A Monk in the World

SILENCE

EACH MONTH IN MONK IN THE WORLD WE ARE LEARNING THE PRINCIPLES OF CHRISTIAN MONASTICISM AND HOW WE CAN APPLY THEM TO OUR LIVES OUTSIDE THE MONASTERY WALLS.

 

There are times when good words are to be left unsaid out of esteem for silence. ~ The Rule of Benedict

I kept quiet, not saying a word, not even about anything good! ~ Psalm 39:2 (GNT) 

Words, words, words… They are everywhere! Billboards, sides of buildings, flashing street signs, bumper stickers in traffic, even the sky isn’t immune with its skywriters and planes tugging advertisement banners. The plethora of words in our world dilute their meaning to the point of overload and burnout!

Where in the world can one go to find silence?

Even if we find a place with the precious quiet we’re craving we still have the noise in our mind to deal with. We must somehow change the internal noise into a gentler sound.

The one who sits in solitude and quiet has escaped from three wars: hearing, speaking, and seeing; yet against one thing shall he continually battle: that is his own heart. ~ Anthony of Egypt*

As our body needs rest, our spirit needs silence for our inner life to grow. When we keep out the weeds (noise) the garden of our soul can flourish. Too many words can hinder our relationship with God, preventing us from hearing the most important Word of all!  

Spiritual growth requires insights that only solitude and silence can provide. No one can do this work for us. We must be intentional to build times of silence into our day. It won’t happen otherwise.  

In Buddhist countries children routinely spend time with monks and are taught to sit in the lotus position and learn to meditate. Quaker communities also have silence as a regular part of their daily routine. 

Who is teaching us or our children how to sit in silence? Instead of hiding away in our prayer closet we must include our children and grand children in our practice of silence. They will learn best by watching our example.

If you are unaccustomed to silence (I was and most people are) begin with a simple plan. You may choose an activity that can be done in quiet: gardening, painting, walking or cooking. You may just want to sit. Either way start out small. If you want five minutes of silence, give yourself ten minutes. You will need the buffer time to get settled in. Gradually you will add more time. Before you know it you will prefer the silence!

Silence is an indispensable discipline in the spiritual life. It is our portable monastic cell that we take with us into the world to minister to others. 

RESOURCES:
The Way of the Heart: Connecting with God Through Prayer, Wisdom, and Silence by Henri J.M. Nouwen
Finding Sanctuary: Monastic Steps for Everyday Life by Abbot Christopher Jamison*
The Path of Life by Cyprian Smith OSB
The Rule of Benedict Edited by Timothy Fry, OSB
The Oblate Life Edited by Gervase Holdaway OSB
Originally published September 10, 2014

Resurrecting Faith


Life seems always to be a roller coaster of blessings and trials. We moved 10 times in as many years, started a business, tried to start a ministry and settle down only to get uprooted again and again with oppositions continually pressing in. 

For the last 18 months my husband and I have been going through yet again more life transitions. Some have come to completion and others have not. We’ve been getting hammered on all sides: two moves, deaths in the family, health problems, financial struggles, unexpected legal challenges, job ambiguity, etc…

In every way we’re troubled, but we aren’t crushed by our troubles. We’re frustrated, but we don’t give up. ~  2 Corinthians 4:8 GWT*


I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you my faith has wavered. I’ve had temper tantrums and fist shaking conversations with The Almighty. But God faithfully takes His little girl by the hand and gently guides her back on His path again.

After a long dry spell, I recently began attending a women’s Bible study where we’re learning The Fruit of the Spirit. In last week’s lesson on Faithfulness, the teacher referenced the Greek root word pistis for Faithfulness which is best translated in the English language as REALITY.  

Flashing lights! AHA moment! Wake-Up call!

My level of faith directly relates to my ability to face reality?
The more I want to escape reality – – the weaker my faith is?

Ouch!


What better time than Easter for God to resurrect my faith!

There is no greater disaster in the spiritual life than to be immersed in unreality, for life is maintained and nourished in us by our vital relation with realities outside and above us…  Let us embrace reality and thus find ourselves immersed in the life-giving will and wisdom of God which surrounds us everywhere. ~ Thomas Merton**

How do you escape reality? Is the faith / reality connection applicable in your life today?

Image credits: daivi / 123RF Stock Photo

*God’s Word Translation
**Thoughts in Solitude by Thomas Merton

POWERLESS

A new year rolled in with a sore reminder of my human powerlessness.

powerless woman

 

Step 1: We admitted that we were powerless over our dependencies–that our lives had become unmanageable.

 

I think about how many times I’ve complained about maintaining this body of mine. Then God gently says in my spirit they if I weren’t alive I wouldn’t need to care for it at all.

This is the same with our weaknesses of character. It is a huge pain to deal with – but what’s the alternative as long as we are breathing?

As humans we are going to fail over and over again. The answer, of course, comes only by turning our weaknesses over to Him. 

For when I am weak then I am made strong. ~ 2 Corinthians 12:10

Image credit: / 123RF Stock Photo

The Next WRONG Thing???

It’s no big surprise that choices come with consequences.


  Why is it so difficult for us to see ahead? To play the movie all the way to the end?

Maybe it’s a simple matter of denial. I know a wrong choice made by someone else gets a bad result for them. But somehow I think I’m special. I won’t get that same bad result. Newsflash to self…

No Wrong Choices = No Wrong Consequences!

Don’t be misled; remember that you can’t ignore God and get away with it: a man will always reap just the kind of crop he sows! If he sows to please his own wrong desires, he will be planting seeds of evil and he will surely reap a harvest of spiritual decay and death; but if he plants the good things of the Spirit, he will reap the everlasting life that the Holy Spirit gives him. ~ Galatians 6:7-9 LB

Sometimes we need a miracle to do the next right thing!  

If you can’t see the video screen below click here for a great song by Seth Glier.

Image credit: alphaspirit / 123RF Stock Photo

Walking Crutch Free

As humans, most of us depend on different things to make it through the day…

We depend on caffeine to give us energy because we stayed up watching TV and eating late night snacks instead of getting our required sleep. We find ourselves stressed out because we’re not eating right, not getting enough sleep and drinking too much caffeine.

We may be going through family circumstances that are less than pleasant. To help us cope, we numb our feelings to slide through it easily. Television, itself, numbs us so we don’t have to deal with our real world. But many depend on other substances to make it through tough life situations… smoking, drinking or drugging to calm nerves in times of stress.

Even if we can recognize them, we’re unable to stand in our own feelings without crumbling. Our emotions are crippled, usually due to some kind of trauma. 
Like someone with a broken leg, we depend on ‘crutches’ to walk through life when we should be trusting God to carry us.

As a recovering addict, I understand this all too well. Honestly, I still struggle. There are days I find myself picking up an old crutch. When I do, I have to stop and recognize it for what it is, immediately repent and ask for God’s forgiveness. 

There’s nothing inherently wrong with watching television or even having a glass of wine for that matter. But when we are using these things instead of allowing God to help us, it becomes a problem that will stunt our spiritual growth and maybe even our physical health. 

Are you walking with crutches today? 

Ask God to reveal things that are out of balance. He will honor your request and give you the needed strength to change. 

Let God Carry You…

God is my strength and power, He makes my way perfect. ~ 2 Samuel 22:33

The Perfect Day

“Day in and day out.”  “That will be the day.” “Tomorrow is another day.”
These are all examples of how we think of our days.  They’re nothing special.  After all, it’s just a day, just another day… Well, what if today was your last day? Would you be sorry for how you lived all your yesterdays?
Our entire Life is made up of nothing but days. A list of days… day after day after day… Yesterday is over and gone. Tomorrow has yet to arrive. What you do have is Today. That’s all you’ll ever have. It’s strange to think, but you will never see your future. Because when you get to your future, you will rename it today. The cliche Today is the first day of the rest of your life, is actually true. In fact, today is your life! What are you doing with it? What if you could have a perfect day? What would it consist of? The key to a happy, productive life is in finding the recipe for “the perfect day.”
First, we must become aware of how we spend our day. It helps to break the day down into its smaller parts – hours. It’s kind of like spending money. If I use my debit card, it’s easier to spend the money, because I don’t see it. But if I carry cash, I am less likely to spend. I think it’s the same with time. If we look at the whole day, we’re more likely to waste it. But if we look at each hour in each day they somehow have more value.
God, being the equal opportunity God that He is, has given us all the same number of hours in a day – 24. How is it that one person can spend a certain amount of time and accomplish some great thing like a college degree, build a skyscraper, or write a book? But yet others, spend that same amount of time and have absolutely nothing to show for it. In fact, they may be worse off than they were before that time had passed.
Isn’t it interesting how we phrase the usage of time as spending, just like in money?  Sure they say, Time is money. Even though it isn’t really money, it is very valuable. Actually, it’s more valuable that we realize. How are we spending our 24 hours? Are we wasting them away watching endless hours of television…Watching people, long dead, trying to make us laugh or cry again for the 100th time… Watching other people live their lives, having the adventures we’re to lazy or scared to try – living an armchair participant’s life… Are we working overtime making someone else rich with no reward but a weekly paycheck… Or worse yet, completely zoning out every night on Internet porn sites and chat rooms; wasting weekend after weekend high on drugs and alcohol having mind numbing sex with nameless, faceless partners???
Unfortunately, I wasted most of my life doing all of the above. I have much regret for years spent running the rat race some call life. But my worst regrets are for the time truly wasted hiding from myself, my family, my life, and my God; living or should I say dying in a life of sin and addiction. It’s sickening and maddening to think of how much time I’ve lost; because I only have one life to live and it will be gone before I know it. But Praise God, today I have assurance, because I repented of my sins and received Jesus Christ as my Savior, God the Father will take all that wasted time the enemy tried to steal from me and turn it around to bring glory to the name of the Lord!  
Now to continue our search for the perfect day. Rather than counting hours, lets count weekends. Let’s assume the average person dies at 70 years of age.  If you are 20 years old, you have 2,500 weekends left to live. If you have turned 30 you have 2,000 weekends left until the day you die. If you are 40 years old, you have only 1, 500 weekends left. If you are 50, then you have just 1,000 weekends and if you are 60 you have a mere 500 weekends left until the day death comes to you. Somehow it is easier to relate to weekends, while years put death in the distance. This is quite a sobering way to look at the time we have left on this earth! 
When my husband, Bill, and I first saw our lifetime put in this perspective, we decided to find a way to mark the time we have left. He went to a hobby store and purchased a beautiful glass vase and some decorative colored marbles, the count equal to the amount of weekends we have left to live – at 50 years old, that’s 1000 marbles. He filled the vase with the marbles and placed it on the fireplace hearth. Each Friday, we remove one marble and place it in a prominent place where we will notice it as the weekend progresses. Then on Monday, the marble goes in the trash; one more weekend used up. We’ve been doing this now for almost 6 months or 24 weekends. It’s a great way to stay mindful of the time passing. To look at the vase and see the marbles and to know that represents the time left in your life… we are much more careful how we spend our weekends now! 
Remember, today is a mini-lifeIt’s the prototype or model of your entire lifetime. You can look at how you spend a day and know that is how your life will be spent. Don’t let time pass you by. Stop right now. The Apostle Paul says in II Corinthians 6:2 – I tell you now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. Come to awareness of how you are spending your time bank.
Start your perfect day with a few simple ingredients:
  • Make a daily plan. 
  • Be conscious of daily spiritual growth.
  • Always make each day productive.
  • Walk in love with those around you.
  • Find a way to mark your life-time passing.
          Consider adding the following:

Turn off the TV, put away the computer and the video games, read a book, start a new hobby, befriend someone who needs help, visit your grandmother, ask her about her life… Have a family dinner around the table, look each other in the eye. Do you even know who they are? Really? Talk to the ones you love, have stimulating conversation instead of searching for stimulating events. 
You may choose to be radical like we have and disconnect the cable all together! It’s actually quite liberating. Instead, we use NetFlix and rent television programs and movies we like. We have a dedicated time to watch together and the monthly bill is far less! I don’t even miss the television. I sure don’t miss the negative influences of the liberal media. I don’t know how I ever got anything done watching up to six hours per day! The reality is I didn’t get anything of value done, all I did was draw one day closer to the truly numbed brain brought on by Alzheimer’s. Now my brain is more active, I can memorize scripture easier, I have more time to read and write, to learn and focus on the ministry to hurting women God has called me to.
In our search for the recipe for the perfect day, sometimes those of us who tend to be perfectionists or people pleasers; may get bogged down in “What if I fail today?” Don’t get discouraged. There’s no pressure. Analyze the day in the evening, start over with your list of ingredients that will make your day perfect and try again tomorrow. Give your day to the Lord, each and every morning. Psalm 118:24 says: This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it. Ask for His guidance where and how you should spend your time. There’s no condemnation with the Lord. Remember, at 12:01am every day, God has a new batch of mercy waiting for you
Lastly, the most important benefit, to fostering an environment of peace and quiet in your home, is the ability to hear the still small voice of the Holy Spirit. Take a walk and talk with the Lord. He wants to walk and talk with you. Spend time in God’s Word and in prayer. You will hear His voice and He will direct you as to how to spend your time. When you are walking in the will of the Father you can know your days will be Perfect!
Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.— Psalm 90:12

Gratitude

I woke up this morning thanking God that I am no longer walking in the dark. Thankful that I am awake and aware of God’s goodness. No longer drifting along, wasting day after day, living for the next high or trying to make the next unlived fantasy come true. Thank you Lord for choosing me.

You have been chosen to know me, believe in me, and understand that I alone am God. There is no other God, there never has been and never will be. I am the Lord, and there is no other Savior.
— Isaiah 43-10-11