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