Lent Day 1

Related imageFebruary 14

Reconciled to God

2Corinthians 5:20 – 6:2

20So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.21For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

6As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. 2For he says,
‘At an acceptable time I have listened to you,
and on a day of salvation I have helped you.’
See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!


Prayer Thought

Lord, help me to see that this is the time of my salvation.

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The Power of Love

To love is to be transformed into what we love. To love God is therefore to be transformed into God.

In the twilight of life, God will not judge us on our earthly possessions and human success, but rather on how much we have loved.

—–John of the Cross

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‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

——Jesus

One of the hottest topics of all time is love. Love is so special that people die for it, kill for it, steal for it and mourn for it. John of the Cross teaches that love is transforming and far and away the most important attribute in the twilight of life. Jesus and Paul command us to love with all our being. In doing so we discover what is good.

Love is almost always defined as physical attraction. We fall in love as a result of attraction, then we discover a greater love as we develop a relationship with our partner. This Greater Love can be compared to the love that Jesus, Paul and John of the cross are referencing. There’s no singular word to describe the love that is spoken about in Scripture.

The word that is used to refer to the type of love that Jesus and these great men are speaking of is agape. This love has no real translation in our English language. We can refer to it as love of God for man or man’s love for God. This love is one that transforms and comes to be the only love that really matters. Agape eludes definition and stretches our minds to imagine what God is really like.

Agape love transforms and brings about changes in us that we can scarcelyBlog-2-7-18 imagine. People from all walks of life have made horrid mistakes and come to understand the love of God, and their lives are radically changed. Dishonest people turn to honestly. People who live very negatively learn to see what is good and right with the world. Those who understand this type of love learn to see God and other people. That is transformation.

We all want to leave a legacy. A legacy is something of value that outlives us. If a person loves this way, they leave a legacy. Their legacy shows a glimpse of the Almighty to those they touch. That glimpse can touch the lives of people and change them in ways that are unimaginable. May we all strive to be people that show the love of God to all persons.

That is the power of love!


PRAYER

Awaken and enlighten us, my Lord, that we might know and love the Boston-Carmel_099bblessings which You ever propose to us, and that we might understand that You have moved to bestow favors on us and have remembered us.

O Lord, my God, who will seek You with simple and pure love and not find You are all he desires, for You show Yourself first and go out to meet those who desire You?

My spirit has become dry because it forgets to feed on You.

Amen

—–John of the Cross

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Virtue

Many desire virtue, but fear to go forward in the way that leads to it, while others consider that virtue does not even exist. So it is necessary to persuade the former to give up their laziness and to teach the others what virtue really is.

—-Abba Isadore of the Desert

Virtue-Ghandi

Virtue is behavior, particularly moral, that conforms to a very high standard. Today’s Christian, just like the desert monastics of the past, seek to live a life of high standards. Today’s world gives mixed signals about what this world should look like. On the one hand, we preach freedom of expression without any limits. Others would tell us that we must exercise restraint in all our relationships and dealings with others. I believe that in order to reach the highest standards that are possible for a man who lives on this earth, we must believe that God’s grace guides us every day.

The wise Monk advises us that there are many around us that do not believe that there is any such thing as exemplary Virtue-1behavior. With that negative approach, we are destined for failure. We must take the high ground, so to speak, and allow ourselves to be open to the wonderful reality that God can and does make virtue possible for each of us. Let us not live in the state of discouragement, defeat, and despair. The Apostle Paul in his writings tells us to “press on to the mark.” Abba Isadore gives us some sound advice and a mission.

The Abba tells us that our role is to persuade others that marching on to a life of higher standards is not only possible but doable. Let me tell you a story about virtue. There was once a man who felt very defeated. He felt that God had abandoned him and indeed the entire world seem to be against him. That is really a bad place to be, so he prayed and prayed but seemed to get no results. Through fate, he found himself in the presence of a young boy possessing the virtue that only a child can have. He was encouraged by the young boy who told him that life was good and there was hope and this changed his life. That boy, without knowing it, modeled virtue to this man who was discouraged and defeated. The man began to think, if he could do it, we can all do it. We can achieve through God virtue and excellence and move on with our lives.

Our calling is not only to live with high standards and virtue but to persuade others that God wants them to live in the same way. I am not talking about being self-righteous but just being a person who expresses the love of God and the purity of God in every way possible. That’s our challenge and mission to show God to other people and to do so absent of self-righteousness. If we can achieve that, then others will see the virtue of God in us and strive to make it so for themselves.


Prayer

Oh Lord, give me the determination to muster up all the strength in my being and discover that virtue does exist. I cannot, on my own, live life up to such a standard but with you, I can reach that high goal. Help me not only to reach it but to have the courage and determination to share that discovery with others.

Amen

Virtue-1-31-18

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Taking Action

The prophet tells us: “And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” In reply, he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none, and whoever has food must do likewise.” (Luke 3:10-11) The crowd was speaking to John the Baptist about how they would live the Missional life. They were confused and waiting for the Rabbis to tell them what to do. Perhaps the people-helping-people1Synagogue’s Missions Committee would set up a program so that they could “Plug-In”. Instead, John said: JUST DO IT!

What should we do? Do as the prophet said two thousand years ago. Share as you go, give your personal property away to those who are in need, live a life of simply caring about others. Caring becomes a way of life and the first thing you know it will be better to give than to receive.

OK, some action suggestions:

  • Give something of your own to a person in need.
  • Give food or help to a homeless person (it doesn’t matter WHY they are homeless).
  • Give a smile or a kind word to a stranger.
  • Pick up some trash in your neighborhood–just because.
  • Volunteer at a park, zoo or hospital.
  • Become a mentor for a child.

These are just a few ways that you can just do something Missional this week. The message -DON’T WAIT- just do it !


Prayer

Lord, compel me to take action where it is needed and give me the ability to show your grace to the people I encounter.

Amen

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Finding Jesus

There is a story about a Russian Monastery that was dying and declining. The brothers were growing old, many had died. The villagers had stopped coming to visit the monastery. Young men were no longer interested in dedicating themselves to the Monastic order. This decline led to worry and the loss of hope led to bitterness. In desperation, the abbot went to visit an old hermit we had heard about. He hoped that the old man might have some wisdom. The abbot arrived after a long journey and explained their problem to the hermit.Finding-Jesus The hermit prayed for the abbot but said nothing more. The two men sat in silence for a very long time and the abbot patiently waited to hear some word of hope – a blessing, a prophecy, just something simple to try. Finally, the abbot could abide the silence no longer and he begged the hermit for an answer. The hermit replied, “I’m sorry, but there really isn’t anything I have to tell you. I don’t know what the future holds for the monastery. I am sorry – oh, but there is this – I believe that the Messiah is in your midst.” The Messiah?, thought the abbot. Among us at the monastery. He rushed back and reported the unexpected news and the brothers began to question, “Who is it?” “Who among us is the Messiah?” Surely not Bro. Nicolaus, he gripes too much. Surely not Bro. Stavros, he is so whiney. But what if …? And on it went.

And in time as the brothers began to suppose that any one of them could be the Messiah, they began to treat each other with respect and kindness and love. That spirit extended into the village and rumors of the Messiah’s presence continued so that everyone began to wonder if their neighbor might be the Messiah. And though no one was ever identified as the Messiah, the monastery was thriving and the village was blessed and young men devoted themselves to the faith.

Since Jesus is with us always, then discipleship is on-going and it is every day. It is not something for a special day or a special evening or a special program. It is the pulse of every moment lived in the kingdom of God.


Prayer

Lord help me to see you in everyone I encounter. Give me the grace and patience to see the good that you have instilled in all. Make my life one that is filled with awe and expectation at all time. Let me live a life that sees Jesus every day.

Amen

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The Contemplative Harvest

Eckhart-1-10-18

For over a decade I have sought to establish a life as a contemplative in a very busy world. The first inclination for anyone who strives to live a contemplative life is to withdraw. My study of the desert mothers and fathers reveals that the overwhelming majority of them were hermits. Does that mean that we have to become hermits to be contemplatives? Is it possible for us to become hermits? Is it really necessary to become hermits? Most importantly, is it right to become a hermit? How then can we become contemplatives in the world in which we live? Let unpack those ideas.

Do we have to become hermits to be contemplatives? The initial evidence would certainly point us in that direction. Not only the desert monastics, but Teresa of Avila, Julian of Norwich, John of the Cross and many other well-known contemplatives were hermits. Many of the modern contemplatives we study like Richard Rhorr, Thomas Merton and others have spent extended periods of time each year living as hermits. Almost to a person, these contemplatives would say that being a hermit is not a prerequisite for being a contemplative. Being a contemplative involves developing a lifestyle that allows us to be quiet and alone wherever we may find ourselves. The outer noise does not negate the inner silence. We can develop a contemplative state of mind regardless of our circumstances.

I would also venture to say that it is impossible for the overwhelming majority of people who read these words to even consider being a hermit. For most of us, it is impossible to spend 40 days living in the solitude of a hermitage. We have responsibilities and obligations that are very important that we must keep. God would not want us to abandon our families, jobs, and churches to live an isolated lifestyle. For many of us that would consider life as a hermit, it would not be a calling but an escape or maybe even an abandonment of our responsibilities. I cannot see any real evidence that God says that the only truly set apart contemplatives are living in a hermitage somewhere at the edge of the world. As a matter of fact, such a life would be the wrong thing for most of us to pursue.

I like the concept presented by Eckhart that contemplation is that soil that brings forth the harvest. As Christians, we are told by Jesus that we are the light of the world and we know that without light there is no life. Our Lord further tells us we are the salt of the earth and our presence both preserves and flavors the world. The harvest of the contemplative is to make a difference.

Let me make a few suggestions that might allow us to be contemplatives and people of action.

My contemplation journey has been greatly influenced by some key elements. They are:

  • Reading

My slow, attentive, mindful reading helped me make a profound connection with the words of the Desert Monks, Merton, Julian of Norwich and others. This mindful reading allows me to hear and cherish each word.

  • Writing

Several years ago I began to write my thoughts on this blog and other places. Since then, writing has become a practice that relaxes me and enables me to express those feeling that God has presented to me.

  • Solitude

I found solitude to be an essential prerequisite to any contemplative period. Time alone in silence, even in a not so quiet place, became a respite for me away from the busy life I am leading. Solitude for me is being able to shut out the noise that surrounds me and be at one with myself. I found it relaxing, calming, and most of all, healing.

  • Detoxing from the media

One thing I find necessary is that I must take some time each week when I don’t keep up with the 24/7 news. It may be a morning or evening when I read or write with no interference. These media fasts allow me to be more positive and responsive to the needs around me.

  • Retreats

To deepen the contemplative process I make it a practice to go on retreat at least once a year. This is a good opportunity to get away from everything and spend some time in surroundings that are more conducive to opening up richer thought processes. Even when it is just a long walk in the park, I have managed to mentally reach a better place.

  • Meditation practice

A time of pure silent meditation is a very important practice for the contemplative. The practice of Contemplative Prayer is a deep well of spiritual refreshment.

  • Work

The monks of the desert advocated the concept of work and prayer. I have found that physical labor and practicing creative arts are avenues to the contemplative life. Whether I am working on a woodcraft project or restoring a rusted old tool, I am in communication with God. My work practices are some of my richest times of contemplation.

Contemplation can reap a rich harvest that creeps up slowly, unannounced and unexpected and brings such blessed peace.

Solitude


PRAYER

Lord help me to plant the seeds of contemplation that will bring the abundant spiritual harvest.

Amen

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Love, Stillness and Action

The Gift
Be still, my soul, and steadfast.
Earth and heaven both are still watching
though time is draining from the clock
and your walk, that was confident and quick,
has become slow.

So be slow if you must, but let
the heart still play its true part.
Love still as once you loved deeply
and without patience. Let God and the world
know you are grateful.
That the gift has been given.

~ Mary Oliver

Come, behold the works of the Lord;
see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
‘Be still, and know that I am God!

Psalm 46:8-10

The poet and the psalmist have the true message. We have to slow down to truly feel the loving touch of God’s hand. We are in the midst of this Advent season and are waiting for the coming. At first thought, the waiting should be in stillness and calm but that not the way it is at all. We are so rushed and busy with the many responsibilities and obligations of the season. There are gifts to buy, parties to go to, special church services to attend, and for most of us, Christmas will be a relief. It is a relief, because we can slow down and rest from the “holidays” that our world has created.

Let me urge you to think in a counter-cultural way. Try to see these coming days between now and Christmas day as a time to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas. The true meaning of Christmas is love.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”  (John 3:16) The true joy of Christmas is the celebration of this incredible act of love. That is so easy to forget in the social cacophony of competing ideas that surround us. Let us resolve not to be carried away by popular culture or religious extremism.

A few suggestions:

  • Give something to a total stranger. (not just a homeless person)
  • Take the time to make eye contact and speak to store clerks who serve you.
  • Reaffirm your love(with words) to your family and friends.
  • Pay someone a compliment.
  • Share your belief in the love of the God of Christmas with someone.
  • Attend worship on Christmas Eve.
  • Don’t argue about Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays.
  • Reconcile with someone.
  • Pray.
  • Spend a little time in silence every day.

ReconcileThose are just a few of the many things that we can do in this season if we just slow down and look outside of ourselves. I am sure that you can think of some on your own,  but you have to be still long enough to do so. I hope that you can find a way to grab the opportunities that come with the Christmas season.


Prayer

Lord, there are times when I just want to ask your help so that I may just spend some time living like you. May I follow the example of Jesus as I share the love that was modeled by Him. Such a love is without strings or stipulation but merely a love that is waiting to be accepted. Let me reach out with open arms to all. May you guide in my decisions this season and allow me to be a source of blessing to those I touch.

Amen.

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Filed under Advent, Love, Mary Oliver

Alone and Quiet

 

The silence that is experienced in being quiet and alone is not the deepest and most satisfying silence to be had. The heart’s desire is for the Eternal, a level of silence that is penetrating in its power to draw forth the secret communication of the soul. Here, we discover that silence speaks and we learn how poor we are when we do not abide in this dimension. In this great silence, our being finds its roots in God, is nurtured inwardly, and gradually expands into a form of life that is itself eternal.

~ Romeo J. Bonsaint in “Spiritual Life” Summer, 2004


Prayer

Lord, have I been silent enough today?  It is sometimes difficult to be silent and still enough to hear you. The world teaches me that everything is achieved by noise, but God longs to speak with no words. I am still God, speak to me.

Amen

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Gratitude


To be grateful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy, but to be grateful for all our lives–the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the successes as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections–that requires hard spiritual work. Still, we are only truly grateful people when we can say thank you to all that has brought us to the present moment.

~ Henri Nouwen

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Worth the Wait

Advent-WreathWednesday First Week of Advent

 

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and strengthens the powerless.
Even youths will faint and be weary,
and the young will fall exhausted;
but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40: 28-31

God seems to bless those who wait. Waiting is a timeless discipline with eternal rewards. The scripture has many stories of those who waited and learned.

Noah waited for years as he built a boat on dry land and learned the lesson of deliverance. Jonah waited three days in the belly of the fish and learned the lesson of obedience. The prophets waited for centuries to see the Messiah and learned the lesson of faith. Joseph waited in prison and learned the lesson of forgiveness. Zacharias waited to speak and learned the lesson of humility. Anna and Simeon waited a lifetime to see the Savior and learned the lesson of perseverance.

Waiting during the season of Advent can serve as a discipline to teach us many spiritual truths. While waiting we can develop patience and true obedience. We can glimpse the hugeness of God’s love and grace and learn to recognize holiness when we encounter it. Waiting nurtures our compassion and opens our eyes to see others in need. It opens our hearts to service and fosters a freedom to give and encourage others. As we pause and wait for God, we have time to assess our priorities, discover happiness where we are and develop an appreciation for what we have.

Advent is a time to deal with our fears, our anger, our disappointments, and learn to both give and receive forgiveness. It is a time to internalize the cleansing joy of repentance and to know the peace of taking last place. While we wait, we can use the unknown time to realize that living with mystery builds faith, and suffering and sacrifice reveal God to us. While waiting we acquire a dependence on God, we gain hope, and we become sure that while we wait we are never alone.

During Advent, the Church waits to celebrate the first Advent of God into the world and waits for completeness and perfection at the Second Advent. In the waiting, we find our peace.

Reflection – What have you learned from God during those waiting times of your life?
Monica Boudreaux

Worth-the-Wait


Prayer

Lord, teach me the value and virtue of waiting in this impatient world. The prophets of old knew that the things that they proclaimed were not yet evident. As  we proclaim your coming may with do it with confidence and determination. 

Amen

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