November 17, 2013 · 5:30 am
In the grand scheme of written material, we have only a few words that Jesus actually said. Because they are so few, they are all the more precious and
meaningful. Jesus often taught using parables – short, easy to remember stories that teach an important lesson in faith. Without exception, these stories are portraits of grace that stir our minds and hearts. They are forever relevant keys to growth in kingdom living that challenge our natural inclinations to prejudice, selfishness, judgmentalism, misplaced priorities, and self righteousness. They teach us that when we do acts of mercy, love, and compassion we are truly living in the kingdom of God. Parables teach us that grace is a gift of God to be passed on to all we meet, that forgiveness is not an option, that each person is of equal yet priceless value, and that knowing God is the only treasure that matters. They give us insights to the nature of the Father through the stories of the son.
One of my favorite parables is the Prodigal Son, or more accurately the Gracious Father. The central truth of this story is the Father’s eager forgiveness and unconditional restoration of his wayward child. He had lived so long with the awful gnawing fear that his son was dead. He had relived countless memories of when he was a little boy. He had remembered in detail the funny, sweet things the boy had done. He had imagined his smile and the way laughter just bubbled out of him when he played. He had thought about how he looked when he was asleep and the times he had held him when he was hurt or afraid. Now he was here! He was alive and he was home! Nothing else mattered!
The image of the Father running down the road to meet his son with open arms of love and acceptance takes my breath away. That image stays with me in one of my most precious memories.
Our son returned to Fort Hood, Texas, after a yearlong deployment to Iraq. When his battalion came marching across the parade ground, I spotted him in formation just by the way he walks. When the welcome home speeches were made and the ropes holding back the families were removed, I took off in an all-out sprint! For so long I had lived with the awful fear that I would never see him again. In that year, I had recalled hundreds of sweet memories: the way he smiles, his first steps, stitches in his foot, rocking him to sleep. Now he was here! He was alive and he was home! Nothing else mattered!
So, it is with God the Father. He anguishes over our hurts and our loneliness, our rejection and our sins. But, we are reconciled to Him, because He RUNS to us with open arms of understanding, acceptance, and forgiveness. We are home! Nothing else matters!
Reflection – When has the Father run to you with forgiveness, acceptance, and hope?
September 12, 2013 · 9:51 am
The journey of every believer brings him to the tough intersection of the world and our desire to be one with God. Oneness with the One who created us in His own image is built into our souls. Thomas Merton once said: “Contemplation will be denied to a man in proportion as he belongs to the world.” The world refers to the things we love of the world -the busyness, prestige, glitzy things, and pride that so represent us to those around us. We are called away from such a life as we seek to be contemplatives. We begin to practice the art of belonging.
As we approach that intersection, and we approach every day, we must make the decision of just how much time we have for the things of the spirit. I would be the first to admit that we don’t have the option of becoming monastic hermits, but we do have the option of giving some priority time to contemplation. To be contemplative in our world we must establish a pattern and routine of prayer.
Prayer comes in many forms. For some it is silence, for others it is much more active. How do you practice prayer in your life? Prayer has to be much more than a weekly worship time, it must be a special part of your day that keeps you focused on the things of God. Pray the daily office, practice Lectio Divina, centering prayer, or journaling and know that these practices will lead you closer to God. Contemplation and prayer is movement toward belonging to God.
Filed under Christian Journey, Christian Living, Contemplation, Faithfulness, Lectio Divina, Thomas Merton
Tagged as Christian contemplation, Christianity, Contemplation, God, Lectio Divina, Prayer, Religion and Spirituality, Thomas Merton
August 24, 2013 · 7:31 am
- Jesus’ public life begins with His baptism at the hands John the Baptist.
- Although sinless, Jesus chooses to identify Himself with the repentant sinners who flocked to baptism.
- Before embarking upon His ministry, Jesus withdraws to the desert for a 40-day period of fasting.
- The coming of God’s Kingdom means the destruction of the devil’s dominion over this world.
- Jesus now goes forth to preach the “good news” of the coming of the Kingdom.
- Jesus backed up His words with mighty miracles that inspired belief in Him.
- Jesus gathers people to Himself, and this is the begining of the Kingdom of God.
- Jesus emphasizes that everyone is called to enter the Kingdom. He reaches out to the poor, the marginalized and sinners.
- In a very special way, the Kingdom belongs to the poor, lowly, humble of heart, those who know that they need God.
- Jesus often illustrated His teaching by means of parables,and these stories call us to radical discipleship.
Live Your Faith
Rather than viewing the Gospels strictly as mini-biographies of Jesus, we should instead use our imagination to put ourselves into the stories.
Which people resonate the most with me? What would it be like to watch Jesus preach or perform a miracle?
Filed under Ascetics, Christian Journey, Commitment, Evangelism, Faithfulness, Kingdom of God
Tagged as Baptism, Baptism of Jesus, God, Gospel, Jesus, John the Baptist, Kingdom, Kingdom of God
August 9, 2013 · 2:14 pm
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
——-C. S. Lewis
This is always been a favorite of mind.
Filed under C. S. Lewis, Christian Journey, Devotional Quotes, Faithfulness
Tagged as C. S. Lewis, Devil, God, Jesu, Lord, Poached egg, Son of God, Teacher
August 4, 2013 · 1:56 pm
The seeds of contemplation and sanctity have been planted in those souls, (all people of good will)but they merely lie dormant. They do not grow. In other words: sanctifying grace occupies the substance of their souls but never flows out to inflame and irrigate and take possession of their faculties, their intellect and will. God will not manifest himself to these souls because they do not seek him.
Merton’s wisdom tells us that we can only achieve true unity with God when we seek it with our whole beings. God has implanted within each of us the seeds that will bring us to full fellowship with Him, but it is our mission to brings forth the fruit offered by these seeds. His grace is a gift that gives each one the capacity to fully possess the salvation of God.
Our desire to see ourselves fully sanctified with our creator is the lifelong mission of the Christian. Many a person has gone through life, many times a good life, without fully claiming the wonderful grace of God. Merton warns that Christian growth is a proactive venture, because God does not force Himself upon us. We are called to seek and desire Him.
- The Meaning of the Contemplative Life (christoschicago.wordpress.com)
- Pilgrimage (tbolto.wordpress.com)
Filed under contemplative, Dedication, Faithfulness, Thomas Merton
Tagged as Christian, Christianity, Denominations, God, Grace, Merton, Religion and Spirituality, Thomas Merton
July 24, 2013 · 10:54 am
One day at the cells, there was an assembly about some matter or other and Abba Evagrius held forth. ‘Abba, we know that if you were living in your own country you would probably be a bishop and a great leader; but at present you sit here as a stranger.’ He was filled with compunction, but was not at all upset and bending his head he replied, ‘I have spoken once and will not answer, twice but will proceed no further.’ (Job 40:5)
——–Sayings of the Desert Fathers
A key to knowing the meaning of the Abba’s words is to pay careful attention to the scripture he quotes. The story of the biblical character Job is a most fascinating and perplexing one. Job is a man of great wealth and influence and losses it all because of a random conversation between God and the evil one. The point at which we jump into this story is where Job finally decides to stop arguing his case to God and begins to listen to the Almighty as a man and not a peer. We all have callings in life, and we try to live them out with all our strength. We, like Abba Evagarius, are faced with the curiosity of our peers. In the midst of these questions we must come to a simple conclusion, and it is that we cannot always explain the ways of God in our life but we must live them out. After you have tried to figure it out several times it is time to be silent and remain attentive to Him. We are surrounded by a world that thinks we should have taken one turn and another in our journeys, but we are consoled that in following the will of the Master we have done the better thing.
June 3, 2013 · 10:48 am
One of the best things about riding a bicycle around town is that you get to observe things up close and personal. Bike riding puts you in the middle of the action. You can smell the smells, feel the heat and hear the sounds you miss in your car.
In a recent ride along Bayou St. John I noticed a mother duck and her ducklings swimming in the bayou. I stopped as she came on shore and began to lead them to a new spot. One of the ducklings began to lag behind the group and suddenly the volume of her “quacks” went up to an ear crushing sound. Sure enough the little slacker knew that it was a signal to speed up and catch up. He did and the rhymic quacking continued as they moved to a place to rest.
You may ask, how can this relate to the missional practice of a Christian?
Let’s think about that for a moment.
The ducklings began as a unit. It was not the mother duck that left the duckling behind but the duckling that moved slower than the rest.
—The mother duck had the best and the brightest duckling right behind her.
—The slacker was slowing down the journey.
—The slacker caused the mother to expend more energy.
What missional points can we gleam from this little story?
—We must allow for those who don’t follow the crowd.
—We must set the pace of our journey so that all can travel.
—We must expend energy and time to help those who are less motivated.
Remember we are called to care for each other as we are on the journey.
April 24, 2013 · 11:22 am
Abba Peter said this about the holy Macarius: ‘One day he came to the cell of an anchorite who happened to be ill, and he asked him if he would take something to eat, though his cell was stripped bare. When the other replied, “Some sherbet,” that courageous man did not hesitate, but went as far as Alexandria to fetch some for the sick man. The astonishing thing is that no-one knew about it.’
—–Saying of the Desert
The brother is saying that he traveled over 50 miles through the desert to get the ancient equivalent of Ensure for an ailing friend, and he told no one about his good deed. Such a willing, generous spirit is not a common thing now, or then. Yet it is the teaching of Jesus in His Sermon On the Mount. He says,” But when you do your giving, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” The practice of charity (love) is not a source of pride or accolades, it is an act of devotion to God and His creation. We learn a valuable lesson from the desert today. Become a humble and generous giver of life, not a spectacle of self aggrandizing good deeds. Even if your actions are extraordinary, as were the actions of Macarius, we must do them to the praise of God and the benefit of His creation
Filed under anchorite, Contemplation, contemplative, Desert Fathers, Faithfulness, Missional Living, Monasticism
Tagged as Christianity, Desert, God, Jesus, Religion and Spirituality, Sermon on the Mount
April 15, 2013 · 10:03 am
One person armed with the Gospel of peace can change the world. Telemachus did. Who was Telemachus? He was a monk who lived in the 5th century, and his story is a story of courage. He felt God saying to him, “Go to Rome.” Since he was in a cloistered monastery, he put his possessions in a sack and set out for Rome. When he arrived in the city, people were thronging in the streets. He asked why all the excitement and discovered it was the day the gladiators would be fighting in the coliseum, the day of the games, the circus. He thought to himself, “Four centuries after Christ and they are still killing each other, for enjoyment?” When Telemachus ran to the coliseum and heard the gladiators saying, “Hail to Caesar, we die for Caesar” and he thought, “this isn’t right.” Jumping over the railing he went out into the middle of the field, got between two gladiators, and tried to stop them. The crowd became enraged and stoned the peacemaker to death.
Perhaps this is a legend, or perhaps it is history. I do not claim that I can verify this story, but I will say that the truth within speaks loudly to each of us. All too often, we sit idly by and allow so much evil to go on around us. The moral of this story is very simple: when you see injustice or wrong doing, do something. Just imagine for a moment what the world we be like if we took upon ourselves the spirit of Telemachus. The hungry would be fed, the unloved would be loved, the neglected would be treated with regard, and all this would be done by Christians and not the government. Utopia, you say. Maybe, but do something today.
- Obedience to Change History (k2association.wordpress.com)
Filed under Commitment, Conflict, Controversy, Evil, Faithfulness
Tagged as Caesar, Christ, Gladiator, God, Jesus, Julius Caesar, Rome
April 12, 2013 · 6:04 am
A pastor once told a story about a visitor to a heavy-duty grease factory. When they arrived they were ushered into a large room, and a tour host introduced them to the company history and the number of employees at work producing the best machine lubricants in the world. They toured the noisy factory with lots of machinery and wheels whirling, mixing, and packaging. This place was full of activity.
As the tour ended, one of the visitors said, “I didn’t see a shipping department.” The guide responded, “Well, we don’t have a shipping department because it takes all the grease we make to lubricate our equipment and keep the wheels turning.”
If you were asked, you would likely say that was a waste of effort. We all know that goods are manufactured to be distributed. The purpose of a factory is to produce goods to be used by people outside of the plant. The church, however, is a grease factory of its own. Year after year we turn inward and forget that the purpose of the church is the transformation of the world. We spend the bulk of our resources keeping the wheels turning. Jesus sent us into the world to make a difference, and we must turn away from ourselves to be effective.