self-esteem, poor self-image, and bad circumstance erode away at our view of what constitutes good works. If we follow the advice that has come to us from the desert, we can know that God sees what we do as something of value. Doing the good works of God is not a competitive contest but an outpouring of love from our spirit.

GOD GIVES EACH OF US DIFFERENT WAYS TO SERVE

Plainly, we can see that the Kings and prophets served in diverse ways. Some were more showy and noticeable than others. The level of notoriety does not constitute the value of the work.

GOD DISTRIBUTES HIS BLESSINGS ACCORDING TO OUR ABILITY

The scripture teaches that we all have certain spiritual gifts that were bestowed on us by God. Our challenge as followers of Jesus is to use those God-given gifts to serve our world and by doing so we serve Him.

What good work should I do? Simply stated, you should do the work that God has given you the resources and ability to accomplish.


Prayer

Lord, give me the motivation to do your good works no matter how small. I know that you see my works through your lens. Help me not to be pressured to do the showy things but to get the peaceful contentment of doing the works that you have presented to me.

Amen

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