Daily Riches: God Has the Last Laugh (Donald McCullough, William Bausch)

“If God can succumb to the limitation–death–and transform it . . . into the world’s salvation . . . then we can move beyond optimism into an assured hope that our own death will become a doorway into life, a translation into an order of being that we cannot now comprehend. This being the case, we have good reason to believe that all the other limitations, while difficult and often painful, will also become, in the hands of God, instruments of healing and growth that will finally make possible the fulfillment of joy. God has the last laugh, in other words. There is an ancient Russian Orthodox tradition that devotes the day after Easter to sitting around a table and telling jokes. Why? According to William J. Bausch,

They were imitating that cosmic joke that God pulled on Satan in the resurrection. Satan thought he had won, and was smug in his victory, smiling to himself, having had the last word. So he thought. Then God raised Jesus from the dead, and life and salvation become the last words. And the whole world laughed at the devil’s discomfort. This attitude passed into the medieval concept of hilaritas, which did not mean mindless giggling, but that even at the moment of disaster one may wink because he or she knows there is a God.

The limitations of life, by themselves, are no joke. There is nothing funny about bodies wearing out, relationships coming to grief, achievements falling short, money running out, time slipping away, or any of the others. But when we view these things in the light of Easter, we must wink, if not laugh. We know that the story is not yet finished; if it now seems like a tragedy, it will, by an astonishing turn of events, become a comedy.” Donald McCullough

“May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth,
as it is in heaven.”
Matthew 6:10 NLT

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • It’s hard to face the tragedy in our world. Can you periodically “go there?”
  • Are you praying daily for the soon coming of God’s kingdom? If not, why not?
  • Can you move “beyond optimism?” Can you laugh no matter how dark the times?

Jesus, may you find me neither in denial, numb or overwhelmed by the tragedy everywhere in my world. In our darkness shine your light.

For More: The Consolations of Imperfection by Donald McCullough

_______________________________________________

 

Daily Riches: Through Many Tribulations . . . (Scott Peck, Peter Scazzero, and Phillips Brooks)

“Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men.” Phillips Brooks
 .
“Life is difficult. This is a great truth . . . because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult–once we truly understand and accept it–then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters. Most do not fully see this truth, that life is difficult. Instead they moan more or less incessantly, noisily or subtly, about the enormity of their problems, their burdens, and their difficulties as if life were generally easy, as if life should be easy. They voice their belief, noisily or subtly, that their difficulties represent a unique kind of affliction that should not be . . . . I know about this moaning because I have done my share. . . . The process of confronting and solving problems is a painful one. Problems, depending upon their nature, evoke in us frustration of grief or sadness or loneliness or guilt or regret or anger or fear or anxiety or anguish or despair. These are uncomfortable feelings, often very uncomfortable, often as painful as any kind of physical pain, sometimes equaling the very worst kind of physical pain. Indeed, it is because of the pain that events or conflicts engender in us all that we can call them problems. . . . It is only because of problems that we grow mentally and spiritually. . . . It is through the pain of confronting and resolving that we learn. . . . Wise people learn not to dread but actually to welcome problems and actually to welcome the pain of problems.” Scott Peck
 .
“God sometimes wounds us in our journey’s with him in order to move us out of an unhealthy, ‘tip of the iceberg’ spirituality to one that truly transforms us from the inside out. When these wounds come, we can deny them, cover them, get angry with God, blame others, or like Jacob we can cling desperately to God.” Peter Scazzero
 .
“God disciplines us for our good,
in order that we may share in his holiness.”
Hebrews 12:10b NIV

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Are you waiting for life (or the “spiritual life”) to be easy/painless?
  • What’s wrong with hoping for easy/painless?
  • Is desperately clinging to God the starting point of your coping strategy?
  • What else would be part of your strategy?

Abba, thank you for forcing me to go deeper–however painful.

For more: The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck

__________

Thanks for reading, following and sharing these Daily Riches. Look for my upcoming book–Wisdom From the Margins: Daily Readings for more meditations like this.

Daily Riches: The Pain of Loneliness (Elizabeth Elliot)

“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” C. S. Lewis
.
I remember waking up very early one morning in a tiny reed-and leaf shelter on the banks of the Curaray River [in Ecuador]. My three-year-old and I had spent the night there with some Indians on our way home to a clearing about a day’s journey beyond. Rain was sweeping over the river and the sandy beach in great waving sheets, and with the rain a huge loneliness seemed about to drown me. I felt that I could not face a day like that in a dugout canoe, nor did I have the least desire to get back to that clearing. Civilization was what I wanted that moment, not adventure, but I had no choice. God met me there that morning, and strengthened me with an It is written, reminding me of His promises, I will never leave you nor forsake you. I am with you always. (Matthew 4:8) . . . The pain of loneliness is one way in which [God] wants to get our attention. We may be earnestly desiring to be obedient and holy. But we may be missing the fact that it is here, where we happen to be at this moment and not in another place or another time, that we may learn to love Him–here where it seems He is not at work, where His will seems obscure or frightening, where He is not doing what we expected Him to do, where He is most absent. Here and nowhere else is the appointed place. If faith does not go to work here, it will not go to work at all.” Elizabeth Elliot
.

“Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going,
so how can we know the way?'”
John 14:5 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Have you considered that your loneliness, in all its pain, could be “Jesus calling?”
  • God often works in ways we don’t see, understand, or even appreciate. How do you handle the confusion, frustration, fear, anger or disillusionment that comes with that?
  • Can you express your questions or complaints to God? Can your faith still “go to work?”

Abba, I don’t want to bury my complaints–or let them bury me. Help my unbelief.

For more: “God Shouts to Us in Our Pain” by Daniel Ritchie

__________

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

_________________________________________________

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: 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

_________________________________________________

Thanks for following my blog! – Bill

Daily Riches: That Blessing That Isn’t (Susan Edmiston and Leonard Scheff)

“A landlord came to the Zen master in a state of distress. One of his stable hands had left the door to the barn open and his prize stallion had escaped. ‘What a disaster!’ the man cried. The master replied only, ‘I don’t know.’ The landlord left in disgust.

A few days later, the stallion returned to the barn followed by three wild mares. The landlord returned to the master and said, ‘It wasn’t a disaster. It was a blessing.’ The master replied, ‘I don’t know.’ The landlord left, doubting the wisdom of the master.

When the landlord’s son was breaking the mares, he was thrown and broke his leg. The landlord returned to the master and told him of the event and said the master was right that it was not a blessing. The master replied, ‘I don’t know.’

When the soldiers of the emperor came to recruit young men for an upcoming battle, they left the son behind because of his broken leg. The son said, ‘Father, what a blessing my broken leg is.’ The father said, ‘I don’t know.’”

Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.'” James 4:13-15

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Do you feel able to differentiate a “disaster” from a “blessing?” Is that even possible?
  • Christians often go around saying this or that thing was a real “blessing.” What does that say about them/us?
  • The Buddhist premise behind this story is that we try to attribute meaning where there is no inherent meaning in our world, and that in doing so we no longer see things as they are–but only as we’ve been conditioned to see them. What would be different for Christians? How could your “conditioning” be misleading you when it comes to “blessing?”

Abba, I may not understand what happens in my life or my world, or why, but I can look to you and submit to you to shape me in every circumstance. May it be.

For More: The Cow in the Parking Lot: A Zen Approach to Overcoming Anger by Susan Edmiston and Leonard Scheff

_________________________________________________

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! Please leave a comment/question. – Bill

Daily Riches: Listen to Your Insecurity (Alicia Britt Chole, Jeremy Taylor, Gerald May)

“[ A] religion without mystery must be a religion without God.” Jeremy Taylor

“Uncertainty is quite revealing. The unknown triggers different reactions in different hearts and exposes our souls’ defaults. Ambiguity reveals where we instinctively go to feel the illusion of security again. In response to a yet-unnamed but imminent storm, some hide, some run, some live in denial, some escape into fictional worlds, some feast, and some stake out their territory. The latter we see in John and James’s response to Jesus’ continued cross-talk. [Mark 10:32-40] All the uncertainty triggered something deep within the brothers. As they wrestled with the seemingly mixed messages of Jesus as Messiah and Jesus crucified, they reasoned it was time to take control. …To change our defaults we must first address our theology of uncertainty. And to address our theology of uncertainty, we must first befriend mystery. …Mystery is a given for relationship between the Infinite and the finite. As we follow Jesus into uncertainty, we are free, in the words of Gerald G. May, to ‘join the dance of life in fullness without having a clue about what the steps are.’ …Today, pay attention to avoidance mechanisms that surface when you face the unknown, unknowable, uncomfortable, or unavoidable. Do you eat more? Sleep more? Domineer more? Disappear more? Why? Ask God’s Holy Spirit to sensitize you today to the existence of avoidance defaults in your life. Prayerfully consider what beliefs might underlie any avoidance that emerges when you are facing uncertainty. Return to John the Baptist’s words, ‘He must increase, but I must decrease’ (John 3:30 NASB), and consider what relevance John’s wisdom might have as a guide through the unknown.” Alicia Britt Chole

“Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here.
If you wish, I will put up three shelters—
one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’”
Matthew 17:4

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • How do you tend to respond to uncertainty? Do you somehow try to banish it? …to take control? …to otherwise distract yourself?
  • Do you crave certainty when it comes to your beliefs, your relationships? What does your answer reveal about you?
  • Imagine how life with Jesus forced his disciples to learn to “befriend mystery.” Is something like that happening with you?

Abba, make we aware of when I’m simply attempting to avoid uncertainty, and teach me to befriend mystery.

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

_________________________________________________

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 (Psalm 90:14)

 

Daily Riches: Silence Shall Be My Answer (Oswald Chambers, John Keats and and Thomas Merton)

“When God gets us alone through suffering, heartbreak, temptation, disappointment, sickness, or by thwarted desires, a broken friendship, or a new friendship–when He gets us absolutely alone, and we are totally speechless, unable to ask even one question, then He begins to teach us. …Jesus cannot teach us anything until we quiet all our intellectual questions and get alone with Him.” Oswald Chambers

“Negative capability … is being capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.” John Keats [In this regard] “I am reminded of a Zadie Smith quote on Shakespeare in her essay Speaking in Tongues, in which she praises Shakespeare for “understanding what fierce, singular certainty creates and what it destroys.” J. M. Coetzee

“Questions arrive, assume their actuality, and also disappear. In this hour I shall cease to ask them and silence shall be my answer.” Thomas Merton

“Surely I have stilled and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child with his mother,
Like a weaned child is my soul within me.”
Psalm 131:2

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Have you come to the place where (at least sometimes, in some measure) you can be “alone with God?”
  • Are you “capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries [and] doubts?” …refusing to reach for the security of dualistic or binary thinking? …for the “security” of “fact and reason?”
  • How does certainty help you–what does it create for you? How does certainty hurt you–what does it destroy for you?

Abba, silence shall be my answer.

For More:  Entering the Silence by Thomas Merton

_________________________________________________

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! – Bill (Psalm 90:14)

Daily Riches: Music–The Best Therapy (William Cowper, Teresa of Avila, William and Randy Peterson)

“William Cowper, whose poems appear in most collections of great English literature, was beset with emotional problems throughout his life. His mother died when he was six, at school he was teased and ridiculed, and his father prevented him from marrying the girl he loved. Forced to study law, he panicked when he learned he would have his bar exam before the House of Lords–and tried to commit suicide. After a year in an insane asylum, he was released into the care of a Christian couple. It seemed that hymnwriting was the best therapy Cowper could get. But mental illness continued to plague the poet, and he frequently lapsed into deep depression. You can almost see his self-portrait [below] in the ‘fearful saints’ who need to take ‘fresh courage’ in the future blessings of God. Intellectually he knew the truth of these lines, but emotionally he was still trying to grasp it.” William and Randy Peterson

“God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

“Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

“Judge not the Lord by feeble sense.
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

“His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

“Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own Interpreter,
And He will make it plain.”

William Cowper

“Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away. God never changes.
Patience obtains all things. Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.”
— St. Teresa of Avila, from her bookmark

“Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
for my hope is in him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will not be shaken.”
Psalm 62:5-6

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Both Cowper and Teresa are “talking to themselves”–like the psalmist. Do you talk to yourself? What do you say?
  • “Intellectually [Cowper] knew the truth of these lines, but emotionally he was still trying to grasp it.” Isn’t that often our experience as well? And what would you say was the truth of those lines?
  • The story refuses a typical happy ending. Cowper still suffered. He still struggled. Is there space in your view of the life of faith for that? …for people like that? …for yourself, when you’re like that?

Abba, thank you for the therapy of music.

For More: The One Year Book of Hymns, edited by Brown and Norton

_________________________________________________

Thanks for reading/sharing my blog! – 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

________________________

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: The Church of the Future (Joseph Ratzinger)

“The church will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes … she will lose many of her social privileges. …As a small society, [the Church] will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members…. It will be hard-going for the Church, for the process of crystallization and clarification will cost her much valuable energy. It will make her poor and cause her to become the Church of the meek…. But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church. Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. If they have completely lost sight of God, they will feel the whole horror of their poverty. Then they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret. And so it seems certain to me that the Church is facing very hard times. The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on terrific upheavals. But I am equally certain about what will remain at the end: not the Church of the political cult, which is dead already, but the Church of faith. She may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that she was until recently; but she will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man’s home, where he will find life and hope beyond death.” Joseph Ratzinger (These words are from 1969.)

“At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him.
Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, ‘Are you also going to leave?’”
John 6:66,67

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • If the church shrinks through atrophy and persecution, so that only those who are truly committed to Christ remain, will you still be there?
  • Would you still be a Christian if it didn’t come with social privileges and power? …if it meant being part of  something “weak”–”a little flock of believers?”
  • Think of your church. Does it need to become “poor” before it can rich enough to be seen as “man’s home?”

For more: Faith and the Future by Joseph Ratzinger

________________________

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: When the Darkness Descends (Barbara Brown Taylor and Gerald May)

“John’s answer [John of the Cross] is not simple, but in the simplest possible terms, he says that the dark night is God’s best gift to you, intended for your liberation. It is about freeing you from your ideas about God, your fears about God, your attachment to all the benefits you have been promised for believing in God, your devotion to the spiritual practices that are supposed to make you feel closer to God, your dedication to doing and believing all the right things about God, your positive and negative evaluations of yourself as a believer in God, your tactics for manipulating God, and your sure cures for doubting God. All of these are substitutes for God, John says. They all get in God’s way. The late Gerald May, who wrote his own book about John, called them addictions. In many cases, he said, we should give thanks for them, because it is our addiction to some God substitute or another that finally brings us to our knees, by helping us to realize how far we have strayed from our heart’s true desire.  …Those who have come through dark nights of their own, not just once but over and over again, often cannot find the words to say why they would not trade those nights for anything. ‘Yes, they were nights of great loss. Yes, the soul suffered from fearful subtraction. Yes, a great emptiness opened up where I had stored all my spiritual treasures, and yet.’ And yet what? ‘And yet what remained when everything else was gone was more real than anything I could have imagined. I was no longer apart from what I sought; I was part of it, or in it. I’m sorry I can’t say it any better than that, There was no place else I wanted to be.’” Barbara Brown Taylor

“Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God
shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator
in doing what is right.”
1 Peter 4:19

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Do you see pain, loss and confusion as experiences God uses to make you more mature, loving, wise?
  • Is it possible that in your life, your family, your nation–God is taking away idols, false assumptions, the sense of control–so that some profound “emptiness” can open up for you and others?
  • The Biblical idea that one must go down to go up (downward mobility) is commonplace. As you read these words, do you feel like you’re “going down” (perhaps “for the count”)? Can you trust God in that now, even though you’re hurting and confused?

Abba, meet me in my pain. Shape me. Better me.

For more: Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor

________________________

Thanks for reading/sharing my blog! – Bill

Daily Riches: When God Seems Absent (Philip Yancey)

Job teaches …that we need faith at the precise moment when it seems impossible. When tragedy strikes, we too will be trapped in a limited point of view. Like Job, we will be tempted to blame God and see him as the enemy. Job asked God poignantly, ‘Does it please you to oppress me, to spurn the work of your hands?’ (10:3). The view behind the curtain in chapters 1—2 reveals that Job was being exalted, not spurned. God was letting his own reputation ride on the response of a single human being. At the time when Job felt most abandoned, at that very time God was giving him personal, almost microscopic scrutiny. God seemed absent; in one sense God had never been more present. I hesitate to write this because it is a hard truth, one I do not want to acknowledge: Job convinces me that God cares more about our faith than our pleasure. That statement does not fit with the cloying, teddy-bear image of God often presented by Christians. I may not arrive at such a conclusion if Job stood alone, but think back to the trials some of God’s favorite people have undergone. …Even the Son of God on earth felt a sense of being abandoned by God. Like the Israelites in the wilderness, Jesus went through a trial by ordeal to ‘know what was in his heart.’ Later, in a far more severe trial, Jesus cried out on the cross (quoting Psalm 22), ‘My God, why have you forsaken me?’ Like Job, he continued to trust God despite the God-forsaken feeling: ‘Into thy hands I commit my spirit.’ For him too, at the very moment when God seemed most absent, at that moment the Father had never been more present. Paul tells us that on the cross God was ‘in Christ … reconciling the world to himself.'” Philip Yancey
“Though he slay me,
yet will I trust him.”
Job 13:15
.

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • What is your usual response when you feel forgotten or abandoned by God?
  • Does it make sense that God would care more about your growth in faith than your comfort?
  • Have you determined like Job did that you will commit yourself into the “hands” of God no matter what may come?

Abba, I will never not trust you.

For More: The Bible Jesus Read by Philip Yancey

_________________________________________________

 

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)

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

Daily Riches: I Hit the Bottom and Escape (Nicholas of Cusa, Scott Cairns and Teresa of Avila)

Beyond all knowing and unknowing, disregarding the pain, confusion and doubt, I cast myself into the Great Darkness, sinking down through its waters into the depths of the very depths. In that place answers, explanations and expectations–having indeed become irrelevant, irreverent and without usefulness, have ceased to exist. And I exist without them–resting, sinking, abiding in that Darkness. And beside me, abides the Unseen One. And in the presence of that One, I nearly cease to be. I enter a death barely short of death, and a well of life otherwise out of reach. Beyond the reach of words, with nothing to choose but stillness, with no support of any kind–save the invisible, unsensed loving arms of the Eternal One, I come to rest on the bottom. And whereas I would have expected my destruction and death, I instead find new breath, new space and new hope. O God, who is beyond and above all things, who draws near in mystery and confusion and in the coincidence of opposites–cradle me, renew me, deliver me.

“Hence I observe how needful it is for me to enter into the darkness, and to admit the coincidence of opposites, beyond all the grasp of reason, and there to seek the truth where impossibility meeteth me. …And the more that dark impossibility is recognised as dark and impossible, the more truly doth His Necessity shine forth, and is more unveiledly present and draweth nigh.” Nicholas of Cusa

“O Lover embracing all unlovable, O Teacher
Tether binding us together, and binding, yea
and tenderly, Your Person  to ourselves,
Being both beyond our ken, and kindred, One
whose dire energies invest such clay as ours
with patient animation, O Secret One secreting
life anew into our every tissue moribund,
afresh unto our stale and stalling craft,
grant in this obscurity a little light.”
Scott Cairns

“The people remained at a distance,
while Moses approached the thick darkness
where God was.”
Exodus 20:18-21

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Can you experience God who is “far distant” and “most near?”
  • Can you go to that place beyond answers, explanations and expectations?
  • Do you have a way to simply be with God, where God can cradle you, deliver you and renew you?

“O LORD, Here in the gathering darkness I feel able to withstand the whole world, should it turn against me. For if I have you, God, I want for nothing. You alone suffice.” Teresa of Avila

For more: Idiot Psalms by Scott Cairns

________________________

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 share something of unique value with you in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest! –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

Daily Riches: God Will Use You Anyway (Brant Copeland, Joachim Neander and Thomas Chalmers)

“The striking thing about the Twelve is their utter lack of qualifications. …The fact is, by the time Luke takes up the story of the early church, most of the Twelve have become bit players. Peter has a supporting role, but it is Paul and James, the brother of Jesus–not members of the original Twelve–who take center stage in Acts while the Twelve dissolve into the wings. …What strikes this pastor is the close resemblance between the Twelve and the folks in ordinary congregations. The Twelve might not impress, but they sure do look like church. …It is through intimate, day-by-day association with Jesus that these twelve misfits become the twelve apostles. They do not cease to be what there are …–but after having been with Jesus, they are sent out with power and authority to accomplish amazing things (Mark 6:7-13).” Brant Copeland

The typical and first response to God’s call is often “I am not worthy.” Think of Moses or Isaiah–or of many people asked to lead in the local church. Are you weak and unqualified? God will use you anyway. Are you “who you are”, afraid you many never change, you may never overcome that “signature sin” of yours? God will use you anyway. Does your church, your missions group, your outreach team resemble a “bag of mixed nuts”–a phrase my Pastor sometimes affectionately uses to describe our church? God will use you anyway. But, the God of heaven, in all God’s power, won’t automatically use you. God won’t do what God expects you to do. You have to do your part–show up, leave your couch, forget your comfort zone. God won’t do it without you, but God will certainly do it through you. After all, mixed nuts is a very nutritious snack. It’s not everything. It’s not perfect. But it works. God won’t be limited by you and me and our abilities, bad habits, bad track record–even by our besetting sins. God uses what (who) is available. Are you available?

“Praise to the Lord, Who doth prosper thy work and defend thee.

Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee.

Ponder anew what the Almighty can do,

If with His love He befriend thee.”

Joachim Neander

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • On judgment day, if you could only be praised for one thing–correct doctrine, powerful ministry, or love for Jesus–which would you choose? What does your answer say about you?
  • The Apostles could get by without qualifications, but not without “being with Jesus.” They had to know him (not necessarily understand him!). They would be defined, motivated and empowered by their love for Jesus himself. Are you spending enough time with Jesus for this expulsive power (of affection for him) to be transformative for you?
  • Have you settled for having a proper understanding of Jesus (orthodoxy), or even for serving Jesus (ministry), when Jesus is calling you to a deep love relationship with him?

Jesus, you have befriended me in your love. Draw me deeper into a new affection for you.

For More: The Expulsive Power of a New Affection by Thomas Chalmers

_________________________________________________

Thanks for reading and following my blog! – Bill
.
Having just returned from a local missions outreach to the homeless, I want to dedicate this post to the “bag of mixed nuts” I was part of in that outreach, and to New York City Relief, whose teams of mixed nuts do it every day.
%d bloggers like this: