Virtues

ATTENTIVENESS: Paying Attention—An Invitation To Practice The Hours by Leighton Ford

April 20, 2018

From The Attentive Life Observing the hours can be a helpful practice for us in learning to pay attention to God throughout our days.  Further, the hours can also be an illuminating way to reflect on the seasons or passages of our lives.  I invite you to explore with me as we pay attention to how God has been and is at work in each of the “hours” we have lived. Our word hour goes back to the Greek word, hora, which, David Steindl-Rast points out, originally meant more than a unit of time. It was “not a numerical measure,” he writes, “but a soul measure.”  Isn’t it true that we usually think of the seasons of the year less in terms of the dates they begin and end than in terms of their effect on us: the cold of winter, the [...]

HUMILITY: Humility In The Life Of Jesus by Andrew Murray

April 19, 2018

From Humility The only hope of a decreasing self is an increasing Christ. (F. B. Meyer)   I am among you as one who serves. (Luke 22:27) In the gospel of John we have the inner life of our Lord laid open before us.  Jesus spoke frequently of his relationship to the Father, of the motives by which he was guided, of his consciousness of the power and Spirit in which he acted.  Though the word humble does not occur in scripture, the humility of Christ is clearly revealed.  We have already said that this virtue is nothing but the simple consent of the creature to let God be all, the surrender of itself to his working alone.  In Jesus we see how both as the Son of God in Heaven and the Son of Man on Earth, he took the place of entire [...]

ATTENTIVENESS: Paying Attention—The Hours Of Our Lives (The Benedictine Hours) by Leighton Ford

April 13, 2018

From The Attentive Life Matins, lauds, prime, terce, sext, none, vespers, compline – that your hours will pierce me with arrows and sounds of praise. (Luci Shaw) Time is not our enemy, nor is it a hostile place from which we must flee. It is a meeting place, a point of rendezvous with God. (Dorothy Bass, Receiving the Day) Seven times a day do I praise you. (Psalm 119:164) Long centuries ago a young poet recorded praise to God that rose up in his heart seven times a day.  We can surmise that he was young, because the very long psalm he wrote (the longest of all the psalms) records the longing of a young man to keep his way pure by paying attention to the words of God. Could it be that this young poet, like David the shepherd boy, was an [...]

POETRY: In Church by R. S. Thomas

April 13, 2018

Often I try To analyse the quality Of its silences. Is this where God hides From my searching? I have stopped to listen, After the few people have gone, To the air recomposing itself For vigil. It has waited like this Since the stones grouped themselves about it. These are the hard ribs Of a body that our prayers have failed To animate. Shadows advance From their corners to take possession Of places the light held For an hour. The bats resume Their business. The uneasiness of the pews Ceases. There is no other sound In the darkness but the sound of a man Breathing, testing his faith On emptiness, nailing his questions One by one to an untenanted [...]

HUMILITY: The Secret Of Redemption by Andrew Murray

April 12, 2018

From Humility If you are looking for an example of humility, look at the cross. (Thomas Aquinas) Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on the cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name. (Philippians 2:5-9) No tree can grow except on the root from which it sprang.  Through all its existence it can only live by the life that was in the seed that gave it being.  The full [...]

ATTENTIVENESS: An Introduction —Short Flights And Quick Returns by Leighton Ford

April 7, 2018

From The Attentive Life I am sitting on a bench at Lost Lagoon, on the edge of the hundreds and hundreds of acres of trees and trails that make up the vast Stanley Park in Vancouver, Canada.  Behind me are the tall buildings of the city.  Surrounding the park on three sides are the waters of English Bay and Burrard Inlet.  In the background, clouds hover over the mountains that slope down to frame Vancouver – my favorite city in the world, at least to visit. For much of the past decade and a half I have been coming here for a summertime pilgrimage.  I call it a pilgrimage not because Vancouver is such a holy place but because I can get away from my usual routines and hopefully resharpen my attentiveness and imagination. It is a lazy [...]

POETRY: In A Country Church by R. S. Thomas

April 6, 2018

To one kneeling down no word came, Only the wind’s song, saddening the lips Of the grave saints, rigid in glass; Or the dry whisper of unseen wings, Bats not angels, in the high roof. Was he balked by silence? He kneeled long, And saw love in a dark crown Of thorns blazing, and a winter tree Golden with fruit of a man’s [...]

HUMILITY: The Glory Of The Creature by Andrew Murray

April 5, 2018

From Humility Humility is the proper estimate of oneself. (Charles Spurgeon) They lay their crowns before the throne and say: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being. (Revelation 4:10-11) When God created the universe, it was with the objective of making those he created partakers of his perfection and blessedness, thus showing forth the glory of his love and wisdom and power.  God desired to reveal himself in and through his creatures by communicating to them as much of his own goodness and glory as they were capable of receiving.  But this communication was not meant to give created beings something they could possess [...]

POETRY: Like A Brazier’s Bronze Cinders by Boris Pasternak

March 23, 2018

Like a brazier’s bronze cinders, the sleepy garden’s beetles flowing. Level with me, and my candle, a flowering world is hanging. As if into unprecedented faith, I cross into this night, where the poplar’s beaten grey veils the moon’s rim from sight. Where the pond’s an open secret, where apple-trees whisper of waves, where the garden hanging on piles, holds the sky before its [...]

WANDERING: Banished (part one) by A. J. Swoboda

March 10, 2018

From The Dusty Ones Return, O Wanderer, to thy home, Thy Father calls for thee; No longer now an exile roam In guilt and misery; Return, return Return, O wanderer, to thy home, ‘Tis Jesus calls for thee: The Spirit and the bride say, Come; Oh now for refuge flee; Return, return. Return, O wanderer, to thy home, ‘Tis madness to delay: There are no pardons in the tomb And brief is mercy’s day. Return, return. (Thomas Hastings, “Return, O Wanderer”)   “In the beginning God….” (Genesis 1:1). As we’ve been discussing, that’s the beginning of creation – four words that capture the essence of everything from the sunset to raccoons to the very book in your hands.  Before everything, was God.  Sure, God eventually gets [...]

WANDERING: Mom’s Gazpacho by A. J. Swoboda

February 24, 2018

From The Dusty Ones The spiritual journey is not a career or success story.  It is a series of humiliations of the false self that becomes more and more profound. (Thomas Long) This book is about wandering. What does the image of wandering provoke in your mind’s eye? Wandering is a surprising image to pay attention to in the Bible.  Similar to a good many other Biblical images, wandering is an image that’s repeated with relentless consistency throughout the Good Book.  But even such a relentlessly consistent image inspired by the Holy Spirit does not guarantee that the reader will appropriately interpret the image in the way it was intended – we’ve become masters at misunderstanding Biblical images.  That an image is inspired [...]

WANDERING: Wandering And Lamaze by A. J. Swoboda

February 17, 2018

From The Dusty Ones This is what the Lord says about this people: “They greatly love to wander.” (Jeremiah 14:10) This book is about wandering. It wouldn’t be fair to say I make my final approach to the topic of wandering out of nowhere or free of baggage.  I’ve checked some heavy bags for the flight.  Indeed, I bring myself with a cargo load of luggage from my own story that’s sure to affect the way I reflect upon it.  For one, I approach the topic of wandering as a preacher.  Preaching is my trade, my vocation, and my life’s passion.  Preaching is also my paycheck – it puts food on my family’s table.  But my preaching isn’t entirely driven by economic forces alone.  I preach because I am a Christian.  And as a [...]

UNITY: The Art Of Quilting

February 8, 2018

Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the Scripture [...]

SURRENDER: Especially For Us by Jean-Pierre de Caussade

February 8, 2018

From The Joy of Full Surrender We can be truly instructed only by the words that God speaks to us personally. No one grows in knowledge of God either by reading books or by curious historical research. These means give us only a vain and empty knowledge, which serves only to confuse us and inflate us with pride. That which truly instructs us is what comes to us by the will of God from moment to moment. This is the knowledge gained through experience, which Christ himself was pleased to acquire before teaching others. In fact, this was the only knowledge in which he could grow, according to the expression of the holy gospel, (Luke 2:52). This is because, being God, there was no degree of speculative knowledge that he did not already [...]

SIMPLICITY: Jesus Of Nazareth by Philip Harnden

February 8, 2018

From Journeys of Simplicity Jewish carpenter whose life and teachings inspire the Christian faith. “And what I say unto you, I say unto all: Watch.” JESUS SENDS FORTH THE TWELVE Take nothing for your journey save a staff no knapsack no bread no money not two coats be shod with sandals Go, preach Heaven is at hand heal the sick cleanse the lepers raise the dead cast out [...]

POETRY: Matins by George Herbert

February 7, 2018

I cannot ope mine eyes, But thou art ready there to catch My morning-soul and sacrifice: Then we must needs for that day make a match. My God, what is a heart? Silver, or gold, or precious stone, Or star, or rainbow, or a part Of all these things, or all of them in one? My God, what is a heart, That thou shouldst it so eye, and woo, Pouring upon it all thy art, As if that thou hadst nothing else to do? Indeed man’s whole estate Amounts (and richly) to serve thee: He did not heav’n and earth create, Yet studies them, not him by whom they be. Teach me thy love to know; That this new light, which now I see, May both the work and workman show: Then by a sunbeam I will climb to [...]

SURRENDER: The Hidden Work Of Divine Love by Jean-Pierre de Caussade

February 1, 2018

From The Joy of Full Surrender What great truths are hidden from the eyes even of Christians who think that they are the most enlightened!  How few among them understand that every cross, every circumstance, every leading of the will of God, gives us God himself in a way that can best be explained by comparing them with the most majestic mystery of all, the Holy Eucharist. Yet what is more certain?  Does not reason as well as faith reveal to us the presence of divine love in all creatures, and in all the events of life, just as indisputably as the words of Jesus Christ and of the church reveal the presence of the sacred flesh of our Savior under the Eucharistic elements?  Do we not know that by all created things, and by every event, [...]

SIMPLICITY: Bilbo Baggins by Philip Harnden

February 1, 2018

From Journeys of Simplicity Son of Bungo Baggins, grandson of the Old Took, and diminutive hero of J. R. R. Tolkien’s mythological novel, The Hobbit. A hobbit hole means comfort, Tolkien tells us, and Bilbo Baggins is a very comfortable hobbit indeed.  His bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, and dining rooms have paneled walls and carpeted floors.  He has cellars and pantries full of food and entire rooms devoted to clothes.  To Bilbo, “adventures” are nasty and uncomfortable affairs that make you late for dinner. But when he is visited by thirteen dwarfs and a wizard, “something Tookish” wakes inside him.  Before he can stop himself, he has left comfort behind to join one of the great adventures of modern literature. BILBO SETS [...]

SURRENDER: Christians’ Disregard Of God’s Action by Jean-Pierre de Caussade

January 25, 2018

From The Joy of Full Surrender What unfaithfulness there is in the world!  How unworthy are human thoughts of God!  We constantly complain of God’s action in a way we would not use toward the lowest of workmen about his trade.  We would reduce God’s action to the limits and rules of our feeble reason.  We presume to imagine that we can improve on his acts.  These are nothing but complaints and murmurings. We are surprised at the treatment endured by Jesus at the hands of the Jews.  Divine love! adorable Will of God! infallible truth! in what ways are you treated?  Can God’s will ever occur at other than the proper time?  Can it be mistaken?  “But there is this business of mine!  I require such and such a thing!  The [...]

SIMPLICITY: A Celtic Woman by Philip Harnden

January 25, 2018

From Journeys of Simplicity Hebridean householder and keeper of the songs, prayers, and blessings of Celtic Christianity. Nineteenth century in the Outer Hebrides, those wild islands off the west coast of Scotland.  A woman rises in the cold morning, her household still asleep.  In her small hut – day in, day out – she begins the quiet, essential rhythms of daybreak: bathing her face, kindling the night-banked fire.  With each act she breathes a prayer-of-three to the Trinity.  Kneeling there on the earthen floor, she transforms her ordinary chores into sacrament, her daily journey into pilgrimage. Esther de Waal, in her rich and sensitive writings on the Celtic way of prayer, so describes one anonymous woman of more than a hundred [...]

SURRENDER: God’s Word Written On The Heart by Jean-Pierre de Caussade

January 18, 2018

From The Joy of Full Surrender “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever,” says the Apostle, (Hebrews 13:8).  From the beginning of the world he was, as God, the source of the life of righteous souls.  From the first moment of his incarnation, his humanity shared this prerogative of his divinity.  He is working within us throughout our whole lives.  The time that will elapse till the end of the world is only as a day, and this day abounds with his action.  Jesus Christ lived and lives still.  He began in himself and he continues in his saints a life that will never end. Life of Jesus! including and extending beyond all the ages of time! life working new wonders of grace at every moment!  If no one is capable of [...]

SIMPLICITY: Annie Dillard by Philip Harnden

January 18, 2018

From Journeys of Simplicity (b. 1945) American writer, poet, and pilgrim. Dillard wrote the second half of her Pulitzer Prize-winning Pilgrim at Tinker Creek in a second-floor, cinderblock room with a window that overlooked a tar-and-gravel roof and a parking lot.  “Appealing workplaces are to be avoided,” she maintains.  “One wants a room with no view, so imagination can meet memory in the dark.” In this writer’s cell she kept her fielder’s mitt (for afternoon softball games), some books, a bag of chocolate-covered peanuts, two or three quotes taped on index cards, a dozen different-colored pens, some piles of big index cards, and her messy yellow legal pads.  One day she shut the window blinds and never opened them again. [...]

SURRENDER: God Revealed In Ordinary Circumstances by Jean-Pierre de Caussade

January 11, 2018

From The Joy of Full Surrender The written word of God is full of mystery.  His word expressed in the events of the world is no less so.  These are two sealed books, and of both it can be said, “The letter kills.” God is the center of faith.  All that emanates from this center is hidden in the deepest mystery.  This word and these events are, so to speak, feeble rays from a sun obscured by clouds.  It is vain to expect to see with our mortal eyes the rays of this sun.  Even the eyes of our soul are blind to God and his works.  Obscurity here reigns rather than clear light; knowledge itself is ignorance, and we see without seeing.  The Holy Scripture is the mysterious Word of an even more mysterious God.  And the events of the [...]

SIMPLICITY: Henry Beston by Philip Harnden

January 11, 2018

From Journeys of Simplicity (1888–1968) American naturalist and writer best known for The Outermost House, his chronicle of a solitary year on a Cape Cod beach. “The world today,” wrote Henry Beston, “is sick to its thin blood for lack of elemental things, for fire before the hands, for water welling from the earth, for air, for the dear Earth itself underfoot.” To immerse himself in those elemental things, Beston had a neighbor build him a small house atop a dune on the farthest eastern reaches of Cape Cod, just thirty feet from the great Atlantic beach.  His “outermost house” measured twenty feet by sixteen and contained two rooms (a bedroom and a kitchen / living room) with a brick fireplace in the wall between.  Its [...]

SURRENDER: Finding The Will Of God by Jean-Pierre de Caussade

December 21, 2017

From The Joy of Full Surrender If we are able to greet each passing moment as the manifestation of the will of God, we will find in it all our heart can desire.  What could there be more reasonable, more perfect, more divine than the will of God?  Could any change of time or place or circumstance alter or increase its infinite value?  If you possess the secret of discovering it at every moment and in everything, then you possess all that is most precious and worthy to be desired.  What is it that you are searching for, you who desire to become holy?  Give full scope to your longings.  Your wishes need have no measure, no limit.  However much you may desire, I can show you how to attain it, even though it may be infinite.  There is [...]

SIMPLICITY: John Muir by Philip Harnden

December 21, 2017

From Journeys of Simplicity (1838–1914) Scottish-born American naturalist, inventor, writer, rover, and crusader for wilderness preservation. John Muir was a lifelong pacifist who moved to Canada during the Civil War conscription.  He was a mechanical wizard who refused to patent his inventions because “all improvements and inventions should be the property of the human race.”  When a factory accident temporarily blinded him, young Muir resolved to devote the rest of his life “to the study of the inventions of God.”  Upon regaining his sight, he set off alone on a thousand-mile botanizing walk from Indiana to the Gulf of Mexico. “Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the [...]

SURRENDER: Recognizing God’s Hand By Faith by Jean-Pierre de Caussade

December 14, 2017

From The Joy of Full Surrender Those who are enlightened by faith judge things in a very different way from those who have only their senses to guide them and ignore the inestimable treasures they conceal.  One who knows the king in disguise treats him very differently from another who, judging by appearances alone, fails to recognize his royalty and treats him as a commoner.  In the same way the soul that recognizes the will of God in even the smallest circumstances, even in those that are most distressing and fatal, receives them all with equal joy, pleasure, and respect.  That soul throws open all its doors to receive with honor what others fear and fly from in horror.  The outward appearance may be humble and contemptible, but [...]

SIMPLICITY: Thomas Merton by Philip Harnden

December 14, 2017

From Journeys of Simplicity (1915–1968) French-born American Roman Catholic priest and Trappist monk Father Louis, as Thomas Merton was known to his fellow monks, lived his last years as a hermit in the woods near his Cistercian abbey.  His hermitage was small and unadorned, a cinder-block building with cement floors.  He cut his own wood for the fireplace, hauled water from the abbey, cooked on a Coleman stove, and read by kerosene lamp.  Eventually, as his health deteriorated, electricity was installed.  Typically, he arose at 3:15 a.m. to begin the prayers of the day. He was perhaps the first Trappist hermit of the modern era.  He was surely a monk whose living and passing brimmed with irony.  Vowed to silence, he was known [...]

SIMPLICITY: On Traveling Light by Philip Harnden

December 7, 2017

From Journeys of Simplicity Twelve hundred years ago in China a middle-aged man named P’ang Yün loaded everything he owned onto a boat and sank it all in the Tung’t’ing Lake.  After that, we are told, “He lived like a single leaf.” See him there in the early morning, treading water in the middle of the lake, watching the last bubbles rise from the depths.  The air crisp and quiet.  The lake misty and as still as sky.  Then turning, stroking toward the shore. Justine Dalencourt, a French Quaker, was forced to leave her home at Fontaine-Lavaganne when the German army invaded France in 1914.  But first she planted her garden, saying, “I would rather they found something to eat at my house than that they should have to steal [...]

SURRENDER: God’s Hand Present Everywhere, by Jean-Pierre de Caussade

November 30, 2017

From The Joy of Full Surrender All creatures are living in the hand of God.  The senses perceive only the physical causes, but faith sees God’s hand in all things.  Faith believes that Jesus Christ lives in all things, that his divine operation continues to the end of time, and that every passing moment and the tiniest atom contain a portion of this hidden life and mysterious action.  The physical creation is a veil concealing the profound mysteries of the divine work.  After the Resurrection, Jesus took his disciples by surprise in his various appearances.  He showed himself to them under forms that they did not recognize, and, in the very act of making himself known to them, disappeared from their sight.  This same Jesus, ever [...]