“Nevertheless I tell you the truth: It is to your advantage that I go away… But if I go, I will send him [Holy Spirit] to you.” Jesus (John 16:7, 32-33)
I don’t like writing about the Dark Night. First of all, I feel very uncomfortable equating my experiences with those who have experienced a true absence of God’s presence and extended season of desolation, especially when it is accompanied by persecution, oppression, and other tragic or “dark” encounters during the course of their Christian journey. I often feel like a novice as I read the journals and memoirs of those great saints who have traveled the road of faith before me. I do not feel qualified to talk at length about some of my experiences and when I do, I feel as though they sometimes seem trivial and fall short of a reputable example for the subject that I might be speaking about.
On the other hand, I process my thoughts better when I write and talk about them. It puts me in a vulnerable spot, but I suppose that is the risk and trade-off for trying to figure out my spiritual journey. The end result is that I might not know what I’m talking about at all, but I’m willing to take the chance for the hopeful promise that I might make a step or two forward in my understanding of who God is, who I am, and who we are together. Sometimes the risk is in proportion to the reward, so I write…and I talk…and I think, out loud.
The past few years I have met seasons of loneliness, times when God felt distant, feelings of being misunderstood, times of discontent, days of melancholy, stretches of spiritual grief, attitudes of apathy, and bouts with depression. There are probably a few other “attitudes” I have encountered, but these are some I have most commonly identified. These times are always troublesome for me. I think it goes without saying that one reason would be the overall discomfort they bring. Another reason is the doubt that invariably comes as part of the package. I do not like to feel bad…ever, and I certainly do not like feeling bad within the context of my own spirituality. Moreover, I have an especially strong distaste for these things when they are accompanied with self-doubt.
What goes on during these seasons of the soul? What is it that makes us feel so lonely and lost? Why is it, try as we might, that we cannot seem to go back to a “healthier” time in our walk with Jesus? I do not think I can speak definitively to all these questions, at least in a way that is sufficient to answer the questions for every person who may ask them, but I feel confident in sharing my own experiences and some of what I’ve learned through the process.
Studying and learning from the great spiritual masters has benefited me greatly; in particular to this writing, the journals from St. John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila have been most helpful. Also, there have been several contemporary sources that have helped my understanding as well: Dr. Gerald May, Dr. Bruce Demarest, Dr. David Benner, and a few others. So, what is it that I have learned or perhaps better asked, what is that I am learning?
God loves me. I love God. These are two guiding principles for my existence. These principles are challenged by issues in remediation. God wants my love to be perfected and is active in leading me in the ways of perfection. I am damaged goods on the path of restoration. While there are a number of issues that challenge me in my Christian journey, there are a few that manifest themselves as “root” causes for most of those challenges. I believe I could narrow them down to pride, independence, and idolatry.
Pride is a serious challenge. I believe the fact that on any particular day I can wake up and feel as though it has been conquered serves me as evidence that it has not… been conquered at all. Pride is a most subversive agent; it often hides in plain sight. It was pride that served as the seed of humankind’s fall; its root runs deep and its fruit is plenty.
Independence is another great challenge. Not only are we hampered by pride in overcoming independence, but we also face the challenge of the great American culture that teaches individualism and independence as virtues for which everyone is to aspire. Independence is antithetical to the very nature of our communing Triune God who is a community Himself. It was God, who when creating humanity, said that it was not good for man to be alone.
Idolatry might be the greatest challenge of them all. I recall a quote by John Calvin, who said; “The human heart is a factory of idols…Every one of us is, from his mother’s womb, expert in inventing idols.” I am unsure if idolatry gives birth to pride and independence or if it is the other way around. These issues are so closely interrelated it is difficult to determine where the beginning point is.
How do these character challenges affect the “Dark Night” or a sense of God’s absence? What do they have to do with God’s apparent silence?
I believe the Bible teaches us that God desires each of his children (me and you and every other created soul) to be wholly complete, as He first imagined us. This, I believe, is part of the order in God’s plan of redemption, reconciliation, and restoration. Therefore, God has enacted a means of being reconciled to Him through the atoning work of Jesus Christ, but that redemptive act is just the threshold—a wonderful and mysterious threshold, but a starting point nonetheless.
As we journey with God on the way of restoration and wholeness, being transformed in the image and likeness of Jesus Christ, we encounter the challenges and their myriad manifestations I mentioned earlier. I could write and talk at length about so many of these challenges, but I would like to address the connection of “Dark Night” and absence/silence of God with wholeness and restoration.
“Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)
I don’t like the idea that I am an idol factory or idolater. However, if I am honest and objective, I am an idol maker…and will likely be until Christ’s return or my life ends on this side of eternity. Perhaps a bit of clarification is in order. While God allows us to know Him, our knowledge is imperfect, although as we seek God with pure hearts in spirit and in truth, He reveals more and more of himself to us. Still, this revelation and knowledge is imperfect and incomplete. This imperfect and incomplete knowledge of God introduces a problem to us; many of us are not satisfied with incomplete pictures/images. The remedy for this problem of incomplete image is to complete it and I believe this is what many people try to do…complete the image of incomplete knowledge. This is a form of idolatry.
No matter how pure my intent and no matter how mature my spirituality is, I form an image of God in my mind and heart based on what I know of Him. I do not necessarily believe this is blatantly wicked, nor do I believe that in itself is separating from God, but it can and does create strain on our relationship with Him which has potential to lead us away from Him.
How it Works…
As I avail myself to God’s Self revealing through His Word, prayer, interacting with other believers, indwelling guidance from Holy Spirit, and many other means of revelation, I am able to form an understanding of who God is…I form an image of God. Now, some of this image may be true, but being incomplete, the best I can do is to create a “wire-frame” image of God. There are elements missing, dots remain unconnected. I have two choices at this juncture; I can continue my journey with a limited and incomplete God based upon my partial image of Him or I can complete the construction of my wire-frame with my own embellishments. Both of these options are not always done intentionally, but the process of completion often takes place nonetheless even despite our best efforts to prevent it. The end result is a god of our making whom we will often project on to others through teaching, witness, or other lifestyle actions.
God’s best is for us to know Him in Spirit and in Truth. The evidence of Scripture and the reality of the Incarnation teach us that God wants human beings to know Him. I think it stands to reason that God desires our knowledge should be true and not manufactured by us, so as we journey with Him along the way of restoration, He leads us into places of wilderness, Gethsemane gardens, and hills of Golgotha. Each of these places are defining moments for us and can be places of barrenness, loneliness, anxiety, doubt, fear, the sense of God’s absence, and places of extreme silence. It is in these places where the student is tested… the Potter beats, moulds, and shapes… the Metal smith fires, forges, hammers, and sharpens… It is in this place where false images are erased and idols are crushed.
It is important to know this defining place is not a place of punishment, but a process of refinement. It is my experience too that it is not a “one and done” visit. It seems with each visit and increasing awareness of God’s character, there is an eventual follow-up encounter for pride smashing and idol crushing. I think the process will continue until… I also believe this is a natural spiritual order.
What has been my greatest understanding as I’ve encountered these seasons of absence and breaking? Probably among the most important things I’ve come to realize is that God loves me so much that He will not leave me with a false image of Himself as long as my heart is pursuing Him. True knowledge of God is conditional; we have to be pursuing Him with humble heart and pure intent. Otherwise, even what we think we know of Him will be taken away and will lead us to our own destruction (Luke 8:18 NLT).
“God who is everywhere never leaves us…Yet he may be more present to us when he is absent than when he is present.” -Thomas Merton
I am also learning that God never, ever, truly departs or is absent from us—what leaves or betrays us is not God, but our [false] images, concepts, and sensations of God. It is here in God’s “silence” or “absence” where He can usually be found speaking His loudest. Here is the time where it behooves us to exercise our best listening skills, here in the quiet of God. In the times where we feel that God is absent, it is the time and place where we often find even greater intimacy with Him. Do not despair in the moments of desolation and loneliness…for it is here that God’s presence is even more manifest.
Jesus cried out with a loud voice: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34)
In the ancient Palestinian wilderness, in the Garden of Gethsemane, and Golgotha’s Hill—God spoke with non-words and was present in His absence. As paradoxical as it may seem, I believe there are times when God is even more present in His absence than He is present in His presence.
God is specially present in the hearts of his people by his Holy Spirit. Indeed the hearts of holy men are truly his temples. In type and foreshadow, they are heaven itself. For God reigns in the hearts of his servants. There is his kingdom.” -Jeremy Taylor
Unharden my heart, O Lord
I’m doing a lot of reading these days, even more than my normal heavy appetite. The net result of this is that I have a lot of influences and swirling thoughts. If my writing or thought processes seem disjointed, it might be because they are. Nonetheless, they are good and challenging thoughts—I am motivated and I am inspired.
“Solitude is one way we can imitate Jesus…” Emilie Griffith
As I consider this season of Lent and venturing into the “desert” to be alone with Jesus, there are a number of themes and postures that I intend to assume. One is an attitude of humility and another is repentance; both of these postures are necessary to keep my heart surrendered to the transformation of Christ in me. I’ve written several times in the past week or so about living noisy and distracted lives. This is the thorn in almost every American side. Our daily lives are often too busy with work and sleep getting most of our attention. How often do we make the space to get alone with God-Jesus? How long do we spend with him? Most importantly, what is Jesus telling or teaching me?
Everywhere is the evidence and handiwork of our God. Am I paying homage and tribute to the glory of God in my day? Is my professed relationship manifest in my daily travels?
“The cross is not the horrible end of a pious, happy life, but stands rather at the beginning of community with Jesus Christ… Those who are not prepared to take up the cross, those who are not prepared to give their life to suffering and rejection by others, lose community with Christ, and are not disciples. Discipleship is commitment to the suffering Christ.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer; Discipleship and the Cross from Meditations on the Cross.
Bless YAHWEH, my soul. Never forget all his acts of kindness. He does not treat us as our sins deserve, nor repay us as befits our offenses. AS the height of heaven above earth, so strong is his faithful love for those fear him. As the distance of east from west, so for from us does he put our faults. As tenderly as a father treats his children, so YAHWEH treats those who fear him.
O that today you would listen to his voice! Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, when your ancestors tested me, and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they do not regard my ways.
O God, help me to never be that man. Help me to cling always to your holy garments. May my love for you always be pure and righteously motivated.
Grace in His Presence
“Steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the LORD. Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, O you righteous, and shout for joy all you upright in heart.” (Psalm 32:10-11)
Today was a day I spent basking in the graces of God’s Presence. In one sense there was nothing special about my day or my schedule, yet in another sense it was divinely special because of the sweet time reflecting on the marvelous, mysterious, bountiful, wonder, and grace of the God who is my Father and my Friend.
Prayerful recollection of the most recent years of my Jesus Journey were stirred today as I counted the many things I am thankful for and identified encounters and experiences that have enriched my soul and my humanity in general. It never ceases to amaze me how intricately involved God is in every area of our lives. I know He is near and I know His Spirit dwells within us and this awareness makes me hunger and strive to become even more aware and attentive to every “breath” of God in my life.
I am just incredibly grateful and overwhelmed with adoration for this omnipotent and transcendent God who cares so much to be imminent and intimate with me. Mind boggling it is.
A Prayer (from Henri Nouwen)
Dear Lord, show me your kindness and your gentleness, you who are meek and humble of heart. So often I say to myself, “The Lord loves me,” but very often this truth does not enter into the center of my heart. Let these weeks become an opportunity for me to let go of all my resistance to you love and an occasion for you to call me closer to you
Questions for the 1st Sunday of Lent
“Steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the LORD. Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, O you righteous, and shout for joy all you upright in heart.” (Psalm 32:10-11)
- 21:9—purge the guilt of innocent blood from your midst
- 21:18—purge the evil from your midst
- 22:21—so you shall purge the evil from your midst
- 22:22—so you shall purge the evil from your midst
- 22:24—so you shall purge the evil from your midst
Not to make the obvious trite, but it seems that God wants to make it abundantly clear that His people are intended to be holy, pure, undefiled. I think the reasons are far more reaching than for this to be for a single purpose, and that primarily for show. While the visible example of purity and holiness is likely one of the purposes, I think an extended reason for this purity is that we need it. We are easily distracted…and what distracts us often corrupts us. We are influenced by what we come in contact by and keep company with. The examples of this are many, but one quick example is the acceptance of violence and sexuality in T.V. programming. Through the course of my life, there has been a major shift in what we permit to come into our homes on the television…in fact, not only is it permitted, for very many it is acceptable and demanded. This illustrates why purity and undefilement may have been so rigorously and unwaveringly demanded by our God.
This begs the question of me; “What compromises do I continue to make in keeping myself holy and undefiled for the purposes of God and the health of our relationship?”
“The Lord your God is the one to whom you must do homage, him alone you must serve.” (Matt. 4:10)
Another set of questions I think are good for me to ponder as I venture through this Lenten season, I found today while reading a book, Small Surrenders by Emilie Griffith. In it she quotes a question from Brennan Manning, who asks; “How is my life unfolding in terms of my primary goal of living with God forever?”
This is a pretty big question and might be difficult to nail down in practical terms, so Emilie unpacks this question with a more specific list that helps us to address the bigger examination of our heart. She asks the following:
- What am I doing with my time?
- What am I doing with life?
- How well am I expressing the imprint of Christ upon my heart?
- How deep is my charity?
- How deep is my love?
- How well am I functioning in the Christian life?
And, the question I completed the list with that “popped” into my head as I pondered these—“Am I becoming all that God desires and has destined for me to become?”
I think I will sit with and revisit these through my Lenten journey…
Our Prayer from Charles de Foucauld
Father, I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will. Whatever you may do, I thank you; I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures. I wish no more than this, O Lord. Into your hands I commend my soul; I offer it to you with all the love of my heart, for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself, to surrender myself into your hands, without reserve and with boundless confidence. For you are my Father.
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: God With Us
Edited: by Greg Pennoyer & Gregory Wolfe
Publisher: Paraclete Press ISBN: 9781557255419
God With Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas
This is a fabulously beautiful book, both in content and in quality. Paraclete Press and editors, Greg Pennoyer and Gregory Wolfe have done a masterful job of retelling the Christmas Story through the seasons of Advent and Christmastide in this work. They have combined the gifts of art in poetry, paintings, Holy Scripture, liturgy, and prayer to produce a wonderful devotional for the Christmas season.
First, I’ll share a few words on the technical aspects of the book itself. The book is heirloom quality being very sturdy. It is hardbound with glossy, heavy gauge paper. The title of the book is gold embossed on the spine over a very durable feeling red cloth cover. Paraclete Press has also thoughtfully included a single ribbon marker for place keeping. The volume is somewhat large and non-standard in size at nine and a half inches by seven inches and just slightly over a half inch thick.
Second, I will highlight some of the content details. The book is arranged as a daily reader, following the track of Advent through the weeks leading up to Christmas and then proceeding through the season of Christmastide (The Twelve Days of Christmas) and ending on the Feast of Epiphany. Multiple fonts and font colors are used to bring the reader’s attention to various sections, sidebars, and highlighted areas of each devotional piece.
An incredibly gifted group of authors and spiritual writers has been invited to share in this collection of Advent devotions. Among the group are the following names: Scott Cairns, Emilie Griffin, Richard John Neuhaus, Kathleen Norris, Eugene Peterson, and Luci Shaw.
The illustrations included in God With Us are classic masterpieces, beautiful and timeless—some of the pieces shared are from Gauguin, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Redon, and Leonardo di Vinci. I loved the illustrations as focal points for my meditations.
If I were to offer any critique, it would be for the prayers included at the end of each devotional writing. Two things I found were a little troubling for me; one, was the reduction in font size (perhaps down to a 9pt. font). Second, was the font color change to light gold. While the color change was aesthetically pleasing, the reduction in font size and the light coloration made reading the prayer difficult. I found myself on more than a few occasions lifting and tilting the book toward the light, so I could find a better reading angle with hopes of seeing the words more boldly. Aside from this one little nit, I find no fault with the book. Everything about it from binding to content to presentation is exquisite. I believe it is a heirloom quality piece and will be proud to hand it down to my own children.
Advent 3nd Sunday: Year C [22DEC12] Theme for week 3—Joy & Peace
The LORD will work out his plans for my life—for your faithful love, O LORD, endures forever. (Psalm 138:8)
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. (Psalm 139:23-24)
In that day the LORD will end the bondage of his people. He will break the yoke of slavery and lift it from their shoulders. (Isaiah 10:27)
But you dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. (Jude 20-21)
Every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire. (Luke 3:9)
Contemplation of Christ does not mean an emotional sort of pious daydream; it means entering by a deliberate, self-oblivious and humble attention into the tremendous mysteries of His Life—mysteries which each give us some deep truth about the life and Will of God and the power and vocation of a soul that is given to God—mysteries which each one of us in particular is called to make part of our very lives. They will break up, into colors we can deal with, that white light of God’s Holiness at which we cannot look. -Evelyn Underhill
“God is specially present in the hearts of his people by his Holy Spirit. Indeed the hearts of holy men are truly his temples. In type and foreshadow, they are heaven itself. For God reigns in the hearts of his servants. There is his kingdom.” -Jeremy Taylor
O Rex Gentium (Is. 2:4; 9:5): “O King whom all the peoples desire, you are the cornerstone which makes all one. O come and save man whom you made from clay.”
Holy God, Infinite Mystery, source of all life and light and love, let me walk with you in my daily life, let me come toward you in my prayer, let me know you in your holy word, let me receive you at your altar, and let me live only in you both now and always.
O Lord, I long to be fruitful, to know myself growing in likeness to you. Often I feel sterile, not fertile. I need your living water, the sun of your blessing, the wind of your Spirit, the grace of your presence. I yearn to recognize your likeness in my mirror, a reflection that will come only from the daily awareness of “God with me.”
Almighty God our heavenly Father, whose grace here on earth brings us the gifts of heaven, guide us in this present life, and so lad us now, that we might dwell in the light of your eternal love. 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.
Advent 3nd Sunday: Year C [20DEC12] Theme for week 3—Joy & Peace
The LORD, the Mighty One is God, and he has spoken; he has summoned all humanity from where the sun rises to where the sun sets. Our God approaches and he is not silent. Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God. Repent, all of you who forget me… Giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me. If you keep to my path, I will reveal to you the salvation of God. (Psalm 50:1, 3, 14, 22-23)
Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. He (Jesus) is ready to separate the chaff from the wheat with his winnowing fork. Then he will clean up the threshing area, gathering the wheat into his barn but burning the chaff with never-ending fire. (Matt. 3:8, 12)
Today I am thinking about peace and what it really means to me. In a world full of conflict, injustice, oppression, greed, competitiveness, jealousy, hatred, war, and contempt…it seems peace might be something very important to us despite that the majority of this population appears to not hold peace with very high regard. Jesus said; “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” He also said to his disciples, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.“
I think the starting point for understanding peace is the definition Jesus probably was working with.
The Hebrew word for peace, shalom, is derived from a root denoting wholeness or completeness, and its frame of reference throughout Jewish literature is bound up with the notion of shelemut, perfection. Its significance is thus not limited to the political domain‑-to the absence of war and enmity‑-or to the social-‑to the absence of quarrel and strife. It ranges over several spheres and can refer in different contexts to bounteous physical conditions, to a moral value, and, ultimately, to a cosmic principle and divine attribute. In the Bible, the word shalom is most commonly used to refer to a state of affairs, one of well‑being, tranquility, prosperity, and security, circumstances unblemished by any sort of defect. Shalom is a blessing, a manifestation of divine grace. (From Contemporary Jewish Religious Thought, edited by Arthur A. Cohen and Paul Mendes-Flohr, Twayne Publishers)
I feel as though I live with an abiding and deep peace within me. I believe I have received the “Peace of Christ” that Jesus spoke of in John 14, but I wonder how this peace radiates from me and affects people and circumstances around me. This, I think, is the most crucial question and will ultimately determine if I am a peacemaker. It is something I want to continue to meditate on and examine in my life.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God
O Clavis David (Is. 9:6; 22:22): “O key of David and scepter of Israel, what you open no one else can close again; what you close no one can open. O come to lead the captive from prison; free those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.”
O Loving heavenly Father, whose blessed Son did suffer for the whole world, grant that we may know you better, love you more, and serve you with a more perfect will.
Lord, I admit that I often feel inadequate, in spite of your promises. Often I hold back. Help me to take the risks of faith, to be aware of your affirming presence in my life. Now, in Advent, sharpen my spirit and my senses, and enable me to pay attention to the moments of God-radiance when you ask me to look, to listen, and to be a peacemaker.
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.
Advent 3nd Sunday: Year C [19DEC12] Theme for week 3—Joy & Peace
“Remember your promise to me; it is my only hope. Your promise revives me; it comforts me in all my troubles. You have done many good things for me, Lord, just as you promised. I believe in your commands; now teach me good judgment and knowledge.” (Psalm 119:49-50, 65-66)
Today my joy and peace were overflowing. I enjoyed a simple day where many things could have gone awry…but they didn’t. What did happen was that I got to be surrounded by some of the people I love most in this world. I entered the day with no major plans, other than to enjoy the presence of these cherished people, when circumstances and situations presented themselves that could have unraveled the day…peace, and joy prevailed. As my day unfolded, I realized that my experience (a father and his family) was not unlike the relationship we share with our heavenly Family, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
God desires and enjoys our company—our love shared purely and wholly with him—Jesus says; “make his joy complete.” When we share intimacy and pure love with our Triune God, and the details of life present unexpected complications, they pale in comparison to the enjoyment of being in fellowship with God. My day with my family was like that today. I simply wanted to be with them, enjoying their presence, and making memories of being together, I can hold on to with joyful remembrance until we get to share intimate time once again. Nothing can complicate or take away the peace and joy of that union of pure love. Today, my joy is complete. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
“The essence of the Gospel… is a never ceasing Presence that intervenes and overrules events.” -Evelyn Underhill
O Radix Jesse (Is. 11:1, 10): “O stock of Jesse, you stand as a signal for the nations; kings fall silent before you whom the peoples acclaim. O come to deliver us, and do not delay.”
Jesus, Lord God and Creator of all things, be yourself our joy, you who are the future prize. May our glory be in you always, through all the ages. Amen.
My soul faints with longing for your salvation, but I have put my hope in your word. Gracious father in heaven, you alone are the source of our peace and look mercifully upon your people in their moments of need. Bring us to the dignity, which distinguishes the poor in spirit, and show us how great is the call to serve. 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.