Solitude

But now set aside these things, such as anger, rage, malice, slander, and obscene language. Don’t lie to each other. Take off the old human nature with its practices and put on the new nature, which is renewed in knowledge by conforming to the image of the one who created it. In this image there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all things and in all people. ~Col. 3:8-11 (CEB)

If indeed the spiritual life is essentially a hidden life, how do we protect this hiddenness in the midst of a very public life?   The two most important ways to protect our hiddenness are solitude and poverty.  Solitude allows us to be alone with God.  There we experience that we belong not to people, not even to those who love us and care for us, but to God and God alone.  Poverty is where we experience our own and other people’s weakness, limitations, and need for support.  To be poor is to be without success, without fame, and without power.  But there God chooses to show us God’s love.

Both solitude and poverty protect the hiddenness of our lives. ~ From Bread for the Journey by Henri J. M. Nouwen

Heavenly Father, in this quiet space I look to You for guidance. Center me so that when I go out into the world I may still feel Your presence and remember the work I am to be about. Guide my feet to go where You would lead, steady my hands to do Your work. Amen.

Hiddenness

Therefore, if you were raised with Christ, look for the things that are above where Christ is sitting at God’s right side. Think about the things above and not things on earth. You died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory. ~Col 3:1-4 (CEB)

“One of the reasons that hiddenness is such an important aspect of the spiritual life is that it keeps us focused on God.  In hiddenness we do not receive human acclamation, admiration, support, or encouragement.  In hiddenness we have to go to God with our sorrows and joys and trust that God will give us what we most need.

In our society we are inclined to avoid hiddenness.  We want to be seen and acknowledged.  We want to be useful to others and influence the course of events.  But as we become visible and popular, we quickly grow dependent on people and their responses and easily lose touch with God, the true source of our being.   Hiddenness is the place of purification.  In hiddenness we find our true selves. ~From Bread for the Journey by Henri J. M. Nouwen

Help me this day O Lord to keep my eyes on You. Let me not be swayed by earthly things that cause me to lose who I am. Help me to stay true to Your work trusting that You will see to all my needs. Amen.

Surrender

The people who lived in the dark have seen a great light, and a light has come upon those who lived in the region and in shadow of death. From that time Jesus began to announce “Change your hearts and lives! Here comes the kingdom of heaven!” ~Matt. 4:16-17 (CEB)

“My beginning advice to you is this: Always read the Scriptures with a heart ready to repent. Receive the storm that repentance brings. Let the holy winds toss you to and fro. You will be awakened to new depths as you wrestle with the life forces within. What seems like violence at first will lead you gently into the eye of God where all is calm and quiet, like the eye of a hurricane. When you finally surrender and stop fighting the winds, you will be carried by angels into the eye of God. These, you will rest in peace and learn to see like God. It will be the great harvest of contemplation- through the storm into the quiet.” ~From A Tree Full of Angels by Macrina Wiederker

You know my heart O Lord. You know what I need to find peace. Help me to move ever closer to Your eternal Light. Help me to keep my eyes on You as You awaken more within me. Amen.

Renewal

I baptize with water those of you who have changed your hearts and lives. The one who is coming after me is stronger than I am. I’m not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.  The shovel he uses to sift the wheat from the husks is in his hands. He will clean out his threshing area and bring the wheat into his barn. But he will burn the husks with a fire that can’t be put out.” ~Matt. 3:11-12 (CEB)

“If our problem is really sin- a fundamental breach in human existence- then repentance, not self- improvement, is the first requirement. This is the biblical view of the foundations of morality. The prophets, John the Baptist, Jesus, and Paul all beckoned their hearers to a new life by calling them first to give up the old in repentance (Mark 1:15; Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 26:20; Rom. 2:4; 2 Cor. 7:9-10). Repentance is the absolutely inescapable first step of the Christian moral life. Without repentance, the Christian moral life is impossible.” ~From Vision and Character by Craig R. Dykstra

Create in me a clean heart O Lord, and renew a right spirit in me. Show me the areas that need work and repentance. Continue to call to my heart so that I may reach perfection and my eternal home.  Amen.

Hidden moments of daily living

Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival. When he was 12 years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to their custom. After the festival was over, they were returning home, but the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents didn’t know it. Supposing that he was among their band of travelers, they journeyed on for a full day while looking for him among their family and friends. When they didn’t find Jesus, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple. He was sitting among the teachers, listening to them and putting questions to them. Everyone who heard him was amazed by his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were shocked.

His mother said, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Listen! Your father and I have been worried. We’ve been looking for you!”

Jesus replied, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that it was necessary for me to be in my Father’s house?” But they didn’t understand what he said to them.

Jesus went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. His mother cherished every word in her heart. Jesus matured in wisdom and years, and in favor with God and with people. ~Luke 2:41-53 (CEB)

“Hiddenness is an essential quality of the spiritual life. Solitude, silence, ordinary tasks, being with people without great agendas, sleeping, eating, working, playing … all of that without being different from others, that is the life that Jesus lived and the life he asks us to live.  It is in hiddenness that we, like Jesus, can increase “in wisdom, in stature, and in favor with God and with people” (Luke 2:51).  It is in hiddenness that we can find a true intimacy with God and a true love for people.

Even during his active ministry, Jesus continued to return to hidden places to be alone with God.  If we don’t have a hidden life with God, our public life for God cannot bear fruit.” ~From Bread for the Journey by Henri J. M. Nouwen

Help me this day O Lord in the simple and quiet moments of life. Help me to see that all things can be done for Your glory even ordinary tasks or sleeping and eating. Help me remember that quiet times are needed to be able to bear Your fruit. Amen.

Create in me a clean heart

Have mercy on me, God, according to your faithful love!
Wipe away my wrongdoings according to your great compassion!
Wash me completely clean of my guilt;
purify me from my sin!
Because I know my wrongdoings,
my sin is always right in front of me.
I’ve sinned against you—you alone.
I’ve committed evil in your sight.
That’s why you are justified when you render your verdict,
completely correct when you issue your judgment.
Yes, I was born in guilt, in sin,
from the moment my mother conceived me.
And yes, you want truth in the most hidden places;
you teach me wisdom in the most secret space.
Purify me with hyssop and I will be clean;
wash me and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and celebration again;
let the bones you crushed rejoice once more.
Hide your face from my sins;
wipe away all my guilty deeds!
Create a clean heart for me, God;
put a new, faithful spirit deep inside me!
Please don’t throw me out of your presence;
please don’t take your holy spirit away from me.
Return the joy of your salvation to me
and sustain me with a willing spirit.
Then I will teach wrongdoers your ways,
and sinners will come back to you.
Deliver me from violence, God, God of my salvation,
so that my tongue can sing of your righteousness.
Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will proclaim your praise.
You don’t want sacrifices.
If I gave an entirely burned offering,
you wouldn’t be pleased.
A broken spirit is my sacrifice, God.
You won’t despise a heart, God, that is broken and crushed.
Do good things for Zion by your favor.
Rebuild Jerusalem’s walls.
Then you will again want sacrifices of righteousness—
entirely burned offerings and complete offerings.
Then bulls will again be sacrificed on your altar. ~Psalm 51

“O God, I surrender to you the habits and sins that, like frost, chill my soul and cause your life-giving energy to cease its flow in me. Uproot me from the weed patches of evil wherein I have chosen to sink my roots. Plant me instead in your field of righteousness.

 Direct the searchlight of your love into every crevice of my life that I may see to journey from this long winder of sin, to once again flourish in the summer of your goodness and love.

Send the gracious showers of your forgiveness to break the long drought of spiritual aridness that has shriveled my soul, and grant, my Lord, that I may become more like you and less like my shadowy self.

This day I pledge to you and to myself that I will begin even now to pursue right thinking and right living, but my God, I need your help. Amen.” ~Norman Shawchuck

Made to follow

After John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee announcing God’s good news, saying, “Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom! Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news!” ~Mark 1:14-15 (CEB)

Whenever we see a person whose life is exemplary in every way, we are drawn to live like that. When we see clarity and purity of motive, generous attitude, unobtrusive service, righteous acts, and righteous motives, we want to turn our lives in that direction. It is easy to understand the obedient response of those who heard Jesus call the disciples, crowds, and sinners in general to repent and believe. Here was purity and righteousness beyond compare calling all to repent, or to turn their lives in the direction that his life modeled so well.

The good news is that we can live those exemplary lives. We can repent- turn our lives toward God. We can turn away from everything that keeps us from God and from living within God’s reign. You and I can repent and believe. But it is not always easy. To repent, or to turn our lives in another direction, requires our will, our effort, and our faith as we call on God to supply the strength to turn toward God in all aspects of our living. And to believe in the unseen Companion who calls us to goodness and fills us with goodness is difficult when all those visible companions tend to discount the divine companionship promised to all who believe.

What will it mean for you to repent and believe? Only you can fill in the details. But Jesus promises the power and presence to enable you to live the good life, a life in harmony with God. ~A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God, Rueben P. Job

Almighty God, as you have sent Jesus to be for us light and truth, send now Your Spirit upon us to grant us grace and strength to follow in his footsteps this day Amen.

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