Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Strange Journey

“You're going on a strange journey this time, my friend. I don't envy you. You'll have a hard time keeping your heart light and simple in the midst of this crowd of madmen.” These words of American naturalist John Muir chilled my heart as I read them this morning. They seem prophetic as I'm preparing to leave on a prayer walking and literature distribution trip through The Killing Fields of Southeast Asia in just a few days.

Muir’s prophecy goes on to say, “instead of the music of the wind among the spruce-tops and the tinkling of waterfalls, your ears will be filled with the oaths and groans of these poor, deluded, self burdened people." Although Pol Pot’s gruesome killing spree ended for these people four decades ago their tragedy continues. They remain trapped in spiritual darkness, crying out to golden gods "who have ears but cannot hear."

But, as I read the closing lines of Muir’s passage I'm reminded that there is hope for our mission and for these people, "… break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain, wash your spirit clean from the earth-stains of this sordid, gold-seeking crowd in God's pure air. It will help you in your efforts to bring these people something better than gold."

Monday, February 23, 2015

With Boundless Confidence

Charles de Foucauld was an early missionary to the Muslim Tuareg of North Africa. During a time when missions was often closely connected to military colonization Foucauld heard a different call from his Lord. He heard Christ's call to simply be among the Tuareg constantly praying for them and humbly serving them. He answered this call with complete abandon. Like the psalmist Foucauld “calmed and quieted himself like a little weaned child with its mother” as he served in the midst of ever-present danger.

This morning the Spirit spoke to me through one of the closing phrases of Foucauld’s Prayer of Abandonment, “… to surrender myself into Your hands, without reserve, and with boundless confidence.” Foucauld served the hostile Tuareg people, not with doubt and fear, but with boundless confidence that his Lord was in control. With boundless confidence that the Lord’s will for him and the Tuareg, whatever that will might be, was best.

Now, 100 years later, our 24/7 news channels keep us well aware that our world is no less hostile to Christ's message. But, our Lord is still calling us to abandon ourselves to His service like Brother Foucauld, not in doubt and fear, but with boundless confidence in His love for us and for our neighbor. Jesus teaches us to humble ourselves, becoming like a little child who, though intimidated by the wild world around him, abandons himself completely to his father's will.

Lord, in our work to free those trapped in systems of spiritual darkness, poverty, and injustice let us not turn away from your truth because we fear suffering. Give us grace to live faithfully whatever the cost. Give us grace to serve with boundless confidence.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Christianity of Christ

Between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference - so wide, that to receive one as good, pure, and holy is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked.
     - Frederick Douglass

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Teacher of the teacher

Nature is schoolmistress, the soul the pupil; and whatever one has taught or the other has learned has come from God — the Teacher of the teacher.
     — Tertullian, second century theologian

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Live Its Freedom

We have learned so well how to live the rules of life. We are not so sure how to live its freedoms.
    -Joan Chittister

Stop, Pray, Work, Play & Love

It’s time to… Stop, Pray, Work, Play & Love

Join me in a Lenten study beginning tomorrow with the brothers at The Society of St John the Evangelist.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Love can't be earned

Love can't be earned, it can only be given. 
     -Donald Miller

Monday, February 9, 2015

Check The Box

I'm struck by all the professing Christians I see around me every day who are not living the abundant life that Christ so freely offers. Who are instead living Thoreau’s “lives of quiet desperation.” Peace and joy are the gifts Christ bought for us on the cross. He himself tells us, “But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again—ever! In fact, the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up within him for eternal life.”

The key phrase here is, “whoever drinks from the water.” It is not enough to hear what others say about the water. We must drink from the well ourselves. We drink from Christ’s water by reading his Word, by spending time with him in prayer, by obedience to his voice. We must invest time in our relationship if it is to develop into the joyful, abundant, productive life Christ promised.

I'm afraid that for many professing Christians their spiritual development is like the ‘Terms of Usage’ agreements that pop up when we install a new computer program. We quickly checked the ‘I Agree’ box without ever reading the agreement. We are so anxious to get on with the program that we don't take time to actually read the agreement. We are so anxious to get on with our lives that we don't take time to read the Bible that we profess to agree with.  We are so busy discussing, arguing and fighting about this Bible that we do not have time to drink deeply of the love, peace and joy that is found in it.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

What Reading Does

What reading does, ultimately, is keep alive the dangerous and exhilarating idea that a life is not a sequence of lived moments, but a destiny...the time of reading, the time defined by the author's language resonating in the self, is not the world's time, but the soul's. 

     -Sven Birkerts

Saturday, February 7, 2015

What God Promises

If we are to learn what God promises, and what he fulfills, we must persevere in quiet meditation on the life, sayings, deeds, suffering and death of Jesus.

     -Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Friday, February 6, 2015

Into Your Hand

Into your hand I entrust my spirit.” Reading these words of the ancient psalmist this morning my thoughts return to the theme of the gift of a simple faith. A trust that God is real and that, somehow, He and I are one. That His Spirit lives and moves within my limited, earthly body as together we walk the paths of life. That He is a faithful guide on my earthly sojourn.

I have been gifted with a simple faith as taught in the ancient creeds:

I believe in God, the father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried: He descended to hell. The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From there He will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic (little c) church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.

I believe that through the Lord’s Supper I am re-membering Christ within my body. That through this symbolic gesture the members of my body become His body. That I am His hands and His feet in the world today.  I rest in His love through prayer and meditation, seeking a simple life of service to others, helping free those trapped in systems of spiritual darkness, poverty, and injustice.

My faith is simple but not simplistic. Faith is belief that is not based on proof. I accept that I could be wrong. In the words of Morris West, “… a confession of faith is a confession of not knowing… Prove it, I cannot. Deserve it, I do not. If my trust is proved a folly, then so be it. Life has served me as it serves everyone, sometimes well and sometimes ill, but I have learned to be grateful for the gift of it…”

So, with open eyes and acceptance that my life may not play out as I expect I pray Charles de Foucald’s Prayer of Abandonment:

I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures.
I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul;
I offer it to you
with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord,
and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands,
without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Books That Wound

I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we are reading doesn't wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for? ...we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us.
     - Franz Kafka

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Books of the Holy Spirit

The books the Holy Spirit is writing are living.
     -Jean-Pierre DeCaussade