Category Archives: Spirituality

An Old Prayer to Pray on a New Day

PrayingHandsLet me share with you portions of a prayer of Thomas A’ Kempis (500 years ago, William Creasy paraphrase) which I read yesterday.  Though first prayed by him 500 years ago it’s still relevant for us today.

“O most sweet and loving Lord… you know my weaknesses and my needs.  You know how many bad habits and vices I have.  You know how often I am burdened, tempted, shaken and stained by sin.  I come to you for healing.  I pray to you for comfort and support.  I speak to you, who know all things, to whom all my inmost thoughts are evident.  You alone can adequately comfort me and help me.  You know what good things I need most, and you know how poor I am in virtue.

Make all that leads me from you not worth thinking about.  Make me forget it all… From now on, you will be my only delight, for you alone are my food and drink, my love and joy, my sweetness and my whole good.”

Amen!

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Despite Weakness

CatTailLeavesBest selling Christian author Kathleen Norris writes, “Once when I was sunk deep in lethargy, I received a copy of an article about my writing in which the author termed me a ‘a docent of hope.’ How strange it was to be reminded that the books I had written over the past decade…were out there in the world, proclaiming good news while I sat stupefied, unable to write even a postcard. The disparity was grim, but funny: God’s grace working despite my weakness, or maybe because of it.” (Acedia & me, pp. 228-229)

I don’t write this from some ivory tower position. I write this from facing the same challenges of making sense out of an imperfect world with imperfect people just as you do. I recall one afternoon last week when I pondered over some broken relationships between Christians of which I’m aware. I visited and prayed with four people in the hospital or at home struggling with physical ailments and much pain, and one person with the pain of deep grief. Life’s not always fun.

I’m reminded of what Mother Teresa wrote to her confessor in 1979. (Don’t worry, I’m not at this point, just wanted to give you a great illustration of what we’re considering.) She wrote to him, “Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear.” (quoted in A Great and Terrible Love, Mark Galli, pp. 61-62) People are surprised that the saintly woman who gave so many people help from God often felt helpless in connecting to God herself.

You can take comfort in the fact that your struggle to find joy, meaning, satisfaction, and strength to deal with this day is a normal struggle! I know, I face it too. Everybody does.

But we can expect God to see us through it! I can tell you this “despite my weakness, or maybe because of it.” This blog is just one beggar telling a bunch of beggars about a morsel of food that’s available.

God loves us! We are in His presence! He will sustain and guide us! — What a morsel of truth to chew on today!

Thoughts from Thomas A’ Kempis — “Faith Beyond Feelings”

christduotone1I’m continuing my daily reading through the classic  work of Thomas A’ Kempis.  Just wanted to share a few sentences from this morning’s reading with you.

“That good and sweet feeling which you sometimes experience is the result of grace being present, a little sample of your heavenly home.  Do not depend on it too much, for it comes and goes…

“Such feelings are not illusions.  Enjoy them when you feel them, and be thankful for them, but do not seek them out.  Chasing after such feelings can consume you.”  The Imitation of Christ by Thomas A’ Kempis, modern translation/interpretation by William C. Creasy.

I like feeling good.  I’d like to have a “sweet feeling” all the time, but Thomas A’ Kempis reminds me that this is not to be.  If being near to God always manifested itself with a “sweet feeling”  then I likely would start to desire the feeling more than God Himself.  Desiring God, and knowing, by faith, that He is near, even when I don’t have the “sweet feeling” shows God (and me too) that I truly do desire Him, that I’m not making feelings my god.

Thoughts from Thomas A’ Kempis — “Obedience Is Success”

christduotones“Where shall we find a person who is willing to serve God without receiving something in return?… Let him not be deluded when others praise him, but let him admit in all honesty that he is only a humble servant of God.” (The Imitation of Christ, Thomas A’ Kempis, translation/interpretation by William C. Creasy, pp. 77-78)

The world around me emphasizes results.  We’re told that the “bottom line” needs to be good.

I’ve also heard it said that we are not called to be successful but faithful.  In my better moments I almost believe this.  I want to have more better moments!

As a follower of Jesus Christ my calling from Him must always take precedence over my accomplishments in the world.  It’s nice when they merge, but they don’t always.  When results aren’t what I’d like, it can either drive me to discouragement with myself and the situation or dependence on God.  Thomas A’ Kempis’ words above, which I read this morning, reminded me of this fact.

Thoughts from Thomas A’ Kempis — “Humble with Knowledge”

christduotoneI’m reading the nearly six hundred year-old (1441) Christian classic The Imitation of Christ by Thomas A’ Kempis, a Dutch monk.  I thought I’d share some of his thoughts occasionally.  Enjoy, in the best sense of that word!
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“Calm that excessive thirst for knowledge, for there is great discord and deception in it.  People who have great learning are often eager to appear wise, and they often wish others to recognize them as wise people.  There are many things that you can know about, though, that are of little or no use to the soul, and a person is exceedingly foolish who reaches for anything that does not lead toward salvation…

“So do not think highly of yourself because of what you know about any art or science, but rather respect the knowledge that has been entrusted to you.  If it seems to you that you know many things and that you are an expert in them, recognize nevertheless that there are many things that you do not know…

“If you want to learn something that will really help you, learn to see yourself as God sees you and not as you see yourself in the distorted mirror of your own self-importance.”

The Imitation of Christ, A Timeless Classic for Contemporary Readers, translated by William C. Creasy, pp. 31-32

How to View Ourselves

What do we see when we look in the mirror?  Disappointment, for one thing!  Few of us are completely happy with who looks back at us!  How should we view ourselves?  How can we develop a proper view of ourselves?

First, let’s identify three ways we’re tempted to try and build our self-esteem that don’t work.  They’re the three temptations Jesus faced in the wilderness, at the beginning of His ministry, when He had to establish His own self-identity.  (I give credit to Peter Scazzero who inspired these thoughts in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality.)

“Tell these stones to become bread,” Satan suggested to Jesus.  It was a temptation for Jesus to believe that “I am what I do.”

“Throw yourself down,” Satan said to Jesus.  It was a temptation for Jesus to believe that “I am what others think of me.”

“All this I will give you..if you bow down and worship me,” Satan offered.  It was a temptation for Jesus to believe that “I am what I possess.”

Jesus sought to please His Heavenly Father.  As a friend of mine, Jose, suggested, when Jesus quoted scripture to repudiate each temptation, it’s as if Jesus was saying, “No, my Dad says… No, my Dad says… No, my Dad says!”

Our proper self-perception shouldn’t come from what we do, what others think of us, or what we possess.  Instead, like Jesus, our identity should come from basking in the attention of the Heavenly Father, and from Jesus Himself.

The next time we look in a mirror let’s not just see ourselves.  Let’s imagine Christ right there with us, giving us His attention.  It will reflect well on us!

An Ancient Reminder of How to Pray in these Tough Times

St. Anselm (1033-1109) was a Benedictine monk and was made archbishop of Canterbury on this day in 1093.  I’ve provided part of a prayer he wrote that, though over a thousand years old, is still a relevant prayer for us to pray in today’s tough times.

“‘I seek Your face; Your face, O Lord, do I seek’ (Psalm 27:9).  Come now, then, O Lord my God, teach my heart when and how I may seek You, where and how I may find You.  O Lord, if You are not here, where else shall I seek You?  But if you are everywhere, why do I not behold You, since You are here present?….

“…Deliver me, take away my burden, lest the pit of my wickedness shut its mouth upon me; grant that I may look upon Your light, though from afar off, though out of the deep.  I wlll seek You by longing for You; I will long for you by seeking You.  I will find You by loving You…”
               (December 5 reading in Companions for the Soul by Robert Hudson and Shelly Townsend-Hudson)

Grow Like a Goldfish!

I keep two aquariums in our living room.  One is the winter home for my pond goldfish and koi (sort of a fish’s version of going to Florida).  The portrait to the left is of one of my residents.  I’ve kept goldfish off and on for years but learned something new just this week.  An article in Tropical Fish magazine states that golfish are “indeterminate growers” which means they never stop growing until they die.  Their growth, however, can be stunted by an unhealthy environment such as poor quality water and improper care.

I realized that God’s plan for us is to be indeterminate growers too!  We’re to continue to grow spiritually until the day we die.  I suspect many things can stunt our continued growth, and unlike my goldfish, we have a large measure of control of the environment in which we place ourselves.  We may allow ourselves a poor quality environment where we lack spiritual fellowship with others, or we put ourselves in a murky environment where we simply expose ourselves to too many wrong influences.  Improper soul care is another issue.  Do we reflect on scripture, pray, and meditate as we should?

My goldfish keep growing.  I want that to be my goal too!

Lighten Up! Seriously!

I like to read the biographical information about an author that’s usually found on the back inside cover of a book.  I’ve noticed that when it comes to most of the so-called spiritual gurus, their bios never list any, shall we say, down-to-earth stuff, such as family members or hobbies.  Take Eckhart Tolle, for example.  It’s hard to find out anything that’s “ordinary”  about him.  Check out his “About” page on his web site and you learn very little about him personally.

The oldest movies about Jesus have Him moving about, robe flowing, hands out in blessing, and in other ways acting so unearthly.  We know He took children on His lap and blessed them.  He must have played with them, kidded with them — kids don’t go to a “stick-in-the-mud” type person.

Oswald Chambers, in his classic devotional My Utmost for His Highest writes, “Beware of allowing yourself to think that the shallow aspects of life are not ordained of God; they are ordained by Him equally as much as the profound… We sometimes refuse to be shallow, not out of our deep devotion to God but because we wish to impress other people with the fact that we are not shallow.” (devotion for today, Nov. 22)  He goes on to remind the reader that even the deep ocean has a shallow shoreline!

God must like the ordinary in life, for He has made so much of it!  It’s OK to make small talk, it helps put people at ease, plus I like to talk about the latest sale at Best Buy, or how I keep my aquarium clean.  It’s OK to lighten up, to be funny even though you’re a person of faith, to joke around even if you’re a follower of Jesus.  It’s OK to delight in the simple pleasures of life — a fresh cup of coffee, the smile of a child, the inviting comfort of the pillow when you climb into bed.  “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)

As Chambers goes on to write, “We are so nauseatingly serious.”  That’s why I’ve decided to show a picture with me and one of my chickens that I tended, until I switched to homing pigeons, a picture of me acting “normal.”  It seems to me that one mark of being holy is not taking ourselves so seriously!

Self Care

Self-care is never a selfish act.” Parker Palmer

I like the above quote. It speaks great truth. I’m uncomfortable, however, with some statements that sound similar. People will say, “You gotta look out for yourself first.” or “I’m going to do this just for me.”

Looking out for yourself first can be a very selfish thing to do. After all, you’re wanting to, well, put yourself first. What’s the difference with Parker Palmer’s comment that “self-care is never selfish”?

I think of the swimmer who’s trying to help another swimmer who’s in trouble in the water. The would-be rescuer has to first stay out of trouble in the water otherwise he or she won’t be of any use to the drowning person. A tow truck can’t help pull a car out of the snow if the tow truck gets stuck in the snow itself.

I find it interesting that Jesus often went off by Himself to pray. He regularly restored Himself in the presence of His Heavenly Father, knowing He couldn’t be giving Himself away to others 24/7.

Life’s busy and hectic and people are so needy that they will try to suck us dry. We can give and give until there’s nothing left to give. Ironically, people who are always busy and never say no to people often are pursuing the selfish end of wanting always to be loved and needed.

I’ve always felt that taking daily time to read, pray and reflect, reserving Mondays as a day off, and taking my vacation time has never ultimately been about me. I see it all as times of refreshing so that I’m better able to serve the Lord and the people He puts around me.

I end where I started, quoting Parker Palmer. “Self-care is never a selfish act.”