Tag Archives: Christian contemplation

The Internal Desert

When St. Anthony entered to the internal desert, the demons watched him dauntingly, 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.

—Sayings of Anthony of the Desert


There is hardly one among us who would not like to escape a, place, problem or Anthony-Saying-6-27-18person that seems to bring out the worst in us. The early Christian monks left the responsibilities, and perhaps liabilities, of living in the world and sought blessing in the remoteness of the desert. Escape from a place was only the beginning of the pilgrimage.

After Anthony had sold all that he had and escaped to the solitude of the desert, he found a new desert to conquer. That was what he called the internal desert. We can escape people, places, and things but eventually, we have to deal with ourselves. We must not deal with our utter hopelesInternal-Desertsness without God ‘s grace. The evil presence in the monk challenged him by saying that he could never defeat them. Anthony knew that this was so true. He did, however, know how to accomplish this victory. He prayed “strengthen me in my weakness.” With that prayer, the monk admitted that he was unable to overcome the evil that beset him but needed to acknowledge the dryness of his own spirit. He cried out for God to help him fight even the smallest of foes. The wonderful thing is that when he prayed this prayer of weakness, he found the relief that he sought. He moved into the “internal desert” which allowed him to rely upon God for his needs. As followers of Jesus, we must reach this internal desert reality. How can we know we are on the path to the internal desert?

  • The Jesus follower who reaches the internal desert admits fragility.
  • The Jesus follower who reaches the internal desert puts aside accomplishment.
  • The Jesus follower who reaches the internal desert admits sin.
  • The Jesus follower who reaches the internal desert speaks to God.
  • The Jesus follower who reaches the internal desert knows the difference between suffering and abandonment.
  • The Jesus follower who reaches the internal desert knows the devil is real.

Let us strive to make this journey to our internal desert and never forget –

LORD JESUS CHRIST, SON OF GOD, HAVE MERCY ON ME, A SINNER.


PRAYER

Lord, as I journey to the desert of my heart help me to see the things that hold me back May I learn to recognize weakness and know that is in my weakness that God is strong.

AMEN

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Lent Day 30

March 20

Lifted Up

John 12:21-30

They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

“Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine.


Prayer Thought

Lord, we want to see you clearly so we might follow you nearly. Give us the grace to see you.


Condemn no man for not thinking as you think. Let every one enjoy the full and free liberty of thinking for himself. Let every man

Stripped image of John Wesley

Stripped image of John Wesley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

use his own judgment, since every man must give an account of himself to God. Abhor every approach, in any kind or degree, to the spirit of persecution, if you cannot reason nor persuade a man into the truth, never attempt to force a man into it. If love will not compel him to come, leave him to God, the judge of all.”

—– John Wesley


 

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Lent Day 26

March 15

Receive Life

John 5:31-47

‘If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. There is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that his testimony to me is true. You sent messengers to John, and he testified to the truth. Not that I accept such human testimony, but I say these things so that you may be saved.He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. But I have a testimony greater than John’s. The works that the Father has given me to complete, the very works that I am doing, testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified on my behalf. You have never heard his voice or seen his form, and you do not have his word abiding in you, because you do not believe him whom he has sent.

‘You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life. I do not accept glory from human beings. But I know that you do not have the love of God in you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; if another comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe when you accept glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the one who alone is God? Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; your accuser is Moses, on whom you have set your hope. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But if you do not believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?’


Prayer Thought

Lord, we search for life and liberty in so many places when it is right in front of us.


 

Julian-1He [Jesus] did not say, ‘You will never have a rough passage, you will never be over-strained, you will never feel uncomfortable,’ but he did say, ‘You will never be overcome.

——-Julian of Norwich

 

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Lent Day 13

 

February 28

In God’s Hands

Psalm 31:5-6,14-16
Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.

You hate those who pay regard to worthless idols, but I trust in the Lord.

But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.”

My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.

Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.


Prayer Thought
Lord, commitment is a difficult thing but I know that you are faithful and will see me through the hardest of times.


, American religious figure.

, American religious figure. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Make sure of your commitment to Jesus Christ, and seek to follow Him every day. Don’t be swayed by the false values and goals of this world, but put Christ and His will first in everything you do.
—-Billy Graham

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Lent Day 7

February 21

Receive Forgiveness

Luke 11:29-32

29 When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, ‘This generation is an evil generation; it asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. 30For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so the Son of Man will be to this generation. 31The queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here! 32The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here!


Prayer

Lord, help us to take sin serious this and every day so that we are moved to repent and be forgiven.

 

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Lent Day 6

February 20

Forgive Our Debts

Matthew 6:7-15

7 ‘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.8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

9 ‘Pray then in this way:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.

10
   Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

11
   Give us this day our daily bread.
12
   And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13
   And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one.

14For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; 15
but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.


Prayer Thought

Lord, help me to look at others with forgiving mercy.

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Lent Day 5

February 19

Inherit the Kingdom

Matthew 25:31-46

31 ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” 37Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” 40And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” 41Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” 44Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” 45Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” 46And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’ 


 

Prayer Thought

Lord, guide me to those who are the “least” and give me the drive to serve them.

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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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Seeing the Inside

One day when he was sitting in front of the church, the brethren were consulting him about their thoughts. One of the old men who saw it became a prey to jealousy and said to him, ‘John, your vessel is full of poison.’ Abba John said to him, ‘That is very true, Abba; and you have said that when you only see the outside, but if you were able to see the inside, too, what would you say then?’

—-Abba John the Dwarf

We only reveal to others what we want them to see. All of us have to deal with the jealousy of people who envy us for one reason or another. This saying deals with just such a situation. I cannot know what it was that motivated the brother to be jealous of John, but I do admire John’s answer. He is saying, “You ought to see how really bad I am on the inside.” We all have filters that limit what we let others see of our true selves. God sees all and offers grace to us.

The lesson is one of refraining from jealousy, envy and judgment, because we contemplation-acan never really know. Our worse bouts of jealously and envy come from only what we can see – the outside. God, on the other hand, sees the in and out of all of His creation. Even though He knows the worst of us, He gives us the best of Himself. That sort of servanthood is something that we are taught by the sacrifice that God made through Jesus. God knows us and loves us. God sees all and yet He finds the grace that allows forgiveness rather than the jealously that we harbor toward one another.

In Rudyard Kipling’s “Gunga Din” he finally acknowledges the worth of a servant by saying..

Though I’ve belted you and flayed you,

By the livin’ God that made you,

You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!

It takes an awful lot to acknowledge the true worth of an individual, but God does.

Prayer

Dear Lord help me to stop looking at the exterior of persons around me and using that criteria to deem myself as more worthy. Release me from the bondage to jealously and envy and set me free to soar with you. Help me to see in others what you see in me. Give me the humility necessary to be a servant and the confidence to carry out the task.

Amen

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The Bitter Conflict

We are caught in a bitter conflict between flesh and spirit. Jesus has delivered us from sin, but not from the weaknesses and desires of the flesh. We have to reproduce in our life the Cross of Christ so that, have died sacramentally to sin in baptism, we may also put to death sin in our flesh by restraining our evil desires and bad tendencies. This is the basis of monastic asceticism. (Or the Christian walk)

—-Thomas Merton from Basic Principles of Monastic Spirituality

There is not one among us who has not felt the tug of war caused by the conflict of flesh and spirit. This conflict of soul lives in everyone, and the battle rages with little relief. As we face this reality and own it, the conflict takes on a new aspect. The acknowledgement of our fleshly weaknesses allows us to turn to the spirit that is promised by Jesus. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.(John 14:26) Through this spirit we can achieve small victories over our desires, but we have to work at it, and be vigilant.

Prayer young manMerton points to a very important, and the often neglected reality of sacramental grace. Through our baptism the community lift us up so that we might die to sin. That grace is an important tool in our battle with the flesh, and one that should not be neglected. When the congregation (community) says, “-we will so order our lives after the example of Christ, that this child, surrounded by steadfast love, may be established in the faith-” that pledge is the communion of saints in action. We must never abandon the strength that can be garnered from the sacramental community.

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