Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Spiritual Development

"Perhaps the best description of the spiritual life is the sum total of responses which one makes to what is perceived as the inner call of God. However, the spiritual life is not locked up inside a person. It is a growing, coherent set of responses integrated into the complex behavior patterns of human life. To think of the spiritual life as something apart from the rest of one's individual life is to flirt with ancient and persistent errors. When the individual has decided to respond to the call of God experienced within, and strives to make this call the center of activity and choice, he or she may be called a truly spiritual person. The call then becomes the integrating factor for the one who has responded; the spiritual life becomes the work of a lifetime. The experience of travelers on this road is best described by St. Bernard in the words: 'How good You are to those who seek!'"
~Benedict Groeschel

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Reminiscing

I really like some of the thoughts/reflections that my wife and her cousin/grandmother shared recently related to Christmas (very recent and also very distant):

Elsa (my wife):
Christmas is still here...and peace

“It's the day after Christmas and still it continues as time with family brings that holiday cheer that is longed for despite the busyness of preparation. I have stopped for a moment to feed a tiny babe and in so doing realized that peace is here. All the joys of the holiday have come with laughter, sleeping in, eating good food, feeling the warmth of a cozy house and enjoying conversations with grandparents that will leave deep and long lasting memories of who Jesus is and why he came and why it was essential that he come as a babe to a virgin. It was even a surprise to enjoy a breakfast pizza around a table discussion/devotional time where Grandpa used pizza pieces to share a visual layout of the tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant and the three objects within the Ark that foretold of Jesus' coming. Sometimes you just can't predict how a tradition will be made but after this year, I cannot imagine celebrating the day after Christmas without a breakfast pizza.

Traditions seem to be what make Christmas and other holidays so meaningful beyond the very essential parts of what is being celebrated. My grandma, who sends emails containing the events of her day and also memories of her life, recently shared some of the traditions they had when her children were young. My cousin, Becca, shared one of grandma's emails on her blog for Christmas (see below). I love her thoughts on Grandma's story. Oh, to stop at nothing to get to Christ. We may rush and get distracted in the preparations like Martha but to stop at nothing to sit and hear the message of Life like Mary, is what we can come to when Christmas arrives.

So, peace has come and I am reminded that it is what we celebrate that matters. I find rest in that and joy and hope that it (Life) will be the shining light that leads the year ahead.”

Becca/Grandmother’s story:
the christmas road

“My grandma sends a devotional email to her family almost every day. Recently she wrote about another Christmas memory:

Merry Christmas, dear family. We had a little coating of snow last night. Reminds me of years ago when snow was always expected and accepted at Christmas. Dad and Ed H. would plow roads through the fields where the snow wasn't so deep in order that we could worship on Christmas at Immanuel. Think of all the fences they had to cut and then repair later.

Just picture that! New roads just for Christmas! Plowed through farm fields three miles away.

I love the community picture this paints, neighbors working together all going to a white steeple church in Southern Minnesota to celebrate the birth of the Christ Child. Weather didn't stop them...they busted up fences on the way. What a glorious example they were to their children, getting them to church, raising them in the faith, believing with might that God is indeed with us.

Haste! Haste! To bring him praise!
The babe, the son of Mary.”

Friday, December 25, 2009

Joseph & The Power of Obedience

“Being the ‘strong silent type,’ Joseph says little in the Gospels. Yet he does much just by being there and by being himself: Joseph the just; Joseph the worker; Joseph the foster-father, the reliable, the available.

Like most men in most cultures, Joseph speaks by his daily work. In this ordinariness, Christ is present, a man as human and even as ordinary as Joseph, a carpenter.

Like Mary, who quietly pondered in her heart (Luke 2:19), Joseph stands there in the manger scene, in silent readiness. That is how Christ comes to him, to Mary, to us.

Christ had invaded Joseph’s life most intimately just when it seemed God had abandoned him to tragedy: His beloved Mary was pregnant, but not by him.

Joseph suffers in silence. Noise, fussiness, rebellion and busyness cover over inner hurts; perhaps that’s why there are so many of these qualities in our world.

Joseph responds to his crisis both justly and charitably; in him ‘justice and peace meet together.’ He resolves to ‘put Mary away,’ i.e., to break the solemn engagement rather than live a lie. That is justice. But for Mary’s sake, ‘privately.’ That is charity.

Then the angel came to him, as he had come to Mary earlier and would come later to the shepherds. Only the gentiles, the wise men from the East, had no angel. But they had the stars to guide them, and they too were God’s messengers leading to Christ, as St. Paul says natural reason can do (Rom. 1:19-20).

The angelic message, as usual, begins with ‘fear not.’ For the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and Joseph was a wise man. But it is not the end. Fear exists to be overcome with love (1 John 4:18).

The angel, God’s news broadcaster, announces the good news, the ev-angel-ium: that this apparent tragedy was God’s work. God, not man, certified by His angel that this revelation, this Word of God, this Christ, was from God, and not man, from a divine father, not a human one.

Joseph provided for Mary and Jesus: travel to Bethlehem, shelter for the birth and later safety in Egypt from murderous Herod. But Joseph could not afford a horse, only a donkey. He could not get a room in the inn, only a cattle stall. He may have thought himself a failure as a provider, as many a man feels today if he cannot afford to give his family ‘the best.’ But he has not failed; he can be ‘the best.’ Look how Mary and Jesus turned out under Joseph’s providence.

But his work was for them, not for him. He was no work addict. He is not always in his carpenter shop; but he is always there for his family.

Even Satan cannot defeat this simple man. Satan inspires Herod to slaughter the innocents, as he inspires our modern Herods to the holocaust of abortion. But Satan fails because Joseph obeys God’s angel and provides for his family: two deeds of ordinariness that are more powerful against the very forces of hell than anything else in the world. Take away all the Nobel Prize winners and humanity would still survive. But take away obedience to God and loyalty to family, and even with a million Nobel Prize winners, humanity is doomed. And these are precisely the two traditional values most imperiled in our time.

When the threat passes, Joseph takes his family home. Home — that holy word, symbolic of heaven. Homecoming was cruelly delayed but Joseph was patient and did not run ahead of God, whatever the circumstances. Travel to and living in a foreign land were no vacation then; rather, they involved real hardship. But to run ahead of God onto our own path is to run out of the only real safety (however dangerous it appears) into danger (however safe it appears).

If Joseph had been less obedient, Mary and Jesus may not have survived. The gates of hell cannot prevail against the Church, but the same divine Providence which wills that end also wills the means: our faithfulness, our free choice to trust and obey, like Joseph.

Joseph appears briefly 12 years later when Jesus is lost and found in the Temple. Surely he shared Mary’s pain of loss and joy of finding, as we do whenever we lose Christ in disobedience and find Him in reconciliation. We too find Jesus in the Church, where He is even now ‘going about His Father’s business.’ …Joseph was a sinner. …Joseph shared our guilt. No sinner was ever so humanly close to Christ as Joseph was.

We hear absolutely nothing more about Joseph. The rest of his life is as silent as Christ’s silent, Joseph-like years. These years are like the hidden troughs of a wave which propel it forward: The visible froth on the crest is only the effect. Never think God has put you on the shelf; He has only planted you in the ground.

The last thing Scripture says about Joseph is that Christ was subject to him and Mary and grew in soul and body (Luke 2:51-52). Obedience is food. Christ grew by obeying. Later He said ‘Doing the will of Him who sent me and bringing His work to completion is my food’ (John 4:34).

Christ practiced first toward Mary and Joseph the substance of what He preached, the way of obedience, the simple secret of all sanctity, Mary’s ‘fiat,’ the will’s ‘yes.’ ‘Son (of God) though He was, He learned obedience through suffering’ later at Calvary, because He had first learned it earlier in Nazareth. The perfect fruit was plucked on Calvary only because it had grown and been nourished under Joseph’s and Mary’s care. That is what parenting is: spiritual gardening.

Thus Joseph, like Mary, shares in the work of redemption. And so do we. That is the ultimate dignity of daily work and obedience. It saves the world. Our acts of love to God and neighbor can save souls from hell, souls we have never met in this life. (What a merry meeting it would be to encounter them in the next!)

Like the angels, we are unseen actors behind the scenes of the play, helping with the stage sets or the lighting, unspectacular but necessary roles in the great drama of salvation. And that is the significance of our daily work (and that of St. Joseph the Worker). It is the sacrament of the ordinary.”
~Peter Kreeft

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wise Men Still Seek Him

“‘WISE MEN still seek Him,’ reads the bumper sticker.

Fools think they are wise, so they do not search. The three wise men go on a pilgrimage, on a search, because they know they are not wise.

Just as saints know they are sinners but sinners think they are saints, good people do not call themselves ‘good people’ and wise men do not call themselves wise.

Thus, the wise seek. And all seekers find, according to our Lord’s own promise. But only seekers find. If the wise man in us will travel far from home, comfort and security, then we may arrive at Bethlehem.

As Pascal says, there are only three kinds of people: those who have sought God and found Him (these are reasonable and happy), those who are seeking God and have not yet found Him (these are reasonable and unhappy), and those who neither seek God nor find Him (these are unreasonable and unhappy). Everyone in the second class makes it into the first; all seekers find. But only seekers.

…The wise men have seen His sign. They were eagerly looking, ready and alert like the shepherds, ‘keeping watch by night’ over their flock of responsibilities — the heavens. The stars were their sheep. The earthly shepherds were surprised by angels from heaven, while the heaven-gazing wise men were surprised by a baby in a cow barn.

Like the shepherds, they came — a long, dangerous journey. But nothing is more dangerous than missing Christ. Life itself is a journey, a pilgrimage. The image of the road is perhaps the most powerful in all our literature, especially all our great epics: ‘Gilgamesh,’ ‘The Odyssey,’ ‘The Aeneid,’ ‘The Divine Comedy,’ ‘The Lord of the Rings.’ For man, as distinct from everything else, life is a search for our true identity. Man alone has an identity crisis. And that true identity is found only in God, for He alone, as our Author and Designer, has the secret of our identity in His eternal plan. ‘Your life is hid with Christ in God,’ says St. Paul, and ‘our citizenship is in heaven.’

The wise men come to worship, just as the shepherds do. That’s why they are wise; not because they know the means, the way, but because they know the end; not because they lift their heads to the stars but because they bow their knees to the Baby. Wisdom is not the pride of cleverness in knowledge, but the humility of holiness. ‘The fear of the Lord, that is the beginning of wisdom.’

Different from the shepherds in every way but one — rich, not poor; Eastern, not Western; clever, not simple; from afar, not from near; unearthy, not earthy — yet they are like the shepherds in ‘the one thing necessary’: Like Mary, they sit at Jesus’ feet. They know the end of their pilgrimage. They know the ultimate purpose of human existence; adoration of God and love of man in Christ, the God-man. Whether we are like the shepherds or like the wise men therefore matters not at all. ‘In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, male or female, slave or free.’

They bring gifts. They open their treasures. Some of us have rich talents to bring to Christ; others, like the shepherds, have only themselves, their poverty, their work. What matters is not what we give but whether we give, how much we give (all, like the widow’s pence), and how we give (freely, ‘for God loves a cheerful giver’).

Remember: Life too is a gift. God gives us our lives, our very existence, and then His life in substitution when we forfeited ours by sin. Our fundamental response to God must be like His to us: the gift of self.

For that is the inescapable law, since it is the very nature of ultimate reality, the Blessed Trinity itself. The Father eternally gives Himself to the Son, and the Son in return eternally gives Himself to the Father, and the Holy Spirit eternally proceeds from them as this mutual gift of love, so real that He eternally becomes a distinct Person. Marriage and childbearing are holy because they dimly reflect this ultimate reality on a biological level.

…‘They returned praising God,’ for they came seeking God. As St. Augustine says in the last, great sentence of his ‘Confessions’: ‘They that seek the Lord shall find Him, and they that find Him shall praise Him.’”
~Peter Kreeft

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Shepherds

“They are peasants: simple, hard-working, honest people. Under our layers of modern sophistication and education, we are all peasants. It’s the peasant soul in us, the child in us, that hears angels, that is hailed by the heavenly glory, that dares to hope and wonder with awe.

The shepherds are outdoors, exposed to God’s sky, not protected by human artifice. Even when we’re in an office, surrounded by technology, the shepherd-self in us is always in this situation. No place is safe from God’s invasion.

They are ‘keeping watch by night.’ In the darkness they wait and watch, like the little child at the center of our souls. And it’s in the darkness that the heavenly light dawns. In the silence is heard the angels’ song. Kierkegaard said, ‘If I could prescribe only one remedy for all the ills of the modern world, I would prescribe silence. For even if the Word of God were proclaimed, no one would hear it; there is too much noise. Therefore, create silence.’

The shepherds are ‘keeping watch over their sheep,’ as our soul watches over its body with its flock of desires, responsible for the care and direction of our herd or instincts. It’s as we go about this humdrum daily business that supernatural grace comes to us through the ministry of angels. We do not usually see them, as the shepherds did, but they are there. In heaven we will recognize them, and their role in our lives. ‘So it was you all the time! It was you who were there...then...’

‘The glory of the Lord shone round about them.’ This is the shekinah, the heavenly light that had appeared visibly over the Ark of the Covenant and on Mount Sinai. We can still see it, but only with the inner eye of faith. Only if we believe, do we see.

‘They were afraid.’ We fear the unknown, the opening skies, the passages between worlds, like birth and death. Even when the angel says, ‘Fear not,’ the event is no less momentous, the awe is now joyful, not fearsome; but it’s still ‘awe-full.’ It is ‘good tidings of great joy.’ Joy can be as awesome as fear. The Good News, the incredible event of the Incarnation, is the most joyful and the most awesome news we have ever heard.

The angel tells the shepherds that this event is ‘to you.’ Not just to ‘mankind’ in general, but to us, these ordinary individuals — Almighty God comes to our fields, stables, offices and homes. This is no prerecorded message; this is God calling us up personally.

The shepherds’ response is immediate and practical: ‘Let us go to Bethlehem.’ The angel’s message has power; it moves people to go. When Cicero addressed the Roman senate, everyone said, ‘How beautifully he speaks!’ But they remained in their seats. Yet when Demosthenes addressed the Greek army, they leaped up, clashed spear upon shield and said, ‘Let us march!’

The angels are like Demosthenes. Scholars, seeing angels, say, ‘Let us interpret this.’ Shepherds, seeing angels, say, ‘Let us go.’ Karl Marx was profoundly right when he said, ‘Philosophers have only interpreted the world, the thing is to change it.’ Both bad religion (Marx’s) and good religion (Christ’s) change the world.

Unlike the wise men, the shepherds have no gifts to bring Christ. They are poor beggars — like us. ‘Just As I Am’ is our song. They come with dirt under their fingernails and in their souls. They come to receive, not to bargain; to wonder, not to understand. They run to Bethlehem to fall on their knees — that is, to fulfill the ultimate purpose for which we were all created.

Like us, the shepherds need to come only a short way to meet Him, from the fields to the stable. But He came an infinite distance to meet them; from heaven to earth, from eternity to time, from infinite joy to squalor, suffering and death. He desired that meeting with all His heart. For that meeting the very stars that sang on that holy night were created as mere stage props. What the simple shepherds do is the highest and holiest thing any saint or mystic ever does, on earth or in heaven.

It is the thing we shall be doing for all eternity: loving and adoring God. We had better learn from the shepherds and start practicing now.”
~Peter Kreeft

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Christmas Prayer

“Loving Father, help us to remember the birth of Jesus, that we may share in the song of the angels, the gladness of the shepherds, and the worship of the wise men.

Close the door of hate and open the door of love all over the world.

Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting.

Deliver us from evil by the blessing which Christ brings, and teach us to be merry with clear hearts.

May the Christmas morning make us happy to be Thy children, and the Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts, forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus’ sake. Amen!”
~Robert Louis Stevenson

Monday, December 21, 2009

I Celebrate the Day

“And the first time
That You opened Your eyes did You realize that You would be my Savior?
And the first breath that left Your lips
Did You know that it would change this world forever?


And so this Christmas I'll compare the things I felt in prior years
To what this midnight made so clear
That You have come to meet me here


And I, I celebrate the day
That You were born to die
So I could one day pray for You to save my life”

~excerpts from a song by Relient K

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Enjoying God

"Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him."
~C. S. Lewis

"When we set aside the flurry of activity that so often comes in December, we can almost hear the message of the angels. They invited the shepherds not to be afraid, but to give glory to God. Lewis tells us that when they did this, the angels were inviting them to enjoy God.

Aren't we too, being invited in this holy season to give glory to God? God doesn't really need our praise and glory, but He knows that we need to lift up our hearts. We need to lift up our eyes unto the hills, from whence our help comes, and see the glory that will be revealed to us.

Narnia can help us to do that. Narnia contains many pleasures and they all come from God. The gifts of Father Christmas to Peter, Susan, and Lucy are some of those pleasures. The crowning of the four children to be Kings and Queens of Narnia are another. The arrival of Reepicheep, the talking mouse, in Aslan's country is a third. God gave Lewis the vision. In enjoying his vision we are enjoying God.

Even in the midst of suffering, we need this reminder. St. Paul tells us, 'I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed to us' (Rom. 8:18). When we give glory to God, it reminds us of the glory that will be revealed to us. And we find joy in this glory. That's one reason why the message was 'good news of great joy' (Luke 2:10), not only for the shepherds, but 'for all the people'--including us.

Glory to You, O Lord. Praise to You, O Christ. Glory to God in the highest. Amen."
~Joel Heck

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.
Luke 2:14

Saturday, December 19, 2009

My Favorite Christmas Hymn Verse

How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is giv’n;
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His Heav’n.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him, still the dear Christ enters in.
~Phillips Brooks (from O Little Town of Bethlehem)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Be Grateful

"When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas time. Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs?"
~G. K. Chesterton

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

God Acting Drastically

“Perhaps… it would not hurt to be reminded that the Incarnation was, in fact, an act of colossal intolerance on the part of God, by which I mean to say that it was an act of immeasurable love. He loved us so much that He would not let us die in our sins. He was intolerant of our slavery and was born among us for the express purpose of doing something rather drastic about it.

I realize that to use the word intolerance is a risky business, for it cannot help but conjure up visions of religious and racial hatreds or the specter of grim moralizers judging their neighbors (and who has not felt the sting of those tongues?). Moreover, it may well be asked if such a tainted word can be properly used to describe a characteristic of God. He is, after all, rich in mercy and slow to anger. But it must be remembered that both the Old and New Testaments speak of times when the Justice of God must act–for He will not permit evil to devour everything.

The early Christians were not squeamish about political incorrectness. They knew firsthand that sin meant death to the inner and the exterior life of man. Most of them were converts from paganism, for their world was almost entirely pagan. They had known the effects of falsehood at work in their own minds, hearts, and flesh. They knew that they had been rescued by God's intolerance of their bondage. They exulted in the glorious, shattering good news that Christ was real. He was not a mere theological abstraction or just another deity in all idol-crowded world. He was the one true God, and He was life! That awareness has waned in our era, partly because most people no longer feel endangered by the world of evil, by the possibility of personal slavery to invisible forces or servility to their own fallen nature…”
~Michael O’Brien

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Gift of God’s Love

“God is love. God is a lover, not a manager, businessman, accountant, owner, or puppet-master. What He wants from us first of all is not a technically correct performance but our heart… [C. S. Lewis states in Mere Christianity] ‘We may think God wants actions of a certain kind, but God wants people of a certain sort.’

The point is amazingly simple, which is why so many of us just don’t get it. Heaven is free because love is free. It is ours for the taking. The taking is faith. ‘If you believe, you will be saved.’ It is really that simple. If I offer you a gift, you have it if and only if you have the faith to take it.

The primacy of faith does not discount or denigrate works but liberates them. Our good works can now also be free―free from the worry and slavery and performance anxiety of having to buy Heaven with them. Our good works can now flow from genuine love of neighbor*, not fear of Hell. Nobody wants to be loved merely as a means to build up the lover’s merit pile. That attempt is ridiculous logically as well as psychologically. How much does Heaven cost? A thousand good works? Would 999 not do, then? The very question shows its absurdity. That absurdity comes from forgetting that God is love.

God practices what He preaches. He loves the sinner and hates only the sin. The father of the prodigal son did not say to his repentant son: ‘You are welcome home, Son, but of course you must now pay me back for all the harm you’ve done and all the money you’ve wasted.’ He didn’t even say, ‘I hope you’ve learned your lesson.’ He simply fell on his neck, kissed him, and wept.

The righteous older brother was scandalized by this apparently unjust justification of the sinner―just as the day-long laborers in another of Christ’s strange and wonderful parables were scandalized when the master of the vineyard gave the same wage he had given them to the late arrivals. So too the people who heard Jesus forgive the repentant thief on the cross were probably scandalized by the words: ‘Today you will be with me in Paradise.’ They probably thought, ‘But what about all his past sins? What about justice? What about punishment?’ The answer is found in I John 4:18: ‘There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment.’

God cannot be outdone in loving us lavishly. No one can even imagine how loving God is: ‘Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.’ (I Cor. 2:9). The prodigal son did not find himself in the servants’ quarters but in the banquet hall. He had hoped his father might consent to take him back as one of his hired servants, but he was dressed in festal robes and fed the fatted calf.

The whole point of justification by faith is God’s scandalous, crazy, and wonderful gift of love.”
~Peter Kreeft

*Because we receive a new kind of love from God (agape), we can love our neighbor in a new way.

Monday, December 14, 2009

a season waits

black pearls in the snow
little fingers play
melodies of carols and bells

desolate, windswept, empty fields
below white winter's blanket
burrowers hide away their gift

gutshot
wanderers kneel beneath forever trees
unveiling season's hart

a cardinal's reprise on the wing
weeps and looks for a star
emblem of kings
~Elsa (my wife)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Zechariah's Prophecy

"Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel.
He has visited His people and redeemed them.

He has raised up for us a mighty savior
in the house of David His servant,

As He promised by the lips of holy men,
those who were His prophets from of old.

A savior who would free us from our foes,
from the hands of all who hate us.

So His love for our fathers is fulfilled
and His holy covenant remembered.

He swore to Abraham our father
to grant us that, free from fear,
and saved from the hands of our foes,

We might serve Him in holiness and justice
all the days of our life in His presence.

As for you, little child, you shall be called
a prophet of God, the Most High.

You shall go ahead of the Lord,
to prepare His ways before Him,

To make known to His people their salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,

The loving-kindness of the heart of our God
who visits us like the dawn from on high.

He will give light to those in darkness,
those who dwell in the shadow of death,
and guide us into the way of peace."
~Luke 1:67-79

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Christmas Time

"But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round--apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that--as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And, therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good; and I say, God bless it!"
~Charles Dickens (from A Christmas Carol)

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Great Enters the Little

[The influential French writer] “Montaigne became kittenish with his kitten but she never talked philosophy to him. Everywhere the great enters the little―its power to do so is almost the test of its greatness.”
~C. S. Lewis

“God so often surprises us by doing big things in little places, by resisting the proud and exalting the humble, by choosing ordinary people to do great things, and, in general, by doing the unexpected. What more humble circumstance could we imagine than an unmarried, pregnant teenage girl, with her betrothed husband, hurrying nearly a hundred miles from little Nazareth to little Bethlehem? What could be more humbling than enrolling in a census late in a pregnancy, settling for less than ideal accommodations, and giving birth far from the centers of power? The Great enters the little. God becomes a baby. Think of it. The Creator of the universe stoops to become a child.”
~Joel Heck

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Take Hold

I was working feverishly on my Christmas sermon--the hardest time in any minister's year to find something fresh to say--when the floor mother appeared at the study door. Another crisis upstairs.

Christmas Eve is a difficult day for the emotionally disturbed children in our church home. Three-quarters of them go home at least overnight, and the ones who remain react to the empty beds and the changed routine.

I followed her up the stairs, chafing inwardly at the repeated interruptions. This time it was Tommy. He had crawled under a bed and refused to come out. The woman pointed to one of six cots in the small dormitory.

Not a hair or a toe showed beneath, so I addressed myself to the cowboys and bucking broncos on the bedspread. I talked about the brightly lighted tree in the church vestibule next door and the packages underneath it and all the other good things waiting for him out beyond that bed.

No answer.

Still fretting at the time this was costing, I dropped to my hands and knees and lifted the spread. Two enormous blue eyes met mine. Tommy was eight, but looked like a five-year-old. It would have been no effort at all simply to pull him out.

But it wasn't pulling Tommy needed--it was trust and a sense of deciding things on his own initiative. So, crouched there on all fours, I launched into the menu of the special Christmas Eve supper to be offered after the service. I told him about the stocking with his name on it provided by the women's society.

Silence. There was no indication that he either heard me or cared about Christmas.

And at last, because I could think of no other way to make contact, I got down on my stomach and wriggled in beside him, bedsprings snagging my suit jacket. For what seemed a long time I lay there with my cheek pressed against the floor.

At first I talked about the big wreath above the altar and the candles in the windows. I reminded him of the carol he and the other children were going to sing. Then I ran out of things to say and simply waited there beside him.

And as I waited, a small, chilled hand crept into mine.

"You know, Tommy," I said after a bit, "it's kind of close quarters under here. Let's you and me go out where we can stand up."

And so we did, but slowly, in no hurry. All the pressures had gone from my day, because, you see, I had my Christmas sermon. Flattened there on the floor I realized I had been given a new glimpse of the mystery of this season.

Hadn't God called us, too, as I'd called Tommy, from far above us? With His stars and mountains, His whole majestic creation, hadn't He pleaded with us to love Him, to enjoy the universe He gave us?

And when we would not listen, He had drawn closer. Through prophets and lawgivers and holy men, He spoke with us face to face.

But it was not until that first Christmas, until God stooped to earth itself, until He took our very place and came to dwell with us in our loneliness and alienation, that we, like Tommy, dared to stretch out our hands to take hold of love.
~Henry Carter

Monday, December 7, 2009

Children at Christmas

“It is good to be children sometimes,
and never better than at Christmas,
when its mighty founder
was a child Himself.”
~Charles Dickens

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Daily Gifts

"It's not too early to give some things away this Christmas. Not just on Christmas Day, but during all the days leading up to December 25. We could call these daily gifts 'our Christmas projects.' Maybe one per day from now 'til then. Here are a few suggestions.

Mend a quarrel.
Seek out a forgotten friend.
Dismiss suspicion.
Write a long overdue love note.
Hug someone tightly and whisper, 'I love you so.'
Forgive an enemy.
Be gentle and patient with an angry person.
Express appreciation.
Gladden the heart of a child.
Find the time to keep a promise.
Make or bake something for some else--anonymously.
Release a grudge.
Listen.
Speak kindly to a stranger.
Enter into another's sorrow.
Smile. Laugh a little. Laugh a little more.
Take a walk with a friend.
Kneel down and pat a dog.
Read a poem or two to your mate or friend.
Lessen your demands on others.
Play some beautiful music during the evening meal.
Apologize if you were wrong.
Turn off the television and talk.
Treat someone to an ice-cream cone (yogurt would be fine).
Do the dishes for the family.
Pray for someone who helped you when you hurt.
Fix breakfast on Saturday morning.
Give a soft answer even though you feel strongly.
Encourage an older person.
Point out one thing you appreciate most about someone you work with or live near.
Offer to baby-sit for a weary mother.
Give your teacher a break: be especially cooperative.

Let's make Christmas one long, extended gift of ourselves to others. Unselfishly. Without announcement. Or obligation. Or reservation. Or hypocrisy.

This is Christianity, isn't it?"
~Charles Swindoll

Friday, December 4, 2009

He Will Prevail

"Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
'God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.'"
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Too Amazing to Comprehend…

“The Eternal Being, who knows everything and who created the whole universe, became not only a man but (before that) a baby, and before that a fetus inside a woman’s body. If you want to get the hang of it, think how you would like to become a slug or a crab.”
~C. S. Lewis

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Do not wait to love God

"No man can live without joy; that is why anyone deprived of spiritual joy must go over to carnal pleasures."
~St. Thomas Aquinas

"Late have I loved Thee, O Beauty so ancient and so new; late have I loved Thee! For behold Thou wert within me, and I outside; and I sought Thee outside and in my unloveliness fell upon those lovely things that Thou hast made. Thou wert with me and I was not with Thee. I was kept from Thee by those things, yet had they not been in Thee, they would not have been at all. Thou didst call and cry to me and burst open my deafness: and Thou didst send forth Thy beams and shine upon me and chase away my blindness: Thou didst breathe fragrance upon me, and I drew in my breath and do now pant for Thee: I tasted Thee, and now hunger and thirst for Thee: Thou didst touch me, and I have burned for Thy peace."
~St. Augustine

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Listening and Praying

“We rise from our prayerful recollection and proceed about our duties, made a bit more hectic by the holiday rush. We are swiftly moving along… The streets are crowded. Then something we see or hear brings us back to our recollection. A phonograph record is playing in a store: ‘Come, let us adore.’ We stop and listen; we listen within ourselves. Then in the bustle of the crowd, totally unperceived by others, we adore. A little later as we are leaving the store, an old woman slowly hobbles along ahead of us blocking the way. We look. She is obviously lonely, a touch of threadbare, a bit confused and frightened by the crowd. We take an extra ten seconds to hold the door for her and to smile. Her face brightens. We respond to her thanks with, ‘Have a nice Christmas.’ A sadness touches her face. She says: ‘Same to you.’ A feeling of pity knocks at the door of our heart. Although she has already disappeared in the crowd, we pause for a second: ‘God, help her, bless her, take away her loneliness…Come, let us adore.’ And so we have listened and so we have prayed. It may not seem like much of an event, but life is really made up of small events, of seconds. We will never learn to live the years prayerfully unless we learn by prayer to live the seconds deeply and well.

The experience described above is a simple one of listening and praying with mind and heart. It is important to recognize that the experience did not depend on the decision to do some act but rather on the decision to listen, to be attentive and to respond. We would probably become exhausted and frustrated if we started out with the resolution, ‘I am going to pray in the department store today because it is Advent.’ Such prayer would be a tour de force and would soon fizzle out. We only need to make the much more simple decision to listen and to respond with mind and heart. Life and its experiences will do the rest.

The example given above is a simple and appealing one. This is the way to learn to listen at the beginning. But we [must] move on to more challenging experiences―to listen to love and to hate, to joy and to sorrow, to peace and to rage. We must respond prayerfully to injustice, to sin, to death, to all the things that a thinking Christian must deal with creatively in life. The stakes are high because as Christians we believe we must deal with all the currents of life prayerfully and in the inner world of mind and heart. The Master has counseled His disciples to pray so as not to faint along the way.”
~Benedict Groeschel

Monday, November 30, 2009

Prayer for Hope and Assurance

“Dear God, Speak gently in my silence. When the loud noises of my surroundings and the loud inner noises of my fears keep pulling me away from you, help me to trust that you are still there even when I am unable to hear you. Give me ears to listen to your still, soft voice saying: ‘Come to me, you who are overburdened, and I will give you rest… for I am gentle and humble of heart.’ Let that loving voice be my guide. Amen.”
~Henri Nouwen

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Simplicity

“The central point for the discipline of simplicity is to seek the kingdom of God and the righteousness of His kingdom first and then everything necessary will come in its proper order. It is impossible to overestimate the importance of Jesus’ insight at this point. Everything hinges upon maintaining the ‘first’ thing first. Nothing must come before the kingdom of God, including the desire for a simple life-style.

Simplicity itself becomes idolatry when it takes precedence over seeking the kingdom. In a particularly penetrating comment on this passage of Scripture [Matt. 6:25-33], Søren Kierkegaard considers what sort of effort could be made to pursue the kingdom of God. Should a person get a suitable job in order to exert a virtuous influence? His answer: no, we must first seek God’s kingdom. Then should we give away all our money to feed the poor? Again the answer: no, we must first seek God’s kingdom. Well, then perhaps we are to go out and preach this truth to the world that people are to seek first God’s kingdom? Once again the answer is a resounding: no, we are first to seek the kingdom of God. Kierkegaard concludes, ‘Then in a certain sense it is nothing I shall do. Yes, certainly, in a certain sense it is nothing, become nothing before God, learn to keep silent; in this silence is the beginning, which is, first to seek God’s Kingdom.’

Focus upon the kingdom produces the inward reality, and without the inward reality we will degenerate into legalistic trivia. Nothing else can be central. The desire to get out of the rat race cannot be central, the redistribution of the world’s wealth cannot be central, the concern for ecology cannot be central. Seeking first God’s kingdom and the righteousness, both personal and social, of that kingdom is the only thing that can be central in the spiritual discipline of simplicity.

The person who does not seek the kingdom first does not seek it at all. Worthy as all other concerns may be, the moment they become the focus of our efforts they become idolatry. To center on them will inevitably draw us into declaring that our particular activity is Christian simplicity. And, in fact, when the kingdom of God is genuinely placed first, ecological concerns, the poor, the equitable distribution of wealth, and many other things will be given their proper attention.”
~Richard Foster

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Give Thanks!

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”
~G. K. Chesterton

Monday, November 23, 2009

God’s Instrument

“Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace.” – Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi

“We pray for many things, for loved ones, for one sick, for one dying, for health, for much-needed money, for success in examinations, for our country, for the peace of the world. We pray for forgiveness of sins, for conquest of one particular sin that defeats us, for help in some situation that frightens or threatens us. We pray especially hard—most of us—when our own safety or security is threatened.

I myself have done this, but now I wish to place on record that I am in unrepayable debt to Francis of Assisi, for when I pray his prayer, or even remember it, my melancholy is dispelled, my self-pity comes to an end, my faith is restored, because of this majestic conception of what the work of a disciple should be.

So majestic is this conception that one dare no longer be sorry for oneself. This world ceases to be one’s enemy and becomes the place where one lives and works and serves. Life is no longer nasty, mean, brutish, and short, but becomes the time that one needs to make it less nasty and mean, not only for others, but indeed also for oneself.

We are brought back instantaneously to the reality of our faith, that we are not passive recipients but active instruments. The right relationship between man and God is instantly restored.

Francis of Assisi no doubt often prayed for something for himself, or for the order he had founded, or for the chapel and huts at Porziuncula. But in his prayer he asks nothing for himself, or perhaps he asks everything, and that is that his whole life, all his gifts, his physical strength, shall be an instrument in God’s hand.

And I say to myself, this is the only way in which a Christian can encounter hatred, injury, despair, and sadness, and that is by throwing off his helplessness and allowing himself to be made the bearer of love, the pardoner, the bringer of hope, the comforter of those that grieve. And I believe that if you allow yourself to be so made, you will be so.”
~Alan Paton

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Short Prayer

"Lord help me
to remember
that nothing
is going to happen
to me today
that You and I
together can't handle.

Amen"

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Work At It!

"The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender."
~Woody Hayes

Final Score: Ohio State 21 and UM 10

Friday, November 20, 2009

Youth: When the Church was Young

The writer begins by making the point that in early Church research he does NOT find teen events like ski trips, dances, pizza parties, special youth services — no data about youth group events and the like.

"...Yet the Fathers (fathers in the faith) had enormous success in youth and young-adult ministry. Many of the early martyrs were teens, as were many of the Christians who took to the desert for the solitary life. There's ample evidence that a disproportionate number of conversions, too, came from the young and youngish age groups.

How did the Fathers do it? They made wild promises.

They promised young people great things, like persecution, lower social status, public ridicule, severely limited employment opportunities, frequent fasting, a high risk of jail and torture, and maybe, just maybe, an early, violent death at the hands of their pagan rulers.

...What made the Church attractive in the third century can make it just as attractive in the twenty-first. In the ancient world and in ours, young people want a challenge. They want to love with their whole being. They're willing to do things the hard way — if people they respect make the big demands. These are distinguishing marks of youth. You don't find too many middle-aged men petitioning the Marines for a long stay at Parris Island. It’s young men who beg for that kind of rigor.

The spiritual writer Father John Hugo told a cautionary tale, not from the ancient Church, but from the German Church of the early twentieth century. Youth leaders faced a country depressed and dejected from its defeat in World War I. Teens seemed aimless, with little hope for professional opportunity and no clear sense of patriotism or other ideals.

The German clergy made a conscious effort, then, to accentuate the positive. They decided to accommodate the country's weakness, avoid mentioning sacrifice, and downplay the cross and other 'negative' elements of Christianity. They were big on nature hikes.

At the same time, there arose a man who called upon those same youth to give up everything for the sake of their country. 'He put them in uniforms, housed them in barracks — in short, he demanded that they live a hard and laborious life.' This man, Adolf Hitler, won the hearts of the youth. Because no young man or woman really wants to give his/her life away cheaply."
~Mike Aquilina

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

God chose Christ our Lord

"God Most High, who created us and you, knows that it is in our hearts to seek a Leader. He knows that this Leader must be a man like ourselves, who has trodden the path by which He would lead us: but it is also in the counsels of God, that this Leader, to lead us aright must be more than man, even as the sheep, who have like ourselves the inclination to follow are not safe when they are following other sheep, but only when they are following the shepherd.

Therefore, God Chose Christ our Lord, before He was born on the earth, because in Him the Divine Leadership and the human leadership meet in one, for He is 'declared to be the Son of God with power' (Rom. 1:4), in the Spirit; while in the flesh--He is 'the Son of Man' (John 5:27). God spoke of Him in the prophecy of Isaiah--'Behold I have given Him for a Leader and Commander to the people' (Isa. 55:4). He is by the authority of God the true subduer by constraint, but the constraint of love, and whenever in His days upon earth He called to one or another, 'Follow Me,' it is told us that they arose and left all, to follow Him..."
~Lilias Trotter

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Build Up

“If you do away with the yoke,
the clenched fist, the wicked word,
if you give your bread to the hungry,
and relief to the oppressed,

your light will rise in the darkness,
and your shadows become like noon.
Yahweh will always guide you,
giving you relief in desert places.

He will give strength to your bones
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water
whose waters never run dry.

You will rebuild the ancient ruins,
build up on the old foundations.
You will be called ‘Breach-mender,’
‘Restorer of ruined houses.’”
~Isaiah 58:6-12

When I read this portion of Scripture it made me think of my father-in-law and the way he lives his life. Happy 60th Birthday!

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Father’s love for His children

Read Mark 8:1-21

“He makes them go over the particulars of the miracles―hardly to refresh their memories―but to make their hearts dwell on them. For they had already forgotten or had failed to see their central revelation―the eternal fact of God’s love and care and compassion. They knew the number of the men each time, the number of the loaves each time, the number of the baskets of fragments they had each time taken up, but they forgot the Love that had so broken the bread that its remnants twenty times outweighed its loaves.

Having thus questioned them like children, listened as to the answers of children, He turns the light of their thoughts upon themselves, and, with an argument to the man which overleaps all the links of its own absolute logic, demands, ‘How is it that you do not understand?’ Then they did understand, and knew that He did not speak to them of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. He who trusts can understand; he whose mind is set at ease can discover a reason.

The lesson He would have had them learn from the miracle, the natural lesson, the only lesson worthy of the miracle, was, that God cared for His children, and could, did, and would provide for their necessities. This lesson they had not learned. No doubt the power of the miracle was some proof of His mission, but the love of it proved it better, for it made it worth proving: it was a throb of the Father’s heart.”
~George MacDonald

Friday, November 13, 2009

Righteousness

“And what is ‘righteousness,’ but the life of God in the soul; the mind which was in Christ Jesus; the image of God stamped upon the heart now renewed after the likeness of Him that created it? What is it but the love of God, because He first loved us, and the love of all mankind for His sake?”
~John Wesley

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Poem

Whispering to each handhold, “I'll be back,”
I go up the cliff in the dark. One place
I loosen a rock and listen a long time
till it hits, faint in the gulf, but the rush
of the torrent almost drowns it out, and the wind—
I almost forgot the wind: it tears at your side
or it waits and then buffets; you sag outward. . . .

I remember they said it would be hard. I scramble
by luck into a little pocket out of
the wind and begin to beat on the stones
with my scratched numb hands, rocking back and forth
in silent laughter there in the dark—
“Made it again!” Oh how I love this climb!
—the whispering to stones, the drag, the weight
as your muscles crack and ease on, working
right. They are back there, discontent,
waiting to be driven forth. I pound
on the earth, riding the earth past the stars:
“Made it again! Made it again!”

~William Stafford

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Pulpit

“What could be more full of meaning?─for the pulpit is ever this earth’s foremost part; all the rest comes in its rear; the pulpit leads the world. From thence it is the storm of God’s quick wrath is first descried, and the bow must bear the earliest brunt. From thence it is the God of breezes fair or foul is first invoked for favourable winds. Yes, the world’s a ship on its passage out, and not a voyage complete; and the pulpit is its prow.”
~Herman Melville

Monday, November 9, 2009

Reality and Truth

“Reality is the first principle of truth. To be human means to remain connected to our humanness and to reality. It means to abandon the loneliness of being closed up in illusions, dreams, and ideologies, frightened of reality, and to choose to move towards connectedness. To be human is to accept ourselves just as we are, with our own history, and to accept others as they are. To be human means to accept history as it is and to work, without fear, towards greater openness, greater understanding, and a greater love of others. To be human is not to be crushed by reality, or to be angry about it or to try to hammer it into what we think it is or should be, but to commit ourselves as individuals, and as a species, to an evolution that will be for the good of all.

Each one of us needs to work at searching for truth, not be afraid of it. We need to strive to live in truth, because the truth sets us free, even if it means living in loneliness and anguish at certain moments. Perhaps this search for truth is a process of letting ourselves be enfolded in truth rather than possessing truth, as if it were an object that we could possess, that we could use against others.

The truth will set us free only if we let it penetrate our hearts and rend the veil that separates head from heart, but to love truth, also, and to let it inspire our lives, our attitudes, and our way of living. The truth of religion and morality shows itself when they liberate us and give us a deep respect and compassion for others.”
~Jean Vanier

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Peace

“And what is this ‘peace,’ the peace of God, but that calm serenity of soul, that sweet repose in the blood of Jesus, which leaves no doubt of our acceptance in Him; which excludes all fear but the loving, filial fear of offending our Father which is in heaven?”
~John Wesley

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Tribute to Pastor Dan

“A tree is best measured when it's down.”
~Old Woodsman’s Proverb

We will be measuring for a long time to come…

Friday, November 6, 2009

Christian Virtue

“For the searching and right understanding of the Scriptures there is need of a good life and a pure soul, and for Christian virtue to guide the mind to grasp, so far as human nature can, the truth concerning God the Word. One cannot possibly understand the teaching of the saints unless one has a pure mind and is trying to imitate their life. Anyone who wants to look at sunlight naturally wipes his eye clear first, in order to make, at any rate, some approximation to the purity of that on which he looks; and a person wishing to see a city or country goes to the place in order to do so. Similarly, anyone who wishes to understand the mind of the sacred writers must first cleanse his own life, and approach the saints by copying their deeds. Thus united to them in the fellowship of life, he will both understand the things revealed to them by God and, thenceforth escaping the peril that threatens sinners in the judgment, will receive that which is laid up for the saints in the kingdom of heaven. Of that reward it is written: ‘Eye has not seen nor ear heard, neither has entered into the heart of man the things that God has prepared’ for them that live a godly life and love the God and Father in Christ Jesus our Lord, through Whom and with Whom be to the Father Himself, with the Son Himself, in the Holy Spirit, honor and might and glory to ages of ages. Amen.”
~St. Athanasius

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Tongue

“those who say, ‘With our tongue we will prevail, our lips are with us; who is master over us?’”
~Psalm 12:4

“God has given us that most excellent talent of speech. ‘Thou has given me a tongue,’ says the ancient writer, ‘that I may praise Thee therewith.’ For this purpose was it given to all the children of men to be employed in glorifying God. Nothing, therefore, is more ungrateful or more absurd than to think or say, ‘Our tongues are our own.’ That cannot be, unless we have created ourselves, and so are independent of the Most High. Nay, but ‘It is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves’: the manifest consequence is that He is still Lord over us, in this as in all other respects. It follows that there is not a word of our tongue for which we are not accountable to Him.”
~John Wesley

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Loneliness

“Loneliness is the fundamental force that urges mystics to a deeper union with God. For such people, loneliness has become intolerable, but, instead of slipping into apathy or anger, they use the energy of loneliness to seek God. It pushes them towards the absolute. An experience of God quenches this thirst for the absolute but at the same time, paradoxically, whets it, because this is an experience that can never be total; by necessity, the knowledge of God is always partial. So loneliness opens up mystics to a desire to love each and every human being as God loves them.”
~Jean Vanier

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Noise

In The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis's Devil detests music and silence. Hell, he crowed, was filled with furious noise: "the audible expression of all that is exultant, ruthless and virile…We will make the whole universe a noise…We have already made great strides in this direction as regards the Earth. The melodies and silences of Heaven will be shouted down in the end."
~C. S. Lewis

Monday, November 2, 2009

Meditation

“It is not improper to illustrate a little the manner in which we have described this duty of meditation, or the considering and contemplating of spiritual things. It is confessed to be a duty by all, but practically denied by most. Many, that make conscience of other duties, easily neglect this. They are troubled if they omit a sermon, a fast, or a prayer, in public or private; yet were never troubled that they have omitted meditation perhaps all of their lifetime to this very day; though it be that duty by which all other duties are improved, and by which the soul digests truth for its nourishment and comfort. It was God’s command to Joshua, ‘This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth, but you shall meditate therein day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written therein.’ Meditation turns the truths received and remembered into warm affection, firm resolution, and holy conversation.

This meditation is the acting of all the powers of the soul. It is the work of the living, and not of the dead. It is a work the most spiritual and sublime, and therefore not to be well performed by a heart that is merely carnal and earthly. Men must necessarily have some relation to heaven before they can familiarly converse there.”
~Richard Baxter

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Christian Perfection

"In God's name, would you forfeit the eternal glory that God will certainly give you? The worthless amusements on which you have hitherto wasted your time will again come to lure your heart away and ask it to return to them. Can you resolve to reject eternal happiness for such deceitful and trivial things? You may take my word, if you persevere it will not be long before you obtain consolations so delicious and pleasing that you will acknowledge that the world is mere gall compared to such honey and that a single day of devotion is better than a thousand years of worldly life.

You see that the mountain of Christian perfection is very lofty and you say 'O God, how shall I be able to climb it!' Courage, Philothea! When young bees begin to take form they are called nymphs and they cannot yet fly out among the flowers, mountains, or nearby hills to gather honey. Little by little, by continuing to eat honey the older bees have prepared, the little nymphs take on wings and grow strong so that later they fly all over the country in search of food. It is true that in devotion we are still only little bees and cannot fly up high according to our plan, which is nothing less than to reach the peak of Christian perfection. But as our desire and resolutions begin to take form and our wings start to grow, we hope that some day we shall become spiritual bees and be able to fly aloft. In the meantime let us feed on honey found in works of instruction that devout persons of ancient days have left us. Let us pray to God to give us 'wings like a dove' not only to fly upward during the time of our present life but also to find repose in the eternity that is to come."
~St. Francis De Sales

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Our Neighbor

"We make our friends; we make our enemies; but God makes our next-door neighbor. Hence he comes to us clad in all the careless terrors of nature; he is as strange as the stars, as reckless and indifferent as the rain. He is Man, the most terrible of the beasts. That is why the old religions and the old scriptural language showed so sharp a wisdom when they spoke, not of one's duty towards humanity, but one's duty towards one's neighbor. The duty towards humanity may often take the form of some choice which is personal or even pleasurable. That duty may be a hobby; it may even be a dissipation. We may work in the East End because we are peculiarly fitted to work in the East End, or because we think we are; we may fight for the cause of international peace because we are very fond of fighting. The most monstrous martyrdom, the most repulsive experience may be the result of choice or kind of taste. We may be so made as to be particularly fond of lunatics or specially interested in leprosy... But we have to love our neighbor because he is there--a much more alarming reason for a much more serious operation. He is the sample of humanity which is actually given us. Precisely because he may be anybody he is everybody. He is a symbol because he is an accident."
~G. K. Chesterton

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Morning

"Blessed be Thou, most gracious God, that again Thou hast brought light out of darkness and caused the morning to appear!"
~John Baillie

Monday, October 26, 2009

fear vs. Christ

“Fear never wrote a symphony or poem, negotiated a peace treaty, or cured a disease. Fear never pulled a family out of poverty or a country out of bigotry. Fear never saved a marriage or a business. Courage did that. Faith did that. People who refused to consult with or cower to their timidities did that.

…We hope for an easy ride through life once we meet Christ, smooth sailing on a crystal clear sea. But storms rise up. None of us can escape this inevitable fact─whether we are Christ-followers or not. It’s not the absence of storms that sets us apart. It’s whom we discover in the storm: an unstirred Christ. He handles our great quaking with a great calming.”
~Max Lucado

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Light By The Barn

The light by the barn that shines all night
pales at dawn when a little breeze comes.

A little breeze comes breathing the fields
from their sleep and waking the slow windmill.

The slow windmill sings the long day
about anguish and loss to the chickens at work.

The little breeze follows the slow windmill
and the chickens at work till the sun goes down—

Then the light by the barn again.

~William Stafford

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Self-Disclosure in Church

This is from something by Lynn Palmberg and Onas Scandrette as well as Patricia Quigley

"It is nothing short of tragic that many Christians are today finding more acceptance, support, and need fulfillment in secular encounter groups than they are in their churches. Someone once said that the church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints. I wonder.

At church, this author admits, I find no signs of illness in those around me outfitted in Sunday-best shoes and smiles. We talk about what we are doing but we seldom talk about what we are feeling. We may tell about spiritual victory but we carefully camouflage defeats or struggles.

On the Sundays I arrive at church in acute need of spiritual healing, I feel alone and out of place in this atmosphere. I feel like a measle-spotted child in a nursery full of healthy youngsters. Once or twice I try to talk about my distress during a Sunday school class but sense a tension build around me as I describe my symptoms. When the fever of struggle or defeat hits me now, I simply remain silent and isolated from those around me who seem to know only perpetual good health. Fortunately, during my down times I have found a company of fellow strugglers in the Bible like David, like Job, Peter, Thomas, and Paul. They spoke honestly and movingly about their struggles. It is frustrating to know these men of the Bible better than people in my Sunday school class in church."
~Charles Swindoll
(This was typed from an audio sermon - any grammatical errors are mine)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Alive to God

Scripture: "So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus." Romans 6:11

"The person who feels in his heart the mighty working of the Spirit of God is conscious of a 'peace which passeth all understanding.' He feels 'the love of God shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto him'; and all his spiritual senses are then exercised to discern spiritual good and evil. By the use of these he is daily increasing in the knowledge of God. And now he may be properly said to live: God having quickened him by His Spirit, he is alive to God through Jesus Christ. He lives a life which the world knows not of, a 'life which is hid with Christ in God.' God is continually breathing, as it were, upon the soul; and his soul is breathing unto God. Grace is descending into his heart, and prayer and praise ascending to heaven: and by this intercourse between God and man, this fellowship with the Father and the Son, as by a kind of spiritual respiration, the life of God in the soul is sustained: and the child of God grows up, till he comes to the 'full measure of the stature of Christ.'"

Prayer: "O Glorious Jesus, in whom we live and without whom we die; quicken our hearts with Thy holy love, that we may no longer esteem the vanities of the world, but place our affections entirely on Thee, who didst die for our sins and rise again for our justification. Amen."
~John Wesley

Monday, October 19, 2009

Taste and See

1 I will bless the LORD at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul makes its boast in the LORD;
let the humble hear and be glad.
3 Oh, magnify the LORD with me,
and let us exalt His name together!

4 I sought the LORD, and He answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to Him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
6 This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him
and saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear Him, and delivers them.

8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
~Psalm 34:1-8

Saturday, October 17, 2009

No One Should Be Proud

Chapter V. That no one should be proud, but rather glory in the Cross of the Lord
"Be attentive, oh man, to how many excellent things the Lord God has placed in you, since He created and formed you 'to the image' of His own Beloved Son according to the body 'and to (His) likeness' according to the spirit (cf. Gen. 1:26). And all the creatures, which are under heaven, after you serve, know and obey their Creator better than you. And even the demons did not crucify Him, but you with them have crucified Him and even now you crucify (Him) by delighting in vices and sins. Whence therefore can you glory? For if you were so subtle and wise that you had 'all knowledge' (cf. 1 Cor. 13:2) and knew how to interpret every 'kind of tongue' (cf. 1 Cor. 12:28) and to search subtly after celestial things, in all these things you cannot glory; since one demon knew of celestial things and now knows of earthly things more than all men, (even) granted that there has been someone, who received from the Lord a special understanding of the highest wisdom. Similarly even if you were more handsome and wealthy than all and even if you were working miracles, as would put demons to flight, all those things are injurious to you and nothing (about them) pertains to you and you can glory in them not at all. But in this we can glory, 'in' our 'infirmities' (cf. 2 Cor. 12:5) and bearing each day the Holy Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (Lk. 14:27)."
~St. Francis of Assisi

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Saintly Living

"Last year an American Catholic bishop commissioned one of the priests of his diocese to write up recommendations for ways to increase the number of men seeking to fulfill a clerical vocation. The priest was young but wise and holy. He concluded his report this way: 'The best way to attract men in this diocese to the priesthood, Your Excellency, would be your canonization.' When we see a saint, we know the purpose of our own lives. Saints reproduce themselves simply by being what they are." (this quote is from a book written in 2002)
~Peter Kreeft

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

More on New Birth

Scripture: "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." John 3:3

"Before a child is born into the world, he has eyes but sees not; he has ears but does not hear. As soon as he is born, he begins to see the light; his ears are then opened, and he hears; and all the other organs of sense begin to be exercised upon their proper objects. How exactly does the parallel hold! While a man is in a mere natural state, before he is born of God, he has, in a spiritual sense, eyes and sees not; he has ears but hears not. His other spiritual senses are locked up; he is in the same condition as if he had them not.

But as soon as he is born of God, there is a total change. The 'eyes of his understanding are opened'; he sees the light of the glory of God. His ears being opened, he is now capable of hearing the inward voice of God, saying, 'Be of good cheer; thy sins are forgiven thee.'"

Prayer: "O Lord, seeing there is in Christ Jesus an infinite fullness of all that we can want or wish, O that we may all receive of His fullness, grace upon grace; grace to pardon our sins and subdue our iniquities; to justify our persons and to sanctify our souls. O make us partakers of the inheritance of thy saints. Amen"
~John Wesley

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Patience in the Routine

"I'll stay where You've put me; I will, dear Lord,
Though I wanted so badly to go;
I was eager to march with the 'rank and file,'
Yes, I wanted to lead them, You know.
I planned to keep step to the music loud,
To cheer when the banner unfurled,
To stand in the midst of the fight straight and proud,
But I'll stay where You've put me.

I'll stay where You've put me; I'll work, dear Lord,
Though the field be narrow and small,
And the ground be fallow, and the stones lie thick,
And there seems to be no life at all.
The field is Thine own, only give me the seed,
I'll sow it with never a fear;
I'll till the dry soil while I wait for the rain,
And rejoice when the green blades appear;
I'll work where You've put me.

I'll stay where You've put me, I will, dear Lord;
I'll bear the day's burden and heat,
Always trusting Thee fully; when even has come,
I'll lay heavy sheaves at Thy feet.
And then, when my earth work is ended and done,
In the light of eternity's glow,
Life's record all closed, I surely shall find
It was better to stay than to go;
I'll stay where You've put me."
~Mrs. Charles Cowman

Monday, October 12, 2009

New Birth

This entry is dedicated to my beautiful new daughter (she wouldn't be so beautiful without such a beautiful mother!). Our new little one certainly is a "Pearl of Good News."

"A young star! which shone
O'er life--too sweet an image, for such glass!
A lovely being, scarcely formed or moulded;
A rose with all its sweetest leaves yet folded."
~Harriet Beecher Stowe

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Strong Faith

"How long Tom lay there, he knew not. When he came to himself, the fire was gone out, his clothes were wet with the chill and drenching dews; but the dread soul-crisis was past, and, in the joy that filled him, he no longer felt hunger, cold, degradation, disappointment, wretchedness. From his deepest soul, he that hour loosed and parted from every hope in the life that now is, and offered his own will an unquestioning sacrifice to the Infinite. Tom looked up to the silent, ever-living stars,--types of the angelic hosts who ever look down on man; and the solitude of the night rang with the triumphant words of a hymn, which he had sung often in happier days, but never with such feeling as now:

'The earth shall be dissolved like snow,
The sun shall cease to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Shall be forever mine.

And when this mortal life shall fail,
And flesh and sense shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil
A life of joy and peace.

When we've been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining like the sun,
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we first begun.'

...When the dim gray of dawn woke the slumberers to go forth to the field, there was among those tattered and shivering wretches one who walked with an exultant tread; for firmer than the ground he trod on was his strong faith in Almighty, eternal love. Ah, Legree, try all your forces now! Utmost agony, woe, degradation, want, and loss of all things, shall only hasten on the process by which he shall be made a king and a priest unto God!"
~Harriet Beecher Stowe (from Uncle Tom's Cabin)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Give All of Yourself to God NOW

"Q: What about the future and progress and growth?
A: If the plant does not grow in the present, it will not grow more in the future."
~Peter Kreeft

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Be Thou My Vision

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul's Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven's joys, O bright Heaven's Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

~Dallan Forgaill, Mary Byrne, & Eleanor Hull

Monday, October 5, 2009

Tough Stuff, But Good to Keep in Mind

“Suicide is certainly the most in-your-face index of unhappiness there is. And suicide is almost always directly proportionate to wealth. The richer you and your country are, the more likely it is that you will find life so good that you will choose to blow your brains out. Suicide among pre-adults has increased 5,000 percent since the ‘happy days’ of the fifties (this quote is from a book written in 2002). If suicide is not an index of crisis, especially of the coming generation, what is?

But there are more suicides than that. Half of all marriages commit suicide. That is what divorce is─the suicide of the new ‘one flesh’ made by the marriage. If half of all the citizens of a country committed suicide, would you think that country had a bright future or a happy present? But the citizens of any country are not merely individuals; they are also families. Individuals are not the primary building blocks of societies; families are. Individuals are the building blocks of families. So half of all the new citizens of America commit suicide.

And if you insist on limiting ‘new citizens’ to ‘individual children conceived,’ the statics are not much better. One-third of all American children are killed─by their mothers, before they can be born, using healers as hit men.

This is a happy country? This is peace?

I know a doctor who spent two years in the Congo winning the confidence of a dying tribe who would not trust outsiders (black or white) and who were dying because of their bad diet. He was a dietitian, and he saved their lives. Once they knew this, they trusted him totally and asked him all sorts of questions about life in the West. They believed all the amazing things he told them, like flying to the moon and destroying whole cities with one bomb, but there were two things they literally could not believe. One was that in the West there are atheists─people who believe in no gods at all. (‘Are these people blind and deaf? Have they never seen a leaf or heard a waterfall?’) The other was that in one nation alone (America), over a million mothers each year pay doctors to kill their babies before they are born. Their reaction to this was to giggle, which was their embarrassed way of trying to be polite, assuming it was a joke. They simply had no holding place in their minds for this concept, and they expected every day that the doctor would tell them the point of the joke.

And it is we who call these people ‘primitive.’ The irony is mountainous.”
~Peter Kreeft

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Law of God

"The law of God shows us our sin and sends us to Jesus as the only solution to our sin. Jesus returns us to God's law not as the dynamic of our sanctification, not as the means of our justification, but as the framework for the work of God within our lives."
~Alistair Begg

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Empathy

"Since we were children once, the roots for our empathy are already planted within us. We've known what it was like to feel small and powerless, helpless and confused. When we can feel something of what our children might be feeling, it will help us begin to figure out what our children need from us."
~Fred Rogers

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Thousandth Time

"There is a law written in the darkest of the Books of Life, and it is this: If you look at a thing nine hundred and ninety-nine times, you are perfectly safe; if you look at it the thousandth time, you are in frightful danger of seeing it for the first time."
~From The Napoleon of Notting Hill by G. K. Chesterton

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Human House

"We cannot insist that every trick of nerves or train of thought is important enough to be searched for in libraries and laboratories, and not important enough for anybody to watch by simply staying at home. We cannot insist that the first years of infancy are of supreme importance, and that mothers are not of supreme importance; or that motherhood is a topic of sufficient interest for men, but not of sufficient interest for mothers. Every word that is said about the tremendous importance of trivial nursery habits goes to prove that being a nurse is not trivial. All tends to the return of the simple truth that the private work is the great one and the public work the small. The human house is a paradox, for it is larger inside than out."
~G. K. Chesterton

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Faith vs. Reason

"The troublesome fact, the apparent absurdity which can't be fitted into any synthesis we have yet made, is precisely the one we must not ignore. Ten to one, it's in that covert that the fox is lurking."
~C. S. Lewis

"Reason comes along and closes over the covert, denies it, ignores it, explains it away. Faith comes along confronts impossibility, things that are supra-rational and says I cannot ignore it, I cannot deny it, I must wrestle with it. For it is probably here that one of the great keys to God's purpose is to be found."
~Alistair Begg

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Give

"One can give without loving, but one cannot love without giving."
~Amy Carmichael

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tech-Reliant

"Today's children have grown within a tech-friendly climate and find comfort in technology, not fear. But the two most accessed Internet categories are porn and dating. Technology creates relational hunger.
Unfortunately, few children's ministries help families navigate technological landmines. Human engineering, bioterror, and identity theft will continue to flourish. In this polluted cultural swamp, children grow. A positive approach is to inoculate children against offensive content. Rather than avoiding the culture or immersing our children into it, stay alert for golden teaching moments."
~Rick Chromey

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

With Us

"Would I like to have the gift rescinded? Of course! Yet, in the strangest level of my self I know that it is a gift nonetheless. How else do we know God's rescue unless we have been drowning? Can healing be demonstrated without injury, or love be proven without trial? Still, there is an ache within me that cries out: what of those who were not protected, who are left unhealed, who do not know love?
The reply is articulated by--and can only be articulated by--God dying with us on our cross."
~From Island of the World by Michael O’Brien

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Providence and Power of God

"The first time I saw Brother Lawrence was on the 3rd of August, 1666. He told me that God had done him a singular favor in his conversion at the age of eighteen. During that winter, upon seeing a tree stripped of its leaves and considering that, within a little time, the leaves would be renewed and, after that, the flowers and fruit appear; Brother Lawrence received a high view of the providence and power of God which has never since been effaced from his soul. This view had perfectly set him free from the world and kindled in him such a love for God, that he could not tell whether it had increased in the forty years that he had lived since."
~Joseph de Beaufort

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Meditate On This...

"...let me now meditate upon the great and gracious plan by which Thou hast brought it to pass that a mortal man like me should look up to Thee and call Thee Father."
~John Baillie

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Value of Myth in The Lord of the Rings

Excerpt from C. S. Lewis's review of The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien:

"...The value of the myth is that it takes all the things we know and restores to them the rich significance which had been hidden by 'the veil of familiarity.' The child enjoys his cold meat (otherwise dull to him) by pretending it is buffalo, just killed with his bow and arrow. And the child is wise. The real meat comes back to him more savoury for having been dipped in a story; you might say that only then is it the real meat. If you are tired of the real landscape, look at it in a mirror. By putting bread, gold, horse, apple, or the very roads into a myth, we do not retreat from reality: we rediscover it. As long as the story lingers in our mind, the real things are more themselves. This book applies the treatment not only to bread or apple but to good and evil, to our endless perils, our anguish, and our joys. By dipping them in myth we see them more clearly.

This book is too original and too opulent for any final judgment... But we know at once that it has done things to us. We are not quite the same men."

Monday, September 14, 2009

Take Time to Be Holy

Verse 3
Take time to be holy,
let Him be thy guide,
and run not before Him,
whatever betide.
In joy or in sorrow,
still follow the Lord,
and, looking to Jesus,
still trust in His word.

Verse 4
Take time to be holy,
be calm in thy soul,
each thought and each motive
beneath His control.
Thus led by His Spirit
to fountains of love,
thou soon shalt be fitted
for service above.

Text: William Longstaff
Music: George Stebbins

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Word from Aslan

"Here on the mountain I have spoken to you clearly: I will not often do so down in Narnia. Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken. Take great care that it does not confuse your mind. And the signs which you have learned here will not look at all as you expect them to look, when you meet them there. That is why it is so important to know them by heart and pay no attention to appearances. Remember the signs and believe the signs. Nothing else matters."
~C. S. Lewis (from The Silver Chair)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Widow of Zarephath

Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, "Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you." So he set out and went to Zarephath. When he came to the gate of the town, a widow was there gathering sticks; he called to her and said, "Bring me a little water in a vessel, so that I may drink." As she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, "Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand." But she said, "As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die." Elijah said to her, "Do not be afraid; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the Lord the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the Lord sends rain on the earth." She went and did as Elijah said, so that she as well as he and her household ate for many days. The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah.
~I Kings 17:8-16

Friday, September 11, 2009

Story-Boarding the Great Story

“Once upon a time there was a purple ... ”

We reach toward the next word, don’t we? A purple bear? A purple boy? If it continues, “a purple urple” it’s going to be a very different story than, “a purple spot on her lip that both repulsed and intrigued Ferdinand.”

Great story thrusts us into another world. Our imagination stirs, we can “see” it unfolding; we wonder how it will end. We hope that the storyteller won’t let us down.

As I practice telling the story of Jesus, I’m aware that different listeners need different stories.

Many Christians reduce the epic story of Jesus to just one part. About the only part we ever tell is the guilt/grace story. We say, “Jesus can save you from your sins.” That is a story of amazing grace, and we should keep on telling it, but it’s not the whole story.

Other stories we need to have “at the ready”:

1. The Healing Story — Jesus can bring healing to your body/mind/emotions.
2. The Meaning Story — Jesus can infuse significance into your life which is otherwise random, at best, and a cruel joke, at worst.
3. The Service Story — Jesus can send you on a sacrificial mission in life.
4. The Peace Story — Jesus conquers your anxieties with His peace.
5. The Love Story — Jesus loves you. Let that love wash over you.
6. The Transformation Story — Jesus can take what you have nearly wrecked and create a life of great beauty and usefulness.
7. The Holiness Story — Jesus can enable you to live above your damaging patterns by giving you perfect love.
8. The Hope Story — Jesus can plunge our shriveled hearts into a deep well of hope, hope based on Him, not on our performance.

Pick one and practice it ... tell it about yourself.
~David Roller

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Mystery of Jesus

I should probably save the following for Passion Week next year. However, I wanted to post it now so I could refer to it when I think that “I” have problems, feel lonely, feel misunderstood, am under duress, am going through trials, etc. This is a small taste as to why Scripture can say: “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:14-16). For me this helps to better understand Acts 5:41 – “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.”
~Kevin

“Jesus suffers in His passion the torments inflicted upon Him by men, but in His agony He suffers the torments which He inflicts on Himself. He was troubled. This punishment is inflicted by no human, but an almighty hand, and only He that is almighty can bear it.

Jesus seeks some comfort at least from His three dearest friends, and they sleep: He asks them to bear with Him a while, and they abandon Him with complete indifference, and with so little pity that it did not keep them awake even for a single moment. And so Jesus was abandoned to face the wrath of God alone.

Jesus is alone on earth, not merely with no one to feel and share His agony, but with no one even to know of it. Heaven and He are the only ones to know.

Jesus is in a garden, not of delight, like the first Adam, who there fell and took with him all mankind, but of agony, where He has saved Himself and all mankind.

He suffers this anguish and abandonment in the horror of the night.

I believe that this is the only occasion on which Jesus ever complained. But then He complained as though He could no longer contain His overflowing grief: ‘My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death.’

Jesus seeks companionship and solace from men.

It seems to me that this is unique in His whole life, but He finds none, for His disciples are asleep.

Jesus will be in agony until the end of the world. There must be no sleeping during that time.

Jesus, totally abandoned, even by the friends He had chosen to watch with Him, is vexed when He finds them asleep because of the dangers to which they are exposing not Him but themselves, and He warns them for their own safety and their own good, with warm affection in the face of their ingratitude. And warns them: ‘The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.’

Jesus finding them asleep again, undeterred by consideration either for Him or for themselves, is kind enough not to wake them up and lets them take their rest.

Jesus prays, uncertain of the will of the Father, and is afraid of death. But once He knows what it is, He goes to meet and offer Himself up. Let us be going. He went forth. (John) [XVIII.4]

Jesus asked of men and was not heard.

Jesus brought about the salvation of His disciples while they slept. He has done this for each of the righteous while they slept, in nothingness before their birth and in their sins after their birth.

He prays only once that the cup might pass from Him, even then submitting Himself to God’s will, and twice that it should come if it must be so.

Jesus weary at heart.

Jesus, seeing all His friends asleep and all His enemies watchful, commends Himself utterly to His Father.

Jesus disregards the enmity of Judas, and sees only in him God’s will, which He loves; so much so that He calls him friend.

Jesus tears Himself away from His disciples to enter upon His agony: we must tear ourselves away from those who are nearest and dearest to us in order to imitate Him.

While Jesus remains in agony and cruelest distress, let us pray longer.

We implore God’s mercy, not so that He shall leave us in peace with our vices, but so that He may deliver us from them.

If God gave us masters with His own hand, how gladly we ought to obey them! Necessity and events are infallibly such.

‘Take comfort; you would not seek me if you had not found me.’

‘I thought of you in my agony: I shed these drops of blood for you.’

‘It is tempting me rather than testing yourself to wonder if you would do right in the absence of this or that. I will do it in you if it happens.’

‘Let yourself be guided by my rules. See how well I guided the Virgin and the saints who let me work in them.’

‘The Father loves all I do.’

‘Do you want it always to cost me the blood of my humanity while you do not even shed a tear?’

‘My concern is for your conversion; do not be afraid, and pray with confidence as though for me.’

‘I am present with you through my word in Scripture, my spirit in the Church, through inspiration, my power in my priests, my prayer among the faithful.’

‘Physicians will not heal you, for you will die in the end, but it is I who will heal you and make your body immortal.’

‘Endure the chains and bondage of the body. For the present I am delivering you only from spiritual bondage.’

‘I am a better friend to you than this man or that, for I have done more for you than they, and they would never endure what I have endured from you, and they would never die for you, while you were being faithless and cruel, as I did, and as I am ready to do, and still do in my elect, and in the Blessed Sacrament.’

‘If you knew your sins, you would lose heart.’─‘In that case I shall lose heart, Lord, for I believe in their wickedness on the strength of your assurance.’─‘No, for I who tell you this can heal you, and the fact that I tell you is a sign that I want to heal you…’

‘I love you more ardently than you have loved your foulness…’

Do small things as if they were great, because of the majesty of Christ, who does them in us and lives our life, and great things as if they were small and easy, because of His almighty power.”
~Blaise Pascal

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Excerpt from The Island of the World

"Josip, tomorrow you will see a great thing", says his father as they rise by candlelight before dawn, putting on their clothes beside the stove while mother makes a fire. "You will see the waters of the Adriatic."

"Is it like a lake?" Josip asks. He has seen photographs of the ocean in one of his father's books, but it is hard to tell its size from them.

"Much bigger than a lake."

"How big is it, really, Tata?" he presses with earnest curiosity, for he believes that his father has an answer for everything.

"It is beyond measuring, Josip."

"Is it as big as the sky?"

"That is a difficult question. When you go there you will see that the sky above it is greater than the sky above our mountain."

Josip furrows his brow in concentration.

"This I do not understand!"

"You must see it with your own eyes and then you will understand."

The boy closes his eyelids and touches them with his fingertips.

"The sea will show you many things, Josip."

..."We will bring no books", the father answers. "Instead we will see with our own eyes what Odysseus saw. We will see the waters he sailed upon in Argo.

"Will we see monsters?"

"That is always possible."

~Excerpt from The Island of the World by Michael O’Brien

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Infused Love, Deep Delight, and Peace

"The greatest of all commandments is before all else a prayer commandment. To have one's whole heart, soul and mind filled to overflowing with the love of God is to be filled with the highest prayer. The core and essence of the transforming union are nothing other than a complete identification with God in love.
...This love, says St. Paul, is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit Who is given to us. Love poured out is, of course, infused love--the two words mean the same thing. The psalmist who declares that he delights in nothing else on earth but his Lord further proclaims that his flesh and his heart are pining with love, that his joy is to be near God.

...The psalmist shouts that his heart exults and his soul rejoices in God, Who is before him always. Nothing can unsettle this singer to the Lord, and he knows that he will have unbounded joy in the divine presence, everlasting pleasures at his right hand. St. Paul admonishes the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord always and to experience a peace that is beyond all understanding. The infusion of divinely given strength, says Paul, comes from God's own glorious power, and it enables us to endure anything joyfully."
~Thomas Dubay

Monday, September 7, 2009

Content

"Life passes, with us all, a day at a time; so it passed with our friend Tom, till two years were gone. Though parted from all his soul held dear, and though often yearning for what lay beyond, still was he never positively and consciously miserable; for, so well is the harp of human feeling strung, that nothing but a crash that breaks every string can wholly mar its harmony; and, on looking back to seasons which in review appear to us as those of deprivation and trial, we can remember that each hour, as it glided, brought its diversions and alleviations, so that, though not happy wholly, we were not, either, wholly miserable.

Tom read, in his only literary cabinet, of one who had 'learned in whatsoever state he was, therewith to be content.' It seemed to him good and reasonable doctrine, and accorded well with the settled and thoughtful habit which he had acquired from the reading of that same book."
~Harriet Beecher Stowe (from Uncle Tom's Cabin)