Tuesday, November 22, 2016

My proper place

Solitude teaches me my proper place in the universe.

I am only a human. I am not God and I am not the master over anyone else--I've only been called to master myself and the more I try, the more I realize that I'm woefully incompetent at it.


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Saturday, November 19, 2016

May Jesus Christ be Praised

My friend is living in such difficult circumstances: her husband just died, her daughter's struggling with mental illness, she can't afford to stay in her home so she has to move. And yet she emails me: "May Jesus Christ be praised." Where did she learn to praise the Lord even in the midst of such discouraging circumstances? She's putting me to shame!

The hymn writer in 1734 captures her spirit beautifully and his words convict me of extent to which I have become a "beautiful morning only" praise person. If it's cloudy, all I feel like doing is complaining. I want to see the beautiful colors light up the sky.

  1. When morning gilds the skies,
    My heart awaking cries:
    May Jesus Christ be praised!

  2. Does sadness fill my mind?
  3. A solace here I find,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    Or fades my earthly bliss?
    My comfort still is this,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
  4. The night becomes as day when from the heart we say: May Jesus Christ be praised!
  5. In heav’n’s eternal bliss, the loveliest strain is this, May Jesus Christ be praised!
  6. Let earth, and sea, and sky from depth to height reply, May Jesus Christ be praised!

I can see that I need to develop a regular habit of praising the Lord and I need to broaden my vocabulary. What did the pilgrims praise God for on that first Thanksgiving after a year of unspeakable hardships? If the only things I know how to praise the Lord for are His blessings, how will I ever find a place of gratitude when difficulties come?



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Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Embraced and Loved

We know the experience of being with a bunch of people and yet feeling all alone. Henri Nouwen asks: Can we imagine the opposite? Being all alone and yet feeling embraced and loved?


That's the invitation of God to each one of us...to receive deeply the fullness of God's approval and admiration and appreciation and love for us....that we might grasp the width and length and height and depth of His love, and be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Eph 3:18-19)

As I look back, I realize that I haven't learned that He loves me when I'm running around trying to get everything done. It's come gently, hour by hour, watching the sunrise and letting its beauty whisper, "The Lord really loves you."
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Saturday, November 5, 2016

A little rain

It's hard to believe that the California foothills, so brown and dead in late autumn, will blossom into a Monet soon. All it takes is just a little rain. Isaiah says that we live in a dry and sun scorched land.
What acts like rain for your inner life?

Sometimes we discount the value of activities that don't seem very "spiritual," but what if God created us to respond to Him in a whole variety of ways, like having coffee with a friend, or walking the dog, or enjoying the beauty of the light just before sunset, or surfing, or watercoloring. What if we paid attention and valued and gave time in our week to those activities that truly nurtured our souls and let God pour down His rain on us. Would we blossom and flourish in ways we can't imagine? And if our souls were well-watered, would we come alive spiritually and find we crave the gift of solitude because it freed us to truly worship?

Word of God speak, would You pour down like rain, washing my eyes to see Your majesty
To be still and know that You're in this place
Please let me stay and rest in Your holiness--Word of God speak
I'm finding myself in the midst of You
Beyond the music, beyond the noise
All that I need is to be with You
And in the quiet hear Your voice
I'm finding myself at a loss for words, and the funny thing is it's okay...

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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Crossing the threshold

We are all feeling the strain as American culture is moving increasingly toward an "open door" lifestyle, where there are no walls between our workspaces and no boundaries around our time. We carry our phones and make ourselves always accessible, basically saying, "Walk in, interrupt me at any time."

But Jesus say, "go into your room, close the door..." (Matthew 6) and we watch him doing just that, going to the mountains or a lonely place, and shutting the door.

It takes special effort to protect the sacred mystery of our lives. Instead of always being "open," we need time that is set apart for being alone. There is so much to be gained from leisurely hours of solitude, time when we do not have to take care of anyone else, time when we can simply be with Jesus. We need blocks of time, even a day or two, when we can give ourselves permission to shut the door,

I think it's good to question why we feel we need to be connected. Sometimes it comes from a boss that demands 24/7 access to us, or a concern that our family needs to be able to get ahold of us. Sometimes it comes from an underlying fear of loneliness: we feel compelled to stay "open" when in fact no one is really requiring that we do. They tell us that they can live without us for a few days, but we still don't unplug. Why? We may be uncomfortable at the thought of not having anything to do and no one to talk with. It's helpful if we can exchange that worry about being alone with an anticipation of being drawn close to Jesus where we experience His love and our souls are satisfied. Maybe we can learn to envision being all alone as a threshold-- when we cross it, we enter into a deeper intimacy with Jesus.
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Monday, October 31, 2016

The gift of friendship

Nouwen says that when we sense that there is no one in our life who truly cares for us and offers love without condition, and there is no place where we can be vulnerable with being used or rejected, we feel intensely lonely.


But the gift of loyal friendship, the kind that won't ever be revoked or fade away, can create a safe place where loneliness gives way to the warmth of trust and love. Loyal friendship is the sunlight that allows the seeds of loneliness to be transformed into fruit of solitude.


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Saturday, October 29, 2016

Living with Heaven in View

I've been reading the Puritans' prayers and they have a different perspective on how they view the world. For them, living with Heaven in view means, at least in part, that we seek to live our lives here intimating what our lives will be like there.

So, if our experience in heaven is that God will be our sun, then they sought to live today fully realizing that He is our true source of energy and life.

If our experience in heaven is that God will be everywhere present, all powerful, all-knowing, then they wanted to live confident of His attributes: when they prayed they wanted to pray believing God is all-powerful; when they were alone they wanted to embrace the truth that we are always "with Christ"and under His protection and care.

If in heaven we will gladly accept God's will, the Puritans would ask, then shouldn't we live today with the heartbeat: Thy will be done. If we really believe that in heaven God's will is perfect and good, then it only makes sense that His will for us today is also perfect and good. So shouldn't we surrender our illusions of being in control?

Jesus certainly lived His earthly life with kingdom vision and values. When He tells His followers to "Take up your cross and follow Me" He's telling us to live in the kingdom of heaven today as He is. He calls us to give up any practices and the mindset that sees this world as our home, He says we need to die to that wordly mindset (take up our cross), so that we might follow Him, embracing today what our experience of heaven will be 'up yonder.'
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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Developing our Capacity

What's the value of solitude? When we are alone and don't have to carry on a conversation or check our phones, we are freed from the distractions of life. In the quiet of solitude, if we can also quiet our inner noise, we become aware that God is with us...and our thoughts can become conversations with our Father....prayers.



Learning to "be still" with God, develops our capacity to be alone without feeling lonely, because the quiet of solitude is transformed into the fullness of solitude.


And transforming loneliness into solitude has another promise....in our later years when loss and grief and isolation naturally become part of our experience, if we have developed our capacity to be alone with God, we'll know that even though we may be alone, we aren't really alone because we are with Him.


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Friday, October 21, 2016

Sacred Solitude

I can get freaked out when I'm all alone. Once I was telling a close friend what a scared-y-cat I am, and found out that before she became a Christian, she went to bed with a bottle of vodka and a loaded gun--even when the kids were home. I realized that I wasn't the only one that didn't like to be all alone.

So driving four hours by myself, in and out of cell phone coverage, especially driving after dark down the windy unlit highway those last 30 miles to get to St. Anthony's was unnerving. I tried to be brave, but it freaked me out. I was always so glad to drive up their driveway, having arrived. I hate being overcome with fear.

And then one day as I was driving to The Springs and I was overwhelmed with joy. Euphoria set in. It puzzled me. I had no idea what was going on, so I knocked on Sister Danelle's door, and asked if she had time to talk. She gently asked a few questions, and listened. I told her I was worried that something was wrong, I never felt free when I was alone. She said, "Perhaps there's nothing wrong, perhaps you are learning to trust." I knew as soon as she said it, she was right. I was learning to trust. I was being changed as the "with-ness" of God became a reality for me.

I was free because I knew I wasn't alone. Through prayer, my lonely place had become sacred Solitude.
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Thursday, October 13, 2016

Loneliness and Solitude

Luke tells us that Jesus intentionally went to a lonely place to pray (Luke 5:16). I don't like lonely places, yet Jesus sought them out. Why? I don't think He ever felt all alone...not until the Cross. He knew His Father was with Him so the lonely place wasn't lonely for Him--it was rich, deep, full, alive....it was solitude. The lonely place provided Him the opportunity to be free of distractions and the continual interruptions and noisiness of the crowds. There, alone in the desert, Jesus could commune with his Father. The lonely place offered Him the gift of solitude.

The lonely place offers us the possibility of adoration, getting lost in worship, enjoying friendship, intimacy, even union with Christ without interruption. It's when we are all alone that we can learn we are never actually alone. And that is a very important aspect of our spiritual formation.

Sometimes everything in our lives becomes dark. We feel all alone, maybe even abandoned, and fears immobilize  us. The Lord desires to replace our profound sense of loneliness with the rich knowledge that He is with us.

On vacation I have the opportunity to get up two hours before dawn and watch the sunrise. One morning dark clouds filled the sky, blocking my view of the first light of dawn. I sat in the darkness, no moon, no stars, no hint of dawn. Then the skies opened and I was in the middle of a huge tropical downpour. It poured down rain for at least ten minutes. But then, in just one tiny spot, the clouds opened,  revealing blue sky and the brilliance of sunrise beyond. I realized that in much the same way, we can be in the dark.We can think that we are all alone. The clouds of doubt and disappointment can block our view. But God is always there. Even when we cannot see beyond our intense loneliness, He is there. Always.

It seems that a significant aspect of our spiritual growth is learning to enjoy being all alone so that we learn we are never alone but always with the Lord. Receiving the gift of solitude is the beginning of the process of prayerfully allowing our lonely place to become a place of solitude, where the fear of being abandoned is replaced by the knowledge that Jesus is with us. We can pray and let our conversation with Jesus be so immediate, like friend speaking with friend, that we know we are not alone.

Grant, O Lord, that we learn to love the lonely place because it is there that we have the sweetest, unbroken communion with You.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Returning to Awe

“I had lost my awe of God in the busyness of ministry. I am so refreshed to be reminded of His perfect love of me and that as I surrender to it, this awe of Him returns to my life.”  



--Becky Austin
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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

It's Time to Celebrate!

The Springs retreat was started in 1998, and we've met twice a year in Redlands, Sierra Madre, and for the last 10 years at St. Anthony's in Three Rivers, California.

To mark our 10th anniversary at St. Anthony's, we thought it would be fun to have a little reunion and invite everyone who has ever been to the Springs in northern or southern California to come a day before our fall retreat. We want to catch up with each other and to celebrate all that the Lord has done in our lives.

If you can, please join us on Tuesday, Nov. 1 for our 10th Anniversary Celebration. We are going to have a great time!


Go to www.newim.org and click on Events to learn more -- or on Store to register.  Cost is $80 for 1 night, private room and bath at St. Anthony's, 3 meals, and the program.



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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

April 2016 Retreat

April 2016 Retreat

The weather was perfect as 22 gals gathered at St. Anthony’s for a retreat focused on Psalm 25 and God’s lavish love for us. Track 2 focused on “listening to Scripture.” Several gals came in a day early to settle in before the retreat began. The small group prayer time was very meaningful.



How did the Lord use this time at The Springs?

“The Lord deepened my understanding of His love for me in this beautiful place.”

“He reminded me that I am he “beloved” daughter. I can come to Him “just as I am” anytime, anywhere.”

“He calmed my mind. Allowed me to rest in His presence after a very long time. I feel so refreshed and so loved. I am truly blessed. I am His Beloved and He is mine.”  - Supriya Sargunaraj

“The time of personal quiet time and solitude was centering for me. I feel as if I’ve experienced a “divine appointment.”  My favorite Bible verse is Psalm 46:10 about being still and quiet, so that we can “hear” God. This verse has “come alive” for me at St. Anthony’s retreat. I have experienced its wisdom for me personally.” – Charlotte Jones


“The Lord taught me to be alone because truly you are never alone. God is always there. I learned how to keep a journal and that you should pray before you start the day. Also, we all go through seasons.” – Brianna Mills
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Saturday, September 3, 2016

Devotion

It's amazing how in love I can be with the Lord, and then one morning, I decide I need to do some work, and then the next morning there’s something else I need to do, and before I know it...my whole devotional life is shot. I've reduced my relationship with the Lord to a business partnership. 

My challenge is that I can think I have decided to love God by preparing to lead a Bible study or work on a neighborhood BBQ. But ministry is not always the same as loving God. Sometimes it may be, but most of the time ministry preparation is studying and writing and organizing...not receiving the truth of Jesus’ lavish love for me.

Devotion comes from remembering He is drawing me and has invited me to come be with Him.
Devotion comes from knowing His love and choice of me, even in my brokenness.

Living passionately in love with the Lord every day begins with putting up a hedge and not letting work creep into my devotional time. It's so tempting for me to give up spending time just being with the Lord, focused only on loving him when I need to get stuff done. The focus of my quiet time is very different if my goal is to increase my love for the Lord than if my focus is to get stuff done.


It takes intentionality to return to practices that can seem like wasting time just loving God, especially when I don’t feel like it. Spending ten minutes receiving the truth of God’s love for me is essential to having a vibrant relationship with Jesus, but what a challenge it is to have work, especially Christian work, become secondary. However, drawing away to be loved by Jesus for ten minutes will awaken my love for Him. And it isn’t long before those ten minutes are the sweetest time of my day.


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Saturday, January 3, 2015

Comments from Women -- November 2014

“The Lord used this time at The Springs as a place of refuge. Not an escape, but a place of safety. To be in constant communion with Him and other women believers. I found peace and love without a lot of outside interruptions. I don’t know what God has in mind from here, but I am willing to be used for His glory, even if it means as a prayer warrior only.”

"This was my 8th year at the Springs. For me, this retreat is not optional -- it's a given! I come because I know I will be renewed, refreshed, and re-connected to my Savior. The teaching team is a diverse group of godly women who use their God-given talents to bless those who come. The food is "over the top," the facility is serene and absolutely gorgeous, and the people are precious. As a busy mom, grandma, and ministry leader, this is my time for reflection and regeneration. It has a permanent place on my calendar!"  Sue Saboloni
 "This was a time for refreshment for my soul. Being on the church staff, being a mother, sister, wife, etc...seems nearly impossible to take time for myself. So this time away without any responsibilities was huge for me. I felt like I got to be a beloved daughter just hanging out with my Daddy. I got to crawl up in His arms, and He kissed me on the cheek, and let me relax and feel safe, no worries, no cares...just me and Him."  Julie Ann Callahan-Brown


"I am taking the photo of the empty cross home and using it as a reminder: the debt for my sins is paid in full. I laid them at the foot of the cross. Jesus knew of them when he died on the cross. He died for me. He rose again and He is coming back. Now I'm free to live for Him. focusing on heaven, not on the world." (Col 3. 1-4)     Jan Swing 

 The Lord allowed me time to rest, relax, reflect on how my life is today with the loss of Michael. (Michael, her son, had passed away just three weeks before the retreat.) I can't keep rewinding the tapes only to listen to the same recording. The Lord used this time to teach me about the tool of journaling for everyday stuff and how it can improve the outcome of life, especially right now, with the "fog" (of grief) I have over me.   -- Keni Barry
“The Lord used this time at The Springs for rest and affirmation of His love for me. I feel more confident in all areas of my life. I am taking home with me the intention of not listening to doubt and negative thinking from others and especially not from myself.”
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Rest



 “The Lord used this time at The Springs to give me space and time to come away and rest. It was marvelous. I am in full-time ministry and give out a lot. It was a phenomenal gift to be able to open up and receive, just for me, right from the Lord’s hand. Jesus reminded me again that home is where He is; everything I need is found in Him and then flows out to others from that abiding place.” Jill Ludlow
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Joy!

November 2014 Springs participants
“It seems that I have been on a self-imposed spiritual exile caused by my own sin and unbelief. God has promised me though his Word that I “shall go out from that exile with joy and be led forth by the Lord Himself and His Word with peace. And the mountains and hills will break forth before me with singing and all of the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” (Is 55:12).

I have heard the singing of the birds in the trees and have walked the trails. I’m leaving with joy! (How ironic…my quilt piece was simply the word “joy” – God knew). I am His beloved! I am going to start a journal that is full of scriptures and promises of His love for me so I can be reminded of His faithfulness and love in the next crisis.  – Pamela Thomas
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Diana said it was such a gift to be able to bring her mom
“This retreat was a time of peaceful rest in Him. He wrapped me in His loving arms and reassured me of His unconditional and everlasting love for me. Thank you all for providing this opportunity. I love you all. I thank Jesus for the Springs and for the Springs Team!!”


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Thin Places

Sometimes there are places where the boundary that separates heaven from earth is thin. While we are there, for five, ten, maybe even thirty minutes we experience such a unique and unhindered intimacy with God that we know we’ve been in His Presence. For many of us, St. Anthony’s is a thin place. We live and work in “a dry and sun-scorched land” (Isaiah 58:11) and every part of our being--our soul, our heart, our flesh cries out for the living God. At times we feel like we are hanging on by a thread and our soul faints for the courts of the living God. Sometimes something horrible has happened and we are bewildered or grieving. Sometimes we are doing fine, but we feel a weariness in our soul. Bottomline, we all come to the Springs retreat with a longing for refreshment. David expresses this same longing in Psalm 84: How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord God Almighty, My soul longs, even faints for the courts of the Lord, My heart and flesh cry for the living God. Each woman who comes to the Springs comes in hopes of meeting Jesus. He never disappoints.
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Saturday, August 2, 2014

He Chose Me
By Kim Bagato

On my first retreat at The Springs, I sensed great peace as I settled in. I’d contemplated what it would be like to spend time at a Catholic retreat center. The family I grew up in did not attend church every Sunday. We didn’t even go on Christmas or Easter. Therefore, my religious training was scant.

The first night of The Springs retreat we gathered in the chapel. My eyes were drawn to Jesus on the cross. I believe it was the first time I saw his humanness—He was a man. Jesus is God, but I saw him that night as human. It struck me how sad and hard and unnatural it looked to see him so vulnerable and in need of care. Memories appeared in my mind’s eye of my husband, son, dad, grandpa and friends I’d seen in hospitals, in pain, near death. Men—strong healthy men—injured, ill, vulnerable. They are the ones I lean on and look to and seeing them incapacitated is difficult for me.

Christ on the cross was a startling reminder of the pain he endured and the humility and abuse he met from men he could have overpowered.
  He chose not to.
    For me.
         He.
         Chose.
         Me.
The following afternoon, I walked the path through the Stations of the Cross. I did some research and discovered the titles and themes of each of the 14 Stations of the Cross and learned some background. I delved into my Bible searching for truth. (See Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23 and John 19.)
I found it.
    Violent.
            Harsh.
                    Abusive.
I’m uncertain if I’ll ever fully understand His horrendous yet supernatural sacrifice. That is not a pretty, holy, serene looking Jesus. He endured more than most of us will in a lifetime.

Deeply humbled and nearly in a state of shock, I allowed the gravity of that tragic injustice to soak deep. The profound truth of Christ’s unwavering expression of faithfulness, love and obedience to the Father’s will silenced my mind and granted me peace as I prayed: Oh, God I don’t ever want to discount or squander your sacrifice and the unimaginable cost you paid to save my soul. It’s so valuable and heavy I can barely carry it. 
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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

November 2013

We had a great time!  
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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Our Part in Spiritual Transformation

"Our aim is not first to act differently but to become different in our inner being. We're not just learning how to be nicer versions of our old selves. We're dealing radically with the fundamental wrongness of human life left to itself and introducing the kingdom of righteousness that is Christ into the depths of our heart. It is the inner life that counts. That is where profound transformation must occur.

"Spiritual formation for the Christian refers to the Holy Spirit-driven-process of forming the inner world of the human self in such a way that it becomes like the inner being of Christ himself. To the degree spiritual formation in Christ is successful, the outer life of the individual becomes a natural expression of this character and the teachings of Jesus." ( Dallas Willard, Renovation of Character).

It is the love of God that will change us. And "God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit" (Rom 5:5). It is the love of God flowing through us--not our human attempts at behavioral change--that will transform. God's love is the love described in I Cor. 13. His love will never give up. That's why Paul prays in Ephesians 3 that they will know God's love that surpasses knowledge and be filled up to the full measure of all the fullness of God. As the Spirit expands our experiential knowing of the God who is Love, we will be freed to know ourselves, in all of our vulnerability and shame, and be changed.  It is the grace of God that gets next to us, and transforms.

Grace does not rule out method or effort on our part. Grace says that what we receive is not earned or even deserved. Grace is a gift that is given to us. But grace does not mean that we cannot "make every effort" to be open to His love. The part we can play seems to be around the idea of being intentional or deliberate, to work with the Spirit to receive His grace and grow in our experience of His love. Our tendency is to hide, and get distracted, and fail to be attentive--even resistant. The invitation is to receive His gift.


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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

We can't give up!

C.S. Lewis' chapter in Mere Christianity on “Sexual Morality” – seems to have a lot to say about whatever struggles we are engaged in.

“Many people are deterred from seriously attempting Christian chastity because they think (before trying) that it is impossible. But when a thing has to be attempted, one must never think about possibility or impossibility. Faced with an optional question in an examination paper, one considers whether one can do it or not: faced with a compulsory question, one must do the best one can. You may get some marks for a very imperfect answer: you will certainly get none for leaving the question alone. Not only in examinations, but in war, in mountain climbing, in learning to skate, or swim, or ride a bicycle, even in fastening a stiff collar with cold fingers, people quite often do what seemed impossible before they did it. It is wonderful what you can do when you have to.

“We may, indeed, be sure that perfect chastity—like perfect charity- will not be attained by any merely human efforts. You must ask for God’s help. Even when you have done so, it may seem to you for a long time that no help, or less help than you need, is being given. Never mind. After each failure, ask forgiveness, pick yourself up, and try again. Very often what God first helps us towards is not the virtue itself but just this power of always trying again. For however important chastity, or courage, or truthfulness, or any other virtue may be, this process trains us in habits of the soul which are more important still. It cures our illusions about ourselves and teaches us to depend on God. We learn, on the one hand, that we cannot trust ourselves even in our best moments, and, on the other, that we need not despair even in our worst, for our failures are forgiven. The only fatal thing is to sit down content with anything less than perfection….
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Monday, June 24, 2013

Spiritual Transformation

Some of us seem to have given up hope that we can do anything about our inner character. We truly believe that transformation must be a supernatural act of God on our heart if we will ever be changed. We've gotten on with our lives and hope that someday, the Holy Spirit will bring to completion the work He has begun.

Others of us may roll up our sleeves and set out on a journey to become like Christ. Ben Franklin writes in his autobiography about how he "conceiv'd the bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection. I wish'd to live without committing any fault at any time...I did not see why I might not always do right and avoid the wrong. But I soon found I had undertaken a task of more difficulty than I had imagined...I concluded, at length, that the mere speculative conviction that it was in our interest to be completely virtuous, was not sufficient to prevent our slipping; and that the contrary habits must be broken, and good ones acquired and estabished, before we can have any dependence on a steady, uniform rectitude of conduct."  So Ben Franklin conceived of a method. But after years of trying, he writes:

"This article, therefore, cost me so much painful attention, and my faults in it vexed me so much, and I made so little progress in amendment, and had such frequent relapses, that I was almost ready to give up the attempts, and content myself with a faulty character in that respect, like the man who, in buying an ax of a smith, my neighbour, desired to have the whole of its surface as bright as the edge. The smith consented to grind it bright for him if he would turn the wheel; he turn'd, while the smith press'd the broad face of the ax hard and heavily on the stone, which made the turning of it very fatiguing. The man came every now and then from the wheel to see how the work went on, and at length would take his ax as it was, without farther grinding. "No," said the smith, "turn on, turn on; we shall have it bright by-and by; as yet, it is only speckled."  "Yes," said the man, "but I think I like a speckled ax best." And I believe this may have been the case with many...they concluded "a speckled ax was best." 

Franklin reflects: "I never arrived at the perfection I had been so ambitious of obtaining, but fell far short of it, yet I was, by the endeavour, a better and a happier man than I otherwise should have been if I had not attempted it."

Franklin's approach seems exhausting -- and completely focused on external behavior. When externals are the main focus, spiritual formation doesn't really happen. As Paul writes to the Colossians, ""Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!  These regulations have an appearance of wisdom, butthey lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence." (Col. 2:20-23) It's the inner life that counts -- that's where spiritual transformation must occur.  But how?

What is your understanding of spiritual transformation? How do we walk in the path of righteousness? What is our role in putting to death the old man, and putting on the new?
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Monday, June 17, 2013

Following along the Path of Righteousness

True righteousness requires that we open ourselves to Him, that we allow ourselves to be honest and vulnerable with Lord in prayer – coming to Him and presenting our true self --not the self we show others, not even the private self that we ourselves see, but our inmost self, the hidden person of our heart – the self that God sees in order that we might be forgiven and changed. 

Don’t mistake what I am saying. We do not live righteously, and no amount of trying harder will get us there. Yet righteousness is God’s dream for us. It is His call. It seems we have two natural responses. Many of us are overwhelmed by our own sense of unworthiness and failure. We have lost hope that things in our lives will ever be different than they are today. We know becoming righteous is not something that we will ever accomplish, so we have stopped trying. Somehow we have come to believe that trying to become all that God dreams for us to be, is legalistic, goes against grace. We think that because transformation is by grace and not by works, we shouldn’t make any effort to try to become righteous. We reason, if transformation is all a gift of His grace, then we simply need to entrust His work to Him, and in the process, we relieve ourselves of all responsibility to be growing in righteousness.

Psalm 23 says that the Lord guides us in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake –He guides us, but it seems, we must follow, step by step, to walk along the path He shows us.

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me." Luke 9:23
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Hiding

Foolishly we hide ourselves in fear that God will be displeased, though in fact the hiding may be what displeases God the most. It feels to us like self-protection; but to God, it looks like lack of trust. In either case, the wall of fear will keep us apart. When I acknowledge my need and reflect on God's desire to embrace me, I can come out of hiding. Our God is the prodigal's father. At first sight of us, He runs to meet us. Daring to return home, I find not a tyrant, but a compassionate Father.

Knowing that we are loved, draws us home. His dream is that we have the willingness to trust Him enough to come. His dream is that we have compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, the ability to put up with annoying people, to forgive, to love -- His character in our hearts. When we open ourselves in vulnerability and receive His mercy and grace, He transforms our character...gives us new clothes to wear. (Col 3)  He accomplishes in our lives what we are completely unable to do on our own. He transforms us.
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Monday, June 10, 2013

Fear yields to His embrace

I thought I had to be perfect to be accepted. My deep-seated fear of rejection has begun to yield to God's embrace. Somehow, in a way I can only trust and not understand, presenting to God the truth of my life gives Him pleasure...Let me say this again: Our fear of rejection yields to God's embrace. His love for me is not diminished by my sin, my willfulness, my rebellion or my failure. Somehow, in a way I can only trust and not understand, presenting to God the truth of my life gives God pleasure...Opening my self is really about trust.

Trust in His love for you...look at Him hanging on the Cross and remember the depth of His love, then you will be able trust Him, and open your inner self to Him, telling Him what you find there. We do not need to fear. We do not need to hide. We do not need to present to Him anything other than the truth.

Trust Him. Trust that when you open yourself to Him, He will delight in you. Let His love dispel your fear of rejection and lead you into His arms of love.

The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
Psam 103:8-14
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Monday, June 3, 2013

Arms of love

Jesus, our Shepherd, guides us in paths of righteousness. Becoming righteous is a process of opening our self to Him, our true self. The path of righteousness is a path that leads us ultimately to our home in Christ, but it is also a path that takes us through the anguish of the Garden of Gethsemane, to the foot of the Cross where we see His extravagant love for us demonstrated, through the darkness of valley of the shadow of death, as we journey home. Where are you in your journey today?

All the way my Shepherd leads me. He holds me in His arms of love. He holds me near. And when we get weary, He carries us in His arms of love.

Praise the Lord; praise God our savior!
For each day he carries us in his arms.
Psam 68:19
 
He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.
Isaiah 40:11
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Monday, May 27, 2013

Invitation

"For too long we have been in a far country: a country of noise and hurry and crowds, a country of climb and push and shove, a country of frustration and fear and intimidation. And He welcomes us home: home to serenity and peace and joy, home to friendship and fellowship and openness, home to intimacy and acceptance and affirmation." (Foster, Prayer, p 1-2)
 
We do not need to be shy. Jesus invites us into His heart where we can know His love that surpasses all knowledge. He invites us into the intimacy of His friendship, He invites us into His protection where we are safe because He is strong. Jesus invites us into a loving, vital relationship where we come to know, and to be known by, Him.

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Monday, May 20, 2013

A Dream

I have become convinced that Jesus has a dream for us -- that we will become righteous. When Jesus says "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt. 5:48), He wasn't joking or exaggerating. He wants us to be righteous. Not a "have a pretense of righteousness," but a true righteousness. Real. Authentic. From-the-heart righteousness. That is His hope for us. He has made us righteous by His death on the Cross, and He calls us to live in righteousness now. 

The Lord will guide us in the path of righteousness. He will lead us. He is our Good Shepherd. Our part is to be willing to follow. Not to be distracted, inattentive, straying, going our own way, but step-by-step to follow as He guides us in paths of righteousness.

Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling -- calling for you and for me. O for the wonderful love He has promised...promised for you and for me. Though we have sinned, He has mercy and pardon. Pardon for you and for me. Come home. Come home. Ye who are weary, come home. Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling. Calling, O sinner, come home.

If you have strayed in your attentiveness to Him, simply turn, and come home.
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Monday, May 13, 2013

Our Personal Knowing of God

What have you learned about yourself as a result of your experience with God?

And what do you know about God as a result of genuine encounter with your self?

The first thing some Christians would say they know about themselves as a result of their relationship with God is their sinfulness. And quite possibly the first thing they would say they learned about God from this was God’s forgiveness and love. These are important things to know. But what else do you know about yourself and God that has arisen from your encounter with the Divine?

While many of us have followed Jesus for much longer than the three years we have tracked in Peter’s journey, too often we have not allowed the initial introduction to deepen into a deep, intimate knowing. Though we glibly talk about a personal relationship with God, many of us know God less well than we know our casual acquaintances. Too easily we have settled for knowing about God. Too easily our actual relationship with God is remarkably superficial. Is it any surprise, then, that we haven’t learned very much about our self as a result of this encounter?



Pausing for Reflection
● Don’t allow yourself to be distracted by guilt if you judge your own relationship with God to be superficial. Hear God’s call to a deep personal encounter as an invitation, not a reprimand. It is an invitation to step out of the security of your boat and meet Jesus in the vulnerability and chaos of your inner storms. It is an invitation to move beyond objective knowledge to personal knowing. The question is, how will you respond to this invitation?


I enjoy David Benner's books and his weekly Something to Ponder posting? If you are interested, you can find him at: www.drdavidgbenner.ca/blog
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Monday, May 6, 2013

Our Hope - Psalm 23

God's goodness and love will continue as long as life lasts and beyond we will be welcomed into the house of the Lord forever. Walking through the valley of the shadow of death will not terrify us. God's presence is the strength of His people. He is our comfot. He protects us. And with His staff He draws the straying sheep back to safety. He is our host who bountifully entertains us at His table. We anticipate nothing but goodness and mercy, a long life spent in communion with the Lord and looking forward to dwelling in our heavenly home with Him forever.
Wildflowers in the grass at St. Anthonys
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Friday, May 3, 2013

A Gracious Host

 
The Lord is a gracious host, providing us with lavish hospitality. He welcomes us into His home and showers us with His abundant blessing.

His loyal love will go with us everywhere, through all of life. God's blessing remains with us, no matter what our circumstances may be. Each day, every day, we will enjoy full communion with the Lord. In fact, the Hebrew verb translated "I will dwell" conveys the idea of returning...it's the same verb is used earlier in the psalm and is translated, "He restores" (23:3). Perhaps the psalmist is drawing our attention to the daily refreshment we find as we return, continually attend to dwelling in the presence of the Lord.


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Thursday, May 2, 2013

God's Care for Us

"The Lord is our Shephed, I have everything that I need."







All the way my Shepherd leads me.
As we reflected on God's providential care, we were reminded of how He drew us to Himself.
 
 
 
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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

God's Care for Us

The familiar words from Psalm 23 formed the framework for our retreat this spring. Using metaphors from pastoral life, in Psalm 23 David describes God's providential care. He provides rest, refreshment, guidance, protection thru the valleys, and abundance at His banquet table...

 
 

As the retreat began, we reflected on God's providential care for us. And shared our stories.


Betsy shared her months of walking through the valley and how God seemed absent, for months, even though she was in His Word and praying. One day as she was walking, God revealed to her how He had been with her, providing real care for her and her family through the many people He surrounded her with during this time.

David concludes: "surely goodness and love will follow us all of the days of our lives and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." As we looked back, we could see God's goodness and how He cared for us.
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