Inner silence

Happy are people who have pure hearts, because they will see God. ~Matthew 8:5 (CEB)

October can be so busy. I come to the end of it every time and wonder where it has gone off to. October 31st always finds me taking a deep sigh. Gone are the packed weekends. I even have a couple of weeks where we don’t feel so overly busy. Then Thanksgiving hits and we find ourselves running again.  At the end of such a busy time it seems good to remind myself of the need for silence… the inner kind of silence.

Inner silence is the absence of any sort of inward stirring thought or emotion, but it is complete alertness, openness to God. We must keep complete silence when we can, but never allow it to degenerate into simple contentment.

“Silence is the state in which all the powers of the soul and all the faculties of the body are completely at peace, quiet and recollected, perfectly alert yet free from any turmoil or agitation. A simile which we find in many writings of the Fathers is that of the waters of a pond. As long as there are ripples on the surface, nothing can be reflected properly, neither the trees nor the sky when the surface is quite still, the sky is perfectly reflected, the trees on the bank and everything is there as distinct as in reality.

Another simile of the same sort used by the Fathers is that of that as long as the mud which is at the bottom of a pond has not settled, the water is not clear and one can see nothing through it. These two analogies apply to the state of the human heart. ‘Blesses are the pure in heart for they shall see God’ As long as the mud is in motion in the water there is no clear vision through it, and again as long as the surface is covered with ripples there can be no adequate reflection of what surrounds the pond.

As long as the soul is not still there can be no vision, but when stillness has brought us into the presence of God, then another sort of silence, much more absolute, intervenes: the silence of a soul that is not only still and recollected but which is overawed in an act of worship by God’s presence; a silence in which, as Julian Norwich puts it, ‘Prayer oneth the soul to God’. ~From Living Prayer by Anthony Bloom

Heavenly Father, help me to quiet my soul this day so that I may reflect Your love to those around me. Settle the restlessness inside of me from too much activity. Quiet my heart so I may hear Your wisdom in the space. Amen.

 

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To flow with the river

After calling the crowd together with his disciples, Jesus said to them, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. 35 All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me and because of the good news will save them. 36 Why would people gain the whole world but lose their lives? 37 What will people give in exchange for their lives? 38 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this unfaithful and sinful generation, the Human One will be ashamed of that person when he comes in the Father’s glory with the holy angels.” ~Mark 8:34-37

“Spirituality is about seeing. It’s not about earning or achieving. It’s about relationship rather than results or requirements. Once you see, the rest follows. You don’t need to push the river, because you are in it. The life is lived within us, and we learn how to say yes to that life.” ~From Everything Belongs by Richard Rohr

Today I am going to try to not swim against the current. Today I am going to rest and let the river do the work. When I try to get places by my own power, I just wear myself out. I think I will lay back and see just where this river takes me.

Heavenly Father, You say in Your Word that Your yoke is easy and Your burdens are light. Help me to make the right choices this day so I can step out in faith and not feel overly weighed down. Help me to flow better with the currents of life so that I can look up and see Your glory around me. Amen.

By faith

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was going to receive as an inheritance. He went out without knowing where he was going. By faith he lived in the land he had been promised as a stranger. He lived in tents along with Isaac and Jacob, who were coheirs of the same promise. He was looking forward to a city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. By faith even Sarah received the ability to have a child, though she herself was barren and past the age for having children, because she believed that the one who promised was faithful. So descendants were born from one man (and he was as good as dead). They were as many as the number of the stars in the sky and as countless as the grains of sand on the seashore. ~Hebrews 8:8-12 (CEB)

It is hard for me to relate this passage. I don’t have the long family history, those stories that tell me who I am. It is hard for me to understand what it was like for Abraham to leave all he had known, to leave his family behind and step out on faith. I have a confession to make. I never ever thought twice about leaving all I had known or my family to move 6 hours away after I finished college. I didn’t inquire with God whether I should go or should stay. I just went. I wasn’t thinking of my future much less of children and grandchildren when we packed up the moving van and headed to east Tennessee.

Now that I have lived away from immediate family and half raised my family with only my husband to help out, my view of family has begun to change. The examples laid out for me had been get married and move off. That is what my parents had done and their parents before them. The whole idea of living in an area surrounded by extended family is completely foreign to me. But as I have gained friends who have that family history, stories and support I have begun to understand just what it might have meant to leave all I had known behind.

 

In Abraham’s time, it appears that he was a well established “city dweller” living in his family estate. Here was his inheritance. Here was his history. Here was his support. God called to Abraham, asking him to give up the security he had. God wanted him to have something more. This was a new concept to look to your Heavenly Father for your inheritance. When the Jews heard this story, they knew what sacrifice Abraham was making, what dreams he might be giving up. They understood the risks that Abraham was taking to head out from an established home into the wilderness to roam. Abraham believed God when he said that he had something more in mind for him than Abraham had for himself.

I am at a point in my life where I feel that God is asking me to let go of what I have banked my securities in. He has something more in mind for me than the little niche I have carved out for myself. Can I have the faith of Abraham? Can I blindly go where He calls me to go? Can I believe enough in a promise to find something more than I hold in my hands now? Abraham did.

Heavenly Father, give me the strength to stand up when You call. Guide my steps so they go with a purpose. Keep me from wandering too far from Your promises. I believe the scriptures when they say You have my good in mind. I claim this day all the promises You have for me. Amen.

 

Choosing life

“Don’t think that I’ve come to bring peace to the earth. I haven’t come to bring peace but a sword. I’ve come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. People’s enemies are members of their own households.  “Those who love father or mother more than me aren’t worthy of me. Those who love son or daughter more than me aren’t worthy of me.  Those who don’t pick up their crosses and follow me aren’t worthy of me.  Those who find their lives will lose them, and those who lose their lives because of me will find them. ~Matthew 10:34-39 (CEB)

Choosing life seems like the reasonable thing to do. If given the choice why would anyone not choose life It seems foolish to choose anything else, to choose anything less than the best. It remains a mystery to me that we often find ourselves choosing what diminishes life and leaves us less than we were before. But we are often unaware of the consequences of our choices until later, sometimes much later.

Jesus always invites us to choose life by forsaking our way of life for his way of life. It is never an easy choice. Choosing to walk with Jesus in a culture that ridicules faithfulness and glorifies violence is to choose a way with cost attached. When you choose to walk with Jesus in a culture that rewards those who take for themselves before thinking about others, you may end up feeling someone has taken advantage of you. And yet, as the decades pass and we look back, it is clear to see that those who sought advantage by taking advantage have in reality lost life. Those who chose to walk with Jesus in the hard decisions and in the good times it may seem that the cost of choosing life is too high, butt when you stop and think about it, choosing life is the only reasonable choice to make. ~Ruben P. Job

Heavenly Father, help me to choose life this day. Help me to live for You. Amen.

The Church

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, will give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation that makes God known to you. I pray that the eyes of your heart will have enough light to see what is the hope of God’s call, what is the richness of God’s glorious inheritance among believers, and what is the overwhelming greatness of God’s power that is working among us believers. This power is conferred by the energy of God’s powerful strength. God’s power was at work in Christ when God raised him from the dead and sat him at God’s right side in the heavens, far above every ruler and authority and power and angelic power, any power that might be named not only now but in the future. God put everything under Christ’s feet and made him head of everything in the church, which is his body. His body, the church, is the fullness of Christ, who fills everything in every way. ~Ephesians 1:18-23 (CEB)

This excerpt from Henri Nouwen’s book, Bread for the Journey, really makes me stop and remember how crazy mixed up I was in college. I never really lost my faith in God but I really struggled with the rest of the package. I have never really known how to word what I went through in my heart other than to say I had lost my faith in “religion”. I have since understood that the community of believers is not perfect but that we still need that community:

“The Church is an object of faith.  In the Apostles’ Creed we pray:  “I believe in God, the Father … in Jesus Christ, his only Son – in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.”  We must believe in the Church!  The Apostles’ Creed does not say that the Church is an organization that helps us to believe in God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  No, we are called to believe in the Church with the same faith we believe in God.

Often it seems harder to believe in the Church than to believe in God.  But whenever we separate our belief in God from our belief in the Church, we become unbelievers.  God has given us the Church as the place where God becomes God-with-us.”

Heavenly Father, as we struggle to live in this world with people so different from ourselves, help us to come together through You. Help us be in communion with one another, all of us forgiven for our sins through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

Searching, again

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff— they comfort me. ~Psalm 23:4 (NRSV)

There are days I feel adrift from God. Sometimes it may be a result of my trusting in self again. It isn’t that God has moved, I have moved away from Him. Other times He has moved and I need to seek after Him. Again. Gary Moon in his Book Falling for God says it this way:

“All believers who want to become an apprentice of Christ and not just his admirer will find themselves in the blank space between the verses in Psalm 23. Because he loves us so much, the Shepherd moves on. We look around and wonder where he has gone. We feel alone, abandoned. We call out. Nothing. The voice that used to call our name is silent and does not respond when we call. He is gone. He has moved farther down the road that leads home. During the dark night experience our job is to seek God and to go to him again. When we do, we realize we are not the same person. Our relationship with him is not the same. We [too] have moved. We are closer to home and closer to union.” ~From Falling for God by Gary Moon

So whether my rough spot is due to me moving toward idols (Self-reliance) or God moving me on down the path to greater maturity, my job, your job, remains the same. We say, “Here I am, Lord, helpless without you.”

Heavenly Father, help me to seek You in all I do this day. May I ever grow more into who You see me to be. Amen.

What are you looking for

The next day John was standing again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus walking along he said, “Look! The Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard what he said, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he asked, “ What are you looking for?” They said, “Rabbi (which is translated Teacher), where are you staying?” He replied, “ Come and see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. ~John 1:35-30 (CEB)

If you look on the church calendar, you will find that we are in the middle of “ordinary time”. We are betwixt and between Easter and Christmas. It isn’t Lent or Advent or even Pentecost.  Ordinary every day life can sometimes be the hardest to live through. We aren’t looking forward to or celebrating an arrival.  Here can be much restlessness. Sometimes I find myself in this restlessness and I can’t help but wonder, “What am I looking for?” Nothing seems to really fill that space.

I think John’s disciples may have felt the same way. If they had found all they needed in John the Baptist they would have not looked up and seen Jesus and felt the need to follow him. John had said all along that he was not “The One,” so some of his disciples may have been feeling restless when they noticed Jesus walking by. When Jesus asked his question though, “What are you looking for” it must have been like a light coming on and they knew what they were looking for. They were looking for Jesus.

I wonder sometimes if we were all born with that restlessness to be on the look out for “something”. We may try to fill it with many things, success or addictions. Deep in our hearts we are all waiting for Jesus to ask us “What are you looking for.”

Heavenly Father, You planted deep within us a longing for you. Although I may try to fill my time and space with other things my heart needs to hear You ask “What are you looking for.” Call to my heart this day Lord so I may follow You. Amen.

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