Tag Archives: Christian

Knowledge and Imagination

Ephesians-3.20

You only need a tiny scrap of time to move toward God. This brief moment produces the stirring that embodies the greatest work of your soul. How many desires can fill an hour? You may have as many desires as there are indivisible fractions of time in an hour.

God will forever remain incomprehensible to the knowing power. Through loving power, however, each of us may know God.

…The Cloud of Unknowing

We all seek to know God in special ways. The desire for such knowledge comes with our birth. For from that day on, we continue to grow in our thirst for the mystery of life. Here are a few insights from chapter 4 of The Cloud of Unknowing

  • If God were to bless you with absolute control of your will, you would have a constant awareness of heavenly bliss.
  • Pay attention, then, to how you spend your time. You have nothing more precious than time.
  • The past remains as far beyond my reach as the future.
  • Apply yourself diligently to both prayer and community responsibilities.
  • Tie yourself to him with love and faith, knitting your relationship together.
  • Leave your senses and your imagination at rest, because there is no function for them here.

PRAYER

Lord help me as I search for You. Give me the insight to recognize the small glimpses of your glory as the swish pass me. May I never seek to fully understand your glory but bask in the small measure of it that you reveal to and through me. Let me cherish each moment that you have given me and make those moments as precious as gold.

Amen

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Light and Life

It is no small pity, and should cause us no little shame, that, through our own fault, we do not understand ourselves, or know who we are. Would it not be a sign of great ignorance, my daughters,(Christians) if a person were asked who he was, and could not say, and had no idea who his father or his mother was, or from what country he came? Though that is great stupidity, our own is incomparably greater if we make no attempt to discover what we are, and only know that we are living in these bodies, and have a vague idea, because we have heard it and because our Faith tells us so, that we possess souls. As to what good qualities there may be in our souls, or Who dwells within them, or how precious they are — those are things which we seldom consider and so we trouble little about carefully preserving the soul’s beauty. All our interest is centered in the rough setting of the diamond, and in the outer wall of the castle — that is to say, in these bodies of ours.

— Teresa of Avila

Long ago the mystic Teresa of Avila told the sister of her convent a simple fact that so eludes us today. We are all self-centered. So much energy is expended in keeping our bodies in shape, building our self-images, removing negativity from our lives and tracing our ancestors that we give little thought to the soul that God created. Each of us is a living soul created in the image of God. Before you ask, I cannot define precisely what the image of God is. If I could, I would be God. I will say that God created us in His image so that we might be light and life to this world.

We bring light and life by recognizing the beauty that He has created. Self-love is a good place to begin. Without self-love it is impossible to love anyone else. The scripture says, He (Jesus) said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as YOURSELF.” Self-loathing and self-hatred are poison. These two rob us of our very souls and allow the evil one to become master of our lives as he promises to fix things. We are tempted to blame others for our failures and lack of success. If our relationships seem to be going wrong then it just has to be someone else’s fault. Maybe it is God’s fault because He created us after all. Our challenge is to see the beautiful soul that He created, and the beauty of the other souls that surround us.

The attitude of beauty allows us to be overcomers. Power is allotted by our creator for us to face the challenges of the world and to help others do the same. The life of a soul who recognizes its worth beyond this body is invincible. That soul has the ability to accept forgiveness and to give forgiveness, the ability to understand that humility is not self-depreciation, and the courage to stand tall when all others are shrinking away. Such behavior can make us heroes, role models and leaders. We can become modern day “Pied Pipers” for the love of God. The world love the one who marches to the beat of a different drummer.

Let us move inward to the greater part that God put in us. Let us discover that when we are marching to the “God beat” of our lives we are so much more that what we can see. Relish the mystery that YOU are a living soul created by God. Stop trying to analyze things and just live life in the spirit which allows us to be the light and life of the world.


Prayer

Lord help me to put down the crutches of self-sufficiency and self-hatred. These are mere excuses that hold me back from discovering my true potential as a soul created by God. It is not easy to trust in something I cannot see or explain but it is key to becoming all that I can be.

Amen

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The Conflict of Soul

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, having 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

Baptism

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.

Merton points to a very important and the often neglected reality of sacramental grace. Through our baptism the community lifts us up so that we 1-18-17-Postmight 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.

We must all desire to be a part of the sacramental community that has been provided for us. Regular church attendance and partaking of communion is an essential means of grace. Our very participation in times of worship allows us to receive the grace that so freely flows when the community is gathered together for word and sacrament. Seize every opportunity that you can to be a part of your sacramental community. Our strength is boosted by the community.


Prayer

Lord help me this very day to resist the temptations that surround me. Give me the foresight to garner the grace that you so freely provide, for it is that grace that strengthens me in times of need and temptation. I ask you to protect and strengthen me for the journey that is mine.

Amen

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A Word for Me

I have always been fond of the words of the Gospels and have found more recollection in them than in the most carefully planned books. If I keep close to this Master of wisdom, He may perhaps give me some thoughts which will help you. I do not say that I will explain these Divine prayers, for that I should not presume to do, and there are a great many explanations of them already. Even were there none, it would be ridiculous for me to attempt any.

…….Teresa of Avila

The words of the gospels have more recollection than the most carefully planned books. This observation of Teresa of Avila was made long ago and yet it resonates in our day. We have a plethora of books, websites, blogs and digital downloads that clamor for our attention and promise to make life grand and Teresa-1glorious. All that said, the words of the gospel can speak volumes to us today. In times of trouble, in times of need such words can be an anchor to the otherwise shifting sands of life. Teresa referred to the gospels as prayers. They are “God prayers” directed to us.

Just like Teresa I cannot begin to dissect or explain why these prayers/words are still so relevant. I can say that they are still real and reliable. The truth of the gospel is not subject to popularity or current event relevance. The Gospel stands head and shoulders above all else. There is not a subject vital to life that escapes discussion in the Word. God covered the bases for us.

The tragic mistake made by unnumbered generations is to try to improve on the perfection of God’s revealed Word. Gospel means “good news’ and the news of our redemptive and grace-filled God can never be changed or improved. By this assertion I do not mean to engage in the age old “inerrancy and infallibility “arguments that have squandered the real gift of the Gospel. The gospel is God’s living word to YOU; its speaks to YOU in the ways that YOU need. The voice of God can say different things to different people and all these revelations are true. The singular interpretation of scripture leads to broken relations, war and even murder – all these horrible things done in the name of God. I urge you to read the scripture and let it act as your personal guide to life. Let us allow the words of the gospel to guide us in the way we should go. Look at Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as your personal life coaches. The words that they write are like text messages received from a close friend. Treasure them and remember them by applying them to your life. The world has spent far too much time interpreting the Word rather than applying it to our individual lives.

Here are a few topics and quotes from the Gospel of Matthew –

Compassion and Forgiveness

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors […] For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:12-15)

But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. (Matthew 9:36)

Hypocrisy

Therefore when you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. (Matthew 6:2)

When you fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. (Matthew 6:16)

Sin

And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21)

He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad. Wherefore I say unto you, ALL MANNER OF SIN AND BLASPHEMY SHALL BE FORGIVEN UNTO MEN: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. (Matthew 12:30-31)

Those are but a few topics from the Gospel of Matthew that require no interpretation or explanation but only application.


Prayer

Lord help me this day to allow your Gospel to speak to me as thought it was written exclusively for me. I ask you to cast out all my thoughts of distance from you and invite an intimate closeness that you desire. That closeness will allow your words to speak in every situation in which I find myself. May I know that you are present and have the best in store for me. Lord give me the faith and patience to believe and endure.

Amen

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What Would You Do?

I have heard this story shared many times and ways over the years. Let us take heart that there was greater good in the world then and that is still the case today. Here these words about the colorful Mayor LaGuardia of New York. (By the way, he was a Republican)

Fiorello LaGuardia was mayor of New York City during the Depression, and he  LaGuardia-picwas quite a character. He would ride the city fire trucks, take entire orphanages to baseball games and whenever the city newspapers went on strike, he would get on the radio and read the Sunday “funnies” to the children.

On a bitter cold winter’s night in 1935, Mayor LaGuardia turned up in a night court that served the poorest ward in the city, he dismissed the judge for the evening and took over the bench himself. After he heard a few cases, a tattered old woman was brought before him, accused of stealing a loaf of bread.

She told LaGuardia that her daughter’s husband had deserted her, her daughter was sick and her grandchildren were starving. But the shopkeeper, from whom the bread was stolen, insisted on pressing charges. “My store is in a very bad neighborhood, your honor,” he said. “She’s got to be punished in order to teach other people a lesson.”

The mayor sighed. He turned to the old woman and said, “I’ve got to punish you,” he said. “The law makes no exception – ten dollars or ten days in jail.”
But even as he spoke, LaGuardia was reaching into his pocket and pulling out a ten dollar bill. “Here is the woman’s fine,” he said, “and furthermore, I’m going to fine everyone in this court room fifty cents for living in a city where a person has to steal bread so that her grandchildren can eat. Mr. Bailiff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant.”

The following day, the New York Times reported that $47.50 was turned over to the bewildered old woman. It was given by the red-faced store owner, some seventy petty criminals, people with traffic violations and city policemen – and they all gave their mayor a standing ovation as they
handed over their money.

What a great story!

That’s how it should be with Jesus followers. Jesus said: “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.” After he uttered these words they ran him out of Nazareth. I wonder what would happen Jesus-Captivesif a Mayer of New York would do what La Guardia today? Would he be applauded? Would there be negative headlines in the NYT? In our “me” society, I ask you to consider the way YOU treat the poor and the disenfranchised? Let us practice true compassion in our daily walk.

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Bigger than Christianity

I share this meditation from Richard Rhor the founder and director of The Center for Action and Contemplation. I hope you find it as stimulating as I did.

Irvin

The “Christ Mystery” is much bigger than Christianity as an organized religion. If we don’t understand this, Christians will have little ability to make friends 00058_christ_pantocrator_mosaic_hagia_sophia_656x800with, build bridges to, understand, or respect other religions or the planet. Jesus did not come to create a country club or a tribe of people who could say, “We’re in and you’re out. We’ve got the truth and you don’t.” Jesus came to reveal something that was true everywhere, for everyone, and all the time.

Many Christians have a very limited understanding of Jesus’ historical or social message, and almost no understanding of the Cosmic Christ—even though it is taught clearly in Scripture (see John 1, Colossians 1, Ephesians 1, 1 John 1, Hebrews 1:1). Christ is often taught at the very beginning of Paul’s and other New Testament authors’ writings, yet we still missed it. But you can’t see what you were never told to look for. Once you do see the shape and meaning of this cosmic mystery of Divine Incarnation, you’ll be able to see that the Presence is everywhere—and the archetypal Jesus will not be such an anomaly, accident, or surprise.

God is saving everything and everybody, it is all God’s emerging victory, until, as Paul says, “God will be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28). If Christ is truly the “savior of the world” (see John 4:42), then God’s shape, form, meaning, and message are all far bigger than any single religion. Talking to the intellectual Athenians, Paul is wise enough to say: “God is not far from any of us. It is in him [sic] that we live and move and have our very being” (Acts 17:28).

St. Augustine writes that through love we come to be in “the frame of the body of Christ” so that in the end “there shall be one Christ, loving himself.” [1] You are chosen in Christ (see Ephesians 1:4), and the purpose of being chosen is to let everyone else know that they too are chosen! We are not making a triumphal statement about the Christian religion here, but we are making a triumphal statement about the nature of Divine Love—which will finally win the day!

Loving both Jesus and the Christ is essential to a Christian’s growth and transformation. You might begin with one or the other, but eventually you should be drawn to love both. Too many Christians have started and stopped with Jesus, never coming to know the Universal Christ. Many who are not Christian have started with the Christ by some other name—after all, there is only One God, One Love. I have met Hindus and Jews who live happily and fruitfully inside this hidden Christ Mystery, and I have met many Roman Catholics and Protestants who are running away from any notion of an all-pervading, loving Presence. Their stinginess and exclusivity gives it away.

You can have the right words and not the right experience, whereas if you enjoy the right experience, the right words are of much less importance. God did not become Incarnate Love in the universe to create “word police” and debating societies.

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My Take on Julian of Norwich

In our world of narrowing down what God does or who he loves, I share with you some of my observations from Julian of Norwich’s Revelations of Divine Love.

  • God still does miracles. He intervenes actively in our lives. These are usually preceded by very rough times.
  • God cannot be manipulated by prayer. Asking the intercession of saints, and trying to make prayer more effective by citing arguments or mentioning special things or events, are not helpful. Prayer is effective when it is the result of God wanting a person to receive something, and putting the content of the prayer into the person’s mind. Julian seems well-aware that this sounds as problematic as all other accounts of the power of prayer.
  • God still issues calls to individuals. Apparently He does not call the “beautiful people”, whose lives and abilities seem perfect, for special assignments. Instead, he chooses the obviously flawed individuals, peopleJulian-All-is-well who get ridiculed for some reason by others through no fault of their own.
  • Christ reveals Himself to living persons.  When He does, He is always a warm, intimate, and “courteous” friend. This increases their faith tremendously, and they in turn are called to share this revelation with others. Julian was one such person, and she expressed the hope that people would not consider her a celebrity or focus on her, but on Christ.
  • The Jewish people will be saved. Julian asked about the good Jewish people and whether they would be saved. It is clear that she was told “Yes”, because right after she mentions this, she adds a few paragraphs saying how she was sure that nothing in the revelation contradicted anything she’d been taught in church

    Prayer

     

    Lord give us hearts of inclusiveness that allow us to live with people as you love them. The world seeks to splinter and divide your creation and  we know that you came to bring us together and show us a better way.

    You want all who are called to serve you.

    You offer miracles of grace and healing to those who seek them.

    Lets us open our eyes and just see.

     

    Amen


“And in this he showed me a little thing, the quantity of a hazel nut, lying Julian-in-her-cell-1in the palm of my hand, as it seemed. And it was as round as any ball. I looked upon it with the eye of my understanding, and thought, ‘What may this be?’ And it was answered generally thus, ‘It is all that is made.’ I marveled how it might last, for I thought it might suddenly have fallen to nothing for littleness. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasts and ever shall, for God loves it. And so have all things their beginning by the love of God.

 

In this little thing I saw three properties.

  • The first is that God made it.
  • The second that God loves it.
  • And the third, that God keeps it.”

—–Julian of Norwich

Read more of about Julian of Norwich

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The Leaky Sack

A brother committed a fault. A council was called to which Moses was invited, but he refused to go to it. Then the priest sent someone to him, saying, “Come, for everyone is waiting for you”. So he got up and went. He took a sack, filled it with sand and cut a small hole at the bottom and carried it on his shoulders. The others came out to meet him and said, “What is this, father” The Abba said to them, “My sins run out behind me, and I do not see them, and today I am coming to judge the errors of another.” When they heard that, they said no more to the brother but forgave him.

—–Abba Moses of the Desert

If I were to say that we live in a judgmental world, it would be a surprise to no one. We are surrounded by people who make judgments on everything from the call of a referee at last Sunday’s football game to the right of someone to call themselves an American. People very neatly set up boundaries that give them permission to judge, and we just love being in the seat of judgment. From that seat we are a notch above everyone else, and it sure feels good. Jesus said: “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Abba Moses took the saying of Jesus very seriously. He was so mindful of his own sin that he knew he couldn’t possibly sit in judgment of another. His lessonabba-moses of the sack with the hole in it drives home an important point. We don’t see our own sins very clearly, how can we clearly see the sins of others? Our lives consist of a series of successes and failures that make up our journey towards God. Just as the monk didn’t see that going to a meeting of judgment was appropriate, we need to begin to get a glimpse of what is the true calling of the Christ follower. Our present age conditions us to see ourselves as far more the judges of the world rather than the light of the world.

The symbol of the leaky sack is to remind us that sins are not always seen by those who commit them and our sin is never far away from us. We do leave a trail of sin in our daily walk. That trail, however, is covered by grace that come from God’s love for us. We, in turn, need to understand grace so that we might fully receive such a gift and pass it on to others. That is the lesson of the leaking sack.


Prayer

Oh Lord, why does the wisdom of forgiveness escape us so readily? It seems so very difficult to empty ourselves of the baggage we carry. This baggage blinds us from the reality of our own weaknesses and frailty and drives us to a life of false righteousness. Help me, Lord, to tend to my own sin and allow me to live into a peace with You and my fellow sinners.

Amen

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When I Say I Am a Christian

 This is a poem I shared in a recent sermon. I share it with you

“When I say, ‘I am a Christian,’ I’m not shouting, ‘I’ve been saved!’

I’m whispering, ‘I get lost!’ That’s why I chose this way.

 

When I say ‘I am a Christian,’ I don’t speak with human pride.

I’m confessing that I stumble – needing God to be my guide.

 

When I say ‘I am a Christian,’ I’m not trying to be strong.

I’m professing that I’m weak and pray for strength to carry on.

 

When I say ‘I am a Christian,’ I’m not bragging of success.

I’m admitting that I’ve failed and cannot ever pay the debt.

 

When I say, ‘I am a Christian,’ I don’t think I know it all.

I submit to my confusion asking humbly to be taught.

 

When I say ‘I am a Christian,’ I’m not claiming to be perfect.

My flaws are far too visible, but God believes I’m worth it.

 

When I say, ‘I am a Christian,’ I still feel the sting of pain.

I have my share of heartache which is why I seek His name.

Carol Wimmer

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Relationship Matters

A brother said to Abba Anthony,’Pray for me.’The old man said to him, ‘I will have no mercy upon you, nor will God have any, if you yourself do not make an effort and if you do not pray to God.’

——sayings of the Desert Fathers

The real question is when we ask others to pray for us are we in prayer also. The Abba seems to imply that we must be in fervent prayer when we ask for the prayers of others. The question we ask of ourselves when we ask for prayer is – Have I been in prayer FIRST? We cannot rely upon the prayers of others until we have brought our needs to God.

Sad-Man-in-PrayerWithout an active prayer life we are like rudderless ships. Each of us must take seriously our responsibility to keep in touch with God so the when trouble comes, we will be able to function. No one can pray enough for you so as to make up for your own spiritual lifelessness.

We are compelled to develop ongoing and effective spiritual disciplines. As we practice spiritual disciplines we build a true relationship with God that allows us to be confident in the midst of the most difficult of times. The wisdom of the desert tells us that we must have our own relationship with God to receive His mercy.

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