Clinging

God! My God! It’s you— I search for you! My whole being thirsts for you! My body desires you in a dry and tired land, no water anywhere. Yes, I’ve seen you in the sanctuary; I’ve seen your power and glory. My lips praise you because your faithful love is better than life itself! So I will bless you as long as I’m alive; I will lift up my hands in your name. I’m fully satisfied— as with a rich dinner. My mouth speaks praise with joy on my lips— whenever I ponder you on my bed, whenever I meditate on you in the middle of the night— because you’ve been a help to me and I shout for joy in the protection of your wings. My whole being clings to you; your strong hand upholds me. ~Psalm 63:1-8 (CEB)

“Nothing is real without deriving its reality from God. This was the great discovery of St. Francis when he suddenly saw the whole world in God’s hands and wondered why God didn’t drop it. St Augustine, St. Teresa of Avila, St John Vianney, and all the saints are saints precisely because for them the order of being was turned around and they say, felt, and- above all- knew with their hearts that outside God nothing is, nothing breathes, nothing moves, and nothing lives.

This makes me aware that the basis of all ministries rests not in the moral life but in the mystical life. The issue is not to live as well as we can, but to let out life be one that finds its source in the Divine life. ~From Gracias! By Henri J.M. Nouwen

It is a good reminder to not get caught up in trying to live as well as I can. Then my focus is on what I am doing. So quickly it seems sometimes that I go from wanting to do something because I feel led by God- to putting all my energy into what I am doing and I forget where my energy should be in the first place. On God. Any time my focus is on what I am doing, even if what I am doing is ultimately for him, I find myself back in the try-hard life forgetting that Jesus said that “his load” was easy.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for sending Jesus into the world to show me that our burdens should not be heavy. The key is simply to keep my focus on You. Amen.

Perspective

Why spend money for what isn’t food, and your earnings for what doesn’t satisfy? ~Isaiah 55:2 (CEB)

“Seeking God first is not just good advice; it is the only way to joyful and faithful life in companionship with the One who made us and loves us without limit.

When I saw my first airplane as a child, I knew at once that I wanted to fly. I became a farmer, student, pastor, husband father and still wanted to fly. Throwing caution and common sense to the wind, I joined a flying club and soon was ready for my first solo flight. I will never forget the thrill of breaking the bonds of gravity. When the aircraft broke free from the ground and slowly climbed, I was bursting with the joy of realizing a dream I had nurtured for a lifetime.

Flying still holds a thrill for me, although I have not had the controls of an aircraft for over thirty-five years. When flying club members asked why I quit flying, I responded then, ‘I would rather fly than eat, but my children would rather eat.’ It is costly to fly! Several decades later, I realize something else was going on: a growing love and desire for God and a growing awareness of stewardship. I still look up when a light place of flight passes overhead and for a moment feel the sensations of flight, but then I rejoice in the companionship of the One with whom we can all break bonds holding us down and rise to heights greater than we imagine. ~From A Guide to Prayer for All Who seek God by Rueben P. Job

Heavenly Father, help me to seek You in all things. Help me to seek You first. Amen

Companions in the desert

We are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives. ~Ephesians 2:10

“Hospitality is the virtue which allows us to break through the narrowness of our own fears and to open our houses to the stranger, with the intuition that salvation comes to us in the form of a tired traveler. Hospitality makes anxious disciples into powerful witnesses, makes suspicious owners into generous givers, and makes closed-minded sectarians into interested recipients of new ideas and insights.

But it has become very difficult for us today to fully understand the implications of hospitality. Like the Semitic nomads, we live in a desert with many lonely travelers who are looking for a moment of peace, for a fresh drink and for a sign of encouragement so that they can continue their mysterious search for freedom.

What does hospitality as a healing power require? It requires first of all that the host feel at home in his own house, and secondly that he create a free and fearless place for the unexpected visitor. Therefore, hospitality embraces two concepts: concentration and community.” ~From The Wounded Healer by Henri J. M. Nouwen.

As I wander through life I stumble across other travelers searching. When I take a moment to visit, I may find a moment that freshens me to journey on or I may find a companion to travel life’s rugged roads for a longer period. I never know when I come across another traveler if it will be a brief encounter or deeper friendship. I am only asked to take notice of those whom I come in contact with as I travel along.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for the travelers You have sent along the way. I thank You for the community You have given me. Help me to be ever aware of others that You may want in my life. May I always be open to new traveling companions. Amen

House of sand

At once the Spirit forced Jesus out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among the wild animals, and the angels took care of him. ~Mark 1:12-13 (CEB)

“A Strange life-giver, the Holy Spirit, for the life given is compassed about by desolation. The story of Jesus bears stark testimony to this unsettling truth. At the birth of Jesus the Spirit-guided words of Simeon prophesy desolation for Israel and for the heart of Mary as well (Luke 2:34-35). Immediately after his baptism, during which God calls Jesus ‘my beloved,’ the Spirit drives him into the wilderness of isolation, vulnerability, and temptation (Mark 1:12-13). And at the end of a life exquisitely responsive to every subtle rhythm of the Spirit’s leading, Jesus chokes out the unthinkable words, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Matt 27:46)

Christian tradition teaches that there are times when we, like Jesus, are led into arid soulscapes that bruise and disorient us. These places seem bereft of God’s presence and filled with temptations to lose heart in God’s goodness, care, and sovereignty. In this harsh ‘winter of abandonment’ (Johannes Tauler), Jesus’ anguished cry of desertion becomes our own. Desert and cross- places of excruciating separation from the God we have some to know but equally unbearable intimacy with the God we are yet to know, places bare of all human possibilities but pregnant with grace. ‘Lord,’ exclaims the scorned and ill young priest in a novel by Georges Bernanos, ‘I am stripped bare of all things, as you alone can strip us bare, whose fearful care nothing escapes, nor your terrible love.’ [We discover] the riches hidden in the poverty of desert and cross, symbols of God’s ‘terrible love.’ In the ‘fearful care’ of the Holy Spirit we are stripped bare but not left naked and exposed in desert wastes.” ~From “Editor’s Introduction” by John S. Mogabgab in Weavings September/October 1993

The Hebrews after their release from bondage traveled through a desert on the way to learning who they were as children of God. Doors to the past had to be shut in order for them to move into their new future in the Promised Land. Old habits and old ways of thinking had to be worked through in that isolation time in the desert. If I remember the Israelites when I find myself in times of “desert” I know that God is taking me to a place where I can begin anew. The desert isn’t a place of abandonment; it is the transition time from “what was” to “what will be”.

Lord, in the desert moments of life help me to remember that these are just momentary transitions of life. Just as the Hebrews had to spend time in the desert to ready their hearts to enter the Promised Land so I must spend time in preparation for the things You want me to do. Bolster me and strengthen me for the task of transformation to new life. Amen.

Deserts of the heart

At once the Spirit forced Jesus out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among the wild animals, and the angels took care of him. ~Mark 1:12-13 (CEB)

“A Strange life-giver, the Holy Spirit, for the life given is compassed about by desolation. The story of Jesus bears stark testimony to this unsettling truth. At the birth of Jesus the Spirit-guided words of Simeon prophesy desolation for Israel and for the heart of Mary as well (Luke 2:34-35). Immediately after his baptism, during which God calls Jesus ‘my beloved,’ the Spirit drives him into the wilderness of isolation, vulnerability, and temptation (Mark 1:12-13). And at the end of a life exquisitely responsive to every subtle rhythm of the Spirit’s leading, Jesus chokes out the unthinkable words, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Matt 27:46)

Christian tradition teaches that there are times when we, like Jesus, are led into arid soulscapes that bruise and disorient us. These places seem bereft of God’s presence and filled with temptations to lose heart in God’s goodness, care, and sovereignty. In this harsh ‘winter of abandonment’ (Johannes Tauler), Jesus’ anguished cry of desertion becomes our own. Desert and cross- places of excruciating separation from the God we have some to know but equally unbearable intimacy with the God we are yet to know, places bare of all human possibilities but pregnant with grace. ‘Lord,’ exclaims the scorned and ill young priest in a novel by Georges Bernanos, ‘I am stripped bare of all things, as you alone can strip us bare, whose fearful care nothing escapes, nor your terrible love.’ [We discover] the riches hidden in the poverty of desert and cross, symbols of God’s ‘terrible love.’ In the ‘fearful care’ of the Holy Spirit we are stripped bare but not left naked and exposed in desert wastes.” ~From “Editor’s Introduction” by John S. Mogabgab in Weavings September/October 1993

The Hebrews after their release from bondage traveled through a desert on the way to learning who they were as children of God. Doors to the past had to be shut in order for them to move into their new future in the Promised Land. Old habits and old ways of thinking had to be worked through in that isolation time in the desert. If I remember the Israelites when I find myself in times of “desert” I know that God is taking me to a place where I can begin anew. The desert isn’t a place of abandonment; it is the transition time from “what was” to “what will be”.

Lord, in the desert moments of life help me to remember that these are just momentary transitions of life. Just as the Hebrews had to spend time in the desert to ready their hearts to enter the Promised Land so I must spend time in preparation for the things You want me to do. Bolster me and strengthen me for the task of transformation to new life. Amen.

Seeking

The LORD proclaims: When Babylon’s seventy years are up, I will come and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the LORD; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope. When you call me and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. When you search for me, yes, search for me with all your heart, you will find me. I will be present for you, declares the LORD, and I will end your captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have scattered you, and I will bring you home after your long exile, declares the LORD. ~Jeremiah 29:10-14 (CEB)

“[Jesus] has said: ask and you shall receive, seek and you will find. Unfortunately we ask for the ephemeral which isn’t really satisfying. We seek what is passing and will leave us empty- until we come to realize in truth we do not know what we truly want, where our true happiness lies. We need to seek a teacher, a prophetic voice- the guidance of one whom the Lord has sent, the Church who makes Jesus present to us today, Jesus who is all our hearts seek. Until we seek and find Truth we will in fact be in a desert chasing mirages, encountering delusions, finding all swaying and unstable.” ~From Living in the Questions by M. Basil Pennington

Help me this day O Lord to seek Your Truth in all I do. Guide my steps through this day so that I may better live for You. Amen.

An adventure

This is why I, Paul, am a prisoner of Christ for you Gentiles. You’ve heard, of course, about the responsibility to distribute God’s grace, which God gave to me for you, right? God showed me his secret plan in a revelation, as I mentioned briefly before (when you read this, you’ll understand my insight into the secret plan about Christ). Earlier generations didn’t know this hidden plan that God has now revealed to his holy apostles and prophets through the Spirit. This plan is that the Gentiles would be coheirs and parts of the same body, and that they would share with the Jews in the promises of God in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I became a servant of the gospel because of the grace that God showed me through the exercise of his power.

 

God gave his grace to me, the least of all God’s people, to preach the good news about the immeasurable riches of Christ to the Gentiles. God sent me to reveal the secret planthat had been hidden since the beginning of time by God, who created everything. God’s purpose is now to show the rulers and powers in the heavens the many different varieties of his wisdom through the church. This was consistent with the plan he had from the beginning of time that he accomplished through Christ Jesus our Lord. In Christ we have bold and confident access to God through faith in him.So then, I ask you not to become discouraged by what I’m suffering for you, which is your glory. ~Ephesians 3:1-13 (CEB)

“Religion has not tended to create seekers or searchers, has not tended to create honest humble people who trust that God is always beyond them. We aren’t focused on the great mystery. Religion has, rather, tended to create people who think they have God in their pockets, people with quick, easy glib answers. That’s why so much of the West is understandably abandoning religion. People know the great mystery cannot be that simple and facile. If the great mystery is indeed the Great Mystery, it will lead us into paradox, into darkness, into journeys that never cease… That is what prayer is about.” ~From Everything Belongs by Richard Rohr.

In the good news about the immeasurable riches of Christ we find a Great Mystery that promises us the adventure of a life time. If we aren’t in the middle of an adventure maybe we are missing something.

Heavenly Father, Help me this day to see with Your eyes, hear with Your ears, love with Your heart. Send me on a grand adventure as Your hands and feet. Amen.

Risky business

It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple those who were selling cattle, sheep, and doves, as well as those involved in exchanging currency sitting there. He made a whip from ropes and chased them all out of the temple, including the cattle and the sheep. He scattered the coins and overturned the tables of those who exchanged currency. He said to the dove sellers, “Get these things out of here! Don’t make my Father’s house a place of business.” His disciples remembered that it is written, Passion for your house consumes me. ~John 2:13-17 (CEB)

“To find in ourselves what makes life worth living is risky business, for it means that once we know we must seek it. It also means that without it life will be valueless. More than just a few find their most valued selves despite the risk, although the majority seem to be… people who don’t wish to make any trouble- not even the kind that’s expected. The majority shrewdly stay dull to what in them is life and has meaning. A few brave souls, however, do look within and are so moved by what they find that they sacrifice, from then on, whatever is necessary to bring that self into being.” ~From Ordinary People as Monks and Mystics by Marsha Sinetar.

What am I consumed with for God? Do I take any risks for God? Am I brave enough to step out on a limb for God?

Embolden me Heavenly Father to find who I am and what it means to be a child of God. May I not shrink away from understanding Your will for me life. Help me to love mercy, seek justice and walk humbly with you. Amen.

Dreaming

“Simon, Simon, look! Satan has asserted the right to sift you all like wheat. However, I have prayed for you that your faith won’t fail. When you have returned, strengthen your brothers and sisters. ” ~Luke 22:31-32 (CEB)

“Spiritual discernment asks us to pay attention. We need to attend to both what goes on around us and within us. Ideally, this attentiveness goes on much of the time, a sort of low level, constant spiritual sifting of the data of our experience. But there are times when discernment becomes much more focused, when a crossroad is reached or a choice called for. At times like these the cumulative wisdom of tradition tells us to pay attention on many levels: to consult scripture, to seek the advice of trusted advisers, to heed the sensus fidelium (the collective sense of the faithful), to read widely and deeply the best ancient and contemporary thinking, to pray, to attend to the prick of conscience and to the yearnings and dreamings of our hearts, to watch, to wait, to listen.”~From “Passing Angels: The Art of Spiritual Discernment” by Wendy M. Wright in Weavings November/December 1995

Heavenly Father, help me not to get discouraged as I am being sifted. Help me to pay attention so that as I come to the crossroads the path that I am to choose shines clear. Help me to draw from tradition, scripture and fellow sojourners. Bolster my faith as I watch, wait and listen. Amen.

Endurance

My brothers and sisters, think of the various tests you encounter as occasions for joy. After all, you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. Let this endurance complete its work so that you may be fully mature, complete, and lacking in nothing. But anyone who needs wisdom should ask God, whose very nature is to give to everyone without a second thought, without keeping score. Wisdom will certainly be given to those who ask. Whoever asks shouldn’t hesitate. They should ask in faith, without doubting. Whoever doubts is like the surf of the sea, tossed and turned by the wind. People like that should never imagine that they will receive anything from the Lord. They are double-minded, unstable in all their ways. ~James 1:2-8 (CEB)

“Spiritual discernment has always come hard for me, so hard that I once concluded that I could not do it. After all, discernment is a spiritual gift- and I obviously had not been given gift. I felt that I could do nothing but shrug and trudge on. And trudge I did for long periods of my life. In one instance I spent almost a year trying to discern God’s will on am important matter that would affect the rest of my life. During that year I felt the intense frustration of being dragged across the cutting edge of indecision. That was a long time to be in turmoil. It was tough. My only saving grace was that I would not commit to a decision until I felt that I had clear knowledge of God’s will. I now realize that my reluctance to act was an important part of the discernment at work in me. But not knowing that at the times made it a year of anguish…

God wants everyone to know God’s will. God doesn’t withhold grace, play games, or tease us to test our faithfulness or our worthiness to be trusted with divine insight. I am convinced that God is far more prone to human revelation that I am to divine encounter. God’s will is that you and I, everyone, and our faith communities should discern and act upon God’s will.” ~From Yearning to Know God’s Will by Danny E. Morris

Heavenly Father, Help me to not be tossed and turned by doubt. Help me to have clear knowledge of your will. Give me courage to encounter Your testing so that I may gain endurance. For I know with endurance I will become fully mature, complete and lacking in nothing. Amen.

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