Tag Archives: Christianity

What Good Work Should I Do?

Once St. Anthony was asked, “What good work shall I do?” And he answered. “All works are not equal, the scriptures said that Abraham was hospitable, and God was with him. And, Elijah loved quiet, and God was with him. And, David was humble, and God was with him. What therefore you find that your soul desires in following God, that do, and keep your heart.”

—-Sayings of the Desert

What a great place to start! All of us who seek to follow the path of God areGood Works 1 anxious to find a way to do good works. The world tells us that some works are better than others. We get the idea that unless we are doing certain things, in very precise ways, God is disappointed with us. Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” The point that was being made was in reference to children but the truth holds. In the time of Jesus, children were possessions and nothing more. With that in mind, Jesus said that doing good or bad things to them was significant. That says to me that all works are significant.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates has given away 28 billion dollars to charitable causes and good works since 2013. That’s a lot of good works. My giving, good works and all that I have cannot match such a figure in worldly terms, but God blesses my good works with the same blessing as he blesses the billions. This lesson is so important to learn that the Monk felt compelled to teach it. The world functions by size and impact. God functions by the impact that our works have on our souls and the souls of others. The message from the desert is simple.Good Works 2

Bill and Melinda Gates visiting a Foundation supported worksite.

ALL GOD DRIVEN WORKS ARE EQUAL

The prophets cited by the Monk were doing the works that God had put into their souls. We all have a certain spiritual DNA that gives us a way to gloriously serve God and our fellow creation.

YOUR GOOD WORKS ARE OF VALUE TO GOD

Low self-esteem, poor self-image, and bad circumstance erode away at our view of what constitutes good works. If we follow the advice that has come to us from the desert, we can know that God sees what we do as something of value. Doing the good works of God is not a competitive contest but an outpouring of love from our spirit.

GOD GIVES EACH OF US DIFFERENT WAYS TO SERVE

Plainly, we can see that the Kings and prophets served in diverse ways. Some were more showy and noticeable than others. The level of notoriety does not constitute the value of the work.

GOD DISTRIBUTES HIS BLESSINGS ACCORDING TO OUR ABILITY

The scripture teaches that we all have certain spiritual gifts that were bestowed on us by God. Our challenge as followers of Jesus is to use those God-given gifts to serve our world and by doing so we serve Him.

What good work should I do? Simply stated, you should do the work that God has given you the resources and ability to accomplish.


Prayer

Lord, give me the motivation to do your good works no matter how small. I know that you see my works through your lens. Help me not to be pressured to do the showy things but to get the peaceful contentment of doing the works that you have presented to me.

Amen

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This Life We Shape

St. Anthony said, “Whoever hammers a lump of iron, first decides what he is going to make of it, a scythe, a sword, or an ax. Even so, we ought to make up our minds what kind of virtue we want to forge, or we labor in vain.”

—-Sayings of the Desert

There are three possible components to shaping our lives.

Shaping-2

Change –

Anthony says “Whoever hammers a lump of iron.” What is the implication of that statement? Quite simply it means that the lump of iron must change its shape to become useful. Our lives are very much the same. We are raw and unprepared to live the virtuous life. The scripture tells us, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” With that message, it is clear that change will be a part of our lives as we move toward God.

Change doesn’t come easily. Anthony speaks of the hammer as the instrument of change. We all know that the blows of the hammer to the stubborn lump changes its shape. The iron will not change without the violent blows of the hammer. The same is true with us. We change when we are struck with the imperative to do so.

Vision –

The next element in shaping our lives is vision. Without vision, we continue to be shapeless. In speaking of the iron worker, the Monk asserts that first he must decide what he will make out of the lump raw iron. Blow after blow can be stuck,Shaping3 but without vision the effort is worthless.

Our lives are exactly the same. Blow after blow can come and we can still lack shape and form. Suffering and hard times are not the key to shaping our lives but only the tools by which we are shaped. The key is vision. What should we be? How do we get there? In Proverbs the writer asserts,” Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Vision is the first consideration when we begin our Christian formation.

Focus –

Have you ever been to a “visioning” workshop and come away confused because the visions were so diverse and so many? Anthony was aware of this problem over a thousand years ago. Make up your minds on what virtue you are seeking or your labor will be in vain. Without vision we perish, but without a focus we perish as well.

Therein lies the key to shaping and forming our lives for Christ. We must discover our gifts and work to develop them. God has given to each of us the possibility of greatness and all too often we go around hammering ourselves without a clear vision. Yes, we are suffering servants but we suffer in vain. Earnestly, sincerely and deeply seek the vision of God for your life. When it is discovered God will give you all the grace you need to suffer the blows and become the person that God created.

Shaping-1Change, vision and focus are three powerful concepts as we seek to shape our lives for the Christian journey. These are essentials that we must master to move forward. Open your lives to the change that God has in mind and capture the vision and place He has for you. Mother Teresa said, “Become the change you want to see in the world That statement means that we must commit to visionary targeted change in our lives.


Prayer

Lord, as we seek form and shape to our lives help to have clarity of vision. Assist me to ascertain and apply virtue and purity to my life so that I may go forward in a path that is good for me and pleasing to you.

Amen

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The Path

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.”

—Abba Anthony of the Desert

path-1When I was a small boy there was an undeveloped piece of property at the end of our very urban neighborhood. I imagine it was about 4 acres. That piece of land was surrounded by hundreds of houses built on forty to fifty foot wide lots. For a boy of 8, it was a jungle. My “jungle’ was made more exciting by the paths that had been walked down by people walking through our jungle. These paths were safe because we didn’t trip over anything as we would if we headed out through an untouched wooded area. One day, a few of us that frequented this urban jungle decided that we were going to cut a new path. We geared ourselves up with knives and axes and went out like the pioneers we envisioned ourselves to be. The work was hard but we made a new path that joined the two existing trails to one another. We felt that we accomplished a great work that day. If our path would not have led back to the original trail, it would have led nowhere and been a useless dead end. Many years later I returned to that area and found that the path that we created was still there.

Abba Anthony addresses that path by which we stay with God and get closer to him. In his words, he teaches us the difference between the world’s path and the God path. Here are some observations.

Never forget your starting point.

The day we discover that God loves us we are filled with joy and confidence. We really believe that our faith can move mountains. Strive to revisit that place when necessary and never forget that it IS real.

Remember what it felt like to decide to follow God.

The decision to be a believer gives us a new sense of life. The Monk refers to it as a fervor or eagerness to soak up all of Him that we possibly could handle. God’s grace is so overwhelming that it brings tears to our eyes. Keep in mind the present reality of that faith.

Be reminded that you are never alone.

Many prayers are offered for us as we begin our journey down the path. These prayers are still with us and God wants us to grow in Him every day of our lives. We are part of the “holy catholic church” and are surrounded by a great community of faith that is always in prayer for its partners.

communion-of-saints

Be ready to seek God at all times

There are times that we back off from God and go it alone. Remember this is never necessary because He wants us to seek Him in good times and bad. God is an ever-present partner and loving guide.

There are times when we stray from the path but God is always there clearing a new path when we call upon Him. The purpose of this new path is to get us back on the pathway that leads to sanctification. Don’t be confused by what the world has to offer and always be ready to get yourself back on the pathway to God.


Prayer

Lord, allow me to see the times that I have strayed and give me the consciousness to come back to you, please allow me to know that I am never alone and You and the community are ready to help. Give me the faith necessary to acknowledge this.

Amen

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Troubles

I hired a carpenter to help me restore an old farmhouse. After he had just finished a rough first day on the job, a flat tire made him lose an hour of work, his electric saw quit, and now his ancient pickup truck refused to start.

While I drove him home, he sat in stone silence. On arriving, he invited me in to meet his family. As we walked toward the front door, he paused briefly at a small tree, touching the tips of the branches with both hands. When opening the door, he underwent an amazing transformation. His tanned face was wreathed in smiles, and he hugged his two small children and gave his wife a kiss.

Afterward, he walked me to the car. We passed the tree and my curiosity got the better of me. I asked him about what I had seen him do earlier. “Oh, that’s my trouble tree,” he replied. “I know I can’t help having troubles on the job, but one thing’s for sure, troubles don’t belong in the house with my wife and the children. So I just hang them up on the tree every night when I come home. Then in the morning, I pick them up again.”

“Funny thing is,” he smiled, “when I come out in the morning to pick them up, there aren’t nearly as many as I remember hanging up the night before.”

– Author Unknown –

I had the opportunity of being acquainted with Dr. Myron Madden. He was a counselor with a Christian perspective. One day he told me the story of what he offered to his clients when they were troubled. At the end of the session, he would reach up to his shirt pocket and open it as wide as possible. Then he would say,” I want you to put that problem in my pocket and I will carry for the week. Next week, we will take it out and look at it, if it’s still important.” The concept, much like the trouble tree, is that we can hang things up for a while and they may actually heal themselves. The other choice is to dwell on them and let our troubles rule us. Allow me to offer a few suggestions.

Make time to clear your mind

I would like to note that in the story the trouble tree and the counselor’s method there was a decision to allow the trouble to rest for a while. For one it was hungJuly 11 post on a tree, the other it was put in someone else’s pocket for them to carry it around. In both cases, it was given a respite so that they could have distance and have relief from their troubled mind.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus

Philippians 4:6-7

Allow yourself to move from place to place.

Fascinatingly the carpenter put his troubles on the tree and walked into his smilehome with a big smile and lots of hugs to offer. Dr. Madden told of the people who left his office with a smile and a determination to allow their troubles to be in his temporary custody. Such attitudes allow us to be productive and happy in the situations in which we find ourselves. We can deal with our troubles when we should and not force the rest of the world to be part of our troubles. There is a place for trouble and a place for smiles.

He hath made everything beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.

Ecclesiastes 3:11

Put your troubles to sleep before you try to go to sleep.

If we can possibly use the suggestions above we allow ourselves a space to rest. Fatigue is one of our greatest enemies. People who are tired can be angry and depressed. How can we truly put our troubles to sleep? I would suggest that we can begin by turning them over to God. He has promised us that we can take god for sleepanything to Him. We can know with certainty that if we don’t rest we will never get better. Secondly, we can find someone or something that will carry our troubles through the night. Thirdly, we can find time to be silent and still before we try to sleep. Offer this silence and stillness to God and ask Him to empty your mind so that there is room for Him and He will give you rest. I might also suggest that a practice of Sabbath rest would do us all some good. The Sabbath is a day or even a few hours when we dedicate ourselves to the presence of God in our lives. This rest puts us in a better frame of mind for the days ahead.

Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Jesus of Nazareth

These three suggestions will not rid us of worry. My hope is that they can give us a few handles that will allow us to thrive. Clarity of mind, having a helper, being able to be present for those who need us and discovering a way to truly rest will take us a long way.


Prayer

Lord, send me stillness and peace. Help to discover the place or that person that will take my troubles into their care. May I find rest and slumber so that the load of tomorrow will be lighter than the load of today. I trust you because I know that you love me.

Amen

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Meditation

Meditation-1Meditation is the latest of a series of spiritual practices that have surged in the past few year. Practices of meditation have been around for thousands of tears. These practices were usually limited to monasteries and groups that specialized in the practice.Wikipedia tells us that meditation can be defined as a practice where an individual uses a technique, such as focusing their mind on a particular object, thought or activity, to achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm state. Meditation is practiced by all world religions and by agnostics and atheists. Why?

  • Meditations relieves stress
  • Meditation get us in touch with our inner selves
  • Meditation demands for us to slow down
  • Meditation forces us to live without noise
  • Meditation is a way to get in touch with God
  • Meditation improves our focus
  • Meditation can make us healthier

Let’s take a look at what a few well known thinkers has said about meditation.

The more man meditates upon good thoughts, the better will be his world and the world at large. – Confucius

We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private: and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship. – C.S. Lewis

Divinely bent to meditation;
And in no worldly suits would he be mov’d,
To draw him from his holy exercise.
– William Shakespeare, Richard III Act 3, Scene 7

God’s first language is Silence. Everything else is a translation. — Thomas Keating

meditation-2We can only learn to know ourselves and do what we can, namely, surrender our will and fulfill God’s will in us. – St. Teresa of Avila

In the inner stillness where meditation leads, the Spirit secretly anoints the soul and heals our deepest wounds. – St. John of the Cross

Through the study of books one seeks God; by meditation one finds him –Padre Pio

The more we can give in our silent prayer, the more we can give in our active life. – Mother Teresa

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer. —-Psalm 19:14

Let my meditation be pleasing to Him; As for me, I shall be glad in the LORD. Bless the LORD, O my soul! O LORD my God, You are very great; You are clothed with splendor and majesty, Covering Yourself with light as with a cloak, Stretching out heaven like a tent curtain—–Psalm 104:1-34

My eyes anticipate the night watches, That I may meditate on Your word. May the arrogant be ashamed, for they subvert me with a lie; But I shall meditate on Your precepts. May those who fear You turn to me, Even those who know Your testimonies. —- Psalm 119:78-148


Prayer

Lord, help me to find the time to dwell upon you everyday. May I be guided to a special place that is quiet enough to hear even a whisper from you.

Amen

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Who Do I Think I am Fooling?

"It is love alone that gives worth to all...

While the soul is in mortal sin nothing can profit it; none of its good works merit an eternal reward, since they do not proceed from God as their first principle, and by Him alone is our virtue real virtue. The soul separated from Him is no longer pleasing in His eyes, because by committing a mortal sin, instead of seeking to please God, it prefers to gratify the devil, the prince of darkness, and so comes to share his blackness. I knew a person to whom our Lord revealed the result of a mortal sin and who said she thought no one who realized its effects could ever commit it, but would suffer unimaginable torments to avoid it. This vision made her very desirous for all to grasp this truth therefore I beg you, my daughters, to pray fervently to God for sinners, who live in blindness and do deeds of darkness.

—-Teresa of Avila

Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord”, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?” Then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.”

—-Matthew 7:21-23


 

For most of the world, good works and words equal oneness with God. The mystic Teresa of Avila and Jesus himself have something else to say. Jesus, while addressing the religious zealots of his day, points out that words and actions not grounded in the heart will leave us without peace. His message is clear. There are untold numbers of people who do things for their own self-aggrandizement and pretend that they are doing them for God. That was true then, and it’s true now. He met these people with a scathing” I never knew you” and sent them away. Teresa picked up on this theme in her writing that we use today.

She referred to the state that a soul finds itself in when mortal sin exists. I would venture to say that being absent from the grace of God is simply being present in our own grace. We are prideful creatures who love to relish in our own greatness. No matter how great our self-worth rises, there are still times when we feel threatened. In these threatening times, we are pushed to do something to prove our worth. The temptation of the garden was to have the knowledge of good and evil. When man attained this knowledge, a knowledge that was reserved for God, he was ejected from the peace of the Garden of Eden and banished into a life of struggle and toil. We are the heirs of that banishment and we must seek the path of grace. Let us consider a few facts.

· THE REALIZATION THAT WE CANNOT DO SAVE OURSELVES

Somehow, somewhere we all believe that we have the power to save ourselves. People are inbuilt with the inclination that we can do things our way, and our way is enough to please God or anybody else.

· OUR BEST EFFORTS FALL SHORT

If we can just do our best, that will be enough. We deny that we have a real sin nature and feel that steady improvement will get us to a true and solid relationship with God. The very idea that we have a serious problem with sin causes our sin nature to balk.

·THE GRACE OF GOD IS NOT FOR SALE

In our frantic path to do our best we somehow feel that we will eventually attain the price that God wants out of us. What will it take to please God short of admitting that we can’t do it on our own? That is the haunting question that cries out from our souls. The grace of God is a free gift set for distribution by the sacrifice of Jesus the Messiah on the cross.

· THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A SELF-MADE MAN

Here in the United States, we love the story of the self-made person. The classic rags to riches stories are what makes the American dream. In our minds, we think of pleasing God by doing all the work ourselves. That “I can” attitude is deeply ingrained in us and the only way to be one with God is to say, “I can’t” and turn ourselves over to his mercy and grace.

Just as Teresa said to the Carmelites many years ago, “While the soul is in mortal sin nothing can profit it; none of its good works merit an eternal reward,” our efforts to come to God without first admitting our sin falls short. Let today be the day that we take a serious look at who we are and come to know that without grace we are not what God made us to be. Our relationship with our creator is not measured by what we do but by who we love and serve. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?” Then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.”


 

Prayer

Lord, help me to see myself as I really am. Free me from the burden of working frantically to attain a salvation that is your free gift to me and the whole world. Help me to control my ego and to turn to you. May I accept my sin and ask for your grace.

Amen

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Grace Rules

 


Child psychologists tell us that children not only need, but want rules. “They require set limits to ensure them of the security and sense of control needed for proper development.”

Adolescents balk at rules. They seem to go all out to prove the old saying that, “Rules are meant to be broken.” They, too, are desperately groping for a boundary of comfort and safety, however.

Adults are generally regarded as “rule setters.” We use our wisdom and life experience to make those rules we feel are important for our children’s well-being.

I don’t know about you, but when I am exhausted by life’s demands or find myself out of resources to deal with a difficult situation, I long for a set of rules for the game of life. I would enjoy giving up the gut-wrenching decisions and judgment calls of life, for a set of rules that would free me of the awesome responsibility of the moment.

If you have ever wanted someone to tell you what to do and relieve you of your burden of responsibility – GREAT NEWS! Romans 12:9-21 gives us ten rules for a successful life:

  • Love sincerely.
  • Hate evil.
  • Honor others.
  • Have joy, hope, and patience.
  • Pray.
  • Share.
  • Be good to your enemies.
  • Get along.
  • Don’t be conceited.
  • Don’t get back.

Paul wrote these words to a group of beleaguered and persecuted Christians in the huge pagan city of Rome almost 2,000 years ago. The payoff for following the rules for those first century Christians is exactly the same for us today and is found in verse 21. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Be assured of this promise – good overcomes evil – always!

—-Monica Boudreaux


 


PRAYER

Lord – Help me to always seek to overcome evil with good in my life. Help me rely on your rules for mercy and grace to make all my decisions.

Amen

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Lent Day 40

March 31

Holy Saturday

Everlasting Love

Isaiah 54:5-14

For your Maker is your husband,
the Lord of hosts is his name;
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer,
the God of the whole earth he is called.
For the Lord has called you
like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit,
like the wife of a man’s youth when she is cast off,
says your God.
For a brief moment I abandoned you,
but with great compassion I will gather you.
In overflowing wrath for a moment
I hid my face from you,
but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,
says the Lord, your Redeemer.

This is like the days of Noah to me:
Just as I swore that the waters of Noah
would never again go over the earth,
so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you
and will not rebuke you.
For the mountains may depart
and the hills be removed,
but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,
and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,
says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted,
I am about to set your stones in antimony,
and lay your foundations with sapphires.
I will make your pinnacles of rubies,
your gates of jewels,
and all your wall of precious stones.
All your children shall be taught by the Lord,
and great shall be the prosperity of your children.
In righteousness you shall be established;
you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear;
and from terror, for it shall not come near you.


Prayer Thought

Lord, give me the faith and confidence to believe you can and will set things right.


“Forgiveness is not always easy. At times, it feels more painful than the wound we suffered, to forgive the one that inflicted it. And yet, there is no peace without forgiveness.”

English: Unity Church in Unity Village, Missouri

English: Unity Church in Unity Village, Missouri (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

—- Marianne Williamson

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Good Friday

March 30

Everlasting Love

Isaiah 52:13—53:12

See, my servant shall prosper;
he shall be exalted and lifted up,
and shall be very high.
Just as there were many who were astonished at him
—so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance,
and his form beyond that of mortals—
so he shall startle many nations;
kings shall shut their mouths because of him;
for that which had not been told them they shall see,
and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate.

Who has believed what we have heard?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by others;
a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity;
and as one from whom others hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him of no account.

Surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
By a perversion of justice he was taken away.
Who could have imagined his future?
For he was cut off from the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people.
They made his grave with the wicked
and his tomb with the rich,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain.
When you make his life an offering for sin,
he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days;
through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.
Out of his anguish he shall see light;
he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.
The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he poured out himself to death,
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.


Prayer Thought

Lord, you have given all to me. I have nothing to offer but thanks and obedience.


“I am convinced that when we bring our griefs and sorrows within the story of God’s own grief and sorrow, and allow them to be held there, God is able to bring healing to us and new possibilities to our lives. That is, of course, what Good Friday and Easter are all about”

— N. T. Wright

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Lent Day 35

March 26

The Lord Is My Light

Psalm 27

Of David.
The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?

When evildoers assail me
to devour my flesh—
my adversaries and foes—
they shall stumble and fall.

Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war rise up against me,
yet I will be confident.

I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!


Prayer Thought

Lord, drive fear from my heart so that I may be as serene as you.


 

“And once we have the condition of peace and joy in us, we can afford to be in any situation. Even in the situation of hell, we will Thich Nhat Hanhbe able to contribute our peace and serenity. The most important thing is for each of us to have some freedom in our heart, some stability in our heart, some peace in our heart. Only then will we be able to relieve the suffering around us.”

— Nhat Hanh

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