God

ADVENT REFLECTION: Wait And Prepare by Enuma Okoro

December 16, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent Part Two: Preparation and Laboring With God’s Promises The psalmist pleads with God, “Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.  Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long,” (Psalms 25:4-5).  In the earnestness of this prayer we get some sense of what waiting means for this psalmist.  It is not a passive waiting on God but a waiting that anticipates growth, development, and guidance.  Even when the waiting period is painful the psalmist can pray for openness to what God desires him to learn within this space. When the circumstances of our lives suggest that God is calling us to a season of waiting, we [...]

POETRY: For Advent by Christina Rossetti

December 16, 2018

Sweet sweet sound of distant waters, falling On a parched and thirsty plain; Sweet sweet song of soaring skylark, calling On the sun to shine again; Perfume of the rose, only the fresher For past fertilizing rain; Pearls amid the sea, a hidden treasure For some daring hand to gain; — Better, dearer than all these Is the earth beneath the trees: Of a much more priceless worth Is the old, brown, common earth. Little snow-white lamb, piteously bleating For thy mother far away; Saddest sweetest nightingale, retreating With thy sorrow from the day; Weary fawn whom night has overtaken, From the herd gone quite astray; Dove whose nest was rifled and forsaken In the budding month of May; — Roost upon the leafy trees; Lie on earth and take your [...]

PRAYER: Third Sunday Of Advent by Mitch Finley

December 16, 2018

From Season of Promises God says, “Do not blame yourself too much, thinking that your trouble and distress is all your fault. For it is not my will that you should be unduly sad and despondent.” (Julia of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love) You got trouble and distress, I got trouble and distress, all God’s children got trouble and distress.  So don’t feel like the Lone Ranger.  Thing is, it is not God’s will that we should feel bummed out all the time.  Someone said, “A sad Christian is a sad Christian.” Why do we think that if we have “trouble and distress” it must be all our fault?  Why are we so inclined to beat up on ourselves for the slightest reason?  Advent is the season of hope and expectation, hope and [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Advent Day 14 Personal Reflection by Enuma Okoro

December 15, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent Waiting is difficult business.  Sometimes the hardest work is staying still and trusting that God works even in silence.  We want the confirmation of burning bushes, pillars of fire, and visiting angels.  That is not the stuff of ordinary life, but it does not mean that miracles are outdated or that we cannot expect God to speak new and even unbelievable possibility into our individual and collective lives.  There is something to be said for conditioning ourselves to anticipate these possibilities.  Most of us do not wake up ready and able to receive or understand God’s words.  We have to train ourselves to become the type of Earthly vessels that can endure the challenging joy [...]

POETRY: The Winter Is Cold, Is Cold by Madeleine L’Engle

December 15, 2018

The winter is cold, is cold. All’s spent in keeping warm. Has joy been frozen, too? I blow upon my hands Stiff from the biting wind. My heart beats slow, beats slow. What has become of joy? If joy’s gone from my heart Then it is closed to You Who made it, gave it life. If I protect myself I’m hiding, Lord, from you. How we defend ourselves In ancient suits of mail! Protected from the sword, Shrinking from the wound, We look for happiness, Small, safety-seeking, dulled, Selfish, exclusive, in-turned. Elusive, evasive, peace comes Only when it’s not sought. Help me forget the cold That grips the grasping world. Let me stretch out my hands To purifying fire, Clutching fingers uncurled. Look! Here is the melting joy. My heart beats [...]

PRAYER: Second Saturday Of Advent by Mitch Finley

December 15, 2018

From Season of Promises Place no hope in the feeling of assurance, in spiritual comfort.  You may well have to get along without this.  Place no hope in the inspirational preachers of Christian sunshine, who are able to pick you up and set you back on your feet and make you feel good for three or four days – until you fold up and collapse into despair. (Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation) Feelings, feely-feely feelings.  We hear so much about feelings.  It’s the triumph of the therapeutic.  The self-help gurus proclaim the gospel of getting in touch with your feelings.  Thus do they rake in the dough, the bucks, the greenbacks, the moolah.  Thus do they rake it in.  But genuine spiritual guides, to a one, over the [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Holy Retreat by Enuma Okoro

December 14, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent But of that day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels of Heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman of [...]

POETRY: The Empty Church by R. S. Thomas

December 14, 2018

They laid this stone trap for him, enticing him with candles, as though he would come like some huge moth out of the darkness to beat there. Ah, he had burned himself before in the human flame and escaped, leaving the reason torn. He will not come any more to our lure. Why, then, do I kneel still striking my prayers on a stone heart? Is it in hope one of them will ignite yet and throw on its illuminated walls the shadow of someone greater than I can [...]

PRAYER: Second Friday Of Advent by Mitch Finley

December 14, 2018

From Season of Promises My commonest attitude is this simple attentiveness, an habitual, loving turning of my eyes to God, to whom I often find myself bound with more happiness and gratification than that which a babe enjoys clinging to its nurse’s breast.  So, if I dare use this expression, I should be glad to describe this condition as “the breasts of God,” for the inexpressible happiness I savor and experience there. (Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God) In Advent, we look forward to commemorating the arrival on this Earth of the Son of God as a helpless infant.  Look.  Take the infancy of the Son of God seriously.  Here is God, present in a tiny newborn baby.  How can this be?  We take it for granted.  [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Divine Preparation by Enuma Okoro

December 13, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men. (Luke 1:24-25) After Zechariah’s visit from the angel, he returns home with nothing to say to his wife.  But soon, to Elizabeth’s astonishment, she becomes pregnant.  Elizabeth remains in seclusion for the next five months, and it is just as well given Zechariah’s muteness.  What can there have been to say?  Sometimes contemplation is the most fitting response to God’s word or action in our lives. In traditional religious circles, we are rarely taught the value of quiet [...]

POETRY: On The Mystery Of The Incarnation by Denise Levertov

December 13, 2018

It’s when we face for a moment the worst our kind can do, and shudder to know the taint in our own selves, that awe cracks the mind’s shell and enters the heart: not to a flower, not to a dolphin, to no innocent form but to this creature vainly sure it and no other is god-like, God (out of compassion for our ugly failure to evolve) entrusts, as guest, as brother, the [...]

PRAYER: Second Thursday Of Advent by Mitch Finley

December 13, 2018

From Season of Promises The person who cares nothing for praise or blame knows great inward peace, and it is easy for the person whose conscience is clear to find contentment and quiet.  Praise does not make you holier than you are, nor blame more wicked.  You are exactly what you are – you cannot be said to be any better than you are in the eyes of God. (Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ) Advent is a time to cultivate genuine humility.  Be only what you are, no more, no less.  Take Mary as the model of humility.  When the angel says, guess what, you’re going to be the mother of the Messiah, what does Mary say?  “Oh gosh, I’m way too unworthy, you’d better find somebody else”?  No.  Mary says, “Let it be with [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Dwelling In God’s Strength by Enuma Okoro

December 12, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; that in everything ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:3-9) We have all said at one point or another, “If I just knew what would [...]

POETRY: Magnificat by Mary F. C. Pratt

December 12, 2018

Under pine trees in the snow, the chickadees around my head, I wept for the will of God, this hungry woman fed. All the shadows shifted while my back was turned. Once and always on my finger one soft and small gray bird. Not a twisting due to prayer, but all its own, and mine together. And so I bear the gift, carry it through time— this deepest darkness, astonishing [...]

PRAYER: Second Wednesday Of Advent by Mitch Finley

December 12, 2018

From Season of Promises Sometimes it may seem to us that there is no purpose in our lives, that going day after day for years to this office or that school or factory is nothing else but waste and weariness.  But it may be that God has sent us there because but for us Christ would not be there, that alone makes it worthwhile. (Caryll Houselander, The Reed of God) Let the quiet spirit of Advent soak into your heart.  Let the spirit of waiting patiently for the coming of Christ at Christmas soak into your heart.  Now listen.  Listen.  The spirit of Advent is the spirit of the gospel, plain and simple.  To open our heart to the true spirit of Advent is to open our heart to the gospel, the Good News that invites us to a new way of [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Silence by Enuma Okoro

December 11, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believes not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season. And the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he tarried so long in the temple. And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless. And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house. (Luke 1:20-23) Traditionally we read Luke 1:20-23 as God’s punishment of Zechariah for his lack of faith in God’s words.  The angel [...]

POETRY: Aprons Of Silence by Carl Sandburg

December 11, 2018

Many things I might have said today. And I kept my mouth shut. So many times I was asked To come and say the same things Everybody was saying, no end To the yes-yes, yes-yes, me-too, me-too. The aprons of silence covered me. A wire and hatch held my tongue. I spit nails into an abyss and listened. I shut off the gable of Jones, Johnson, Smith, All whose names take pages in the city directory. I fixed up a padded cell and lugged it around. I locked myself in and nobody knew it. Only the keeper and the kept in the hoosegow Knew it—on the streets, in the post office, On the cars, into the railroad station Where the caller was calling, “All a-board, All a-board for . . . Blaa-blaa . . . Blaa-blaa, Blaa-blaa . . . and all points [...]

PRAYER: Second Tuesday Of Advent by Mitch Finley

December 11, 2018

From Season of Promises The nearness of silence means also the nearness of forgiveness and the nearness of love, for the natural basis of forgiveness and of love is silence.  It is important that this natural basis should be there, for it means that forgiveness and love do not have first to create the medium in which they appear. (Max Picard, The World of Silence) Where are you right now, this minute, as you read these words?  Where are you?  Where are you not only physically – in a house or apartment, in a church, riding on a train, bus, airplane, or subway – but where are you in your heart and in your mind?  In your mind, are you in a quiet place or a noisy place?  Is your heart quiet or full of noise? To wait quietly during [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: A Song From Hollowed Space by Enuma Okoro

December 10, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent Oh that thou would rend the heavens, that thou would come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence, as when the melting fire burns, the fire causes the waters to boil, to make thy name known to thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at thy presence!  When thou didst terrible things which we looked not for, thou came down, the mountains flowed down at thy presence. For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waits for him.  Thou meet him that rejoices and works righteousness, those that remember thee in thy ways: behold, thou art wroth; for [...]

POETRY: From God Christ’s Deity Came Forth by Ephrem of Edessa

December 10, 2018

From God Christ’s deity came forth, his manhood from humanity; his priesthood from Melchizedek, his royalty from David’s tree: praised be his Oneness. He joined with guests at wedding feast, yet in the wilderness did fast; he taught within the temple’s gates; his people saw him die at last: praised be his teaching. The dissolute he did not scorn, nor turn from those who were in sin; he for the righteous did rejoice but bade the fallen to come in: praised be his mercy. He did not disregard the sick; to simple ones his word was given; and he descended to the Earth and, his work done, went up to Heaven: praised be his coming. Who then, my Lord, compares to you? The Watcher slept, the Great was small, the Pure baptized, the [...]

PRAYER: Second Monday Of Advent by Mitch Finley

December 10, 2018

From Season of Promises I set my heart on God with all my trust and with all my might.  He wills that our hearts should be lifted high above the depths of Earthly and vain sorrows, and rejoice in him.  He loves us and enjoys us, and so he wills that we love him and enjoy him, and firmly trust him; and all shall be well. (Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love) Advent has one message that is rock bottom.  The rock bottom message of Advent is a message of hope.  Hope is not in vain, the spirit of Advent sings to us.  If we listen.  The heart of Advent is hope, and the spirit of Advent sings in our heart.  If we listen.  Hope, hope.  Look forward to the birth of Christ with hope because no hope is more reliable.  No matter [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Barrenness by Enuma Okoro

December 9, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years. (Luke 1:5-7) It is a cold word, hollow-sounding, devoid of warmth, almost iron-clad in its finality: barren.  Elizabeth is a barren woman.  Could anything be more devastating in a culture that prides women on the fruits of their womb?  Imagine her wondering what Zechariah might secretly think [...]

POETRY: Advent Calendar by Rowan Williams

December 9, 2018

He will come like last leaf’s fall. One night when the November wind has flayed the trees to bone, and earth wakes choking on the mould, the soft shroud’s folding. He will come like frost. One morning when the shrinking earth opens on mist, to find itself arrested in the net of alien, sword-set beauty. He will come like dark. One evening when the bursting red December sun draws up the sheet and penny-masks its eye to yield the star-snowed fields of sky. He will come, will come, will come like crying in the night, like blood, like breaking, as the earth writhes to toss him free. He will come like [...]

PRAYER: Second Sunday Of Advent by Mitch Finley

December 9, 2018

From Season of Promises Every one of us forms an idea of Christ that is limited and incomplete.  It is cut according to our own measure.  We tend to create for ourselves a Christ in our own image, a projection of our own aspirations, desires, and ideals.  We find in him what we want to find.  We make him not only the incarnation of God but also the incarnation of the things we and our society and our part of society happen to live for. (Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation) Who is the Jesus you look forward to during Advent?  What does he look like?  Your description reveals more than you think.  If you describe Jesus one way, remember that your description does not rule out other acceptable descriptions.  Does your Jesus have [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Advent Day 7 Personal Reflection by Enuma Okoro

December 8, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent Doubt is common to more people of faith than perhaps care to admit it.  Ebbing back and forth in trust and belief is not something to be proud of but it is also not something of which to be ashamed.  It is simply part of our human condition this side of Heaven.  Some people experience less or more of it than others.  We find grace in the stories of scripture that highlight characters who experience doubt and questioning, who want proof of God’s words to them.  We can take spiritual refuge in people like Zechariah and the disciple Thomas who needed proof of the resurrection.  Sometimes God’s goodness sounds too good to be true.  At times our disbelief testifies more to the [...]

POETRY: Later Life: A Double Sonnet Of Sonnets by Christina Rossetti

December 8, 2018

1. Before the mountains were brought forth, before Earth and the world were made, then God was God: And God will still be God, when flames shall roar Round earth and heaven dissolving at His nod: And this God is our God, even while His rod Of righteous wrath falls on us smiting sore: And this God is our God for evermore Through life, through death, while clod returns to clod. For though He slay us we will trust in Him; We will flock home to Him by divers ways: Yea, though He slay us we will vaunt His praise, Serving and loving with the Cherubim, Watching and loving with the Seraphim, Our very selves His praise through endless days. 2. Rend hearts and rend not garments for our sins; Gird sackcloth not on body but on soul; Grovel in dust [...]

PRAYER: First Saturday Of Advent by Mitch Finley

December 8, 2018

From Season of Promises God does not ask much of us – an occasional remembrance, a small act of worship, now to beg his grace, at times to offer him our distresses, at another time to render thanks for the favors he has given, and which he gives in the midst of your labors.  At table and in the midst of conversations, lift your heart at times towards him.  It is not needful at such times to cry out loud.  He is nearer to us than we think. (Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God) Advent is a quiet season.  Quiet.  Listen.  Advent whispers, and we must be quiet if we are to hear its message.  Advent whispers.  Listen carefully.  Advent carries a quiet message, it says that God is near, our God is near, our God who [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Doubt And The Believing Community by Enuma Okoro

December 7, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God; night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith? Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you. And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints. (1 Thessalonians 3:9-13) It can be scary to admit to ourselves that we are experiencing doubts.  We [...]

POETRY: Freeman Creek Grove by Paul Willis

December 7, 2018

(Sequoia gigantea) Hiking down November snow, we saw the first one still below us, mounding up like a juniper in the Shasta fir and the sugar pine. Soon the trail entered its presence (with Thanksgiving a day behind), the trunk rising in dusky red, in fluted columns strangely soft to our curious touch. The first branches began at the tops of other trees and continued into familiar wonder, older perhaps than the Incarnation, and longer rooted, and while they are here, shedding for us new mercy of cones flung green and small on the white of our steps. We girdled the trunk with open arms, unable to circumference it, much less to find its center. In our random cries, in the things we said to our wandering children, I heard proclamation of [...]

PRAYER: First Friday Of Advent by Mitch Finley

December 7, 2018

From Season of Promises “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life,” says the Lord.  By these words, Christ urges us to mold our lives and characters in the image of his, if we wish to be truly enlightened and freed from all blindness of heart.  Let us therefore see that we endeavor beyond all else to meditate on the life of Jesus Christ. (Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ) We think of “meditation” as esoteric, the concern of folks who live in monasteries, of interest to the occasional odd duck.  The wandering guru from India teaches “meditation.”  Certainly, we think, meditation is not to be taken seriously by your average person with a real life to live, mortgage or rent [...]