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

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

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

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

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

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

Moving From the Head to the Heart

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

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

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

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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! Please leave a comment/question. – Bill

Daily Riches: Knowing and Not Knowing (Richard Rohr, Tobin Hart and Eugene Ionesco)

“Over-explanation separates us from astonishment.” Eugene Ionesco

“We need transformed people today, and not just people with answers. I do not want my too many words to separate you from astonishment or to provide you with a substitute for your own inner experience. We all need, forever, what Jesus described as ‘the beginner’s mind’ of a curious child. A beginner’s mind … is the best path for spiritual wisdom. Tobin Hart writes: ‘Instead of grasping for certainty, wisdom rides the question, lives the question…. When the quest for certainty and control is pushed to the background, the possibility of wonder returns. Wonder provides a gateway to wise insight.’ Incorporating negative and self-critical thinking is essential to true prophetic understanding. At the same time, we must also trust that we are held irrevocably in the mystery of God’s love, without fully understanding it. Alongside all our knowing, accompanying every bit of our knowing, must be the humble ‘knowing that we do not know.’ That’s why the great tradition of prayer is balanced by both kataphatic knowing, through images and words, and apophatic knowing, through silence, images, and beyond words. Apophatic knowing is the empty space around the words, allowing God to fill in all the gaps in an ‘unspeakable’ way. Strangely enough, this unknowing is a new kind of understanding. We have a word for it: faith, a kind of knowing that doesn’t need to know and yet doesn’t dismiss knowledge either; a kind of knowing that doesn’t need to hold everything itself because, at a deeper level, it knows it is being held.” Richard Rohr

“For now we see in a mirror, dimly,
but then we will see face to face.
Now I know only in part;
then I will know fully,
even as I have been fully known.”
1 Corinthians 13:12

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Are you on a “quest for certainty?” Can you relax and let God “fill in all the gaps” where mystery or paradox prevails?
  • Does “over-explanation” (“too many words”) interfere with your “inner experience” of God? Has extensive doctrinal explanation led to “transformation” for you?
  • Are you willing to admit mystery? Are you committed to living humbly as one who can “know only in part?”

Abba, don’t let me spoil my relationship with you by too much certainty or too many words.

For More: “A Story Bigger Than My Own” by Debie Thomas

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

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

Daily Riches: Cutting Through Political and Religious Illusions (Vernon Howard, Thomas Merton and Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

“Every day that you attempt to see things as they are in truth is a supremely successful day.” Vernon Howard

“It seems to me that the most basic problem is not political, it is apolitical and human. One of the most important things to do is to keep cutting deliberately through political lines and barriers and emphasizing the fact that these are largely fabrications and that there is another dimension, a genuine reality, totally opposed to the fictions of politics…. My own peculiar task in my Church and in my world has been that of the solitary explorer who, instead of jumping on all the latest bandwagons at once, is bound to search the existential depths of faith in its silences, its ambiguities, and in those certainties which lie deeper than the bottom of anxiety. In those depths there are no easy answers, no pat solutions to anything. It is a kind of submarine life in which faith sometimes mysteriously takes on the aspect of doubt, when, in fact, one has to doubt and reject conventional and superstitious surrogates that have taken the place of faith. …It is not complicated to lead the spiritual life. But it is difficult. We are blind, and subject to a thousand illusions. We must expect to be making mistakes almost all the time. We must be content to fall repeatedly and to begin again to try to deny ourselves, for the love of God.” Thomas Merton

“The believer is neither a pessimist nor an optimist. To be either is illusory. The believer sees reality not in a certain light but as it is….” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Jesus, in John 8:32

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Whether in understanding politics, your religion or the people in your life, do realize that you are “blind, and subject to a thousand illusions?” Do you attempt every day “to see things as they are in truth?”
  • With the passing of time, have you recognized “conventional and superstitious surrogates that have taken the place of faith?” Stop and really think about it.
  • Is there anyone (friend, author, opponent) that can help you in this regard?

Abba, break down my cocky certainty and keep me from succumbing to the many fabrications of my day.

For More: Faith and Violence 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. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

Daily Riches: The Tragic and Ludicrous Brokenness of the Church (Frederick Buechner)

There are Baptists, Methodists, Episcopalians. There are Presbyterians, Lutherans, Congregationalists. There are Disciples of Christ. There are Seventh-day Adventists and … Moravians. There are Quakers. And that’s only for starters. New denominations spring up. Old denominations split up and form new branches. The question is not, Are you a Baptist? but, What kind of a Baptist? It is not, Are you a member of the Presbyterian church? but Which Presbyterian church? A town with a population of less than five hundred may have churches of three or four denominations and none of them more than a quarter full on a good Sunday. There are some genuine differences between them, of course. The methods of church government differ. They tend to worship in different forms all the way from chanting, incense, and saints’ days to a service that is virtually indistinguishable from a New England town meeting with musical interludes. Some read the Bible more literally than others. If you examine the fine print, you may even come across some relatively minor theological differences among them, some stressing one aspect of the faith, some stressing others. But if you were to ask the average member of any congregation to explain those differences, you would be apt to be met with a long, unpregnant silence. By and large they all believe pretty much the same things and are confused about the same things and keep their fingers crossed during the same parts of the Nicene Creed. …Then add to that picture the Roman Catholic Church, still more divided from the Protestant denominations than they are from each other [and the Orthodox church], and by the time you’re through, you don’t know whether to burst into laughter or into tears. …When Jesus took the bread and said, ‘This is my body which is broken for you’ (1 Corinthians 11:24), it’s hard to believe that even in his wildest dreams he foresaw the tragic and ludicrous brokenness of the Church as his body. There’s no reason why everyone should be Christian in the same way and every reason to leave room for differences, but if all the competing factions of Christendom were to give as much of themselves to the high calling and holy hope that unites them as they do now to the relative inconsequentialities that divide them, the Church would look more like the Kingdom of God for a change and less like an ungodly mess.” Frederick Buechner

“so that they may be one as we are one.”
Jesus in John 17:11

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • By some estimates there are 41,000 denominations. Could your group really have cornered the truth?
  • Pick a group that differs from yours (evangelical, Catholic, Episcopal, Quaker). Can you list weak points in your group and strong points in the other one? Are you open to learning from others who identify as Christians but have views different from yours?
  • Jesus spoke of a unified church. What can you do to practice this “oneness?”

Abba, help us!

For More: Whistling in the Dark by Frederick Buechner

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