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Once upon a time long ago a young man decided to become a saint. He left his home, family, and possessions and journeyed into the hot sands of the desert where he eventually found a dark cave. He thought, “I can find God here. I will be alone and nothing will disturb me.” He prayed day and night in the cave, but God sent him many temptations. He imagined all the good things in life and wanted them desperately, but he was determined to give up everything and be with God alone. After many months, the temptations stopped and the young man was alone with God.
Then one day God called to him, “Leave your cave and go to a distant town. Look for the local shoemaker. Knock on his door and stay with his family for a few days.” The holy hermit was puzzled by God’s request, but nonetheless left the next morning. He walked across the desert sands and by nightfall had reached the village. He found a small house, knocked on the door and was greeted with a smile and a welcome. The hermit inquired if the man was the local shoemaker. Hearing that he was, the hermit was pleased, but the shoemaker, seeing that the hermit was tired and hungry invited him in to stay. The hermit was given a hearty meal and a clean place to sleep. The hermit stayed with the shoemaker and his family for three days. The two men talked quite a bit and the hermit learned much about the shoemaker, but he revealed little about himself, even though the family was quite curious about him.
Then after three days the hermit said good-bye to the shoemaker and his family and walked back across the desert to his cave, wondering all the while why God had sent him on this mission. When he arrived back at the cave, God questioned the hermit. “What was the shoemaker like?” The hermit answered, “He is a simple man; they have a small home. He has a wife and a baby. They seem to love each other greatly. He has a small shop where he makes shoes. He works very hard and makes very little, but he still gives money and food to those who are less fortunate. He and his wife pray each day; they have lots of friends.” God listened to the hermit and replied, “You will be a great saint, as you wish, but the shoemaker and his family will be great saints as well.”
….a legend of St. Anthony of the desert
People silently entered the candlelit sanctuary. In the total quiet of the moment, the intense prayers of those gathered were almost palpable. Each brought to worship years of living with accumulated pain and joy. The lonely came, as well as the exhausted because they are never alone. Some came bearing deep hurts, and some came bearing crushing guilt because of hurts they had imposed. Some came because their pain was nearly unbearable, and some came because they were afraid they could no longer feel anything. Some came because they were afraid to die, and some came because they were afraid to live.
The ancient music washed over us all calming doubts and troubles in our souls. The liturgy began and those souls were lifted up to the lord. Fear and cares receded, and peace and hope took hold. We gave God our thanks and praise and He gave back to us the mystery of His presence. We revisited the crucifixion together as we celebrated Holy Communion. No matter our pasts, our educations, and our finances – we were all the same before God. We were sinners in need of His mercy – and we received it. We left that sacred time forgiven, reconciled, and whole. We worshipped and left with grace for the journey-full of glory.
- Open Heavens Devotional by Pastor E.A. Adeboye (zillasnetworks.wordpress.com)
Wesley was thankful to God for the shelter he had found in the spring-house. And he wrote of a place of shelter open to all in Christ. People still need a shelter from life’s storms. People still need a place of quiet refuge. People still need a place where they can connect with one another and with God. The church has what we want.
- To Serve Others (faithinspires.wordpress.com)
Why does the Bible, and why does Jesus, tell us to care for the poor and the outsider? It is because we all need to stand in that position for our own conversion. We each need to stand under the mercy of God, the forgiveness of God, and the grace of God—to understand the very nature of reality. When we are too smug and content, then grace and mercy have no meaning—and God has no meaning. Forgiveness is not even desired. When we have pulled ourselves up by our own bootstraps, religion is always corrupted because it doesn’t understand the mystery of how divine life is transferred, how people change, and how life flows. It has been said by others that religion is largely filled with people who are afraid of hell, and spirituality is for people who have gone through hell.
Jesus is always on the side of the crucified ones. He is not loyal to one religion, or this or that group, or the “worthy” ones—Jesus is loyal to suffering itself, wherever it is. He is just as loyal to the suffering of Iraqis or Afghanis as he is to the suffering of Americans. He is just as loyal to an oppressed gay man as he is to an oppressed married woman. We do not like that! He grabs all of our self-created boundaries away from us, and suddenly all we have is a free fall into the arms of God, who is our only and solid security. This seems to be God’s very surprising agenda, if I am to believe the Bible.
Invitation to Life (markdaniels.blogspot.com)
Professor and preacher Fred Craddock tells about visiting a church one time where he was supposed to hold services on Friday evening, Saturday evening, and Sunday morning. When he pulled into the parking lot of the church, a funeral was concluding. People were moving to their automobiles; the hearse was still there. The minister saw him, recognized him, and motioned for him to come over. Craddock didn’t want to intrude; he was just waiting until the funeral was over. He was standing next to the widow. The pastor introduced her to Craddock, and Craddock felt awkward. He said to her, “This is no time for you to be meeting strangers. I’m sorry, and I’m really sorry about your loss.” Her husband had been killed in a car wreck and left her with four children. He said, “I know this is a very difficult time for you.”
She said, “It is. So I won’t be at the services tonight, but I’ll be there tomorrow night, and I’ll be there Sunday morning.”
Like any sensible and caring person, Craddock said, “Oh, you don’t need to.”
“Yes, I do,” she said.
He said, “Well, what I meant was, I know it’s a very hard time.”
And she said, “I know it’s hard. It’s already hard, but you see, this is my church, and they’re going to see that my children and I are okay.”
My church is going to see that we are okay. Isn’t that what a church is supposed to be all about?
Come to me, all of you who are weary and loaded down with burdens, and I will give you rest.
One day a man from a nearby village called out at the monastery gates, and handed the old monk who opened it a magnificent bunch of grapes, saying, “Dear Father, I have brought as a gift the finest grapes my vineyard has produced.”
The old monk didn’t think he deserved such a fine gift. “Oh yes!” insisted the man. “For whenever I come by, you open the gates and welcome me. When I needed help because the crop was destroyed, you shared your meal with me every day. I hope this bunch of grapes will remind you of the sun’s love, the rain’s beauty and the miracle of God, for it is He who made them grow so fine.”
The monk held the bunch grapes. It looked full and luscious. He decided to present it to the Abbot, who had always encouraged him with words of wisdom.
The Abbot was very pleased with the grapes, but as he accepted them, he thought of one of the brothers who had been very unwell. “I’ll give him these grapes; they may bring some joy to his life.”
But the grapes didn’t stay in the sick monk’s room for long. He reflected, “Brother Cook has been feeding me such nourishing meals to help me recover. I’m sure he will enjoy these.” As the cook brought him his meal, he presented him with the grapes. “They’re for you,” said the sick monk. “You work so hard; take a moment to sit and enjoy these.”
Brother Cook was amazed at the beauty of the grapes, then he thought of the newest entrant to the monastery. He decided to gift them to the youngster as he felt he might be a bit lonely without his family, and also so that he might understand that the work of God is in the smallest details of creation.
When the novice received them, his heart was filled with the Glory of the Lord, for he had never seen such beautiful grapes. Just then, he recalled the first time he came to the monastery, and of the simple old monk who had opened the gates and warmly welcomed him; it was that gesture which allowed him to feel at home in this community of people who knew how to value the wonders of life.
And so, he walked to the monk at the gates. “Eat and enjoy them,” he said. “For you spend most of your time alone here, and these grapes will make you very happy.”
I can see why Jesus said, “For the gate is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:14). He is talking, first, about life in this world. On the unconscious level, I know that true intimacy with anything is going to change me. And if there is one thing that the ego hates more than anything else, is to change. I know that if I keep meditating, it is going to change my worldview, my priorities, and my preferences. It will be a new world, and I am comfortably hunkered down in this old one. It is a wonder that anyone continues the dangerous journey of prayer, step-by-step, into divine and soul intimacy.
Dancing Standing Still: Healing the World from a Place of Prayer
By Richard Rhor
- The Creator Of Intimacy (authenticlove789.wordpress.com)
It was said of Abba Ammoes that when he went to church, he did not allow his disciple to walk beside him but only at a certain distance; and if the latter came to ask him about his thoughts, he would move away from him as soon as he had replied, saying to him, ‘It is for fear that, after edifying words, irrelevant conversation should slip in, that I do not keep you with me.’
—–Sayings of the Desert
Perhaps one of the greater criticisms of our society is its tendency to use too many words. In our abundance of words we lose the true meaning of many things. Most of us give very little thought to preparing for worship. The monk was preparing to worship and wanted the worship of God to be his sole objective. Many distractions are thrown at us every hour of every day .Maybe it would strengthen us all to see the journey to worship as part of our worship.
I can only imagine how much more God-centered our gatherings would be if we entered in a worshipful frame of mind. I know that such thinking is out of the box, but wouldn’t it be worthwhile to try. The greatest lesson of the monk is that the journey of worship is not a time for irrelevant conversation. Let us resolve not to let our times before and after worship to be squandered by irrelevant conversations. Although a somewhat hard and demanding task, it could revolutionize your view of church and make times of community sharing so much more meaningful.
- Worship With My Whole Heart (pureglory.net)
There are various definitions of what it means to live a missional life. The past several years I have given much thought to missional living, and I offer these daily questions to you as a tool. You might want to make these questions a part of your evening prayer.
What have I done to help the poor today?
What have I done to move towards holiness today?
Have I prayed for my enemies today?
Have I shared a kind word with someone today?
Have I given anything away today?
Have I been honest today?
You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
—— Jesus of Nazareth
Lord give me the courage to seek opportunities of ministry today. Make my life one of prayer and giving, and let my presence be a blessing to all I encounter. Amen
- Live Like Jesus (trinityenglishyouth.com)