Tag Archives: Jesus

Some Quotes to Ponder

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.

 What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies.

Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.

      ARISTOTLE

Happiness depends upon ourselves.    

I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is over self.

The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.

Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.

The educated differ from the uneducated as much as the living from the dead.

All men by nature desire knowledge.

 

Augustine of Hippo

 

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.

Faith is to believe what you do not yet see; the reward for this faith is to see what you believe.

Since love grows within you, so beauty grows. For love is the beauty of the soul.

You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.

Patience is the companion of wisdom.

God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.

Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.

If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.

Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.

It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.

 

The Cloud of Unknowing Quotes

“The universes which are amenable to the intellect can never satisfy the instincts of the heart.”

“For I tell you this: one loving, blind desire for God alone is more valuable in itself, more pleasing to God and to the saints, more beneficial to your own growth, and more helpful to your friends, both living and dead, than anything else you could do.”

“And therefore take good heed unto time, how that thou dispendest it: for nothing is more precious than time. In one little time, as little as it is, may heaven be won and lost.”

 

Perhaps one or more of these quotes can act as a meditation or writing guide to you this week.


PRAYER

Lord, allow me to make the most of the time that you have allotted to me. Let my hours be productive. and my days be meaningful . I trust your grace to bring me through.

Amen.

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A Design for Praise

“Do we know what it means to praise? To adore? To give glory? Praise is cheap, today. Everything is praised. Soap, beer, toothpaste, clothing, mouthwash, movie stars, all the latest gadgets which are supposed to make life more comfortable—everything is constantly being “praised”. Praise is now so overdone that everybody is sick of it, and since everything is “praised” with the official hollow enthusiasm of the radio announcer, it turns out in the end that nothing is praised. Praise has become empty. Nobody really wants to use it.”

—- Thomas Merton from “Praying the Psalms”

Psalm 145 is called a Psalm of praise and it begins with these words, “I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever.” Many churches have what is called “Praise Worship.” When I was a young pastor our church had a “Praise Team.” Some sixty years ago Merton spotted the glib way that we used the word praise. He considered it overdone, sickening and empty. The praise word is even used more lightly in the church today.

Praise has become a style, a sound, a type of worship and in doing so has lost the true meaning of praising Go. We can praise God quietly or with enthusiasm. All too often we equate praise with some amount motion or practice. To praise God properly all of our attention must be focused on Him. Modern praise is many times like “distracted driving.” We are always looking for the next move and not focused on the main thing. We cannot be in two places at once. Our praise to God must be directed towards Him, and not done in such a way as to emulate the world. Our challenge is to rediscover what it means to praise God. Let me offer a few suggestions.

  • Make your praise undistracted by what others are doing. “Come to our church and find out what it is like to really praise God.” Have you ever heard that line? I have. You, I, all of us, must praise God in our own way. There is tremendous peer pressure to define praising God as doing it my way. God can be praised with shouts of joy, with extended silence and many other ways. Praise is not limited to a style or even a time.
  • Make your praise focused on God and God alone. Praise is the joyful recounting of all God has done for us. Offering God praise is, at its very nature, something we must do in our heart of hearts. Praise can be a part of worship, but it must more importantly be a part of you. We don’t go to worship to praise God, we are worshipping because we praise Him. All too often our worship is focused on praising the preaching, the music or some other part of the service and praising God is an auxiliary outcome.
  • Make your praise be more than the world’s praise. The world’s praise is done to lift up a person, a product or a performance. God doesn’t need that. Merton’s strong warning was for us not to fall into the world’s idea of praise but to make praise of God so much more. Praise of God far exceeds compliments, it is recognizing His might and glory. In such recognition we easily see the wonderful nature of God and His generous provision for us, His creation. Without Him we are nothing. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) Keep that in mind when you praise God.
  • Make your praise part of your daily walk. Praise must be in your very soul.” Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars; in the heavens, you have made them bright, precious and fair.” (Francis of Assisi) As we come to see God in His creation each day, each step is an act of praise. Jesus gives us some advice, Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” As we grow to appreciate our daily blessings, praise will become a natural part of us.



Prayer

Lord, help me to rediscover genuine praise of You. The world cheapens all things and draws attention to itself. That is the work of the evil one whom you cast from Your divine presence. Lord help me to center myself on praise of You in all that you have created. My praise is not defined by the world but designed by your spirit that dwells in me. Guide this day as I walk the paths of your creation. Might I see your touch everywhere I go and in everyone I meet.

Amen.

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Choose the Incomprehensible

Therefore, leave all the things of the world that you can understand and instead chose to love that One Who you cannot comprehend. For while God may be loved, God will never be understood. God may be found by love and held by our hearts but never by our thoughts. Sometimes it may seem good to think of the special kindness and the worthiness of God.”

—-Cloud of Unknowing

5-24-17Any casual Google search or a stroll around a bookstore will quickly teach you that we, as people, want to understand everything. We want to be able to figure things out. There is, after all, an answer to every question and it is our job to find it. The writer implies that if that is our approach to God, we will never find Him. He gives some advice as to how we might find God.

God is found when we abandon the things of the world that have so tightly controlled our lives and given us our self-worth. In our quest for God we must swallow our pride and accept that we will never truly be able to put God in a convenient box. The push to understand God in simple terms is maddening. By abandoning the search for the concrete facts about God, we find the peace that was found by the desert monastics of the 4th and 5th centuries. Abba Pambo said, “By the grace of God, since I left the world, I have not said one word of which I repented afterwards.” The challenge is to “leave the world.”

Most of us cannot leave the world in the same fashion that the men and women of the desert did some 1500 years ago. We have responsibilities, obligations to our families, and just plain sensibilities that prohibit us from doing as they did. So then, how do we accomplish this undertaking?

The first call is the call of love. To love someone is to accept them with the full knowledge that you will never totally understand them. People have given their 5-24-17-2lives in a quest to understand God and failed at just loving him. The sure road to agnosticism is to make understanding God a prerequisite to loving Him and believing in Him. We enter into the cloud of belief with love and not knowledge. The Apostle Paul put it quite appropriately when he said, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” If we choose the path of love vs understanding, we will one day see God as He is.

God is held in our hearts and not in our thoughts. Knowledge is a very powerful thing but there is nothing greater than heartfelt feeling. Such a feeling defies convention and logic and fights battles that may seem unwinnable. Our task is to give our hearts to God. We must put aside our desire to be able to explain the unexplainable and just accept Him with eyes of the heart. Christian musician Michael W. Smith says, “Lord open the eyes of my heart.” When the eyes of our heart are opened, we will see Him.

We are called upon to choose the incomprehensible as we journey with God, as we pray to God, as we trust God, for in all of these things we must put aside the norm of the world and search for the supernatural norm.

As we follow God, we choose the incomprehensible.


Prayer

Lord help me to have the courage to seek you in the incomprehensible corners of my life. Protect me from the self-centered faith that leads to ruin and give me the courage to not know, but to believe.

Amen.


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VENERABLE BEDE AND SALVATION

His name was Bede, also known as Venerable Bede, and he was the father of English history. Bede was truly a master of multiple disciplines, but he is most remembered as the man whose lifelong mission was to bring people closer to God. Bede never traveled more than 30 miles from his Northumbrian Monastery, and from that community he wrote more than forty books covering a wide range of subjects. For all of his 62 years he valued nothing more than his mission.

Bede said, “He who will not willingly and humbly enter the gate of the Church will certainly be damned and enter the gate of Hell whether he wants to or not!” These strong words establish his doctrine of salvation. The key words to anyone’s faith walk are willingly and humbly. Without this conviction we fail to enter the gates of heaven and live a miserable earthly existence as well.

Scripture proclaims, “Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.” (Revelation 3:20) God’s word is crying out for us to willingly let Him into our lives. He has prepared such a good life for us, and yet it is our choice to neglect or accept His invitation. Salvation, the Christian way, is never forced upon any soul, but it must be received and received willingly.

The second word that Venerable Bede uses is humbly. Jesus said in the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, “for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.” Clearly, our Lord articulates to us that acting in humble submission is the key to eternal justification and a peaceful life all the days of our lives. A person who lives humbly not only receives riches in the hereafter but lives without the earthly scourge of excessive pride. This type of pride leads to untold sin and grief.

The word of the Church Father is that the neglect of this simple formula leads to eternal condemnation and a miserable earthly existence. We would do well to give heed to the words of Jesus, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Our world cries for rest, and peaceful rest at that. Jesus offers this life to all who come to Him.

A man who was born of questionable parentage, and died a criminal’s death offers us this gift of peace by the power of His resurrection. Some 700 years later a humble Monk who never traveled more than 30 miles from the place of his birth repeats this invitation in very simple words. Let us not complicate the salvation of the Christ, but merely accept willingly and humbly.

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A Cloud of Forgetting

If you want to enter, live, and work in this cloud of unknowing, you will need a cloud of forgetting between you and the things of this earth. Consider the problem carefully and you will understand that you are farthest from God when you do not ignore for a moment the creatures and circumstances of the physical world. Attempt to blank out everything but God.

 

— Cloud of Unknowing

WAYS TO ENTER “A CLOUD OF FORGETTING”

Consider your place

Ancient Rome Christians were reminded, “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Our real dilemma is to try to unpack the meaning of that short phrase and apply it in a way that builds our faith and our witness. We are born as proud and resourceful beings. God meant for us to be able to thrive in this world but He also meant for us to be dependent on Him. As we become increasing independent, we moved far away from Him. The mystical writer challenges us to get as far away from the things of this earth as we can so we can get closer to God. We must somehow “forget” who we are, what we have accomplished, and get in a place where we can encounter God. At the same time, never forget that we are part of this world.

See your surroundings

To do this we must be fully aware of our surroundings and begin the task of stepping away for a short time just a pause. When we step away, we are then given the opportunity of communicating with God as a deeply personal friend. As long as our lives are crowded by the things of this world, we will never see God in a light that glorifies us and Him. Seeing where we are allows us to set our course to where we want to be and allows us to seek guidance along the way. The hymn writer proclaims, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face; and the things of earth will grow strangely dim In the light of His glory and grace.” That is the direction of a contemplative.

Own your circumstances

No matter how hard we try, we still live in this world -we cannot escape it. We cannot ignore it and for the most part, we cannot change it. With regard to this dilemma, different people take different actions. Hermits try to escape, hedonists embrace it, and most of us just try to find balance in our lives. The call of the mystic writer is to “blank out” everything but God. We do this by recognizing the problems and cares around us and putting them in the background of our lives as we seek to be nearer to God. We don’t get closer to God by being in denial of the carnal nature that we all possess. Closeness to God comes as we recognize our situation and say to God, we seek you with all our strength.


PRAYER

Lord may I approach you with full knowledge of the baggage I carry. This knowledge that instills in me a total dependence on your grace and a trust in your promises. With such a heart I come to you today seeking knowledge only you can grant. Please allow me your presence in my life in spite of my sins. I invite you to fill my heart in this time of my need.

AMEN

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Jesus as Scapegoat

Image credit: White Crucifixion (detail), Marc Chagall, 1938, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA.

I share this piece by Rev Richard Rhor of the Center for Action and Contemplation. I hope you enjoy it.

Blessings, Irvin

Cross as Agenda

In terms of healing and symbolism, everything hinges on the cross. The cross is about how to fight and not become a casualty yourself. The cross is about being the victory instead of just winning a victory. The cross is about refusing the simplistic win-lose scenario and holding out for a possible win-win scenario.

The cross clearly says that evil is to be opposed but we must first hold the tension, ambiguity, and pain of it. “Resist evil and overcome it with good,” as Paul says (Romans 12:21). The cross moves us from the rather universal myth of redemptive violence to a new scenario of transformative suffering.

On the cross of life, we accept our own complicity and cooperation with evil, instead of imagining ourselves on some pedestal of moral superiority. As Paul taught: “everyone has sinned” (Romans 5:12) and Jesus the Lamb of God had the humility to “become sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21) with us.

The mystery of the cross teaches us how to stand against hate without becoming hate, how to oppose evil without becoming evil ourselves. Can you feel yourself stretching in both directions—toward God’s goodness and also toward recognition of your own complicity in evil? If you look at yourself at that moment, you will feel crucified. You hang in between, without resolution, your very life a paradox, held in hope by God (see Romans 8:23-25).

The goal of God’s work is always healing reconciliation, not retributive justice.  And like Jesus, we must invest ourselves in this work of reconciliation that “the two might become one” (see Ephesians 2:13-18).

Human existence is neither perfectly consistent, nor is it total chaos, but it has a “cruciform” shape of cross purposes, always needing to be reconciled in us.To hold the contradictions with God, with Jesus, is to participate in the redemption of the world (Colossians 1:24). We all must forgive reality for being what it is. We can’t do this alone, but only by a deep identification with the Crucified One and with crucified humanity. Christ then “carries” us across!

The risen, victorious Jesus gives us a history and hopeful future that moves beyond predictable violence. He destroys death and sin not by canceling it out; but by making a trophy of it. Think about that for a long time until it cracks you open. And it will!

Rev. Richard Rhor OFM

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You and the Journey

Pause now and take a good look at yourself and see who you really are. Do you know? Do you think of yourself as being a wretched weakling? Do you pretend to be someone you are not? Then imagine this: that you would dare to think you are worthy of being called by our Lord to a special task.

The desire to be God’s servant must come from your own will, a gift placed there by the hand of God Almighty, but done so only with your consent.

The Cloud of Unknowing

Do you acknowledge your weaknesses?

The hardest task for anyone is to see yourself as others see you. We have a rosy vision of our looks, behavior and personality. Many times our self-assessment is far from the truth. In order to approach God we must realize our helplessness without Him and allow Him to give us His grace. Jesus said: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing?” Their behavior blatantly showed there lack of self-understanding.

Do you have a false self?

Even after we know we are weak without God we have a tendency to “go it alone.” We set up an imaginary reality about ourselves that reflects our view of God and how He defines a righteous person. In essence, we become that defined person but it is all a lie. As sure as a movie set have facades, by God, we will have a good looking facade. Jesus says it this way, “For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth.”

Can you see that God values you?

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” He gave His son! What more proof can we expect! God values us enough to sacrifice His all for us. We are unworthy/worthy creation. When we come to the point of recognizing our value to God, we are ready to move toward God.

Do you understand how to give yourself to God?

The easy answer to this question is to say we must be “saved/born again.” Personal salvation is an important doctrine of scripture but it is only the beginning of our Christian walk. If we give ourselves to God just one time, we miss the point. I once heard a man say in a bit of a mocking way, “I was born again and again and again.” I would assert that is exactly what giving yourself to God truly encompasses. We must rise every day to a new round of willing prayer and submission to God. Salvation is not a one-time event. I am not sure it is an event at all, but I know it is a journey.

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Let us join together and set out daily on this contemplative path.


PRAYER

Lord allow me to see my sin and weakness. Give me the courage to not hide behind a façade of spirituality. Allow me the insight to know that you love me in site of myself. With these things in mind propel me more forward in the grace journey towards You.

AMEN

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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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Capturing Humility

Look at your weaknesses, not at your strengths, and pay attention to what you still need to do, instead of rehearsing in your mind what you’ve already accomplished. This is the best way to get and keep humility.

—-Cloud of the Unknowing

Humility-1The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

—Jesus of Nazareth

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time.

—-Peter the Apostle

There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.

― Ernest Hemingway

Becoming humble of action and deed is the great calling of all Christ followers. Our words only speak as loud as the deeds and actions that people see in us. There is a great deal said about being humble. Humility defines us in many ways.

HUMILITY – Preachers preach it scholars teach it. Here are a few thoughts on humility.

  • Humility helps us to know when to say yes.
  • Humility is our best friend when given a demanding task.
  • Humility is the best mirror we will ever own.
  • Humility teaches us how to handle power and wealth.
  • Humility guides when ego pushes us to stray.
  • Humility is passing over the mistakes of others,
  • Humility is the ability to accept insult without revenge.
  • Humility is our friend when we are all alone.
  • Humility is the cures pride.
  • Humility builds real confidence.
  • Humility is minding your own business.
  • Humility is the only path to God.

Prayer

Lord help me to discover that healing powers of humility. Release me from the chains of pride and ego. Allow me to flourish in being no more, or less, than you have made me to be. Guide me through this day as a real person who can put aside the arrogance that so besets me.

Amen


Humility-1

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