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Saturday, October 31, 2015

anxiety, saturday

Saturday, October 31

Opening Prayer: O Jesus, Good Shepherd, see us gathered from near and far, proclaiming – You are our Master, our shepherd. You call and lead us to fruitful paths of peace and contentment. In You Jesus, is sweet labor and joyful rest. Never have You abandoned us, sweet Jesus, never have you failed us.  Through dark nights and difficult moments, You carry us. There is no fear when you are near. You are the Way, the Truth and the Life; without you, who can survive?
      O Good Shepherd, You are our only hope. Only You can make us one; only You can renew our land. Only You can lead us safely to our true home where at last, we shall see and adore You face to face forever. Amen. ~Rev. Antonio Tobias

Scripture: Psalm 23:1-6

Journal: What does the image of the Lord as your shepherd do within you?  How does it comfort you?  How does it help you with feelings of doubt, fear, or anxiety?  Will you rest in the arms of the Good Shepherd today?

     Sometimes a passage of Scripture can become so familiar that we fail to pay adequate attention to it.  We fail to give it the space and the respect it needs to speak to us in a way where we can actually hear and understand what it is trying to say to us.  Unfortunately, I know that I have a tendency to do this pretty regularly.  As a matter of fact, not too long ago, I actually did it with these very verses. 
     You see, I have a tendency to be a bit of a sentence finisher; not only with people, but also with God.  Oh, I might not finish the sentences out loud, but I definitely do in my spirit.  When a passage is very familiar to me, I have a tendency to think. "Okay, I know where this is going.”  And it makes me stop listening because I already know what’s going to be said.  I'm sure it drives people crazy, particularly my wife, and rightly so.
     Luckily, the last time I tried to do that with Psalm 23, God stopped me in my tracks.  He didn’t allow me to finish his sentences for him.  He had something very specific he wanted to say to me, and I am so glad.  Because it was at a time when I was going through some rather uncertain and anxious circumstances and I needed to be reminded of the character and the power and the faithfulness and the trustworthiness of my God.  He is my Shepherd.  I have no need to want.  He will provide for me, protect me, defend me, and guide me.  He will make me lie down in green pastures.  If I will truly believe in his desire and his ability to care for me, then I will be able to let go of my anxious, fearful, controlling behavior and have the freedom to lie down in his presence and simply trust in his love.  He will lead me beside quiet waters—not chaotic, frenzied, crazy-out-of-control waters—but quiet and still waters where he will restore my soul.
     Every image that God gives us of himself is actually an invitation, a picture to step into.  Because with just about every image of God, there is a corresponding image of ourselves.  In this case, he is the shepherd and, thus, we are his sheep.  So, as we face whatever fear and anxiety and uncertainty we are in the midst of at the moment, all we need to do is remember that he is our Good Shepherd.  When we cry out to him we will find ourselves being held in his strong and loving arms; and being grateful that, at least this time, he didn’t allow us to finish his sentences—because ours wouldn’t have been nearly as good. 


Closing Prayer: God, my shepherd!  I don’t need a thing.  You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from.  True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction.  Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I’m not afraid when you walk at my side.  Your trusty shepherd’s crook makes me feel secure.  You serve me a six-course dinner right in front of my enemies.  You revive my drooping head; my cup brims with blessing.  Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life.  I’m back home in the house of God for the rest of my life. (The Message)

Friday, October 30, 2015

anxiety, friday

Friday, October 30

Opening Prayer: O God, my loving Father, you are my refuge and my portion.  Let me rest in the safety and security of your strong and loving arms this day.  Help me to trust you completely—and to be occupied with nothing else but you.  Let me find my hope in you, both now and forevermore.  Amen.

Scripture: Psalm 16:1-11

Journal: What seems most relevant to your life right now: portion, cup, lot, boundary lines, or inheritance?  How does this Psalm speak to you in that area?  How is it comforting?  How is it disrupting?  What is God’s invitation to you today?

The man who prays raises the question of what the limits of hope may be.  Prayer is his way of declaring that the boundaries of life and the limits of hope cannot be drawn with the crayons of time and space.  The man who prays pushes hope into areas where men who never dream never venture.  And so it is not difficult for him to believe. (Without Darkness by Anthony Padovano)


Closing Prayer: Keep me safe, O God, I’ve run for dear life to you.  I say to God, “Be my Lord!”  Without you, nothing makes sense.  And these God-chosen lives all around—what splendid friends they make!  Don’t just go shopping for a god.  Gods are not for sale.  I swear I’ll never treat god-names like brand-names.  My choice is you, God, first and only.  And now I find I’m your choice!  You set me up with a house and yard.  And then you made me your heir!
     The wise counsel God gives when I’m awake is confirmed by my sleeping heart.
Day and night I’ll stick with God; I’ve got a good thing going and I’m not letting go.  I’m happy from the inside out, and from the outside in, I’m firmly formed.  You canceled my ticket to hell—that’s not my destination!  Now you’ve got my feet on the life path, all radiant from the shining of your face.  Ever since you took my hand, I’m on the right way. (The Message)

Thursday, October 29, 2015

anxiety, thursday

Thursday, October 29

Opening Prayer: In Thy will, O Lord, is my peace.  In Thy love is my rest.  In Thy service is my joy.  Thou art all my heart’s desire.  Amen. (A Diary of Private Prayer by John Baillie)

Scripture: Psalm 142:1-7

Journal: How is the Lord your refuge these days?  What do you need him to be your refuge from?  How does this Psalm speak to something in your heart or life today?

     The story was of a poor woman who had been carried triumphantly through a life of unusual sorrow.  She was giving the history of her life to a kind visitor on one occasion, and at the close the visitor said, feelingly, “O Hannah, I do not see how you could bear so much sorrow!” “I did not bear it,” was the quick reply; “the Lord bore it for me.” “Yes,” said the visitor “that is the right way.  You must take your troubles to the Lord.” “Yes,” replied Hannah, “but we must do more than that; we must leave them there.  Most people,” she continued, “take their burdens to Him, but they bring them away with them again, and are just as worried and unhappy as ever.  But I take mine, and I leave them with Him, and come away and forget them.  And if the worry comes back, I take it to Him again; I do this over and over, until at last I just forget that I have any worries, and am at perfect rest.” (The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith)


Closing Prayer: O God, who hast been the Refuge of my fathers through many generations, be my Refuge today in every time and circumstance of need.  Be my Guide through all that is dark and doubtful.  Be my Strength in time of testing.  Gladden my heart with Thy peace, through Jesus Christ my Lord.  Amen. (A Diary of Private Prayer by John Baillie)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

anxiety, wednesday

Wednesday, October 28

Opening Prayer: Lord, when I am tempted to look at circumstances, and allow them to determine how I live my days, turn my heart and my mind toward you and allow me to consider the lilies of the field and the birds of the air and to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that if you feed the birds of the air and clothe the lilies of the field, you will most certainly care for me, your beloved.  Amen.

Scripture: Luke 12:22-34

Journal: What things make you most anxious about your life these days?  What happens when you consider the ravens or the lilies?  What does it look like to seek him in the midst of your worry?

You find no difficulty in trusting the Lord with the management of the universe, and all the outward creation, and can your case be any more complex or difficult than these. That you need to be anxious or troubled about His management of you?  Away with such unworthy doubtings!  Take your stand on the power and trustworthiness of your God, and see how quickly all difficulties will vanish before a steadfast determination to believe.  Trust in the dark, trust in the light, trust at night and trust in the morning, and you will find that the faith which may begin by mighty effort, will end sooner or later by becoming the easy and natural habit of the soul. (The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith)


Closing Prayer: O God, our Heavenly Father, help us to not be consumed with the worries and anxieties of this life, but to give all of our cares to you in prayer.  Fix our hearts and our minds on your character and your excellence; that your peace may guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.  It is in his name that we lift up our prayers.  Amen.    

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

anxiety, tuesday

Tuesday, October 27

Opening Prayer: O God, our loving Father, let me rest in the silence and security of your strong and loving arms this day.  Help me to trust you completely—and to be occupied with nothing else but you.  Let me find my hope in you, both now and forevermore.  Amen.

Scripture: 1 Peter 5:6-11

Journal: Where do you usually cast your anxiety?  What is the typical result?  What does it mean to cast all of our anxieties on him?  Do you really believe he cares?  Do you really believe he can be trusted with them?

Reflection: And remember, there are two things which are more utterly incompatible than even oil and water, and these two are trust and worry.  Would you call it trust if you should give something into the hands of a friend to attend to for you, and then should spend your nights and days in anxious thought and worry as to whether it would be rightly and successfully done?  And can you call it trust, when you have given the saving and keeping of your soul into the hands of the Lord, if day after day, and night after night you are spending hours of anxious thought and questionings about the matter?  When a believer really trusts anything, he ceases to worry about that thing which he has trusted.  And when he worries, it is plain proof that he does not trust. (The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith)


Closing Prayer: O Christ Jesus, when all is darkness and we feel our weakness and helplessness, give us the sense of your presence, your love, and your strength.  Help us to have perfect trust in your protecting love and strengthening power, so that nothing may frighten or worry us, for, living close to you, we shall see your hand, your purpose, your will through all things. ~St. Ignatius

Monday, October 26, 2015

anxiety, monday

Monday, October 26

Opening Prayer: O living and eternal God, you are more ready to give than we to ask.  Grant us a new vision of yourself, that seeing you as you are, we may desire you, and desiring you, may surrender our lives to you.  We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God forever and ever.  Amen. (The Little Book of Hours)

Scripture: Philippians 4:4-9

Journal: What is the relationship between anxiety and prayer in your life?  What does God desire for it to be?  How do we move from one to the other?

All growth in the spiritual life is connected with the clearer insight into what Jesus is to us.  The more I realize that Christ must be all to me and in me, that all in Christ is indeed for me, the more I learn to live the real life of faith, which, dying to self, lives wholly in Christ.  The Christian life is no longer the vain struggle to live right, but the resting in Christ and finding strength in Him as our life, to fight the fight and gain the victory of faith. (With Christ in the School of Prayer by Andrew Murray)


Closing Prayer: Lord, I am yours; I do yield myself up entirely to you, and I believe that you do take me.  I leave myself with you.  Work in me all the good pleasure of your will, and I will only lie still in your hands and trust you.  Amen. (The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith)

Sunday, October 25, 2015

anxiety, sunday

Sunday, October 25

Opening Prayer: O God, who is willing and able to assist me, what grounds have I not to place my whole confidence in you, to throw myself into the arms of your providence, and wait the effects of your bounty?  You have care of all.  I will therefore give myself up entirely to you, live always in your presence, and ever guide myself by your fear and love.  T is this grace I now ask of you, the God of my heart, and my portion forever.  Grant me to weigh well and to follow your admonition: “Be not solicitous, for your heavenly Father knoweth that you have need of all these things.”  Amen. (The Book of Common Prayer)

Scripture: Matthew 6:25-34

Journal: What things in life tend to cause you the most anxiety?  How do you typically deal with that anxiety?  What would it look like to give it all to God?

To preserve peace in the time of trouble our will must remain firm in God and be ever directed towards him, that is, we should be disposed to receive all things from the hand of God, from His justice, and from His bounty, with humble submission to His blessed will.  Good and evil, health and sickness, prosperity and adversity, consolations and dryness, temptation and tranquility, interior sweetness, trials, and chastisements, all should be received by the soul with humility, patience, and resignation, as coming to us by the appointment of God.  This is the only means of finding peace in the midst of great troubles and adversities. (Imitation of Christ by Thomas A Kempis)


Closing Prayer: Here, Lord, I abandon myself to you.  I have tried in every way I could think of to manage myself, and to make myself what I know I ought to be, but have always failed.  Now I give it up to you.  Do take entire possession of me.  Work in me all the good pleasure of your will.  Mold and fashion me into such a vessel as seems good to you.  I leave myself in your hands.  Amen. (The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith)

Saturday, October 24, 2015

distractions, saturday

Saturday, October 24

Opening Prayer: O God of peace, who has taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and in trust shall be our strength: by the power of your Spirit lift us, we pray, to your presence, where we may be still and know that you are God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen. (The Book of Common Prayer)

Scripture: Psalm 46:1-11

Journal: What words or images in this Psalm speak to something in your life or heart these days?  Why?  What do you think God is trying to say to you today?

This kind of silence cannot be hurried or forced; it does not come through effort.  Instead, it must be allowed to happen.  This is like eating an artichoke.  It must be done a leaf at a time, down to the heart.  If one tries to take a single bite, all he gets is a mouth full of thistles.  One has to set aside time for silence and then turn toward it with composure, letting go of immediate things a little at a time in order to enter a world where dreams and also energy for life are born. (The Other Side of Silence by Morton T. Kelsey)


Closing Prayer: You alone, Almighty God, bring order to the unruly wills and affections of sinners; may we love what you command, and desire what you promise, we pray, so that, among the swift and varied changes of this world, our hearts may be fixed where true love may be found.  In the name of the one who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen. (Daily Prayer by Robert Benson)

Friday, October 23, 2015

watch and wait

Watch and Wait is now available on Amazon.

distractions, friday

Friday, October 23

Opening Prayer: Help me, O God, to surrender my life completely to your control and command.  Give it both a plan and pattern that constantly reminds me of your presence and consistently makes me more responsive to your will.  For the sake of Jesus, your Son.  Amen.

Scripture: James 1:2-4

Journal: How do trials or hard circumstances typically affect you?  How do they distract you?  What trials or difficult circumstances are you currently experiencing?  What do you think God is trying to do in you as a result of them?

     “Think glorious thoughts of God—and serve him with a quiet mind!”  And it is surely a fact that the more glorious and more spacious our thoughts of Him are, the greater the quietude and confidence with which we do our detailed work will be.  Not controversial thoughts, or narrow conventional thoughts, or dry academic thoughts, or anxious worried thoughts.  All these bring contraction instead of expansion to our souls; and we all know that this inner sense of contraction or expansion is an unfailing test of our spiritual state. (The House of the Soul and Concerning the Inner Life by Evelyn Underhill)


Closing Prayer: Father, thank you that, as difficult as some days can be, we can always live with the assurance that somehow you are mysteriously using these struggles to mold us into your image, for your glory.  May we always fix our eyes firmly on you, rather than the ever-changing circumstances around us.  Amen.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

distractions, thursday

Thursday, October 22

Opening Prayer: Lord, you know me better than I know myself.
Your Spirit pervades every moment of my life.
Thank you for the grace and love you shower on me.
Thank you for your constant, gentle invitation to let you into my life.
Forgive me for the times I have refused that invitation,
and closed myself off from you.
Help me in the day to come, to recognize your presence in my life,
to open myself to you, to let you work in me,
to your greater glory. Amen.
                                                            ~Ignatius of Loyola

Scripture: Luke 10:38-42

Journal: How can you relate to Martha these days?  What has you distracted?  What has you worried and upset inside?  How do you choose the one thing (the good portion) in the midst of that?

Wherever there is something in our life that is not conformed to the image of Christ, there is a place where we are incapable of being all God wants us to be with others … a place where our life with others is hindered and limited and restricted in its effectiveness and in its fullness … a place where our life will tend to become disruptive and even destructive to others.  We can never be all God wants us to be with others as long as that point of unlikeness to the image of Christ exists within us. ~M. Robert Mulholland, Jr.


Closing Prayer: Lord, help me to be watchful for your presence in my life and your movement in my world.  Help me to not get distracted by the obligations, demands, and activities of this day, but help me to be attentive and alert to you and your greater purposes for my life.  Amen. (Watch and Wait by Jim Branch)

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

distractions, wednesday

Wednesday, October 21

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, it so easy in this life to be hindered and entangled by things that don’t ultimately matter, by things that don’t ultimately lead to life.  Help us therefore, Lord Jesus to run with endurance and wisdom the race you have set before us and to keep our eyes fixed on you, the author and perfecter of our faith.  Amen.

Scripture: Hebrews 12:1-3

Journal: What things are hindering you or weighing you down these days?  What things have wrapped themselves around you or entangled you as you try to follow Jesus?  How will you fix your eyes on Jesus in a way that helps you overcome these obstacles and run the race he has set before you?

     Years ago I had a friend who made the Olympic Team in the 100-meter hurdles.  I mean this guy could run—and still can, although he is now in his early fifties.  Once I asked him how he was able to run the hurdles so fast and, seemingly, so effortlessly.  He talked about practice, preparation, and working hard at it, but he also talked about how the movements became so familiar and natural to him over time.  He was actually able to knock a quarter that had been placed on the top of each hurdle off of the hurdle with his leg without touching the hurdle itself.  Is that not amazing?  I told him that if I tried that, I would kill myself hitting the hurdle.  He said, "You can't focus on the hurdle, you have to focus on the finish line.  If you focus on the hurdle, you hit the hurdle."  To this day I remember that little piece of wisdom because it is not only true on the track, but also in life.  If we are consumed by the hurdles, we will never get over them; they will only seem to grow larger and larger.  We must keep our eyes focused on the good part—that which is excellent, i.e., on the finish line—on Jesus (see Hebrews 12:1-2). (Becoming by Jim Branch)


Closing Prayer: Lord I so want to make all of me ready and attentive and available to you.  Please help me to clarify and purify my intentions.  I have so many contradictory desires.  I get preoccupied with things that don’t really matter or last.
     I know that if I give you my heart whatever I do will follow my new heart.  In all that I am today, all that I try to do, all my encounters, reflections, even the frustrations and failings and especially in this time of prayer, in all of this, may I place my life in your hands.  Lord I am yours, make of me what you will. ~Ignatius of Loyola

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

distractions, tuesday

Tuesday, October 20

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, so many things and events and circumstances in this life tempt me to lose my focus and take my eyes off of you.  And when I do that, I sink.  Lord Jesus, help me not to get distracted by the wind and the waves, but help me to keep my eyes firmly focused on you.  Amen.  

Scripture: Matthew 14:22-33

Journal: Where do you find yourself in this story? What storms in your life right now are causing you to take your eyes off of Jesus and instead focus on the wind and the waves?  

The soul must just leave itself in the hands of God, and do what he wills it to do, completely disregarding its own advantage and resigning itself as much as it possibly can to the will of God. ~Teresa of Avila

It seems that when we are somehow able to keep our eyes focused on Jesus in this crazy life of faith, we are able to keep things in perspective for the most part.  Yet, when we begin to look around us and focus on the wind and the waves instead, things can get pretty dicey really quick.  We, like Simon Peter, begin to sink into the sea of our fear and our doubt and our anxiety and our despair.  It seems that as long as we spend our lives focused on our circumstances, we are in for a pretty wild ride.  But if somehow we can—by God’s grace and guidance—train ourselves to keep our eyes focused on Jesus, in all things and at all times, we can be certain that though the winds may blow and the waves may crash over us, Jesus always has us in his strong and loving hands.  Thanks be to God!


Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, though the winds may blow and the waves may crash over us, hold us safe in your strong and loving hands, this day and every day.  Amen.

Monday, October 19, 2015

distractions, monday

Monday, October 19

Opening Prayer: Father, you are full of compassion, I commit and commend myself unto you, in whom I am, and live, and know.  Be the goal of my pilgrimage, and my Rest by the way. Let my soul take refuge from the crowding turmoil of worldly thoughts beneath the shadow of your wings; let my heart, this sea of restless waves, find peace in you, O God.  Amen. (Little Book of Prayers by St. Augustine)

Scripture: Proverbs 3:1-18

Journal: What words from Proverbs 3 speak to something in your heart or life these days?  Where is God asking you to trust him with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding?  What is your greatest distraction from being able to do that?

     Moods are worth my attention.  I am discovering during these first weeks in Genesee that I am subject to very different moods, often changing very quickly.  Feelings of depressive fatigue, of low self-esteem, of boredom, feelings also of anger, irritation, and direct hostility, and feelings of gratitude, joy, and excitement-they can all be there, sometimes even during one day.  I have the feeling that these quickly changing moods show how attached I really am to the things given me: a friendly gesture, pleasant work, a word of praise, a good book, etc.  Little things can quickly change sadness into joy, disgust into contentment, and anger into under-standing or compassion.
     Somewhere during these weeks I read that sadness is the result of attachment.  Detached people are not the easy victims of good or bad events in their surroundings and can experience a certain sense of equilibrium.  I have the feeling that this is an important realization for me.  When my manual work does not interest me, I become bored, then quickly irritated and sometimes even angry, telling myself that I am wasting my time.  When I read a book that fascinates me, I become so involved that time runs fast, people seem friendly, my stay here worthwhile, and everything one big happy event.
     Of course both “moods” are manifestations of false attachments and show how far I am from a healthy form of “indifference.”  Thinking about all of this, I guess my main problem still is that I have not really made prayer my priority.  Still the only reason that I am here—I mean the only reason I should be here—is to learn to pray.  But, in fact, much of what I am doing is motivated by many other concerns: getting back in shape, learning some skills, knowing more about birds and trees, getting to know interesting people, and picking up many ideas and experiences for future teaching.  But if prayer were my only concern, all these other things could be received as free gifts.  Now, however, I am obsessed by these desires which are false, not in themselves, but by their being in the wrong place in the hierarchy of values.  That, I guess, is the cause of my moodiness.  For the time being it seems so important to be at least aware of it. (The Genesee Diary by Henri J. M. Nouwen)


Closing Prayer: Lord, you know me better than I know myself.  Your Spirit pervades every moment of my life.  Thank you for the grace and love you shower on me.  Thank you for your constant, gentle invitation to let you into my life.  Forgive me for the times I have refused that invitation, and closed myself off from you.  Help me in the day to come, to recognize your presence in my life, to open myself to you, to let you work in me, to your greater glory. Amen. (The Spiritual Exercises by St. Ignatius)

Sunday, October 18, 2015

distractions, sunday

Sunday, October 18

Opening Prayer: Lord, what are you doing in me today?  Whatever it is, help me to be open and receptive to it.  Give me the grace to be able to see you and hear you, for in your presence is the fullness of joy.  Amen.

Scripture: 2 Timothy 1:1-14

Journal: What helps you to stay focused on the life God has called you to live?  What most often distracts you from that?  How do you deal with those distractions?

     Most of our conflicts and difficulties come from trying to deal with the spiritual and practical aspects of our life separately instead of realizing them as parts of a one whole.  If our practical life is centered on our own interests, cluttered up by possessions, distracted by ambitions, passions, wants and worries, beset by a sense of our own rights and importance, or anxieties for our own future, or longings for our own success, we need not expect that our spiritual life will be a contrast to all this.  The soul’s house is not built on such a convenient plan: there are few soundproof partitions in it.  Only when the conviction—not merely the idea—that the demand of the Spirit, however inconvenient, comes first and IS first, rules the whole of it, will those objectionable noises die down which have a way of penetrating into the nicely furnished oratory, and drowning all the quieter voices by their din. (The Spiritual Life by Evelyn Underhill)


Closing Prayer: Lord, let me at least remain open to your initiative; let me wait patiently and attentively for that hour when you will come and break through all the walls I have erected.  Teach me, O Lord, to pray.  Amen. (A Cry for Mercy by Henri J. M. Nouwen)

Saturday, October 17, 2015

union, saturday

Saturday, October 17

Opening Prayer: Thank you, Lord Jesus, that you have brought us home.  Thank you that because of you we are able to move from slaves to sons and daughters.  Thank you, O God, that you have sent the Spirit of your Son to live within us, that we might be one with you.  And thank you, Lord Most High, that you are now, not only our Great and Mighty God, but also our Abba.  Amen.

Scripture: Galatians 4:4-7

Journal: How do you typically see yourself in relation to God?  How do these passages change that?  What does it meant to move from slave to son?  What does it mean to you that God has sent the Spirit of his Son into your heart?


The great image
     the journey home into the heart of God
     the journey into the inner life of the Trinity
     the journey to ecstatic Beautifying Vision
     we are made for ecstasy, nothing less
     each moment of closeness to God, only
          a preview of what’s ahead
          Total intimacy—we shall see him as he is
          Total love—with your whole heart’s intensity
          Total joy—cascading all over you
          And this forever…
          a few months—and then
     the traveler toward the dawn
          dawn breaking love as I travel
     the wandering comet finally captured by the gravity of
          the sun—plunging into its fiery depths—to full union.
(A Traveler Toward the Dawn: The Spiritual Journal of Father John Eagan edited by  William J. O’Malley)


Closing Prayer: O Lord, my God, eliminate the divisions within me, as well as the divisions in my life.  Make me one—a whole instead of a lot of separate parts—that we may be one.  Your will, O God, is to bring me into conformity with the image of your Son.  Close the gap, O Lord, between Thy will and my will.  Make us one.  Amen.

Friday, October 16, 2015

union, friday

Friday, October 16

Opening Prayer: Thank you, O Lord, that you rejoice over us with gladness, singing a joyful song.  May we always hear that song of deep love and affection, and allow our souls—and our very lives—to sing our song of love to you in return.  Amen.

Scripture: Zephaniah 3:14-20

Journal: What words or images capture your heart in this passage?  Why?  What does it do within you to know that the God of all creation sings a song over you?  It is a song of love.  It is a song of homecoming.  Can you imagine that song right now?  Can you hear it as he sings it over you?  Listen to the song of God over you today and find yourself in total harmony and peace with it. 

The only true joy on earth is to escape from the prison of our false self and to enter into union with the Life who dwells and sings within the essence of every creature and in the core of our own souls. (New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton)


Closing Prayer: Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem.  For the Lord will remove his hand of judgment and disperse the armies of your enemy.  And the Lord himself, the King of Israel, will live among you!  At last your troubles will be over—you need fear no more.
     On that day the announcement to Jerusalem will be, “Cheer up, don’t be afraid.  For the Lord your God has arrived to live among you.  He is a mighty Savior.  He will give you victory.  He will rejoice over you with great gladness; he will love you and not accuse you.” Is that a joyous choir I hear? No, it is the Lord himself exulting over you in happy song. (TLB)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

union, thursday

Thursday, October 15

Opening Prayer: I feel your love as you hold me to your sacred heart, my beloved Jesus, my God, my Master, but I feel, too, the need I have of your tenderness, and your caress because of my infinite weakness. ~Charles De Foucauld

Scripture: Isaiah 62:5

Journal: How do you think God looks at you?  When he looks at you, what do you imagine is the expression on his face?  What are the thoughts in his heart?  Do you find it hard to believe that God looks at you with more love and passion and desire than a bridegroom looks at his bride?  Well he does.  Imagine him looking at you that way right now.  What does it do within you?

Union is when we live in the great affection of our God.


Closing Prayer: Jesus, you are our bridegroom who is so full of love and affection and desire for us that it pours forth from your heart, through your eyes and your voice, and into our very souls.  It just seems too good to be true.  How could you possibly look at me like that?  But it is—both too good and too true.  Hallelujah!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

union, wednesday

Wednesday, October 14

Opening Prayer: O Lord, you’re beautiful.  Your face is all I seek.  For when your eyes are on this child, your grace abounds to me. ~Keith Green

Scripture: Psalm 27:4-8

Journal: What people or things do you catch yourself gazing at?  What goes on in your heart when you gaze?  When was the last time you gazed upon the beauty of the Lord?  What effect did that have on your soul?  Gaze upon him in prayer right now.

     Last spring I had a dear friend come to town to spend some time helping me and a group of my friends here in Knoxville reflect on and discuss the idea of cultivating intimacy in our relationship with Jesus.  The discussion took place in two parts.  First, with a large group of people on a Friday night in a kind of "question and answer" format.  And then, for a good bit of the next day, in a smaller group context that was much more quiet and reflective. 
     During the Friday night session, as people were just beginning to arrive at the venue, I was standing with my friend talking about our hopes for the evening ahead, when all of the sudden my wife walked into the room.  Now, I'll have to admit that often times I catch myself just staring at her, amazed at who she is and what she means to me.  Well, apparently this was one of those times because my friend stopped talking and just began to look at me with a big grin on his face.  When I finally noticed that he was not talking anymore, but was watching me and my reaction to my wife walking into the room, I began to grin myself and replied, "What?"  I knew he had caught me.
     "Oh nothing," he said, "I was just enjoying the way you look at your wife.  As a matter of fact, you weren't just looking at her, it was something way more than that."  And indeed it was.
     As we continued standing there together we both just smiled.  Because that look, and the heart behind it, was the very thing we were going to be talking about in the hours and minutes that followed.  That look is the stuff intimacy is made of.  That look is the way God looks at us; and the way he longs for us to look back at him.  In fact, it is more than a look, it is a gaze.  How can we learn to gaze at God, and be gazed upon by him?  If we can learn the answer to that question, I have a suspicion that intimacy between us will never be an issue again.
     If you look up the word gaze in the dictionary you will find that it means to look intently and longingly, with great pleasure and wonder.  It is the kind of look David talked about in Psalm 27:4 when he said, "One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in his temple."  If we could only learn to gaze at Jesus, and watch Jesus as he gazes at us, I believe it would change everything about our relationship with him.
     But how do we learn to do that?  The best answer I can give goes right back to that room as my wife walked in.  Maybe the best thing I can do is to think about the way(s) I look at my wife; how I think about her, what it does to my heart within me, and how it makes me feel about her.  When I gaze at Carol it can be in so many different ways.  At times I catch myself gazing at her as a wife and being overwhelmed with how incredible a wife she really is—especially being married to a guy like me.  She is so loving and gentle and kind.  I'm not sure I have ever met a person as genuinely kind as she is.  At other times I can find myself gazing at her as a mother, being overcome with how well she loves and cares for and prays for and sacrifices for our kids.  At times I gaze at her as a friend, loving how easily and often she laughs and smiles, how safe and free the space she offers me is, how easy she is to be with and how delightful she is to be around, as well as how she is so "for me" in everything I do.  And the list just goes on and on.  I could just as easily tell you how I gaze at her as a lover (with beauty beyond all I have ever seen...but we will keep this G-rated), or as a worker, or as a daughter, or as a sister—all of which she is incredible at!
     All of this offers me a great picture of what it means to gaze at Jesus.  I need to spend time gazing at Jesus in the same way: Jesus as friend, Jesus as brother, Jesus as teacher, Jesus as lover—not to mention Jesus as Savior, Jesus as Redeemer, Jesus as Suffering Servant, or Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords.  The other day, for example, my reading for the day was in John 10 and I had the opportunity to gaze at Jesus as the Good Shepherd; tenderly loving, gently leading, faithfully providing and protecting, constantly calling my name as he leads and guides.  The possibilities are endless.  The point is that if we want true intimacy with Jesus, I think that we will have to become good at the art of gazing.  For when we do, and we get good at the art of watching him gaze at us in return, intimacy will be the natural result.
     So, by all means, may we do exactly what David writes about in Psalm 27 and constantly make space and time to gaze on the beauty of the Lord.


Closing Prayer: O Lord Jesus, allow the gaze of my soul to fall upon you this day, that it might capture my heart with love for you—forever.  Amen.