Thursday, April 30, 2009

The weaker we are, the Stronger He Is

Honesty is always the best policy, but especially when you're surrounded by a crowd of women in a restroom during a break at a Christian women's conference.

One woman, putting on lipstick, said, "Oh, Joni, you always look so together, so happy in your wheelchair. I wish that I had your joy!" Several women around her nodded.

"How do you do it?" she asked as she capped her lipstick.

"I don't do it," I said. "In fact, may I tell you honestly how I woke up this morning?"

"This is an average day," I breathed deeply. "After my husband, Ken, leaves for work at 6:00 A.M., I'm alone until I hear the front door open at 7:00 A.M. That's when a friend arrives to get me up.

"While I listen to her make coffee, I pray, 'Oh, Lord, my friend will soon give me a bath, get me dressed, sit me up in my chair, brush my hair and teeth, and send me out the door. I don't have the strength to face this routine one more time. I have no resources. I don't have a smile to take into the day. But You do. May I have yours God? I need You desperately.'"

"So, what happens when your friend comes through the bedroom door?" one of them asked.

"I turn my head toward her and give her a smile sent straight from heaven. It's not mine. It's God's. And so," I said, gesturing to my paralyzed legs, "whatever joy you see today was hard won this morning."

I have learned that the weaker we are, the more we need to lean on God; and the more we lean on God, the stronger we discover Him to be.

~Joni Eareckson Tada

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Peace

“We want to complexify our lives. We don’t have to, we want to. We want to be harried and hassled and busy. Unconsciously, we want the very thing we complain about. For if we had leisure, we would look at ourselves and listen to our hearts and see the great gaping hole in our hearts and be terrified, because that hole is so big that nothing but God can fill it.”
~Peter Kreeft

“If our condition were truly happy we should not need to divert ourselves from thinking about it.”
~Blaise Pascal

“A Christian experiences no boredom and need for diversion in proportion as he experiences Christ.”
~Peter Kreeft

“A brother asked Abba Rufus, ‘What is interior peace, and what use is it?’ The old man said, ‘Interior peace means to remain sitting in one’s cell with fear and knowledge of God, holding far off the remembrance of wrongs suffered and pride of spirit. Such interior peace brings forth all the virtues, preserves the monk from the burning darts of the enemy, and does not allow him to be wounded by them. Yes, brother, acquire it.’”
~From The Sayings of the Desert Fathers

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

He Never Leaves Us

“…The human spirit is the meeting place of two worlds -- the worlds of time and of eternity, of heaven and earth. Even though we look for ways of excusing ourselves, we know that good and evil have their final reckoning in our conscience. The Conqueror of sin and death desires to break through all the barriers that we have set up and enter into the depths of our being so as to fill us with His peace. Just as He did with His disciples who were crouched in hiding, Jesus comes to us and says, "Peace be with you." The account of Jesus’ appearance shows the close connection between fear, locked doors, the Holy Spirit, peace, believing, and the Person Jesus Christ coming through our fears and insecurities. Our faith is in the Risen Lord. When we choose not to believe in Jesus, we are actually locking ourselves behind closed doors, afraid of what we can neither understand nor control.”
~Jerome Machar
(see Luke 24:36-48)

“Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.”
~Saint Augustine

Monday, April 27, 2009

Prayer

O hidden love of God, whose will it is that all created spirits should live everlastingly in pure and perfect fellowship with Thyself, grant that in my life today I may do nothing to defeat this Thy most gracious purpose. Let me keep in mind how Thy whole creation groans and travails, waiting for the perfect appearing of the sons of God; and let me welcome every influence of Thy Spirit upon my own that may the more speedily make for that end. When Thou dost knock at my heart’s door, let me not keep Thee standing without but welcome Thee with joy and thanksgiving. Let me harbour nothing in my heart that might embarrass Thy presence; let me keep no corner of it closed to Thine influence. Do what Thou wilt with me, O God; make of me what Thou wilt, and change me as Thou wilt, and use me as Thou wilt, both now and in the larger life beyond; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
~John Baillie

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Spirit of God, Descend Upon my Heart

Spirit of God, descend upon my heart;
Wean it from earth; through all its pulses move;
Stoop to my weakness, mighty as Thou art;
And make me love Thee as I ought to love.

I ask no dream, no prophet ecstasies,
No sudden rending of the veil of clay,
No angel visitant, no opening skies;
But take the dimness of my soul away.

Teach me to feel that Thou art always nigh;
Teach me the struggles of the soul to bear.
To check the rising doubt, the rebel sigh,
Teach me the patience of unanswered prayer.

Hast Thou not bid me love Thee, God and King?
All, all Thine own, soul, heart and strength and mind.
I see Thy cross; there teach my heart to cling.
O let me seek Thee, and O let me find!

Teach me to love Thee as Thine angels love,
One holy passion filling all my frame;
The kindling of the heaven descended Dove,
My heart an altar, and Thy love the flame.

Text: George Croly
Music: Frederick C. Atkinson

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Spiritual Sugar

“Sugar sweetens green fruit and in ripe fruit corrects whatever is crude and unwholesome. Now devotion is true spiritual sugar for it removes bitterness from discipline and anything harmful from our consolations. From the poor it takes away discontent, self-satisfaction from the rich, grief from the oppressed, pride from the exalted, melancholy from the solitary, and dissipation from those who live in society.

It serves with equal benefit as fire in winter and dew in summer. It knows how to use prosperity and how to endure want. It makes both honor and contempt useful to us. It accepts pleasure and pain with a heart that is nearly always the same, and it fills us with a marvelous sweetness.”
~St. Francis De Sales

Friday, April 24, 2009

A Stone Before a Sculptor

“…Sometimes I imagine myself as a stone before a sculptor from which he will carve a beautiful statue. Presenting myself before God, I ask Him to form His perfect image in my soul and make me entirely like Himself.

At other times when I apply myself to prayer, I feel all of my spirit and all of my soul lift itself up without any care or any effort on my part. It continues as if it were suspended and firmly fixed in God, as in its center and place of rest.

I know that some will accuse me of inactivity, of delusion, and of self-love. I confess that it is a holy inactivity, and would be happy self-love if the soul in that state were capable of it, because in reality, while I am in this state of repose, I cannot be disturbed by such emotions which were formerly my strength and support, but which in that state hinder rather than assist.

I cannot allow this state to be called a delusion because the soul which enjoys God in this manner desires nothing except God. If this is a delusion in me, it belongs to God to remedy it. Let Him do what He pleases with me; I desire only Him and to be wholly devoted to Him.”
~Brother Lawrence

“You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor. And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God.” 1 Peter 2:4-5 (NLT)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Courage in the Face of the Unknown

“…As he went forward it grew and grew, till there was no doubt about it. It was a red light steadily getting redder and redder. Also it was now undoubtedly hot in the tunnel. Wisps of vapour floated up and past him and he began to sweat. A sound, too, began to throb in his ears, a sort of bubbling like the noise of a large pot galloping on the fire, mixed with a rumble as of a gigantic tom-cat purring. This grew to the unmistakable gurgling noise of some vast animal snoring in its sleep down there in the red glow in front of him.

It was at this point that Bilbo stopped. Going on from there was the bravest thing he ever did. The tremendous things that happened afterward were as nothing compared to it. He fought the real battle in the tunnel alone, before he ever saw the vast danger that lay in wait…”
~from The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Inner Springs of Prayer

“Prayer for others is a form of petitional prayer that makes deep demands on the faith of an individualistic generation that has so largely lost its sense of inner community. Yet, at no point, do we touch the inner springs of prayer more vitally than here.

For when we hold up the life of another before God, when we expose it to God’s love, when we pray for its release from drowsiness, for the quickening of its inner health, for the power to throw off a destructive habit, for the restoration of its free and vital relationship with its fellows, for its strength to resist temptation, for its courage to continue against sharp opposition – only then do we sense what it means to share in God’s work, in His concern; only then do the walls that separate us from others go down and we sense that we are at bottom all knit together in a great and intimate family.”
~Douglas Steere

Thursday, April 16, 2009

True Desire

“There are so many Christians who do not appreciate the magnificent dignity of their vocation to sanctity, to the knowledge, love and service of God.

There are so many Christians who do not realize what possibilities God has placed in the life of Christian perfection – what possibilities for joy in the knowledge and love of Him.

There are so many Christians who have practically no idea of the immense love of God for them, and of the power of that Love to do them good, to bring them happiness.

…If you desire intimate union with God you must be willing to pay the price for it. The price is small enough. In fact, it is not even a price at all: it only seems to be so with us. We find it difficult to give up our desire for things that can never satisfy us in order to purchase the One Good in Whom is all our joy – and in Whom, moreover, we get back everything else that we have renounced besides!”
~Thomas Merton

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

If You Are Wise

“If you are wise, you will forget yourself into greatness. Forget your rights, but remember your responsibilities. Forget your inconveniences, but remember your blessings. Forget your own accomplishments, but remember your debts to others. Forget your privileges, but remember your obligations. Forget yourself into greatness.

If you are wise, you will empty yourself into adventure. Remember the words of General Douglas MacArthur: 'There is no security on this earth. There is only opportunity.' Empty your days of the search for security; fill them with a passion for service. Empty your hours of the ambition for recognition; fill them with the aspiration for achievement. Empty your moments of the need for entertainment; fill them with the quest for creativity.

If you are wise, you will lose yourself into immortality. Lose you cynicism. Lose your doubts. Lose your fears. Lose your anxiety. Lose your unbelief. Remember these truths: A son must soon forget himself to be long remembered. He must empty himself in order to discover a fuller self. He must lose himself to find himself.

Forget yourself into greatness. Empty yourself into adventure. Lose yourself into immortality.”
~William Arthur Word

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Get Up!

“Our greatest glory consists not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall”
~Oliver Goldsmith

“If we are not failing a lot, we are not trying enough.”
~David Roller

Monday, April 13, 2009

Why?

“The sun shines and warms and lights us and we have no curiosity to know why this is so; but we ask the reason of all evil, of pain, and hunger, and mosquitoes and silly people.”

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Christ Is Risen!

Christ is risen from the dead! By death He trampled Death; and to those in the tombs He granted life.

~Church Quote for Easter

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Rich Family in Church

I'll never forget Easter 1946. I was 14, my little sister Ocy was 12,and my older sister Darlene 16. We lived at home with our mother, and the four of us knew what it was to do without many things. My dad had died five years before, leaving Mom with seven school kids to raise and no money.

By 1946 my older sisters were married and my brothers had left home. A month before Easter the pastor of our church announced that a special Easter offering would be taken to help a poor family. He asked everyone to save and give sacrificially.

When we got home, we talked about what we could do. We decided to buy 50 pounds of potatoes and live on them for a month. This would allow us to save $20 of our grocery money for the offering. When we thought that if we kept our electric lights turned out as much as possible and didn't listen to the radio, we'd save money on that month's electric bill. Darlene got as many house and yard cleaning jobs as possible, and both of us babysat for everyone we could. For 15 cents we could buy enough cotton loops to make three pot holders to sell for $1.

We made $20 on pot holders. That month was one of the best of our lives.

Every day we counted the money to see how much we had saved. At night we'd sit in the dark and talk about how the poor family was going to enjoy having the money the church would give them. We had about 80 people in church, so figured that whatever amount of money we had to give, the offering would surely be 20 times that much. After all, every Sunday the pastor had reminded everyone to save for the sacrificial offering.

The day before Easter, Ocy and I walked to the grocery store and got the manager to give us three crisp $20 bills and one $10 bill for all our change.

We ran all the way home to show Mom and Darlene. We had never had so much money before.

That night we were so excited we could hardly sleep. We didn't care that we wouldn't have new clothes for Easter; we had $70 for the sacrificial offering.

We could hardly wait to get to church! On Sunday morning, rain was pouring. We didn't own an umbrella, and the church was over a mile from our home, but it didn't seem to matter how wet we got. Darlene had cardboard in her shoes to fill the holes. The cardboard came apart, and her feet got wet.

But we sat in church proudly. I heard some teenagers talking about the Smith girls having on their old dresses. I looked at them in their new clothes, and I felt rich.

When the sacrificial offering was taken, we were sitting on the second row from the front. Mom put in the $10 bill, and each of us kids put in a $20.

As we walked home after church, we sang all the way. At lunch Mom had a surprise for us. She had bought a dozen eggs, and we had boiled Easter eggs with our fried potatoes! Late that afternoon the minister drove up in his car. Mom went to the door, talked with him for a moment, and then came back with an envelope in her hand. We asked what it was, but she didn't say a word. She opened the envelope and out fell a bunch of money. There were three crisp $20 bills, one $10 and seventeen $1 bills.

Mom put the money back in the envelope. We didn't talk, just sat and stared at the floor. We had gone from feeling like millionaires to feeling like poor white trash. We kids had such a happy life that we felt sorry for anyone who didn't have our Mom and Dad for parents and a house full of brothers and sisters and other kids visiting constantly. We thought it was fun to share silverware and see whether we got the spoon or the fork that night.

We had two knifes that we passed around to whoever needed them. I knew we didn't have a lot of things that other people had, but I'd never thought we were poor.

That Easter day I found out we were. The minister had brought us the money for the poor family, so we must be poor. I didn't like being poor. I looked at my dress and worn-out shoes and felt so ashamed - I didn't even want to go back to church. Everyone there probably already knew we were poor!

I thought about school. I was in the ninth grade and at the top of my class of over 100 students. I wondered if the kids at school knew that we were poor. I decided that I could quit school since I had finished the eighth grade. That was all the law required at that time. We sat in silence for a long time. Then it got dark, and we went to bed. All that week, we girls went to school and came home, and no one talked much. Finally on Saturday, Mom asked us what we wanted to do with the money. What did poor people do with money? We didn't know. We'd never known we were poor. We didn't want to go to church on Sunday, but Mom said we had to. Although it was a sunny day, we didn't talk on the way.

Mom started to sing, but no one joined in and she only sang one verse. At church we had a missionary speaker. He talked about how churches in Africa made buildings out of sun dried bricks, but they needed money to buy roofs. He said $100 would put a roof on a church. The minister said, "Can't we all sacrifice to help these poor people?" We looked at each other and smiled for the first time in a week.

Mom reached into her purse and pulled out the envelope. She passed it to Darlene. Darlene gave it to me, and I handed it to Ocy. Ocy put it in the offering.

When the offering was counted, the minister announced that it was a little over $100. The missionary was excited. He hadn't expected such a large offering from our small church. He said, "You must have some rich people in this church."

Suddenly it struck us! We had given $87 of that "little over $100."

We were the rich family in the church! Hadn't the missionary said so? From that day on I've never been poor again. I've always remembered how rich I am because I have Jesus!
~Eddie Ogan

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday

When I was a kid, my parents would take us to a big cathedral-like church in the city for the Good Friday service. The following hymn was always sung. I remember thinking that it was a bit repetitive and lethargic. (God forgive me!) Now, I can’t imagine a Good Friday without it…

Were You There?

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree?
Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree?

Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?
Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?

Were you there when He rose up from the dead?
Were you there when He rose up from the dead?
Oh! Sometimes I feel like shouting glory, glory, glory!
Were you there when He rose up from the dead?

~Traditional Spiritual

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Profoundest Wisdom

“At the summit of the mountain of wisdom is a little hobbit hut.

‘I love you’ is something even the severely retarded can say with their eyes. Yet it is impossible for the world’s greatest sage to say anything more profound.

It is the simplest sentence of all because it is the closest to God’s speech. What God keeps saying to us in every baby, every wave, every raindrop, snowfall, star, and rose, over and over again, with infinite patience, until we finally get it, is: ‘I love you. I love you. I love you.’

‘I love you’ were my father’s last words to me. I will make them my last words to you.”
~Peter Kreeft

(I thought the above was very relevant given that tomorrow is Good Friday ~Kevin)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Cross of Death, Tree of Life (3)

“The all-consuming love of the Father consumes the Son as an acceptable oblation. The pain of His body is nothing compared to the desire of His heart to release the burning fire of love on all created reality. ‘Oh, that You would tear the heavens open and come down – at Your Presence the mountains would melt, as fire sets brushwood alight, as fire causes water to boil – to make known Your name to Your enemies, and make the nations tremble at Your Presence, working unexpected miracles such as no one has ever heard of before’ (Is. 64:1-4). God, who chose to become a human being, took to Himself all our weakness. Now, impaled on the cross, He embraces all our pain and suffering, thus enabling us to see ourselves for what we really are. Lifted up before our gaze, He draws all the members of the human family to the Father. It is in Him that we live and move and have our being. In Him: in those limbs nailed fast to the wood of the cross, we find the mystery of God’s loving kindness and merciful justice.”
~Jerome Machar

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

He Carries Us Within Him

“But our true Mother Jesus, He alone bears us for joy and for endless life, blessed may He be. So He carries us within Him in love and travail, until the full time which He wanted to suffer the sharpest thorns and cruel pains that ever were or will be, and at last He died. And when He had finished, and had borne us so for bliss, still all this could not satisfy His wonderful love. And He revealed this in these great surpassing words of love: If I could suffer more, I would suffer more. He could not die any more, but He did not want to cease working; therefore He must needs nourish us, for the precious love of motherhood has made Him our debtor.”
~St. Julian of Norwich

Monday, April 6, 2009

God is Merciful

“God is love, and Christ has died! That means: the Father himself loves you! You are his child! God will not withhold from you anything that is for your good. Is it not good that the whole body of sin, which is now crucified in you, should be destroyed? It shall be done! You shall be cleansed ‘from all that can defile flesh or spirit’ (2 Cor. 7:1). Is it not good that nothing should remain in your heart but the pure love of God alone? Take joy in all of this. ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength’; and ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ (Mark 12:30, 31). Stand firm in the ‘conviction of his power to do what he had promised’ (Rom. 4:21). It is your part patiently to continue in the work of faith and the labor of love, in cheerful peace, humble confidence, and with calm and accepting, but fervent, expectation, to wait until the zeal of the Lord of hosts shall perform this work in you.”
~John Wesley

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Summit

“You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know.”
~Rene Daumal

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Loving God

“At first, man loves himself for his own sake. That is the flesh, which can appreciate nothing beyond itself. Next, he perceives that he cannot exist by himself, and so begins by faith to seek after God, and to love Him as something necessary to his own welfare. That is the second degree, to love God, not for God’s sake, but selfishly. But when he has learned to worship God and to seek Him aright, meditating on God, reading God’s Word, praying and obeying His commandments, he comes gradually to know who God is, and finds Him altogether lovely. So, having tasted and seen how gracious the Lord is, he advances to the third degree, when he loves God, not merely as his benefactor but as God. Surely this is the longest state for the one who is growing in God. As to the fourth degree, I know not whether it would be possible to make further progress in this life to that fourth degree and perfect condition wherein man loves himself solely for God’s sake. Let any who have attained so far bear record; I confess it seems beyond my powers. Doubtless it will be reached when the good and faithful servant shall have entered into the joy of his Lord, and been satisfied with the plenteousness of God’s house. For then in wondrous wise he will forget himself and as if delivered from self, he will grow wholly God’s.”
~St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Friday, April 3, 2009

Love/Live the Questions

"Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer."
~Rainer Maria Rilke

Thursday, April 2, 2009

More on Joy

He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sunrise.

~William Blake

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Perspective

“With the fearful strain that is on me night and day, if I did not laugh I should die.”

~Abraham Lincoln