The Refining Fire

When Life's Challenges Are Coming From Every Angle

In life, seasons of struggle come and go. Some seasons there would be a few areas where the struggles were tough. Other seasons maybe only one. But the struggles these last two years have been almost unbearable.

Health issues, financial difficulties, deaths in the family, job losses, multiple relocations, legal battles, recovery challenges…

My faith has been tested more than it has in 13 years. I told my friend, I don’t mind being put in the lion’s den, or in the fiery furnace, or wondering the desert, or facing the giant, but do I have to do them all at once?

Why does God put us through the hottest fire when we feel at our weakest point?

Maybe when I am at my lowest point, I am more likely to seek His face, not just his hand.

How do we stay desperate in the good times?

If we could, maybe we wouldn’t have to be put through the trials to correct our trajectories.

Jesus said that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich person to get into the kingdom of heaven.

Today, I’m not sure if I want financial stability again. Maybe the poverty vows of many monastic orders is the way to live.

Then maybe my priorities will stay straight and my heart where it’s supposed to be.

Does God Have You In A Purifying Season of Life?

 

 

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The Art of Suffering

Finding an easier way to get through the pain.

We all endure suffering and handle it differently. Suffering has many levels and can be expressed in various emotions and behaviors. It can be very painful, even destructive to relationships. What can we possibly do to get through this difficult time in a healthier way?

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What is suffering for you may not be suffering for me. What is suffering for me today may not be suffering for me tomorrow.

To the degree that we surrender to our suffering is the degree that we will grow stronger spiritually.

The idea seems simple but it’s difficult and even painful to walk out.

As a recovering addict, I am usually trying to avoid pain at all cost. But I’m finally learning the more I fight the pain and suffering, the more I try to run from it, to avoid it, to remove it… the worse it gets and the longer it may last.

If we can find our way to accept the moment and its lesson for us, trusting that there is something better on the other side of the suffering, we are closer to the Peace of God that passes all understanding.

When I surrender to what this moment brings I am accepting God’s providence. By trusting Him, I am loving Him.

 

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A Monk in the World :: HUMILITY

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


humil’ity, n [L. humilitas.]
freedom from pride and arrogance; humbleness of mind; a modest estimate of one’s own worth; a deep sense of one’s own unworthiness in the sight of God; self-abasement; penitence for sin; and submission to the divine will.** 


Showing respect to the Lord will make you wise and being humble will bring honor to you. ~ Proverbs 15:33


One of the toughest things to learn and practice is humility. Certainly not a topic of daily conversation. But in the last couple of years this is exactly where God has had me parked. And I am reminded of it regularly.  


Why? 

Because I struggle with pride, vanity and every possible opposite of humility.

I will sit and think lowly of myself, having a pity party, imagining no one cares about me, thinking that nothing I do matters to anyone.  I never imagined doing this was prideful.

In fact I am having an immodest estimate of my own worth. I am thinking I should be more important to everyone else than they seem to be showing me.

Everyone who tries to honor himself shall be humbled; and he who humbles himself shall be honored. ~ Luke 14:11

This saying demonstrates that all exaltation is a type of pride. ~ The Rule of Benedict 7:2

Saint Benedict’s Rule has humility at its core because humility is at the core of the Gospel. That means it should be at my core as well.

I might be walking around with humble behavior. But if in my heart I am always seeking more recognition… I’ve still got a lot of work to do!

**Noah Webster 1828 Dictionary

A Monk in the World :: STABILITY

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


Stability is a vow taken by a Benedictine monk binding her to residence for life in the same monastery in which she made her vow. 


Many of us outside the monastery walls change jobs, houses, cars and partners as quickly as we change our clothes. The idea of staying in the same place of residence our entire life is unimaginable! 

Stability is also a critical aspect of addiction recovery. When I was practicing addiction and emotional pain would show up, the first thing I wanted to do was escape.

If I couldn’t numb out with a substance then I wanted to run away. Some how I thought the pain inside wouldn’t follow me, but of course, it always did. 

Even after years of recovery there are days I struggle with the need to escape. But God gently pulls me back to a place of stability.

  • Stability centers us in something Greater than ourselves so nothing less than ourselves can sweep us away.
  • Stability requires listening and acceptance. We must quiet ourselves and listen to what the situation is it trying to teach us.
  • Stability takes the monotonous and creatively betters it. Once we accept the situation freedom comes and we find the creativity to improve it.

The world clamors for us to change everything about ourselves.


 Stability asks us to stay and grow so that change may come.


RESOURCES:
Seeking God: The Way of Saint Benedict by Esther de Waal
Monk Habits for Everyday People: Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants by Dennis Okholm
How to be a Monastic and Not Leave your Day Job by Br. Benet Tvedten
Wisdom Distilled from the Daily: Living the Rule of St. Benedict by Joan Chittister, OSB

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12 Steps of Humility :: PERSEVERANCE

EACH MONTH IN THE 12 STEPS OF HUMILITY WE ARE CLIMBING SAINT BENEDICT’S LADDER OF HUMILITY.  WITH EACH RUNG WE COME CLOSER TO THE PERFECT LOVE OF GOD.

The ladder is our life on earth, if we humble our hearts God will raise it to heaven. ~ St Benedict

Step 4 of Humility: In this obedience under difficult, unfavorable, or even unjust conditions, [her] heart quietly embraces suffering and endures it without weakening or seeking escape.

If you remain faithful to the end you will be saved. ~ Matthew 10:22 


In our world today we want any trial we are facing to be corrected yesterday. We don’t have time, nor are we willing to persevere through the crisis.  This leaves us living as spiritual infants.

According to Saint Benedict in our obedience, we are to hold fast when things aren’t going our way. And the only way to do that is to stay centered on God!

We must take our eyes off the circumstances and how we want things to be and remember everything in life can be a learning opportunity if we allow it.

I love this Webster 1828 definition:

perseverance: continuance in a state of grace to a state of glory.


When we are walking in God’s grace we are more likely to give Him glory. But we can’t be walking in His grace with our eyes on the ground, or on the circumstances or the rearview mirror, or on ourself.

God will only get the glory if we keep Him in the center minute by minute.


RESOURCES:
The Rule of Saint Benedict by Saint Benedict, Edited by Timothy Fry, O.S.B.
Twelve Steps to Inner Freedom: Humility Revisited by Joan D. Chittister**
The Twelve Steps of Humility and Pride by Bernard of Clairvaux
Living in the Truth: Saint Benedict’s Teaching on Humility by Michael Casey

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The 12 Principles of Recovery :: SPIRITUALITY ~ Love God and Others


MY RECOVERY WORK THIS YEAR IS FOCUSED ON THE PRINCIPLES BEHIND THE 12 STEPS, ASKING KEY QUESTIONS THAT WILL HELP TO LEARN THESE CORE VALUES AND PUT THEM INTO PRACTICE. 

STEP 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

PRINCIPLE 3: Spirituality

KEY QUESTION: Am I love-able to God and others?


In the resource I am using for this study (listed below) Dr. Patrick Carnes discusses the common elements most spiritual traditions include. Whether to ourself or others each of these areas require acts of love.

  • Sharing Pain: our pain connects us to the pain of others.
  • Serving others: go outside normal comfort zone and help another person.
  • Joining forces: in times of weakness reach out for help.
  • Making a leap: Even through difficulties keep going forward.


The answer to our key question shows up in how we are processing these steps walking out love. 


Am I afraid to share my pain with others?
 

Am I stepping out of my comfortable circle of friends and helping someone new? 

Am I too proud to ask for help when I’m feeling weak? 

Am I making progress each day, even if it is a baby step?


Over the last year God brought me a new girl friend. Someone with whom I’ve been able to process many of these areas with. I’m good at serving but not the best at reaching out for help when struggling. This is the area I need to work on most.  

It always comes back to loving myself as God does!



RESOURCES:
A Gentle Path through the Twelve Principles: Living the Values Behind the Steps by Patrick Carnes **

A Monk in the World :: CONVERSION of LIFE

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

Last month we learned the first of three primary Benedictine vows: Obedience. Second in our study is Conversatio Morum often translated: Conversion of Life. 


By this vow the monk recognizes that he is not yet fully the person God created him to be, that he is on the way to knowing himself as one loved and created in the divine image whose call is to be as Christ in the world but who has not yet arrived.                                                                              ~ Elizabeth Canham**

Most of my life I have been resistant to change; change in lifestyles, living situations, jobs, etc… Not until my late 40’s was I able to embrace change with joy, seeing the change as a God given adventure with a purpose for my benefit. 

Saint Benedict, writing to his monks in 6th century Italy, encourages them to embrace change and growth, to be transformed by the Spirit inwardly and outwardly.

As Christians we are called to continued spiritual growth. The vow of Conversion builds on this calling us to root out our vices and faults; to cultivate virtue and contemplation; to repent from worldly sin, and apply a lifelong process of discipline and spiritual formation.

With conversion we concentrate on the kind of person we want to become remembering there are no instant conversions. This is a lifelong marathon not a daily sprint. Not focusing so much on what must be removed but by adding in new healthier habits the negative ones will naturally fall away.

In this season of Lent what better time to embrace the Conversion of Life?

RESOURCES:
St. Benedicts Toolbox: The Nuts and Bolts of Everyday Benedictine Living by Jane Tomaine **
Monk Habits for Everyday People: Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants by Dennis Okholm
How to be a Monastic and Not Leave your Day Job by Br. Benet Tvedten
Spirituality for Everyday Living: An Adaptation of the Rule of St. Benedict by Brian C. Taylor
The Path of Life by Cyprian Smith, OSB
The Rule of Saint Benedict edited by Timothy Fry, O.S.B.
Benedictine Monachism: Studies in Benedictine Life and Rule by Edward Cuthbert Butler


The 12 Steps of Humility :: ACCEPT SPIRITUAL DIRECTION

EACH MONTH IN THE 12 STEPS OF HUMILITY WE ARE CLIMBING SAINT BENEDICT’S LADDER OF HUMILITY.  WITH EACH RUNG WE COME CLOSER TO THE PERFECT LOVE OF GOD.


The ladder is our life on earth, if we humble our hearts God will raise it to heaven. ~ St Benedict

The first two rungs on Saint Benedict’s ladder of humility help us find our place in the universe. The next brings us to spiritual adulthood by opening ourselves obediently to the wisdom of others.

Step 3 of Humility: Imitating the Lord Jesus a person should submit to their superior in all obedience.

To begin our spiritual growth process we must first find a mentor / teacher and then be willing to accept direction from them. God graciously puts someone in my life to guide me. It is up to me to recognize their authority and to be teachable! 

Thinking we know it all usually land us face first in the dirt!  If we would have started in that position to begin with, humbly accepting direction, we could have saved ourselves embarrassment.

Growing up depends on learning from others. And learning from others depends on humility, being willing to submit this false sense of unlimited power to the experience and vision and penetrating heart of another. ~ Joan Chittister **

By practicing the First Step of Humility: Recognizing God’s Presence  and the Second Step of Humility: Accepting God’s will  it becomes easier to submit to the authority of a mentor or teacher that has been placed on our life path.


Ultimately it’s up to us to listen, accept direction, and value the insights of others. We must see our teachers, whoever they might be, young or old, as the voice of God speaking to us!


RESOURCES: 
The Rule of Saint Benedict by Saint Benedict, Edited by Timothy Fry, O.S.B.
Twelve Steps to Inner Freedom: Humility Revisited by Joan D. Chittister**
The Twelve Steps of Humility and Pride by Bernard of Clairvaux
Living in the Truth: Saint Benedict’s Teaching on Humility by Michael Casey

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A Monk in the World ::OBEDIENCE

IN MONK IN THE WORLD WE ARE LEARNING THE TEACHINGS AND PRINCIPLES OF CHRISTIAN MONASTICISM AND HOW WE CAN APPLY THEM TO OUR LIVES OUTSIDE THE MONASTERY WALLS. TODAY WE’RE FOCUSING ON the vow of Obedience.



Closely linked to Step 2 of Humility is the discipline of obedience.  In the Benedictine monastic community the members profess three vows: obedience, stability and a life of on-going conversion. Implicit in these are the evangelical vows of chastity and poverty.


Obedience… is not one of our favorite words. Most of us like to think we don’t have to follow all the rules. Some would even say rules are made to be broken. But the truth is most rules are made to protect us from something. 

The root word of obedience is a Latin word for listen. When we want someone to obey us we are really asking them to listen to us. Thinking in this way obedience doesn’t seem so harsh. Isn’t this all God is asking of us? That we listen to Him? After all, He has our best interest in mind when He asks us to do something. 

In the book of Romans the Apostle Paul says obedience comes from faith, (1:5) faith comes from hearing God’s Word (10:17) and that we are mutually encouraged by each other’s faith (1:12). Which leads us to our next point.

In the spirit of Benedictine obedience, I should practice “mutual obedience”  obeying not only those in authority over me but also my fellow brothers and sisters. This fosters harmony in our communities and households. When we see others as the voice of God we will be better listeners.

Obedience is not what we expect from others, it is what we do ourselves for others… Obedience says: Set aside what you are doing. Focus your attention on the person before you to discern what God is asking you to do.  (St. Benedict’s Toolbox)**

Our response to obedience must be joyful and spontaneous. More than the action itself, what matters is the attitude of our heart. When we respond without grumbling, replacing competitiveness with consideration we can live a life of obedience as Saint Benedict teaches in his Rule.

If you can’t see the screen below CLICK HERE for a beautiful worship song by Chris Tomlin.

RESOURCES:
**St. Benedicts Toolbox: The Nuts and Bolts of Everyday Benedictine Living by Jane Tomaine
Monk Habits for Everyday People: Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants by Dennis Okholm
How to be a Monastic and Not Leave your Day Job by Br. Benet Tvedten

Celebrate Discipline :: CELEBRATION

IN OUR CELEBRATE DISCIPLINE COLUMN EACH MONTH WE ARE LEARNING A NEW SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE, HOW TO APPLY IT AND HOPEFULLY GROW INTO THE PEOPLE GOD WANTS US TO BE.

SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES: habits that nurture spiritual growth; exercises unto godliness.


CELEBRATION: actions that turn our spirit toward worship, praise and thanksgiving.

It seems odd to think of Celebration as a Spiritual Discipline. But if it weren’t for Celebration and the joy that feeds it our spiritual life would be drudgery. The Bible tells us that the joy of the Lord is our strength so that means if we don’t find time to celebrate we will run out of energy to function.
During the holiday seasons it is difficult for many to join in the spirit of celebration. Cloudy days and my husband’s demanding work schedule leave me sad and lonely much of the time. I am having to make a decision to find joy in the midst of these oppressive feelings.
The best thing that helps me is to put on some worship music, to search the Internet for an uplifting music video. I sometimes even get up and dance along. That’s sure to change my mood!
If you can’t see the video screen below Click Here for a beautiful example of Celebration and Worship!