Thursday, January 31, 2019

Thoughts on perfection

Perfection is not what being human is about. Perfection is simply not attainable in the human condition. The function of being human is to become the best human beings we can be, one insight, one mistake, at a time. Then, knowing the struggle that comes with trying and failing over and over again, we become tender with others who are also struggling in the process.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Thoughts on focus

In the Zone
You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You.
Isaiah 26:3
Quarterback Kirk Cousins has a brain coach who helps him sharpen his focus. During the 2016 off-season, for example, Kirk watched every Star Wars movie with EEG monitors attached to his head. If his brain lost focus, the movie would shut down. To enjoy the film, Cousins had to stay focused on it. In so doing, he was training his mind to stay “in the zone.”1

We have to train our thoughts to focus on the Lord. This year is bound to be distracting and distressing, but instead of obsessing about people or politics, let’s keep our thoughts fixed on Jesus.
Philippians 3:12-14 says in the New Living Translation: “I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”
He keeps those in perfect peace whose minds are focused on Him.

Dr. David Jeremiah
We should invest our time, finances, and talents in the coming kingdom and focus on Christ as the center, source, and goal of our lives.
Charles Swindoll

Monday, January 28, 2019

Thoughts on mindfulness

There is a whole dimension of life to which we have to listen with our whole heart, mind-fully, as we say. Mindfulness is necessary to find meaning—and the intellect is not the full mind. The intellect, one has to hasten to say, is an extremely important part of our mind, but it isn’t the whole mind. What I mean here when I say “mind” is more what the Bible calls the “heart,” what many religious traditions call the “heart.” The heart is the whole person, not just the seat of our emotions. The kind of heart that we are talking about here is the lover’s heart, which says, “I will give you my heart.” That doesn’t mean I give you part of myself; it means I give myself to you. So when we speak about wholeheartedness, a wholehearted approach to life, mindfulness, that alone is the attitude through which we give ourselves to meaning.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Thoughts on worrying

Are You Home?
Today worrying means to be occupied and preoccupied with many things, while at the same time being bored, resentful, depressed, and very lonely. I am not trying to say that all of us are worried in such an extreme way all the time. Yet there is little doubt in my mind that the experience of being filled yet unfulfilled touches most of us to some degree at some time. In our highly technological and competitive world, it is hard to avoid completely the forces that fill up our inner and outer space and disconnect us from our innermost selves, our fellow human beings, and our God.

One of the most notable characteristics of worrying is that it fragments our lives. The many things to do, to think about, to plan for, the many people to remember to visit, or to talk with, the many causes to attack or defend, all these pull us apart and make us lose our center. Worrying causes us to be “all over the place,” but seldom at home. One way to express the spiritual crisis of our time is to say that most of us have an address but cannot be found there.
Henri Nouwen

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Thoughts on the spiritual life

Be in the World Without Being of the World
Being in the world without being of the world.” These words summarize well the way Jesus speaks of the spiritual life. It is a life in which we are totally transformed by the Spirit of Love. Yet it is a life in which everything seems to remain the same. To live a spiritual life does not mean that we must leave our families, give up our jobs, or change our ways of working; it does not mean that we have to withdraw from social or political activities, or lose interest in literature and art; it does not require severe forms of asceticism or long hours of prayer. Changes such as these may in fact grow out of our spiritual life, and for some people radical decisions may be necessary. But the spiritual life can be lived in as many ways as there are people. What is new is that we have moved from the many things to the Kingdom of God. What is new is that we are set free from the compulsions of our world and have set our hearts on the only necessary thing. What is new is that we no longer experience the many things, people, and events as endless causes for worry, but begin to experience them as the rich variety of ways in which God makes his presence known to us.
Henri Nouwen

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

More thoughts on God

God's Love Blows Where it Pleases
God cannot be understood: he cannot be grasped by the human mind. The truth escapes our human capacities. The only way to come close to it is by a constant emphasis on the limitations of our human capacities to “have” or “hold” the truth. We can neither explain God nor his presence in history. As soon as we identify God with any specific event or situation, we play God and distort the truth. We only can be faithful in our affirmation that God has not deserted us but calls us in the middle of all the unexplainable absurdities of life. It is very important to be deeply aware of this. There is a great and subtle temptation to suggest to myself or to others where God is working or where not, when he is present and when not; but nobody, no Christian, no priest, no monk, has any “special” knowledge about God. God cannot be limited by any human concept or prediction. He is greater than our mind and heart and perfectly free to reveal himself where and when he wants.
Henri Nouwen

Monday, January 21, 2019

Thoughts on MLK


Sleep tonight
And may your dreams
Be realized
If the thunder cloud
Passes rain
So let it rain
Rain down on him
So let it be
So let it be

Sleep tonight
And may your dreams
Be realized
If the thundercloud
Passes rain
So let it rain
Let it rain
Rain on him

Bono - U2
from The Unforgettable Fire album released in 1984

Friday, January 18, 2019

More thoughts on faith

How often the Bible compels us to meditate on the meaning of faith! We might say that the Scriptures rest upon faith and remain inspired at every turn by the spirit of faith.

Faith is an attitude of trust in the presence of God. Faith is openness to what God will reveal, do, and invite. It should be obvious that in dealing with the infinite, all-powerful person who is God, we are never in control.

One of the most fundamental statements of faith is this: your life is not about you. You’re not in control. This is not your project; rather, you are part of God’s great design. To believe this in your bones and to act accordingly is to have faith. When we operate out of this transformed vision, amazing things can happen, for we have surrendered to "a power already at work in us that can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine." Even a tiny bit of faith makes an extraordinary difference.

Bishop Robert Barron

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Thoughts on friends

A True Friend
There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Proverbs 18:24
Jesse, the father of King David, had eight sons, David being the youngest (1 Samuel 16:10-11; 17:12). But there is no record in the Old Testament of David being particularly close to any of his brothers. In fact, one of his older brothers acted harshly toward David (1 Samuel 17:28). David found a friend who epitomized the words of Solomon in Proverbs 18:24, “A friend who sticks closer than a brother.” That friend was Jonathan, the son of Saul.

Friend had a covenant connotation. Jonathan and David made a mutual covenant between them; Abraham was the covenant friend of God. What did that mean? Loyalty, provision, protection, and sacrificial love—these were not something always found in brothers by birth. It should come as no surprise that Jesus, during His last meeting with His disciples, declared them to be His “friends” (John 15:13-15) by displaying the most telling trait of true friends: a willingness to lay down one’s life for another. All who walk in covenant with Jesus Christ are assured of His loyalty, provision, protection, and sacrificial love.
Let Christ’s loyal love for you set the standard for how you love others. Be the friend who sticks closer than a brother. 

Dr. David Jeremiah

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Thoughts on the true self

Embracing the True Self
The secular or false self is the self that is fabricated, as Thomas Merton says, by social compulsions. “Compulsive” is indeed the best adjective for the false self. It points to the need for ongoing and increasing affirmation. Who am I? I am the one who is liked, praised, admired, disliked, hated, or despised. . . . If being busy is a good thing, then I must be busy. If having money is a sign of real freedom, then I must claim my money. If knowing many people proves my importance, I will have to make the necessary contacts. The compulsion manifests itself in the lurking fear of failing and the steady urge to prevent this by gathering more of the same—more work, more money, more friends.

These very compulsions are at the basis of the two main enemies of the spiritual life: anger and greed. They are the inner side of the secular life, the sour fruits of our worldly dependences.
Henri Nouwen

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Thoughts on baptism

One of the earliest descriptions of baptism in our tradition is vitae spiritualis ianua, which means “the door to the spiritual life.”

To grasp the full meaning of this is to understand something decisive about Christianity. For Christianity is not primarily about “becoming a good person” or “doing the right thing.” Let’s face it, anyone—pagan, Muslim, Jew, nonbeliever—can be any of those things.

To be a Christian is to be grafted on to Christ and hence drawn into the very dynamics of the inner life of God. We don’t speak simply of following or imitating Jesus. We speak of becoming a member of his Mystical Body.

Do you see why it is so important that we are baptized “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”? For baptism draws us into the relationship between the Father and the Son—which is to say, in the Holy Spirit. Baptism, therefore, is all about grace—our incorporation, through the power of God’s love, into God’s own life.

Bishop Robert Barron


Friday, January 11, 2019

Thoughts on Jesus' public life

How Jesus Begins His Public Life
Jesus spent most of the first 30 years of his life in Nazareth. He begins to hear about John the Baptist and his preaching. He knows that John's message is advising and alerting people to prepare for the Kingdom of God, and to prepare for one who is to come, one whose sandal John himself is not worthy to unlatch. Eventually Jesus senses that he is to be involved with this, that he too is called to preach about the kingdom of God and his own role in it. But how?
So he sets out to see John the Baptist who has been preaching at the River Jordan. In my prayer I imagine Jesus leaving Nazareth and going to the Jordan River, a journey of at least 33 miles. As he reaches the breast of the hill overlooking the river he sees the people gathered there, he sees John by the river preaching. How he must have been filled with admiration and pride at what John was doing; but at the same time there were his own questions about what Jesus himself would do next. Should John be involved or not? Was Jesus proceeding in the manner which his Father wanted? And if yes, what else did that entail?
Although Jesus' baptism is found in all four Gospels, The Acts of the Apostles, in Paul's letters and Peter's epistle, these sources give us few details regarding the event: Jesus journeys to the Jordan, John somewhat reluctantly baptizes him. There is some kind of revelation from his Father, a theophany--the Spirit descends upon Jesus and he (and perhaps others) hears a voice say that "This is my beloved son; my favor rests on him." This is interpreted as the Father assuring Jesus that he is proceeding in the right way.
For a variety of reasons some modern day scripture scholars tell us, as does common sense, that Jesus and John must have spent some time together, weeks or month or even longer. Jesus would have discussed with John his own call, how he might proceed now, how his endeavors for the kingdom of God will fit in, connect and continue what John is doing.
Eventually Jesus realizes that the Spirit of His Father is calling him to consider and ponder all of this in prayer. The Scriptures simply say that the Spirit leads Jesus to the desert and that he spends many days there considering the mission God is calling him to. It is there Jesus concludes that he is to gather his own disciples and proceed on his own.
How much Jesus is like us in making one of the most radical and important decisions of his life: he carefully investigates, consults, pays attention to the Spirit of God in his life, contends with the spirit of Evil, and prays long and hard. It is then he finally decides and moves decisively forward, proclaiming as John has, that the Kingdom of God is at hand.
-Jim Blumeyer, S.J.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Thoughts on self-rejection

The Trap of Self-Rejection
Over the years, I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection. Success, popularity, and power can indeed present a great temptation, but their seductive quality often comes from the way they are part of the much larger temptation to self-rejection. When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity, and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions. The real trap, however, is self-rejection. . . . As soon as someone accuses me or criticizes me, as soon as I am rejected, left alone, or abandoned, I find myself thinking, “Well, that proves once again that I am a nobody.” . . . My dark side says, “I am no good. . . . I deserve to be pushed aside, forgotten, rejected, and abandoned.”

Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the “Beloved.” Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.
Henri Nouwen

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Thoughts on loss

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4 ESV). 

Loss is a common source of stress. You can lose your job, your health, your money, your reputation, or a loved one.
When people go through loss, you see two common reactions: One is fear, and the other is grief. Grief is good. Grief is the way we get through the transitions of life. In fact, if you don’t grieve, you get stuck! Grief will not kill you if you let it out.
On the other hand, fear is a bad thing. Not once does the Bible say, “Grieve not,” “Mourn not,” “Weep not,” or “Cry not.” What it does say is, “Fear not.” And it says that 365 times! Grief doesn’t paralyze, but fear does.
David says in Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (ESV).
Shepherds always carried a rod and a staff to protect their sheep. David knew that in the same way, God has the tools to protect him, and he trusted God, even in the darkest valleys.
You might be going through the valley of the shadow right now—maybe the valley of the shadow of death. It may be the valley of the shadow of debt. It may be the valley of the shadow of conflict. It may be the valley of the shadow of depression. It may be the valley of the shadow of discouragement.
Shadows are scary. Remember being afraid of shadows when you were lying in bed as a kid? I’ve learned a few things about shadows.
First, shadows can’t hurt you.
Second, shadows are always bigger than the source.
And here’s more good news: Wherever there’s a shadow, there has to be a light. You can’t have a shadow without light. So the key when you’re going through the valley of the shadow is to turn your back on the shadow and look at the light. Because as long as you keep your eyes on the light—Jesus, the light of the world—the shadow won’t scare you.
That’s how you go through the valley of the shadow of death. That’s how you lower your stress. You trust God in the dark valleys, just like David, who prayed, “When I am ready to give up, he knows what I should do” (Psalm 142:3 GNT).

Rick Warren

Friday, January 4, 2019

Thoughts on discipleship

John 1:35-42

 John was standing with two of his disciples,
and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said,
"Behold, the Lamb of God."
The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.
Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them,
"What are you looking for?"
They said to him, "Rabbi" (which translated means Teacher),
"where are you staying?"
He said to them, "Come, and you will see."
So they went and saw where he was staying,
and they stayed with him that day.
It was about four in the afternoon.
Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter,
was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus.
He first found his own brother Simon and told him,
"We have found the Messiah," which is translated Christ.
Then he brought him to Jesus.
Jesus looked at him and said,
"You are Simon the son of John;
you will be called Cephas," which is translated Peter.

Friends, in today’s Gospel Jesus invites his first disciples to come and stay with him. I think that this command of Jesus is a bit like an initiation ritual. In order to prepare themselves for a lifetime of discipleship, his followers must first pass through an intensive period of spiritual formation, much like a novitiate in a monastery or training camp in football or boot camp in the army. During this concentrated time, they were to learn, in their bones, the essentials of this new way of life. So the disciples learn a new way of radical dependency upon God.

Now what does all of this have to do with us? You say, "I’m a fifty-year-old man with a wife and kids and job and responsibility; I can’t very well go drifting off in a boat, trusting in the providence of God."

True enough. But you can, for instance, go on a retreat every year; spend a week once a year at a monastery or a retreat center, living the spiritual life intensely; live Lent more severely and more radically this year, perhaps undertaking a difficult fast or giving alms until it hurts. These are things that any of us can do.

Bishop Robert Barron

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Thoughts on the heart

Your Heart is the Center of Your Being
In the biblical understanding, our heart is at the center of our being. It’s not a muscle, but a symbol for the very center of our being. Now the beautiful thing about the heart is that the heart is the place where we are most ourselves. It is the very core of our being, the spiritual center of our being. Solitude and silence, for instance, are ways to get to the heart, because the heart is the place where God speaks to us, where we hear the voice that calls us beloved. This is precisely the most intimate place. In the famous story, Elijah was standing in front of the cave. God was not in the storm, God was not in the fire and not in the earthquake, but God was in that soft little voice (see 1 Kings 19: 11–12). That soft little voice ... speaks to the heart. Prayer and solitude are ways to listen to the voice that speaks to our heart, in the center of our being. One of the most amazing things is that if you enter deeper and deeper into that place, you not only meet God, but you meet the whole world there.
Henri Nouwen 

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Prayer for a new year

By Debbie Ford

Dear God,

On this day I ask You to grant this request,
May I know who I am and what I am,
Every moment of every day.

May I be a catalyst for light and love,
And bring inspiration to those whose eyes I meet.

May I have the strength to stand tall in the face of conflict,
And the courage to speak my voice, even when I'm scared.

May I have the humility to follow my heart,
And the passion to live my soul's desires.

May I seek to know the highest truth
And dismiss the gravitational pull of my lower self.

May I embrace and love the totality of myself,
My darkness as well as my light.

May I be brave enough to hear my heart,
To let it soften so that I may gracefully
Choose faith over fear.

Today is my day to surrender anything that stands
Between the sacredness of my humanity and my divinity.

May I be drenched in my Holiness
And engulfed by Your love.

May all else melt away.

And so it is.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Thoughts on a New Year

As we flip the calendar from 2018 to 2019, we must once again think about our plans and dreams for the new year ahead.  I like the fact that we start each year on January 1st with a clean slate.  We can set new goals and make new plans for positive changes to our lives.  Sure, most people try to come up with New Year resolutions that will most likely fall by the wayside.  But we can still dream.  On January 1st each year we can look to the future with hope and aspirations and nothing is tarnished.  None of our plans have been ruined.  We can be positive and tell ourselves that this year will be different.  Of course we must follow through with these plans.  They just won't happen by themselves.  We have a part to play in this.  But again, the slate is clean, the plans are made, my goals are still goals that can be accomplished.  Thank you for the hope of the New Year.  I wish you will be successful in your new year!  Let's make 2019 the best year!