Category Archives: Midweek Thought

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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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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The Danger of Judgment

“Let everyone beware lest he presume to take it upon himself to criticize and condemn other men’s faults without his having been truly touched within by the Holy Spirit in his work. Otherwise he may very easily err in his judgments. Beware, therefore. Judge yourself as seems right to you between yourself and your God and let other men alone.”

—-The Cloud of Unknowing

Therefore, you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgement on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. You say, ‘We know that God’s judgement on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.’ Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgement of God?

—-Romans 2:1-3

The words of Paul in his letter to the Romans and the words of the medieval mystic who wrote THE CLOUD OF UNKNOWING are the same. Simply stated, we must be very cautious when we condemn other people. We are about to embark in a strange new world in the coming days. We’ve never been here before, and we’re not sure what it’s going to be like. The whole idea of “social distancing,” wearing masks and being cautious every time we venture from our homes is a strange and rather scary place to be. Our challenge is how we handle it?

As Christians, we can be those that lead the way with generosity, kindness, compassion and care for our fellow man. We can try to observe the guidelines and go forward in this world. We can pray for the finalized solution to come sooner rather than later to this extreme problem that we have. We can help those who have had losses during this time of isolation to bury and mourn their dead. We can support them and lift him up and give them the hope that only Jesus gives. Those are some ways that we can be very positive in the coming weeks and months.

The message of the mystic in THE CLOUD OF UNKNOWING and the Apostle Paul gives us fair warning of the possible dark side of our reaction. Let us be determined that we’re not going to criticize, condemn and complain. Let us pray without ceasing that God will deliver us from taking that path that the evil one has designed for us since the Garden. That is, I will do it my way. Such a decision is a slippery slope we walk down when we are frightened by this very deadly unknown we are facing. Let us heed the words of the Medieval Mystic and the Apostle Paul every time we hear ourselves speak or think words of criticism and judgment.

We do this by praying without ceasing. This is an excellent time for you to reboot your prayer life. Perhaps you might consider setting a time for prayer each day. It is possible that you may want to investigate some prayer practices that you have never done before. There are so many ways to pray to God. There are so many ways to be in the presence of God. I’d like to suggest a few in the links below. I hope they might help.


Links on Ways to Pray

Lectio Divina

Daily Bible Reading

The Daily Office

The Jesus Prayer

The Examine


Prayer – LORD, make it possible for me to overcome my fear in the coming weeks and months and not fall into the trap of a critical and judgmental attitude. Let me now lay myself before you as a servant of yours. I ask you today, what service may I render to others? Guide me to look very closely at my faults and short-comings and make self-change my priority. Give me the strength to be an example of what it means to be a Christian. Take away my sin and fear so that I may be strong as I go forward today. Amen

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Self Discovery

Midweek Thought #1


“What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves? This is the most important of all voyages of discovery, and without it all the rest are not only useless but disastrous.”

― Thomas Merton


Merton challenges us to look inside of ourselves with great introspection that allows us to see ourselves as God and others see us. Many times we are shocked by theExplorer 2 comment of a loved one or friend about something we have said or done. Our first reaction may be to say that we are misunderstood, but we will never really understand until we pause and take a deep look at ourselves.God sees in us what we cannot see in ourselves. The creator made us in his image and likeness with the knowledge that we would never live up to our full potential. Too often we hide behind our accomplishments and never take that voyage to the most difficult destination of all – our true self. Merton reminds us of this, but how do we begin that scary voyage? Let me suggest a few possibilities.

  • Learn to sit quietly in the presence of God.

  • Learn to say, “I was wrong.”

  • Learn to value others more than yourself.

These three possibilities are not a silver bullet to finding our true selves but some tools that will drive us deeper into that uncharted territory that lies within all of us.  As we venture deeper into ourselves, God will give us the wisdom and courage to confront the bad and the joy of the discovery of the good. Remember, the image of God is imprinted in our DNA, and it is the desire of God that it come out.  Spend some time today pondering the possibility that that image can emerge and I know God will bless you.


Midweek #1

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