Daily Riches: Stability–Looking for God Where You Are (Paul Wilkes, Lynne Baab, and Amy Peterson)

“The first vow laid out in Benedict’s Rule is stability. To a monk or sister, it means being committed to stay in this particular monastic house with these particular people. It means being willing to look for God here in the constancy of this place in this rhythm of life, rather than seeking God in ever-changing places and varied routines. In Beyond the Walls: Monastic Wisdom for Everyday Life, Paul Wilkes calls stability a ‘sense of where you are,’ and he believes that our disjointed lives and fragmented society present ample evidence that we desperately need to embrace stability. ‘What was needed, Benedict taught, was maddeningly simple. It was a commitment to trust in God’s goodness–that he was indeed there, in that very place; and that holiness, happiness, and human fulfillment were to be found, not tomorrow or over the hill, but here–today. . . . Stability’s goal is that we might see the inner truth of who we are and [where] we are going. That we might be still long enough to be joined intimately to the God who dwells within . . . . It is difficult–no, it is impossible–to find and maintain that center if our waking hours are a blur of mindless activity, without the presence and practice of stability in our lives.’” Lynne Baab

“I begin to wonder if I, like the brothers at Taize and the desert monks, need to learn the discipline of stability. Do I need roots, when this earth is not my home? That third instruction from Saint Anthony sinks like a seed into the dark recesses of my heart and lies dormant for a long time: ‘In whatever place you live, do not easily leave it.’” Amy Peterson

“So Boaz said to Ruth, ‘My daughter, listen to me.
Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here.
Stay here with the women who work for me.'”
Ruth 2:8 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Do you tend to give up too easily on a place? . . . a call? . . . a relationship?
  • Will you determine to “wait for the right moment?” . . . to wait for God’s permission before you decide to “move on?”

Abba, slow me down when my instinct is to flee.

For More: Beyond the Walls by Paul Wilkes

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Peterson, Amy. “Wanderlust: A Personal History.” Essay in The Other Journal: Geography, No. 24.
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Wilkes, Paul. Beyond the Walls: Monastic Wisdom for Everyday Life. New York: Doubleday, 1999.

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

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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 more meditations like this.

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: The Downward Path To Freedom (Richard Rohr)

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

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

Moving From the Head to the Heart

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

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

For More: You Will Be My Witnesses by John Dear

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

Daily Riches: Acquiring “Heroic” Virtues (Claude la Colombiére, Oswald Chambers and William Britton)

“All our life is sown with tiny thorns that produce in our hearts a thousand involuntary movements of hatred, envy, fear, impatience, a thousand little fleeting disappointments, a thousand slight worries, a thousand disturbances that momentarily alter our peace of soul. For example, a word escapes that should not have been spoken. Or someone utters another that offends us. A child inconveniences you. A bore stops you. You don’t like the weather. Your work is not going according to plan. A piece of furniture is broken. A dress is torn. I know that these are not occasions for practicing very heroic virtue. But they would definitely be enough to acquire it if we really wished to.” Claude la Colombiére

“We are in danger of forgetting that we cannot do what God does, and that God will not do what we can do. We cannot save nor sanctify ourselves–God does that. But God will not give us good habits, or character, and He will not force us to walk correctly before Him. We have to do all that ourselves. We must ‘work out’ our ‘own salvation’ which God has worked in us (Philippians 2:12).” Oswald Chambers

“My body is my divinely given O.S. It functions diagnostically so that bodily sensations and emotions like guilt, illness, love, hunger, thirst, and anxiety signal the state of my physical, emotional, and spiritual health. These are God’s gift to me–alerting me to what is needed, to what is wrong. If my prayers are that God will take away unpleasant feelings (exhaustion, sadness, grief, loneliness, anger), then I’m asking God to take back his gifts, to negate them–as though they were bad gifts after all. But, as Chambers says, God must do God’s part, and we must to ours. In giving these gifts, God does his part–giving us a divine diagnosis. Our response to God’s gifts is our part–and our part cannot consist of asking God to take back his gifts. And thus the Bible’s emphasis on practices. Practices are what we are to do. It is by practices (and practicing) that we develop ‘good habits, or character” (Chambers), that we learn virtue (Colombiére). God does not make us instantly virtuous because we ask him (Wouldn’t we all be virtuous?), but God does a slower, more methodical work in us–we ‘acquire’ virtue by practice–as we deal with the ‘thousand disturbances’ that daily bombard our souls. I learn from exhaustion to practice setting limits. Anger gives me the opportunity to practice pausing before I respond. Loneliness forces me to practice finding my all in God over a sometimes extended period of time. Colombiére makes an important point. If we let them, our difficult daily experiences are sufficient to shape us to be like Jesus. No, they’re not ‘occasions for practicing very heroic virtue’, but they are occasions for practicing the virtues we seek–the virtues God looks for in us–the virtues that others need in us–and those are pretty ‘heroic’ after all.” William Britton

“continue to work out your salvation”
Philippians 2:12

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Are you praying that God will take back his loving gifts?
  • Are you waiting for God to act when God is waiting for you to act?
  • In what ways are you actually practicing virtues?

Abba, by your grace may I do what I must do to increase in virtue.

For More: Voices Of the Saints by Bert Ghezzi

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Thanks for following my blog! – Bill

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

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

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

Moving From the Head to the Heart

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

Abba, meet me in the desert place.

For More: The Solace of Fierce Landscapes by Belden Lane

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

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

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

“The desert loves to strip bare.” Jerome

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

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

Moving From the Head to the Heart

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

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

For More: The Solace of Fierce Landscapes by Belden Lane

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moving From Head to Heart

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

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

For More: I Quit! by Gerri Scazzero

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

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

Daily Riches: A King Clothed In Rags (Belden Lane and Flannery O’Connor)

“To the the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind you draw large and startling figures.” Flannery O’Connor

“Our image of God doesn’t prepare us for a truth realized in brokenness. We need to be shaken out of our expectations. …The grotesque reminds us who we are, but even more it discloses the mystery of God’s presence. Repeatedly in biblical faith we discover a broken and despised people calling upon a god made accessible in pathos and tears. God is never what Pharoah, Ahab, and Herod expect. There’s a shocking, almost comic quality about the annunciations one finds in scripture. Angels announce to shepherds standing in a field of sheep dung the birth of a king clothed in rags. A figure clad in white announces to John of the Apocalypse the majestic Lion of the Tribe of Judah, but when he turn to look there’s only a slain and bloody lamb (Rev. 5:5-6). In biblical experience what you see isn’t necessarily what you get. This is the mystery of God as Deus absconditus. The God of scripture is equally revealed in vulnerability and in triumph. This is because both actions are rooted in love. God wills us to be broken for the sake of a strength to make whole. Divine love is incessantly restless until it turns all woundedness into health, all deformity into beauty, all embarrassment into laughter. In biblical faith, brokenness is never celebrated as an end in itself. God’s brokenness is but an expression of a love on its way to completion. Hence we never can accept, much less romanticize, the plight of a people rejected by the world as aberrant and unfit. They invite us to share in the ‘groaning of all creation’ for a redemption yet to be revealed (Rom. 8:19-21). The paradox of the grotesque is that it summons those who are whole to be broken and longs for those who are broken to be made whole.” Belden Lane

“His appearance was marred more than any man
And His form more than the sons of men.”
Isaiah 52:14

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Are you familiar with the vulnerable God of the Bible?
  • Do you think of God’s love as “incessantly restless until it turns all woundedness into health, all deformity into beauty, all embarrassment into laughter?” Is God doing that for you?
  • In what ways are you whole needing to be broken? …broken needing to be make whole?

Abba, thank you for your love that will not rest until I am whole.

For More: The Solace of Fierce Landscapes by Belden Lane

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

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

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

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

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

Moving From the Head to the Heart

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

Abba, show me what to leave behind.

For More: The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Desert and Mountain Spirituality by Belden Lane

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

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

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

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

“Consider the lilies.”
Luke 12:27

Moving From Head to Heart

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

Abba, content me with simplicity.

For More: The Solace of Fierce Landscapes by Belden Lane

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Thanks for reading/sharing my blog! – Bill

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

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

Moving From the Head to the Heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moving From the Head to the Heart

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

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

For More: Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis

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

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

 

Daily Riches: 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

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Thanks for reading/sharing my blog! – Bill

Daily Riches: Reading the Bible, Read by the Bible (Gary Moon and Brian McLaren)

“What if instead of reading the Bible, you let the Bible read you?” Brian McLaren

“Hal … only had three fingers on his left hand. There should have been four. He lost one legitimately while working with his skilsaw. The second finger was lost while showing a friend how he lost the first. After that he let his wife tell folks about the accident(s). Hal was known for reading the Bible. Before he retired and back when he had all ten fingers, he was known for flipping through the well-worn pages of his Bible really fast so he’d be the first in the congregation to locate the sermon text. As soon as the preacher would say, ‘I’ll be speaking from John 1:1–10,’ there would be a quick rustling of pages. Hal was off like a hummingbird on crack! And before the preacher could read, ‘In the beginning was the Word,’ Hal would have his right index finger on the spot. When Hal retired he decided to become more serious and systematic with his Bible reading. He bought one of those ‘Read-the-Bible-in-a-Year’ Bibles, and he did just that. And apparently he really enjoyed it because on New Year’s Eve the following year he determined to read all the way through the Bible in a month. And he did. Apparently Hal liked that as well, because he resolved to read the Bible through once per month for every month of that new year. And he did. From all his Bible reading, Hal thought he had figured out that God seemed to be partial to some numbers more than others. The numbers 3, 7, 12, 40, and 144 seemed particularly important to God, and this gave Hal an idea. He determined that he would continue reading the Bible through once each month until he had read from cover to cover 144 times. And he did! When Hal died, he was known for being one of the meanest, angriest, and most hateful people you could ever meet. Hal made a mistake. He got all the way through the Bible many times, but he never got certain key passages all the way through himself.” Gary Moon

“give me life through your word.”
Psalm 119:37

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • As time goes by, is your thirst for the Bible growing? Are you in it daily, or rarely?
  • Do you read the Bible in such a way that it “gets through” to you?
  • What would it mean to let the Bible “read you?” Can you make a short list?

Abba, I seek you behind the pages of your Word.

For more: Apprenticeship with Jesus by Gary Moon

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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. Thanks! – Bill (Psalm 90:14)