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.
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.
By Sr. Nun Other
This week a word came to mind, a word I’d never spoken. Unfortunately, I kept forgetting what it was. Hours passed, then it would reappear, only to disappear before I could write it down. I did, however, know it was similar to “restoration”. So hoping to spark the proper synapse, I tossed that word around for awhile. In the end, I consulted a list of synonyms and there it was: reclamation. Because of its unfamiliarity (and persistence), I carefully considered its significance. Reclamation is the conversion of wasteland into ground suitable for cultivation. Generally, the return to a former, better state, where more is received than has been lost, and the final product greater than the original.
This is much the same as God works with us. In several Psalms of deliverance, the writer unabashedly admits his own shortcomings and ensuing results. He calls on God, who sorts through the debris with great precision to build and restore, not just equal to, but better than. One such Psalm affirms: I waited patiently for the Lord; He inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord. Psalm 40:1-3
I have noticed a curious hold my four legged friend has on me. I have long puzzled over it. He comes and fixes me with his eyes and is communicating something. If I am slow to respond, he may punctuate his look with a sharp bark. He is obviously telling me his need is urgent in his opinion! The hold is this; as I turn my attention to him I am ever aware –he has no hands to open doors, or get his food. His needs are ever before me. He has utter unfailing confidence that I will see to his needs. He is not passive but takes his job as actively informing me of his status and presenting himself in my presence as if reminding me, “Remember I have no arms and you are my chosen sole provider.” He is never embarrassed at his need but accepts and seems to joy in this dependence—even at times seems to show me off with pride. His need and that he depends totally on me lead me to never fail to respond.
Then I am struck to the heart. O, God, am I proud of my dependence on you? Do I joy in being actively involved in presenting myself before you? Do I have utter confidence that you never fail me and always meet my needs? Do I accept that I can’t change my heart anymore than my little friend can grow “arms”? Do I rest in the knowledge that my need excites the love of my Savior who gave his life for me, of my Father who never sleeps, and my Comforter who flies to my side?
Dear God, help me to be so proud of your relationship to me. May I ever be constantly active to present myself before you, and to joy in my love and need of you.
Last week, I started a week-long conversation with the Lord. It began with me in my frustration, asking God how long it would take me to change. ( well, honestly, it really began with me asking the Lord how long it was going to take the person with whom I’d just had an argument to change!)
As I settled down and began to listen more, He began to teach me.
He told me I couldn’t change myself. He told me I couldn’t become like Him just by copying Him. That wasn’t enough.
I waited for Him to tell me more, but that is all I heard for that day.
The next day, I was talking to the Lord about some stress in my life and why He was allowing it. What good was there in it? As I listened, I heard Him say, “as you are pressured and press yourself against Me, my image is imprinted on you. All you have to do is throw yourself on Me.
As I went into our church a few days later, I looked at the bronze Adam & Eve on the doors. I realized the art form to make the doors, the Lost Wax process, is similar to what happens to us in Transfiguration – as we allow the pressure in our lives to push us towards Jesus, He impresses His image into us.
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.
By Melodious Monk
In Eugene Peterson’s Idiomatic translation of the Gospel of Matthew, many of Jesus’ words come alive in a somewhat shocking way. I pause to re-read and re-acknowledge the awesomeness of what Jesus brings us, and the duty that he calls us towards. Near the end of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus told us:
“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love you enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves…If you simply love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal?…”In a word, what I’m sayings is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”
I’m slow to listen to Jesus’ call to “Grow up.” I’d rather nurse old hurts, take jabs at my enemies and not work to give energies of prayer and peace to others, especially those people or circumstances that I would normally shy away from. God desires so much more fulfilment for my life then I can comprehend. After re-reading this whole chapter from Matthew, I’m shockingly aware of how much possibility there is for an outrageously fulfilling, adventurous, and hope-filled life. God offers such a life to us, if we choose to live inside His kingdom.
By Sr. Nun Other
This year I discovered that the fourth Sunday of Easter is Good Shepherd Sunday. Perhaps (probably) I’ve heard it other years, but this year I heard it for the first time. It’s certainly a fitting placement for such a Sunday, as the ultimate definition of a good shepherd is “one willing to lay down his life for his sheep.” And Jesus is our unparalleled role model, both obedient lamb and devoted shepherd. The shepherds in our lives are many and varied: parents, pastors, teachers, doctors, friends, authors, composers of music, and visual artists. We depend on them to teach us, to love, protect, guide, and search for us when we stray. To be a good shepherd, one must first be a good sheep, that is, listen with our hearts to recognize the voice of God when He comes calling.