Tag Archives: Jesus

Finding Jesus

There is a story about a Russian Monastery that was dying and declining. The brothers were growing old, many had died. The villagers had stopped coming to visit the monastery. Young men were no longer interested in dedicating themselves to the Monastic order. This decline led to worry and the loss of hope led to bitterness. In desperation, the abbot went to visit an old hermit we had heard about. He hoped that the old man might have some wisdom. The abbot arrived after a long journey and explained their problem to the hermit.Finding-Jesus The hermit prayed for the abbot but said nothing more. The two men sat in silence for a very long time and the abbot patiently waited to hear some word of hope – a blessing, a prophecy, just something simple to try. Finally, the abbot could abide the silence no longer and he begged the hermit for an answer. The hermit replied, “I’m sorry, but there really isn’t anything I have to tell you. I don’t know what the future holds for the monastery. I am sorry – oh, but there is this – I believe that the Messiah is in your midst.” The Messiah?, thought the abbot. Among us at the monastery. He rushed back and reported the unexpected news and the brothers began to question, “Who is it?” “Who among us is the Messiah?” Surely not Bro. Nicolaus, he gripes too much. Surely not Bro. Stavros, he is so whiney. But what if …? And on it went.

And in time as the brothers began to suppose that any one of them could be the Messiah, they began to treat each other with respect and kindness and love. That spirit extended into the village and rumors of the Messiah’s presence continued so that everyone began to wonder if their neighbor might be the Messiah. And though no one was ever identified as the Messiah, the monastery was thriving and the village was blessed and young men devoted themselves to the faith.

Since Jesus is with us always, then discipleship is on-going and it is every day. It is not something for a special day or a special evening or a special program. It is the pulse of every moment lived in the kingdom of God.


Prayer

Lord help me to see you in everyone I encounter. Give me the grace and patience to see the good that you have instilled in all. Make my life one that is filled with awe and expectation at all time. Let me live a life that sees Jesus every day.

Amen

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Love, Stillness and Action

The Gift
Be still, my soul, and steadfast.
Earth and heaven both are still watching
though time is draining from the clock
and your walk, that was confident and quick,
has become slow.

So be slow if you must, but let
the heart still play its true part.
Love still as once you loved deeply
and without patience. Let God and the world
know you are grateful.
That the gift has been given.

~ Mary Oliver

Come, behold the works of the Lord;
see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
‘Be still, and know that I am God!

Psalm 46:8-10

The poet and the psalmist have the true message. We have to slow down to truly feel the loving touch of God’s hand. We are in the midst of this Advent season and are waiting for the coming. At first thought, the waiting should be in stillness and calm but that not the way it is at all. We are so rushed and busy with the many responsibilities and obligations of the season. There are gifts to buy, parties to go to, special church services to attend, and for most of us, Christmas will be a relief. It is a relief, because we can slow down and rest from the “holidays” that our world has created.

Let me urge you to think in a counter-cultural way. Try to see these coming days between now and Christmas day as a time to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas. The true meaning of Christmas is love.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”  (John 3:16) The true joy of Christmas is the celebration of this incredible act of love. That is so easy to forget in the social cacophony of competing ideas that surround us. Let us resolve not to be carried away by popular culture or religious extremism.

A few suggestions:

  • Give something to a total stranger. (not just a homeless person)
  • Take the time to make eye contact and speak to store clerks who serve you.
  • Reaffirm your love(with words) to your family and friends.
  • Pay someone a compliment.
  • Share your belief in the love of the God of Christmas with someone.
  • Attend worship on Christmas Eve.
  • Don’t argue about Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays.
  • Reconcile with someone.
  • Pray.
  • Spend a little time in silence every day.

ReconcileThose are just a few of the many things that we can do in this season if we just slow down and look outside of ourselves. I am sure that you can think of some on your own,  but you have to be still long enough to do so. I hope that you can find a way to grab the opportunities that come with the Christmas season.


Prayer

Lord, there are times when I just want to ask your help so that I may just spend some time living like you. May I follow the example of Jesus as I share the love that was modeled by Him. Such a love is without strings or stipulation but merely a love that is waiting to be accepted. Let me reach out with open arms to all. May you guide in my decisions this season and allow me to be a source of blessing to those I touch.

Amen.

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Worth the Wait

Advent-WreathWednesday First Week of Advent

 

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and strengthens the powerless.
Even youths will faint and be weary,
and the young will fall exhausted;
but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40: 28-31

God seems to bless those who wait. Waiting is a timeless discipline with eternal rewards. The scripture has many stories of those who waited and learned.

Noah waited for years as he built a boat on dry land and learned the lesson of deliverance. Jonah waited three days in the belly of the fish and learned the lesson of obedience. The prophets waited for centuries to see the Messiah and learned the lesson of faith. Joseph waited in prison and learned the lesson of forgiveness. Zacharias waited to speak and learned the lesson of humility. Anna and Simeon waited a lifetime to see the Savior and learned the lesson of perseverance.

Waiting during the season of Advent can serve as a discipline to teach us many spiritual truths. While waiting we can develop patience and true obedience. We can glimpse the hugeness of God’s love and grace and learn to recognize holiness when we encounter it. Waiting nurtures our compassion and opens our eyes to see others in need. It opens our hearts to service and fosters a freedom to give and encourage others. As we pause and wait for God, we have time to assess our priorities, discover happiness where we are and develop an appreciation for what we have.

Advent is a time to deal with our fears, our anger, our disappointments, and learn to both give and receive forgiveness. It is a time to internalize the cleansing joy of repentance and to know the peace of taking last place. While we wait, we can use the unknown time to realize that living with mystery builds faith, and suffering and sacrifice reveal God to us. While waiting we acquire a dependence on God, we gain hope, and we become sure that while we wait we are never alone.

During Advent, the Church waits to celebrate the first Advent of God into the world and waits for completeness and perfection at the Second Advent. In the waiting, we find our peace.

Reflection – What have you learned from God during those waiting times of your life?
Monica Boudreaux

Worth-the-Wait


Prayer

Lord, teach me the value and virtue of waiting in this impatient world. The prophets of old knew that the things that they proclaimed were not yet evident. As  we proclaim your coming may with do it with confidence and determination. 

Amen

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Thanking God for Jesus

Advent-WreathTuesday, first week of Advent

OPENING PRAYER

Lord Jesus, you show us the loving face. Help us to love you in return.

SCRIPTURE

At that same hour Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.

Then turning to the disciples, Jesus said to them privately, ‘Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.’

Luke 10:21,23-24

THINK ABOUT IT….

How wonderful it must have been to hear Jesus speak those words! God has revealed something special to them, not because they were great students are especially smart, but because God wanted them to know who Jesus was.

God still wants us to know who Jesus is. That’s why we have the Bible. That’s why we have the church. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we know that Jesus is Lord of Heaven and Earth and it’s not because we figured out something or because we have use our brain power instead, it’s because the father wants us to know who Jesus is so that we can be saved from sin and death.

CLOSING PRAYER

Father, we thank you for showing us your son. May we come to see him in his kingdom.

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Thanking God for Jesus

Tuesday, first week of Advent

OPENING PRAYER

Lord Jesus, you show us the loving face. Help us to love you in return.

SCRIPTURE

At that same hour Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.

Then turning to the disciples, Jesus said to them privately, ‘Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.’

Luke 10:21,23-24

THINK ABOUT IT….

How wonderful it must have been to hear Jesus speak those words! God has revealed something special to them, not because they were great students are especially smart, but because God wanted them to know who Jesus was.

God still wants us to know who Jesus is. That’s why we have the Bible. That’s why we have the church. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we know that Jesus is Lord of Heaven and Earth and it’s not because we figured out something or because we have use our brain power instead, it’s because the father wants us to know who Jesus is so that we can be saved from sin and death.

CLOSING PRAYER

Father, we thank you for showing us your son. May we come to see him in his kingdom.

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Choosing the Path of Light

Advent-Wreath_thumb.gifMonday First Week of Advent

OPENING PRAYER

Lord Jesus, may your Justice be revealed to all nations of the world.

SCRIPTURE

He shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.

O house of Jacob,
come, let us walk
in the light of the Lord!

Isaiah 2:4-5

 THINK ABOUT IT…

Decorations hung on houses and storefronts remind us that Christmas is coming. The Season’s echo through the malls and offices. Would have to close our eyes and ears to miss out on the season.

In the same way, we have to shut her eyes and ears to the Evening News not to know that we desperately need a savior. War and injustice, crime and violence were not part of God’s original plan, but sin brought a lot of bad things into the world. In his life, death and Resurrection, Jesus overcame sin and death and opened the way for us to share his life forever in heaven. Meanwhile, a struggle goes on between good and evil

This Advent, let us choose good. Let us follow the Lord every day and open our hearts to his love.

CLOSING PRAYER

Lord Jesus, may your kingdom come in our hearts and in our home.

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The Right Heart

     “Every wise man, therefore, will allow others the same liberty of thinking that he desires they        should allow him, and will no more insist on their embracing his opinions than he would              have them to insist on his embracing theirs. He is patient with those who differ from him,              and only asks him with whom he desires to unite in love that single question: “Is your heart          right, as my heart is with your heart?”

—-John Wesley from “Catholic Spirit”

         Jesus said: “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a             person.”

 

The words of John Wesley ring loud and clear in this confusing and divisive time. Wise men allow others to differ from them without turning on them. The concept that we must all walk in step with one another or become enemies is destroying our churches and nation. Our political or theological stands are not the sum total of our being.. The heart reveals our true nature. We are people of good heart or bad heart. If we wish ill will and destruction with any who disagree with our opinions, then I would say that we are not of good heart. However, people of good heart and wisdom can embrace others even if they are not in full agreement with them.

People of good heart:

  • Look for areas of agreement
  • Attempt to find the greater good
  • Work for the greater good
  • Seek truth
  • Understand there is more than one right answer
  • Give up power

 “Is your heart right, as my heart is with your heart?”


The Wesleyan Covenant Prayer

I am no longer my own, but thine.Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.Put me to doing, put me to suffering.Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,exalted for thee or brought low for thee.Let me be full, let me be empty.Let me have all things, let me have nothing.I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

thou art mine, and I am thine.

So be it.And the covenant which I have made on earth,let it be ratified in heaven.Amen.

 

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A Word on Prayer

When we wish to suggest our wants to persons of high station,

we do not presume to do so

except with humility and reverence.

How much the more, then,

are complete humility and pure devotion necessary

in supplication of the Lord who is God of the universe!

And let us be assured

that it is not in saying a great deal that we shall be heard (Matt 6:7),

but in purity of heart and in tears of compunction.

Our prayer, therefore, ought to be short and pure,

unless it happens to be prolonged

by an inspiration of divine grace.

In community, however, let prayer be very short,

and when the Superior gives the signal let all rise together.

On Reverence in Prayer – Rule of St. Benedict


There are countless books written on prayer. How to pray? When to pray? Why to pray? Who to pray for? Nearly 1500 years ago the monk “Benedict “gave us a short paragraph that shed light on these questions. Let’s us look at his suggestions to his fellow monks, and I dare say, to us.

First, we are humble in our approach to people we wish to help us. We seldom get help when we are very haughty towards those who could easily help us. Benedict notes that when we approach persons of high station (money and power,) we do it with reverence and humility. Simply stated, our wants are wrapped with respect and deference. We do not approach people preaching at them about what they owe to others because they as so blessed by God.

prayer-conversations-with-god

Second, he reminds us that we owe abundantly more respect and deference to God when we approach Him. Let’s not go to God quoting the “ask and receive” verses that we find so handy when we need something. We tend to use these verses to force the hand of God. He will not be forced.

Third, many words will not impress God, especially when they are uttered publicly so as to impress those around you who hear them. Such words ring hollow in the ear of God.Prayer-9-20-17

Fourth, prayer should have purity of heart and emotion bearing repentance. When prayer bears these characteristics, it is pure and worthy of the ear of God. Benedict suggests that prayers ought to be short and pure.

 

 

God calls for prayers that are reverent and non-attention getting.


Prayer

Lord, remind me that you deserve my reverence and respect no matter how dire my present need may seem. Let me pray to you and learn to wait patiently for your answer. Relive me of the temptation to pray with many words to impress others and to wear you down.

Amen


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Self Denial

If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life?

—–Jesus

 

Self Denial is defined as – the willingness to forgo personal pleasures or undergo personal trials in the pursuit of the increased good of another.

Christian monastic asceticism(severe self-discipline and avoidance of all forms of indulgence) is remarkable for its balance, its sense of proportion. It does not overstress the negative side of the ascetic life, nor does it tend to flatter human nature by diminishing responsibilities or watering down the truth. It shows us clearly that while we can do nothing without grace, we must nevertheless cooperate with grace. It warns us that we must make an uncompromising break with the world and all that it stands for, but it keeps encouraging us with the hope of the happiness that lies ahead.

—— Thomas Merton


 

Self-denial is not very popular in our American culture. We are taught to want the best and more of it. A beer commercial once proclaimed, “You only go around once in life: Go for all the gusto you can.” The commercial is no longer aired, but the attitude permeates our society. Over and over we are urged to grab for all of life that we possibly can, and then go for more. An unprecedented number of Americans classify their religious status as unaffiliated or “none.” The concept of self-denial is an anathema to our society and, therefore, so is Christianity.

Nones

Jesus teaches his followers to deny themselves and take up their cross and follow him. That concept just doesn’t speak to our society. Everything must have a payoff, a good result, be successful or it is just not worth doing. We in the church speak of what sacrifices are necessary to live the Christian life. Hypocrisy, ill will and scandals have unfortunately brought Christianity to aHypocrites screeching halt in our day. Many people have a hard time seeing that Christianity has any genuineness at all. We are no longer the focus of the marketplace or the leaders of society. Quite honestly, it seems as though we are being erased as if we never existed. We are either considered uneducated at best or mean hypocrites at worse. Our identity has become the purveyors of the “thou shat not “message. Why, you ask?

Because of the overall negativity of our message, much of the world has forgotten about the grace of God. This grace is the free and unmerited favor of God. In the secular world grace is simple elegance or refinement of movement. I would like to propose that both definitions are applicable to the follower of Jesus who practices self-denial. Merton says that we can do nothing without grace, and asserts that we must cooperate with grace. I believe that the Christian who lives in oneness with God by taking up of their cross is a person who is both receiving the unmerited favor of God and journeys through life with simple elegance. This life of self-denial is surprisingly freeing. We are no longer dragged down by competition, envy or even defeat. Now we can live in a world where God truly reigns. Simple self-denial makes God’s kingdom very real in the here and now.

Grace-1

The challenge is – do we truly believe in Him enough to practice self-denial and cross bearing? Tall orders these are, but ones that have an” other worldly” payoff. Those large numbers of “nones” that the pollsters tell us about have rejected the grace that comes with self-denial and can scarcely imagine what “grace freedom” really means. Grace freedom is the ability to live in the kingdom of God in the now and be excited about what is to come. The best things in life come by letting go.

For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life?


Prayer

Lord, I pray for the gift of grace that allows me to deny myself and take up my cross. That road is one that my mind will not let me follow, but I know that if I open myself to your grace I can see your mind and gladly follow. When that happens I have unimaginable freedom. The road is confusing, but I trust you.

Amen

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Finding Silence


Thomas-Merton-8-23-17

Soon silence will have passed into legend. Man has turned his back on silence. Day after day he invents machines and devices that increase noise and distract humanity from the essence of life, contemplation, meditation.

—-Jean Arp

Silence has many dimensions. It can be a regression and an escape, a loss of self, or it can be presence, awareness, unification, self-discovery. Negative silence blurs and confuses our identity, and we lapse into daydreams or diffuse anxieties. Positive silence pulls us together and makes us realize who we are, who we might be, and the distance between the two. Hence, positive silence implies a choice, and what Paul Tillich called the “courage to be.”

—–Thomas Merton


For over seven years we lived on a very busy city street. During that time I began to believe that silence was just a myth that is found in some far off place. I, like the German sculptor Jean Arp, began to believe that silence was passing into legend. Two and a half years ago I moved into a much quieter, though not silent, neighborhood. Once again, I enjoyed birdsong and could hear the sound of the wind flowing through the trees. It was as though I was rediscovering creation. Soon I realized that my new home has noise as well. Determined not to let my silence be taken away from me, I began to embrace the noise as a pathway to inner silence. That sense of silence acted as a catalyst for a new and stronger spirituality.

Merton refers to the damage caused by negative silence in “Love and Living.” My observation is the more we are surrounded by noise the more likely we are to fall into negative silence. I believe that it is caused by the constant awareness of that background noise that is always present. We become so frustrated by our inability to escape the uproar of humanity and position ourselves at the feet of the creator. We fight so hard to escape the uproar, we never find peace. The path remains elusive to us because we are concentrated on the negative. True silence is out there waiting for us to discover it.

True silence is positive silence, which is August-23-Personal-quotea time and a place of self-discovery. From that place we can be in the presence of God. The prophet Zephaniah says, “Be silent before the Lord God! For the day of the Lord is at hand; the Lord has prepared a sacrifice, he has consecrated his guests. “I believe that only way to truly be before the Lord is in silence. How can we really hear God above the din of the world unless we clear our minds and focus on Him? The Bible, early Christians, medieval mystics, modern monastics and all other sorts of people in sincere search of God have a common cry -SILENCE!! This cry instructs us to find a quiet place and present ourselves to God. The quietness allows God to calm us, settle us and speak to us, and more importantly, for us to hear God.

No matter what your circumstance, try not to believe that the quiet place is a thing of the past. Take the time to hear your surroundings and listen to God wherever you may be. The throng of urban life doesn’t have to drive us into the negative silence of brooding and moping. Discover the glimpses of silence that God allows you. Try not to be frustrated with the sounds of His creation but to offer them up as part of your journey to your inner self.


PRAYER

 

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.


Amen.

 

—-Thomas Merton


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