Apr 30, 2011

Stealing Praises

"One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, 'Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?' Then he said to him, 'Rise and go; your faith has made you well.'" Luke 17:15-19

Have you ever had someone take your idea and run with it? Or perhaps a boss/supervisor take credit for your ideas and work? I have. It is so frustrating.  Perhaps you've labored for other's behalf, for their good without receiving so much as a thank you. Maybe like me, if you think about it too long, a twinge of bitterness unfolds within.

I think of Jesus healing the ten lepers. Not only did he heal them from sickness, but he delivered them from insults hurled at them, from begging, from societal shame. Once they were considered nobodies, pariahs, by those around them. Daily dehumanization. Now, because of Jesus' touch, they were normal. They treasured normal. Normal meant they could now work to provide for themselves and family. Normal meant they could go wherever they wanted--from the village market, to the temple, to visit family without having to yell, "Unclean! Unclean!"

Only one, a Samaritan at that, returned to heap thanks and praise upon Jesus. Jesus notices him and publicly applauds his act of faith.

Recently, when I was overlooked, I thought to myself, "Well really Lord, the glory is supposed to go to you. Really."  I remembered that he notices what we do in secret. I also remembered Colossians 3 where Paul admonishes us to do all for the glory of God, not for our own glory.
It should be enough for us to get our reward in heaven, even if we don't get it in this life. And many who get acknowledgment in this life--if they've done acts of righteousness for the wrong motives--may not get acknowledgment in the life to come.

God sees us though. God sees, even if no one else does. And if our obedience and love bring him joy and glory, let us be content that one day we'll get acknowledgment, we'll get a pat on the back from him. This is what we must tell ourselves for it is true and it will squelch bitterness.

Apr 27, 2011

The Temptation To Be Relevant

These are Henri Nouwen's words from his book, In The Name of Jesus. It is a book for Christian leaders.

"Jesus' first tempation was to be relevant, to turn stones into bread . . . . Aren't we priests and ministers called to help people, feed the hungry, and to save those who are starving? Are we not called to do something that makes people realize that we do make a difference in their lives? Aren't we called to heal the sick, feed the hungry, and alleviate the suffering of the poor? Jesus was faced with these same questions, but when he was asked to prove his power as the Son of God by the relevant behavior of turning stones into bread, he clung to his mission to proclaim the word and said, 'One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God' (Matthew 4:4) . . . .

Beneath all the great accomplishments of our time there is a deep current of despair. While efficiency and control are the great aspirations of our society, the loneliness, isolation, lack of friendship and intimacy, broken relationships, boredom, feelings of emptiness and depression, and a deep sense of uselessness fill the hearts of millions of people in a success-oriented world . . . . And the cry that arises from behind all of this . . . is clearly: "Is there anybody who loves me? Is there anybody who cares? Is there anybody who wants to stay home for me? Is there anybody who wants to be with me when I am not in control, when I feel like crying? Is there anyone who can give me a sense of belonging?

It is here that the need for a new Christian leadership becomes clear. The leaders of the future will be those who dare to claim their irrelevance in the contemporary world as a divine vocation that allows them to enter into a deep solidarity with the anguish underlying all the glitter of success, and to bring the light of Jesus there.

Apr 25, 2011

Solitude and Silence For the Sake of Others & More . . .

This is a reflection from my friend Jean Nevills, a fountain of wisdom--way up there near Portland, Oregon. Thank you Jean for these good words, words flowing from your solitude and silence!

Happy Easter Monday!

I was sitting this morning with the post-resurrection scenes in John 20 with Mary Magdalene, Peter and John, and especially with Thomas when I was surprised by the gospel writer (John) interrupting his gripping narrative. If it were a movie, there would be a freeze-frame with this voice-over:

“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come (continue) to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have Life in His Name.” Jn.20:30-31

It would have been enough for me to stay with Mary and Jesus in the Garden –or with the disciples in that locked room, or with Thomas in his doubting against all hope because it was all so impossible enough to stay with their bewilderment and dismay, their relief and confusion, their anxiousness, doubt, and wonder—that is enough to live with for a while.

But I was moved by John’s interruption of the narrative at this point because I felt his grasp on my shirt collar that pulled me into the Story. The inclusion surprised me, much like the way the Arsee Oromo surprised us at Kosovo when they put a robe upon our shoulders to honor us and made us part of them. Their story became my story that day in Ethiopia.

It was that kind of pull that I felt when I hit verse 31. At this point, the story is not only about Mary and the other disciples. The story is also about me. About my moving from wanting to believe to believing that Jesus is God’s Christ, and mine; that I may have Life in His Name—in His character and realty. Unlike Thomas who doubts against all hope until he can see to believe, I hope against all my doubts that believing, I may see, and clearly, my Lord and my God. And I pray for his Life to be realized in me.

John interrupted his narrative because the whole point of writing it was for my sake—or to borrow from Ruth Haley Barton’s chapter title: For the Sake of Others. Like John, she gets the point that is beyond writing the narrative, beyond practicing Silence and Solitude:

“…. the practices of solitude and silence do, in time, bring us full circle—back into life in the human community. Whether we have been away for a half an hour of solitude, and an extended retreat time or have dropped completely out of sight for a whle, God, in his time, does eventually bring us back to the life he has given us. Perhaps nothing in our external circumstances has changed, but we have changed, and that’s what our world needs more than anything. Without pressing or pushing or trying to do great altruistic deeds, we discover that much that happens in solitude and silence ends up being ‘for others’—as paradoxical as that may seem.” Pg. 131

In some ways, it relieves the guilt of “not getting anything done” by our practice, because, after all it ends up being for others, particularly the others that our life is lived in closest proximity with. And after it has its effect on us, it may even change them. And change our families, our work places, and eventually our world. I am hoping for that, I am looking for that, I am believing for that.

Apr 22, 2011

He Trusted Him Enough.

It struck me that Jesus trusted the Father enough to die. When he said, "Father take this cup from me," What was he expressing? Fear? We're not completely sure. Theologians argue about it. We know Jesus was sinless. He chose the Father's will even though it appeared crazy to those closest to him. He knew the Father. He knew the Father to be good. Father loved him and the world and wouldn't put him through this in vain. Father knows best. Do we know our Father well enough to believe he knows best? To believe that he will do good to us?

*Thank you Jesus for giving us life through your death.

Apr 19, 2011

Tripping Jesus.

"Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Matthew 16:23 (NIV).

It happens often in the life of faith. We are following Jesus but suddenly and subtly we veer off into a way of thinking and being that drives us to search for ways to use God in order to promote our own interests. Remember Peter? He had his own way of thinking about bringing forth the Kingdom of God and how Jesus should ascend to power. Maybe he didn't realize it until Jesus (in Matthew 16) started describing how things would go down. Maybe he didn't realize what lay within himself until he blurted out, "never Lord." After all, he was only trying to protect Jesus; persecution, torture, humiliation, and death weren't in his plans for bringing in the Kingdom of God. How could they be in anyone's plans? Well, it turns out such was God's plan.

Peter was a stumbling block to Jesus. Does God trip over us?

Are we confusing human concerns, our concerns, with God's concerns? Are we so foolish to think that our ways of doing things are necessarily God's ways? We start to get presumptious. Our ego and its desires, our way of bringing in God's kingdom, are not always God's way. And we get frustrated with God when he doesn't do what we want when we want it and how we want it. We throw tantrums.

You see this is true with Christians leaders, in poiltics, within our families, and within ourselves. Before we dogmatically declare that our way of doing something is Christ's way, let us check with the Lord, with a discerning Christian community.

May we not trip Jesus up in our eagerness to do God's work.

Apr 17, 2011

Think Twice About Others . . . C.S. Lewis

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics."

In C.S. Lewis' sermon "The Weight of Glory"

Apr 14, 2011

Spiritual Fog

During Lent I will not be writing new posts but will be scheduling old posts to be reposted. These are some that I think are dandy. Blessings to you these 40 days as you walk with Christ through the wilderness.

Last week while in Rochester, NY for my husband's Ph.D. graduation, we made our way east on the SeawayTrail to Pultneyville, NY. We were headed to Bob Foreman park where we could eat lunch with an unobstructed view of Lake Ontario. Prior to moving and having our daughter Iliana, we'd picnic there on Sundays or during a weekday when we were both off. I'd read or pray or nap as I lazily listened to the waves lap the shore. Not only is the park one of our favorite places, but the drive there is, too. However, last week as we made our way there, we couldn't see the lake because of fog. It was sunny, around sixty degrees and 1:00 p.m. in the afternoon. Yet, the fog hadn't lifted! Shawn was disappointed; so was I. We had been telling our three-year-old daughter Iliana and his mother (grandma) about our favorite place.

We kept driving anyway hoping to see the lake when we arrived. We couldn't! From the parking lot, one always gets a good view of the lake. Not that day! I think visibility was about two feet. We walked right up to the edge of the three foot drop-off to the rocky beach. We could barely see the water from there. Shawn, Iliana, and grandma continued down to the water's edge to skip rocks. I decided to sit down on a bench and contemplate the water I couldn't see because of the fog. I'd wait for the sun to burn off the fog while we were there.

I couldn't see beautiful Lake Ontario because of the fog although it was right in front of me. That happens when we are in a spiritual fog. Remember Joseph (whom I often recall)? He thought he was going to get out of jail but was forgotten. He thought after he interpreted the dream for the cupbearer that he'd be out. Not so. Spiritual fog can result from disobedience, or it can result from the disappointment with God when he doesn't act or answer the way we expected him too. We've obeyed. We've prayed. We've served. Still nothing. We can't see a thing. Can't see an answer. That day, I was reminded that the answer can be right in front of our eyes, but we may not see it. Lake Ontario was right in front of us, but we couldn't see it because of the thick blanket of fog. We had to wait for the sun to burn off the fog and it started to before we left, although not completely.

We have to wait for God to burn off the spiritual fog, the fog of confusion or disillusionment. Then we'll able to see. When he does, we'll see clearly, even if it's from the vantage point of the next life.

Apr 12, 2011

Wrath: Seven Deadly Sins

Wrath (Anger or Rage) - impatience, hostility, resentment, desire for revenge, retaliation, sarcasm. According to Lance Webb, "self-love striking out with hostility and resentment at those threatening or getting in the way of the fulfillment of the image of one's vision." Rooted in self-pity. Quick temper. According to Guinness, "studied degradation of another . . . a complete denial of his or her worth . . . a desire to hurt, in contempt, the perpetrator doesn't care whether the other is hurt or not--he or she is not worth such a moment's consideration. Holding others in contempt makes it easier to hurt or degrade them again and again. Stems from feelings of inferiority or impotence. http://www.whitestonejournal.com/ say that impatience with the faults of others is related to wrath/anger.

The virtue is kindness.

I never though about anger being related to self-love. These clarifications on the seven deadly sins give us a lot to think about, a lot to repent of don't they?

Apr 11, 2011

Hell & Contentment


blessings plural of bless·ing (Noun)

1. God's favor and protection.
2. A prayer asking for such favor and protection.

This is hell: to not see or refuse to see God right in front of us. To be ungrateful for his millions of blessings all around us. Surrounded by God but not seeing him. Surrounded by God but having contempt for him because he is the potter and we are the clay when really we live like we wish the opposite to be true.

This is hell: to think badly and rudely and harshly of God when he is full of love, joy, grace, and compassion and will freely give us all things. He is a just judge.

We must think magnificently of God. He is more magnificent and good then we can imagine.

This is hell: to have eternal treasures before us--all goodness--all beauty--all truth and to refuse it. That is what Satan did. And what we do time after time.

God help us to see and be grateful.

Apr 9, 2011

C.S. Lewis on Writing/Writers Getting Over Themselves

One of the people I truly admire and want to emulate (Jan Johnson), a modern day Amma,  sent me this quote from Lewis:

From the age of sixteen onwards I had one single ambition (becoming a successful writer), from which I never wavered, in the prosecution of which I spent every ounce I could, on which I really and deliberately staked my whole con­tentment: and I recognise myself as having unmistakably failed in it. I feel that I have some right to talk to you as a man in the same boat.

The side of me which longs, not to write, for no one can stop us doing that, but to be approved as a writer, is not the side of us that is really worth much. And depend upon it, unless God has abandoned us, he will find means to cauterise that side somehow or other. If we can take the pain well and truly now and by it forever the wish to be dis­tinguished beyond our fellows. And honestly, the being cured, with all the pain, has pleasure too: one creeps home, tired and bruised into a state of mind that is really restful, when all one’s ambitions have been given up. Then one can really say for the first time, “Thy Kingdom come.” For in that Kingdom there will be no pre-eminences and a man must have reached the stage of not caring two straws about his own status.

Think how difficult that would be if one succeeded as a writer: how bitter this necessary purgation at the age of sixty, when literary success had made your whole life and you had then got to begin to go through the stage of seeing it all as dust and ashes. Perhaps God has been specially kind to us in forcing us to get over it at the beginning. We have got to die.

I would have given almost anything -- I shudder to think what I would have given if I had been allowed - to be a successful writer. I am writing this as I do simply and solely because I think the only thing for you to do is absolutely to kill the part of you that wants success.

Apr 8, 2011

Fleeing Adultery

I thought I'd refer you to this post I wrote for Christianity Today on their Her.meneutics Blog about a year ago. Perhaps you or someone you know could benefit from it:



Apr 7, 2011

The Temptation For Writers and Artists and Poets and Musicians and Pastors

. . .  for all of us really. This comes from the Great Divorce By C.S. Lewis (one of my favorite books of all time).  pp. 84&85 

"'When you've grown into a Person (it's all right, we all had to do it) there'll be some things which you'll see better than anyone else. One of the things you will want to do will be to tell us about them. But not yet. At present your business is to see. Come and see. He is endless. Come and feed . . . . '

It was all a snare. Ink and catgut and paint were all necessary down there, but they are also dangerous stimulants. Ever poet and musician and artist, but for Grace, is drawn away from love for the thing he tells, to love of the telling till, down in Deep Hell, they cannot be interested in God at all but only in what they say about Him. For it doesn't stop at being interested in paint you know. They sink lower--become interested in their own personalities and in nothing but their own reputations.'"

Apr 5, 2011


Nouwen on Resentment.

Here are Nouwen's comments in the context of Matthew 20:28 where James and John via their mother ask Jesus for the seats to the left and right of him when his kingdom comes.

"We, like the sons of Zebedee, want to be near power and reflected glory. And if we cannot sit on the throne we at least want to sit very close to it. If we do not dare to ask for this privilege ourselves, we let someone close to us ask for it. Jesus's teaching here is a reminder of our temptation to be like God, and of our resentment for not always being first in line or highly privileged. If we cannot attain the first place, we'll settle for the second place in the kingdom. Those who perceive themselves worthy of first place but have to be content with second place can only look upward with resentment and downard with suspicion. And then, in this competitive and jealous place, neither God nor humanity can be served.

When you cling to your complaints, your heart is full of resentment, and there is no room for God to enter and set you free. Resentment curtails the movement of the Spirit and diminshes the kingdom within. It replaces, faith, hope, and charity with fear, doubt, and rivalry. It makes an enormous difference in our personal and communal lives whether we respond to life in anger and resentment, or in love and gratitude."

This is from the book: Spiritual Formation: Following The Movements of the Spirit

--Henri Nouwen's work with Michael Christensen and Rebecca J. Laird. I highly recommend this book. Thank you to Christensen and Laird for putting these pieces of Nouwen's published and unpublished works and lectures together. We are indebted to you!

Apr 4, 2011

Vow of Stability

We are but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return (see Psalm 78:39).

God is stable...he changes not. His character changes not. However, everything else in life, is in a sense,  unstable. We are but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return (see Psalm 78:39). Yet, how we long for stability in our own lives! Rootedness in God and in a community.  An anchor. Is it possible?

Could it be that we play a part in the stability we long for? Can we remain present in a particular place to particular people even though it may cost us personal success? Could we stay put and present in our particular community? Would we stay for the good of others and ourselves--only moving if God moves us?

Quoting Father Guy, a monk from Blue Cloud Abbey, Dennis Okholm writes in his book, Monk Habits for Everyday People, "God has placed us in a community of people with whom we would not have chosen to live had it been up to us."

Continuing on the thought of stability, Okholm notes, "But it means more than just remaining in place. Stability means being faithful where we are--really paying attention to those with whom we live and to what is happening in our common life. In fact, persevering in stability is really persevering in listening. A person who stays where God has put her (not in abusive situations of course) because it is with that group of folks, speaking the truth in love, that she will grow up with them 'to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ,' as Paul puts it to the Ephesians (4:11-16)."

He explains further, "Conversion and growth in character happen when we remain, not when we run. This is where the vow of stability links up with the vow of conversatio moralis (conversion of life).

To remain stable and present to others where we are would indeed require a conversatio moralis for many of us. But the concept of being present and faithful to God and to those around us--moving only if we are called to move--some would say forced to move--is something we have to think about.

Monk Habits for Everyday People pp. 90,91,92.

Apr 2, 2011

From A Front Porch To A Patio

This is a very interesting article about the reason for this online magazine/blog. Our space shapes us. I stumbled upon it and thought that you might want to think about what is said:


Apr 1, 2011

Drowning Splashes

This is an observation made from Susanna over at Wishful Thinking:

"I was talking to Jonathan one night and he said the most interesting thing. He said, “It’s the drowning person who makes the most splashes in the water.” I thought about this for a long time. I’m still thinking about it. For so long I was drowning. I made a lot of noise. I splashed a lot. I didn’t want to slip silently beneath the waves. Some of this blog was about that for me. I desperately needed someone, anyone, to see, to know what I was feeling. I didn’t want anyone to have just a vague idea of my struggle. I wanted to capture it in words, pin it down long enough to name it. I think there were times when I did, but words always fall short. Words are never enough. The greatest griefs are silent. So I felt that I needed a period of re-examining the motivation for my words. I needed a period of stillness."

You can read more at: http://susanna-wishfulthinking.blogspot.com/