Category Archives: Spiritual Life

The Lord’s Discipline

  Have you ever grown impatient waiting on God? Abraham did. He gave up on having the child of promise and had a child by Hagar. And his impatience caused multi-generational problems. God brings us to the brink before pouring out his provision to train us to trust him. This is called discipline. So discipline is not God punishing us when we do something wrong, but training us to trust him no matter what.

This entire commandment that I command you today you must diligently observe, so that you may live and increase, and go in and occupy the land that the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors.  Remember the long way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, in order to humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commandments.  He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.  The clothes on your back did not wear out and your feet did not swell these forty years.  Know then in your heart that as a parent disciplines a child so the Lord your God disciplines you.  Therefore keep the commandments of the Lord your God, by walking in his ways and by fearing him.  For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with flowing streams, with springs and underground waters welling up in valleys and hills,  a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land where you may eat bread without scarcity, where you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron and from whose hills you may mine copper.  You shall eat your fill and bless the Lord your God for the good land that he has given you.  Deuteronomy 8:1-10 NRSVCE

 Discipline is provision.

  If we fail to trust and fail to wait, we find ourselves outside of the flow of God in our lives. We miss what God has for us. We find ourselves frustrated and confused. God is always faithful, but we can remove ourselves from his blessing. We can repeat the story of Adam and Eve. We can refuse to live according to God’s plan. Or we can choose to follow God, to wait for him, to trust him, and to enjoy his presence and his provision.

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Realizing God’s Presence in the Mundane

The other day as I arrived at work, I was stressed from the traffic and the weather. Aware of my inner turmoil, as I turned off my car; I paused, took a deep breath, and brought my focus on God. Inwardly, I recited my life-verse, “Oh give thanks to the Lord for he is good. His mercy endures forever.” (Psalm 118:1) Suddenly, I was keenly aware of Christ’s presence in the mundane reality of my daily commute.

Jesus promised to always be with us, and he is. We become too busy and distracted to notice, but he is there. It is simply a matter of focus. If we focus on the ‘busy-ness’, make that craziness, all around us, we can become anxious and confused. But if we focus on the eternal reality that lies beyond the immediate, like the bedrock that invisibly supports us beneath our feet, we find peace and confidence in his presence.

Live in the Light

Have you ever awakened in a dark room and, for whatever reason, began to move about without turning on the light? You are likely to stub some toes. It hurts. Choosing to walk around in darkness is risky business. Why do so many people choose to live in a spiritual darkness instead of light? Perhaps it is easier to simply reject God than deal with the moral and spiritual implications that come with believing in God.

I have heard people say they don’t believe in God, they believe in science. I will grant you that science may have disproven the concept of God many held when they were seven years old, but far from disprove God, science has again and again proven the necessity of God. Even atheist Manjit Kumar, in his book Quantum, stated that without God there can be no objective universe. So the problem is not the existence of God as much as the concept of God. Peter Kreeft recently commented that when he debates atheists, he often finds that he agrees with them. Their concept of god is so askew that the god they do not believe in does not exist.

In this day and age of so many religious voices vying for your assent, it takes study and prayer to come to a true understanding of God. But when you do, it is like turning on the light in a dark room. Everything becomes clear.

If you want to discover the true God, study the life of Jesus. He is the perfect revelation of God. And learn to pray in such a way that leads you into friendship with God. Prayer is not giving God your wish list. That will only lead to disappointment. Prayer is learning to listen to God and allowing him to transform you into the person he created you to be. Then you will know God and live in the light.

 

Holy Night

Have you ever been so awed by an event that you find yourself speechless? Such is Christmas.

Saint Bridget once had a vision of the nativity. Of course, a vision is not a news reel. It relates more the spiritual essence of an event rather than what an eyewitness might see. In reality, the spiritual impact of an event is truer than our sense perceptions could ever be. Our senses only see the surface. The spiritual reality expresses its eternal significance. With that in mind, I share her vision here.

“When I was present by the manger of the Lord in Bethlehem I beheld a Virgin of extreme beauty wrapped in a white mantle and a delicate tunic through which I perceived her virginal body. With her was an old man of great honesty and they had with them an ox and ass. These entered the cave and the man having tied them to the manger went out and brought in to the Virgin a lighted candle which having done he again went outside so as not to be present at the birth. Then the Virgin pulled off the shoes from her feet, drew off the white mantle that enveloped her, removed the veil from her head laying it beside her, thus remaining only in her tunic with her beautiful golden hair falling loosely over her shoulders. Then she produced two small linen cloths, and two woolen ones of exquisite purity and fineness which she had brought to wrap round the Child to be born, and two other small cloths to cover His head, and these too she put beside her. When all was thus prepared the Virgin knelt with great veneration in an attitude of prayer; her back was to the manger, her face uplifted to heaven and turned toward the East.

“Then, her hands extended and her eyes fixed on the sky she stood as in an ecstasy, lost in contemplation, in a rapture of divine sweetness. And while she stood thus in prayer I saw the Child in her womb move; suddenly in a moment she gave birth to her own Son from whom radiated such ineffable light and splendor that the sun was not comparable to it while the divine light totally annihilated the material light of St. Joseph’s candle. So sudden and instantaneous was this birth that I could neither discover nor discern by what means it had occurred. All of a sudden I saw the glorious infant lying on the ground naked and shining, His body pure from any soil or impurity. Then I heard the singing of the angels of miraculous sweetness and beauty. When the Virgin felt she had borne her Child immediately she worshipped Him, her hands clasped in honor and reverence saying: ‘Be welcome my God, my Lord, my Son.’

“Then, as the Child was whining and trembling from the cold and hardness of the floor where He was lying, He stretched out His arms imploring her to raise Him to the warmth of her maternal love. So His Mother took Him in her arms, pressed Him to her breast and cheek, and warmed Him with great joy and tender compassion. She then sat down on the ground laying the Child on her lap and at once began to bestow on Him much care tying up His small body, His legs and arms in long cloths, and enveloped His head in the linen garments, and when this was done the old man entered, and prostrating himself on the floor he wept for joy. And in no way was the Virgin changed by giving birth, the color of her face remained the same nor did her strength decline. She and Joseph put the Child in the manger, and worshipped Him on their knees with immense joy until the arrival of the Kings who recognized the Son from the likeness to His Mother.”

He Loved Us First

He Loved Us First

Truly you alone are the Lord. Your dominion is our salvation, for to serve you is nothing else but to be saved by you! O Lord, salvation is your gift and your blessing is upon your people; what else is your salvation but receiving from you the gift of loving you or being loved by you? That, Lord, is why you willed that the Son at your right hand, the One whom you made strong for yourself, should be called Jesus, that is to say, Savior, for he will save his people from their sins, and there is no other in whom there is salvation. He taught us to love him by first loving us, even to death on the cross. By loving us and holding us so dear, he stirred us to love him who had first loved us to the end.

 And this is clearly the reason: you first loved us so that we might love you not because you needed our love, but because we could not be what you created us to be, except by loving you.

 In many ways and on various occasions you spoke to our fathers through the prophets. Now in these last days you have spoken to us in the Son, your Word; by him the heavens were established and all their powers came to be by the breath of his mouth.

 For you to speak thus in your Son was to bring out in the light of day how much and in what way you loved us, for you did not spare your own Son but delivered him up for us all. He also loved us and gave himself up for us.

 This, Lord, is your Word to us, this is your all-powerful message: while all things were in midnight silence (that is, were in the depths of error), he came from his royal throne, the stern conqueror of error and the gentle apostle of love.

 Everything he did and everything he said on earth, even enduring the insults, the spitting, the buffeting the cross and the grave all of this was actually you speaking to us in your Son, appealing to us by your love and stirring up our love for you.

 You know that this disposition could not be forced on our hearts, my God, since you created us; it must rather be elicited. And this, for the further reason that there is no freedom where there is compulsion, and where freedom is lacking, so too is righteousness.

 You wanted us to love you, then, we who could not with justice have been saved had we not loved you, nor could we have loved you except by your gift. So, Lord, as the apostle of your love tells us, and as we have already said, you first loved us: you are first to love all those who love you.

 Thus we hold you dear by the affection you have implanted in us. You are the one supremely good and ultimate goodness. Your love is your goodness, the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son! From the beginning of creation it was he who hovered over the waters that is, over the wavering minds of us all, offering himself to all, drawing all things to himself. By his inspiration and holy breath, by keeping us from harm and providing for our needs, he unites God to us and us to God.

~ William of Saint Thierry