Daily Riches: The Downward Path To Freedom (Richard Rohr)

“Jesus himself taught and exemplified the path of descent, which Christians have often called ‘the way of the cross.’ The path downward is much more trustworthy than any path upward, which tends to feed the ego. Like few other Christians, it was Francis of Assisi who profoundly understood that. Authentic spirituality is always on some level or in some way about letting go. Jesus said, ‘the truth will set you free’ (John 8:32). Once we see truly what traps us and keeps us from freedom we should see the need to let it go. But in a consumer society most of us have had no training in that direction. Rather, more is usually considered better. True liberation is letting go of our small self, letting go of our cultural biases, and letting go of our fear of loss and death. Freedom is letting go of wanting more and better things, and it is letting go of our need to control and manipulate God and others. It is even letting go of our need to know and our need to be right—which we only discover with maturity. We become free as we let go of our three primary energy centers: our need for power and control, our need for safety and security, and our need for affection and esteem. Francis sought freedom in all three parts of life. My good friend Fr. John Dear puts it very well: ‘Francis embodies the Gospel journey from violence to non-violence, wealth to poverty, power to powerlessness, selfishness to selfless service, pride to humility, indifference to love, cruelty to compassion, vengeance to forgiveness, revenge to reconciliation, war to peace, killing enemies to loving enemies. More than any other Christian, he epitomizes discipleship to Jesus. . . .'” Richard Rohr

“the truth will set you free”
Jesus in John 8:32

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • We often think of spiritual formation as mostly an “adding on” of virtues–for instance patience or love. Have you even thought of approaching spiritual formation by subtracting behaviors–like hurry–a practice that prevents love and contradicts patience?
  • To say “we have no training” in this is an understatement. Everything in our society teaches us the opposite. Are you seeking out other voices to teach you these kinds of truths and reinforce them in your heart and mind?
  • What can you do to more effectively “epitomize discipleship to Jesus?”

Abba, help me to join Jesus and Francis on the path of descent.

For More: You Will Be My Witnesses by John Dear

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and God seeks you. My goal is to regularly give you something of unique value in 400 words or less. I hope you’ll follow and share my blog. Thanks for your interest! – Bill

Daily Riches: Jacking Up the Pace of Life (Carl Honore and Alexis de Tocqueville)

“Modern medicine may have added an extra decade or so to the three score years and ten originally laid down in the Bible, but we still live under the shadow of the biggest deadline of all: death. No wonder we feel that time is short and strive to make every moment count. But if the instinct to do so is universal, then why are some cultures more prone than others to race against the clock? Part of the answer may lie in the way we think about time itself. In some philosophical traditions—Chinese, Hindu and Buddhist, to name three—time is cyclical. On Canada’s Baffin Island, the Inuit use the same word—uvatiarru—to mean both ‘in the distant past’ and ‘in the distant future.’ Time, in such cultures, is always coming as well as going. It is constantly around us, renewing itself, like the air we breathe. In the Western tradition, time is linear, an arrow flying remorselessly from A to B. It is a finite, and therefore precious, resource. …As long ago as the 1830s, the French writer Alexis de Tocqueville blamed the shopping instinct for jacking up the pace of life: ‘He who has set his heart exclusively upon the pursuit of worldly welfare is always in a hurry, for he has but a limited time at his disposal to reach, to grasp, and to enjoy it.’ That analysis rings even more true today, when all the world is a store, and all the men and women merely shoppers. Tempted and titillated at every turn, we seek to cram in as much consumption and as many experiences as possible. As well as glittering careers, we want to take art courses, work out at the gym, read the newspaper and every book on the bestseller list, eat out with friends, go clubbing, play sports, watch hours of television, listen to music, spend time with the family, buy all the newest fashions and gadgets, go to the cinema, enjoy intimacy and great sex with our partners, holiday in far-flung locations and maybe even do some meaningful volunteer work. The result is a gnawing disconnect between what we want from life and what we can realistically have, which feeds the sense that there is never enough time.”

“making the most of your time,
because the days are evil.”
Ephesians 5:16

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • What does “making the most of your time” mean to you?
  • Are you always in a hurry to “cram in as much consumption and as many experiences as possible?”
  • Could striving for more actually be providing you with less?

For More: In Praise of Slowness by Carl Honore

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

 

Daily Riches: The Enormous Value of Ordinary Things (Belden Lane, Alice Fryling and Teilhard de Chardin)

“In spiritual direction, we look at the truth of our present situation and experience. The question asked is not ‘What should be happening in my life?’ but ‘What is happening in my life?’ We look for God here, now, because the place we are in in our lives is the place where we find God.” Alice Fryling

“Never content with ordinariness, unable to address our fears, we pump up the volume on every dramatic (and violent) possibility. We live from one moment of fear-stifling exhilaration to the next. Only in this way do we feel engaged with life. In our best-selling novels, current films, and the tensions of urban life and foreign policy, the dragons of awfulness lurk in every corner, reminding us that if we’ve survived the terrors of death, we must be alive. Supervivo, ergo sum. But when the drama fails, when we grow weary of the intense pressure of life on the edge, we’re forced to reconsider the myths by which we live. War is not the principle metaphor of human existence. Death is not always an enemy. Life is more than a matter of breathless contention, triumphing over obstacles, denying the monsters of our own feelings. The dragons of the ordinary invite us back to simplicity and a quiet acceptance of life’s rhythms. The deepest joys are not so much spectacular as commonplace. ‘Do not forget,’ wrote Teilhard de Chardin, ‘that the value and interest of life is not so much to do conspicuous things …as to do ordinary things with the perception of their enormous value.’ …There are graces, we all come to realize, that we’d rather not receive. Theologians used to distinguish between special grace and common grace, but we’ve never much valued the latter. Special grace is extraordinary; it comes with drama and flair. We are rescued, singled out in a momentous act of boldness. But common grace falls upon the just and unjust alike. It strikes us as simply too …ordinary. …Yet the route to all grand things passes by way of the commonplace.” Belden Lane

“He causes his sun to rise
on the evil and the good”
Matthew 5:45

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Do you live as if war were “the principle metaphor of human existence?”
  • Do you see death only as an enemy?
  • Are you addicted to drama? …to violence? …to anything but simplicity?
  • What would it look like for you do to “ordinary things with the perception of their enormous value?”

Abba, make me faithful when things are dull.

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. Thanks for your interest! – Bill

Daily Riches: Our Illusions When Serving Others (Belden Lane, Meister Eckhart and Oswald Chambers)

“A Christian servant is one who perpetually looks into the face of God and then goes forth to talk to others.” Oswald Chambers

“Meister Eckhart insisted that ‘if a person were in a rapture as great as St. Paul once experienced and learned that his neighbor were in need of a cup of soup, it would be best to withdraw from the rapture and give the person the soup he needs.’ The contemplative returns to the ordinary, not in spite of her detachment from it, but because of that detachment. No longer driven by fear of rejection and loss, she is able now to love others without anxiously needing anything in return. …The author of The Cloud of Unknowing argued that the person steeped in apophatic [wordless] prayer is able to love everyone, without ‘special regard for any individual, whether he is kinsman or stranger, friend or foe.’ Where one is free from the need to impress the one or to fear the other, all can be loved. Eckhart said that people who, through prayer, have become dead to all things and in touch with nothingness, become powerfully and perhaps even dangerously free. They are able to ‘aim at nothing in their works, to intend nothing in their minds, seeking neither reward nor blessedness.’ They move through the world with a compassionate indifference to all its threats and promises. …The truest impulse toward work for social justice, therefore, grows not out of an anxious sense of pity for others or a grandly noble desire to serve, but out of the abandonment of the self in God. A love that works for justice is wholly uncalculating and indifferent, able to accomplish much because it seeks nothing for itself. …In the apophatic way, love is not directed toward an attractive, lovable object. Indeed, it is drawn to that which appears as nothing, to that which is least in this world…. It flourishes in receiving no response, expecting nothing in return. …One’s work for social change, when rooted in such a truth becomes altogether free–released from all the illusions and expectations we usually bring to our service to others.” Belden Lane

“I was caught up to paradise and heard things so astounding
that they cannot be expressed in words”
2 Corinthians 12:4

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Do you love “expecting nothing in return?”
  • Do you “move through the world with a compassionate indifference to all its threats and promises?”
  • How could you perpetually “look into the face of God” before attempting to care for others?

Abba, teach me this often unfamiliar, always counterintuitive love.

For More: The Solace of Fierce Landscapes by Belden Lane

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Thank you for sharing/following my blog! Please leave a question or comment. I appreciate your interest! – Bill

 

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: 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: Desert Spirituality (Belden Lane, Bruce Berger and David Douglas)

“The significance of desert and mountain is not who resides here, but what we ourselves have left behind in coming.” David Douglas

“One has to consider the surly, discourteous piety of the desert fathers and mothers. They were ‘resident aliens’ in a world that fostered gentility and comfort. They simply did not fit. As Bruce Berger observes, ‘the desert notoriously harbors the loner, the misfit, the only child.’ It attracts a people who are downwardly mobile, often cantankerous, ill at ease in polite society. Shun the city and all of it niceties, growled Jerome from his desert lair. His Christianity required the hard solace of open spaces. …The discipline of the desert was gradually acquired in the methodical weaving of palm fronds into mats and baskets, the practice of long exposure to desert loneliness, the reduction of everything in one’s life to a radical simplicity. Growth in the spiritual life came to be measured in microparameters, in how much could be give up, how much one could be emptied. …To use the provocative language of Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon, the desert Christians understood the church as an alien community no longer caught up in the anxious, self-interested preservation of the world-as-it-is. Their practice of indifference to the dominant social values of their age, exercised from the desert’s edge, stood in stark contract to the accommodating spirit of post-Constantinian, urban Christianity. …The desert as metaphor is that uncharted terrain beyond the edges of the seemingly secure and structured world in which we take such confidence, a world of affluence and order we cannot image ever ending. …[People like these desert fathers and mothers] are what the church has been summoned to be, a community of broken people, painfully honest, undomesticated, rid of the pretense and suffocating niceness to which ‘religion’ is so often prone.” Belden Lane

“Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers
to abstain from fleshly lusts
which wage war against the soul.”
1 Peter 2:11

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Would anyone say of you that you are apathetic (indifferent) to many of your world’s values?
  • How dependent are you upon the “affluence and order” of our world for your sense of security?
  • These desert Christians viewed themselves as “aliens and strangers.” Would those words aptly describe you? …your faith community?
  • What are these desert Christians saying that you need to hear?

Abba, show me what to leave behind.

For More: The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Desert and Mountain Spirituality 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. My goal is to regularly share something of unique value with you in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest! – Bill

Daily Riches: Beyond Life on the Edge (Belden Lane and Teilhard de Chardin)

“Do not forget that the value and interest of life is not so much to do conspicuous things … as to do ordinary things with the perception of their enormous value.” Teilhard de Chardin

“…I continued to participate in my mother’s painfully slow process of dying. Having survived the initial shock of her battle with cancer, I learned quickly that life (and death) goes on. We adjust to traumatic experiences more readily than we might expect. Crisis brings its own rush of energy. …There’s a strange comfort about the extraordinary, even the extraordinarily bad. We’re convinced that it simply cannot last. But sometimes it does. There are times when life fails to deliver that long-awaited, glorious moment of conclusion and release. Sometimes the height of drama drags into tedious repetition. Such was the case with my mother’s illness. …Difficult as it was, at first, to discern grace in the grotesque, it became even more difficult to discover grace in the prolonged redundancy of ordinariness. How could I adjust to life’s untheatrical regularity when I’d been prepared for grand opera and dark tragedy? I could handle bad news. I’d worked at it all of my life. Crisis is the only invariable constant for people schooled in codependency. But how would I deal with the uneventful and commonplace? It was the disconsolation of the ordinary that I found most difficult to accept. I need a book about When Ordinary Things Happen to Average People. I need a spirituality of the uneventful, of the low places in one’s life that are neither deep nor exhilaratingly high. …The temptation of dramatize death–to imagine ourselves defeating its claim in the triumph of violence–is rife in our culture. Never content with ordinariness, unable to address our fears, we pump up the volume on every dramatic (and violent) possibility. We live from one moment of fear-stifling exhilaration to the next. Only in this way to we feel engaged with life. In our best-selling novels, current films, and the tensions of urban life and foreign policy …[we are reminded] that if we’ve survived the terrors of death, we must be alive. Supervivo, ergo sum. But when the drama fails, when we grow weary of the intense pressure of life on the edge, we’re forced to reconsider the myths by which we live. War is not the principle metaphor of human existence. Death is not always an enemy. Life is more than a matter of breathless contention, triumphing over obstacles, denying the monsters of our own feelings. The dragons of the ordinary invite us back to simplicity and a quiet acceptance of life’s rhythms.” Belden Lane

“Consider the lilies.”
Luke 12:27

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Why is tragedy sometimes easier to take than tedium?
  • Are you living by some unchallenged “myths?”
  • Can you learn to see the “enormous value” in ordinary things?

Abba, content me with simplicity.

For More: The Solace of Fierce Landscapes by Belden Lane

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Thanks for reading/sharing my blog! – Bill

Daily Riches: The Rhythmic Dance (Wayne Mueller and Geri Scazzero)

“When we live without listening to the timing of things, when we live and work in twenty-four-hour shifts without rest–we are on war time, mobilized for battle. Yes, we are strong and capable people, we can work without stopping, faster and faster, electric lights making artificial day so the whole machine can labor without ceasing. But remember: No living thing lives like this. There are greater rhythms, seasons and hormonal cycles and sunsets and moonrises and great movements of seas and stars. We are part of the creation story, subject to all its laws and rhythms…. To surrender to the rhythms of seasons and flowerings and dormancies is to savor the secret of life itself. Many scientists believe we are ‘hard-wired’ like this, to live in rhythmic awareness, to be in and then step out, to be engrossed and then detached, to work and then to rest. It follows then that the commandment to remember the Sabbath is not a burdensome requirement from some law-giving deity—’You ought, you’d better, you must’—but rather a remembrance of a law that is firmly embedded in the fabric of nature. It is a reminder of how things really are, the rhythmic dance to which we unavoidably belong.” Wayne Mueller

“Honoring our different rhythms involves respecting and negotiating our needs and preferences at work, with friends, at church, in our marriage, our extended families, and even our parenting. To begin listening to your inner rhythms, consider the following questions: Do you know when it is time to be with people and when it is time to be alone? Do you know when it is time to rest or time to play? What are your most optimal work hours? How much sleep to you need? When is it time to eat? Is it time for you to wait on something or is it time to move on? How does the pace of our life feel? What can you do to establish an enjoyable routine and healthy balance in this season of your life? And finally, what are the one or two changes you can make in order to get more in step with your God-given inner rhythms?” Geri Scazzero

“There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens”
Ecclesiastes 3:1

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Do you have “rhythmic awareness?” Are you listening to your inner rhythms?
  • Can you see this as a spiritual issue? …one measure of mature faith?
  • Have you “surrendered” to the rhythms built into our world, or are you bucking them?

Abba, help me to listen to what your world, and my body, are telling me.

For More:  I Quit! by Geri Scazzero

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Thanks for reading and following my blog! – Bill (Psalm 90:14)

Daily Riches: Lent–The Grand Reduction (Alicia Britt Chole)

“The sabbatical started more suddenly and violently than anticipated. A high fever, a few scans, multiple masses, possibly a lethal abscess . . . the specialists convened, conferred, counseled me to cancel all engagements, and began cutting. The reduction had begun. Waking from surgery, my first memory was seeing a dear friend place a hand over her mouth. Later she told me, ‘I’d never seen anyone that color, alive.’ The masses, thankfully, were all benign. But my body did not respond well to the invasion. The area’s organs went into hibernation and for the first time in my life, I became familiar with breathtaking pain. The experience redefined that word for me. It hurt to be awake. It hurt to see my children’s fear. It hurt to hear, ‘We don’t know why.’ In time, it would even hurt to hope. Reductions, it seems, have blurry release dates. Days stacked upon one another in vain like whisper-thin blankets with no warmth to offer. Though technology blinked, beeped, and buzzed noisily around me, the organs slept on. This healing simply would not be hurried. The wound was evidently too great to risk haste. After eight days in the hospital, the doctors sent me home. ‘At this point, I give you a fifty-fifty chance that the organs will come back online,’ the specialist offered. With those words, my entire recovery-time ‘to do’ list vaporized in the desert heat of pain. All I could do was sit and be loved—a need that my family filled extravagantly. Little did I know that the pain was under assignment: it was making room in my life for another operation well beyond the reach of any surgeon’s scalpel. I would not trade that desert of pain for the world. Deserts unclutter the soul. The hot desert sun vaporizes all manner of luxuries. Then the cold, shelterless nights expose the essential guts of life. I needed to eat, to sleep, to be protected, and to not be alone. Lent had come half a year early. God asked me to fast mental and physical strength. He invited me into holy weakness. I found Jesus there. We often think of Jesus’ fast beginning when He stepped into the Judean wilderness. But the fast actually began three decades earlier when the Glory of heaven was wrapped in plain paper and given as a gift to mankind. The Grand Reduction had begun. Jesus fasted omnipresence and clothed Himself with flesh. He fasted being worshiped by angels and accepted the disregard of man. He fasted the Voice that birthed planets and submitted to the silence of thirty hidden years: How must it have felt—knowing he had the power to heal—to have to walk past children suffering with leprosy? What would it have been like—knowing that his conception was miraculous—to be unable to defend his mother when others whispered about her past? And how agonizing would it be—when his Word could one day raise the dead to life again—to stand by while those he loved (perhaps even Joseph his father) died? We are duly thankful, challenged, and inspired by Jesus’ forty-day fast from food in the Judean wilderness. Perhaps we should likewise be grateful, awed, and humbled by His thirty-year fast from praise, power, and potential in Nazareth. It takes a great deal of strength to choose weakness. Jesus chose voluntarily. I did not possess the courage or wisdom to volunteer. So God, for the sake of my soul, took me there involuntarily. His drafts are merciful indeed. When He calls us to fast strength—when He drafts us into decrease—God’s purposes are clear: Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. (Deuteronomy 8: 2– 3) To humble us, to test us, to know what is in our hearts . . . such is the sifting power of helplessness. In our daily lives, we may prefer self-reliance. But perhaps utter dependence is the truer friend of our souls.” Alicia Britt Chole

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Have you ever considered meeting Jesus in the midst of your “breathtaking pain?” … your “utter dependence?”
  • Are you perhaps waiting for a healing that you shouldn’t rush–that will not be hurried?
  • Is God inviting you into a decluttering “holy weakness?” Have you followed? Have you found Jesus there?

Abba, unclutter my soul. Use my decrease for increase.

For More: 40 Days of Decrease: A Different Kind of Fast by Alicia Britt Chole

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Thanks for reading and sharing my blog! (Sorry, longer than usual, but too awesome to clip.) – Bill (Psalm 90:14)

Daily Riches: The Renunciation That Is Passivity (Eugene Peterson and Emily Dickinson)

“Sabbath is the time set aside to do nothing so that we can receive everything, to set aside our anxious attempts to make ourselves useful, to set aside our tense restlessness, to set aside our media-saturated boredom. Sabbath is the time to receive silence and let it deepen into gratitude, to receive quiet into which forgotten faces and voices unobtrusively make themselves present, to receive the days of the just completed week and absorb the wonder and miracle still reverberating from each one, to receive our Lord’s amazing grace. ….waiting provides the time and space for others to get in on salvation. Waiting calls a time-out, puts us on the sidelines for a while so that we don’t interfere with essential kingdom-of-God operations that we don’t even know are going on. Not-doing involves a means of detaching my ego, my still immature understanding of the way God works comprehensively but without forcing his way, without coercion. The restraint of passivity allows for the quiet, mostly invisible complexities and intricacies that are characteristic of the Holy Spirit as he does his work in us, in the church and in the world for whom Christ died. ‘Renunciation–the piercing virtue’ is Emily Dickinson’s phrase for it. It couldn’t have been easy for the father to not go out looking for his son the way the shepherd looked for his sheep and the woman looked for her coin.” Eugene Peterson

“The Sabbath was made for man….”
Jesus in Mark 2:27

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Have you tried setting aside time “to do nothing”–with the purpose of receiving “everything” from God? Have you made it a regular practice?
  • We stop, rest, and quiet ourselves in order to open ourselves to receive–from others, from our day, from God–what doesn’t come otherwise. Is the constant motion of your life secretly impoverishing you?
  • Renunciation is hard work. The father didn’t go out to look for his son. Think about that. What is God’s word for you in today’s reading?

Abba, help me renounce my grasping, striving, rushing–my need for noise and company–and help me receive what you are always so graciously giving.

For More:  Tell It Slant by Eugene Peterson

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and God seeks you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. My goal is to regularly share something of unique value with you in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest! Please leave a comment or question. – Bill (Psalm 90:14)

Daily Riches: Training Not Trying (Phillips Brooks, C. S. Lewis, John Ortberg and Dallas Willard)

“We can become like Christ by doing on thing–following him in the overall style of life he chose for himself.” “The way to liberation and rest lies through a decision and a practice.” Dallas Willard

“Someday, in years to come, you’ll be wrestling with the great temptation, or trembling under the great sorrow, of your life. But the real struggle is here, now, in these quiet weeks. Now it is being decided whether, in the day of your supreme sorrow or temptation, you shall miserably fail or gloriously conquer. Character cannot be made except by a steady, long-continued process.” Phillips Brooks

“Any time you make a choice, you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. Taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this thing into either a heavenly creature or a hellish creature. That is, either a creature that is in harmony with God, its fellow creatures, and itself, or else into a creature that is in a state of war and hatred with God, its fellow creatures, and itself. To be the one kind of creature is heaven, joy, peace, knowledge, and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other.” C. S. Lewis

Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things.
They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.
Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim;
I box in such a way, as not beating the air;
but I discipline my body and make it my slave,
so that, after I have preached to others,
I myself will not be disqualified.”
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Is your approach to the spiritual life characterized by “a practice”–a training regimen like that of an athlete? …a studious approach like that of an apprentice?
  • The Lewis quote is hard to hear but also hard to ignore. What’s your reaction?
  • Are you training your body now for success, or just hoping in that future day of testing to win by just trying really hard?

Abba, by practicing may I learn to do “the right thing at the right time in the right way with the right spirit.” (John Ortberg)

For More: Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and he seeks you. Thanks for reading and sharing my blog. I appreciate your interest! – Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”

 

Daily Riches: Entering The Realm of Virgin Territory (Loretta Ross-Gotta)

“What matters in the deeper experience of contemplation is not the doing and accomplishing. What matters is relationship, the being with. We create holy ground and give birth to Christ in our time not by doing but by believing and by loving the mysterious Infinite One who stirs within. This requires trust that something of great and saving importance is growing and kicking its heels in you. The angel summoned Mary, betrothed to Joseph, from the rather safe place of conventional wisdom to a realm where few of the old rules would make much sense. She entered that unknown called ‘virgin territory.’  She was on her own there. No one else could judge for her the validity of her experience. She can measure her reality against Scripture, the teachings of her tradition, her reason and intellect, and the counsel of wise friends.  But finally it is up to her. …God asks us to give away everything of ourselves. The gift of greatest efficacy and power that we can offer God and creation is not our skills, gifts, abilities, and possessions. The wise men had their gold, frankincense, and myrrh, Paul and Peter had their preaching. Mary offered only space, love, belief. What is it that delivers Christ into the world—preaching, art, writing, scholarship, social justice? Those are all gifts well worth sharing. But preachers lose their charisma, scholarship grows pedantic, social justice alone cannot save us. In the end, when all other human gifts have met their inevitable limitation, it is … the bold virgin with a heart in love with God who makes a sanctuary of her life, who delivers Christ who then delivers us. Try it. Leave behind your briefcase and notes and proof texts. Leave behind your honed skills and knowledge. Leave the Christmas decorations up in the attic. Go to someone in need and say, “Here, all I have is Christ.” And find out that that is enough.” Loretta Ross-Gotta

“Mary responded, ‘I am the Lord’s servant.
May everything you have said about me come true.’”
Luke 1:38

Moving From Head to Heart

  • If you gave your “skills, gifts, abilities, and possessions” to God–how could that not be the ultimate gift?
  • Have you considered the “inevitable limitation” of any gifts you could give to God? …to others?
  • How could you practice ministering with an “all I have is Christ” approach this advent season? Would that be “virgin territory” for you?

Abba, help me to believe that Christ is enough.

For more: Letters From the Holy Ground by Loretta Ross-Gotta

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and God seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. I appreciate your interest! Please leave a comment or question. – Bill (Psalm 90:14)

Daily Riches: A Sustainable Inner Self (A. W. Tozer and Teresa of Avila)

“A German philosopher many years ago said something to the effect that the more a man has in his own heart the less he will require from the outside; excessive need for support from without is proof of the bankruptcy of the inner man. If this is true (and I believe it is) then the present inordinate attachment to every form of entertainment is evidence that the inner life of modern man is in serious decline. The average man has no central core of moral assurance, no spring within his own breast, no inner strength to place him above the need for repeated psychological shots to give him the courage to go on living. He has become a parasite on the world, drawing his life from his environment, unable to live a day apart from the stimulation which society affords him.” A.W. Tozer

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“Let nothing, O Lord,
disturb the silence of this night.
In this quiet let me begin
to let go
of the thousand trivial attachments
upon which I have come to depend,
out of which I have built my life,
and upon which I have rested my hopes.
Letting go of what I have come to value
will be painful.
But what greater loss could I know,
what great blindness,
what greater calamity could there be,
than to make much of what is nothing,
to cling to what has no value?
But if I do let go,
I will have you, God,
I will want for nothing.
You alone suffice.”
Teresa of Avila

“How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart?
Cleanse me from these hidden faults.”
Psalm 19:12

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Tozer suggests that the average man’s life is a sad one of missing out. Do you relate?
  • He diagnoses the problem as an “excessive” dependence on what society gives–it’s entertainment, encouragement and stimulation. How dependent are you on those things “to go on living?”
  • Do you have some “inner spring” that works to free you from such dependence?
  • Teresa’s prayer is so honest, right? … my “thousand trivial attachments” … my need to “let go” … my need to “cling” to God. Can you begin to work on praying that same prayer?

Abba, free me from my trivial attachments. Strengthen me to cling to you.

For More: Let Nothing Disturb You: A Journey to the Center of the Soul With Teresa of Avila

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. Thanks for reading and sharing my blog. I appreciate your interest! –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”