Daily Riches: God’s Way Is Through The Desert (Belden Lane)

“Biblical religion, from ancient Israel to the early church, takes shape in a geographical context dominated by desert-mountain topography. Yahweh is a God who repeatedly leads the children of Israel into the desert, toward the mountain. Of the recurring traditions that undergo transformation in Israel’s life the wilderness motif is one of the most significant. At every subsequent period of testing–from Assyrian threat to Babylonian invasion and beyond–the Jews interpret the loss and possibilities of the present in light of their collective memory of the wilderness experience. Having once been taken to the edge, they view all succeeding passages into the wilds of unpredictability in light of that metaphorical paradigm. The god of Sinai is one who thrives on fierce landscapes, seemingly forcing God’s people into wild and wretched climes where trust must be absolute. In the Talmudic tradition of the rabbis, this geographical preference on God’s part came to be discussed in connection with a difficult text in Exodus 13:17. The text affirms, in its most usual English translation, that when Pharoah let the people of Israel go, Yahweh did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, although that would have been closer; they were not taken along the Mediterranean coast and into Palestine, by the easier, more direct route to the north. Instead, they were pointed toward a longer route, further south, more deeply into the desert, toward Mount Sinai. …God’s people are deliberately forced into the desert–taking the harder, more onerous and hazardous route–as an exacting exercise in radical faith. They are shoved down the difficult path so there will be no thought of ever turning back. They cover grueling miles of terrain so tortuous they will never be tempted to recross it in quest of the leeks and onions they remembered in Egypt. Perhaps others can go around the desert on the simpler route toward home, but the way of God’s people is always through it.” Belden Lane

“When Pharaoh finally let the people go,
God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory,
even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land.”
Exodus 13:17

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Has God led you into a long, onerous, desert place which you would never have chosen?
  • In  that “exacting exercise in radical faith” do you find yourself being shaped by God?
  • If you had it to do over, would you take the “simpler route?”

Abba, meet me in the desert place.

For More: The Solace of Fierce Landscapes by Belden Lane

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and God seeks you. I hope you’ll follow/share my blog. I appreciate your interest! Please leave a question or comment. – Bill

P.S. I’ve been working on a book that would be a collection of 365 daily readings–similar to and based on this blog. I’m looking for a publisher for this complicated project. If you have a contact or advice, please contact me.

Daily Riches: Crossing Boundaries to Where God Is Revealed (Belden Lane)

“The desert loves to strip bare.” Jerome

“Desert and mountain places, located on the margins of society, are locations of choice in luring God’s people to a deeper understanding of who they are. Yahweh frequently moves to the boundary in order to restore the center, calling a broken people back to justice and compassion. When Ahab brings the worship of Baal into the court of Israel, God sends fire on the mountain to refocus the direction of Israel’s praise (1 Kings 18). At the peripheral place, unsettling and ‘eccentric’ as it may be, the core of a people’s identity is reconceived. Scholars sensitive to the function of place in biblical narrative observe that Jesus, in a similar way, frequently presses the people closest to him into places they find threatening. Jesus is always redefining the nature of ‘center.’ He moves regularly beyond the safety and exclusiveness of the Jewish homeland in Galilee to include Gentiles in outlying regions where his disciples are reluctant to go. He functions repeatedly as a boundary crosser, pushing his disciples to edges they find exceedingly uncomfortable. In Mark 6:45, he uses the harsh language of a sailor in forcing them to cross the Sea of Galilee, raising sail for Gentile Bethsaida. ‘Just shut up and get in the boat,’ he seems to be saying. They don’t want to go, but Jesus insists. He knows that places on the edge, those considered God-forsaken by many, are where his identity as Messiah has to be revealed. Out in the wilds anything can happen. He pushes to the east coast of the Sea of Galilee, to the swine-herding country of the Geraenes to heal the demoniac (Luke 8:26-39). He goes north over the border into Tyre and Sidon to affirm the faith of the Syrophenician woman and cure her daughter (Matt. 15:21-28). He heals in Decapolis, on the far side of the Jordan. He feeds a multitude on the eastern or foreign side of the lake, even as he had done on the western or Jewish side (Mark 8:1-10). Ever dragging his disciples away from the familiarity of home, he declares present the power of the kingdom in the alien landscapes of another land.” Belden Lane

“Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples
get back into the boat and head across the lake to Bethsaida”
Mark 6:45

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Is your Jesus a “boundary crosser?”
  • Has he been dragging you “away from the familiarity of home?”
  • If not, why not?

Abba, use me as I move out of my comfort zone.

For More: The Solace of Fierce Landscapes by Belden Lane

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and God seeks you. I hope you’ll follow/share my blog. I appreciate your interest! Please leave a question or comment. – Bill

P.S. I’ve been working on a book that would be a collection of 365 daily readings–similar to and based on this blog. I’m looking for a publisher for this complicated project. If you have a contact or advice, please contact me.

Daily Riches: Pray For the Church As For a Terrible Sinner (Dorothy Day and Romano Guardini)

“The Church is the Cross on which Christ was crucified.” Romano Guardini

“I felt that the Church was the Church of the poor, that St. Patrick’s had been built from the pennies of servant girls, that it cared for the emigrant, it established hospitals, orphanages, day nurseries, houses of the Good Shepherd, homes for the aged, but at the same time, I felt that it did not set its face against a social order which made so much charity in the present sense of the word necessary. I felt that charity was a word to choke over. Who wanted charity? And it was not just human pride but a strong sense of man’s dignity and worth, and what was due to him in justice, that made me resent, rather than feel proud of so mighty a sum total of Catholic institutions. …When I see the church taking the side of the powerful and forgetting the weak, and when I see bishops living in luxury and the poor being ignored or thrown bread crumbs, I know that Jesus is being insulted, as He once was, and sent to his death, as He once was. The church doesn’t only belong to officials and bureaucrats; it belongs to all its people, and especially its most humble men and women and children, the ones He would have wanted to go see and help…. I am embarrassed–I am sickened–when I see Catholics using their religion as a social ornament. Peter [Maurin] used to tell me that a good Catholic should pray for the church as if it is a terrible sinner, in bad need of lots of prayers. I remember being surprised for a second to hear him say that; he was such a devout Catholic. But then I realized that it was precisely because he was so devout that he said what he said. …I think the life of our Lord is constantly being lived out: we are betraying Him as well as honoring Him–we in the church as well as those who are outside of it.” Dorothy Day

“I will build my church,
and all the powers of hell
will not conquer it.”
Jesus, in Matthew 16:18

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Can you be honest about the failings of your church, or do you insist on leaving this to outsiders and haters?
  • Can you see the church as “a terrible sinner” and still love and pray for her?
  • Can you see in yourself, a member of the church, how you both constantly honor and betray the Lord?

Jesus, as your church, may we set our face against the social order.

For More: Dorothy Day: A Radical Devotion by Robert Coles

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Thanks for sharing/following my blog. I appreciate your interest! – Bill

P.S. I’ve been working on a book that would be a collection of 365 daily readings–similar to and based on this blog. I’m looking for a publisher for this complicated project. If you have a contact or advice, please contact me.

Daily Riches: The Painful Process of Spiritual Formation (Geri Scazzero, Parker Palmer and Belden Lane)

“Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel is one of history’s greatest artistic triumphs. From 1508 to 1512, the artist lay on his back and painted the creation, fall, and destruction of the human race by the flood. The images, however, started to fade almost immediately after he painted them. Within a hundred years no one remembered what the original colors really had looked like. In 1980, a scaffold was erected and plans made to clean the ceiling of Michelangelo’s priceless masterpiece. The director of the restoration project did a critical experiment using a special solution on one or two square inches at a time. For the next twelve years they cleaned the entire ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. No one expected the results to be so stunning! No one realized Michelangelo was such a master of color—of azure, green, rose, lavender. Beneath centuries of grime and dirt, passionate colors lay buried. For the first time in over 450 years, people could view the masterpiece as it was originally intended, in all its color and beauty. Stripping off the false layers and dirt that cover up your unique destiny and life is complex. Parker Palmer describes it like this, ‘Most of us arrive at a sense of self only through a long journey through alien lands. But this journey bears no resemblance to the trouble-free “travel packages” sold by the tourism industry. It is more akin to the ancient tradition of pilgrimage – “a transformative journey to a sacred center” full of hardship, darkness and peril.'” Geri Scazzero

“The way of purgation involves an entry into what is unnerving, even grotesque in our lives, into what quickly reveals our limits. It seems at first, like most beginnings in the spiritual life, a mistake, a false start, an imperfection in God’s planning, a regression in our own growth. Only through hindsight do we recognize it for the unexpected gift that it is.” Belden Lane

“And I saw the river over which every soul must pass to reach the kingdom of heaven
and the name of that river was suffering
and I saw the boat which carries souls across the river
and the name of that boat was love.”
John of the Cross

“Through many tribulations
we must enter the kingdom of God.”
Acts 14:22

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Are you aware of things in your life that need to be “stripped away?”
  • Are you willing to take that (often difficult) “transformative journey?”
  • Have you experienced a great loss, only to recognize it later as an “unexpected gift?”

Abba, strip away what keeps me from being the person you imagined and need.

For More: I Quit! by Gerri Scazzero

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and God seeks you. Thanks for sharing/following my blog! – Bill

P.S. I’ve been working on a book that would be a collection of 365 daily readings–similar to and based on this blog. I’m looking for a publisher for this complicated project. If you have a contact or advice, please contact me.

Daily Riches: Disruptive Jesus (Alexandra Petri, Albert Einstein, H. G. Wells)

“The gentleman arrested Thursday and tried before Pontius Pilate had a troubled background. Born (possibly out of wedlock?) in a stable, this jobless thirty-something of Middle Eastern origin had had previous run-ins with local authorities for disturbing the peace, and had become increasingly associated with the members of a fringe religious group. He spent the majority of his time in the company of sex workers and criminals. He had had prior run-ins with local authorities—most notably, an incident of vandalism in a community center when he wrecked the tables of several licensed money-lenders and bird-sellers. He had used violent language, too, claiming that he could destroy a gathering place and rebuild it. At the time of his arrest, he had not held a fixed residence for years. Instead, he led an itinerant lifestyle, staying at the homes of friends and advocating the redistribution of wealth. He had come to the attention of the authorities more than once for his unauthorized distribution of food [and] disruptive public behavior…. Some say that his brutal punishment at the hands of the state was out of proportion to and unrelated to any of these incidents in his record. But after all, he was no angel.” Alexandra Petri

“I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene…. No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life.” Albert Einstein

“I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.” H.G. Wells

“He was despised and rejected”
Isaiah 53:3

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Jesus was homeless, poor, hung out with seedy characters, and broke many social customs and religious laws. What would you think about such an outsider today?
  • Jesus was arrested, tried and convicted of capital crimes–but by false testimony, political machinations, and a sham trial. Has the story of Jesus made you more aware of how easily someone can be treated unfairly by the criminal justice system? …how routinely dissent is suppressed?
  • The religious and political leaders of the day condemned Jesus as dangerous and subversive because of their own self-interest. Has the story of Jesus made you more skeptical of authority, both political and religious?

Abba, thank you for the luminous Nazarene.

For More: Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and God seeks you. I hope you’ll follow/share my blog. My goal is to regularly share something of unique value with you. I appreciate your interest! – Bill

Daily Riches: In Praise of Uncertaintly and Doubt (Maria Popova and Wislawa Szymborska)

“Doctors, teachers, gardeners—and I could list a hundred more professions. Their work becomes one continuous adventure as long as they manage to keep discovering new challenges in it. Difficulties and setbacks never quell their curiosity. A swarm of new questions emerges from every problem they solve. Whatever inspiration is, it’s born from a continuous ‘I don’t know.’ In a sentiment of chilling prescience today, as we witness tyrants drunk on certainty drain the world of its essential inspiration, Szymborska considers the destructive counterpoint to this generative not-knowing:

All sorts of torturers, dictators, fanatics, and demagogues struggling for power by way of a few loudly shouted slogans also enjoy their jobs, and they too perform their duties with inventive fervor. Well, yes, but they ‘know.’ They know, and whatever they know is enough for them once and for all. They don’t want to find out about anything else, since that might diminish their arguments’ force. And any knowledge that doesn’t lead to new questions quickly dies out: it fails to maintain the temperature required for sustaining life. In the most extreme cases, cases well known from ancient and modern history, it even poses a lethal threat to society.”

This is why I value that little phrase ‘I don’t know’ so highly. It’s small, but it flies on mighty wings. It expands our lives to include the spaces within us as well as those outer expanses in which our tiny Earth hangs suspended. If Isaac Newton had never said to himself ‘I don’t know,’ the apples in his little orchard might have dropped to the ground like hailstones and at best he would have stooped to pick them up and gobble them with gusto. Had my compatriot Marie Sklodowska-Curie never said to herself ‘I don’t know’, she probably would have wound up teaching chemistry at some private high school for young ladies from good families, and would have ended her days performing this otherwise perfectly respectable job. But she kept on saying ‘I don’t know,’ and these words led her, not just once but twice, to Stockholm, where restless, questing spirits are occasionally rewarded with the Nobel Prize. Such surrender to not-knowing, Szymborska argues as she steps out into the cosmic perspective, is the seedbed of our capacity for astonishment, which in turn gives meaning to our existence…. Granted, in daily speech, where we don’t stop to consider every word, we all use phrases like ‘the ordinary world,’ ‘ordinary life,’ ‘the ordinary course of events’ … But in the language of poetry, where every word is weighed, nothing is usual or normal. Not a single stone and not a single cloud above it. Not a single day and not a single night after it. And above all, not a single existence, not anyone’s existence in this world.” Maria Popova

“I have said things that I did not understand,
things too great for me, which I did not know.”
Job 42:3

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Are you ever “drunk on certainty?”
  • Can you gladly embrace “not knowing?” …doubt?
  • What do your answers say about you?

Abba, help me see past the “ordinary.”

For More: Map by Wislawa Szymborska

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Thanks for following my blog! – Bill

Daily Riches: Christianity’s Apologia for the Weak (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

“Have you ever seen a greater mystery in this world than poor people, ill people, insane people–people who cannot help themselves but who have to rely on other people for help, for love, for care? Have you ever thought what outlook on life a cripple, a hopelessly ill person, a socially exploited person, a coloured person in a white country, an untouchable–may have? And if so, did you not feel that here life means something totally different from what it means to you, and that on the other hand you are inseparably bound together with such unfortunate people, just because you are human like them, just because you are not weak but strong, and just because in all your strength you will feel their weakness? Have we not felt that we shall never be happy in our life as long as this world of weakness from which we are perhaps spared–but who knows for how long–is foreign and strange and far removed from us, as long as we keep away from it consciously or subconsciously? …Christianity has been blamed ever since its early days for its message to the weak: Christianity is a religion of slaves, of people with inferiority complexes; it owes its success only to the masses of miserable people whose weakness and misery Christianity has glorified. It was the attitude towards the problem of weakness in the world, which made everybody followers or enemies of Christianity. Against the new meaning which Christianity gave to the weak, against this glorification of weakness, there has always been the strong and indignant protest of an aristocratic philosophy of life which glorified strength and power and violence as the ultimate ideals of humanity. We have observed this very fight going on up to our present day. Christianity stands or falls with its revolutionary protest against violence, arbitrariness and pride of power and with its apologia for the weak.–I feel that Christianity is rather doing too little in showing these points than doing too much. Christianity has adjusted itself much too easily to the worship of power. It should give much more offence, more shock to the world, than it is doing. Christianity should take a much more definite stand for the weak than to consider the potential moral right of the strong.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Rescue the weak and needy;
Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.”
Psalm 82:4

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Where is the Christian apologia for the weak today?
  • Has the Christianity you know “adjusted itself … to the worship of power?”
  • Is your church standing for the weak? Are you?

For More: The Collected Sermons of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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Thanks for following and sharing my blog. I appreciate it! – Bill (Psalm 90:14)

Daily Riches: In Praise of Napping, Sleeping and Daydreaming (Winston Churchill, Carl Jung, John Steinbeck, Dierdre Barrett and Tom Hodgkinson)

“We have forgotten the age-old fact that God speaks chiefly through dreams and visions.” Carl Jung

“Dreaming is, above all, a time when the unheard parts of ourselves are allowed to speak.” Deirdre Barrett

“…even certain renowned enemies of idleness were themselves great nappers. Winston Churchill, who abhorred laziness in other people, himself took a nap every afternoon. He defended his afternoon doze in practical terms as an absolute necessity: You must sleep sometime between lunch and dinner, and no halfway measures. Take off your clothes and get into bed. That’s what I always do. Don’t think you will be doing less work because you sleep during the day. That’s a foolish notion held by people who have no imagination. You will be able to accomplish more. You get two days in one—well, at least one and a half, I’m sure. When the war started, I had to sleep during the day because that was the only way I could cope with my responsibilities. …Edison claimed only to need three or four hours of sleep a night, but, as Stanley Coren reports, he napped a lot. A Croatian electrical engineer called Nikola Tesla who worked with him claimed of Edison: ‘Although he needs only four sleep hours a night, he needs two three-hour naps each day.’ …Isn’t it extraordinary that an activity which takes up so much of our lives is so often relegated to the realms of unimportance? We are based on dreams, they are at our centre. Listen to them. …There are many examples of the creative power of dreams: ‘Kubla Khan’ came to Coleridge in a dream, as did the tune for ‘Yesterday’ to Paul McCartney. The idea for Frankenstein revealed itself to the young Mary Shelley in a waking dream; Einstein said that a breakthrough in his theory of relativity had come to him in a dream; Descartes had a dream that set him on the path towards his whole philosophical system (he said it was ‘the most important affair’ of his life). Mendeleyev dreamt the Periodic Table after falling asleep at his desk. J. K. Rowling was staring out of the window on a train when the idea, plot and characters for Harry Potter came to her.” Tom Hodgkinson

“He gives to His beloved
even in his sleep.”
Psalm 127:2

“’A little sleep, a little slumber,
A little folding of the hands to rest’—
Your poverty will come in like a vagabond
And your need like an armed man.”
Proverbs 6:10-11

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Can you reconcile the Psalm and the Proverb?
  • Has your culture determined the value you give to sleep? …to work?
  • Is fear of “slumber” preventing you from receiving what God “gives?”

Abba, I welcome your nighttime gifts.

For More: How To Be Idle by Tom Hodgkinson

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Thanks for reading/sharing/following my blog! – Bill