Monday, May 31, 2010

Solitude for young parents . . .

Our hearts for young families prompt us to remind husbands and wives (parents) that one of the most precious gifts you can give each other is that of solitude. TIME . . . to be away, to be quiet and listen, to seek His face. Jesus modeled this often for us, so it must be good for us, very good, and we find that to be true.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

On reading, writing and telling . . . a tribute to Anne Morrow Lindbergh

I suppose it was because I was an avid reader as a child that I became an avid writer later, and now an avid storyteller in my “golden years”? I have had many “mentors” in the area of communication; many who have inspired my own path to express something of life to and for others. The list is far too long to mention, and also very eclectic as my tastes in literature and music have always been. From Steinbeck, Frost and Hemingway, to so many of the Christian saints across the years. From philosophers, to poets, to tellers of tall tales.

Often, we find an author or teller with whom our hearts ring ever so true. We may regret that we didn’t write or say it first, or we may simply say, “Ah yes!” You no doubt have had those times when the truth could never be more true, and voice (aloud or silently) your total agreement. Recently, I came across a book called Gift From The Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, and much in this book causes me to say, “Ah yes.”

I know much of my delight lies in the setting of the beach and ocean, a special place for me and my family forever. But there is also something in the simple, earthy truths for life and living that Lindbergh expresses which touch my heart and soul. As Eugene Peterson puts it, “God’s unforced rhythms of grace,” that is what Lindbergh seems to be expressing directly or indirectly throughout the book.

As I said, I would have liked to have written much of this, or at least given my own version of it, but she has done it so well, that nothing remains to be said by this old teller of tales. So, as I’m prone to do when I discover a treasure, I share some of it here with you:

“The beach is not the place to work; to read, write or think. I should have remembered that from other years. Hopefully, one carries down the faded straw bag, lumpy with books, clean paper, long-overdue unanswered letters, freshly-sharpened pencils, lists and good intentions. The books remain unread, the pencils break their points, and the pads rest smooth, unblemished as the cloudless sky. No reading, no writing, no thoughts even - at least, not at first. One becomes, in fact, like the element on which one lies, flattened by the sea: bare, open, empty as the beach erased by today's tides of all yesterday's scribblings. The mind begins to drift, to play, to turn over in gentle careless rolls like those lazy waves on the beach. One never knows what chance treasures these easy unconscious rollers may toss up on the smooth white sand of the conscious mind. But it must not be fought for or - heaven forbid! - dug for. No, no dredging of the sea bottom here: that would defeat one's purpose. The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy or too impa¬tient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. Patience, patience, patience is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach - waiting for a gift from the sea.

I want singleness of eye, a purity of intention, a central core to my life that will enable me to carry out all my obligations and activities as well as I can. I want, in fact - to borrow from the language of the saints - to live 'in grace' as much of the time as possible. I am not using this term in a strictly theological sense: by grace I mean an inner harmony, essentially spiritual, which can be translated into outward harmony. I am seeking, perhaps, what Socrates asked for in the prayer from the Phaedrus when he said, 'May the outward and inward man be one.' I would like to achieve a state of inner spiritual grace from which I could func¬tion and give as I was meant to in the eyes of God. There are times when one seems to carry all one's tasks before one lightly, as if borne along on a great tide. And in the opposite state one can hardly tie a shoe-string. It is true that a large part of life consists in learning a technique of tying the shoe-string -whether one is 'in grace' or not. I believe most people are aware of periods in their lives when they seem to be 'in grace' and other periods when they feel 'out of grace', even though they may use different words to describe these states.

This next excerpt I include in honor of my mother and my wife, but also in honor of all the other wonderful women I know: (But do read it guys, it’s good for us.)

Certain environments, certain modes of life, certain rules of con¬duct are more conducive to inner and outer harmony than others. There are, in fact, certain roads that one may follow. Simplification of life is one of them. I mean to follow a simple life. But I do not. I find that my form of life does not foster simplicity: the life I have chosen as wife and mother entrains a whole caravan of complications. It involves food and shelter, meals, planning, marketing, bills and making ends meet in a thousand ways. It involves friends, my husband's, my children's and my own, and endless arrangements to get together: letters, invitations, telephone calls and transportation hither and yon. What a circus act we women perform every day of our lives. It puts the trapeze artist to shame. Look at us! This is not the life of simplicity, but the life of multiplicity that the wise warn us of. It leads not to unification but to fragmentation. Distraction is, always has been, and probably always will be, inherent in women's lives. We must be open to all points of the compass; husband, children, friends, home, community; stretched mil, exposed like a spider's web to each breeze that blows, to each call that comes. How difficult for us, then, to achieve a balance in the midst of these contradictory tensions; and yet how necessary for the proper functioning of our lives. How much we need, and how arduous of attainment is that steadiness preached in all rules of holy living. How desirable and distant is the ideal of the con-templative, artist, or saint - the inner inviolable core, the single eye. With new awareness, both painful and humorous, I begin to understand why the saints were rarely married women. I am con¬vinced it has nothing inherently to do, as I once supposed, with chastity or children. It has to do primarily with distractions. The bearing, rearing, feeding and educating of children; the running of a house with its thousand details; human relationships with their myriad pulls - women's normal occupations in general run counter to creative life, or contemplative life, or saintly life. Woman instinctively wants to give, yet resents giving herself in small pieces. I believe that what she resents is not so much giving herself in pieces as giving herself purposelessly. What we fear is not so much that our energy may be leaking away through small outlets as that it may be going 'down the drain'. Purposeful giving is not as apt to deplete one's resources: it belongs to that natural order of giving that seems to renew itself even in the act of depletion. The more one gives, the more one has to give - like milk in the breast.

The problem is: how to remain in the midst of the distractions of life; how to remain balanced, no matter what centrifugal forces tend to pull one off centre; how to remain strong, no matter what shocks come in at the periphery and tend to crack the hub of the wheel. What is the answer? There is no easy answer; no complete answer. I have only clues - shells from the sea. One answer, and perhaps a first step, is in the simplification of life; in cutting out some of the distractions. But how? Total retire¬ment is not possible. I cannot permanently inhabit a desert island. I cannot be a nun in the midst of family life. I would not want to be. The solution for me, surely, is neither in total renunciation of the world, nor in total acceptance of it. I must find a balance somewhere, or an alternating rhythm between these two extremes: a swinging of the pendulum between solitude and communion, between retreat and return. In my periods of retreat, perhaps I can learn something to carry back into my worldly life. One cannot collect all the beautiful shells on the beach. One can collect only a few; and they are more beautiful if they are few. My life at home, I begin to realize, lacks this quality of signifi¬cance, and therefore of beauty, because there is so little empty space. The space is scribbled on; the time has been filled. There are so few empty pages in my engagement pad, or empty hours in the day, or empty rooms in my life in which to stand alone and find myself. Too many activities, and people, and things. Too many worthy activities, valuable things and interesting people. For it is not merely the trivial that clutters our lives, but the important as well. We can have a surfeit of treasures and excess of shells - where one or two would be significant.

It is a difficult lesson to learn today - to leave one's friends and family and deliberately practice the art of solitude for an hour, or a day, or a week. For me, the break is the most difficult. Parting is inevitably painful, even for a short time. It is like an amputation, I feel. A limb being torn off, without which I shall be unable to I function. And yet, once it is done, I find there is a quality to being alone that is incredibly precious. Life rushes back into the void, richer, more vivid, fuller than before. It is as if, in parting, one did actually lose an arm. And then, like the starfish, one grows it anew; one is whole again, complete and round - more whole, even, than before.

It is not the desert island, nor the stony wilderness, that cuts you off from the people you love: it is the wilderness in the mind, the desert wastes in the heart through which one wanders lost - a stranger to oneself and estranged from others too. If one is out of touch with oneself, then one cannot touch others. How often in a large city, shaking hands with my friends, I have felt the wilderness stretching between us. Both of us were wandering in arid wastes, having lost the springs that nourished us, or having found them dry. Only when one is connected to one's own core is one connected to others, I am beginning to discover. And for me the core, the inner spring, can best be found through solitude. We are all, in the last analysis, alone. How one hates to think of oneself as alone. How one avoids it - it seems to imply rejec¬tion or unpopularity. We seem so frightened today of being alone that we never let it happen. Even if family, friends and movies should fail, there is still the radio or television to fill up the void. Women, who used to complain of loneliness, need never be alone any more. We can do our housework with soap-opera heroes at our side. Even day-dreaming was more creative than this: it demanded something of oneself and it fed the inner life. Now, instead of planting our own dream blossoms, we choke the space with continuous music, chatter and companionship to which we do not even listen. It is simply there to fill the vacuum. When the noise stops there is no inner music to take its place.
We must re-learn to be alone.

If it is our function to give, we must be replenished too. But how? Everyone should be alone sometime during the year, some part of each week, and each day. If they were convinced that a day off, or an hour of solitude, was a reasonable ambition, they would find a way of attaining it. As it is, they feel so unjustified in this demand I hat they rarely make an attempt. The world does not understand, in either man or woman, the need to be alone. How inexplicable it seems. Anything else will be accepted as a better excuse. If one sets aside time for a busi¬ness appointment, a trip to the hairdresser, a social engagement, or a shopping expedition, that time is accepted as inviolable. But if one says: I cannot come because that is my hour to be alone; one is considered rude, egotistical or strange. What a commentary on our civilization, when being alone is considered suspect; when one has to apologize for it, make excuses, hide the fact that one practices it - like a secret vice! Certain springs are tapped only when we are alone. The artist knows he must be alone to create; the writer, to work out his thoughts; the musician to compose; the saint, to pray. The problem is not entirely in finding the room of one's own time alone, difficult and necessary as this is. The problem is more how to still the soul in the midst of its activities. In fact the problem is how to feed the soul. I must try to be alone for part of each year, even a week or a few days; and for part of each day, even an hour or a few minutes, in order to keep my core, my centre, my island-quality. Unless I keep the island-quality intact somewhere within me, I will have little to give my husband, my children, my friends or the world at large.

The tide of life recedes. The house, with its bulging sleeping porches and sheds, begins little by little to empty. The children go away to school and then to marriage and lives of their own. Most people by middle age have attained, or ceased to struggle to attain, their place in the world. That terrific tenacity to life, to place, to people, to material surroundings and accumulations: is it as necessary as it was when one was struggling for security or the security of one's children? Many of the physical struggles have ceased, due either to success or failure. Does the shell need to be so welded to its rock? Married couples are apt to find themselves in middle age, high and dry in an outmoded shell, in a fortress which has outlived its function. Perhaps middle age is, or should be, a period of shedding shells: the shell of ambition, the shell of material accumulations and possessions, the shell of the ego. Perhaps one can shed, at this stage in life one's pride, one's false ambitions, one's mask, one's armour. Was that armour not put on to protect one from the com-petitive world? If one ceases to compete, does one need it? Perhaps one can at last in middle age, if not earlier, be completely oneself; and what a liberation that would be! So beautiful is the still hour of the sea's withdrawal, as beauti¬ful as the sea's return when encroaching waves pound up the beach, pressing to reach those dark rumpled chains of seaweed which mark the last high tide.
We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life, of love, of relationships. We leap at the flow of the tide and resist in terror its ebb. We are afraid it will never return. We insist on permanence, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible, in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity - in freedom in the sense that dancers are free, barely touching as they pass, but partners in the same pattern. The only real security is not in owning or possessing, not in demanding or expecting, not in hoping even. Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what it was in nostalgia, nor forward to what it might be in dread or anticipation, but living in the present relationship and accepting it as it is now.
When we start at the centre of ourselves, we discover something worthwhile extending toward the periphery of the circle. We find again some of the joy in the now, some of the peace in the here, some of the love in me and thee which go to make up the king¬dom of heaven on earth.
The waves echo behind me. Patience - Faith - Openness are what the sea has to teach; Simplicity - Solitude - Intermittency. But there are other beaches to explore. There are more shells to find. This is only a beginning.”

And so we end with another sense or theme; that of the journey, one characterized by God’s unforced rhythms of grace along the way. For me personally it is The Narrow Road – A Journey of Hope – Along the Good Red Road of Jesus Christ. I hope to see you along the way, to share our stories and encourage one another as we press on, knowing what lies ahead, and what He is restoring us for.

only by Grace,


a postscript: Anne Morrow Lindbergh is not necessarily one of my favorite authors, nor someone I would consider a mentor, but I have found that is better to investigate things than cast them off due to a first impression or accumulated prejudices. I have found much in Gift From The Sea to inspire me, and keep me searching and seeking for God’s gift

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Practicing the Presence of God and Disdaining the Things of the World

When Jesus said, “Come, follow me,” it was to a radically different life he called those early disciples-in-training. The choice to follow Jesus in our time is still a choice of radical change in our lives. “You must lose your life to find it,” is still as applicable today as it was to those first disciples. While the church can teach the “how”, (and certainly should), it is up to each individual to choose this path of discipleship, this narrow road of following the One called Jesus Christ, Son of God. Many “loosely” follow Jesus, but few make that radical commitment to disdain the things of the world and live a monastic life in the midst of this world.

“Seek the ancient paths,” says the book of Celtic Daily Prayer, and it like the Bible and other classics of Christian literature, encourage us toward that life that Brother Lawrence called “practicing the presence of God.” Perhaps like no other written work, aside from the Bible itself, The Imitation of Christ gives us clear and challenging direction in living life as a follower of Jesus. Among the classics of Christian devotional and spiritual literature, the Imitation stands out and has been the #1 companion to the Bible for many of our “great cloud of witnesses.” The Imitation was written as a “beginner’s” guide to monastic life. It is constructed in devotional fashion, with shorter readings that lend themselves to “lectio divina” (divine listening or meditation).

If there is one clear theme throughout the Imitation, it may be that of humility? But closely followed is that of disdain for things of the world; from material possessions, to idle chatter and gossip, to desires of the flesh including power and authority. The Imitation commands us daily to lay down our worldly lives; it challenges and convicts us of sin . . . daily, continuous sin that dogs us throughout our days. One cannot read the Imitation without sensing the Spirit’s conviction, and done so on a daily basis is the stuff of spiritual formation . . . the life and times of a disciple of Jesus Christ.

I cannot recommend too highly the practical, daily use of the Imitation in conjunction with one’s Bible, (and perhaps a book of daily or common prayer.) To “wet” the appetite for consuming the Imitation I include the following excerpts:

“What good does it do you to be able to give a learned discourse on the Trinity, while you are without humility and, thus, are displeasing to the Trinity? . . . I would rather experience repentance in my soul than know how to define it. . . If you knew the entire Bible inside and out and all the maxims of the philosophers, what good would it do you if you were, at the same time, without God’s love and grace?”

“It is vanity to seek riches that are sure to perish and to put your hope in them. It is vanity to pursue honors and to set yourself up on a pedestal.”

“Whenever you desire anything inordinately, you immediately find that you grow dissatisfied with yourself. Those who are proud and avaricious never arrive at contentment; it is the poor and the humble in spirit who live in great peace.”

“Anyone who is not dead to himself will soon find that he is tempted and overcome by piddling and frivolous things.”

“Do not take pride in your skills and talents lest you offend God, to whom you owe these very gifts and endowments.”

“Peace dwells in the humble heart, while in the heart of the proud man there is envy, resentment and strife.”

Oh my Book 1, Chapter 14 is so full of wisdom I hesitate to include even an excerpt here, go buy the book and read it! Also, many of you will note that the Imitation is full of Scripture references, not by accident.

“If you wish to keep peace and live in harmony with others, you must learn to abdicate your will in many things. It is no small matter to live as if in a monastery within your own congregation and abide there without complaint and persevere faithfully until death.”

“We ought not place too much trust in ourselves because we are often without grace and understanding. . . “

“Jesus today has many lovers of His heavenly kingdom, but few of them carry His cross.”

“Many love Jesus as long as adversity does not touch them and many praise and bless Him as long as they receive consolation from Him.”

Well, that is a sample of the tough teachings contained in the Imitation. I hope you will find, as I have, that God’s Truth rings clear and loud within those pages, and it compels us to pray and seek the transformation that only the Spirit can make in our lives. We will be asked over and over again to avoid idle gossip and chatter of worldly things, to let go of our selfish need to be “right” all the time, we will be challenged to hold loosely to temporal things of this world and tightly to Christ, we will be convicted in our pride and pray for humility of the Son, we will begin to see ourselves as the wretched sinners we are, and pray, “Lord have mercy!”

Friday, May 21, 2010


Often, I find the words I "love" the most, also "hurt" the most?! Conviction by God's Spirit can be very uncomfortable, but when it leads to confession and repentance . . . Oh the freedom in God's forgiveness and mercy. [Inspired by many chapters in 'The Imitation of Christ'.]

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Disciple . . . disciplines

I am constantly reminded (by the "circuit judge" in my brain, aka Holy Spirit) that we can't/won't "Go", we can't/won't obey until Christ is formed in our inner being; our hearts! Jesus first said, "Come", and only later said "Go", after he had made disciples of his "motley crew". Yes, spiritual formation is the "work" of the Holy Spirit, but we must cooperate with the Holy Trinity through the "disciplines" if we are to become "imitations of Christ". The "church" can't make disciples . . . but, it can teach individuals how to partner with God to become a disciple.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

let love be your motive

God notes the love the that impels the action and not the number of works done. [He does much who loves much.] We inquire about how much a man might have accomplished in life but never seek the motives that led him to act, asking whether he is poor in spirit, meek and patient, or how devout he is. Grace views his in...ward reality, while nature looks at the outside, but Grace is never deceived.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

healing from the past, blessing for the future, JOY in the now:

Sit somewhere where you can see birds. (If that is not possible then imagine a crowd of seagulls in the sky, floating on the wind, wheeling, crying out their lonesome call of forgotten summers.) As you count the birds associate them each with the name of Jesus and the year of your life. The first bird you will tag 'Jesus, when I was 1' (or, if you prefer, do this in random order so it might be 'Jesus, when I was 17'). Whether you knew it or not Jesus was alongside you in every year of your life, and able to see without any distortion, but with full awareness of our joy and pain. He is with us now. If, as you label the birds and name the years, any hurtful event comes to mind, it is vital to lift it up and let it fly to God with as much love as you can manage in the name of Jesus.

Aidan Clarke and Andy Raine from Celtic Daily Prayer

Jesus, bless my conception.
Jesus, bless my time in the womb.
May the peace of the birth of Jesus be on my birth.
I present my whole being to Jesus.
May Jesus be in all the suffering of my life.
May Jesus heal me by His stripes.
Jesus, crown me with glory, praise, honour and thanksgiving.
Jesus, teach me to carry my cross and follow You.
Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.
Jesus, bless me in my daily death.
Jesus, bless me in my final death.
Jesus, give me a power of resurrection in each day of my life.
Jesus, be with me all my days.
Jesus, fill me with the Holy Spirit.
Jesus, lead me from earth to heaven.
Jesus, make me the person I am meant to be.

Aidan Clarke from Celtic Daily Prayer

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

on being a prophet & disordered affections

Garrison Keillor tells a story about how God spoke to him as an adolescent. He describes it as a “call” to be a prophet – one who proclaims Gods’ truth among the people. He goes on to say that he chose instead an alternative line of work . . . to be a liar. He says because prophets are always despised, and have terrible things done to them.

I love Keillor’s storytelling, and I have always been a storyteller myself, since childhood. However, I also frequently sense and respond to God’s call to proclaim His Truth among the people. Yes, it can be a thankless “job”. God’s Truth always stirs people up, and often it is anger they are stirred up with. The prophet (messenger) is most often the initial object of scorn. However, over the seasons of my life I have found great contentment and strength in choosing to follow and respond to God in obedience . . . come what may.

Put on His armor and strike out . . . you have nothing to fear, He IS the victor.

Herewith an example of a prophetic word, this one from Thomas a Kempis:

Disordered Affections – Chapter 6, Book 1, The Imitation of Christ

"Whenever you desire anything inordinately, you immediately find that you grow dissatisfied with yourself. Those who are proud and avaricious never arrive at contentment; it is the poor and the humble in spirit who live in great peace. Anyone who is not totally dead to himself will soon find that he is tempted and overcome by piddling and frivolous things. Who¬ever is weak in spirit, given to the flesh, and inclined to sensual things can, but only with great difficulty, drag himself away from his earthly desires. Therefore, he is often gloomy and sad when he is trying to pull himself from them and easily gives in to anger should someone attempt to oppose him.
If he has given in to his inclinations and has yielded to his passions, he is then immediately afflicted with a guilty conscience. In no way do such yieldings help him to find the peace he seeks. It is by resisting our passions and not by being slaves to them that true peace of heart is to be found. There is no peace, therefore, in the heart of the man who is given to the flesh, nor in the man who is attached to worldly things. Peace is found only in one who is fervent and spiritual."

This is God’s Truth, and in sharing it you may anger many. But, in it is their key to true happiness and contentment. So, be a prophet, and share it to bless others.

only by Grace,


Monday, May 10, 2010

A Unified Definition of Spiritual Formation???

Each event in our lives, everything we experience, provides a point of change. For good or bad, our spirits transform each and every day. A paraphrase of C.S. Lewis: "Each day we are becoming either a creature of splendid glory or one of unthinkable horror."
A part of the conversation now taking place on the fringes of the established church centers on spiritual formation. For decades if not centuries, spiritual formation has been neglected by most of the Protestant wing of the Church. An unhealthy focus on a bad interpretation of "faith without works" has caused much of the problem.
Spiritual formation is not something to be shunned by falsely depicting it as a means to work for salvation. To the contrary, disciplines involved in the pursuit of positive spiritual formation are means of grace. Without God, they would be meaningless, but by grace, we partner with God in the transformation of our very selves. [THEOOZE]

What Is Spiritual Formation?
Spiritual formation is the activity of the Holy Spirit
which molds our lives into the likeness of Jesus Christ.
This likeness is one of deep intimacy with God
and genuine compassion for all of creation.
The Spirit works not only in the lives of individuals
but also in the church, shaping it into the Body of Christ.
We cooperate with this work of the Spirit
through practices that make us more open
and responsive to the Spirit’s touch,
disciplines such as sabbath keeping, works of compassion and justice, discernment,
worship, hospitality, spiritual friendships, and contemplative silence.
—definition of the Office of Spiritual Formation, Presbyterian Church (USA)

Spiritual Practices and Disciplines
“The practices and disciplines are means of grace, not tasks to accomplish or instructions to
follow in order to grow in the life of faith. To do the latter would be to engage in the practices “according to the flesh” rather than “in the Spirit.” Instead, these practices and disciplines are gifts to the community, by means of which God may use the community to establish and sustain all people in the new life given in the Spirit.” “...our basic task is not mastery and control. It is instead trust and grateful receptivity.” “The practices of faith are not ultimately our own practices but rather habitations of the Spirit, in the midst of which we are invited to participate in the practices of God.”
Craig Dykstra, Growing in the Life of Faith: Education and Christian Practices.
Louisville, KY: Geneva Press, 1999.

Prudence . . .

I admit it, I am too often quick to speak and quick to act! Then, I find myself going to the words of James (Jesus' earthly brother) for instruction and admonishment. It is a cross I bear, or a "thorn" that nags me, but I must always remind myself to be quick to pray and quick to listen (paraphrasing James, "Shut your mouth!") Herewith some wise words from the Imitation of Christ:


We ought not to be too ready to believe every word or item of gos¬sip, but we ought to weigh each carefully and unhurriedly before God. Alas! Our weakness is such that we are often more readily inclined to believe and speak ill of someone than that which is good. But those who are perfect do not easily give credence to every tale they hear, for they know that human nature is prone to evil and that the human tongue can be treacherous?
2. It is a mark of great wisdom neither to be hasty in our actions nor stubbornly maintain our private opinions. It is also a part of wisdom neither to believe everything we hear, nor to pour it immediately into another's ear. Seek counsel from one who is wise and honest and ask instruction from one you esteem; do not follow your own devices. A good life makes us wise in the eyes of God and makes knowledgeable in many things. The more humble you are in heart and the more you submit yourself to God, the wiser will you be in everything, and greater peace will be yours.


In Holy Scripture we seek truth and not eloquence. All Sacred Scripture should be read in the spirit with which it was written. We should search the Scriptures for what is to our profit, rather than for niceties of language. You should read the simple and devout books as eagerly as those that are lofty and profound. The authority of the author, whether he be of great or little learning, ought not to influence you, but let the love of pure truth draw you to read them. Do not inquire about who is the one saying this, but pay attention to what he is saying.
2. Men enter and pass out of this world, but the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. God speaks to all of us in a variety of ways and is no respecter of persons. Our curiosity proves a hindrance to us, for while reading the Scriptures we sometimes want to stop to debate and discuss, when we should simply read on. If you wish to derive profit from your reading of Scripture, do it with humility, simplicity, and faith; at no time use it to gain a reputation for being one who is learned. Eagerly ask yourself questions and listen in silence to the words of the saints, and do not let the riddles of the ancients baffle you. They were written down for a definite purpose.

Book I, The Imitation of Christ (a Kempis)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

on leadership and leaders

Sadly, these days “leaders” operate on “authority”. They say “Go” and “Do”, but they do not lead by example. Rarely do we find the leader in these times that says, “Follow me.” In Lakota society (historically speaking) leaders were identified by the people because of their humility, wisdom and abilities. Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull were such leaders. These kind of leaders exhibited selfless leadership, always considering the needs of their people over their own personal needs and desires. They often reluctantly accepted their leadership roles in response to their people’s requests. Followers of Christ never “seek” authority or leadership roles; instead the Spirit anoints them for such work. Again, humility is a hallmark of true Christian leadership. In our country such leadership is exceedingly rare. Instead, government, church and corporate leaders are too often corrupt in far too many places. In the world, greed and a desire for power too often trump humility.

The Spirit of Truth and Spiritual Discipline:

Surely we have a teacher, and He is Christ the Lord. He has promised the Spirit, Who will reveal the Truth to us. Sent by the Father to speak just what the Father speaks. Certainly, we can and should read and listen to others, but it is Christ who teaches and reveals the Truth through the Spirit. Our spiritual disciplines train us and guide us along the way, the Narrow Road, the Good Red Road of Christ. Do not be deceived, no one person, no seminary will do this for you. If you want Christ to be formed in you, then you must participate in the disciplines. You must choose to follow the Way. The Lord is your shepherd.

“This is what the LORD says:
"Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.” [Jeremiah 6:16]

“Furthermore, tell the people, this is what the LORD says: ‘See, I am setting before you the way of life and the way of death.’” [Jeremiah 21:8]

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it.” [Matthew 7:13-14]

“Imagine your soul as being like the [Golden Gate Bridge]. There are busy times and quiet times. The job of the bridge is not to ask what is in the cars or [trucks] but simply to bear their weight for a few seconds and then allow them to go on their way. There is no problem when the flow of traffic is even, but when breakdowns and bottlenecks occur, the fights and the impatience begin. Your soul too has to take the weight and let it go. The suffering becomes prolonged only when you do not acknowledge its existence and let it pass on. Then it sits on your soul like a judgment. The time to repair the bridge is in the night when the traffic is light? Your prayer (spiritual discipline) in quiet times gives you the strength to cope with the heavy, busy times. You dig, patch and repair in the night. As a result the world can flow over your soul in the day without congestion. You must allow the flow of faith, love, healing, hope, joy and light to pass through you into the world. You must allow the flow of hatred, darkness and sin to flow from the world through you to God. All of this is done by prayer and by forgiveness of yourself, of others and perhaps even of God Himself for what you feel He has done to you. Little by little, you grow in the power of prayer, in the ability to bear the weight and accept the contradictions of the two-way flow between God and the world.” [Aidan Clarke]

So, where do we find the motivation to pursue this life? Perhaps the following may help kindle the fire:

Excerpts from The Imitation of Christ (Thomas a Kempis):

Study the worthy examples of the holy Fathers, those illustrious models of true perfection and devotion, and you will conclude that you are doing very little or almost nothing. What is our life when compared to theirs! These saints and friends of Christ served the Lord in hunger and thirst, in cold and nakedness, in la¬bor and fatigue, in night vigils and fasts, in prayers and holy meditation, in persecutions and countless insults.

How often the adversary harassed them! How fre¬quently and earnestly they prayed to God! How scrupulously they kept their fasts! What eagerness and application they manifested in their desire for spiritual progress! How valiant the contest they fought to eradicate their faults! How pure and righteous their determina¬tion to love God! They spent their days in labor and their nights in long prayers—even their working hours were not without mental prayer.

They spent their time gainfully. Every hour spent with God seemed all too brief, and in experiencing the great sweetness of contemplating God they forgot their body's need for nourish-ment. They renounced all wealth, dignities, honors, friends, and family; they desired absolutely nothing of this world. They barely accepted what was necessary to sustain life and only begrudgingly did they partake of it. In earthly things they were poor, but in grace and virtue they were opulent. Outwardly they were in want, but inwardly they regaled in God's consoling grace.

They were strangers to this world but close and intimate friends of God. They saw themselves as nothing and the world despised them, but in the sight of God they were priceless and beloved. They possessed true humility, lived in simple obedience, and walked in charity and patience, and thus they daily pro¬gressed in spirit and found great favor with God. These holy Fa¬thers are given as models to us religious and their examples more powerfully spur us on to advance in holiness than the multitude of the lukewarm can entice us to become lax.

Each day we ought to renew our resolves and rekindle the fires of our fervor as if it were the first day of our conversion. And we should say: "O Lord God, help me to keep my good resolution to serve You; give me the grace to begin anew, for what I have done up to now is nothing." Our spiritual advancement will equal our resolutions, so if we want to make good spiritual progress we need to exercise dili¬gence in making our resolves. If the man who makes his resolu¬tions with stout-heartedness often fails, then what about the one who makes them only feebly and infrequently?
Failure to keep resolutions results from a variety of reasons, and every seemingly unimportant omission in our spiritual prac¬tices produces some injury. The resolutions of a righteous man depend on God's grace and not on his own wisdom, and whatever he undertakes to do he must first place his trust in Him.

If a prescribed exercise is omitted because of a brother in need, or because we must perform some other charitable deed, the exercise may be fulfilled at a later time. But if we omit it with¬out good reason or out of laziness, then it is no small fault and it will prove harmful to us. Though we try our best we find that we still fail in many things; hence, we must make our resolutions spe-cific and especially with regard to those things that are our great¬est obstacles to progress. We must examine both our inner thoughts and our external actions and put them in order, for both have an important part to play in our spiritual advancement.

If you cannot be continually recollected then at least be so at certain times, for example, in the morning and in the evening. In the morning make your resolution, and in the evening examine your performance, checking how you conducted yourself during the day. Scrutinize your speech, your actions, and your thoughts, because by these means you may have offended God and your neighbor. Arm yourself like the man who prepares himself to resist the devil's temptations (Eph. 6) and keep your love for food in check and you will find it easier to control all inclinations of the flesh. Never be altogether idle but read or write, pray or meditate, or do something worth¬while for the community.

Yes, I admit, this seems impossible for us. Our world seems too busy, too full, too overwhelming already. But, the truth is as we pursue this life, as we exercise these disciplines, God will grant us Peace and a “balance” to our lives that we have failed to find ourselves. Patterns have been established from the early church as they imitated the Apostles in their own imitation of Christ. These patterns have been applied by Christians throughout the ages, in many different places and times, and under a variety of situations.

We have good resources in our own time, not the least of which are books that have become classics on the subject of spiritual discipline and formation. Beginning with Celebration of Discipline (Foster), then The Spirit of the Disciplines (Willard), and finally (at least in my own personal library) Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Whitney). We must teach other in Christ to apply these disciplines to our own lives, being gentle and “taking small bites” as we get used to a “new life”.

Start small, carve out some time (preferably in the early morning – “quiet time”), use a simple devotional; (Our Daily Bread, Upper Room, etc.) and give the Lord 15 minutes. He will bless your effort and give you a hunger and thirst for more. For those of you who are more energetic (be careful not to be “busy” in this), you may wish to apply some of the patterns outlined in the Book of Common Prayer (I personally like my own library version, Celtic Daily Prayer.) Ultimately, the key is to form a habit of prayer and communion with God, once you do something every day for about two weeks, it will become easier (habit). Again, rest assured that God will bless your efforts in seeking Him.

Lastly, this verse from Alistair Maclean for encouragement:

“I find thee enthroned in my heart,
my Lord Jesus.
It is enough.
I know that Thou are throned
in Heaven.
My heart and Heaven are one.”

only by Grace, pat

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Spiritual Formation - making disciples

Many whom God has, the church does not have; and many whom the church has, God does not have. Karl Rahner, theologian, parodying St Augustine

Who is the target of most of our communication of the gospel? Who are we seeking to reach? Some churches or ministries are 'seeker-driven', fashioning their approach to bring and effectively speak to secular individuals. They seek to reach unchurched non-Christians and turn them into devoted followers of Christ. [Often includes the so-called mega churches such as Willow Creek, Saddleback and Bayside Covenant to mention a few.] Sometimes the focus is unchurched Christians -those who claim a relationship with Jesus, but are not committed to any group of believers. [These often are smaller more intimate churches, or “house churches”.] Another concern would be reaching churched unbelievers, individuals who attend a place of worship but for whatever reason remain untouched by the Gospel. Then there are many churches whose main target, whether they want to admit it or not, is churched Christians. The content, language and style of all we present should be appropriate to our intended audience. [These last two are often found together, and include many (most?) of the mainline denominational churches, including Roman Catholic.]

All of these churches eventually conclude that they must eventually teach on spiritual disciplines if they desire to see true disciples of Jesus Christ formed in their midst. Yes, spiritual formation is the work of the Holy Spirit, but we must be willing participants in that work. And, knowing “how” to participate is the teaching task of the church. I am personally thankful for Renovare and all its resources and authors who have been an immense help to me, (now, if I can just help my church focus on spiritual formation . . . helping God make disciples for His Son.)

Only by Grace,


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

unforced rhythms of Grace . . .

Surrender to God . . . bind yourself to the Holy Trinity, and experience the "unforced rhythms of Grace" in your life. [inspired by God via Eugene Peterson]

Tour Bus Christians

“Tour-bus Christians” drive comfortably through life as they gaze out the window at others who are elbow-deep in the daily adventure of serving God and working among spiritually needy people.
Tour-bus Christians are insulated from the real-world activity and excitement of God's work. They may avoid some of the pain that's involved, and they may protect themselves from the difficulties and struggles, but there's no real adventure on a tour bus. They miss out on the excitement of living at the edge of expectation. They don't experience the tremendous counter-cultural truth that the more a Christian pours himself out serving others in God's name, the more God will fill him to overflowing. [They miss the “abundant life” that Jesus promised.] The adventure comes when you tell the tour bus to stop, and you jump off and say:

'Lord, I want to get into the fray. I want to play a role in the biggest adventure story of all time. Use me to make a difference. Use me to impact a young person for You. Use me to solve someone's problem. Use me to soothe someone's pain. Use me to answer someone's prayer. Use me to feed someone who's hungry. Use me to rescue a child. Use me to bring someone to You. Use me to ease someone's loneliness. Use me to raise a godly family. Use me to deepen someone's faith. Use me to cheer someone on. Use me to help a broken person understand that he's precious in Your sight. Use me to touch lives in Your name. I don't want to just observe cathedrals through my bus window; I want to roll up my sleeves and build one! Lord, use me to build a living cathedral dedicated to Your glory.'

Lee Strobel

Saturday, May 1, 2010

in loving memory of Dr. David Kilmer

If you ever see a great work of God,

something joyous,

alive and real,

something of Christ,

something that is Christ,

something enduring,

then you may be certain of one thing:

some lonely saint

silent, alone

went to the cross,

suffered, died

and fell into the earth.

And for what did that someone die?

for that lovely harvest,

that work of God

which now you see

and declare to be so beautiful.

There must be another day,

and another body of believers.

A day when someone else

must fall into the earth

and die.

And that someone may be you.

Dr. David Kilmer was a leader who reflected Christ, he led in humility and was not a seeker of power and authority. He was husband, father and brother to many. His faith, which had grown strong in his last years, sustained him in his final days and hours, and was an encouragement to many of us who walked that time with him. This he took to his own heart:

Now you must step into your place in the body of Christ, and you must receive and you must bear some segment of the suffering which is Christ's - that is, that part of Christ which is the church.

So that we may be encouraged in our own trials:

If you cannot cherish what it is the Lord is doing in your life, at least do not waste what He is doing in your life. Lay down the self-pity, and with all the strength and grace that He allows you, yield to His work. If you cannot make it up within you to yield totally to your Gethsemane (most of us can't) then at least yield up to the Light the dark feelings of resentment and bitterness that are trying to hatch inside you.

One day you are going to come to the conclusion that serving the Lord is mostly crying ... and suffering ... and agonizing. What can you do in that sad hour? Nothing really, except bend over double and absorb into your being those sufferings, sufferings which really belong to the church. In that hour, bear her sufferings for her. And if you happen to look up, you will see her going on her way, gloriously rejoicing. She will be oblivious to the fact that she is, at that moment, so very glorious because you have suffered.

Luke 22:41-44

41He withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." 43An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

2 Corinthians 1:6-7

6If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me."

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. "

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

Thank you Jesus, that somehow in the midst of our trials you bestow the abundant life on us. That somehow like the Apostle Paul we too can rejoice in all things, as Your own Love, JOY and Peace fill our hearts.

Bennacht De Ort, Mitakuye Oyasin - God bless you, all my relatives!