Tag Archives: Egypt


In the eleventh century, King Henry III of Bavaria grew tired of court life and the pressures of being a monarch. He made application to Prior Richard at a local monastery, asking to be accepted as a contemplative and spend the rest of his life in the monastery. “Your Majesty,” said Prior Richard, “do you understand that the pledge here is one of obedience? That will be hard because you have been a king.”

“I understand,” said Henry. “The rest of my life I will be obedient to you, as Christ leads you.”

“Then I will tell you what to do,” said Prior Richard. “Go back to your throne and serve faithfully in the place where God has put you.” When King Henry died, a statement was written: “The King learned to rule by being obedient.”

Henry didn’t want to be obedient, he wanted to run. Obedience is a heavy word. The “O” word brings with it a chill of negativity. To be obedient is to surrender our freedom. We have been trained that individual freedom is the most important right we will ever possess. The concept of leading by being obedient seems to be contradictory. We lead by telling others to obey us. This concept is so difficult; we just want to run. Indeed, to run as far away as we can.

How many times have you wanted to just run away or bury your head in the sand? Life throws some tough times at us all. There are so many challenges that lead us to believe running (dropping out) is the best option. When we tire of our roles and responsibilities, it helps to remember God has planted us in a certain place and told us to be a good accountant or teacher or mother or father. God expects us to be faithful and obedient to the task where He puts us.

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Survey the Land

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

Numbers 13


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.


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A Sad Story

Matthew 2

The Visit of the Wise Men

1 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’ 3When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
6 “And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.” ’

7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.’ 9When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

The Escape to Egypt

13 Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream Flight to Egyptand said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ 14Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, 15and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’

The Massacre of the Infants

16 When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. 17Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
18 ‘A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.’

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Fasting, Medicine, Approval and Purity


Today I share some wisdom from Desert Mother Amma Syncletica. The Desert Mothers were women Christian ascetics living in the desert of Egypt, Palestine, and Syria in the 4th and 5th centuries AD. They typically lived in the monastic communities that began forming during that time, though sometimes they lived as hermits Their writings are largely lost because of the male dominance of the church in this time period.

Most of us can relate to medicine tasting bad, and in the same breath admit to it Amma Syn1doing our bodies some good. The wise Amma brings fasting and medicine into the same conversation. Quite often I have had people approach me about the reason and necessity of fasting as a spiritual discipline. Some say that they get absolutely nothing out of fasting except pangs of hunger. Fasting, like any other discipline, must be approached in an attitude of faith. Fasting and prayer are often linked together .Too often, the focus of fasting is on the lack of food. Instead, the purpose of fasting should be to take your eyes off the things of this world and focus more completely on God. Fasting is a way to demonstrate to God, and to ourselves, that we are serious about our relationship with Him. Fasting helps us gain a new perspective and a renewed reliance upon God. With that awareness, we have received a dose of Spiritual medicine that leads us toward our goal of being “one with Him.” Might I suggest that a day of fasting and dedication to our awareness of God could do us all a bit of good.

An undue amount of time is spent byAmm Syn 2 all of us seeking the approval of one person or another. The Amma tells us that if approval of all is necessary, we will spend our lives begging for a mere earthly goal. Instead she suggests that purity of the heart should be our goal. This whole concept of universal approval is an impossibility, however, purity of heart is a difficult but reachable goal. As we seek to live the Christian life, we should learn the wisdom of seeking purity rather than approval.

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The Art of Pleasing God

“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.”

—sayings of the Desert Fathers

Abba Anthony gives us three simple, and yet difficult principles, that we must do to please God. Monk in prayer 1

  • Always have God before your eyes
  • Live in harmony with scripture
  • Have stability of place in your life

The challenge is to keep God before our eyes when our sight is so cluttered with the saga of life. Additionally, we are called to live with the scripture as the ever present guide for our lives. As if that were not enough, we are then instructed to “stay put” even when things are tough. Our world tells us quite clearly to keep focused on the earthly, while perhaps giving some attention to God, and to move on whenever life gets uncomfortable. Perhaps if we all developed a vision of God and followed that vision where we are planted, we would find that peace that eludes us.


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An Elusive Lesson

Abba Marcarius the Great said to the brothers at Scetis, when he dismissed the assembly, ‘Flee my brothers.’ One of the old men asked him, ’Where could we flee beyond the desert?’ He put his finger on his lips and said, ‘Flee that,” and he went into his cell, shut the door and sat down.

— sayings of the desert

makarioslargeThere is a quite popular saying in the advertising business – location, location, location. When the monk questioned Marcarius, he was saying we desert monks are in the perfect location. Surely in this desert we have retreated from everything, and are in danger from nothing. Not so, says the great master. The greatest temptation of all still plagued them, and they had overlooked it. Their greatest opponent was the corrupt communication that would come out of their mouths.

The sin of gossip, slander and others originate from the words that come out of our mouths. Silence and introspection are our greatest friends. We must all think before we speak, and remain silent instead of having an opinion on everything. In the plethora of words that spew out of our mouths, much harm is done. The brother had just been dismissed from assembly (worship/prayer) , and Marcarius urged them to go back to their cells and reflect on the revelation that had received rather than to speak idle words to each other. This is a hard but worthy lesson for us.

Prayer Thought – Lord let us see the value of times of silence and reflection.

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March 20–Day 14

Exodus 20:1-6

1Then God spoke all these words: 2I am the Lord your God, who brought you outLent_2011_40days of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery;3you shall have no other gods before me. 4You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me,6but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

“What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could ‘be like gods’ – could set up on their own as if they had created themselves – be their own masters – invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history – money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery – the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”

—–C. S. Lewis

Prayer Starter — Lord we all seem to find gods to put ahead of You. Help me to serve YOU alone.


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I Do Not Know

One day some old men came to see Abba Anthony. In the midst of them was Abba Joseph.   Wanting to test them, the old man

Monastery of Saint Anthony, Egypt

Monastery of Saint Anthony, Egypt

suggested a text from the Scriptures, and, beginning with the youngest, he asked them what it meant. Each gave his opinion as he was able.  But to each one the old man said, ‘You have not understood it.’ Last of all he said to Abba Joseph, ‘How would you explain this saying?’ and he replied, ‘I do not know.’ Then Abba Anthony ‘Indeed Abba Joseph has found the way, for he has said: “I do not know.”

—–Abba Anthony of Egypt

“I do not know.” These are the four most difficult words to say in our society. Admitting these words has been difficult for people since the beginning. We are   created with a “must know” nature. All men run from mystery, and yet God is a mystery. He calls us to believe what we have not seen. We are led to serve without knowing the results of our service. Be attentive to the voice of the Spirit that calls us to action, even to the things that remain mystery to us.

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Christianity Divided by the Cross

This topic is at the heart of Christian understanding. It serves as a good starter for further thinking.

pub theologian

A guest post by theologian and scholar Marcus Borg – a fitting addition to our series on Atonement. (This piece originally appeared on patheos.com)

American Christians are deeply divided by the cross of Jesus – namely, by how they see the meanings of his death. At the risk of labels and broad generalizations, “conservative” Christians generally believe a “payment” understanding of the cross: Jesus died to pay for our sins so we can be forgiven.

Most “progressive” Christians (at least a majority) have great difficulty with the “payment” understanding. Many reject it. Some insist that rather than focusing on Jesus’s death, we should instead focus on his life and teachings. They are right about what they affirm, even as they also risk impoverishing the meaning of Jesus by de-emphasizing the cross.

It is the central Christian symbol. And ubiquitous. Perhaps even the most widely-worn piece of jewelry. Its…

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Discovering the Desert of My Soul

Candle PrayerI don’t exactly know why, but a few years ago I felt a real spiritual unction to study Christian Mysticism. My first thought was to look at the experiences of the monks of the desert. These Desert Fathers fled to the parched lands of Egypt to escape the “one size fits all” Christianity of Constantine’s Empire. The Abbas of the desert wanted to experience God as they thought He wanted to be experienced. That experience would not come as a result of legislated belief at the point of the sword of a Roman Legion. That kind of belief was no belief at all, for such a faith had to be discovered within their own souls. They could experience God in a mysterious way in their desert monasteries, and then direct others by sharing these experiences. God is a mystery, and He is best seen in a mystical way. In the desert they would find the Spirit that had apparently left the organized church, and indeed, they did. They were the first mystics.

 Many factors prohibited this mystical movement from being the major driving force of the church. All throughout history there have been famous mystics. Notable ones are, Julian of Norwich, John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, Bernard of Clairvaux, and Ignatius of Loyola. I wanted to learn as much from them as I could, but in the middle of that experience something happened to my own way of thinking. Suddenly, the idea of certainty of belief was replaced with a deep, abiding appreciation for the mysterious nature of God. After all belief in God is mystery, not certainty, and can best be understood through the eyes of the mystic.

 I don’t claim to be a Christian mystic at the level of the people I have mentioned, but I do contend that thinking as a mystic can open new panoramas of faith. These panoramas can lead to a much broader view of the work of God, and a more intimate involvement with Him. Things like meditation, Lectio Divina, silence, and icons have taken on a new meaning in my life. They have become invitations to spiritual portals that I never knew existed.

Major realities I discovered by embracing Christian Mysticism:

  • God does live within me
  • God really speaks to me (not audibly)
  • God protects me at all times
  • God gives me strength beyond my ability
  • God owes me nothing
  • Evil wins sometime
  • Suffering is a spiritual discipline
  • Scripture is the Word of God and it still lives
  • Silence is the loudest prayer
  • Silence is a portal to God
  • There is more than one right answer

My journey into mysticism has not so much brought me closer to God, as it has helped me to understand how far I have to go. Jubilantly, I can say that I am not alone on the journey. He is with me! The mystical, monastic journey brought me to the desert of my soul, and there I found the face of God. I continue to travel through that desert with the traveling companions I have discovered. Thanks for reading this story and the other stories that I have written about these mystics who have become my friends.


Filed under Christian Living, Contemplation, Desert Fathers, Icons, Ignatius of Loyola, John of the Cross, Julian of Norwich, Lectio Divina, Silence