Loving tenderness abounds for all
from the darkest
to the most eminent one beyond the stars,
Exquisitely loving all
she bequeaths the kiss of peace
upon the ultimate King.
– Hildegard of Bingen
Jesus tell us : … Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall 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, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’ There is none greater. Many of us spend our lives searching for the best way to live a godly life but Jesus gives us a truly simplistic answer – love God , our neighbors and – just as important – ourselves. We are horrible at loving ourselves and finding neighbors to love is an almost impossible task.
Let us begin at the beginning – love God. If we are to love God we have to begin by acknowledging Him as our creator and the sustaining power of our lives. We must put aside the notion that was are masters of our own destiny and give Him credit for who He is. We love God by staying in touch with Him through prayer and listening His Spirit when He answers our prayers. That is a beginning of love for God.
Love our neighbors – We dream of the perfect neighbor and we never find them. That because we are looking in the wrong place. Our concept of neighbor is physical proximity but God has something much greater in mind. My wife told me a story about meeting a neighbor at McDonalds recently. She enter the restaurant and ordered food for herself and two of our grandchildren. There was a somewhat disheveled lady who later ordered a cup of coffee and a very small amount of ice cream. Soon it was evident that she was receiving her food out of the generosity of the restaurant staff. On her way out my wife asked her if she was hungry and needed help to buy a meal, her reply was “no.” as my wife proceeded to the car she noticed that she was followed by the lady who then approached her with these words, “Neighbor I didn’t really tell you the truth because I am hungry – Can you help me?” My wife accommodated and she replied, “Thanks, neighbor.” That is the kind of neighbor Jesus was talking about. A lady that is down and out by our standards understands God’s concept of neighbor. That lady is my neighbor as well and I didn’t say it was going to be easy to love your neighbor.
Love yourself – “..Love your neighbor AS YOURSELF.” People who cannot love themselves find it impossible love others. Did you know that suicide was the seventh leading cause of death among adolescents in 2013? (CDC stats) The National Institute Mental Health estimates that in the United States, 16 million adults had at least one major depressive episode in 2012. That’s 6.9 percent of the population. Wow! We are not loving ourselves very much. The key to self is recognizing our worth in God’s eyes. He created us, He redeems us, and He watches out for us. That makes you and your neighbor worth loving.
The challenge is simple learn to love God because of who He is and what He has done and I believe the rest of the puzzle will come together.
Lord give me the vision to recognize your loving tenderness in the beauty that surrounds me. Allow me to see it in the life giving nature of the morning dew and the majesty of the setting sun. Such a realization will lead me to love You more and to love and care for myself and my neighbor. Might I see the majesty of all your creation – especially we humans who are the crown of all creation. Help me to discover Your brand of love and make it mind.
Someone asked Abba Anthony, “What must one do in order to please God?” The old man replied, “Pay attention to what I tell you: whoever you may be, always have God before your eyes, whatever you do, do it according to the testimony of the Holy Scriptures; in whatever place you live do not easily leave it. Keep these three precepts and you will be saved.”
—–Antony of Egypt
This statement begs the question, how do we always have God before our eyes? God is before our eyes when we worship and pray. The monk is telling us that our lives should be bathed in worship and prayer. In these practices we can find the face and heart of God.
The Psalmist writes, children sing -“the Bible is a lamp unto my and a light unto my path.” The monk advises that this simple instruction is one of the keys to pleasing God. Today’s world seems to have neither light nor path. Antony steers us to the lighted path of Holy Scripture.
Monks call this one stability. Our transient, temporary society is floundering for lack of stability. Marriages crumble, jobs are abandoned, work goes unfinished, all because we are not willing to commit ourselves to being in for the long haul. Pleasing God requires that we develop stay power – the type that settles us in long enough to walk through the valley that precedes the mountain.
The words of this monk of old can take us a long way today.
Lord help me to know how to live this day. May I have the unction to keep you before my eyes in the midst of the many distractions of this life. Help me to look to the scriptures when confusion and disarray come my way. Let your scriptural light- light my way. Allow me to find peace in the place that you have provided for me. In finding that peace, I then can become a blessing to others.
Twentieth century existential psychologist Rollo May said, “It is an old and ironic habit of human beings to run faster when we have lost our way.” The more I think about that statement, the closer I get to full agreement with Dr. May. We often think that the faster we work, the quicker we can solve a seemingly unsolvable problem. How many times do we find ourselves lost in our problems and never stop long enough to evaluate our options? In my life I can recall times that I didn’t know where I was or what I was doing there, but I continued to busy my life with frantic activity.
After a very tiring day of ministry, Jesus said to his disciples; “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” He had found himself in a situation where rest was necessary for more ministry to follow. In the same way, we can lose ourselves in good things, works that make a difference, and literally become exhausted and unable to accomplish our goals. In these times we are lost, and hurried activities will not solve our lostness.
We must allow ourselves “breathing space” to think, to rest and to find ourselves. Never have I heard a story of a lost person who found his way by moving faster, but often we find our center as we slow down. If you find yourself feeling lost or overwhelmed, take time to do an inventory. Breathing space can make all the difference in the world.
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
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.
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 frightening, 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.
What has Christ helped you pass through?
Some years ago, when Leonard Griffith was pastor of the famous City Temple in London, he wrote a fascinating book entitled Barriers to Christian Belief. In that book he dealt with some problems that have over the years been real obstacles and stumbling blocks for people in their faith pilgrimage… specific problems that hinder people, that burden people, that disturb people… and keep them away from the Christian faith. One of the barriers he listed was…”unanswered prayer.” It does seem to be a fact of our experience that many people do get discouraged and they do give up and drop out on the faith because they feel a sense of failure in their prayer life.
This leads us to ask then… “How do you pray?” “Why pray at all?” “When do you pray?” “Is there a special formula or a sacred language that should be used?” One thing is clear. There are many questions and there is much misunderstanding about how you pray and why. In a Peanuts cartoon Charlie Brown is kneeling beside his bed for prayer. Suddenly he stops and says to Lucy, “I think I’ve made a new theological discovery, a real breakthrough. If you hold your hands upside down, you get the opposite of what you pray for.”
Prayer must be more than an emergency magical lamp rubbed in a crisis. The truth is that many people give up on prayer because they never understand what prayer is. Much that passes for prayer is irrational, superstitious, and self-centered, and is therefore unworthy of the pattern of the prayer that Jesus offered to us his disciples.
How do you pray and why? We are not the first to ask. The disciples of Jesus
came to Him one day and said, “Lord, teach us. Teach us to pray!” Notice something here. When did the disciples ask for this? When did they make this request? Was it after Jesus gave a lecture on prayer? No! Was it after Jesus led a seminar on prayer? No! Was it after Jesus preached a powerful sermon on prayer? No! None of these. Remember how it is recorded in Luke 11… “Jesus was praying in a certain place and when he finished, they said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray.'” They saw the power of prayer in Him. They saw how important prayer was to Him. See the point. Harry Emerson Fosdick stresses it in his book, The Secret of Victorious Living. “Note that this awakened interest in prayer came not at all from new arguments about it, but from a new exhibition of its power. Here, before their very eyes, they saw a personality in whom prayer was vital and influential! The more they lived with him, the more they saw that they could never explain him or understand him unless they understood his praying and so not at all because of new arguments, but because of amazing spiritual power released in him by prayer. They wanted him to tell them how to pray.”
The disciples sometimes were slow to learn, but at this point they were quickly and precisely on target. They saw in Jesus the answer to this question: how do we pray and why do we pray? And they learned from Him what the elements are that lead to a meaningful prayer life.
Filed under Jesus, Prayer
The peace Jesus gives to us through the Holy Spirit is more than we can ever imagine.
- Peace means the cessation of all warfare, but it also means much more.
- Peace means a feeling of inner well-being, but it also means much more.
- Peace means an end to psychological tensions, but it also means much more.
- Peace means halting interpersonal conflicts, but it also means much more.
- Peace means the settling of silence on the soul, but it also means much more.
In Valyermo, California , the Benedictines converted a 400-acre ranch into a religious community called St. Andrew’s Priory. As you enter the grounds, you find that the land is posted: “No Hunting Except for Peace.”
The world is hunting for peace. What will we give it?
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
Jesus our peace, if our lips keep silence, our heart listens to you and also speaks to you. And you say to each one of us: surrender yourself in all simplicity to the life of the Holy Spirit; for this, the little bit of faith you have is enough. Amen
- The Spirit Speaks – of Courage (histruthwillsetyoufree.wordpress.com)
In the happy night, in secret, when none saw me, nor I beheld anyone, without light or guide, except that which burned in my heart. This light guided me more surely than the light of noonday to the place where He was awaiting me.
— John of the Cross
I think that we all yearn for a “heart light” that will lead us directly to God. Life is far too hard and confusing for us to figure our own path to God, so he gives us a special light that only we can see. This light can be passed on to none or borrowed by no one. God gives it to the ones who have chosen to follow Him.
John of the Cross says that it is brighter than the light of the brightest day. The light that our Creator places in us when we acknowledge His grace exceeds anything we can imagine. This light takes us to the place that He has prepared for us before we were born.
The problem is that we travel this road in the dark night of this world. In that night we are surrounded by “light eaters”, that is, forces and powers that want us to turn away from our inner light. These forces manifest themselves in a great variety of ways. Such forces can be a friendly voice that steers us in the wrong direction or a tragic circumstance that leads us to doubt God. We are assured of this by the writer of Hebrews …“We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain.” We travel in the night but not in darkness.
Lord help me this day to discover that heart light that dwells dormant within me. With that discovery, I will surely touch the hem of your garment and receive healing of the soul. Amen