Friday, January 29, 2010

The Inner Voice

This is a quote from E. Stanley Jones reflecting on his experience of following the lead of the Holy Spirit to India:

"The Inner Voice did not fail me then. It has never failed me since. In many a crisis, too intimate to spread on the pages of a book, I have looked to Him to give a clear lead and I would follow. He has never failed to give me that lead sooner or later, and when He has given it, it has always turned out to be right. He has never let me down. I have let Him down, time and again, but I find Him utterly dependable. I am sure that outside of [God's] Will I cannot succeed; inside of [God's] Will I cannot fail."
~E. Stanley Jones

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Peace

"Peace is a fruit of living faith. This indeed our Lord himself, the night before his death, solemnly bequeathed to all his followers: 'Peace I leave with you' (you who 'believe in God,' and 'believe also in me') 'my peace I give unto you. Not as the world giveth give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.' And again, 'These things have I spoken unto you that in me ye might have peace.' This is that 'peace of God which passeth all understanding,' that serenity of soul which it has not entered into the heart of a natural man to conceive, and which it is not possible for even the spiritual man to utter. And it is a peace which all the powers of earth and hell are unable to take from him. Waves and storms beat upon it, but they shake it not; for it is founded upon a rock. It keeps the hearts and minds of the children of God at all times and in all places. Whether they are in ease or in pain, in sickness or health, in abundance or want, they are happy in God."
~John Wesley

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

My Prayer

"Fresh page, new pen
Where do I begin
Words fail, tears come
I need someone
To take the thoughts I almost think
And carry them to God for me

Deep breath, exhale
Breathe in deeper still
Long sigh, I'm still numb
Is there anyone
Who can find the things I'm barely feeling
And give them wings beyond my ceiling?

Right heart, wrong place
It's too far to outer space
Sorry, I forgot, You're right here
I cup my hands around Your ear
I feel You smile, You feel my breath
You listen while I whisper non-sense

Simple exchange
Your will, I'm changed
And now my prayer ends
Thank You, Amen"

~Song/Lyrics by Chris Rice

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Desire for Joy

“The desire for joy points us to the love of God.

C. S. Lewis writes so movingly about a mysterious longing, or ‘Joy’. It is the most memorable and arresting theme in all his writing. Nothing ever moved him more. Any reader who has ever experienced it feels the same way: ‘No one who has ever experienced it would ever exchange it for all the happiness in the world’ (Surprised by Joy).

‘Joy’, says Lewis, ‘is a technical term’ (thus he capitalizes it) ‘and must be distinguished from both pleasure and happiness.’ ‘Joy’ in Lewis’ sense is not a satisfaction, but a desire. But he calls it ‘Joy’ because though it is a dissatisfaction, it is more satisfying, more joyful, than any other satisfaction. This is one of its two distinctive qualities. The other is its mystery. Its object―the thing desired―is indefinable and unattainable, at least in this life.

Nevertheless that object must be real, Lewis argues, for the desire is innate and every innate desire corresponds to some reality. Where there is hunger, there is somewhere real food that can satisfy it. If there is thirst, there must be water. And if there is divine discontent with earth even at its best, there must be a Heaven.

The explanation for this mysterious desire is Augustine’s great sentence: ‘Thou hast made us for Thyself, and [therefore] our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee’ (Confessions). The reason for our restless lover’s quarrel with the world is that we are engaged to God, not to the world. ‘He has made everything beautiful in its time; also he has put eternity into man’s mind’, says Ecclesiastes (3:11). Our souls are God-shaped vacuums, and ‘this infinite abyss can only be filled with an infinite and eternal object, i.e., by God’, explains the French philosopher and scientist Blaise Pascal in the Pensées. This desire is God’s footprint in the sands of the soul. This discontent with known earthly joy, this longing for an unknown joy more than earth can ever offer, is the most moving thing in our lives because it is really our longing and love for God, whether we know it or not.”
~Peter Kreeft

Monday, January 25, 2010

Freedom

The following is an excerpt from a song I enjoy. It has always moved me. So, I thought I would share and then tie-in a quote from St. Paul. Do you think that the smell of a baby’s head has a trace of life beyond life?

“Freedom has a scent
Like the top of a new born baby's head”
~U2

“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved...”
~Romans 8: 18-24a

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Praying the Psalms

"We have all felt astonished and perhaps bewildered by the psalmist's curses of God's enemies or of personal foes. Many psalms describe a great conflict between God's followers and the pagans who eventually are routed because of His sovereign power. Often the psalm includes a reminder that the people of God were in trouble in the first place because they had been unfaithful. A look at the literal meaning of these 'imprecatory psalms' will demonstrate that symbolically the great battle rages within ourselves: Israel represents my God-given strength and desires, while the idolatrous and murderous pagans are a symbol of my sins, vices and deep-rooted egotism. As I read the psalms allegorically, I recognize that I have often surrendered to or eagerly embraced these vicious tendencies within my mind and heart. In short, I have been an enemy of God. It is a relief to know that in the imprecatory psalms, at least, the friends of God are delivered by divine power (our virtues are victorious), while His enemies (the dark aspects of the human mind opposed to God) are defeated."
~Benedict Groeschel

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Psalm 92

It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
to make music to your name, O Most High,
To proclaim your love in the morning
and your truth in the watches of the night,
On the ten-stringed lyre and the lute,
with the murmuring sound of the harp.

Your deeds, O Lord, have made me glad;
for the work of your hands I shout with joy.
O Lord, how great are your works!
How deep are your designs!
The foolish man cannot know this
and the fool cannot understand.

Though the wicked spring up like grass
and all who do evil thrive:
They are doomed to be eternally destroyed.
But you, Lord, are eternally on high.
See how your enemies perish;
all doers of evil are scattered.

To me you give the wild-ox's strength;
you anoint me with the purest oil.
My eyes looked in triumph on my foes;
my ears heard gladly of their fall.
The just will flourish like the palm-tree
and grow like a Lebanon cedar.

Planted in the house of the Lord,
they will flourish in the courts of our God,
Still bearing fruit when they are old,
still full of sap, still green,
To proclaim that the Lord is just.
In him, my rock, there is no wrong.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Morning Hymn

Christ, whose glory fills the skies,
Christ, the true, the only light,
Sun of Righteousness, arise,
Triumph o'er the shades of night:
Day-spring from on high, be near:
Day-star, in my heart appear.

Dark and cheerless is the morn
Unaccompanied by thee,
Joyless is the day's return,
Till thy mercy's beams I see;
Till thy inward light impart,
Glad my eyes, and warm my heart.

Visit then this soul of mine,
Pierce the gloom of sin, and grief,
Fill me, Radiancy Divine,
Scatter all my unbelief,
More and more thyself display,
Shining to the perfect day.

~Charles Wesley

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Concern

"One of the concerns I have about the direction of contemporary worship, the seeker-sensitive movement, and the current emphasis on human pleasure fulfillment in the modern church seems to fall in line with the following:

G. K. Chesterton says if you marry the spirit of the times you will soon become a widower.

This also goes along with something a friend of mine said recently. He said that the church is meant to have its own culture that transforms the culture around it - instead of just following the spirit of the times (the world’s culture).

Just some things I am pondering…"
~Kevin

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

To Await the Second Coming

"Whether or not the revelation of John describes a period stretched out over three and a half years or twenty-five years, a century, or a millennium is as yet uncertain and remains the subject of debate among biblical scholars. Jesus Himself reminds us that no man knows the hour or the day of the return of the Son of Man. It would not be good for us to know...

Because it is materialized in symbols, the prophecy takes on its own life within the imagination of the believer of any era. It is not merely stored away as one more news item, one more piece of religious information, one more scenario--that would be especially unfruitful for modern man, who suffers massive oversaturation of theory, knowledge, and scenarios. Instead, the revelation takes a form that is a loud shout in a world growing deaf. The authority of its horrific imagery guarantees an absolute claim on the imagination. We are intrigued, puzzled, frustrated, alarmed, and ultimately encouraged. In short, we are aroused to a kind of attention before the mystery of human history as it unfolds, precisely because we do not know when or how the ultimate danger is to be incarnated. With prayerful reading, the book assists in the conversion of attention into holy vigilance, the spirit of the watchman."
~Michael O’Brien (excerpt from the book Father Elijah)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Simply State What Is True

“The Book of Revelation induces fear and trembling in many believers, since most people’s perceptions of it swim with doomsday prophecies. But if you read Revelation carefully, you’ll find it a primer on worship.

Revelation 4 invites us into the very throne room of God, through the eyes of John, who has been ushered through a door right into heaven. God the Father sits on a throne surrounded by a rainbow resembling an emerald and twenty-four elders sitting on thrones. In the center, four living creatures never stop saying, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.’ Whenever they verbalize their praise, which is constant, the elders fall down before the throne and state the worthiness of God.

As humans obsessed with variety and change, who insist on ice cream in every flavor and burgers with any combination of toppings, we balk at the seeming monotony of this scene. How can these creatures and elders bear this burden of repetition? When we progress through Revelation, we find more going on, yet this is the heartbeat of heaven: endless praise.

Since our culture applauds variety and ingenuity, we constantly feel stretched to make our prayers and worship entertaining. During public worship, a certain amount of creativity certainly does attract our culture, so let’s keep that up―we may win more for the kingdom. However, as G. K. Chesterton writes in Orthodoxy:

‘It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again,’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again,’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daises alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.’

God is not bored by what we consider monotony. He does not tire of the heavenly creatures constantly telling Him that He is holy, nor will He tire of us doing so. Rather than always trying to be inventive in our prayers [and worship], let’s try to simply state what is true. Speak to God the words of the creatures and elders in Revelation 4. These words take us into that throne room; involve us in the endless worship of a holy God…”
~Katherine Callahan-Howell

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty...

Praise the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit both now and forever.
The God Who is, and was, and is to come, at the end of the ages, hallelujah.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

From Father to Son

"And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve Him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek Him, He will be found by you..."
~I Chronicles 28:9a

Thursday, January 14, 2010

How You Know

Everyone first hears the news as a child,
surrounded by money-changers and pharisees;
then later, from gray trees on a winter day,
amid all the twittering, one flash of sound
escapes along a creek--some fanatic among
the warblers broken loose like a missionary
sent out to the hinterland, and though the doors
that open along the creek stay closed for the cold,
and the gray people in their habitats don't look out,
you--a homeless walker stabbed by that bird cry--
stop mid-stride because out of a thicket
that little tongue turns history loose again, and holy
days asleep in the calendar wake up and chime.
~William Stafford

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Books

"A room without books is like a body without a soul."
~G. K. Chesterton

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Eternal One

"O Eternal God, though Thou art not such as I can see with my eyes or touch with my hands, yet grant me this day a clear conviction of Thy reality and power. Let me not go forth to my work believing only in the world of sense and time, but give me grace to understand that the world I cannot see or touch is the most real world of all. My life to-day will be lived in time, but eternal issues will be concerned in it. The needs of my body will be clamant, but it is for the needs of my soul that I must care most. My business will be with things material, but behind them let me be aware of things spiritual. Let me keep steadily in mind that the things that matter are not money or possessions, not houses or lands, not bodily comfort of bodily pleasure; but truth and honour and meekness and helpfulness, and a pure love of Thyself.

For the power Thou hast given me to lay hold of things unseen:
For the strong sense I have that this is not my home:
For my restless heart which nothing finite can satisfy:
I give Thee thanks, O God.

For the invasion of my soul by Thy Holy Spirit:
For all human love and goodness that speak to me of Thee:
For the fullness of Thy glory outpoured in Jesus Christ:
I give Thee thanks, O God.

I, a pilgrim of eternity, stand before Thee, O eternal One. Let me not seek to deaden or destroy the desire for Thee that disturbs my heart. Let me rather yield myself to its constraint and go where it leads me. Make me wise to see all things to-day under the form of eternity, and make me brave to face all the changes in my life which such a vision may entail: through the grace of Christ my Saviour. Amen."
~John Baillie

Monday, January 11, 2010

Hope

"The virtue of hope is the foundation of the prayer of life. Hope is the grace to believe that whatever events occur, they will contain the necessary ingredients of our salvation."
~Benedict Groeschel

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Listen to Life (Part 2)

"How do we listen to the reality of life and pray within it? The first step is to divest ourselves, as far as possible, of preconceived expectations of life. We have all been impressed by the rather simple souls who take life as it comes. They have an abiding awareness that there are many things in life which we do not and cannot control. They are often the most spiritual people we know because they listen to life and pray. Our unrealistic expectations of life are grist for the mills of neurosis. They cause us to worry, and then our prayer becomes a futile attempt to control God. We are so busy deciding what advice to give God about how to govern the world, and are so set in our needs and expectations of life, that we are unable to listen to any of life's real messages. Consequently, our prayer becomes an expression, albeit an intriguing one, of our own illusions."
~Benedict Groeschel

Friday, January 8, 2010

Listen to Life

Listen to what life is saying in the present moment before trying to shape your prayer.

"The word 'life' is meant here to encompass the complexity of events that converge on our conscious mind. From outside and from within, these events form a river of awareness, a stream of consciousness, which has been our constant experience of life since birth and possibly during the months before it. This powerful stream of awareness can be shaped and molded into human understanding only insofar as we accept it. Otherwise we move into an unreal world of our own making. This world is simply the projection of our fears and desires. It can only contain a god of our own making, a reflection of our own frightened ego. The false god of the unreal world may bear a resemblance to the living God. It may look like the Trinity or the Son of God, but it is ultimately a fraud. For the believer and especially for the Christian, the process of growth is a gradual repudiation of the unreal image of 'god' and an openness to the true and living God. This is the spiritual process observable in the writings of the Hebrew prophets and in the work of spiritual formation which Christ undertook with His disciples. They resisted the message of the reality of the Messiah. They asked Him impatiently when He would triumphantly reveal His power to Israel. They looked for an earthly, unreal Messiah and found a heavenly, real one, but only after they had lost all their illusions and were forced by events to realize that His Kingdom is not of this world."
~Benedict Groeschel

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Mystery and Health

“Mysticism keeps men sane. As long as you have mystery you have health; when you destroy mystery you create morbidity. The ordinary man has always been sane because the ordinary man has always been a mystic. He has permitted the twilight. He has always had one foot in earth and the other in fairyland. He has always left himself free to doubt his gods; but (unlike the agnostic of to-day) free also to believe in them. He has always cared more for truth than for consistency. If he saw two truths that seemed to contradict each other, he would take the two truths and the contradiction along with them. His spiritual sight is stereoscopic, like his physical sight: he sees two different pictures at once and yet sees all the better for that. Thus he has always believed that there was such a thing as fate, but such a thing as free will also. Thus he believed that children were indeed the kingdom of heaven, but nevertheless ought to be obedient to the kingdom of earth. He admired youth because it was young and age because it was not. It is exactly this balance of apparent contradictions that has been the whole buoyancy of the healthy man. The whole secret of mysticism is this: that man can understand everything by the help of what he does not understand.”
~G. K. Chesterton

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Angelic Doctor and Beatific Vision

“Perhaps no figure from medieval scholasticism is as well known as Thomas Aquinas. Responsible for a number of writings, his best known being the Summa Theologica, this 13th-century philosopher/theologian described the ultimate goal of human life as attaining what he called the Beatific Vision.

As finite beings, we have finite knowledge, Thomas reasoned, and so rational knowledge can only go so far in satisfying our desire to know God and be like Him. In like manner, faith supported by revelation is imperfect because ‘now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face’ (I Corinthians 13:12 NRSV). The true depth of God’s holiness is beyond what we can expect in this lifetime. The Beatific Vision, the ultimate understanding of God and God’s presence, awaits us in the life to come.

On Oct. 23, 1257, Thomas became a doctor of theology. After that, he spent his life teaching, writing, preaching, traveling and praying. Although he was most known for his scholastic endeavors, his biographers regularly attest to the visions and ecstasies Thomas received during his prayers. In 1273, after he had finished a treatise on the Eucharist, three fellow monks saw him praying and heard a voice coming from the crucifix on the altar, ‘You have written well of me, Thomas, what reward do you want?’ To which Thomas replied, ‘Nothing but You, Lord.’

Later that year, on Dec. 6, Thomas laid aside his pen while still working on his Summa Theologica. When one of the priests encouraged Thomas to continue his writings, Thomas simply replied, ‘I cannot, for everything I have written is like straw compared to what has been revealed to me.’ Barely three months later, on March 7, 1274, Thomas passed through the veil between this life and the next, making his vision complete.

The medieval scholastics consistently say that our understanding and grasp of God, even the words we use to describe Him, are but shadows of the reality that will one day be revealed. Terms like ‘holiness’ fall short of all that God truly is. Thomas Aquinas reminds us that for all our knowledge and all our human striving, to be conformed to the image of God we must conceive of Him as He is: so much more than the artificial boundaries we construct.”
~Bruce N. G. Cromwell

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Love Hopes the Best

Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. ―
I Corinthians 13:7

“Love ‘hopeth all things.’ Is any evil related of any man? Love hopes that the relation is not true, that the thing related was never done. Is it certain it was? But perhaps it was not done with such circumstances as are related; so that allowing the fact, there is room to hope it was not so ill as it is represented. Was the action apparently, undeniably evil? Love hopes the intention was not so. Is it clear the design was evil too? Yet might it not spring, not from the settled temper of the heart, but from a start of passion, or from some vehement temptation, which hurried the man beyond himself? And even when it cannot be doubted but all the actions, designs and tempers are equally evil, still love hopes that God will at last make bare his arm and get himself the victory; and that there shall be ‘joy in heaven over [this] one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons that need no repentance.

Prayer: Let thy unwearied and tender love to me make my love unwearied and tender to my neighbor, zealous to pray for and to procure and promote his health and safety, ease and happiness. Make me peaceable and reconcilable, easy to forgive, and glad to return good for evil. Amen.”
~John Wesley

Monday, January 4, 2010

Thou Lovely Source Of True Delight

Thou lovely source of true delight whom I unseen adore
Unveil Thy beauties to my sight that I might love Thee more
Oh that I might love Thee more

Thy glory o’er creation shines yet in Thy sacred word
I read in fairer brighter lines my bleeding, dying Lord
Oh my bleeding, dying Lord

‘Tis here whene’er my comforts droop and sin and sorrows rise
Thy love with cheering beams of hope my fainting heart supplies
My fainting heart’s supplied

And ah too soon the pleasing scene is clouded over with pain
My gloomy fears rise dark between and I again complain
Oh and I again complain

Jesus my Lord, my life, my light, oh come with blissful ray
Break radiant through the shades of night and chase my fears away
Won’t you chase my fears away

Then shall my soul with rapture trace the wonders of Thy love
But the full glories of Thy face are only known above
They are only known above

Oh come let us adore
My bleeding dying Lord
~Words by Anne Steele (alt. by Kevin Twit)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Prayer for the Evening

"O God, immortal, eternal, invisible, I remember with gladness and thanksgiving all that Thou hast been to this world of men:

Companion of the brave:
Upholder of the loyal:
Light of the wanderer:
Joy of the pilgrim:
Guide of the pioneer:
Helper of labouring men:
Refuge of the broken-hearted:
Deliverer of the oppressed:
Succour of the tempted:
Strength of the victorious:
Ruler of the rulers:
Friend of the poor:
Rescuer of the perishing:
Hope of the dying.

Give me faith now to believe that Thou canst be all in all to me, according to my need, if only I renounce all proud self-dependence and put my trust in Thee.

Forbid it, O Father, that the difficulty of living well should ever tempt me to fall into any kind of heedlessness or despair. May I keep it ever in mind that this human life was once divinely lived and this world once nobly overcome and this body of flesh, that now so sorely tries me, once made into Thy perfect dwelling-place.

Show thy lovingkindness to-night, O Lord, to all who stand in need of Thy help. Be with the weak to make them strong and with the strong to make them gentle. Cheer the lonely with Thy company and the distracted with Thy solitude. Prosper Thy Church in the fulfillment of her mighty task, and grant Thy blessing to all who have toiled to-day in Christ's name. Amen."
~John Baillie

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Perspective

Make us know the shortness of our life
that we may gain wisdom of heart.
Psalm 90:12

Friday, January 1, 2010

Give to the Winds Thy Fears

As our culture and economy continue to struggle, here is a good word to start 2010. Some of you may recognize part of this from a Jars of Clay song:

Give to the winds thy fears;
Hope, and be undismayed;
God hears thy sighs and counts thy tears,
God shall lift up thy head;
Thro' waves and clouds and storms,
He gently clears thy way;
Wait thou his time, so shall this night
Soon end in joyous day.

Still heavy is thy heart?
Still sink thy spirits down?
Cast off thy weight, let fear depart,
And ev'ry care be gone.
What tho' thou rulest not,
Yet heav'n and earth and hell
Proclaim, "God sitteth on the throne,
And ruleth all things well."

Commit thou all thy griefs
And ways into his hands,
To his sure trust and tender care
Who earth and heav'n commands;
Who points the clouds their course,
Whom winds and seas obey;
He shall direct thy wan'dring feet,
He shall prepare thy way.
~Words by Paul Gerhardt (trans. John Wesley)