Saturday, December 10, 2016

December Prayers: Loving My 'Neighbor'

The following comments and prayer is taken from Prayers and Meditations of Therese of Lisieux:

"...we more often treat those around us as inconsequential than as holy. People can be irritating and mean-tempered and our instinctive reaction is to give as good as we get. Therese felt the same impulse but, clinging to the gospel, she returned good for evil."

Her prayer related to this:

"Lord, nothing you ask me to do seems as difficult as loving my 'neighbor.' Give me the strength not only to love when my 'neighbor' is most unlovable, but to find joy in doing so. Prevent me from giving way to the impatience and anger that wounds others. Help me to act on the knowledge that we are all created in your image. Through Christ our Lord. Amen."

Thursday, December 08, 2016

December Prayers: Peace for My Soul

The following prayer is from St Francesca Xavier Cabrini (late 19th century):

                         Fortify me with the grace of Your Holy Spirit and give Your peace to my soul 
                         that I may be free from all needless anxiety, solicitude and worry. 
                         Help me to desire always that which is pleasing and acceptable to You 
                         so that Your will may be my will.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

December Prayers: Love More Powerful than Knowledge

Taken from the book, The St. Francis Prayer Book:                           

                                     Abba, Father, 
                                     cleanse our hearts of sin this day,
                                     reminding us that love is more powerful
                                     than knowledge or judgment.
                                     Fill our weak vessels with the
                                     fruits of righteousness,
                                     through Jesus Christ,
                                     for your glory and honor. Amen.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

December Prayers: Longing to Know God

As the year draws to a close, I plan to periodically share simple prayers from scripture and other sources with the hope that the reader's heart will be strengthened and encouraged to complete the year in peace and grace and to face the new year with hope.

I begin with the following prayer from Cuigo the Carthusian:

Lord, you are not seen except by the pure of heart. I seek by reading and meditating what is true purity of heart and how it may be had, so that with its help I may know you, if only a little.
Lord, for long I have meditated in my heart, seeking to see your face. It is the sight of you, Lord, that I have sought; and all the while in my meditation the fire of longing, the desire to know you  more fully, has increased...So give me, Lord, some pledge of what I hope to inherit, at least one drop of heavenly rain with which to refresh my thirst, for I am on fire with love. 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

God Feels Our Pain With Us

A reader shared the following prayer taken from George MacDonald's book, The Lady's Confession; I was very moved and blessed by this prayer so want to share it with the rest of you:

"Father, through your Son you know pain and even now you feel the pain of this your child. Help her to endure until you should say it is a enough. Let it not overmaster her patience; let it not be too much for her. What good it shall work in her, Lord, we do not need to instruct you." 

This is my prayer for each of you today as you face whatever challenge and difficulty there may be in your life...

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Life, Thought, Words and Deeds of Jesus Bring the Blurry Picture of God into Focus

My desire is to know and love God. This sounds appealing in theory, but prioritizing this in one's life is costly because it means letting go of having to be 'right.'

As fallen humans we are more prone to want to be 'right' than we are to want to know God, as seen in the creation story where humans prioritize the tree of knowledge over the tree of life. This doesn't mean there is no right nor wrong but that we don't have the capacity to independently know which is which and must depend on God (tree of life) to discern right from wrong in a life-giving way. From experience, I know that to grow in the intimate knowledge of God means being willing to let go of judgmentalism which gives us a sense that we know best and are 'right' and the other is 'wrong'.

So the first step in knowing God is to want to know and live in God's love more than to want to be right; we start by simply asking for that desire. Then as we set our hearts to wanting God above wanting our own understanding of 'right and wrong' (Prov 3:5), we need to know where to go to see what the Father is like. George MacDonald has beautifully expressed where to look in knowing the Father:

" man can, with thorough honesty, take the name of Christian whose ideas of the Father of men are gathered from any other field than the life, thought, words, and deeds of the only Son of that is not from the Bible as a book that we are to draw our ideas of God, but from the living Man into whose presence that book brings us, who is alive now, and gives his Spirit that they who read about him may understand what kind of being he is..."

Only in Jesus do we truly know what God is like; He brings the blurry picture of God into focus. God is Christlike. This is good news indeed, and while it seems it should be obvious, many of us who are Jesus followers miss what a radical message this is. May we have ears to hear and eyes to see what the Spirit has to say and show us about the Father in Jesus.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Jesus Didn't Leave Us With a Clear Belief System but with Breath and Body...

The following are excerpts from chapter 8 of Jesus Manifesto by Frank Viola and Leonard Sweet. If you don't have time to read it all, jump down to the highlighted portion at the end:

The Forgotten Tree
"...The glory of the gospel is that we who are fallen, tarnished and marred have been invited to live our lives in the exact same way that Jesus lived His life: by an indwelling Lord...

(In the garden of Eden) God wanted humans to eat from the tree of life...(which) meant receiving the uncreated life of God into oneself...Today the tree of life is the Lord Jesus Christ.

Living by God's life is very different from living by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil...

...The Pharisees' attempt to promote high moral values was based on the knowledge of good and evil. For this reason, the Lord Jesus - who had a reputation of being a 'friend of sinners' - constantly collided with the leaven-dispensing Pharisees.

Jesus pushed the boundaries of religion to their limits. He was also a fierce critic of the priestly temple system of His day...If you examine Jesus' exchanges with the Pharisees, you'll discover a common thread. The Pharisees would ask a question on one level, and Jesus would answer it on a completely different would appear that Jesus was answering a different question.

Why is this? It's because the Pharisees' questions were coming from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And Jesus' response was coming from the tree of life - the life of God.

The Bible teaches the highest possible moral values. But the Bible is fundamentally not about morality. Following the Lord Jesus Christ involves living out the highest moral values. But following Jesus is fundamentally not about morality. Conversion to Christ involves a moral transformation of life. But conversion is not fundamentally about morality either...It is Christ, not religion, that saves us. is all too possible to confuse an academic knowledge or theology about Jesus with a personal knowledge of the living Christ Himself. These two stand as far apart as do the hundred thousand million galaxies.

...the fullness of Christ can never be accessed through the frontal lobe alone. That's why Jesus did not leave His disciples with CliffNotes for a systematic theology. He left them with breath and body. He didn't leave them with a coherent and clear belief system by which to love God and others. He gave them wounds to touch and hands to heal. He didn't leave them with intellectual belief or a 'Christian worldview.' He left them with a relational faith and an indwelling presence.

...unless the cutting edge of your life and ministry is Jesus Christ, you're building castles in the sand and skating on invisible ice. That's why...the church must be awakened to the Christ who lives within her and begin to understand the limitless resources of His indwelling life."

Saturday, October 08, 2016

True Power, True Manliness

Jesus' power and manliness finds its highest and clearest expression in the cross; may the contemplation of His beauty spoil us for the cheap substitutes presented to us in our day:
Image result for passion of the christ movie

"Yes, my lovable Jesus, You are certainly beautiful and You have by Your beauty alone softened the most obstinate hearts from evil ways. Bernard Colnago found himself once in a cottage with five brigands and a wicked woman. What did he do to convert them? Did he open Hell before their eyes? No, ...he said to them in a serious and modest tone, "Jesus is beautiful, Jesus is beautiful." These words were the arrows which pierced those hearts of stone and all were converted. beloved friends, I desire that your heart be captivated by the beauty of my Jesus, a beauty so sweet that it will make you happy in this life and happy through all eternity; a beauty so marvelous that it will be the delight even of Paradise and if there were not anything else to contemplate in Heaven but the beauty so pure, so holy, and so ravishing of Jesus, this would be even then an abode of ineffable delight."  (St. Leonard Port-Maurice)

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Power of Being Present

As I continue in my personal journey of physical weakness and disability, I'm more convinced than ever that being present in solidarity with others is more powerful than brute strength. This is fresh on my mind after having just spent a day with two people (separate situations) who are in great emotional pain over loss of a child - not through death but through other very painful happenings in their lives that has brought deep loss to both families.

Because of my physical injuries of 3-4 years ago, I am unable to walk without assistance. This puts significant limitations on what I can do to help others with anything that requires physical strength and mobility.

However, it seems that my presence is desired anyway; I'm learning that nonjudgmental loving presence is powerful in its ability to put inner strength and hope in another person even without the issue being "fixed".

This underscores to me a reality that is growing in my understanding of God, which is that His power largely takes the form of presence, a loving presence without judgment. The prophet Isaiah said that God would come as Emmanuel, God with us! God's incarnation demonstrates that He in solidarity with human frailty; His crucifixion tells us that He is in full solidarity with human suffering; His resurrection and ascension and then outpouring of His very own Life/Spirit tells us that He continues to dwell among us in ongoing solidarity with everything we go through and that He will never leave or forsake us!

It is this loving peace-filled presence of God that brings strength and hope and motivation to continue trusting Him in the face of crippling fear and discouragement. Because God's love is free of any coercion and manipulation, He won't intervene and force things to go well when it violates pure love; but He can be and is present in all the beauty and power of pure self-giving love which empowers us.

A wonderful reality is that, as bearers of His life and love, we can bring His presence into situations in our little corners of the world with the understanding that our mere presence gives courage and hope to those who need it!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Unexpected Source of Energy on Which the Cosmos Thrives

The longer I walk with the Lord Jesus and look at His way of living and dying, the more I'm aware of how utterly upside down (to us) God's kingdom ways are. I read a short article by Kenneth Tanner, The Great Humility that Redeems the Cosmos, which expresses well how wonderfully different God's ways are from ours:

"The gospels upend every human (perhaps every rational) notion of strength.

The cosmos—superclusters of galaxies, delicate wildflowers on countless meadows, the waves of every ocean—thrives on one source of energy, a hidden force of charity that does not seek its own, a Person with an unremarkable face, who came not to be served by his creation but to serve. 

When I talk about this personal force of love I often describe it as some of the first Christians did. They call his passion for everyone and everything an Extreme Humility.

The biggest challenge presented to humanity by his gospel is our mistaken bedrock belief that what drives the universe is an unbridled might that rules by fiat. This is after all the only form of power we humans recognize: brute force, cunning strategy, ruthless competition, and, above all else, "winning."
It goes against everything that man has built and everything that man has ventured to accept the idea that the real power that sustains all movement and all life, that binds all things together—from subatomic particles to intergalactic distances—is a self-sacrificial love without measure.
"If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it."
Jesus is not just talking about your life but is describing how *everything* works.
The losers in this scenario do not "win" but instead come to participate forever in the life of him who lays down his life for the life of the world and in so doing—by a great humility—redeems the cosmos and makes all things new, makes all things well.
This belief is not going to get you anywhere in the world that humanity has made but you can serve that world—this world that Christ loved before it loved him—by embracing this sacred path of humility and renouncing all the other ways and means and kinds of power.
All of them. Political. Military. Intellectual. Physical. All.
It is telling that almost every news story that compels the urgent attention of Christians these days can only do so because we have denied that we serve a Lord that rules by a mysterious humility that conquers all hearts by self-giving."