Tag Archives: Jews

Relaxation and God

A hunter in the desert saw Abba Anthony enjoying himself with the brethren and he was shocked. Wanting to show him that it was necessary sometimes to meet the needs of the brethren, the old man said to him, ‘Put an arrow in your bow and shoot it.’ So he did. The old man then said, ‘Shoot another,’ and he did so. Then the old man said, ‘Shoot yet again and the hunter replied ‘If I bend my bow so much I will break it.’ Then the old man to him, ‘It is the same with the work of God. If we stretch the brethren beyond measure they will soon break. Sometimes it is necessary to come down to meet their needs.’ When he heard these words “the hunter was pierced by compunction and, greatly edified by the old man, he went away. As for the brethren, they went home strengthened.

——Abba Anthony

It is a novel thought for most people that relaxation and rest are an important part of life. The average American works 11 hours more per week that they did in 1970. That is a somewhat startling little fact. I wonder how much more we are really accomplishing than we were forty seven years ago. Without a doubt the rise in use of pain killers, sleeping pills and people who suffer depression are linked to our lack of rest. The number of prescriptions for sleeping pills alone, grew 30 times over between 1994 and 2007. Hospitalization for clinical depression has been on the rise since 1975.

Why is this happening?

The wise man of the desert pointed this out to the hunter, and it changed the hunter’s life. We need to rediscover the value of rest, and to acknowledge that it is necessary for physical and spiritual wellbeing. God knew this when  He gave us the Sabbath. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. The Hebrew word Sabbath literally means “to cease.” Just as God rested from His creation work, we are to rest from our day-to-day occupations and refocus on what’s really important. It’s a day to push the reset button. Anthony and God were on the same page here. All of us need to “relax the bow” before it snaps.

Plan a personal SABBATH, you need it!


Prayer

Lord give me that courage to pause. The world threatens me if I dare to think that I can take time to renew my body and my faith. Long ago you gave us the command to do so. Too often we see your commands as chores rather than pathways to blessings. Help us to see the bright pathway that is illuminated by Sabbath rest.

Amen

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Choices

Choices – they seem unending, especially at Christmas.  The Scriptures can be our guide as we observe the way God chooses and the way he challenged others to choose.  From the very beginning when Adam and Eve chose their own way over God’s provision, each person who has ever lived has faced that decision.

Martha, out of self-righteous frustration, reprimanded Jesus because he would not condemn her sister, Mary, for not helping her with chores.  Jesus simply tried to help her understand that Mary, in choosing to simply sit in His Presence and internalize his every word ,had indeed chosen “the good part.”  Mary chose the part that never goes away, never gets old – the part that is eternal.

The rich young man expected a quick, easy answer from Jesus.  He needed to know how to inherit eternal life.  He could not imagine that inheriting eternal life could be any more challenging than inheriting his father’s wealth.  But Jesus told him he would have to make a choice between what the world could give and what God could give.  The rich young man chose the part that goes away – the part that is temporary.

The Christmas narratives portray God’s nature by the choices He made.

  • God chose a teenage peasant girl, not a daughter of a ruling Pharisee.
  • God chose a carpenter, not a king.
  • God chose Nazareth, not Jerusalem.
  • God chose a stable, not a palace.
  • God chose a feeding trough, not an ornate cradle.
  • God chose shepherds, not rabbis.
  • God chose to show his star to Gentiles, not Jewish royalty.
  • God chose poverty, not wealth.
  • God chose humility, not position.
  • God chose service, not recognition
  • God chose earth, not heaven.

This Advent, this season of endless options, is a perfect time to evaluate our decisions, to align our choices with the eternal and holy and divine.  Jesus told us that a good person with a heart full of good treasure makes good choices, lives a good life, recognizes holiness, and lives in the Kingdom of God.  He told us that choices reveal our souls, our decisions come from what dominates our hearts, and our lives mirror the Master that controls them.


A Prayer About Choices

O God, you know that today-or very soon-I must make a decision which is going to affect my whole life.

Help me to choose rightly-and to choose the right way.

Grant me your guidance, and with it grant me the humble obedience to accept it.

Help me not necessarily to choose what I want to do, but what you want me to do.

Grant that I may not be swayed solely by fear or by hope of gain, by selfish love of ease or comfort or by personal ambition, by the desire to escape or by longing for prestige.

Help me today in humble obedience to say to you, “Lord, what will you have me to do?” and then await your guidance, and accept your leading.

Hear this prayer of mine and send an answer so clear that I cannot mistake it.

This I ask for your love’s sake!

Amen

William Barclay

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My Take on Julian of Norwich

In our world of narrowing down what God does or who he loves, I share with you some of my observations from Julian of Norwich’s Revelations of Divine Love.

  • God still does miracles. He intervenes actively in our lives. These are usually preceded by very rough times.
  • God cannot be manipulated by prayer. Asking the intercession of saints, and trying to make prayer more effective by citing arguments or mentioning special things or events, are not helpful. Prayer is effective when it is the result of God wanting a person to receive something, and putting the content of the prayer into the person’s mind. Julian seems well-aware that this sounds as problematic as all other accounts of the power of prayer.
  • God still issues calls to individuals. Apparently He does not call the “beautiful people”, whose lives and abilities seem perfect, for special assignments. Instead, he chooses the obviously flawed individuals, peopleJulian-All-is-well who get ridiculed for some reason by others through no fault of their own.
  • Christ reveals Himself to living persons.  When He does, He is always a warm, intimate, and “courteous” friend. This increases their faith tremendously, and they in turn are called to share this revelation with others. Julian was one such person, and she expressed the hope that people would not consider her a celebrity or focus on her, but on Christ.
  • The Jewish people will be saved. Julian asked about the good Jewish people and whether they would be saved. It is clear that she was told “Yes”, because right after she mentions this, she adds a few paragraphs saying how she was sure that nothing in the revelation contradicted anything she’d been taught in church

    Prayer

     

    Lord give us hearts of inclusiveness that allow us to live with people as you love them. The world seeks to splinter and divide your creation and  we know that you came to bring us together and show us a better way.

    You want all who are called to serve you.

    You offer miracles of grace and healing to those who seek them.

    Lets us open our eyes and just see.

     

    Amen


“And in this he showed me a little thing, the quantity of a hazel nut, lying Julian-in-her-cell-1in the palm of my hand, as it seemed. And it was as round as any ball. I looked upon it with the eye of my understanding, and thought, ‘What may this be?’ And it was answered generally thus, ‘It is all that is made.’ I marveled how it might last, for I thought it might suddenly have fallen to nothing for littleness. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasts and ever shall, for God loves it. And so have all things their beginning by the love of God.

 

In this little thing I saw three properties.

  • The first is that God made it.
  • The second that God loves it.
  • And the third, that God keeps it.”

—–Julian of Norwich

Read more of about Julian of Norwich

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Heart Light

In the happy night, in secret, when none saw me, nor I beheld anyone, without light or guide, except that which burned in my heart. This light guided me more surely than the light of noonday to the place where He was awaiting me.

— John of the Cross

 

I think that we all yearn for a “heart light” that will lead us directly to God. Life is far too hard and confusing for us to figure our own path to God, so he gives us a special light that only we can see. This light can be passed on to none or borrowed by no one. God gives it to the ones who have chosen to follow Him.

John of the Cross says that it is brighter than the light of the brightest day. The light that our Creator places in us when we acknowledge His grace exceeds anything we can imagine. This light takes us to the place that He has prepared for us before we were born.

The problem is that we travel this road in the dark night of this world. In that night we are surrounded by “light eaters”, that is, forces and powers that want us to turn away from our inner light. These forces manifest themselves in a great variety of ways. Such forces can be a friendly voice that steers us in the wrong direction or a tragic circumstance that leads us to doubt God. We are assured of this by the writer of Hebrews …“We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain.” We travel in the night but not in darkness.

Prayer

Lord help me this day to discover that heart light that dwells dormant within me. With that discovery, I will surely touch the hem of your garment and receive healing of the soul. Amen

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The Keys to the Kingdom

Our Life and death is with our neighbor. If we gain our brother, we have gained God, but if we scandalize our neighbor, we have sinned against Christ.

— Abba Anthony

When Jesus was questioned by the religious leaders of his day about the first commandment he said, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This dispute of the true and best path to God is ever going. There is no other commandment greater than these.’  This lesson from Jesus and the monk is one in the same. The sacred is in the ordinary which is found in one’s daily life, in one’s neighbors, friends, family, in one’s backyard. We have never quite gotten that idea down. Men desperately search in so many places for peace with God while in continual battle with their neighbors. Our world is mired in war, violence, crime, racism and hopelessness.charity-hand-up

I recently read a story about some neighbors who were in a dispute about the location of some trees and shrubs. John Vilkin shot and killed his neighbor over this landscaping dispute. These proximity neighbors fought over turf and it ended most tragically. Most conflicts are over one turf or another. We are urged by scripture and wisdom teaching to regard our relationship with our neighbor as a relationship with God. By viewing it through that lens, we truly see the importance of getting along. Pray that God will give you the wisdom to see others through His eyes. With that wisdom comes the keys to the kingdom – spiritual wholeness.

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What is the Sabbath?

Sabbath 2When I was growing up I was taught that Sunday was the Christian Sabbath. I really didn’t know exactly what that meant, nor did I know anyone who was not Christian. All I knew about the Sabbath is it was the day that we went to church. Over the years I have come to understand that Sabbath is so much more. A rabbi explained the Sabbath to a group of Christians touring the Holy Land in this way – “The Talmud,” he said, “gives us three reasons for keeping the Sabbath.”

“The first reason for Sabbath,” he went on, “is that given the fact that no one is permitted to do anything on Shabbat, no orders could be given, no work done. Therefore, the slaves and the rich would be equal for at least one day a week.”

“The second reason is that we have time to reflect on the meaning of our lives.”

“The third reason for Sabbath is that we can reflect on the goodness of our work as God did on creation on the seventh day.”

Sabbath means rest, but everyone rests, not just the holy people or the privileged ones. The Sabbath is the “great equalizer” that joins all of God’s creation together. Our world is divided is such a way that cries out for something, anything that brings us together. I would be comforted to know everyone is resting regardless of their station in life.

Do you know the meaning of your life? My meaning changes with each task or role that is sent my way. Sabbath rest is a time to focus on the central reason for your existence. Perhaps if we all took the time to reflect in such a way, we would suddenly find that God gives us great peace.

So many of us see ourselves and the world as being self-made. Sabbath says stop and acknowledge your own powerlessness in view of God’s creation. The world could be a so much better place if we would take the time to acknowledge it as God’s creation.Prayer group

The “Christian Sabbath” is just another myth made up by church leaders to make sure you are attending church services. Let’s take a step back from that and observe Sabbath as it was meant to be observed. Try to create for yourself a time when you stop and become one with all of God’s creation and praise Him for who he is to you. In such a time, you may want to attend worship.

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Crucified with Christ

            I am a nameless criminal.  Greed controlled my life and evil claimed my soul.  My crimes were eventually detected, and I was arrested by the Romans.  My fate was sealed and my crucifixion date was set.

            On that horrible day, just before Passover, three of us were taken to the place of crucifixion.  As we hung suspended in torment on thosegoodfrib crude Roman crosses, I became aware of the man next to me on the middle cross.  While the life faded from our battered bodies, the third man cursed God and swore bitterly.  But through my agony, I listened to the words of the man on that middle cross.  He prayed as his mother and friends mourned for him.  It occurred to me that my parents had long since cried their last tears of grief and shame for me.  I was alone.  But the man in the middle spoke words of comfort to his mother, words of forgiveness to his executioners, and words of oneness with God.  And suddenly I knew.  My childhood teachings became clear.  This was the Messiah!  This man was the Lamb of God!

            I rebuked the third man to try and silence his foul mouth and tried to tell him who was dying between us.  In tortuous pain, as my life drained from my body, I managed to turn my head toward the Messiah and ask Him to take me to heaven.

            In that one miracle moment, I was changed from a man judged by man and condemned to die to a man judged by God Almighty and pardoned to eternal life.  I was changed form a filthy, bloody, broken criminal to a clean, whole ransomed soul.  I was changed from a man all alone with no one to hear my cry, to a man with the Savior as my advocate and friend.  My heart of fear changed to a heart of peace.  My guilt became innocence.  One moment I was a prisoner, the next I was free.  I was cursed, then I was blessed.  My hopelessness was gone and was replaced by the hope of glory.

            Much more than my body was crucified that day in Calvary.  My sin was.  I was crucified with Christ and received everlasting life.  Your sin was crucified that day – the day Christ died.  That day, just outside the city walls of Jerusalem, he died for all of us.  That day we were all forgiven.

            “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives with me.”  Galatians 2:20

Monica Boudreaux

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Day 21–March 13

Mark in Forty Days

This year I am reading through the Gospel of Mark during the forty days of Lent. My suggested plan is that you do these readings in Lectio Divina  format.

Today’s reading

Mark 9:14-23

Prayer Thought

O gracious and Holy Father, give us wisdom to perceive you, diligence to seek you, patience to wait for you, eyes to behold you, a heart to meditate upon you, and a life to proclaim you, through the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Sins Run Out

leaking_bucket_RBK01026_edited-1A brother in Scetis committed a fault. A council was called to which Abba Moses was invited, but he refused to go to it. Then the priest sent someone to him, saying, “Come, for everyone is waiting for you”. So he got up and went. He took a leaking jug and filled it with water and carried it with him. The others came out to meet him and said, “what is this, father?” The old man said to them, “My sins run out behind me, and I do not see them, and today I am coming to judge the errors of another.” When they heard that, they said no more to the brother but forgave him. 

—-sayings of the desert

I do not believe that comments are necessary on this story. Let me offer this prayer.

Lord help me to understand the nature of the grace that you offer to me. May I not waste my time trying to figure out other people’s sin and faults but know that their forgiveness is already been secured. Let me offer my forgiveness in the same manner as You.  Amen

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Practicing the Ripening

I share this article from The Center for Contemplation and Action.

A ripening mind and heart might simply be described as a capacity for non-dual consciousness and contemplation. Many might just call it growth in compassion, but surely no growth in compassion is likely unless one learns how to forgive as a very way of life, and to let go of almost everything as we first imagined it had to

English: Blackberries in a range of ripeness, ...

be. This is possible as we grow in the Jewish, Islamic, and Christian notion of faith, where not-knowing (the apophatic way) must be carefully paired with knowing (the kataphatic way). The Judeo-Christian tradition balances our so-called knowing with trust, patience, allowing, waiting, humility, love, and forgiveness, which is very nearly the entire message and surely the core message necessary for any possibility of actual ripening. Otherwise, we all close down, and history freezes up with all of its hurts, memories, and resentments intact. A non-dual way of knowing in the moment gives us a life process and not simply momentary dualistic answers, which always grow old because they are never totally true.

My guidance is a simple reminder and recall to what we will be forced to learn by necessity and under pressure anyway—the open-ended way of allowing and the deep meaning that some of us call faith. To live in trustful faith is to ripen, it is almost that simple. Let’s start practicing now, early in our life, so we do not have to take a crash course in our final years, weeks, days, and minutes of our lives. The best ripening happens over time, lots of time.

—-Richard Rhor

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