“What matters in the deeper experience of contemplation is not the doing and accomplishing. What matters is relationship, the being with. We create holy ground and give birth to Christ in our time not by doing but by believing and by loving the mysterious Infinite One who stirs within. This requires trust that something of great and saving importance is growing and kicking its heels in you. The angel summoned Mary, betrothed to Joseph, from the rather safe place of conventional wisdom to a realm where few of the old rules would make much sense. She entered that unknown called ‘virgin territory.’ She was on her own there. No one else could judge for her the validity of her experience. She can measure her reality against Scripture, the teachings of her tradition, her reason and intellect, and the counsel of wise friends. But finally it is up to her. …God asks us to give away everything of ourselves. The gift of greatest efficacy and power that we can offer God and creation is not our skills, gifts, abilities, and possessions. The wise men had their gold, frankincense, and myrrh, Paul and Peter had their preaching. Mary offered only space, love, belief. What is it that delivers Christ into the world—preaching, art, writing, scholarship, social justice? Those are all gifts well worth sharing. But preachers lose their charisma, scholarship grows pedantic, social justice alone cannot save us. In the end, when all other human gifts have met their inevitable limitation, it is … the bold virgin with a heart in love with God who makes a sanctuary of her life, who delivers Christ who then delivers us. Try it. Leave behind your briefcase and notes and proof texts. Leave behind your honed skills and knowledge. Leave the Christmas decorations up in the attic. Go to someone in need and say, “Here, all I have is Christ.” And find out that that is enough.” Loretta Ross-Gotta
“Mary responded, ‘I am the Lord’s servant.
May everything you have said about me come true.’”
Moving From Head to Heart
- If you gave your “skills, gifts, abilities, and possessions” to God–how could that not be the ultimate gift?
- Have you considered the “inevitable limitation” of any gifts you could give to God? …to others?
- How could you practice ministering with an “all I have is Christ” approach this advent season? Would that be “virgin territory” for you?
Abba, help me to believe that Christ is enough.
For more: Letters From the Holy Ground by Loretta Ross-Gotta
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)
“For a number of years, the thought of attending a Quaker meeting crossed my mind from time to time … yet, I hesitated, imagining how uncomfortable I could end up being, sitting quietly for an hour in a group of quiet people. …I walked into the presence of God in a way I could never have imagined. I sat there stunned by the realisation that, in Quaker meetings, silence is worship and worship is silent. I found myself in the silence of people for whom feeling the need to worship is their common ground, who know that God is present and that there is nothing that could possibly have to be said by anyone else but him. This silence felt like the most honest and right worship I had ever experienced–no liturgy to get between me and God, no distractions, no words trying to describe a reality beyond the limits of language and imagination. …[Quakers] honour ‘that of God’ within themselves and in everyone else. …There is no ‘method’ setting out what the experience should be like for everyone. Quaker silence feels neither like silence for the sake of silence, nor like a discipline to bend the Self into. This silence is a place beyond our Selves. My whole being is in tune with God who I listen to, and with everyone who listens with me. God is here, and has calmed the storm in my mind. God is here, and creates order and clarity and peace. God becomes so spacious in this silence that I know again how small I am–and that I do not have to pretend to be anything else but small. …I am welcome to speak, as a woman, as a lay person, as a visitor. This is a place as free of judgment or prejudice as it can get between people…. We all left our egos at the door for an hour, and I was glad to get a break from mine. …When I left after the meeting, I knew that everything I needed had been given to me. I had experienced Communion, in the most direct and uncomplicated way. This kind of silence is hard to describe and, I find, hard to forget.” Anyuska
“Listen in silence before me.” Isaiah 41:1
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- Could you sit quietly for an hour?
- Can you imagine worship with no need for human speech? …no liturgy between you and God? …no words trying to explain the inexplicable?
- When was the last time you left church feeling that “everything you needed” was given to you?
Abba, envelop me in deep silence.
For More: Invitation to Solitude and Silence by Ruth Haley Barton
If you benefited in some way from this, please share it with others! – Bill
In the Judeo-Christian tradition both heart (Proverbs 4:23) and mind (Romans 12:2) play a critical place in the spiritual life, but true religion can be defined (James 1:27) and measured (Mt. 25:31ff.) without mentioning these things, because as important as correct thinking (doctrine, theology) and proper feeling (affections, passions) are, they pale in significance to proper behavior (lifestyle, practices). Both change of heart and mind are penultimate to change of behavior. Life-change is always the ultimate end in view, always the goal. (James 2:20) Unfortunately, in the churches, the call to character or Christian living is often where the story ends. We’re reminded, motivated, inspired, informed and challenged – but often left to ourselves to figure out how to make it work. Yes, be more patient, loving, compassionate. Yes, be a person of prayer, joy, grace, peace. But how? The ancient answer is new again – practice traditional spiritual disciplines. By them we make space for God to enter our equation. We position ourselves to receive from God and hear from God. By practicing spiritual disciplines we train ourselves to be able to do by the grace of God, what we cannot consistently do now: “the right thing in the right way at the right time for the right reason.” Since the learning-curve of the Christian life extends over a lifetime, we need to return repeatedly to these core practices – just as you would repeatedly work through the “twelve steps” in A.A. or N.A. It’s rare that you hear many of these core practices emphasized in church (e.g., the need to slow down, the need for silence and solitude), and some typical practices might just be off the radar of your particular faith tradition – and for that reason not ever mentioned (contemplative prayer, fixed-time prayer, keeping of a sabbath). We look to God to change us, but merely looking is not enough. Nor is it enough merely to learn more, or try harder. The practice of spiritual disciplines transcends eras of Christian history, continents, cultures and denominations. Christians of influence in the Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant traditions all testify to its value. As you join me in thoughtfully interacting with the “riches” of this blog, my prayer is that we will all succeed at actually living more the kind of life that Jesus lived. That’s what God wants for us – and what our world needs from us!
“Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.” 1 Timothy 4:7
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- Have you settled for merely more information or inspiration? Is your solution to try harder?
- What you’re doing to be more like Jesus – is it working?
- Are you actually training yourself to do “the right thing, in the right way, at the right time, for the right reason?”
Abba, keep me moving along the journey of transformation.
For More: The Life You’ve Always Wanted by John Ortberg
These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less (with today being a rare exception). I appreciate your interest! – Bill (Psalm 90:14)
“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”
“No one, however, can be content at this point to be a mere ‘layman,’ to be indolent, to be no more than a passive spectator or reader. No one is excused the task of asking questions or the more difficult task of providing and assessing answers. Preaching in the congregation, and the theology which serves its preparation, can be faithful to its theme and therefore relevant and adapted to the circumstances and edifying to the community, only if it is surrounded, sustained and constantly stimulated and fructified by the questions and answers of the community. With his own questions and answers in matters of right understanding
and doctrine, each individual Christian thus participates in what the community is commanded to do. If he holds aloof, or slackens, or allows himself to sleep, or wanders into speculation and error, he must not be surprised if sooner or later the same will have to be said about the community as such and particularly about its more responsible members. How many complaints about the ‘Church’ would never be made if only those who make them were to realise that we ourselves are the Church, so that what it has or has not to say stands or falls with us. There can be no doubt that all the great errors which have overtaken the preaching and theology of the community in the course of its history have had their true origin, not so much in the studies of the well-known errorists and heretics who have merely blabbed them out, but rather in the secret inattention and neglect, the private drowsing and wandering and erring, of innumerable nameless Christians who were not prepared to regard the listening of the community to the Word as their own concern, who wanted privacy in their thinking, and who thus created the atmosphere in which heresy and error became possible and even inevitable in the community.” Karl Barth
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- Have you thought about your responsibility to be a skillful and critical thinker in the congregation? …are you simply going with the flow?
- Does your church encourage not only community but individuality? …not only conformity to Biblical norms, but sensitivity to violation of those norms?
- Do you know the great Christian tradition well enough to know when it’s being ignored or perverted?
Abba, may we love you with our minds as well as our hearts.
For More: Church Dogmatics: A Selection … by Helmut Gollwitzer
These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow and share my blog. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest! – Bill (Psalm 90:14)