virtues

ATTENTIVENESS: Paying Attention—Paying Attention To The Other by Leighton Ford

May 4, 2018

From The Attentive Life Attentiveness means respecting, attending to, waiting on, looking at, and listening to the other – the persons and things that we encounter – for what they are in themselves, not what we can make of them.  We are called to pay attention to the Other – our Creator God – to know and worship him. Paradoxically, attentiveness may be just the opposite of “fixing our attention.”  Instead it involves a letting go of our usual need to control, an opening of ourselves to what we are being told or shown. Our instinct is to hold on. Elia Kazan said of the poet Sylvia Plath that “the world for Sylvia Plath only existed for her to write about.”  Plath paid attention to her work and her words, but the [...]

ATTENTIVENESS: Paying Attention—Pay Attention by Leighton Ford

April 27, 2018

From The Attentive Life From the time we were children we were told to “pay attention,” as if this were the simplest thing in the world.  But in fact attentiveness is one of the most difficult concepts to grasp and one of the hardest disciplines to learn.  For we are very distractible people in a very distracting world. God wants us to be attentive people, as he is an attentive God.  Many of the words of God in the Bible call his people to “look,” “see,” “listen,” “give heed.”  Jesus (as paraphrased by Eugene Peterson in The Message) said in his Sermon on the Mount, “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now,” (Matthew 6:34).  The influential French writer Simone Weil believed that attention is [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

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. [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

VIRTUES: Freedom From Within (Detachment) by Gary L. Thomas

November 9, 2017

From: The Glorious Pursuit If you desire to undertake a devout life, you must not only cease to sin, but also cleanse your heart from all affections to sin.  Souls that are recovered from the state of sin, and still retain these affections, eat without joy, and drag themselves along rather than walk.  They do good, but with such a spiritual heaviness that it takes away all the grace from their good exercises. (Francis de Sales) For me, the saddest flowers in all the world will always be yellow roses. The last time I purchased them was twenty years ago, after the fifth or sixth breakup with “Sharon.”  Yellow roses were her favorite. Sharon and I were involved in a tempestuous relationship during high school, and, try as we [...]

VIRTUES: Resting In The Current (Surrender) by Gary L. Thomas

October 5, 2017

From: The Glorious Pursuit The Man who wishes to offer a pure mind to God but who is troubled by cares is like a man who expects to walk quickly even though his legs are tied together. (John Climacus) Lisa and I wanted to move back to Washington State to be close to our children’s grandparents, but the situation looked bleak.  When we discussed our options with a realtor, his scenario stunned us.  “Best case scenario is that you’d have to bring $10,000 to settlement.”  We’d have to pay to sell our home, assuming we could find someone willing to buy it. “How long would we have to stay here to break even?” Lisa asked with the tone of a patient discussing a very painful procedure. “To walk [...]

VIRTUES: The Beautiful Spirit (Humility, Part Two) by Gary L. Thomas

September 7, 2017

From: The Glorious Pursuit Humility is the bloom and the beauty of holiness. (Andrew Murray) Unless we make the increase of humility our study, we may find that we have been delighting in beautiful thoughts and feelings, in solemn acts of consecration and faith, while the only sure mark of the presence of God – the disappearance of self – was all the time wanting. (Andrew Murray) Following the stunning victory at Yorktown, the American colonies seemed determined to clutch defeat out of the jaws of victory.  Many assumed the Revolutionary War was over, but since George Washington was well aware that the British forces on North American soil still outnumbered the Continental Army, the American soldiers weren’t let go.  The [...]

VIRTUES: The Precept Of Charity by Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen

August 10, 2017

Presence of God – O Lord, teach me to love you truly, with my whole heart, my whole soul, and with all my strength. Meditation “Virtue lies in the golden mean.” This maxim which is so exact for the moral virtues, cannot be applied to the theological virtues, which, having an infinite object, can have no limit. The measure of our faith, hope, and charity is to believe, to hope, and to love without measure. However much we love God, we can never love him too much, nor can we love him as much as he is lovable. By its very nature then, the precept of charity admits of no limit and we could never say, “I shall love God up to a certain point and that will be enough,” for by doing so, we would renounce tending toward the perfection of [...]

VIRTUES: Living Where You Are (Humility, Part One) by Gary L. Thomas

July 30, 2017

From: The Glorious Pursuit Saints agree they are sinners; only sinners think they are saints. (Peter Kreeft) The truth is this – pride must die in you, or nothing of Heaven can live in you. (Andrew Murray) “So how’d your morning work go?”  My wife, Lisa, asked me. “I lost a good bit of it.  My computer crashed.” She looked at me with astonishment.  “I can’t believe you’re taking it so well.” I shrugged.  “I’ve written by hand and I’ve written on computers.  Over the long run, computers have saved me a lot of time.  I can’t complain if they take a little time back now and then.” “But your attitude,” Lisa sad.  “I think I’d be [...]

VIRTUES: The Glorious Pursuit by Gary L. Thomas

June 29, 2017

From: The Glorious Pursuit Grace, we must learn, is opposed to earning, not to effort. (Dallas Willard) If Godliness is not from deep within you, it is only a mask. (Jeanne Guyon) Imagine that one night God wakes you from a dream and offers you the golfing ability of Tiger Woods.  That would be something, wouldn’t it?  Or imagine being bestowed with the computer or entrepreneurial capabilities of Bill Gates: “You can create the next Microsoft,” God says.  “Interested?” Or maybe you’re more the cultural type, and your heart would beat faster if God enabled you to sing like Pavarotti, to write like Jane Austen, or to paint like Rembrandt. We could get lost all day in fantasies such as these, but, in [...]

RIGHTEOUSNESS: By The Grace Of God, Holiness Is What We Are by A Sister of All Saints Convent

June 23, 2017

All Saints Convent is located in Catonsville, Maryland Ralph Martin, in the introduction to his book, Called To Holiness, tells a story about Mother Teresa of Calcutta.  A reporter, interviewing Mother Teresa, asked her the question, “How do you feel about being called a living saint?”  He expected her to say, “Oh, I’m not really as good as people think,.”  Instead, she replied, “You have to be holy in the position you are in, and I have to be holy in the position God has given me.  There’s nothing extraordinary about being holy.  It is simply a duty for you and for me.” Most of us probably believe, not surprisingly, that being holy is extraordinary.  Most models of holiness have been [...]

VIRTUES: The Holy Bridge, by Gary L. Thomas

June 15, 2017

From: The Glorious Pursuit This life therefore, is not righteousness, but growth in righteousness, not health but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it; the process is not yet finished but it is going on. This is not the end but it is the road; all does not yet gleam in glory but all is being purified. (Martin Luther) It had been an exhausting week for me, with two or three more hard weeks ahead.  I was flying from coast to coast, so I requested an aisle seat.  I needed the room to get some work done. “Sorry, sir,” the agent said, “all that remain are center seats.” “Are you kidding me?  The plane’s full?” [...]

VIRTUES: Getting Your Life Back by Gary L. Thomas

June 1, 2017

From: The Glorious Pursuit Once you let God into you, you have God in you. And God is a dynamo. (Peter Kreeft) On August 20, 1949, a rather bizarre headline appeared on the front page of the Washington Post: “Priest Frees Mount Ranier Boy Reported Held in Devil’s Grip.”  Though the exorcism took place in St. Louis, the story made top billing in the Post because the thirteen-year-old boy was a native of Mount Ranier, Maryland, a small town in the shadow of Washington, DC. The boy, “Robbie,” had developed a close relationship with a spiritualist aunt.  After the aunt died, objects started flying around the room in Robbie’s presence.  Robbie’s family turned to their priest, Father Luther Miles [...]

VIRTUES: The Tunings Of Faith

May 21, 2017

The word, faith, is said a lot. At least in my world. But almost every time it is named, it is done in its own unique way. Have faith. Have faith in me. Have faith in God. Your faith can move mountains. Your faith can set you free. Your faith will be rewarded. Your faith has made you well. We live by faith. Walk in faith. And so on and on and on. But the one phrase that has me truly confounded is: Faith is a gift. Period. Just the statement.  No explanation. Faith is a gift. It might be mentioned that it is given to us by God. So what is the deal exactly?  God is sitting around one day and looks down at me and thinks to himself, That’s it!  I’ll give Julia some faith! Does it come wrapped? Do I find it under my pillow when I [...]

COURAGE: What Will I Do When They Find Out I’m Me?, by Walter Anderson

May 18, 2017

From: Courage is a Three Letter Word It was Good Friday, April 17, 1981, and I had just asked John Ehrlichman why he had not committed suicide. He sat across from me at a small table in a rear corner of Danny Stradella’s Restaurant on East Forty-Sixth Street in Manhattan. We had walked there from my office, which was only a half-block away. Our conversation was polite, correct. As we spoke I wondered whether I had made a mistake by agreeing to meet this former presidential aide, a character I remembered from the Watergate hearings in 1973 as arrogant, contemptuous – frankly, to my mind, a man who had threatened my country. Yet, there he sat, now bearded and bespectacled, only inches from me. “My life is different today,” he [...]

VIRTUES: Fortitude, by Robert F. Morneau

May 11, 2017

From: Pathways to Community 1. Be Not Afraid Fear, like anger, is one of those universal emotions. When suffering and death approach us, we are afraid. Great courage is needed by warriors in battle, by patients facing terminal illnesses, by everyone who encounters the “slings and arrows” of life. The immediate impulse is to deny the danger if we can and if not, to run away. The person of fortitude and courage stays the course. For many that steadfastness is grounded in a faith that knows the support and presence of God. For others, the knowledge that others are with them as a supportive community enables this virtue to grow and become strong. The constant refrain arising out of the Bible is, do not be afraid. Be Not Afraid You shall [...]

VIRTUE: Virtue As Competence, by Bernard Häring

May 4, 2017

From: The Virtues of an Authentic Life Is virtue one of those humorless, haggard, toothless aspects of life that just have to be endured and reckoned with, whether we like it or not? Absolutely not. Virtue is, instead, a form of competence that enables us to grasp the melody of life as a whole and to arrive at that basic option for good that brings all of our thoughts, desires, and actions to maturity. Almost everybody admits that competence in one’s profession is worth the effort it takes. And, competence in relationships is a general goal of many others as well. When competence in any sphere is lacking, when the struggle to get it is neglected, the price will be high. The frequent breakdown of marriage, with all its costly [...]

POETRY: Making The House Ready For The Lord, by Mary Oliver

April 22, 2017

Dear Lord, I have swept and I have washed but still nothing is as shining as it should be for you. Under the sink, for example, is an uproar of mice—it is the season of their many children. What shall I do? And under the eaves and through the walls the squirrels have gnawed their ragged entrances—but it is the season when they need shelter, so what shall I do? And the raccoon limps into the kitchen and opens the cupboard while the dog snores, the cat hugs the pillow; what shall I do? Beautiful is the new snow falling in the yard and the fox who is staring boldly up the path, to the door. And still I believe you will come, Lord: you will, when I speak to the fox, the sparrow, the lost dog, the shivering sea-goose, know that really I am [...]

JESUS: Patience, by Mark G. Boyer

April 21, 2017

  Scripture:Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord.  The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains.  You also must be patient.  Strengthen your  hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.  As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.  Indeed we call blessed those who showed endurance.  You have heard of the endurance of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. (James 5:7-8, 10-11)   Reflection: One who leaves all behind in order to follow Jesus must cultivate patience as part of his or her spirituality of mission.  [...]

VIRTUE: The Better Angels Of Our Nature, by John Bradshaw

April 20, 2017

From Reclaiming Virtue The mysterious complexity of our life is not to be embraced by maxims, to lace ourselves up in formulas of that sort is to repress all the divine promptings and inspirations that spring from growing insight and sympathy from a life vivid and intense enough to have created a wide fellow-feeling with all that is human. (George Eliot) Magnificent moral moments often move us to tears.  They can make chills run down our spine; sometimes they inspire us to change.  Why is this?  These stories seem to touch something deep within us, a part of us that is naturally attracted to what is good and virtuous. The psychologist Erik Erikson writes: Men have always shown a dim knowledge of their better potentialities by paying [...]