Lent 2013: By Faith
I’m thinking about faith. More to come…
Light and peace in Jesus Christ our Lord. Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice! O let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleading. My soul is waiting for the LORD. I count on God’s word. My soul is longing for the Lord… Merciful God, we are baptized into the depth of your dear Son. May we die to all sin and selfishness and eagerly await the dawning of our joyful resurrection; by the merits of the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
Second Sunday in Lent
O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Sunday can be very busy at times…for me. I am thankful for God’s grace and even more so when I fail or fall short of fully reflecting that grace that is so abundantly poured out upon me. I am glad for the moments of space that are available in my life that I can “pull back” and reset my heart on God’s True North. I am grateful for the mercy my friends and family extend to me. I am blessed and privileged beyond anything I could ever deserve to experience favor and love from God through the actions and friendship of others. Praise be unto God for it all.
Prayer: Henri Nouwen — Tuesday of the First Week in Lent
This found its way to me this morning. It is too good not to share. I am so grateful I was awakened several years ago to this greater understanding and dimension to prayer. It has changed my life, spirituality, and greater relationship with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit completely. To God be the glory.
In your prayers do not babble as the gentiles do, for they think that by using many words they will make themselves heard. Do not be like them; your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Matt. 6:7-8
For many of us prayer means nothing more than speaking with God. And since it usually seems to be a quite one-sided affair, prayer simply means talking to God. This idea is enough to create great frustrations. If I present a problem, I expect a solution; if I formulate a question, I expect an answer; if I ask for guidance, I expect a response. And when it seems, increasingly, that I am talking into the dark, it is not so strange that I soon begin to suspect that my dialogue with God is in fact a monologue. Then I may begin to ask myself: to whom am I really speaking, God or myself? . . .
The crisis of our prayer life is that our mind may be filled with ideas of God while our heart remains far from him.
Listen to your heart. It’s there that Jesus speaks most intimately to you. Praying is first and foremost listening to Jesus, who dwells in the very depths of your heart. He doesn’t shout. He doesn’t trust himself upon you. His voice is an unassuming voice, very nearly a whisper, the voice of a gentle love. Whatever you do with your life, go on listening to the voice of Jesus in your heart. This listening must be an active and very attentive listening, for in our restless and noisy world God’s so loving voice is easily drowned out. You need to set aside some time every day for this active listening to God if only for ten minutes. Ten minutes each day for Jesus alone can bring about a radical change in your life.
You’ll find that it isn’t easy to be still for ten minutes at a time. You’ll discover straightaway that many other voices, voices that are very noisy and distracting, voices that do not come from God, demand your attention. But if you stick to your daily prayer time, then slowly but surely you’ll come to hear the gentle voice of love and will long more and more to listen to it.
Deep silence leads us to suspect that, in the first place, prayer is acceptance. People who pray stand with their hands open to the world. They know that God will show himself in the nature that surrounds them, in the people they meet, in the situations they run into. They trust that the world holds God’s secret within it, and they expect that secret to be shown to them. Prayer creates that openness where God can give himself to us. Indeed, God wants to give himself; he wants to surrender himself to the person he has created; God even begs to be admitted into the human heart.
Why, O Lord, is it so hard for me to keep my heart directed toward you? Why does my mind wander off in so many directions, and why does my heart desire the things that lead me astray? Let me sense your presence in the midst of my turmoil. Take my tired body, my confused mind, and my restless soul into your arms and give me rest — simple, quiet rest.
The Above Posting has been excerpted from:
Show Me the Way: Daily Lenten Readings by Henri Nouwen; Crossroad Publishing Company, copyright 1992, 2011.
Book Review: The Little Book of Hours
Compiled by: The Community of Jesus
Published: Paraclete Press ISBN: 9781557255334
Several years ago, after reading Praying with the Church by Scot McKnight, I started experimenting with the practice of praying with fixed hour prayers. I have found this holy habit to be one of the most defining of my personal spiritual disciplines. I continue to seek out and use various prayer books that are modeled after this style of prayer. Following the Benedictine monastic tradition of praying the liturgy of the hours, the Community of Jesus has compiled The Little Book of Hours.
If you are unfamiliar with fixed hour prayers, the liturgy of the hours (also known as the Divine Office), is an ancient tradition that punctuates the day with prayer at certain times. Most commonly, these punctuations follow prayer times at morning, noon, evening, and night. Other monastic communities may seek to expand these prayer times to seven times a day.
The Little Book of Hours is a brief compilation of the prayers used by the Community of Jesus at the Church of Transfiguration on Cape Cod. While the actual prayer liturgies used by the Community are more expansive than those in this prayer book, the collection here represents the heartbeat that sustains and nurtures the said Community. The liturgy of hours in The Little Book is wonderful first step into the practice of praying the liturgy of the hours. This four-week cycle of hours is ideally designed for praying in a community, but is also a perfect fit for small groups and can be a great tool for personal prayer. I have just completed my first four-week cycle with this little book of prayers and plan to use it regularly during my prayer and devotional time through the coming year.
Book Review: A Book of Prayers
Author: Arthur A. R. Nelson
Publisher: InterVarsity Press ISBN: 9780830857364
A Book of Prayers
I recently received a review copy from InterVarsity Press of A Book of Prayers by Arthur Nelson. About this book, Nelson writes the following:
Often when situations of very specific pain or joy arise (pregnancy at risk, marriage crisis, addiction, psychosis, incarceration, rape, celebrating wedding or anniversary, victory over abuse, etc.), we struggle to find the right words to pray for that situation. The high emotion of the moment or the longstanding nature of a chronic illness or the shock of enduring a national crisis leave us frustrated at just the time when we want and need to pray.
As a pastor myself, I identify with these words from Nelson. There have been situations where I have been speechless, words failing me when comforting, prayerful, words were needed—God, of course, knowing the need—and I had none.
A Book of Prayers is helpful in times such as these. Written prayers are very helpful when our own words fail us, if not giving us “right” words for a situation, they help to inspire us and put our thinking in a vertical or godly direction. I think this is the objective of Arthur Nelson’s little book of prayers.
I won’t go as far to say the prayers in this book cover every circumstance or the full range of human emotion, but they span a very broad spectrum of life, both personal and corporate. There are twelve separate categories of prayer covering areas of the inner life, grief, illness, healing, marriage, family, celebrations, and the global community to name a few. In each of these areas, Nelson has drilled down more specifically detailed concerns such as “when grief is raw,” “for one being bullied,” “for learning disorder,” “for retrieving the promises of marriage,” “for a struggling adolescent,” “loneliness,” and many, many more.
This little Book of Prayers is a tool of inspiration and a companion of comfort when we find ourselves lacking the words to help provide assurance and remind us that God is near and God is in charge. I feel that Arthur Nelson has supplied us all with a collection of prayers that encourage us to look again to God when our own words fail. I am grateful for this collection of prayers and believe you might be as well.
Book Review: The Divine Hours—Pocket Edition
Author: Phyllis Tickle
Publisher: Oxford University Press ISBN: 9780195316933
Over the years, I have enjoyed the company of many prayer books. I love them, prayer books. I have used the prayer books compiled by Phyllis Tickle for a number of years now, most faithfully, her three-volume set of Divine Hours. While I enjoy the larger, more comprehensive set of the Divine Hours, it is somewhat cumbersome to carry when you are on the road and away from home and study. This pocket edition solves that problem.
The Divine Office: Pocket Edition is set up to meet the needs of the full week of fixed-hour prayers also known as the Daily Offices of Prayer. Phyllis has allowed for each of the seven hours of the Office to be prayed, if that is your habit. She also includes in the indices Traditional, Seasonal, and Occasional Prayers and a listing of authors for prayers not taken directly from Scripture. If you are away from home, simply recycle and repeat the prayers as necessary. See also the online version of the Divine Hours.
The prayer book is a good size, compact, slim, and has a very reasonable and readable font. There is nothing that I do not like about it; however, I do think a few minor improvements might be made. I would like the option of a leather bound edition along with one or two ribbon markers. My copy is a hardback edition and has no ribbon markers. This is certainly no deal-breaker, but it would be a nice option.
Seasons. Cycles. Ups, downs, and plateaus. Times of plenty and times that are lean. Times of good and times that are not-so-good. This is life. Sometimes we don’t notice it as such because we are so involved in the race of life itself …it can be difficult to notice the cycles, but they are always there.
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. -Philippians 4:12-13 NIV
While seemingly written to address life in general, I think these words of Paul might be equally applied to the seasons of life and the seasons of the soul. I am hopeful that I find, one day, that same place of quiet, peaceful, comfort, and assurance.
I wrote a few days ago about the invisible God. Some of the thoughts I was having then were sparked by the same things going on in my soul even now. As I said then, I will say now; the condition of my soul is good. I have this assurance and peace that is faithful and solid, but seasons are still what they are and they are uniquely different, one from the other.
I don’t think I would classify my current season as a season of “dry” or “dark.” I know there have been seasons where my journey with Jesus has been nothing short of electrifying and there have been seasons that have been varying degrees less than electrifying, but still very much alive and active. I’m speaking in terms of the “felt presence of God” or other tactile senses…”feelings.” This, my present season, is not one of those times.
Although the reading of my spiritual landscape seems less busy and more quiet, it isn’t so in terms of God’s nearness to me. He manifests Himself in countless ways throughout my day and week. It’s humorous to me that just this week a friend from my small group emailed me a video lecture of a man who was speaking about the very nature of this spiritual season I might be experiencing. Serendipity? Coincidence? Providence? I had to chuckle as I was watching and listening to it.
It seems as though I might be complaining about the state of my soul, but I’m not… well, not entirely anyway. I feel at peace, but I feel a bit restless too and I think this is the nature of my complaint, if there is one. I’m troubled by my restlessness. I have God…and I think, God has me. What else is there? I am aware that not a moment of my life escapes me that God is not with me. The presence of God is within me; guiding, teaching, comforting, protecting, nurturing, restoring, healing, and so much more. Why, then, do I feel restless? God is enough! Isn’t he?
I “stumbled” over some prayerfully encouraging words from Teresa of Avila earlier this week that have comforted me. I was also led to read from Psalm 149, amongst others, which led me to some other words and thoughts that have been my prayer this week.
Teresa of Avila writes; “Let nothing disturb you; let nothing frighten you; the one who clings to God, will lack nothing… God alone is enough.” I have been letting these words play again and again through my mind and heart, letting them become the prayer of my breath since reading them earlier this week.
Another prayer I wrote in my journal a couple days ago continues to be a life-giving reminder to me.
I forget; the LORD takes delight in people… I forget; the LORD takes delight in me.
God is with me; but more, God is within me. I dwell for a moment on God’s life-giving presence in my body, in my mind, in my heart, as I write these words even now. I will close out the noise, I will rise above the noise—the noise that so quickly intercepts and separates, the noise that isolates. I need to always and only listen to God, who is always with and within me.
I remind myself that the LORD takes delight in his people… I remind myself the LORD delights in me.
I remind myself that I am in the presence of the LORD always. I will take refuge in His loving heart. He is my strength. He is my Comforter. He alone is always enough.
Be pleased, O God, to deliver me. O LORD, make haste to help me! Let all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You. I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my Deliverer; O LORD, do not delay! -Psalm 70:1, 4-5
Today, more than some others, I appreciate the tone and desperation of this psalm. Every other line ends with exclamation. The psalmist prays with intensity and urgency… NOW, is not soon enough for the deliverance of God to come for him. Only God is enough. Maranatha… even so, come Lord Jesus, come.
Book Review: All Manner of Things
Author: William Meninger, OSCO
Publisher: Dove Publications ISBN: 9781931598194
This is no ordinary book. This is an extremely contemplative book. This is a deeply spiritual book. It is not a book that should be read lightly or quickly; it is not a book that is to be read straight through. My personal experience has been that a single reading (which may be a page or two) requires more than a day or even a few days of meditation before I am prepared to move ahead to the next reading.
What is it that makes this book so special? I will answer this question in more detail in a moment, but first I should share some detail about the book in general. All Manner of Things is written by Fr William Meninger, OCSO, a Trappist monk and member of the St. Benedict’s Monastery in Snowmass, Colorado. I had the fortunate privilege to meet and be instructed by Fr Meninger in the summer of 2011 while attending the School for Spiritual Direction at Our Lady of Guadalupe Monastery in Pecos, New Mexico. I found Fr William to be a brilliant and engaging speaker and teacher.
The subtitle of the book reveals great detail about the nature of the book stating that it is, “Lectio Divina with Julian of Norwich.” Lectio Divina means divine reading and the expectation is that the Spirit of God will guide the reading and “speak” through the words to the one who reads. From the back cover of the book we learn more background information; Julian of Norwich (1342-c.1416) is considered by many to be one of the greatest English mystics. In 1373, she received a series of sixteen visions centered on the person and sufferings of Jesus and on the Trinity. A short time later, she wrote a short account of them, and much later, after much prayer and reflection, she wrote eighty-six chapters. This book is not a translation or a paraphrase of Julian’s Showings of Divine Love. Rather, it is a commentary intended to provide information, reflections, and further theological understanding that may enhance the modern Christian’s reading of Julian’s book. It may be read independently,, prior to reading her book, or together with it chapter by chapter. My opinion is that it is helpful to be familiar with Julian’s writings. I am familiar with Showings of Divine Love and still, I found myself returning to the chapters I was correspondingly reading on occasion.
Summarizing then, this book is a divine reading of divinely inspired writings from a series of divine visions. This is why it is no ordinary book. There is much to be gleaned from through the prayerful reading and meditation of these short chapters. In the introduction, Fr Meninger writes that some of his writing style, vocabulary, and sentence structure may seem a bit awkward because he wished to retain some of the Middle English flavor of Julian’s writings. I did not notice this awkwardness for the most part if at all.
In conclusion, I will say again, this is a deeply spiritual and prayerful work by Fr Meninger. I recommend it highly as a devotional aid that will inspire much reflection and meditation. It can be the impetus of a very rich time of union with God through prayer and contemplation. I think the words from Fr Meninger describe it best from the closing paragraph in his introduction, he writes; “It should never be forgotten that ‘lectio divina,’ whether Julian’s or our own is the first step on the ladder to contemplation. This book should not be read straight through as something that must be finished. The goal of ‘lectio’ is not to finish a book but to savor it, to allow it to sink from the mind to the heart. Then allow the heart to be touched and raised by a gentle stirring of love for God. We should rest in this love whenever and for as long as we feel inclined. The mind and the heart are companions on the journey to union with God. The heart is roused through love and ht mind through wisdom both of which are manifest in the workings by and reflections from dame Julian.”
Thank you, Dove Publications and Brother Anthony for your gift of this book, All Manner of Things; I will cherish it for years to come. It is a wonderfully moving and inspiring prayer companion.
Book Review: Psalms – The Prayer Book of the Bible
Author: Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Publisher: Augsburg Fortress ISBN: 9780806614397
“God’s speech in Jesus Christ meets us in the Holy Scriptures. If we wish to pray with confidence and gladness, then the words of Holy Scripture will have to be the solid basis of our prayer. For here we know that Jesus Christ, the Word of God, teach us to pray. The words which come from God become, then, the steps on which we find our way to God.” And, claims Bonhoeffer, there is no better place to find these steps than in the Prayer Book of the Bible, the Psalms.
This is a tiny book, seriously. It’s like a dwarf star in content though. There is much “bang for the buck” where it involves depth of teaching about the Prayer Book of the Bible. The first few chapters, Bonhoeffer lays out the design and form of the Psalms. He shares this thought regarding our learning to pray with these songs, hymns, and prayers:
“If we want to read and to pray the prayers of the Bible and especially the Psalms, therefore, we must not ask first what they have to do with us, but what they have to do with Jesus Christ.”
This thought might be a bit controversial or even contrary to the individualistic approach that most modernistic Westerners come to the Bible and its interpretation. Bonhoeffer goes on, adding to his thought above:
“It does not depend, therefore, on whether the Psalms express adequately that which we feel at a given moment in our heart. If we are to pray aright, perhaps it is quite necessary that we pray contrary to our own heart. Not what we want to pray is important, but what God wants us to pray.”
The next eleven short chapters are spent detailing and classifying the types of prayers included in the Psalms. Bonhoeffer arranges these prayers according to the subjects dealt with in the following manner: the creation; the law; holy history; the Messiah; the church; life; suffering; guilt; enemies; and the end. Bonhoeffer states that, “It would not be difficult to arrange these subjects according the Lord’s Prayer and show how the Psalter is totally absorbed in the prayer of Jesus.”
The final two chapters, Bonhoeffer uses strong words of encouragement to motivate his reader to begin praying the Psalms always and regularly beginning in the morning at the first order of the day. He writes; “The entire day receives order and discipline when it acquires unity. This unity must be sought and found in morning prayer. It is confirmed in work. The morning prayer determines the day. Squandered time of which we are ashamed, temptations to which we succumb, weaknesses and lack of courage in work, disorganization and lack of discipline in our thoughts and in our conversation with other men, all have their origin most often in the neglect of morning prayer.”
For those who are not familiar with the person Dietrich Bonhoeffer, there is a short biographical sketch of his life at the end of this book. This is a wonderful insight into the value of the Psalms as well as a view into the value this great theologian placed upon them as a prayer lifestyle. Psalms: the Prayer Book of the Bible is a small, but weighty little book…immeasurably full of insight and wisdom. A must read.