Daily Riches: Something More Important Than “Getting Things Done” Thomas Merton

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered,
“you are worried and upset about many things,
but few things are needed—or indeed only one.
Mary has chosen what is better,
and it will not be taken away from her.”
(read the full story) Luke 10:41-42 NIV

“We experience in ourselves a new and special kind of truth when we imitate Mary. We [who are monks] who have this particular call recognize that when we are agitated by all kinds of external concerns which do not touch us deeply at all we are less authentic, less real, less ourselves, less what we are supposed to be. We feel less faithful to the will of God than when we remain simply in an attitude of freedom and attentiveness to His word, His love and His will. This gospel text illustrates our experience that we are summoned by the Holy Spirit to make an act of preference. We are called to prefer the apparent uselessness, the apparent unproductiveness, the apparent inactivity of simply sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to him. We are called to prefer this over an apparently more productive, more active, more busy life. We quietly affirm that there is something more important than ‘getting things done.’ Together with this is another implied assumption: that this preference goes against the ideas of the majority of our fellow human beings at any given moment and especially today in the twentieth century. Our act of preference for ‘quiet’ is at the same time an implicit protest and defiance, a protest against and a defiance of the counter-opinion of those who are absolutely convinced that our [monastic] life is useless and who reproach us for it.” Thomas Merton

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Concern to get things done comes naturally to me–even when it makes me less authentic, less myself, less who I am supposed to be. Is it just me?
  • Are you, at least sometimes, able to prefer apparent usefulness, apparent unproductiveness, apparent inactivity–quietly affirming that something else (attentiveness to God) is more urgent than your “to do” list?
  • Many others will reject this invitation. Are you willing to join with Merton in defiance of a driven, busy life?

Abba, in each circumstance, may I wrestle to know and to choose what is best–shaped by your call rather than pressure from within or without.

For More: Contemplation In a World of Action by Thomas Merton.

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Daily Riches (CV Era): Managing Anxiety (Gregory Hills, Kathleen Deignan, Thomas Merton)

“Because of Covid-19, many of us are living, in a way, like monks, enclosed and isolated in our homes. But unlike the monks, we did not ask for or want this situation, nor it is one for which many of us were spiritually prepared. [Even so] we can use this moment to live into and be freed by the realization that there is much we cannot control. So much of our anxiety revolves around wanting to control the uncontrollable, and the pandemic can teach us the futility of this. . . . we need to be attentive to the present moment and so focus on that which we can control: ‘If I can concentrate on being in control of that very small circle of reality that is entrusted to me and in some sense depends on me—how I use my time, how I take care of myself, how I care for my family and friends, how I daily and hourly turn my concerns over to God—then my anxiety diminishes.’ This is ‘a great opportunity to yield control of our lives, to let ourselves truly trust in the goodness and providence of God amidst all that is happening.’ Whether we are aware of it or not, ‘we are living in the presence of a living, caring and loving God,’ . . . and we can use this time of quarantine to develop, alone or with those with whom we live, a sense of this divine presence.” Gregory Hills, quoting several monks he interviewed

“Merton sought refuge in the Trappist monastery . . . ‘in revolt against the meaningless confusion of a life in which there was so much activity, so much movement, so much useless talk, so much superficial and needless stimulation’ that he could not remember who he was. For the next half of his life he learned a new way of being . . . and [made the] discovery of a new self, his true self, drawn up like a jewel from seas of confusion, restlessness, and banality.” Kathleen Deignan, quoting Thomas Merton

“Cast all your anxiety on him
because he cares for you.”
1 Peter 5:7

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Was your pre-covid life characterized by too much activity, useless talk, superficial stimulation?
  • Have you quit trying to control the uncontrollable? Can you focus instead on what has been “entrusted” to you?
  • Might God be calling to you in this time of pain–inviting you to be drawn up “like a jewel from seas of confusion, restlessness, and banality?”

Abba, may my seemingly unmanageable anxiety force me to cast myself upon you.

For More: Thomas Merton: A Book of Hours by Kathleen Deignan

 

 

 

 

 

Daily Riches (CV Era): Seeing Solitude as a Gift (Jennifer Stitt, Hannah Arendt, Pythagoras, and Frederich Nietzsche)

“In the morning–solitude; . . . that nature may speak to the imagination,
as she does never in company.” Pythagoras

“In the 20th century, the idea of solitude formed the centre of Hannah Arendt’s thought. A German-Jewish émigré who fled Nazism and found refuge in the United States, Arendt spent much of her life studying the relationship between the individual and the polis. . . . She understood that freedom entailed more than the human capacity to act spontaneously and creatively in public. It also entailed the capacity to think and to judge in private, where solitude empowers the individual to contemplate her actions and develop her conscience, to escape the cacophony of the crowd—to finally hear herself think. . . . In our hyper-connected world, a world in which we can communicate constantly and instantly over the internet, we rarely remember to carve out spaces for solitary contemplation. We check our email hundreds of times per day; we shoot off thousands of text messages per month; we obsessively thumb through Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, aching to connect at all hours with close and casual acquaintances alike.  . . . We crave constant companionship. But, Arendt reminds us, if we lose our capacity for solitude, our ability to be alone with ourselves, then we lose our very ability to think. We risk getting caught up in the crowd. We risk being ‘swept away,’ as she put it, ‘by what everybody else does and believes in’—no longer able, in the cage of thoughtless conformity, to distinguish ‘right from wrong, beautiful from ugly.’ Solitude is not only a state of mind essential to the development of an individual’s consciousness—and conscience—but also a practice that prepares one for participation in social and political life. Before we can keep company with others, we must learn to keep company with ourselves.” Jennifer Stitt

“Flee, my friend, into your solitude! I see you dazed by the noise of men . . . .” Frederich Nietzsche

“A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home.
You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.”
Jesus, in John 16:32 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Many of us are confined at home with others. If that’s you, how can you make a plan “to escape the cacophony of the crowd?”
  • Others are home by ourselves but with lots of distractions. Instead of constantly seeking connection, can you try to learn from Jesus, to be “not alone” even when friends are unavailable?
  • Some important things never happen “in company.” Can you imagine some important changes in your life that could happen simply because of enforced solitude?  . . . values rediscovered? . . . “normalcy” redefined? . . . new intimacy with the God who is present in the stillness?

Abba, I choose the solitude that is forced upon me, and want to welcome it’s priceless gifts.

For More: Invitation to Solitude and Silence by Ruth Haley Barton

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Richer By Far (CV Era) – Loneliness As a Navigational Aid To God

“If [as the Burt Bacharach song says] Loneliness Remembers (what happiness forgets) then the emptiness of loneliness reminds me of what happiness does not remind me of. That God is more, is greater, fuller – limitless, even. When I am spent He is still full and longing for me to turn, in my vulnerability and scatteredness, to His vast heart of loving provision for my soul. When I feel forsaken and alone – in those moments – I am gifted with an innate holy prodding to submit to no other substitute for satisfaction or comfort. So as great as happiness is in its moment, loneliness by contrast, is not a dead end. It is a navigational aid.”  Jennifer @ blogspot

“Paradoxically, I have found peace because I have always been dissatisfied. My moments of depression and despair turn out to be renewals, new beginnings. If I were once to settle down and be satisfied with the surface of life, with its divisions and its clichés, it would be time to call in the undertaker…. So, then, this dissatisfaction which sometimes used to worry me and has certainly, I know, worried others, has helped me in fact to move freely and even gaily with the stream of life.”  … “Only the man who has had to face despair is really convinced that he needs mercy. Those who do not want mercy never seek it. It is better to find God on the threshold of despair than to risk our lives in a complacency that has never felt the need of forgiveness. A life that is without problems may literally be more hopeless than one that always verges on despair.”  Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

If only one person would show some pity;
if only one would turn and comfort me.”
Psalm 69:20

  • Many people run from problems like loneliness, depression, and despair. Can you imagine these unwanted feelings as a kind of unexpected or disguised gift?
  • Have you ever allowed loneliness, depression or despair to be a “navigational aid” to lead you to God? What exactly would that look like for you?
  • Can you see “downward mobility” in all of this – that what seems painful and frustrating might actually be beneficial? …that “downward mobility” might be far superior to “upward mobility?”

Abba, remind me when this happens to me.

For More: No Man Is an Island by Thomas Merton

Song for the day: It Is Well With My Soul

Daily Riches: The Agony of Being Alone (Abraham Joshua Heschel)

“. . . the immense silence where I live alone.” May Sarton

“The thirst for companionship, which drives us so often into error and adventure, indicates the intense loneliness from which we suffer. We are alone even with our friends. The smattering of understanding which a human being has to offer is not enough to satisfy our need of sympathy. Human eyes can see the foam, but not the seething at the bottom. In the hour of greatest agony we are alone. It is such a sense of solitude which prompts the heart to seek the companionship of God. He alone can know the motives of our actions; He alone can be truly trusted. Prayer is confidence, unbosoming oneself to God. For man is incapable of being alone. His incurable, inconsolable loneliness forces him to look for things yet unattained, for people yet unknown. He often runs after a sop, but soon retires discontented from all false or feeble companionship. Prayer may follow such retirement.” Abraham Joshua Heschel

“Yet give attention to your servant’s prayer and his plea for mercy, Lord my God.
Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day.”
1 Kings 8:28 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Heschel is very polite when he refers to what we sometimes fall into as “adventure.” Has your “thirst for companionship” ever driven you into “adventure?”
  • Have you experienced the painful limits of human friendship, no matter how good? . . . that no friend, but only God, can ultimately suffice “in the hour of greatest agony [when] we are alone”–when our “immense solitude”, our “inconsolable loneliness” can be salved only by the companionship of God?
  • In your well of loneliness have you been able to “unbosom” yourself in prayer to God?

Abba, come to me in my well of loneliness–in that immense silence where I live alone.

For More: Man’s Quest For God by Abraham J. Heschel

Daily Riches: The Liturgy of Your Day (Tish Harrison Warren and Bernard Berenson)

“From childhood on I have had the dream of life lived as a sacrament . . . . The dream implied taking life ritually as something holy.” Bernard Berenson

“A sign hangs on the wall in a New Monastic Christian community house. Everyone wants a revolution. No one wants to do the dishes.’ I was, and remain, a Christian who longs for revolution, for things to be made new and whole in beautiful and big ways. But what I am slowly seeing is that you can’t get to the revolution without learning to do the dishes. The kind of spiritual life and disciplines needed to sustain the Christian life are quiet, repetitive, and ordinary. I often want to skip the boring, daily stuff to get to the thrill of an edgy faith. But it’s in the dailiness of the Christian faith–the making the bed, the doing the dishes, the praying for our enemies, the reading the Bible, the quiet, the small–that God’s transformation takes root and grows. . . . The point of exchanging my morning liturgy was to habituate myself to repetition, to the tangible, to the work before me–to train myself, in this tiny way, to live with my eyes open to God’s presence in this ordinary day. I’d cultivated a habit, from the first conscious moments of my day, of being entertained, informed, and stimulated. My brain would dart quickly from stimulus to stimulus, unable to focus, unable to lie fallow. Making my bed and sitting in silence for just a few minutes reminded me that what is most real and significant in my day is not what is loudest, flashiest, or most entertaining. It is in the repetitive and the mundane that I begin to learn to love, to listen, to pay attention to God and to those around me. I needed to retrain my mind not to bolt at the first sight of boredom or buck against stillness. That took the cultivation of habit.” Tish Harrison Warren

“Train yourself to be godly.”
1 Timothy 4:7b NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Do you practice some spiritual disciplines that are quiet, repetitive, ordinary–very unspectacular?
  • Is remembering “God’s presence in [your] ordinary day” something you’re working on?
  • Are you “habituating” yourself to that by some repeated practice(s)?

Abba, may the daily rhythms I choose help me to remember the sacredness of each day, and your presence in it.

For More: The Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren

Daily Riches: What Saves Relationships Over and Over (Maria Popova, Rainer Maria Rilke, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, and Shel Silverstein)

“Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

“Our paradoxical longing for intimacy and independence is a diamagnetic force—it pulls us toward togetherness and simultaneously repels us from it with a mighty magnet that, if unskillfully handled, can rupture a relationship and break a heart. Under this unforgiving magnetism, it becomes an act of superhuman strength and self-transcendence to give space to the other when all one wants is closeness. And yet this difficult act may be the very thing—perhaps the only thing—that saves the relationship over and over.” Maria Popova

“I hold this to be the highest task of a bond between two people: that each should stand guard over the solitude of the other. For, if it lies in the nature of indifference and of the crowd to recognize no solitude, then love and friendship are there for the purpose of continually providing the opportunity for solitude. And only those are the true sharings which rhythmically interrupt periods of deep isolation. . . . It is a question in marriage, to my feeling, not of creating a quick community of spirit by tearing down and destroying all boundaries, but rather a good marriage is that in which each appoints the other guardian of his solitude, and shows him this confidence, the greatest in his power to bestow. A togetherness between two people is an impossibility, and where it seems, nevertheless, to exist, it is a narrowing, a reciprocal agreement which robs either one party or both of his fullest freedom and development. But, once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue to exist, a wonderful living side by side can grow up, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole and against a wide sky! Therefore this too must be the standard for rejection or choice: whether one is willing to stand guard over the solitude of a person and whether one is inclined to set this same person at the gate of one’s own solitude . . . . Self-transformation is precisely what life is, and human relationships, which are an extract of life, are the most changeable of all, rising and falling from minute to minute, and lovers are those in whose relationship and contact no one moment resembles another. . . . For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.” Rainer Maria Rilke

“Love one another.”
John 13:34

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Do you agree that by nature the crowd deprives its members of solitude?
  • Will you choose a beloved who will protect your solitude? Can you be trusted to protect their solitude?
  • Are you learning to be happy and whole in solitude, so that even when you want closeness, you can give your partner space?

Abba, may my love be unpossessing, uncontrolling, protecting space for the thriving of my beloved.

For More: The Missing Piece Meets the Big O by Shel Silverstein

Popova, Maria. “The Difficult Art of Giving Space in Love: Rilke on Freedom, Togetherness, and the Secret to a Good Marriage”

Rilke, Rainer Maria. Letters to a Young Poet. New York: W. W. Norton, 2004. 

Daily Riches: Fruitful Spaciousness (Gerald May)

“When you think about it, it makes sense that space would be intimately associated with salvation. Space is freedom: freedom from confinement, from preoccupation, from oppression, from drivenness, and from all the other interior and exterior forces that bind and restrict our spirits. We need space in the first place to recognize how compelled and bound we are. Then we need space to allow the compulsions to ease and the bonds to loosen. . . . To the extent that space is permitted by grace and our own willingness, we discover expanding emptiness in which consecration can happen, room for love to make its home in us. . . . It seems to me that spaciousness comes to us in three primary ways. First, it appears as spaciousness of form: physical, geographical spaces like the wide openness of fields, water, and the sky and the welcoming simplicity of uncluttered rooms. Second, it comes as spaciousness of time: pauses in activity when we are freed from tasks, agendas, and other demands. Third, we encounter spacious of soul. This is inner emptiness, the room inside our hearts, the unfilled quality of our consciousness. Depending upon how we meet this soul-space, we may experience it as open possibility or void nothingness, as creative potential or dulling boredom, as quiet, peaceful serenity or as restless yearning for fulfillment. . . . Sometimes the waiting is beautiful in its spacious presence to what is, but more often it feels like a great struggle. It is a fierce and holy dignity to wait in the midst of things needing to be done and nothing but emptiness inside. It is even sometimes a kind of spiritual warfare, filled with temptations to do something, anything, to make a difference in the world outside and fill the void within.” Gerald May

“He has sent me to . . . to proclaim freedom for the captives . . . .”
Isaiah 61:1b NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Could you be hemmed in–”compelled and bound” more than you think?
  • Have you experienced spaciousness (geographical, temporal, internal) in a way that eased your compulsions or loosened your bonds?
  • Have you waited in that in-between space where you want to do anything but wait? . . . where you don’t know what is next? . . . where you’re “off kilter?”
  • What did God do for you or in you in that place?

Abba, you’ve made me for freedom. Help me to abide in it.

For more: The Awakened Heart by Gerald May

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Thanks for reading, following and sharing these Daily Riches. Look for my upcoming book– Wisdom From the Margins: Daily Readings for quotations, Scripture, questions, and prayers like these.

Sources:

May, Gerald, The Awakened Heart. New York: HarperCollins, 1991, pp. 93-92, 244.

Daily Riches: Indifference and Love (Belden Lane, Martin Luther and Thomas Merton)

“The desert monks learned that love thrives on the distance made possible by solitude.  …Only those who have died to others can be of service to them. Only when we have ceased to need people–desperately, neurotically need them–are we concretely able to love. …Genuine love is ultimately impossible apart from such indifference. Without it, the sinful self remains incurvatusse, as Luther insisted, curved in upon itself in hopeless self-preoccupation. Only the solitary therefore, can truly care for all the right reasons, because he or she has ceased to care for all the wrong reasons. …True love, a love that is unacquisitive and free cannot exist when the person loved is being used as an object for the satisfaction of another’s needs. To love in the sense of agape, is to treat the other person not with any preference for one’s own good but as an equal–indeed as one’s own self. Thomas Merton explained the desert Christians’ conception of love as a matter of taking one’s neighbor as one’s other self. ‘Love means an interior and spiritual identification with one’s brother, so that he is not regarded as an “object” to “which” one “does good.” We have to become–in some sense, the person we love. And this involves a kind of death of our own being, our own self.’ In love such as this, all judgment is suspended. One gives the other person  every benefit of the doubt, even as he or she would wish to be considered in return.  …Unconditional acceptance of this sort is possible only for people who, renouncing all comparisons of themselves with others, have noting invested in the failure of their peers. Admittedly this idea of compassion as the fruit of indifference may be difficult to grasp in contemporary culture. Popular conceptions of love are often limited to sentimental feelings and delusions of self-denying grandeur. As a result, we often fail to recognize the extent to which all this disguises a highly manipulative bid for our own self-aggrandizement. We are entirely too needy–too anxious about the fragility of our own self-worth–to be free to love.” Belden Lane

“to love your neighbor as yourself is more important
than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
Jesus in Mark 12:33

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Is your self-worth so fragile that you can’t love others well? …are you too needy, too dependent?
  • Can you imagine renouncing your right to compare yourself to others, and thus to criticize them?
  • Unless we listen to God in solitude, we will always be incurvatusse. What place does solitude have in your life?

Abba, may I only be invested in the success of others.

For More: The Solace of Fierce Landscapes by Belden Lane

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

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: 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

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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! – Bill (Psalm 90:14)

Daily Riches: Disguised Comes God (Rudolf Bultmann)

“Just where God’s call meets each individual, you and me, in the course of our everyday life at work, in the hustle and bustle of daily affairs, I cannot tell you, nor should I even try. For that is the secret of the encounter with Jesus, that he meets us always disguised in different forms; that is the secret of God’s call, that it always sounds new, where and when one least expects it. I can only urge that each is prepared to hear the call, that each is ready to listen to it. The folktale of the poor and the rich with which we are all familiar certainly knows that encounters with God often are improbable and that whoever is not prepared for them misses them to his own detriment. The folktale relates how God once wandered the earth as a simple wanderer and was looking for lodging for the night. He knocked at the door of a rich man and requested shelter for the night. The rich man saw the unimpressive wanderer at his door–he did not exactly appear as if he could pay well–and he turned him away with all sorts of excuses; it just wasn’t convenient. Then God knocked at the door of a poor man and found a friendly reception. As the folktale later explains, the rich man had punished himself while the poor man received a rich blessing. Indeed, joyfulness and goodness, patience and willingness to sacrifice belong to the readiness that is required of us–eyes open for whatever the hour may demand of us. Disguised comes God, comes Jesus to us. And we have deprived ourselves of that hour’s blessing. For this reason we should make room in our restless and often hectic life for hours of quiet and reflection in order to examine ourselves and ponder the questions: What have I neglected? Who needs my help? Who longs to hear a kind word from me? We should not be consumed by the noise of the day, in our daily work with its cares, its joys and sufferings! We should not forget to notice what God wants to tell us here and there! … So it is that always and everywhere our brother’s need requires our sympathy and helping hand, there he [God] meets us, there his call sounds for us.” Rudolph Bultmann

“there was no room for them in the inn”
Luke 2:7

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • What have you neglected?
  • Who needs your help?
  • Who longs for a kind word from you?

Abba, may I prepare myself to hear you when you call.

For More: “A Sermon about the Parable of the Great Banquet” by Rudolph Bultmann

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

Daily Riches: Hearing God’s Voice Over All the Noise (Karen-Marie Yust, Thomas Merton and Chris Tomlin)

“Advertising treats all products with the reverence and the seriousness due to sacraments.” Thomas Merton

“The danger in the rampant commercialization of abundant life is not so much in the particular value (or lack thereof) of a specific product being marketed, but in the insidious ways in which advertising campaigns steal a person’s ability to discern what is necessary for a fruitful life and what is extraneous. Advertisers kill an individual’s sense of self-worth and uniqueness in the eyes of God by promoting excessive regard for the approval of others and competition for the most stuff, rather than promoting good living as collaboration with each other. …Christians need to embrace spiritual practices that will enable them to identify and resist commercial messages that undermine their primary identity as children of God and disciples of Christ. …One critical spiritual practice for discernment is attentiveness. First, Christians need to pay attention to the number of commercial messages to which they are exposed daily and the common themes embedded in those advertisements. With researchers estimating that individuals view or hear as many as five thousand messages each day, paying attention could quickly become a full-time job! What matters here is not a comprehensive attentiveness but an increasing awareness of the pervasive and corrosive nature of commercial influences. Second, Christians need to pay attention to God’s voice as a counterpoint to the negative aspects of advertising. Such attentiveness can occur when individuals, families, and congregations deliberately separate themselves from the noisiness of everyday life and spend time in the set apart ‘pastures’ [John 10:9] of personal and communal prayer, contemplation, and worship.” Karen-Marie Yust

“life does not consist
in an abundance of possessions.”
Jesus in Luke 12:15

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Do you see good living as “collaboration” with others rather than competition with others? What does your answer say about you?
  • Do you have practices that allow you to hear God’s voice over the “noisiness of everyday life” and act as a counterpoint to all the “pervasive and corrosive” ad campaigns?
  • Are you fighting this battle alone–with no “communal” support? …just depending on what you receive at church? …failing to seek God for yourself to discern what “is necessary for a fruitful life and what is extraneous?”

Abba, you’re a good, good father–it’s who you are … and I’m loved by you–it’s who I am…. (Chris Tomlin)

For more: Feasting on the Gospels: John (Part II), eds, Cynthia Jarvis and Elizabeth Johnson

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and God seeks you. My goal is to share something of real value with you in 400 words or less. 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 Shallow Between Two Deeper Zones (Rebecca Solnit)

“Previous technologies have expanded communication. But the last round may be contracting it. The eloquence of letters has turned into the nuanced spareness of texts; the intimacy of phone conversations has turned into the missed signals of mobile phone chat. I think of that lost world, the way we lived before these new networking technologies, as having two poles: solitude and communion. The new chatter puts us somewhere in between, assuaging fears of being alone without risking real connection. It is a shallow between two deeper zones, a safe spot between the dangers of contact with ourselves, with others. … A restlessness has seized hold of many of us, a sense that we should be doing something else, no matter what we are doing, or doing at least two things at once, or going to check some other medium. It’s an anxiety about keeping up, about not being left out or getting behind. … I think it is for a quality of time we no longer have, and that is hard to name and harder to imagine reclaiming. My time does not come in large, focused blocks, but in fragments and shards. The fault is my own, arguably, but it’s yours too—it’s the fault of everyone I know who rarely finds herself or himself with uninterrupted hours. We’re shattered. We’re breaking up. It’s hard, now, to be with someone else wholly, uninterruptedly, and it’s hard to be truly alone. The fine art of doing nothing in particular, also known as thinking, or musing, or introspection, or simply moments of being, was part of what happened when you walked from here to there, alone, or stared out the train window, or contemplated the road, but the new technologies have flooded those open spaces. Space for free thought is routinely regarded as a void and filled up with sounds and distractions.” Rebecca Solnit

“Yahweh is my shepherd;
    I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
    he leads me beside peaceful streams.
    He renews my strength.”
Psalm 23:1-3

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Are you using new technologies to “assuage [your] fears of being alone?”
  • Are you using them to avoid “risking real connection?”
  • Does your pace and your approach to the day allow for “time for thinking, or musing, or introspection, or simply moments of being?”

Abba, help me to be real and quiet in this world of illusion and noise.

For More: The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness by Rebecca Solnit

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

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

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Special thanks to that amazing online resource Brain Pickings.

 

Daily Riches: Averse to Being Alone (Thomas Merton)

“In reality, all men are solitary. Only most of them are so averse to being alone, or to feeling alone, that they do everything they can to forget their solitude. How? Perhaps in large measure by what Pascal called ‘divertisement’–diversion, systematic distraction. By those occupations and recreations, so mercifully provided by society, which enable a man to avoid his own company for twenty-four hours a day. …the function of diversion is simply to anesthetize the individual as individual, and to plunge him in the warm, apathetic stupor of a collectivity which, like himself, wishes to remain amused. …Absurdity [is] the anguish of realizing that underneath the apparently logical pattern of a more or less ‘well organized’ and rational life, there lies an abyss of irrationality, confusion, pointlessness, and indeed of apparent chaos. This is what immediately impresses itself upon the man who has renounced diversion. It cannot be otherwise: for in renouncing diversion, he renounces the seemingly harmless pleasure of building a tight, self-contained illusion about himself and about his little world. He accepts the difficulty of facing the million things in his life which are incomprehensible, instead of simply ignoring them. Incidentally it is only when the apparent absurdity of life is faced in all truth that faith really becomes possible. Otherwise, faith tends to be a kind of diversion, a spiritual amusement, in which one gathers up accepted, conventional formulas and arranges them in the approved mental patterns, without bothering to investigate their meaning, or asking if they have any practical consequences in one’s life.” Thomas Merton

“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture
that you fit into it without even thinking.”
Romans 12:1  (The Message)

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Are you on the move from the moment you wake until your head hits the pillow at night?
  • Are you afraid to be still? …to be quiet? …to be alone? If so, what does this say about you?
  • How much do you watch T.V., browse the internet or play video games in an average week? Do those practices put you into an apathetic stupor, where nothing holds your attention or makes you think about what is real–what really matters?
  • Is your religion a kind of “spiritual amusement” which allows you to create a safe, controlled mental world, but doesn’t really ask anything difficult of you? Is it an escape from harsh realities?

Abba, deliver me from systematic distraction.

For more: Disputed Questions by Thomas Merton

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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.”

 

 

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