Dawn: I only have time for Eternity

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“Praises and canticles anticipate each day the singing bells that wake the sun. Open the secret eye of faith and drink these deeps of invisible light”……Thomas Merton 

Yesterday was a tough day for me. I knew this would be hard, packing up this place has been like packing up part of myself. How do you go about doing that? This little home, the most humble of all the homes God has blessed us with has felt more like home than any of them. It’s been a place of tremendous comfort and joy.

So I packed some and I cried some. By the end of the day I was worn out. But this morning I may have turned a corner into the new Chapter. Maybe I did. It was slight, like a chord change that takes place somewhere deep in your soul. The Holy Spirit speaks in a whisper.

It was hard to walk out into the shop yesterday and see a whole wall blank, but this morning I went out and it was like it’s always been. Today I needed some Thomas Merton so I took his little “Book of Hours” with me. His words breathed life and freshness through my soul like the wind through the pines.

Today, if you are reading this, do this one thing. Go easy on yourself. It’s what I have needed to do and you need it too. Life is hard. Give yourself time to adjust to the winds of change that sometimes blow more fiercely than you anticipated. Get help from an outside source if you need it. Sometimes the body is fine but the weary heart and mind need a physician.

Here is a partial reading for the Sunday Chapter:

“Meanwhile, the most wonderful moment of the day is that when creation in its innocence asks permission to “be” once again, as it did on that first morning that ever was. 

All wisdom seeks to collect and manifest itself at that blind sweet point. Man’s wisdom does not succeed, for we have fallen into self-mastery and cannot ask permission of anyone. We face our mornings as men of undaunted purpose. 

We know the time and dictate the terms. We know what time is. 

For the birds, there is not a time that they tell. But he virgin point between darkness and light. Between being and non-being. 

Here is an unspeakable secret: paradise is all around us and we do not understand. It is wide open. The sword is taken away, but we do not know it. We are off “one to his farm and one to his merchandise.” 

Lights on, clocks ticking. Thermostats working. Stoves cooking. Electric shavers filling the radio with static. Wisdom, cries the dawn deacon, but we do not attend.”  Book of Hours, page 46

I for one, will be present today. Help me to do that, Lord. You have given birth to a new day and that is always a gift. I thank you for today and whatever it brings. Because whatever it is, you will meet me there.

Spiritual Amnesia

My favorite Bible

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like. James 1:22-25

By reading the scriptures I am so renewed that all nature seems renewed around me and with me. The sky seems to be a pure, a cooler blue, the trees a deeper green. The whole world is charged with the glory of God and I feel fire and music under my feet. Thomas Merton

I decided I needed me some Thomas Merton today. He brings me close to nature and seems to have his finger on the pulse of what really matters. Because don’t we all suffer a little bit from Spiritual amnesia? That’s why church, that’s why Scripture, that’s why going out into the yard, gazing up at the moon at night. This ‘ol world just gets too noisy, too outlandish, too filled with things that really don’t matter.

You see, I am guilty. I am guilty of putting myself, my problems, my train wreck, my dysfunction on the throne where God belongs. And in doing so, I steal the joy that resides in every day, the joy that is rightfully mine as His child, the joy that the Holy Spirit longs to lavish on us. I am guilty of making myself God every time I am overwhelmed by my circumstances and give in to fear.

So for this day, I will remember how big God is. I will remember how He holds the moon and the stars and me. And in each and every little thing I do, I will bring Him into it. He’ll be there when I’m washing my car, and going to Costco. What a thought! At work when we wanted to get down to the heart of a problem we used the term “drilling down to the root cause.” Well, when we drill down to the root cause of discontent it’s because we’ve lost sight of how big God is.

I challenge you today to open the Scripture and see where it leads. I can guarantee that it always leads to life, just give a listen:

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; Though its waters roar and foam, Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Psalm 46: 1-3

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. 1 John 3:2,3

Lord, I pray for all those today who are overwhelmed with the world, with the mess outside and in, I pray for peace for turbulent hearts, peace in dysfunctional families, and the assurance that God is still in control of everything and that He has a plan and it’s a good one. Amen

I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught. Jesus

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Lent: Into the Desert

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Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,  being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry. Luke 4:1-2

Growing up in the Baptist Church, we didn’t celebrate or think much about Lent. That was for Catholics or Episcopalians. In recent years, I have grown to appreciate the beauty and wisdom of Lent, those 40 days leading up to Easter. I don’t necessarily “give anything up” it’s more like scouring out a little space in my soul that says, “These days are different, significant……set apart, pay attention to what the Holy Spirit might be preparing you for.” Like a Spiritual yield sign if you will.

At any rate, I will be doing something I have never done before on this blog. I am going to really, really try to post something each of the 40 days leading up to Easter.

Don’t worry, the readings will be short and the intent will be to lead us all closer to the Cross, right along with Jesus.  I don’t know about you, but I have felt like I have been in and out of the wilderness ever since January 4. Thankfully, I have companions in it and for that I am extremely thankful. What’s your wilderness today? Be comforted, God is walking with you.

It is necessary that at the beginning of this fast, the Lord should show Himself to us in His mercy. The purpose of Lent is not so much expiation, to satisfy the divine justice, as a preparation to rejoice in His love. And this preparation consists in receiving the gift of His mercy—a gift which we receive in so far as we open our hearts to it, casting out what cannot remain in the same room with mercy.

Now one of the things we must cast out first of all is fear. Fear narrows the little entrance of our heart. It shrinks up our capacity to love. It freezes up our power to give ourselves. If we were terrified of God as a terrible judge, we would not confidently await His mercy, or approach Him trustfully in prayer. Our peace, our joy in Lent are a guarantee of grace.

And in laying upon us the light cross of ashes, the Church desires to take off our shoulders all other heavy burdens—the crushing load of worry and guilt, the dead weight of our own self-love. We should not take upon ourselves a “burden” of penance and stagger into Lent as if we were Atlas, carrying the whole world on his shoulders. Thomas Merton, an excerpt from his essay, “Ash Wednesday.”

My Birthday is not about me, (not entirely anyway)

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People probably wonder why I make a big deal out of Birthdays. Mine and everyone else’s. It’s simple really. It’s because my birth along with everyone else’s on earth is a bit of a miracle. The fact that someone wanted me here kind of blows my mind every single day, and my enthusiasm mingled with wonder and a little bit of awe doesn’t seem to be waning as the years go by.

If you are here reading this post, it’s because first and foremost, God wanted you here. You are of great worth to Him, you and your life!

To let my Birthday slide by as just another day is simply not acceptable, and it bothers me a little when grown adults say they don’t celebrate their Birthdays. Celebrating the day of our birth is a way of honoring God; it’s our acknowledgment that we’re grateful to be here; that we’ve made it this far as the song says, “through many dangers toils and snares.” Yes, especially as the years roll on.

When I think of all the impossible beauty I would have missed if I’d never been born and what beauty I have left to see, it fills me with gratitude that I’ve been given so much; and eternity stretches before me like a vast wonderland I have yet to explore. Yes, this is a thing to celebrate. Apparently God thinks it’s a big deal too:

Psalm 71:6 From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb. I will ever praise you.

Psalm 139:13
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

Psalm 148:5
Let them praise the name of the LORD, for at his command they were created ……

Proverbs 4:10
Listen, my son, accept what I say, and the years of your life will be many.

Proverbs 9:11
For through wisdom your days will be many, and years will be added to your life.

Ecclesiastes 11:8
However many years a man may live, let him enjoy them all.

Isaiah 46:4
Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

1 Corinthians 11:12
For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.

Ephesians 2:10
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

James 1:18
He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created.

So today I will have cake and ice-cream and I will celebrate like a kid. And I won’t refuse any gifts. Celebrate with me today, won’t you? I give you permission. Join me in opening your eyes to the beauty all around us. If you have a porch, go out there with a bowl of ice-cream and enjoy the view. Share a coffee and dessert with someone you love. Eat that forbidden thing you never allow yourself to. Give someone a little unexpected gift. Unwrap the wonder with me today.

Because really, there is something to be thankful for every day.

“To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us – and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him. Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.” Thomas Merton

Dear Reader: I prayed for you today……..

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“If you write for God you will reach many men and bring them joy. If you write for men–you may make some money and you may give someone a little joy and you may make a noise in the world, for a little while. If you write for yourself, you can read what you yourself have written and after ten minutes you will be so disgusted that you will wish that you were dead.”   Thomas Merton

I have found this to be somewhat true and the last sentence made me smile because that is classic Thomas Merton. In prayer this morning, I asked God what I should write about and I felt Him whisper that I needed to thank everyone who has ever taken an interest, read or followed my little blog at one time or another. So this is it. My thank you to you readers. It is extremely humbling to think someone takes interest enough to follow and it is my desire that in doing so, you will know the God I have come to love more.

That you will look in the mirror and see a wonderful reflection of Him, because if you are here, it’s because He wanted you here and He loves you and is interested in every detail of your waking and sleeping life. I also said a prayer for you, even if you don’t believe in prayer or have never prayed yourself. I think people like to know that someone is praying for them, even if they are not “prayers” themselves.

So please know today, as you board that commuter bus, train, car, as you take the first sip of your latte……someone is thinking of you. Praying for you.

And my prayer is that you might feel a little less burdened today.

Look up and feel God’s love rain down on you, and know that I appreciate you dear reader. Embrace your day today, see God wherever you turn, because He is there. See Him today as reflected in nature, the light and innocence of your child’s eyes, the sunrise, the birds that sing the day awake.

You are loved.

We love each other because he loved us first. 1 John 4:19 NLT

At close of day

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There must be a time of day when the man who makes plans

forgets his plans, and acts if he had no plans at all.

There must be a time of day when the man who has

to speak falls very silent.

And his mind forms no more propositions, and he asks himself:

Did they have a meaning?

There must be a time when the man who prays goes to pray

as if it were the first time in his life

he had ever prayed,

when the man of resolutions puts his

resolutions aside

as if they had all been broken,

and he learns a different wisdom:

Distinguishing the sun from the moon,

the stars from the darkness,

the sea from dry land,

and the night sky from the shoulder of a hill.

Thomas Merton

No Man is an Island

Heaven and Earth were finished, down to the last detail. By the seventh day God had finished his work. On the seventh day he rested from all his work. God blessed the seventh day. He made it a Holy Day because on that day he rested from his work, all the creating God had done. This is the story of how it all started, of Heaven and Earth when they were created. Genesis 2:2-4

When the soul quiets

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A life is either all spiritual or not spiritual at all. No man can serve two masters. Your life is shaped by the end you live for. You are made in the image of what you desire. Thomas Merton
 
By this time in December you are in one of two places. You are either madly scrambling around because you just realized that Christmas is less than one week away, or you have conceded that whatever has not been done up to this point will not get done and you can begin to relax and really enjoy pre-Christmas.
 
I am at the latter stage.  True Christmas can only be ushered in when the soul quiets. The world is outside and it continues to spin wildly out of control, but I try to back off. I try not to call people on the freeway names, although this time of the year it is increasingly difficult, even with the Jesus sticker deterrent on the back window.
 
This falls under the: “I am a Christian, but I am still human category.”
 
I daydream by the tree before the light of dawn creeps over the Superstitions. I realize it will soon be packed away along with the nativity scenes, but Jesus will stay.
 
In the quiet of my soul I imagine sitting by a window with big, fat flakes of snow falling outside and a fire on the hearth inside and the peace that happens when all the clamour and noise of life is far away.
 
That’s when you can hear God.
 
I look around and I realize how much I dearly value the people in my life, here once more with me at the close of another year. When you can look in their eyes and see eternity reflected back it’s not just a silly jewelry commercial, it’s why God came to this earth.
 
It’s the seeking and saving of that which was lost, all of us, and not only us, the whole creation. 
 
Just imagine if you will, alongside myriads of angels and us bowing before the Throne, the giant redwood and the smallest of woodland creatures doing the same. And why shouldn’t they? They will once again know a world without fear. The one Sin stole.
 
And all around us, while we see evidence of the brokenness of creation, we also see its mending. People who will not give up. People who will continue to risk their own lives for the poor, the broken, the weak.
 
The defenseless. The ones too weak and powerless to do anything about their own condition.
 
It’s God paying ransom with His very own Son.