Category Archives: Christian Journey

Substantial

Any daily newspaper recounts tragic story after story of premature deaths, fractured relationships, and broken dreams. Indeed, we need not turn to any newspaper for an accounting of the world’s troubles and sorrows. We have only to look at our own friends and families. We have only to look into our own lives. Jesus never insulted people by telling them their problems weren’t real. He never told the sick they were never really sick or that their illness had no pain or reality. He never told people that death wasn’t real.

Hear this story of a family living in Indiana where tornadoes are frequent. The youngest member of the family had a special fear of storms. One day when a storm threatened the father took his son to the front of their substantial home, pointed out across the neighborhood, and said to the boy, “There, you see everything is okay. These are solid homes and we are safe and dry in them.” About that time a tornado touched down a block away and utterly destroyed several of these “substantial” homes. The storms of the natural world are real just as are the storms of the spiritual, psychological world. Trouble and tragedy are real. Evil and death are real. Jesus never said to his disciples on the stormy Sea of Galilee, “This is no storm. The storm is in your mind.” He never said that. Instead he said to the storm, “Peace, be still.” And it was. Are you out of a job? Did your home decline in value? Are your financial resources dwindling? Do you have a serious illness? Is your marriage not right? Is there a real problem with the children? Are you enslaved in a debilitating habit? Then don’t deny it, says Jesus. The widow never said her son wasn’t dead. Admit the problems. Don’t deny them. Simply embrace the God of peace

Leave a comment

Filed under ch, Christian Journey, Christian Living

THE GREAT ENCOURAGER

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Matthew 6:25-34


We’ve all felt it. We’ve all struggled with it. We’ve all been overcome by it. Discouragement! People or circumstances in our lives that have eroded our courage and resolve much as the endless waves of the sea wash away the precious shoreline. At times, we are robbed of our confidence a small piece at a time, hardly aware that we are losing ground. Other times, we are so devastated that in one monumental, horrible event our entire beach of personal determination and fortitude is washed into the ocean of fear and dismay.

I have often been comforted by reading of Jesus’ discouragement when He was here among men. God encouraged Jesus when He was baptized by sending a Jesus--quote-2-15-17dove from heaven and assuring Him by His own words that He was loved and pleased His Father (Matthew 3:16-17). After enduring forty days of tortuous fasting and temptation, God recognized Jesus’ need for encouragement and sent angels to attend Him (Matthew 4:11). God even sent Moses and Elijah to have an inspiring talk with Jesus in the midst of His ministry among men who didn’t understand (Matthew 17:3). On the last night of Jesus’ life, when the disciples offered only discouragement in the Garden of Gethsemane, God sent an angel to strengthen His precious son for the horror of the crucifixion the next day (Luke 22:43).

The Bible is filled with reassurance and hope for daily discouragement. Here are a few examples. Do you ever worry? Jesus confronted worry with the promise that if God cares for a little sparrow, He most assuredly will take care of you, the most precious of His creations (Matthew 6:25-34). Do you ever feel that doing good doesn’t pay? In Matthew 5:11-12, Jesus supported those who are persecuted for doing what is good and right by confirming for them a great reward in heaven. Do you ever feel hindered by fear? According to Matthew 10:30-31, God has every hair on your head numbered. Do you ever feel utterly exhausted? In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus invites the weary to come to Him for rest. Do you ever feel all alone? Jesus guarantees us, “I am with you always!” in Matthew 28:20.

Whenever you feel overcome with depression of feel demoralized by people or events that repress your courage and sap your joy, look to the Great Encourager – Jesus! He made encouraging other’s His life’s work. He still does!

Monica Boudreaux


PRAYER:

Father – Give me encouragement along mu journey. Show me others who need my encouragement.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christian Journey, Encouragement

Choices

Choices – they seem unending, especially at Christmas.  The Scriptures can be our guide as we observe the way God chooses and the way he challenged others to choose.  From the very beginning when Adam and Eve chose their own way over God’s provision, each person who has ever lived has faced that decision.

Martha, out of self-righteous frustration, reprimanded Jesus because he would not condemn her sister, Mary, for not helping her with chores.  Jesus simply tried to help her understand that Mary, in choosing to simply sit in His Presence and internalize his every word ,had indeed chosen “the good part.”  Mary chose the part that never goes away, never gets old – the part that is eternal.

The rich young man expected a quick, easy answer from Jesus.  He needed to know how to inherit eternal life.  He could not imagine that inheriting eternal life could be any more challenging than inheriting his father’s wealth.  But Jesus told him he would have to make a choice between what the world could give and what God could give.  The rich young man chose the part that goes away – the part that is temporary.

The Christmas narratives portray God’s nature by the choices He made.

  • God chose a teenage peasant girl, not a daughter of a ruling Pharisee.
  • God chose a carpenter, not a king.
  • God chose Nazareth, not Jerusalem.
  • God chose a stable, not a palace.
  • God chose a feeding trough, not an ornate cradle.
  • God chose shepherds, not rabbis.
  • God chose to show his star to Gentiles, not Jewish royalty.
  • God chose poverty, not wealth.
  • God chose humility, not position.
  • God chose service, not recognition
  • God chose earth, not heaven.

This Advent, this season of endless options, is a perfect time to evaluate our decisions, to align our choices with the eternal and holy and divine.  Jesus told us that a good person with a heart full of good treasure makes good choices, lives a good life, recognizes holiness, and lives in the Kingdom of God.  He told us that choices reveal our souls, our decisions come from what dominates our hearts, and our lives mirror the Master that controls them.


A Prayer About Choices

O God, you know that today-or very soon-I must make a decision which is going to affect my whole life.

Help me to choose rightly-and to choose the right way.

Grant me your guidance, and with it grant me the humble obedience to accept it.

Help me not necessarily to choose what I want to do, but what you want me to do.

Grant that I may not be swayed solely by fear or by hope of gain, by selfish love of ease or comfort or by personal ambition, by the desire to escape or by longing for prestige.

Help me today in humble obedience to say to you, “Lord, what will you have me to do?” and then await your guidance, and accept your leading.

Hear this prayer of mine and send an answer so clear that I cannot mistake it.

This I ask for your love’s sake!

Amen

William Barclay

1 Comment

Filed under Christian Journey

What Would You Do?

I have heard this story shared many times and ways over the years. Let us take heart that there was greater good in the world then and that is still the case today. Here these words about the colorful Mayor LaGuardia of New York. (By the way, he was a Republican)

Fiorello LaGuardia was mayor of New York City during the Depression, and he  LaGuardia-picwas quite a character. He would ride the city fire trucks, take entire orphanages to baseball games and whenever the city newspapers went on strike, he would get on the radio and read the Sunday “funnies” to the children.

On a bitter cold winter’s night in 1935, Mayor LaGuardia turned up in a night court that served the poorest ward in the city, he dismissed the judge for the evening and took over the bench himself. After he heard a few cases, a tattered old woman was brought before him, accused of stealing a loaf of bread.

She told LaGuardia that her daughter’s husband had deserted her, her daughter was sick and her grandchildren were starving. But the shopkeeper, from whom the bread was stolen, insisted on pressing charges. “My store is in a very bad neighborhood, your honor,” he said. “She’s got to be punished in order to teach other people a lesson.”

The mayor sighed. He turned to the old woman and said, “I’ve got to punish you,” he said. “The law makes no exception – ten dollars or ten days in jail.”
But even as he spoke, LaGuardia was reaching into his pocket and pulling out a ten dollar bill. “Here is the woman’s fine,” he said, “and furthermore, I’m going to fine everyone in this court room fifty cents for living in a city where a person has to steal bread so that her grandchildren can eat. Mr. Bailiff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant.”

The following day, the New York Times reported that $47.50 was turned over to the bewildered old woman. It was given by the red-faced store owner, some seventy petty criminals, people with traffic violations and city policemen – and they all gave their mayor a standing ovation as they
handed over their money.

What a great story!

That’s how it should be with Jesus followers. Jesus said: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” After he uttered these words they ran him out of Nazareth. I wonder what would happen Jesus-Captivesif a Mayer of New York would do what La Guardia today? Would he be applauded? Would there be negative headlines in the NYT? In our “me” society, I ask you to consider the way YOU treat the poor and the disenfranchised? Let us practice true compassion in our daily walk.

1 Comment

Filed under Christian Journey, Christian Living

Our Journey Toward God

 

Cloud-of-Unknowing-PIC-1The “Cloud of Unknowing” is an anonymous work of Christian mysticism written in the latter half of the 14th century. The text is a spiritual guide on contemplative prayer. The true message of this book is that the way to know God is to stop trying figure Him out and simply surrender yourself to the realm of “unknowing,” and then we begin to see a glimpse of God. The first chapter introduces four degrees that we all share in our journey to God. These are COMMON, SPECIAL, SINGULAR AND PERFECT. I would like to unpack some small truths about these degrees.

COMMON

The common degree is where we begin. In this degree we discover the joy of the creation of God. We see the love that he has surrounded us with in our friends, our activities and the things that make our lives worth living. Freely we acknowledge that we are created by Him from nothing and that He is the one who breathes life into us. When someone asks a “common” person if they believe in God, they answer with an enthusiastic, YES! They not only believe in God but comprehend His majesty.

SPECIAL

As our spiritual journey continues, a realization of the fall and sin of Adam comes into our lives. With this realization we can begin to see the suffering of the Savior as He redeems us of our sin with His marvelous grace. This degree brings us into a time when we realize that God sent Jesus to negate the sin of Adam and bring grace to all.

SINGULAR

By continued prayer and growth in faith we become extraordinary in our relationship with God. This relation begins to be natural and inbuilt into every aspect of life. We no longer “have” to pray but our lives become a prayer. This is a most challenging degree to reach. Most committed Christians fall in and out of this place.

PERFECT

Perfection is heavenly bliss. Such bliss is not attainable on this earth but must wait until we are joined to God in the heavenly state. John Wesley spent a great deal of his life looking to achieve this state but realized in his old age that it would not come this side of heaven. In spite of that he still reminds Methodists that they are marching on to perfection.

This path suggested by the writer of “Cloud of Unknowing” can serve us well as we live out our Christian journeys.


Prayer
O God, all hearts are open to you.
You perceive my desire.
Nothing is hidden from you.
Purify the thoughts of my heart
with the gift of your Spirit, that I may love you with a
perfect love and give you the praise you deserve.
Amen

3 Comments

Filed under Christian Journey, Christian Living, Cloud of Unknowing

Self – Justification/Humility

Abba John said, ‘We have put the light burden on one side, that is to say, self-accusation, and we have loaded ourselves with a heavy one, that is to say, self-justification.’

He also said, ‘Humility and the fear of God are above all virtues.’

Abba John gave this advice, ‘Watching means to sit in the cell and be always mindful of God. This is what is meant by, “I was on the watch and God came to me.” (Matt. 25:36) One of the Fathers said of him, ‘Who is this John, who by his humility has all Scetis hanging from his little finger?’

—-ABBA JOHN THE DWARF


The two competing margins of any man are self-justification and humility. We all have a great drive to be the controllers of our own destiny. To achieve that destiny we must find ways to justify our actions. There are many people that are consumed with, meeting the right people, doing the right thing, being seen at the proper places and above all else being in control. As I see it, self-justification is just another way of being a controller.

The Monk said that self – justification was a heavy burden to bear. Not only was it heavy, but it is a burden that we choose to bear. Man has a tendency to load himself down with burdens that originate with our own ego. Our ego tells us that control is the primary objective of life.  Perhaps the greatest expression of control that is observed in our spiritual journey is the art of self – justification.

The Monk observes that humility and fear of God are the greatest virtues that anyone can possess. Those virtues, in conjunction with the ability to “sit” and wait on God will bring us to better place than we could have ever hoped for or imagined. The Monk desire that the community to be  “hanging from his little finger,” this came about as the natural result of living a life that seeks God above all else. The Benedictine rule instructs us how to greet our guests. “At the door of the monastery, place a sensible old man who knows how to take a message and deliver a reply, and whose age keeps him from roaming about. This porter will need a room near the entrance so that visitors will always find him there to answer them. As soon as anyone knocks, or a poor man calls out, he replies, ‘Thanks be to God’ or ‘Your blessing, please’.” Such humility can go a long way in reaching people with the good news of Christ. Self-justification takes us nowhere other than the path of control and evil self-righteousness. Perhaps that needy knock on the door is God calling us. Let us seek Him. May we choose our path.

 

  • What do you seek?
  • How do you seek it?
  • Why do you seek?

Prayer

Lord fill me with the humility that is necessary to seek Your face. Allow me to discover virtue in those You send my way. Give me the patience to wait on You in the place You have given me. For in humility, virtue and waiting You reveal your glory to me and make it possible for me to live in peace and harmony.

Amen

1 Comment

Filed under Abba John the Dwarf, Christian Journey, Desert Fathers

Survey the Land

Breaking new ground is a very difficult task for us. The old, the familiar, the comfortable are always preferable to the new and different. I believe this is even true if God tells us to change. The Israelites were on a great journey. They had escaped from the clutches of the harsh Pharaoh, they had experienced hardship, rebellion and suffering on their journey, but the journey had destination and purpose.

Moses sent out spies to survey the land and they brought back a good report. Many years would pass before they occupied the land but they always knew that it was a good land, a land that God had promised them and one day they would enjoy its fruit. They needed to keep the vision alive.

We too, must keep our vision alive. So many of our days are beset with pain and trouble, but God says,  the best is yet to come. Let us try – this day – to see the abundance of God and live with the expectation of being blessed by Him.

 Survey the  land – IT IS GOOD

Numbers 13

Prayer

Lord help me to keep my focus on you while I toil though the tasks of this life. Keep me free from the temptation of the evil that leads to rejection of your plan for me. Cover my sins with your grace and fill my heart with the joy that comes from knowing you.

Amen

Leave a comment

Filed under Christian Journey, Christian Living

Powerlessness

We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable. – Step One of the Twelve Steps

English: A woman walking a prayer labyrinth

English: A woman walking a prayer labyrinth (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am convinced that the spirituality of Alcoholics Anonymous is going to go down as the significant and authentic American contribution to the history of spirituality. With inspiration from the Holy Spirit, Bill Wilson and all the other founders rediscovered the core teachings of Jesus and formed them into a program that could really change lives. It is a spirituality of imperfection, in contrast to Western Christianity’s emphasis on perfection, performance, and willpower.

I believe Jesus and the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are saying the same thing but with different vocabulary:

  • We suffer to get well.
  • We surrender to win.
  • We die to live.
  • We give it away to keep it.

This counterintuitive wisdom will forever be avoided, until it is forced upon us by some reality over which we are powerless—and if we are honest, we are all powerless in the presence of full Reality.

Both the Gospel and the Twelve Step Program insist that the experience of powerlessness is the absolutely necessary starting point for transformational healing. This is perennial wisdom. Jesus called it the way of the cross, and he told us to follow him on the downward journey into powerlessness. It is there where we will find what is real, what lasts, and what matters. Through the crucifixion, Jesus showed us that powerlessness is the way through. It is not the end, but truly the beginning.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

3 Comments

Filed under AA, Addiction, Christian Journey

Passing Through

From Luke 4

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

   because he has anointed me
     to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
   and recovery of sight to the blind,
     to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ 

When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.

Jesus went home.  After ministering in Galilee he decided to go back to Nazareth, to reconnect with those who had known him as a little boy, to visit his mom, to speak at the synagogue that he knew like the back of his hand.  At the synagogue, he spoke about his mission.  The locals were at first offended and then enraged.  They took him to the cliff which marked the edge of town with plans to throw him off.  Then the miracle happened.  Scripture says, “But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.”  One man in an angry mob and “he passed through the midst of them!”  He did not call for help or fight his way clear.  He just passed through them.

When we think of Jesus’ miracles we consider events like healings, resurrections, calming the sea, walking on water, or turning water into wine.  We never see this miracle listed, but I see it as an incredible moment that relates to our journeys so often.  How many times have you walked through Jesusfrightening, dangerous, heartbreaking situations and gone on to live out your life?  How many times have you not been able to explain how you did it, how you made it through?  How many times have you weathered opposition and hostility and continued to live victoriously?  How many times has your broken heart healed?  How many times has your mind been calmed by an unexplainable peace?  How many times has your soul been restored?  How many times have you been at the edge of the cliff sure you were going over, when some Presence led you through the fear and pain and hurt and death?  Each of those times was a miracle.

Jesus knows all about standing at the cliff’s edge with other situations or people pushing you over.  He knows what it is like to look down at a chasm of hopelessness and despair.  He understands the pounding of your heart, the wrenching of your gut, the tears of your hurt.  He reaches out his hand and leads you as you pass through the midst of them and go on your way to love and serve Him.

Reflection

What has Christ helped you pass through?

1 Comment

Filed under Christian Journey, Devotional reading

Interior Peace

Restrain yourself from affection toward many people, for fear lest your spirit be distracted, so that your interior peace may not be disturbed.

——Abba Evagrius  of the Desert

On face value it would seem to be a very harsh thing to say that we should stray away from having many friends and connections. I think we have all heard of the things that people do to gain popularity and power. When someone is obsessed with winning the affection of many people, they have very little time for anything else. Countless hours are spent in front of the mirror and reading tips on how to be the “one.” The more we are focused on such image, the more spiritually restless we become. In this journey we find little interior peace.

Colossians 3 for blogPaul tells the Colossian Church to “set their minds on things above.” The Abba says to restrain from our need for popularity. Both of these sayings are directed toward our ability to achieve peace with God. There can be no peace when we are frantically busy trying to be noticed. The only true peace is inner peace – the peace that allows us to thrive in a hostile world. Being at peace with ourselves is the most vital part of our relationship with God. Without the selfless interior peace, we remain spiritually empty.

Solomon tells us in Proverbs that charm is deceitful and beauty is vain.  Think about it, the wisest manProverb 31_edited-1 that ever lived called charm deceitful and beauty vain. Shouldn’t that say something to us in our image conscious world? Our real challenge is to remain focused on the things that are above and to take our eyes off of the crowd that we seek to gather and keep them on our spiritual journey. That focus will help us to achieve the interior peace that is so necessary to walk with God.

Prayer

O Lord allow me this day to focus on the interior peace that only you can give. Suffer me the strength to resist the temptation of self aggrandizement and carry me to a place of peace. Amen

Busy Monk

1 Comment

Filed under Christian Journey, Desert Fathers