A Word from Thomas Merton

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this,
you will lead me by the right road
thought I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always
through I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my struggles alone.
Amen.

A Word on Obedience from Oswald Chambers

Our Lord never insists upon obedience. He tells us very emphatically what to do, but he never takes means to make us do it. We have to obey him out of a oneness of spirit with him. That is why when our Lord talked about discipleship, he prefaced it with an “IF”—you do not need to unless you like.

Our Lord does not give me rules, he makes his standard very clear, and if my relation to him is that of love, I do what he says without any hesitation. Jesus Christ will not help me to obey him. I must do it, and when I do obey him I fulfill my spiritual destiny. My personal life may be crowded with small petty incidents altogether unnoticeable and trivial, but if I obey Jesus Christ in the haphazard circumstances they become pinholes through which I see the face of God, and when I stand face to face with God I will discover that through my obedience thousands were blessed. When once God’s redemption comes to obedience in a human soul it always creates. If I obey Jesus Christ the redemption of God will rush through me on to other lives, because behind the deed of obedience is the reality of Almighty God.

Oswald Chambers

Holy Desire

By Sr. Spero

The entire life of a Christian is an exercise in holy desire.  St. Augustine

The Lauds reading this morning was from St. Augustine—about stretching our souls through holy desire.  He used the illustration of a wineskin, the forerunner of the wine bottle, that could be stretched to hold more wine. I’ve never had to stretch a wineskin, but I’ve put too much in a suitcase, and been very grateful for a top zipper that expands my space. So I understand the concept.

St. Augustine’s point is that we are containers, of one sort or another, that should expand and stretch so that God can use us more and more. We do this through holy desire. As we desire God, we are being stretched, to be able to hold more of Him. I suspect spiritual stretching is like physical stretching. It takes effort, it’s sometimes painful, but always worth it. Lord, help me to desire you more and more, and not be surprised when I feel the stretching.

Vineyards at the Community of Jesus

Resting (Un)Comfortably

By Hummingbird

As I sit at my desk to write to you, a small dog is peacefully resting in my lap hemmed in by the arms of the desk chair and the top of the desk. I am heart warmed by the small weight of his warm little body and relaxed by the soft sound of his breathing.

I gently realize that God is speaking again through my four footed friend. Resting is the foundation for action; and who we rest on, the secret source of our actions.

I am touched that he has chosen my uncomfortable lap and the confines of arm chair and desk top when he has a warm bed available or a soft piece of rug warmed by the sun. But he has chosen my lap as safe and secure, telling me he prefers being in touch with me to comfortable spaces where he is his own boss. He sleeps, telling me he trusts me. Rather than be out of touch he has chosen the confines of my lap so he will know instantly if I move. My decisions in life will be the source of his action. He will be touching so he will be ready. Because he rests on me, I will see to him.

Oh, Lord Jesus, help me to rest on your lap. Help me to want you over more comfortable circumstances that I may be alert to your every move. I want you to be the well-spring of all my actions.

 

dog_ruby

Never Out of Sight

By Hummingbird

While traveling with my four-pawed brown-eyed friend I learned an important lesson about my relationship with Jesus. His favorite place to be was curled up on my lap like a cat, if I was seated. If was standing, he desperately wanted to be carried but would stand close by my feet with his eye pinned on me.If we separated, he would come, nose to the ground and eyes searching all the feet, to find my feet. If tending to his “own business” outdoors were to take him any distance from me, the corners of white-rimmed eyes would always be curled around to see where I was, no matter what!

He suffered thousands of feet, strange places, uncomfortable beds, food at any hour, being stuffed in a bag at my feet on a plane; not understanding and yet following any place, any time, into any circumstance.

He convinced me that I was his master and the only master in the world he wanted. His constant work and joy was to be with me, wherever I sent him, his face told me I would be in the center  of his thoughts ‘til he was by my side or in my lap again. He moved and strangely warmed my heart, and I longed to tend to his needs and have him always by my side. His love blessed me. My greeting became always a caress and a special personal word.

Suddenly, I understood—Oh, Jesus. It is so easy to have You with me if only I would take You to my heart as I am in his.

Yorkshire-Terrier

 

The True and Only Vine

By Sr. Nun Other

One of the Sisters suggested I write a blog called “bloom after pruning,” and she even provided a great picture!  She referred, of course, to the parable that portrays Jesus as the True Vine and God the Father as the Vine Dresser. Jesus says in John 15: 1-2, that He’ll remove every branch that bears no fruit, and prune the fruitful branches so that they bear more fruit. It’s a scripture I approach with caution, and not an experience I wait in line for. When one of my irregular branches is trimmed, usually through circumstance, I then have difficulty identifying who I am. I’m like a wibble-wobble toy without a fixed foundation — no idea how or where I’ll land.  Advice to me: keep reading. In subsequent verses, Jesus counsels His branches to (paraphrased), “Abide in me, abide in my love, until your journey is complete. Follow my commandments, as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and if you do, your joy will be complete.” It’s a passage more about relationship than pain–an intertwining of love, obedience, and joy — each dependent on the other — until we become not servants, but friends. So I’d like to modify my friend’s suggestion ever so slightly to say it’s possible to bloom during pruning.

The Community of Jesus

Wrestling with stupid questions

By Melodious Monk

This week’s Gospel reading was the story of Jesus calling Peter and Andrew to be his disciples.  Jesus says to come and they drop everything and immediately follow him. In Sunday’s Eucharist bulletin we were given a short meditation by Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

“The Story of the call of the first disciples is a stumbling-block for the natural reason, and it is no wonder that frantic attempts have been made to separate the two events. By hook or by crook a bridge must be found between them. Something must have happened in between, some  psychological or historical event. Thus we get the stupid question: Surely they must have known Jesus before, and that previous acquaintance explains their readiness to hear the Master’s call.”

I still laugh each time I read the humorous line “what a stupid question!” There’s much in the ways of God that we cannot understand, and I think it a bit humorous at times to laugh at some of our attempts to rationalize God’s doings.  Bonhoeffer goes on to explain why he believes that the disciples so quickly dropped everything at Jesus’ beckoning:  “…for the simple reason that the cause behind the immediate following of call by response is Jesus Christ himself. It is Jesus who calls, and because it is Jesus, they follow at once.” 

As Bonhoeffer alludes, our tiny reasoning brains are finite. God is the architect of all things, with a capacity to orchestrate much more than I can even imagine. Perhaps my daily questions don’t need to ask how God’s plans will work out or how I might recognize Him; rather maybe my job today is to stop asking so many questions.  Questions that only get in the way of what our hearts are intuitively designed to do.

I had a trumpet teacher who’s favorite mantra was KISS, short for Keep- It-Simple-Stupid!  It was his way of getting rid of unnecessary questions and tensions that get in the way of one basic truth of trumpet playing – simply that you must start with a good resonant sound, always. I often think of this “kiss” method in regard to the spiritual life.  In many ways, Christianity can be very simple. Jesus is Lord, God of the universe, and I am not. He created me, loves me and has the best purposes for me, even if, and especially if I feel lousy today!  This isn’t to say life here on earth can’t be very complicated, for there certainly are many gray areas, and lots of questions arise for all of us.  But scripture tells us that on earth we barely see a glimpse of our future glory.  It tells us that all things, yes all things can be used for the glory of God. We forget who created us, and that He promises to make us whole.  Simply put, we need to have faith in Jesus and follow him. If we choose to let our hearts trust, then like the disciples, we will recognize Jesus exactly in his timing, and follow him immediately. Now of course we don’t always want to follow Jesus and we rebel and so forth–but that does not change God– and certainly does not change God’s promises to us.  I think both Bonhoeffer and my trumpet teacher would agree on at least one life philosophy, Keep It Simple!

The Community of Jesus

 

 

 

Vows

By Melodious Monk

Last week was a particularly special and significant week for our monastic community, because it is the week in which novices, and simple professed members can make their professions.

The Rule of Life of the Community of Jesus states, “Though in its essence Christian discipleship is a vocation common to all believers, the vows made in a monastic life give that discipleship a distinct form.”  The next page continues on to say,  “Following centuries of monastic tradition, membership in the Community of Jesus is built upon three primary vows: obedience, conversion, and stability.”

Hearing these professions serves as a reminder to me of the life-choices I have committed to in this particular place. I think it can also serve to remind all Christians of their daily choices to follow Christ. Each morning I’m given anew the choice to step into the endless stream of the unceasing love, mercy, and creativity of God. The choice is mine to reject — or to wade forward on faith: the opportunity is always newly presented. Many days I have to remind myself to re-choose this discipleship, to choose to believe in God’s promised goodness as a backdrop for my life today.

The Community of Jesus

Ponder In Our Hearts

By Sr. Nun Other

Advent is a time to pause and consider, to wait with patience as action builds and events unfold: an angel’s visit, a young woman’s obedience, and a husband’s acceptance; a journey to a hostile city, unwelcome and unprotected; shepherds and choirs of angels, noble kings bearing gifts, and a treacherous king bearing destruction. It’s only Act I and we are witness as a child-king is born into the hands of all mankind.

The Community of Jesus

When the road takes a sharp turn

By Renaissance Girl

I recently embarked on an adventure. I was starting something new that, actually, made me quite afraid.  It was outside of what seemed logical, and it forced me to ask God at every turn “what do I do?” It took some preparation, and each decision I made felt like I could be making a huge mistake — but it seemed like it was what God was asking, so I tried to do it. I wish I could say that I am familiar with living like this — abandoned to God — but I am not and that made it all the scarier, and yet at the same time, hopeful.

And then, suddenly, just when things were wrapped up, the road took a sharp turn. What I thought I was going to be starting didn’t work out. I find myself asking God what he intended in all of this, and what I should do now. What was the point of the preparation if only to run into a road-block?

I will tell you I don’t have answers yet. What I do know is that every day, every moment, is a choice. A choice to ask the question again and not retreat into anger and disappointment and accusation. A choice to trust, even when “logic” says to be skeptical, because if this didn’t work out, maybe the next thing won’t either. My pride desperately wants to save me from getting excited about something only to see it pass by.

I opened a card yesterday that someone had given me when I was preparing for this adventure. They included a prayer about trust — and in that moment I saw God. He knew I’d need this prayer even more in this moment — when I was most tempted to distrust:

Trust, you say, and so I will.  But at times its thread wears thin, and rubs raw the palms of my hands.  Yet I cling to it, for you have shown that in every circumstance, trust leads to Love eventually. Take the pieces of my life and make them one. Smooth the edges, mold the shapes until, with perfect symmetry, they interlock and become the “me” you long for. I can’t make this “me” puzzle fit, though I often try. Master Craftsman of body, mind, and spirit — let it be so, for I trust in you.”

The Community of Jesus