Tag Archives: Jesus

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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Lessons from the Passion

Matthew 26:30-39

When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Then Jesus said to them, ‘You will all become deserters because of me this night; for it is written,

“I will strike the shepherd,

and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.”

But after I am raised up, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.’ Peter said to him, ‘Though all become deserters because of you, I will never desert you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Truly I tell you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.’ Peter said to him, ‘Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.’ And so said all the disciples.

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated. Then he said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.’ And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.’

The last hours of Jesus’ life bear powerful truths for our daily living.  Lessons and principles for following Christ are to be learned in almost every event of those last hours.

Watch and learn…

  • On Thursday night, Jesus ate the traditional Passover meal with His disciples.  That night, He performed an act of great humility.  The Messiah washed the feet of His apostles.  He taught them that to be great, you must be small.  The way to lead is to serve.  Remember Jesus washing the disciples’ dirty feet if you feel unimportant, un-empowered or small.
  • Peter didn’t want Jesus to wash his feet.  He declared his loyalty, even to the death.  But Jesus sadly informed him that he would vehemently deny knowing the Savior three times before the rooster would crow in the morning.  Remember Peter as he heard the rooster crow early Friday morning if you feel self-sufficient or confident in your own resources alone.
  • After the meal, Jesus went to the garden to pray.  His followers chose sleep, not prayer.  In the loneliness of those hours, Jesus’ heart was in great agony as He accepted death for our salvation.  Remember Jesus kneeling alone in the garden if you find it hard to do the right thing.
  • Then came the trials.  First, Christ stood before the Jewish high court, the Sanhedrin; then, the Roman governor, Pilate; next, Herod, the Jewish puppet king; and finally back to Pilate again.  In cowardice, Pilate let the people choose; Jesus or Barabbas, a convicted criminal.  Remember Jesus as he heard the crowd shout, “Crucify him!  Give us Barabbas!” If you feel wrongfully accused.
  • The Roman soldiers beat Him, crowned Him with thorns, mocked Him and made Him carry His cross.  Remember the humiliation of Jesus on the Via Dolorosa if you feel rejected or excluded.
  • Jesus was nailed to the cross with huge spikes. In the midst of His torture, He prayed for His executioners.  Remember Jesus’ words, “Father, forgive them,” if you find it hard to forgive.
  • Those same soldiers gambled for His clothes.  Remember how Jesus must have felt as the soldiers played games at the foot of the cross if you feel discouraged by power struggles, feel used or feel misunderstood.
  • There are lessons to be learned from all suffering but the passion of Christ shows us the true heart of God.  The Lenten season gives us 40 days to ponder Christ’s passion and learn from it.

Monica Boudreaux


PRAYER

Father – Give me the wisdom to learn lessons of service and humility as I consider Christ’s passion.

Amen.

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God’s Proposal

Ephesians 1:2-12

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory.

The Genesis account tells the saga of creation in human time. Imagine… it was day six of the most fascinating week of all time. God turned to his right and looked at The Son. He made a proposal that paled the awesome creation of the previous five days. A proposal that stilled the birds in flight and the fish as they swam. A proposal that caught the undivided attention of heaven and hell. A proposal made only once in an eternity and once in a universe. A proposal only God could conceive. God said, “Let us make man! Let us make man like we are!”

Related image

All the new creation united with breathless anticipation. The Son gave a confirming nod and smiled. His agreement sealed His fate and man’s opportunity to live forever. Heaven rejoiced! Creation cheered! Hell shook! The Son approved a plan only He could accomplish.

The season of Lent is that time set aside in the church’s liturgical calendar for us to seriously contemplate the amazing proposal God made on the “sixth day” of creation. These 40 days are days to reflect on God’s fascinating design for the eternal soul of each person and how that plan was accomplished through the passion, death, and resurrection of The Son. To properly prepare for the celebration of Christ’s victory at Easter, we must make a serious, spiritual attempt to recognize the enormity of God’s grace to us – from the beginning.

Monica Boudreaux


PRAYER: Father, Give me a clearer understanding of your design for my eternal life. Thank you for the hugeness of your grace.

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