Thursday, January 31, 2008

The new monasticism

The Los Angeles Times profiles young Evangelicals who, having grown weary of soft, suburbanized Christianity, have chosen to live monastically, in community with each other. Read the story.
Then check out the movement's website and the 12 marks of the movement.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Lead on

O Thou whose patience we have too long tried, after so many ineffectual vows, we almost fear to repent, lest we only add one unfaithfulness more, and turn our last strength into weakness. Increase our faith that we may no longer lean on our broken will, but throw ourselves freely open unto Thee, watch Thy guiding light and follow where Thou mayst lead. Lead, Kindly Light, throughout the coming year. Lead Thou us on. In all things atune our hearts now and for all time to come to the holiness and harmony of Thy Kingdom. Amen.
-- James Martineau

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


You might feel you know your mind
but do you know your heart as well?

Monday, January 28, 2008

living with Jesus

Accepting Jesus into your life is a single act,
but becoming like Jesus is a long process of living with the living Jesus,
living in the living Jesus,
and letting Jesus live in your life.
-- Juris Rubenis Finding God in a Tangled World

Sunday, January 27, 2008

going to church

-- First Baptist Church

the power of prayer

Read about Little Ruby as told by Abbot Thomas.

Litany of Humility

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
-Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved,
-Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled,
-Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being honored,
-Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being praised,
-Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others
-Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted,
-Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being approved,
-Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated,
-Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being despised,
-Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
-Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being calumniated,
-Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten,
-Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed,
-Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged,
-Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected,
-Deliver me, Jesus.
That others may be loved more than I,
-Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I,
-Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease,
-Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
-Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
-Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
-Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy
as I should,
-Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val

Saturday, January 26, 2008


Although I really appreciate the benefits of technology, I cannot resist sharing this quote from Robert Wilensky, professor of Information Science at the University of California at Berkeley:
We've heard that a million monkeys at a million keyboards could produce the Complete Works of Shakespeare; now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Who likes Jesus?

Jesus said to the Father,
"I don't want to be crucified. I want all people to love me."
"That's not possible," God replied.
"Not all people do the will of God.
Those who do not do the will of God are never going to like you."
-- Juris Rubenis Finding God in a Tangled World

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

enjoy the coffee

A group of alumni, highly established in their careers, got together to visit their old university professor. Conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in work and life. Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups - porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite - telling them to help themselves to the coffee.

When all the students had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor said: "If you noticed, all the nice looking expensive cups were taken up, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is normal for you to want only the best for yourselves that is the source of your problems and stress. Be assured that the cup itself adds no quality to the coffee. In most cases it is just more expensive and in some case even hides what we drink. What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup, but you consciously went for the best cups... And then you began eyeing each other's cups. Now consider this: Life is the coffee; the jobs, money and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain Life, and the type of cup we have does not define, nor change the quality of Life we live. Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee God has provided us."

"God brews the coffee, not the cups.... Enjoy your coffee!
"The happiest people don't have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything."
-- Dr. Jamie Higley, D.C.
thank you, Karen

Monday, January 21, 2008

one reason why I return to Blue Cloud Abbey

Solitude is the garden for our hearts, which yearn for love. It is the place where our aloneness can bear fruit. It is the home for our restless bodies and anxious minds. Solitude, whether it is connected with a physical space or not, is essential for our spiritual lives. It is not an easy place to be, since we are so insecure and fearful that we are easily distracted by whatever promises immediate satisfaction. Solitude is not immediately satisfying, because in solitude we meet our demons, our addictions, our feelings of lust and anger, and our immense need for recognition and approval. But if we do not run away, we will meet there also the One who says, "Do not be afraid. I am with you, and I will guide you through the valley of darkness."
Let's keep returning to our solitude.
-- Henri Nouwen Society

Sunday, January 20, 2008

more from Blue Cloud Abbey

For more pictures from Blue Cloud Abbey, check today's and tomorrow's posts on my bird blog.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

we're back

My friend, Jerry, and I sitting next to the organ in the Blue Cloud Abbey chapel. On the right, we're relaxing in the refectory. For more pictures from the Abbey, click here.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Blue Cloud Abbey

Tomorrow morning I will be leaving for a brief retreat at Blue Cloud Abbey.
I will resume posting on Friday or Saturday.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


Even the most ordinary among us
are quite extraordinary.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

the path to God

Obedience is one path to God, freedom is another.
In Jesus the two paths come together.
-- Juris Rubenis Finding God in a Tangled World

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

God's pace

God is so close, so intimate,
like a shadow that cannot separate itself from us.
When we dance, God dances.
When we weep, God weeps.
When we run, God runs with us.
Whenever we say:
"It is enough, I am weary and can go no further,"
God tenderly sits and waits for us
until we are renewed and ready to continue the journey.
God moves at our pace.
-- Edwina Gateley A Mystical Heart

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


Have the courage to be alone. Only when you have really achieved that, when you have done it in a Christian way, can you hope to present a Christmas heart, that is a gentle, patient, courageous, delicately affectionate heart, to those whom you are striving to love.
-- K.Rahner

Monday, January 07, 2008

C. S. Lewis -- fundamentalist?

I try to stay away from long quotes, but this is an excerpt from C. S. Lewis' Reflections on the Psalms that's worth the space & time:

I have been suspected of being what is called a Fundamentalist. That is because I never regard any narrative as unhistorical simply on the ground that it includes the miraculous. Some people find the miraculous so hard to believe that they cannot imagine any reason for my acceptance of it other than a prior belief that every sentence of the Old Testament has historical or scientific truth. But this I do not hold, any more than St. Jerome did when he said that Moses described Creation “after the manner of a popular poet” (as we should say, mythically) or than Calvin did when he doubted whether the story of Job were history or fiction. The real reason why I can accept as historical a story in which a miracle occurs is that I have never found any philosophical grounds for the universal negative proposition that miracles do not happen.

I have to decide on quite other grounds (if I decide at all) whether a given narrative is historical or not. The Book of Job appears to me unhistorical because it begins about a man quite unconnected with all history or even legend, with no genealogy, living in a country of which the Bible elsewhere has hardly anything to say; because, in fact, the author quite obviously writes as a story-teller not as a chronicler.

I have therefore no difficulty in accepting, say, the view of those scholars who tell us that the account of Creation in Genesis is derived from earlier Semitic stories which were Pagan and mythical. We must of course be quite clear what “derived from” means. Stories do not reproduce their species like mice. They are told by men. Each re-teller either repeats exactly what his predecessor had told him or else changes it. He may change it unknowingly or deliberately. If he changes it deliberately, his invention, his sense of form, his ethics, his ideas of what is fit, or edifying, or merely interesting, all come in. If unknowingly, then his unconscious (which is so largely responsible for our forgettings) has been at work. Thus at every step in what is called–a little misleadingly–the “evolution” of a story, a man, all he is and all his attitudes, are involved. And no good work is done anywhere without aid from the Father of Lights. When a series of such retellings turns a creation story which at first had almost no religious or metaphysical significance into a story which achieves the idea of true Creation and of a transcendent Creator (as Genesis does), then nothing will make me believe that some of the re-tellers, or some one of them, has not been guided by God.

Thus something originally merely natural–the kind of myth that is found amongst most nations–will have been raised by God above itself, qualified by Him and compelled by Him to serve purposes which of itself would not have served. Generalising this, I take it that the whole Old Testament consists of the same sort of material as any other literature–chronicle (some of it obviously pretty accurate), poems, moral and political diatribes, romances, and what not; but all taken into the service of Gods word. Not all, I suppose, in the same way. There are prophets who write with the clearest awareness that Divine compulsion is upon them. There are chroniclers whose intention may have been merely to record. There are poets like those in the Song of Songs who probably never dreamed of any but a secular and natural purpose in what they composed. There is (and it is not less important) the work first of the Jewish and then of the Christian Church in preserving and canonising just these books. There is the work of redactors and editors in modifying them. On all of these I suppose a Divine pressure; of which not by any means all need have been conscious.

The human qualities of the raw materials show through. Naivet, error, contradiction, even (as in the cursing Psalms) wickedness are not removed. The total result is not “the Word of God” in the sense that every passage, in itself, gives impeccable science or history. It carries the Word of God; and we (under grace, with attention to tradition and to interpreters wiser than ourselves, and with the use of such intelligence and learning as we may have) receive that word from it not by using it as an encyclopedia or an encyclical but by steeping ourselves in its tone or temper and so learning its overall message.

To a human mind this working-up (in a sense imperfectly), this sublimation (incomplete) of human material, seems, not doubt, an untidy and leaky vehicle. We might have expected, we may think we should have preferred, an unrefracted light giving us ultimate truth in systematic form–something we could have tabulated and memorised and relied on like the multiplication table. One can respect, and at moments envy, both the Fundamentalists view of the Bible and the Roman Catholics view of the Church. But there is one argument which we should beware of using for either position: God must have done what is best, this is best, therefore God has done this. For we are mortals and do not know what is best for us, and it is dangerous to prescribe what God must have done–especially when we cannot, for the life of us, see that He has after all done it.

We may observe that the teaching of Our Lord Himself, in which there is no imperfection, is not given us in that cut-and-dried, fool-proof, systematic fashion we might have expected or desired. He wrote no book. We have only reported sayings, most of them uttered in answer to questions, shaped in some degree by their context. And when we have collected them all we cannot reduce them to a system. He preaches but He does not lecture. He uses paradox, proverb, exaggeration, parable, irony; even (I mean no irreverence) the “wise-crack”. He utters maxims which, like popular proverbs, if rigorously taken, may seem to contradict one another. His teaching therefore cannot be grasped by the intellect alone, cannot be “got up” as if it were a “subject”. If we try to do that with it, we shall find Him the most elusive of teachers. He hardly ever gave a straight answer to a straight question. He will not be, in the way we want, “pinned down”. The attempt is (again, I mean no irreverence) like trying to bottle a sunbeam.

Sunday, January 06, 2008


There are two kinds of dreams:
those we dream by night
(from which we wake to find they were not real);
and those we dream by day
(which we can act upon to make possible).

Saturday, January 05, 2008

a good life

Today I attended a funeral that was truly a celebration of a fruitful life dedicated to God and family. She was the mother of one of our neighbors -- she was 97 -- she loved to dance the Charleston. The funeral mass ended with the congregation singing Ain't She Sweet as the priest led the family out of the sanctuary. The bulletin contained this prayer of St. Francis of Assisi:

Lord make me an instrument of Thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master;
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
and it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Do we know all about Jesus?

Jesus decided to walk the earth again. He climbed down from the crucifix, put on ordinary clothes, and knocked at the door of a certain pastor.
"I am Jesus," he said.
"You can't be," the pastor answered. "Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father."
"That is true," Jesus continued, "but I have decided to come and take a look at life on earth."
"But Jesus will come in glory with all his angels," the pastor said emphatically.
"True," Jesus said, "but on that occasion there will be no time to talk with me."
"But I have nothing to say to you," the pastor replied. "I know all about you already."
"That's a pity!" Jesus replied, and he returned to the cross.
-- Juris Rubenis, Finding God in a Tangled World

Thursday, January 03, 2008

God's creation

The Bible itself speaks to us of the origin of the universe and its make-up, not in order to provide us with a scientific treatise, but in order to state the correct relationships of man with God and with the universe. Sacred Scripture wishes simply to declare that the world was created by God, and in order to teach this truth it expresses itself in the terms of the cosmology in use at the time of the writer.
-- John Paul II

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


Some food for thought for those of us who do not appreciate the short & cold days of winter:

There is a privacy about it which no other season gives you... In spring, summer and fall, people sort of have an open season on each other; only in winter can you have longer, quiet stretches when you can savor belonging to yourself.
-- Ruth Stout


My New Year's resolutions last year were rather vague, perhaps intentionally so. Although I've not made any new ones for this year, I have thought about them. The following, by Glen H. Stassen, Living the Sermon on the Mount, was helpful for me in regaining what I believe to be a proper perspective, i.e, what does Jesus teach?

Jesus' climax at the end of the Beatitudes says exactly this: Stand faithful and do not get blown about by the ideologies of the world. . . . If we lose our distinction from the world's greed, uncaring, self-centeredness, exclusionism, unfaithfulness, and violence, then we have no purpose.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Christmases past

As you reflect upon the Christmas just past, were you disappointed? Maybe it didn't have the magic you remember as a child -- a young person -- or even more recently. Perhaps this statement by Richard John Neuhaus may help:

There is no point in trying to recapitulate Christmas as you knew it when you were, say, seven years old. That way lies sentimentalities unbounded. The alternative, is the way of contemplation, of demanding of oneself the disciplined quiet to explore, and be explored by, the astonishment of God become one of us that we may become one with God.

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