Daily Riches: Becoming A New Person In Jesus Christ (Rowan Williams and Augustine)

“… contemplation is very far from being just one kind of thing that Christians do: it is the key to prayer, liturgy, art and ethics, the key to the essence of a renewed humanity that is capable of seeing the world and other subjects in the world with freedom—freedom from self-oriented, acquisitive habits and the distorted understanding that come from them. To put it boldly, contemplation is the only ultimate answer to the unreal and insane world that our financial systems and our advertising culture and our chaotic and unexamined emotions encourage us to inhabit. To learn contemplative prayer is to learn what we need so as to live truthfully and honestly and lovingly. It is a deeply revolutionary matter. …To be converted to the faith does not mean simply acquiring a new set of beliefs, but becoming a new person, a person in communion with God and others through Jesus Christ. Contemplation is an intrinsic element in this transforming process. To learn to look to God without regard to my own instant satisfaction, to learn to scrutinize and to relativise the cravings and fantasies that arise in me—this is to allow God to be God, and thus to allow the prayer of Christ, God’s own relation to God, to come alive in me. Invoking the Holy Spirit is a matter of asking the third person of the Trinity to enter my spirit and bring the clarity I need to see where I am in slavery to cravings and fantasies and to give me patience and stillness as God’s light and love penetrate my inner life. …And as this process unfolds, I become more free—to borrow a phrase of St. Augustine—to ‘love human beings in a human way,’ to love them not for what they may promise me, to love them not as if they were there to provide me with lasting safety and comfort, but as fragile fellow-creatures held in the love of God. I discover … how to see other persons and things for what they are in relation to God, not to me. And it is here that true justice as well as true love has its roots.

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love …”
Ephesians 3:17

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • If you can, please read this again. Can you see why contemplation is so important and powerful?
  • Do you regularly practice contemplation?
  • If not, do you have another practice that promises the same results?

Abba, let me be rooted and held in your love for me.

For More: The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Address…” by Rowan Williams

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Thank you for following and sharing my blog. I really appreciate it! Please leave a question or comment. – Bill

Daily Riches: The Rare Gift of Attention/ A Love Without Strings (Belden Lane, Simone Weil, Alan Jones and Edward Abbey)

“Attention consists of suspending our thought, leaving it detached, empty …ready to receive in its naked truth the object that is to penetrate it.'” Simone Weil

“To love someone is to grant him or her the gift of one’s pure and undivided attention, without preconceived expectations of what the other person needs, what we imagine to be best in the situation, what particular results we want to engineer. This is a love finally purged of the ego’s calculating desires, a love without strings. It contemplates other people with the same wonder it has found in contemplating God. The choice is simple, as Alan Jones contends: ‘We either contemplate or we exploit. We either see things and persons with reverence and awe, and therefore threat them as genuinely other than ourselves; or we appropriate them, and manipulate them for our own purposes.’ Love as distributed attentiveness is the only form that justice can take in a world of people aching for attention. Contemplative prayer must be fulfilled in the loving contemplation of one’s neighbor. …Simone Weil learned this from her experience with oppressed factory workers in Paris, with poor miners and vine-workers in southern France. ‘Those who are unhappy,’ she said, ‘have no need for anything in this world but people capable of giving them their attention. The capacity to give one’s attention to a sufferer is a very rare and difficult thing; it is almost a miracle; it is a miracle.’ Remaining indifferent to every predetermined program for ‘helping the poor’ and, instead, being altogether present to the person before us–this is the desert practice of love as justice. ‘It is the recognition that the sufferer exists, not only as a unit in a collection, or a specimen from the social category labeled ‘unfortunate,’ but as a man, exactly like us.’ [S. Weil]” Belden Lane

“All things excellent, are as difficult as they are rare.” Edward Abbey

“Jesus looked at him and loved him.”
Mark 10:21

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Can you grant someone your “pure and undivided attention?”
  • Can you approach someone who is “other” to you, and “contemplate” them, as you would contemplate God?
  • Can you see an immigrant, a homeless woman, an addict, a convict–not as a “specimen from the social category”, but as a person of value, like you?

Abba, I want to love without strings. I want to grant the miraculous gift of attention to others. Help me!

For More: Waiting for God by Simone Weil

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and God seeks you. I hope you’ll follow and 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: 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: 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: Subterranean Rivers of Grace (Eugene Peterson and Tim Keller)

“… the conditions that so often induce hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth among so many of us are relativized by Jesus’ prayer of thanksgiving. Hidden kingdom energies surge just beneath the surface all around us. Huge subterranean rivers of prayer–faith and obedience and praise, intercession and forgiveness and deliverance, holiness and grace–glow freely underground. And in virtually every nook and cranny on earth, obscure in the shadows, overlooked in the crowds, are the ‘infants.’ These are the ‘babes and infants’ that God has always used as a bulwark to ‘still the enemy and the avenger’ (Ps. 8:2) Jesus does not minimize the ‘conditions.’ He takes them very seriously indeed. He confronts and rebukes. He exposes pretension and weeps over hardened hearts. But he doesn’t despair. He doesn’t second-guess the Father. He doesn’t dilute his holy resolve with something less than holy.” Eugene Peterson

“I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned,
and revealed them to little children.”
Jesus in Matthew 11:25

“The Bible never counsels indifference to the forces of darkness, only resistance, but it supports no illusions that we can defeat them ourselves. Christianity does not agree with the optimistic thinkers who say, ‘We can fix things if we try hard enough.’ Nor does it agree with the pessimists who see only a dystopian future. The message of Christianity is, instead, ‘Things really are this bad, and we can’t heal or save ourselves. Things really are this dark—nevertheless, there is hope.’ The Christmas message is that ‘on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.’ Notice that it doesn’t say from the world a light has sprung, but upon the world a light has dawned. It has come from outside. There is light outside of this world, and Jesus has brought that light to save us; indeed, he is the Light.” Tim Keller

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Terrible “conditions” in our world may make us oblivious that “hidden kingdom energies surge just beneath the surface all around us.” Are you aware of these energies?
  • The opposite mistake minimizes the conditions. Failing to notice, confront or rebuke injustice falls short in another way. For one thing, it fails to love victims the way Jesus did.
  • Can you admit the darkness, confront the injustice, and continue to live with hope because you know God works in our world in innumerable, powerful, hidden ways–and that “light” will prevail in the end?

Abba, deliver me from settling for hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth.

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. Thanks! – Bill

 

 

Daily Riches: Speech Shaped by Silence (Ruth Haley Barton, Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

“In the multitude of words there is much transgression,’ the Scriptures say. This is a truth that could drive us ministry folks to despair given the incessant flow of words from our mouths, pens, and computers. Those of us who deal in words are at great risk of misusing words and even sinning with our words due to the sheer volume of them! I don’t know about you but sometimes I can literally feel it—deep in my bones—that if I do not shut my mouth for a while I will get myself in trouble because my words will be completely disconnected from the reality of God in my own life. Silence is the only cure for this desperate situation. ‘Right speech comes out of silence ….’ wrote Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In silence our speech patterns are refined because silence fosters a self-awareness that enables us to choose more truly the words that we say. Rather than speech that issues from subconscious needs to impress, to put others in their place, to compete, to control, to manipulate, and put a good spin on things, we are able to notice our inner dynamics and make choices that are more grounded in love, trust, and God-given wisdom. …The Psalmist says, ‘When you are disturbed, do not sin; ponder it on your bed and be silent. Offer right sacrifices (in other words, stay faithful to your spiritual practices) and put your trust in the Lord.’ There are times when the most heroic thing a leader can do is to remain in that private place with God for as long as it takes to keep from sinning. In this place we consciously trust ourselves to God rather than everything else we could be doing in the moment. …The more I am called upon to use words, the more distressing things are, the more active leadership that is required of me, the more silence I need.” Ruth Haley Barton

“May the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”
Psalm 19:4

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Is the practice of silence a meaningful part of your life?
  • Do your words increasingly flow from a previous silence that has shaped them?
  • As you become more active, are you more inclined to sequester yourself more in silence?

Abba, keep a guard over my lips.

For More: Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton

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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. I appreciate your interest! Please feel free to leave a comment or question. – Bill (Psalm 90:14)

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

 

Daily Riches: A Wise Alternation of Activity and Rest (Thomas Merton, Ajith Fernando, Chris Heuertz, Edmund Hamilton Sears)

“Oh rest beside the weary road, and hear the angels sing.” Edmund Hamilton Sears

“The fact that our being necessarily demands to be expressed in action should not lead us to believe that as soon as we stop acting we cease to exist. We do not live merely in order to ‘do something’–no matter what. Activity is just one of the normal expressions of life, and the life it expresses is all the more perfect when it sustains itself with an ordered economy of action. This order demands a wise alternation of activity and rest. We do not live more fully merely by doing more, seeing more, tasting more, and experiencing more than we ever have before. On the contrary, some of us need to discover that we will not begin to live more fully until we have the courage to do and see and taste and experience much less than usual.” Thomas Merton

“People like Mother Teresa have shown us that anyone who wants to do crisis ministry long term must have a healthy devotional life. God has built into our systems a rhythm of life which we must not violate: output and input; work and rest; service and worship; community activity, family activity and solitude.” Ajith Fernando

“My rhythms have become clearer over the years. I know I need: Sabbath for Rest. Retreats for Reflection. Vacations for Recreation. Sabbaticals for Renewal. And if I don’t make rhythms for rest, reflection, recreation and renewal then all of these opportunities will inevitably be wasted on recovery.” Chris Heuertz

“Cease striving and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
Psalm 46:10

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Is your life characterized by “rhythms for rest, reflection, recreation and renewal?”
  • Have you thought about the difference between working hard and “striving?”
  • Can you make these rhythms more regular in your life by using a calendar? …an alarm on your phone? …by writing out a “rule of life” for yourself where you’ve spelled out your deepest desires and commitments?
  • Do you have a friend that can help, or a community with whom you can learn and practice such rhythms?

Abba, break me of my conviction that life consists in doing, seeing and tasting more–and more. Teach me to relax and trust that what you want will be done among the nations–that your desire will be accomplished in the earth. God of love, be exalted in me.

For More: No Man Is An Island by Thomas Merton

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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. I appreciate your interest! Please leave a comment or question. – Bill

 

 

Daily Riches: Spirituality as Balance (Lynn Baab)

“Esther de Waal, in her book Living with Contradiction: An Introduction to Benedictine Spirituality, uses the language of paradox and contradiction to describe Benedict’s genius as he interprets the Gospel of Jesus Christ into everyday life. We are called to find God in this place and to seek the peace and discipline of stability, yet we are also called to grow and change and be willing to move. We are called to welcome strangers and accept them for who they are, yet we are not called to change our own priorities as we welcome them. Many, including de Waal, use the word ‘balance’ to describe the life patterns laid out by Benedict. We are called to prayer, work, study, and rest in fairly equal proportions. Each is important, but to overemphasize any one of them would be unhealthy. Benedict invites us to embrace the balance between community, where we live and work, and time alone for prayer and reflection. Benedict encourages us to engage in self-reflection without self-absorption and to strive for sincere repentance without dwelling excessively on our shortcomings. Benedict calls us to a radical obedience that sees all of life as a response to God’s voice and God’s initiative, yet we are not encouraged to strain for that kind of obedience. In fact, Benedict encourages us to accept that we will fail as often as we succeed. We are called to believe that we have enough today, in this moment, while we also acknowledge that we are looking to heaven for our ultimate fulfillment. The grace of God overflows in every moment, in every place, and in every human life, and Benedict’s balance is firmly rooted in God’s character and God’s presence with us.” Lynne Baab

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Baab mentions many areas. Where do you still need to work on balance?
  • How are you doing in terms of a balanced life when it comes to “prayer, work, study, and rest?” What does your answer say about you?
  • Do you practice “self-reflection?” Can you do that without “self-absorption?”
  • Can you seek to practice “radical obedience” but not “strive”, even for that? What would that mean?

Abba, help me as I recalibrate daily, in my balancing act with you and my world.

For More: Living with Contradiction: An Introduction to Benedictine Spirituality by Esther de Waal

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he 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)

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

Daily Riches: Impending Cosmic Disaster (Thomas Merton and Boris Pasternak)

“I know from my own experience that in the last twenty years, the world has moved a very long way towards conformism and passivity. So long a way that the distance is, to me, both frightening and disconcerting. I have been all the more sensitive to it because I have spent this time in the isolation of a contemplative monastery, and have only recently come back into contact … with the America which I used to know as a rather articulate, critical and vociferously independent place. It is certainly not so any more. Not that the people do not complain and criticize, but their complaints and criticisms, indeed their most serious concerns, seem to be involved in trivialities and illusions–against a horrifying background of impending cosmic disaster. It seems to be that for all our pride in our freedom and individuality we have complete renounced thinking for ourselves. What passes for ‘thinking’ is mass-produced, passively accepted, or not even accepted. We simply submit to the process of being informed, without anything actually registering on our mind at all. …If we stop to think about what [Pasternak’s Dr. Zhivago] says, we will realize that if Pasternak is ever fully studied, he is just as likely to be regarded as a dangerous writer in the West as he is in the East. He is saying that political and social structures as we understand them are things of the past, and that the crisis through which we are now passing is nothing but the full and inescapable manifestation of their falsity. For twenty centuries we have called ourselves Christians, without even beginning to understand one tenth of the Gospel. We have been taking Caesar for God and God for Caesar. Now that ‘charity is growing cold’ and we stand facing the smoky dawn of an apocalyptic era, Pasternak reminds us that there is only one source of truth, but that it is not sufficient to know the source is there—we must go and drink from it, as he has done.” Thomas Merton (1959)
.
“Sin will be rampant everywhere,
and the love of many will grow cold.”
Jesus in Matthew 24:12
.

Moving From Head to Heart

  • People on both the political “left” and “right” believe they are “thinking for themselves”–and consider others misguided–as passively repeating mere slogans. Do you have a practice that forces you to critique your assumptions?
  • If politics as we know it is a “thing of the past”, and we’re facing “an apocalyptic era”, where do we turn?
  • One thing surely–we must turn to “love”–but not merely as a concept or belief, but as what we “drink”–moving beyond that “one tenth of the gospel.” What might this mean for you?

Lord, help!

For More: Disputed Questions by Thomas Merton

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Thanks for reading! – Bill

Daily Riches: Drowning Out Cries of the Oppressed with the Noise of Hymns (Abraham Heschel)

“In [ancient] Israel … sacrifice is an essential act of worship. It is the experience of giving oneself vicariously to God and of being received by Him. And yet, the pre-exilic prophets uttered violent attacks on sacrifices (Amos 5:21-27; Hos. 6:6; Isa. 1:11-17; Mic. 6:6-8; Jer. 6:20; 7:21-23; Isa. 61:1-2; Pss. 40:7; 50:12-13). Samuel insisted: ‘Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams’ (1 Sam. 15:22). However, while Samuel stressed the primacy of obedience over sacrifice, Amos and the prophets who followed him not only stressed the primacy of morality over sacrifice, but even proclaimed that the worth of worship, far from being absolute, is contingent upon moral living, and that when immorality prevails, worship is detestable. Questioning man’s right to worship through offerings and songs, they maintained that the primary way of serving God is through love, justice and righteousness. …Of course, the prophets did not condemn the practice of sacrifice in itself; otherwise, we should have to conclude that Isaiah intended to discourage the practice of prayer (Isa. 1:14-15). They did, however, claim that deeds of injustice vitiate both sacrifice and prayer. Men may not drown the cries of the oppressed with the noise of hymns, nor buy off the Lord with increased offerings. The prophets disparaged the cult when it became a substitute for righteousness.” Abraham Heschel – The Prophets

“I hate all your show and pretense—
    the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies.
I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings.
    I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings.
Away with your noisy hymns of praise!
    I will not listen to the music of your harps.
Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice,
    an endless river of righteous living.” Amos 5:21-27

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Do you think of the “worth of your worship” as being “contingent upon [your] moral living?” …as an individual? …as a congregation?
  • Do you live as though “the primary way of serving God is through love, justice and righteousness?” If not, what is your primary “way?”
  • Is your congregation perhaps satisfied with and distracted by “the noise of hymns”, and oblivious to the “cries of the oppressed?” …are you?

Daily may we hearken to you, O Yahweh.

For More: The Prophets by Abraham Heschel

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. My goal is to 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)

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

Daily Riches: Attention For the Sake of Love (Alan Jones, Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen)

“In the Divine Comedy, Beatrice uncompromisingly ordered Dante to look and to look well. I too need someone who will relentlessly draw my attention to those parts of my life that remain hidden even from myself, and yet which hold me in their power. The psychoanalyst does this for some people; the holy man or woman for others. …This is how one analyst describes his work:
…all I could do was every now and then direct the patient’s attention to what she was doing in her attempts to keep that stuff from spewing out–something she preferred not to watch. …The right way is just to point out to the patient how he keeps himself from thinking certain things, so that he becomes self-conscious and the evasion doesn’t work so automatically. That’s all. That’s the analyst’s scalpel. He can’t open up his patient’s mind and start tinkering. The only thing he can do is tell the patient, ‘Look there,’ and most of the time the patient doesn’t look. But sometimes he does, and then his automatic behavior becomes less automatic.’
Most of us, however find the command ‘Look!’ hard to obey. This way of naked attention for the sake of love seems impossible to maintain. We prefer to love others by interfering with them. We enjoy tinkering with others in the name of love. We enjoy, above all, being demonstrably useful. All in all, we need rescuing.” Alan Jones
 .
“He who attempts to act and do things for others or for the world without deepening his own self-understanding, freedom, integrity, and capacity to love, will not have anything to give to others. He will communicate to them nothing but the contagion of his own obsessions, his aggressiveness, his ego-centered ambition, his delusions about ends and means.” Thomas Merton
.
“Here lies the center of Merton’s critique of our activism …Activism ultimately places our own unmet longings at the center of our efforts. It therefore does not help others in a wholesome way.” Henri Nouwen

“The truth will set you free.”
John 8:32

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Have you adopted a practice (e.g., contemplation, therapy) that allows for God to reveal those parts of your life to you that remain hidden even from you?
  • Are you aware of how ambition and unmet longings sabotage your attempts at loving well?
  • Who helps you to “look well?” …to become aware of your unconscious life?

Abba, help me understand what’s happening beneath the surface of my life.

For More: Soul Making by Alan Jones

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

Daily Riches: A Life Uncluttered By Ambition (Wayne Simsic, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, St. Francis)

“Anyone who thinks that his time is too valuable to spend keeping quiet will eventually have no time for God and his brother, but only for himself and for his own follies.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Responding to God’s presence like a child who trusted completely in a loving Parent, his relationship with God was spontaneous, uncluttered by ambition and calculation. Rather than promote his own agenda or hide behind fear, anxiousness, and other barriers to trust, [Saint] Francis humbly accepted the mystery of his life and relied on the guidance of the Spirit.” Wayne Simsic

“At some point when we’ve made ourselves available for service to God–for some kind of ministry or other–the question will arise, ‘Is this the best use of my time?’ It’s at the same time an unsurprising and provocative query. And just look at what underlies that question: ego, drivenness, a sense of hurry–striving. But in truth, as Francis demonstrated, it’s not necessary to keep busy. It’s necessary to ‘trust completely.’ It’s not necessary to accomplish anything. It’s necessary to ‘humbly accept the mystery of my life.’ It’s not necessary to be productive. It’s necessary to ‘rely on the guidance of the Spirit.’ My time is not so valuable. I’m not so necessary as I think. Any equation will be essentially unchanged by my absence. The way of St. Francis, ‘spontaneous, uncluttered by ambition and calculation’ rebukes my anxious way–my craving for an agenda, my insistence on significance. And Bonhoeffer’s insight is critical: ‘keeping quiet’–seemingly doing nothing, accomplishing nothing, producing nothing, is not only essential, but if ignored leads only to fruitlessness and folly. The ego always lurks nearby, insidious, subtly undoing the best intentions. Both St. Francis and Bonhoeffer insisted upon, and themselves lived, a contemplative life of faith–a life of ‘keeping quiet’ and ‘making time for God.’ Only such lives create a spaciousness where God can meet us in our folly, take us again into the clutch of his parental love, and purify us–making us useful after all.” William Britton

“I do not even judge myself.”
1 Corinthians 4:3
 .
Moving From the Head to the Heart
  • How often are you aware of unconscious forces that affect your behavior? (e.g., ambition, drivenness, ego)
  • Does your behavior show that you grant too much importance to being “productive?” (Are you ever hurrying, obsessed with “calculation?”)
  • How can you practice humbly accepting “the mystery of this life” and relying on the “guidance of the Spirit?” How might that redefine “success?”

Abba, in the midst of my folly, meet me in your love, and purify me.

For More: The Wisdom of St. Francis by Wayne Simsic

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Thanks for reading and sharing my blog! Please pray for God’s blessing on this ministry. – Bill

Daily Riches: The “Benedictine Century” (Joan Chittister)

“The Rule of Benedict was a spiritual document written for males raised in Imperial Rome. But to Roman men in the patriarchal culture who were trained that domination and status and power were their birthright and their purpose in life, the Rule insisted on new ideals: humility, listening, community, equality, and service. …Benedictine spirituality, then, is first and foremost a practical way to live the good news of the gospel today. This society is a complex, consumer society; we can be simple. We can reverence creation. We can refuse to have one thing more than we need. …We can refuse to keep anything we are not using. We can give one thing away for every one thing we receive. …This society exploits. It breaks the back of sugar workers; it destroys farm workers; it wipes out the working person; it discards the middle-aged and forgets the elderly. We can minister to the world by calling for justice. This society dominates and is selfish and has it’s own goals as the inner force of its life. We can be community. We can say by our lives that there are times when it is important for us to step back in life so that others can gain. This society depends on power. We can practice the power of the powerless who show us all how little it really takes to live, how rich life is without riches, how strong are those who cannot be owned…. We can be the voice of those who are not heard and the hands of those who have no bread and the family of those who are alone and the strength of those who are weak. We can be the sign of human community. Finally, this society is anxious and angry and noisy. We can be contemplative. In the midst of chaos, if the Scripture is in our hearts, if we are faithful to lectio, if we build the Jesus-life in our own souls, we can see God where God is. Everywhere. Those are the elements of Benedictine vision that saved the Western world over the centuries again and again and again. Then they can save us from ourselves once more.” Joan Chittister

“even more blessed
are all who hear the word of God
and put it into practice.”
Jesus in Luke 11:28

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Was God speaking to you at some point in this reading?
  • Do you long to be part of such a community of faith?
  • Have you adopted a “rule of life” which guides your practice of these ideals of Jesus?

Abba, change me as I rediscover and embrace these ancient ideals.

For More: Wisdom Distilled From the Daily by John Chittister

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Thanks for reading and sharing this blog! – Bill

Daily Riches: The Sacred Rhythm – Retreat and Advance (James Krueger)

“The temptation to separate contemplation and activity has hounded Christianity from the beginning, and from the beginning it has been rejected. When the disciples wanted to take up arms, Jesus pointed them to the cross, to God’s way of love and forbearance, so that they might remove the plank from their own eye before poking another’s eyes out. When the disciples wanted to hide behind locked doors, to wall themselves off from the clamoring world, Jesus penetrated through and sent them out into the world’s danger.  …Without first learning to retreat, one’s advancing becomes chaotic, confused, and contentious. Without knowing how to advance, one’s spiritual life becomes flimsy, sentimental, and tiresome. In contemplation, there must be decisive, prophetic action; in action, there must be openness, recollection, and prayer. Contemplative practice is not the domain of the lazy priest or the indolent monk. Living a contemplative life certainly means guarding against undue stresses and frenetic activity, but a life that is contemplative is not just a life lived at ease. Though relaxation, poise, and the quelling of free-floating anxiety can be by-products of a deep contemplative practice, these are not its goals. On the contrary, the contemplative is a soldier and her practice is preparation for, and the certainty of, a face-to-face confrontation with evil. The contemplative runs from the distractions of the world only to expose the clamor of evil and sin in the quiet of stillness and the light of an unwavering gaze—to confront there the enemy face-to-face as if in a mirror. In other words, she meets the enemy in her own heart. Realizing that I and my foe are one sheds a wholly different light on the command to forgive one’s enemies and pray for one’s persecutors, even as it brings to its logical conclusion the need to love one’s neighbor as oneself. If we can face the enemy with forbearance in the crucible of contemplative practice in a safe place of prayer, we will learn to face him anywhere. …Self-gifting love is the true goal of contemplative practice, not self-actualization….” James Krueger

“Before daybreak the next morning,
Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray.”
Mark 1:35
.
Moving From the Head to the Heart
  • Unfortunately, most people naturally gravitate towards either activism without contemplation or the opposite. How about you?
  • Do you reject unloving activism as problematic–necessarily futile and transgressive?
  • Do you renounce self-centered contemplation as clueless–controverting God’s ultimate purpose?

Abba, help me learn this sacred rhythm.

For More: “This Restless Sea….” by James Krueger

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and he seeks you. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

Daily Riches: Where God Goes … And Where God May Be Found (Henri Nouwen, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Karl Barth and Eugene Peterson)

“But it is not said of Jesus that he reached down from on high to pull us up from slavery, but that he became a slave with us. God’s compassion is a compassion that reveals itself in servanthood. Jesus became subject to the same powers and influences that dominate us, and suffered our fears, uncertainties and anxieties with us. …He gave up a privileged position, a position of majesty and power, and assumed fully and without reservation a condition of total dependency. Paul’s hymn of Christ does not ask us to look upward, away from our condition, but to look in our midst and discover God there. …In the Gospel stories of Jesus’ healings, we sense how close God wants to be with those who suffer. But now we see the price God is willing to pay for this intimacy. It is the price of ultimate servanthood, the price of becoming a slave, completely dependent on strange, cruel, alien forces. …Jesus moves, as Karl Barth says, from ‘the heights to the depth, from victory to defeat, from riches to poverty, from triumph to suffering, from life to death.’ Jesus’ whole life and mission involved accepting powerlessness and revealing in this powerlessness the limitlessness of God’s love. Here we see what compassion means. It is not a bending toward the underprivileged from a privileged position; it is not a reaching out from on high to those who are less fortunate below; it is not a gesture of sympathy or pity for those who fail to make it in the upward pull. On the contrary, compassion means going directly to those people and places where suffering is most acute and building a home there.” Henri Nouwen

“God had looked upon the poor of the world and had himself come to help. Now he was there, not as the Almighty One, but in the seclusion of humanity. Wherever there are sinners, the weak, the sorrowful, the poor in the world, that is where God goes. Here he lets himself be found by everyone.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.”
John 1:14 (Eugene Peterson)

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Consider this. Jesus made himself “completely dependent on strange, cruel, alien forces” in order to serve you.
  • Does your compassion (like that of Jesus) transcend sympathy and pity and involve “servanthood?”
  • Do you think it’s realistic to talk of going “directly to those people and places where suffering is most acute and building a home there?” (In many ways Nouwen’s life shows what he must have had in mind.)

Abba, may you be found by everyone.

For More: Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life by Henri Nouwen

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Thanks so much for reading and sharing this blog! – Bill