1. Switch the Welch’s for Sangria.
2. Attribute everything, from the slightest breeze to the dog’s passing of wind, to the Holy Spirit.
3. Watch the Baptists wait for the liquor store to fix their generator.
4. Tell each other about the time we didn’t have air conditioning when we were growing up.
5. Listen […]
If we would approach men who are in power with humility and reverence, when we want to ask a favor, how much more must we beseech the Lord God of all things with all humility and pure devotion? Remember that it is not for many words, but for the purity of our heart and tears of remorse that we are heard. For this reason, prayers ought to be short and pure, unless they are lengthened by the inspiration of divine grace. At the community exercises, however, let the prayer always be short, and the sign having been given by the Abbot, let all rise together.
The quote I use today is from the Rule of St. Benedict. This rulebook for the monastic life was written by Benedict around 530. Benedict created the rule at a time when the Roman Empire had collapsed in the West, and Europe was being overrun by barbarian tribes. Christianity in Europe appeared to be about finished. He gathered together some faithful men and women who wanted to preserve a remnant of the faith for the future. That scenario is eerily similar to our own day. Today’s Christians are out numbered and declining. We would do well to look to the wisdom of Benedict the monk and his rule of life. Using his rule I offer a few hints about prayer.
When we pray we should be aware of whom we are addressing. We would never presume to be demanding on someone who we respected and admired ,then how much more should we come to God with great humility. An attitude of humble prayer is not demanding or presumptuous. A humble prayer is prayed with the full awareness of who we are and who HE is. A humble prayer is reverent and respectful and presents itself in a spirit of devotion. A humble prayer is set forth in the form of a plea to a merciful God who loves us. Humility is a key factor is our prayer life.
Jesus said, “ When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words.” Somewhere along the way we were given the impression that prayer must be fanciful or lengthy to be valid. This attitude has bred self righteousness in some and fear in others. Because of this attitude there are those who never want to pray and other who enjoy the platitudes that they receive for their “well said” prayers. We are urged to go to God with a pure heart and words that are real to us.
God is not impressed by prayers that are prayed for the sake of an audience and not really to Him. Most of us have experienced showy and lengthy prayers at a church or a study. We then ask ourselves, was that for God or prayed to impress us?
God cannot be goaded into answering prayer. Praying all night will not force God to answer your prayer. Benedict saw prayer as a normal part of your day. The monks prayed in the morning and then went about the work of the day. Later they assembled again for prayer and after went about their work. Prayer was not long and drawn out but a continuous part of their day.
Lord, lead me to a life of humility. Help me to understand how and when to pray. Protect me from my ego and let me see your love. Give me the courage to praise you wherever I am and to know that you are there.
- Sermon: When the World Is Against You, Acts 24 (grantspasschurchofchrist.com)
Rule of St. Benedict Chapter 48
Idleness is the enemy of the soul, and therefore the brethren ought to divide their time between manual labor and devout reading. In the summer then, they should go out at dawn for four hours, to do the necessary work, and then spend two hours reading. Then, after lunch, let them rest in bed in complete silence — or if anyone wants to read for himself, let him read quietly enough not to disturb others. [Reading silently to oneself was almost unheard of.] If, however, the needs of the place, or poverty should require them to do the work of gathering the harvest themselves, let them not be downcast, for then they will be true monks, living by the work of their hands as our forefathers and the Apostles did. However, on account of the faint—hearted let all things be done with moderation. Above all, let one or two of the senior monks be appointed to go about the monastery during the reading time, and look out for any lazy brother giving himself over to idleness or vain talk, being unprofitable to himself and disturbing others. If — God forbid — such a monk is found, let him be punished on the first and second occasions. If he does not change, let him come under the correction of the Rule in such a way that others may fear
When I was a small boy one of the highlights of my summers was the “Waveland Trip” Waveland is a small beach community in Mississippi. My mother’s uncle owned a camp (Southern for beach house) just a block or two from the water. Every June about 20 -25 people packed themselves into that 1000 square foot house on a tiny lot for a grand party. The fare was simple: hamburgers, chips and beer or colas for the adults; and hotdogs, chips and Wyler’s fruit punch for the kids. That was lunch and supper. Breakfast was always an abundant supply of scrambled eggs and grits with some kind of fake orange juice. This place was no resort, but going to the beach was the highlight of my summer. The trip was always short, just Saturday and Sunday, but it was grand. On the way home in a noisy, uncomfortable, non-air conditioned car I thought about next year and how very long it would be before I could return again. A year for a 6 or 8 year old is a lifetime. The last of those trips is now more than 50 years ago. I ask myself how time has sped up so furiously since a little boy’s year was so long?
I now know the importance of redeeming the time. The ability to cherish the moments becomes increasingly important as our years pile up. A few years ago the slogan “Carpe Diem’ was popularized by Christian author, Tony Campolo, in his book by the same name. The expression was first penned by the Roman poet Horace. In his day it meant “Pluck the Day,” but today it is translated as “Seize the Day.” We all want to indeed live each moment with passion and conviction and in the process live life to the fullest. Many years ago an unknown mystic writer pick up on this idea.
You used the correct expression when you said “for the love of Jesus.” The love of Jesus is the source of the help you need. Love’s power brings everything together. Love Jesus, and everything of his becomes yours. As God made time, so God judges our use of time. Tie yourself to Him with love and faith, knitting your relationship together. This way you may become a part of the larger fellowship of those fastened to God by love. You will have friends among the saints and angels who do not waste any time.
— Cloud of Unknowing
“As God made time, so God judges our use of time.” We fail to understand the importance of time usage as we wish away our years as youngsters and as we whist our way through our productive years. If we are to cherish and enjoy the gifts of God we must take the time to be aware of His presence and calling in our lives. The writer asserts that love and faith glue us to God .This relationship opens a tremendous array of opportunities and gifts to us. We have relationships on earth and in the heavens that do not waste time but give themselves fully.
Stop for a moment and do an inventory of what you do with your day. Do you truly seize the moments of beauty, service and joy that come with each day of this extraordinary life that God has given you, or do you spend your day in a furious rush to accomplish a goal or in a funk waiting for the tomorrow that may never come? Somehow I think if we recapture the slowness of the passage of time experienced by a small boy between his trips to Waveland, we could live a richer and fuller life.
Lord help me to live in the moment. Allow me to see the beauty of the flowers and feel the refreshment of the falling rain on a hot summer day. Let me see the innocence in the face of a child and feel the pain in the face of the hurting. May I count my moments in a childlike way that allows my days and years to linger on as I experience your creation.
Many of the thoughts that I share are written at a coffee shop on Oak St. in New Orleans. There is nothing particularly inspiring about the shop. As a matter of fact, it is a bit run down and not the cleanest place in the world. In spite of that, the old shop has a special way of inspiring my thoughts. The reason is that it is an old bank building where my grandfather used to keep his Christmas Club account. Christmas Club accounts have gone out of vogue, but when I was growing up in the 1960’s they were very important. What is a Christmas Club? The Christmas Club is a savings program that was first offered by various banks in the United States during the Great Depression. The concept is that bank customers deposit a set amount of money each week into a special savings account and receive the money back at the end of the year for Christmas shopping. Because of that, every time I stepped into the old bank it was Christmas. I could try to imagine what I might get for Christmas. Somehow the old bank building still gives me a sense of Christmas. I am no longer six but in my sixties, but that old building still does something for me.
Let me share some thoughts from one of my favorite desert monks today. Anthony of Egypt was the founder of the monastic movement. He fled to the desert to find peace with God. People from all over the known world traveled to see him and seek his wisdom. Here is a small portion of advice he give to a young monk, and just maybe to you as well.
“My son, do not stray away from God seeking what is perishable; but rather remember what you have decided in the time of your fervor, and do not forget the seal by which you were purified before. Remember the tears of repentance, and the prayers that were raised on your behalf, and flee from the evil thoughts lest you be lost. My son, leave your bed every night, and wet your bedclothes with your tears, and supplicate to the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, your renewal, and for help in the good deeds so that you may inherit His eternal heavenly kingdom.”
—Anthony of Egypt
When we turn from God and seek the perishable, we forget the seal of our purification. Our salvation was sealed by the sacrifice of Jesus. He put Himself forth for our sins and failures. He who knew no sin became sin. And why -for you and me. Those times when we pursue the perishable treasures of life we forget the wonderful grace of God. Grace purifies that which cannot be purified. There is no other formula by which we can approach God other than grace. The Christian must discern between the perishable and the seal of grace.
We are urged to take time to remember what life was like before God so that we can realize all that He does for us. We come to God through repentance from our rebellion. A truly repentant heart is a tearful one. The monk advises us to remember the tears (feeling) of that time. As we turn around to follow God we are compelled to acknowledge our failures and seek to be more like Him. The tears, literal and symbolic, are a sign of the reality of our confession of faith. Never forget them.
“No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” These words were wisely written by the poet John Donne. Anthony advises us to remember the prayers that were and are offered for us so that we might keep on the right path. Perhaps nothing is more dangerous than forgetting the path that brought us to our present place. We must not forget our origin. That remembrance keeps us humble and allows us to grow. I cherish the prayerful support of all who journey with me. We all need to constantly be reminded that we are surrounded by evil, but we are also consumed in a blanket of prayer protection.
May we spend our days in these remembrances that the wise monk sets forth.
Now Lord, we set ourselves before you. We know from whence we came and the desolation of that place. That seal of salvation that you gave us is such a blessed gift which cannot be replicated or replaced. Our repentance is bathed in the tears of confession and our protection from evil is wrapped in a blanket of prayer. May we go through this day and everyday remembering these blessings.
And the Lord as he seeks the one who will do his work among the throng of people to whom he makes that appeal, says again: Which of you wants to live to the full; who loves long life and the enjoyment of prosperity? And, if when you hear this you say, I do, God says to you: If you desire true and everlasting life, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from deceit, turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. And when you have done these things my eyes will be upon you and before you call upon my name I shall say to you: Behold, I am here. What could be more delightful, dearest brothers, than the voice of our Lord’s invitation to us? In his loving kindness he reveals to us the way of life.
—-Benedict of Nursia
Today I share a few thoughts from The Rule of Benedict of Nursia, founder of the Benedictine monastery at Monte Cassino. Benedict’s main achievement is his “Rule of Saint Benedict” containing precepts for his monks. The Rule has a unique spirit of balance, moderation and reasonableness, and this persuaded most religious communities founded throughout the Middle Ages to adopt it. As a result, his Rule became one of the most influential religious rules in Western Christendom. For this reason, Benedict is often called the founder of western monasticism. Let me share a few thoughts from him about fullness of life.
Who wants to live a full life? The answer is everyone. The problem with fullness of life is where does it originate? Some would say that the key is to be rich or well educated, others would say it comes from being physically fit and strong.
Be honorable and truthful with your words.
Benedict admonishes us to be attentive God’s to call in order to keep our tongues from evil. An evil tongue constantly stirs trouble and wishes ill will to others. The evil tongue never stops looking for the negative in the lives of others. The evil tongue can be very truthful, but it uses truth as a sword to destroy rather than an instrument to build up. Such a tongue is dishonorable.
The second thought is to not be deceitful. In short, tell the truth and don’t make up tall tales to benefit yourself or bring down others. The truthful tongue builds you and all those you touch. Your words will outlive you and bless others.
Doing good is the biggest challenge of our earthly existence. We are surrounded by schemes and schemers. The whole concept of Monasticism was to be free from the pressures of the world and grow closer to God. Good is first sought when we dedicate all that we have and that we are to God. John Wesley said, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” By putting Benedict and Wesley together we can broaden our hope for doing good in our lives. Doing good is a key element to any Christian journey, and I urge you to take some time to assess the good you do or can do.
Seek Peace and Practice It
Benedict said to “seek peace and pursue it.” I would assert that a person who seeks peace will find it and spend a life of peaceful practice. The first challenge is to dedicate our lives to finding peace. The ultimate peace is a sound relationship with God. Through that relationship all problems can be faced and many solved to our good. Without God we are on our own and fending for ourselves in a world that is far too complicated for us ever control. As we practice the peace of God we find that our problems far less complicated, our victories are sweeter and burdens lighter. Jesus said, ”Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” When we attach ourselves to the yoke of God we find His peace and that peace is one that we can practice with joy.
May we seek the life that God has laid up for us and pursue it with all our being.
Lord instill in me the humility to seek you and the courage to find you. Allow me the strength to follow your lead and live a life that is beyond my imagination. I ask for the life that only you can provide. I ask for discernment this day and courage for each day that I follow you
JESUS OF NAZARETH poses a question and a challenge two thousand years after his lifetime. The question is fairly simple: who exactly was he? This includes the questions, What did he think he was up to? What did he do and say, why was he killed, and did he rise from the dead? The challenge is likewise fairly simple: since he called people to follow him, and since people have been trying to do that ever since, what might “following him” entail? How can we know if we are on the right track?
—-from “Simply Jesus” by N. T. Wright
I have recently begun a study group based on N. T. Wright’s Simply Jesus. In his book he attempts to explain what Jesus was up to in historical context to correct the misconceptions of modern skepticism and contemporary conservative Christianity. The goal is to frame Jesus in a way that can be acceptable to all and reach the world with His message of grace.
Over the past several years I have been a real advocate of living a monastic life in the place that we are planted. For most of us it is impossible to escape to a cloistered life. Benedictine Joan Chittister give us her offering in “Monasteries of the Heart.” We longed for peace and escape from the troubled world but are frustrated that we can’t quite pull it off. Joan Chittister offers some ways to accomplish that goal. The article below is offered to us by the Franciscan Richard Rhor and he tells his story. I share it with you today.
In the Franciscan worldview, the Christ can be found everywhere. Nothing is secular or profane. You don’t really “get” the Christ mystery until body and spirit begin to operate as one. Once you see the material and the spiritual working together, everything is holy. The Christ is whenever and wherever the material and the spiritual co-exist—which is always and everywhere! Everything is already “christened”; any anointing, blessing, declaring, or baptizing is just to help us get the point.
I wrote my undergraduate thesis on St. Francis’ break with historic monasticism. When his friars brought up well-established rules for religious life, Francis even went so far as to say “Don’t speak to me of Benedict! Don’t speak to me of Augustine!”  (No offence intended to Benedictines or Augustinians.) Francis believed that the Lord had shown him a different way, one which directly implied that the whole world—not just a single building—was our cloister. He did not need to create a sheltered space. We were to be “friars” instead of monks, living in the midst of ordinary people, in ordinary towns and cities. Franciscan friaries are still usually in the heart of major European and Latin American cities. We didn’t live on the edge of town because Christ is found as much in the middle of civilization as is in quiet retreats and hermitages.
Franciscan theologian Bonaventure (1221-1274) soon debated “secular priests” at the University of Paris, because some of them felt that putting together action and contemplation would not work. We became competitors for the affection of the people, I am afraid. Up until Francis of Assisi (1184-1226), most religious had to choose either a life of action or a life of contemplation. Secular priests worked with people in the parishes. The “true” religious went off to monasteries. Francis said there had to be a way to do both.
It’s as if consciousness wasn’t ready to imagine that it could find God in any way except by going into the desert, into the monastery, away from troubles, away from marriage, away from people. In that very real sense, we see a non-dual mind emerging with the Franciscan movement.
Perhaps you can find a place, interior or exterior that will allow you to cloister and moved towards God. Get in the middle of thing and experience the blessing.
Lead me from death to life,
from falsehood to truth.
Lead me from despair to hope,
from fear to trust.
Lead me from hate to love,
from war to peace.
Let peace fill my heart,
my world, my universe.
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies.
Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.
Happiness depends upon ourselves.
I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is over self.
The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.
Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.
The educated differ from the uneducated as much as the living from the dead.
All men by nature desire knowledge.
Augustine of Hippo
The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
Faith is to believe what you do not yet see; the reward for this faith is to see what you believe.
Since love grows within you, so beauty grows. For love is the beauty of the soul.
You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.
Patience is the companion of wisdom.
God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.
Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.
If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.
Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.
It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.
The Cloud of Unknowing Quotes
“The universes which are amenable to the intellect can never satisfy the instincts of the heart.”
“For I tell you this: one loving, blind desire for God alone is more valuable in itself, more pleasing to God and to the saints, more beneficial to your own growth, and more helpful to your friends, both living and dead, than anything else you could do.”
“And therefore take good heed unto time, how that thou dispendest it: for nothing is more precious than time. In one little time, as little as it is, may heaven be won and lost.”
Perhaps one or more of these quotes can act as a meditation or writing guide to you this week.
Lord, allow me to make the most of the time that you have allotted to me. Let my hours be productive. and my days be meaningful . I trust your grace to bring me through.
Pay attention, then, to how you spend your time. You have nothing more precious than time. In one tiny moment of time, heaven may be gained or lost. God gives us time in sequence, one instant after another and never simultaneously. We only experience the present moment. God never reverses the orderly progression of time. God does not ask for more than we can handle in one moment.
“What can I do? If what you say is true, how can I account for each moment God has already given me?
—The Cloud of Unknowing
“Pay attention to how you spend your time.” Those are the opening words of the wise sage who gave us the wisdom of The Cloud of the Unknowing. Our western culture has taught us to put a monetary value on time. Time, for many people, is a way of measuring productivity. In such thinking, we become slaves to the tick of the clock. We have little time for anything but work and achievement. This writer urges us to be aware of time as a tool that brings us closer to God. When we are so busy with the worldly use of time, God seems to be sidelined. All time is given to us by the Creator and that creator wants us to use it wisely and succinctly. I would suggest that we all have to develop a sense of “God Time.” This is a time that we use to connect ourselves with the Almighty and the souls that surround us. Let me share some observations about living in “God Time.”
· TIMES IS PRECIOUS – “Time is your most precious gift, because you only have a set amount of it.” (Rick Warren) Do we live our lives as though that is true? Do we cherish the each moment that God has granted to us? The Psalmist cries out, “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” We are all told from time to time to live each day as if it was our last. As we begin to realize that that our time is finite in this world, we begin to move closer to God.
· TIME IS SEQUENTIAL– . The concept of time being sequential and orderly allows us to live each moment. The phrase Carpe Diem (seize the day) was popularized a few years ago. We can all live better and more productive lives if we live and cherish each moment and see the next moment as an opportunity. In one tiny moment heaven may be won or lost. In that same moment a life may be saved or change irrevocably. Always be aware that time is sequential-orderly and cannot be rushed or slowed. We live in the flow.
· TIME IS NOW.—The only thing we can really effect is the task that is in front of us right now. Opportunities really don’t repeat themselves. We can never relive a single moment of time. Sci-fi writers have spent a great amount of creativity imagining time machines and portals that allow us to go into the future or return to the past. Invariably time travelers are trying fix a mistake of the past or bring something back from the future that will make life better in the here and now. When you wake up in the morning there is no past you can relive that you can change or future you can truly predict, there is only the wonderful day you have be given to live in the moment. Remember, each tick of the clock is important
· TIME IS ALWAYS UP TO THE TASK – God never gives us more than we can handle in the ticks of the clock that are allotted to us. Paul the Apostle tells us,” No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.” God always give us the time to work through things as necessary. The challenge is to use it.
Lord, teach me to not only count my days but to count my minutes. Let each tick of the clock be an opportunity to get closer to You or to be of service to my neighbor. May you guide me to lead a live well planned and well executed for your glory and my good.