Monthly Archives: May 2020

Love Without Inquiring

“Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy if anything can.”

—–Thomas Merton

Our job is to love one another without inquiring about their worthiness. That is not the entire context of the Merton quote, but I believe it is the heart of the matter. So much of our love, our service, our commitment is hinged on the worthiness of the recipient. When we think in this manner we spend a large portion of our Merton-30efforts judging our brothers and sisters. Christ never acted in such a way. He said: “Come to me, all who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest.” As we learn to follow the example of Jesus it lightens our burden of judgment, assessment or whatever you may call it and makes us free to love and serve.

Today’s world is certainly one of wars and rumors of wars. The greatest war that most of us have to fight is a self-inflected war of harshness and unkindness to one another. We fail to help those who are in need because we are too busy trying to find out why they are in need and too selfish to give them the simplicity of God’s love. I can only imagine what the world would really be like if we were willing to carry one another’s burden without assessing the cost, risk and worthiness of the recipient of our kindness.

Perhaps we can take a lesson from the monk when he says to us: “…love itself will render both ourselves and neighbors worthy if anything can.”

Midweek Thought 7-1

Prayer

Lord help me this day to look upon my brothers and sisters as, just that, brothers and sisters. May I see them as fruits of your creation that are worthy of my love just as they are recipients of your love. In this ONE truth we find the peace and harmony that will fill the vastness of the void that lies in our souls.

Amen


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Fear


THE WORD IS FEAR


faer Definition

Sometimes fear is a very helpful thing that keeps us from harm, but many times it’s an inner voice and barrier that keeps us stuck. Fear is an emotion that keeps us from getting what we want and becoming who we honestly, deep down want to be.

Musing 7 Graphic 1We live with fear whether it is from a pandemic virus or just having to carry out the normal functions of life. We all have fears. Some of our fears are quite easily proven, while others are rather absurd. The sad thing is that whether they are real or imagined they still affect us in great ways. Our computers and bookshelves are lined with resources to overcome fear. Despite all our efforts, fear lives on.

Learning to handle fear and overcome it is the ultimate goal of every one of God’s creatures. People have climbed mountains, jumped out of airplanes, and sailed solo across oceans in an attempt to conquer fear. The quotes and scriptures are just small tools to perhaps allow you to think about what role fear plays in your life and how you might minimize its effect.

Musing 7 Graphic 2On the other hand, fear is a necessary part of who we are, and we can know that, “Fear makes us feel our humanity.” Those are the words of Benjamin Disraeli a 19th century British Prime Minister. Fear is both friend and foe, and we must learn to make peace with the fear that lies within each of us.

Fear Vedio Banner


Quotes Banner

Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.

― Marie Curie

Without fear there cannot be courage.

― Christopher Paolini

First of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

― Franklin D. Roosevelt

He who has overcome his fears will truly be free.

― Aristotle

The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.

― Joseph Campbell

It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.

― Marcus Aurelius

Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world.

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ignorance is the parent of fear.

― Herman Melville

He who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life.

― Shannon L. Alder

Never let the fear of striking out get in your way.

–Babe Ruth

Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.

— Bertrand Russell

Fears are educated into us, and can, if we wish, be educated out.

— Karl Augustus Menninger

Too many people are thinking of security instead of opportunity. They seem to be more afraid of life than death.

— James F. Byrnes

Scripture Banner

The Lord is my light and my salvation;

  whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the stronghold of my life;

  of whom shall I be afraid?

Cast your burden on the Lord,

  and he will sustain you;

he will never permit

  the righteous to be moved.

~~~Psalm 27

For I, the Lord your God,

  hold your right hand;

it is I who say to you, ‘Do not fear,

  I will help you.’

~~~Isaiah 41:13

The fear of others lays a snare,

  but one who trusts in the Lord is secure.

~~~Proverbs 29:25

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

~~~Romans 8:38-39

But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe.’

~~~Mark 5:36

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he placed his right hand on me, saying, ‘Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last,

~~~Revelation 1:17

‘So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

~~~Matthew 6:34

When the cares of my heart are many,

  your consolations cheer my soul.

~~~Psalm 94:19

I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.’

~~~Joshua 1:9

Prayer Banner

LORD, fear has cheated me of more of your blessings than any other emotion. Fear has robbed me of the joy, peace, abundance and so many other things that you desire for me to possess. Let me this day use the grace that you have bestowed upon to move beyond my fear into your world of blessings. Let me put aside the defeat that fear wishes me to possess and move to the victory that you have given me by your love.

Amen


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God and Visions

Some brothers came to find Abba Anthony to tell him about the visions they were having, and to find out from him if they were true or if they came from the demons. They had a donkey which died on the way. When they reached the place where the old man was, he said to them before they could ask him anything, “How was it that the little donkey died on the way here?” They said, “How do you know about that, Father?” And he told them, “The demons showed me what happened.” So they said, “That was what we came to question you about, for fear we were being deceived, for we have visions which often turn out to be true.” Thus the old man convinced them, by the example of the donkey, that their visions came from the demons.

—-Anthony of the Desert


I would be the first to admit that the monks of the desert left us some very fantastic and unbelievable stories if we took them as literal truth. The Desert Fathers, like Jesus, had sayings that fall into the same category as parables, and this is one of them. The parable belongs to Jesus, but the myth belongs to all of us. The Oxford dictionary tells us that a myth is a traditional story, either wholly or partially fictitious, providing explanation or embodying a popular idea concerning some natural or social phenomenon or some religious belief. These stories are mainly a collection of myths that illustrate the life and beliefs of the men who withdrew from society to better serve God and their fellow human beings. With that in mind let me make some observations about the Dead Donkey.

We cannot help but be fascinated when someone proclaims that they have had a vision about you or someone you love. These visions drive us toward this person. We will give money, spend timeTarot Reader and fight for the credibility of this person. They have, after all, opened a new vista of life to us. Our world is crowded with these sorts of folks that pander their livelihood from others by using fear and excitement. It seems harmless on face value. Who among us is not fascinated by the Tarot readers, palm readers and other super naturals that we see in the French Quarter of New Orleans or any other tourist destination?

At the heart of the saying was the nature and origin of any vision. The brother who came to the Abbot had two questions. Were these visions true and were the coming from evil sources? Anthony answered their question by telling them they he knew that their donkey died during their journey. The brothers knew that there was no earthly explanation that would explain how Anthony knew this event of their journey. Fascinated, they ask him how he knew about the calamity. He answered them quickly and bluntly – “The demons told me what happened.” What does this tell us about the nature of visions and why people seek them?

God did not create us to have supernatural visions, he created us to love Him, care for the Carpe Diemearth and live each day to the fullest. People who seek to have such visions about the affairs of others or the future are really trying to be gods. That is the ultimate evil. As I see it this desire is the real SIN of humankind; it is idolatry to want to know and see things that only God can see and know. There was an exceedingly popular saying a few years ago, “Carpe Diem,” which is Latin for seize the day. That is what God created us to do this day and every day.

Let us put behind the ideas that we can be as God is and validate the idea that we are the fulfillment of God’s plan. We get up everyday to be a part of his creation, and we live our lives knowing who he is and what he desires for us. Anything more than that is trying to take his place.


PRAYER

LORD, In these difficult dark days, we sometimes seek a power that is not ours. In seeking that power, we search in places that we were never meant to go. Help us to keep our eyes fixed on you and your grace and your blessings that you give us every day. It is because of those things that we can live no matter how difficult the day. Lord, guide us through this day and through these times with you at our side.

Amen

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Time for God

“Just as fish die if they stay too long out of water, so the monks who loiter outside their cells or pass their time with men of the world lose the intensity of inner peace. SO like a fish going towards the sea, we must hurry to reach our cell, for fear that if we delay outside we will lost our interior watchfulness.”

~~~ Anthony of the Desert

The wise old monk was telling his learners how to stay close to God. His answer was quite simple and direct. Stay in your (cell) cloister! A cloister is to a monk a place of seclusion where the monk can better communicate with God and control their temptations. In a strange way we have all been cloistered for the past few months, but have we come closer to God? I cannot answer that question for you, but I can give some suggestions about becoming closer to God.

First, an observation and a suggestion. Using Facebook and YouTube analysis I believe that most of our Sunday services have been viewed by over 100 people. For us that is quite amazing, since we have several people that are not a part of the social media world. In my communications with other pastors their observation has been the same. We all have a larger viewership than we expected. So, you can get closer to God through social media. There are family units who are doing modern day cloistering to watch worship times.

Second, we can and must set aside a personal time of prayer. It can be a place or a method, but we need to stay in touch with God.

Third, it is vital that we engage in sacred reading. This is, but not limited, to reading of scripture. Plan on reading portions of the Bible daily. Reading theological works and devotionals is sacred reading as well.

Fourth, writing or journaling your thoughts about God and what he is doing, or not doing, in your life. I would suggest that you write some prayers that are your heartfelt outpouring to God.

Fifth, just set aside some time of silence every day. This is a time when we are still and wait to hear from God. Warning, some days you may not hear much but keep going.

There is also another meaning to the word cloister, but it is a more modern one. A cloister is a covered walkway, usually in a Monastery or Cathedral, that leads from one building to another. I like to think of my time of prayer, silence or isolation as a time that leads me from one place to another. The cloister walk that I have committed myself to will lead me to know God better and to serve the world more willingly and joyfully.

May we all structure our cloister walk so that we may be ready to be the salt and light of the world. 


20200512_105507

My Cell where I find time for God



Prayer

LORD, the world seems so overwhelming that it scares me. I know that when I am frightened I can come to you and you will be there. You are always willing to give me comfort in the darkest of times. Help me to remember that you are always there for me, but I must take the time to develop a way of getting closer to you. Help me this day to commit to being in the cloister walk with you and the world you send my way.

Amen



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TODAY’S WORD IS COURAGE

A study on corporate managers was commissioned a few years ago. In it they were asked if they voiced positions that 1. focused on the good of the company, rather than personal benefit and 2. jeopardized their own careers. The results of this study found four leader-types in all organizations.

  • Type #1 courageous. These people expressed ideas to help the company improve, in spite of personal risk or opposition.
  • Type #2 confronting. These people spoke up, but only because of a personal vendetta against the company.
  • Type #3 calloused. These people didn’t know, or care, whether they could do anything for the company; they felt helpless and hopeless, so they kept quiet.
  • Type #4 conforming. These people also remained quiet, but only because they loathed confrontation and loved approval.

The researchers discovered that the courageous managers accomplished the most, reported the highest job satisfaction, and eventually were commended by superiors. Their commitment had certainly improved the quality of their lives. Courage is the most important quality of any leader.

J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of “Lord of the Rings” and many other great literary works, contributes this comment, “Courage is found in unlikely places.” We are all looking for courage right now and I can see it manifested in so many ways. I have seen courage in the people who restock the shelves of the grocery store. Those that drive the trucks across the country to make sure we have the goods we need are an inspiration to me in this time. Bus drivers, checkout clerks, drive up attendants at McDonalds and so many others are the most unlikely people of courage I have ever seen. The list of these unlikely people of courage could fill this whole page, but I just want to say thanks to all of them.

There is another area of courage I want to mention and that is all of you. You have isolated yourselves and lived life in ways that you never imagined to protect yourselves and those you love and don’t even know from this virus. It has taken remarkable courage to carve a new way of living so that we may all live a healthy and promising life. Be courageous enough to wear a mask, wash your hands frequently, wear gloves when necessary, and above all, accept social distancing as a part of life. These are all acts of courage we must continue to do so that we might look forward to a wonderful future.

“Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”


QUOTES

Mark Twain #5Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.

― Winston S. Churchill

It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.

― E.E. Cummings

Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.

― Maya Angelou

You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.

― William Faulkner

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.

― Anais Nin

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.

― Mark Twain

Courage is found in unlikely places.

― J.R.R. Tolkien

Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them.

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”

― Brene Brown

Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.

― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird


Scripture

When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?

+ Psalm 56:3-4

CourageSo do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

+ Isaiah 41:10

For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

+ Isaiah 41:13

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

+ Matthew 10:28

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.

+ 1 Corinthians 16:13

Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.

+ Philippians 1:12-14

For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we may boldly say: “The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”

+ Hebrews 13:5-6

Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.

+ Deuteronomy 31:6

The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?

+ Psalm 27:1

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

+ 2 Timothy 1:7

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

+ 1 John 4:18

David also said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the LORD is finished.

+ 1 Chronicles 28:20


Prayer

LORD, I ask you to give me the courage to face the day and the determination to make it better. You know that I am afraid, and I know that you will help me to overcome that fear with the courage you provide by the spirit that you have given to me. Let me live this life with a spirit of courage and victory despite all the adversity that surrounds me. May your spirit dominate my thoughts even in the darkest times.

Amen

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The Source

“When St. Anthony entered to the internal desert, the demons watched him Writerdauntingly, saying, “O You young of age and mind, how did you dare to enter our territory, as we have never seen a human before you.” And they all started to fight him. He said to them, “O strong ones, what do you want from me, the weak; And who am I so that you all gather to fight me. Don’t you know that I am ashes and dust, and unable to fight the smallest in you.” And he lay on the ground, shouting to God, “O God, help me, and strengthen my weakness. Have mercy on me, as I sought after you. Do not leave me; and do not let those who think that I am something overcome me. O God, You know that I am unable to fight the smallest of these.” When the demons heard this prayer full of life and humility they fled away, and did not dare to approach to him. “

~~~ Anthony of the Desert

There is no question that we battle evil at all times. Some choose to see evil as some sort of devil or demon that haunts us. Others choose to see evil as a state that has persisted on the earth since the fall of Adam and Eve in the garden. No matter how you define the presence of evil on earth , we can defeat it. Ironically, we can only do this by admitting, as the desert monk did, that it is more powerful than we can ever imagine.

After we come to this admission , we can say as the Psalmist does, “I will lift UP my eyes – from where my help comes.” When we find ourselves in a situation that we are powerless to control or defeat, we must call upon our God because He has the power to defeat ALL enemies. We are so tempted to believe that we can do it on our own.

When my son Jeremy, who who will be forty on his next birthday, was about two years old his mother always stressed to him how important it was to hold his hand when he crossed the street. Our oldest was always a very resourceful person so he decided that he could hold his own hand. When it came time to cross the street or to walk in the mall he would clasp both hands together and say, “ I hold my own hand.” That didn’t work too well. He did not realize that holding his own hand defeated the very purpose of holding hands. His mother held his hand to protect him, not to control. In the mind of a two year old, holding his hand was control and he didn’t want it. Most of us are more than two years old, and yet we still want to be controlled. Like the commercial where the man is doing all kinds of crazy things saying, “I got this,” but really he doesn’t have anything. He’s just simply out of control. We cannot control the sources of evil on this earth without looking to the source of our blessing, of our hope, and our power.

The source of our power is found when we humbly cry out, I can’t do this on my own. The psalmist even goes further and plainly admits that the source of power comes from aStrenghtbove and not from within himself. I fear that today , as we face this dreadful virus, we are looking so deeply inside of ourselves that we are forgetting the source of all healing, peace, understanding, and that life really is from above. This does not mean that we should not do our best and muster together all of the resources that God has blessed us with to defeat this plague that has beset us. However, as we do it we should never forget that all that we are and all we will ever be comes from God. He is our TRUE source of ALL.

In these times we must put our trust in our Source. We should do all that we can with the knowledge that we have to fight this situation, but in the end we must lean on the strength of God. He will see us through to the end. The times that lie ahead may be difficult, but God will be with us.


Prayer

LORD, we acknowledge you as the source that guides us and sustains us. In these difficult times we ask you to guide us to put ourselves aside and allow you to steer our course. Forgive us Lord for trying to be our own gods, and convict us to follow your guidance so that we may find the ultimate source of our victory.

Amen

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Serenity

SERENITY – Contented tranquility of mind, temper and countenance.                         (Oxford Dictionary)

Perhaps the most famous saying that uses the word serenity is Reinhold Niebuhr‘s Serenity Prayer. This prayer has been used by Alcoholics Anonymous and others as a prayer of centering and peace in a troubled world. The word and the prayer serve as a guide to stepping outside of yourself and giving your troubles to God. I highly recommend that you add this little prayer to your “go to” list of prayers.

The late Fred Craddock tells this story. Many years ago a pastor served an extremely small country church whose building was heated by coal heaters and whose plumbing was outside. The tiny congregation usually consisted of fewer than a dozen women at least 65 years old.

The church sat on a beautiful mountainside overlooking a picturesque valley. An old, abandoned dirt road ran from the church beside the mountain into the thick forest. Often, the pastor drove to church early, leaving the car in the parking lot to walk down the dirt road into the forest to commune with deer, wild turkeys and God.

One morning, however, the pastor was lost in the serenity of the place and realized he would be late starting the service. As he approached the church, the usual congregation of elderly women hovered near the outhouse. The pastor expected to be chastised for his tardiness, but instead, was greeted with sighs of relief. The women had seen the pastor’s car, and not finding him in the church, thought something had happened to him. They were so glad to see him, they forgot how late he was!

That is real serenity! A place or state that gives us love and acceptance when we are not necessarily doing everything with perfection. Our world has, quite literally, been turned upside down. Negative prices for a barrel of oil, a virus with no cure, closed churches, closed malls, no sporting events, and we are not sure when even our new normal will come to be or what it will bring. There has never been a time when we have needed to grasp on to the inner serenity that the peace of God offers. Remember the words of Jesus, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” That is the peace we need now.

Let us grab for the serenity that comes as we turn our focus on our God and Creator.

 

PRAYER

LORD, sometimes serenity is a hard place to reach. I ask you this day to give me the inner peace that is necessary to be at peace in a troubled world. I seek the healing balm that only you can give. May your Spirit be a part of me so I may be a part of you. In that unity I will achieve a level of peace that can only come from you. May that serene peace fall upon me today. Amen

Click for a Video Devotional on Serenity

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