Francis de Sales quote about love

Today’s quote deals with how love draws us toward what is truly good:

33 Lent--Week 5--Compassion--Francis de Sales

I’m thinking that this “advancement” is a word referring to growth. When we love others, our souls move in a positive, good direction. Love draws us into a better way of living.

“Effusion” refers to giving off something like a liquid or scent. It’s an “outpouring” of sorts. Love has a quality of pouring out itself, overflowing to others.  (Makes me think of the sermon on Sunday when the pastor poured water into a glass that eventually filled and overflowed. When we allow God’s love to enter our hearts, the love fills us, and then overflows into loving others, giving God’s love to others.)

There is much to ponder about love–and much to put into practice. Love is one of those things that is ever-growing, ever-expanding… if only we agree to allow love to do its work.

Until next time, Amen! 

 

Trust in God–even in hard times (or poor weather)

Lately I’ve been working on lots of creative projects.  One is serving as coordinator for a Christian spirituality blog for Easter Lutheran Church.

At the same time, the weather has been pretty crazy this winter. I say winter, not spring, because yesterday we had serious snow swirling around and it’s currently 11 degrees F.   Again.

…and so it was, I enjoyed this post by Pastor Paul Harris about trust in God, no matter how wacky or trying things may be (for me, even poor weather–which is a much easier cross than others have):

May the God of all hope
fill you with joy and peace in believing,
so that you may abound in hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit.

 — Romans 15:13

In my late teens I had a great struggle with the Christian faith in which I had been raised.   After rejecting Christianity as both irrelevant and untrue, I found myself in a terrible disquiet of heart.  How could I live in a world without God; a world with neither moral nor spiritual guideposts?

After many turns and twists of mind and heart, I …

READ MORE at —>> www.easterprays.com  (March 24, 2014 entry)

 

Budding leaves--Trust in God--Julie McCarty

 

May the good Lord bless you with faith, trust, and perseverance.

Until next time, Amen!

 

Gray hair, wisdom, and following Christ

My child, from your youth choose discipline;
and when you have gray hair you will find wisdom.
–Sirach 6:18

Gray hair connected with wisdom?

I don’t dye my graying hair, so I experienced a kind of delight in this reading this verse today in Give Us This Day (Liturgical Press). I don’t consider hair coloring to be sinful or anything–so please don’t be offended if you, well, improve your hair color. I just find it freeing and natural to be true to who I really am before God, by letting my hair “be itself,” the color God gave me. (My husband likes it that way, too.)

Of course this bible verse isn’t really about gray hair, but rather the search for wisdom– genuine wisdom, not just memorizing facts or getting a passing grade in school. Youth can be extremely insightful about certain things, but there is a special wisdom that some people receive through lived experience and years of spiritual attentiveness.

Being of an older age is no guarantee that one will be wise, of course. The book of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) tells us that if you want to have wisdom in later years, you need to have discipline in your life. Our culture often thinks of discipline as punishment, but that is not what is meant here. Sirach is talking about self-control, dedication, and hard work, like a farmer who works at plowing and planting a field, and then must wait for the harvest.

Growing corn plants--photo by Julie McCarty

If you are like me, you have self-control in some ways but not in others. I can finish a college course, but waste time on Facebook when I should be writing. I can eat a healthy breakfast yet pig out in the evening. I can control cussing in public only to say something hurtful to a friend. You get the idea.

The roots of the words discipline and disciple are connected with learning. A professor teaches an academic discipline, such as chemistry. One who is learning from a spiritual master or guru is called his follower or disciple. The followers of Jesus were not called disciples just because they walked down the road with him, but because they were his spiritual apprentices, learning Christ’s spiritual teachings.

To be a disciple (follower) of Jesus Christ in our own day is to follow his spiritual teachings. Occasionally I get the feeling that some who call themselves Christian in this country are losing sight of this fact. Yes, our profession of belief in Christ might be the minimal requirements, on our death-bed, for God to take us to heaven out of his infinite mercy and love (like the good thief on the cross).  Yes, it is true we cannot “earn” our salvation by our own good works.

Good Shepherd stained glass window--photo by Julie McCartyHowever, if we are really disciples of Christ, that is, believers in the “Jesus way,” then we will seek to live as he taught us. That takes courage, self-control, effort, and many gifts of grace and the Holy Spirit. Jesus taught us that not everyone who cries out “Lord, Lord” (believing in God) will be saved, but rather those who actually do the will of God (see Matt. 7:21).

I want to be that kind of follower of Jesus, someone who not only intellectually believes in Christ or goes to church on Sunday, but also one who lives her life according to the teachings of Christ. Yes, I am a sinner. I cannot live as Christ taught without the help of grace and the Holy Spirit. But I have to do what I can, put forth a little effort to truly love God with my whole heart, mind, soul, and body, and to love others as myself.

For me, living that way would be the Ultimate Wisdom.

Until next time, Amen!

A New Serenity Prayer by James Martin

Thinking of all my cyberspace friends this week, as we begin celebrating various holidays/holy days… Below is a prayer from priest and author James Martin  I hope you will enjoy as much as I do.

A New Serenity Prayer 

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the people I cannot change,
which is pretty much everyone,
since I’m clearly not you, God.

At least not the last time I checked.

And while you’re at it, God,
please give me the courage
to change what I need to change about myself,
which is frankly a lot, since, once again,
I’m not you, which means I’m not perfect.

It’s better for me to focus on changing myself
than to worry about changing other people,
who, as you’ll no doubt remember me saying,
I can’t change anyway.

Finally, give me the wisdom to just shut up
whenever I think that I’m clearly smarter
than everyone else in the room,
that no one knows what they’re talking about except me,
or that I alone have all the answers.

Basically, God,
grant me the wisdom
to remember that I’m
not you.

Amen.

(“A New Serenity Prayer” used with permission from the author.)

 

Jesus, Saint Clare, and the Gospel of Prosperity

Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.  —Mark 10:21-22.

Today is the feast of Saint Clare of Assisi (1194-1253), a Christian who fully embraced these words of Jesus. A young woman from a wealthy family, Clare gave up a luxurious lifestyle at age 18 in response to the preaching of the now-famous Francis of Assisi. Like Francis, her goal was to embody the gospel message completely, to imitate Christ so much that her life might become a sort of mirror image of the Savior.

In founding the Poor Clares, a religious order of women who follow Franciscan ideals, Clare made living a life of utter simplicity or “holy poverty,” a foundational principle. Clare wanted to be free of all that might keep her from experiencing the fullness of Christ in her life.

That is not to say that poverty is a glorious thing. It is not glamorous or desirable to be forced into poverty. The Lord does not want people to starve. The key thing here is that those with much wealth and many material things (and most Americans fit into this category) can become so attached to these things that they focus their lives on obtaining more and more things or money rather than focusing their hearts on God.

The man in the gospel reading above goes away “shocked and grieving”–he can’t  believe his ears. He’s kept all the commandments and now Jesus wants him to get rid of his treasured possessions. This man probably spent his whole life amassing those possessions, maintaining them with repair and upkeep, and protecting them from thieves. His “things” were probably his main focus–and Jesus encourages him to get rid of them.

In her time, Clare took these words of Christ very seriously. I’m trying to imagine what this teaching means in our lives today. Certainly Christ desires that we have basic food and shelter. After all, he taught us to pray, “give us this day, our daily bread.” But I rather doubt Christ would want many of us (if any) to pray “give us this day, increased stock dividends,” or “save me from higher taxes.”

Yet, some Christian speakers of today give the impression that following Christ is a recipe for wealth, success, and earthly power. If you pray the right way, or donate to the right ministry, money will come back to you in return. This is known as the “gospel of prosperity.”

I wonder, how does one reconcile the gospel of prosperity with these words of Jesus telling the man to sell all he owned? To build up treasure, not in bank accounts, powerful cars or sleek electronic gadgets (confession: I just bought a Kindle), but rather “treasure in heaven”?

Saint Clare was counter-cultural when she dared to say no to her parents’ plan for her life (prestigious marriage, no doubt) and took up instead the cross of Christ in holy poverty. She even stood her ground on this issue when church officials wanted to release her from her vow of holy poverty because they thought it too strenuous for a woman. “Release me from my sins,” she said, “but never from the vow of holy poverty,” or something to that effect (I regret I can’t find where I read this).

Today we are bombarded with messages that would lead us away from the true way of Christ, some of them coming from people who call themselves “Christian.” May we have the courage of Clare, even when it means giving up wealth, power, or prestige for the sake of the gospel.

Spiritual Aerobics

Think about your possessions. Is there something you own that you could give to someone in need? Perhaps a closet filled with things you never use? Magazines? School supplies? Dishes? A table? Socks? Suitcases? Phones? Radios? Winter coats? School clothes? Books? A musical instrument or sports equipment? Blankets?

Prayer of Saint Francis

In our broken and hurting world, the Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi reminds me what is really important in life. The words of the prayer have the attitude and mind of Christ, who did not seek fame or glory, but rather sought to love and serve others.

The Prayer of Saint Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
 
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Amen.
 
There is a beautiful visual mediation of this prayer on YouTube using the music of Christian musician John Michael Talbot (video by heywaldojr). The photos that accompany this 4 minute song make a wonderful prayer meditation, a good break from the work of the day (if commercials appear, just click on the X to get rid of them):
 
If you cannot see the above video, click on the following link or copy and paste the link into your browser:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cXyYm1yIL-g  — or google “Prayer of Saint Francis” and “John Michael Talbot”

Hope this video brings a smile to your heart–I know it did mine.

Until next time,

Amen!