Let the Star of Morning Rise by Ted Loder The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Isaiah 9:2
Lord God, in the deepest night there rises the star of morning, of birth, the herald of a new day you are making, a day of great joy dawning in yet faint shafts of light and love.
I hear whispers of peace in the stillness, fresh breezes of promise stirring, winter sparrows chirping of life, a baby's cry of need and hope -- Christmas!
In the darkness I see the light and find in it comfort, confidence, cause for celebration, for the darkness cannot overcome it; and I rejoice to nourish it in myself, in other people, in the world for the sake of him in whom it was born and shines forever, even Jesus the Christ. Amen.
A man found an eagle's egg and put it in the nest of a barnyard hen. The eaglet hatched with the brood of chicks and grew up with them All his life the eagle did what the barnyard chicks did, thinking he was a barnyard chicken. He scratched the earth for worms and insects. He clucked and cackled. And he would thrash his wings and fly a few feet into the air. Years passed and the eagle grew very old. One day he saw a magnificent bird above him in the cloudless sky. It glided in graceful majesty among the powerful wind currents with scarely a beat of his strong golden wings. The old eagle looked up in awe. "Who's that?" he asked "That's the eagle, the king of the birds," said his neighbour. "He belongs to the sky. We belong to the earth - we're chickens." So the eagle lived and died a chicken for that's what he thought he was. Tony de Mello Song of the Bird.
Soren Kierkegaard "Christianity does not join people together. No, it separates them in order to unite every single individual with God. And when a person has become such that he can belong to God and to God alone, he has died away from that which usually joins people together. Every call from God is always addressed to one person, the single individual. Precisely in this lies the difficulty and examination, that the one who is called must stand alone, walk alone, alone with God."
The broken and the oppressed have taught me a great deal and have changed me quite radically. They have helped me discover that healing takes place at the bottom of the ladder, not at the top. Jean Vanier
Many people in L'Arche are close to God, and yet they are so little and poor. They have known rejection and have suffered a great deal. I am always moved as I hear them speak of God. When somebody asked one of our men, Peter, if he liked to pray, he said that he did. So the person continued and asked him what he did when he prayed. He replied: I listen. Then the person asked what God says to him. Peter, a man with Down`s Syndrome, looked up and said: He just says, 'You are my beloved son.' Jean Vanier
Once there was a reed, tall and proud, growing near a stream. He was a fine reed, and how he loved life! He lived every moment to the full. From his height he had a splendid view of the whole area. He watched the small animals scamper to and fro, the birds darting here and there, the multi-hued insects, the fish gliding in the stream. But best of all he liked the flowers. They came in a never ending parade of exquisite form and color. Old friends would go, but new ones promptly followed and they delighted him so that he never stopped to wonder what happened to the old. And all the while he stood, tall and green. Yes, life was good indeed. Then one morning he awoke, and as he looked into the stream he discovered that his tip was turning brown. His dismay grew as day after ay the malady spread until his fine green coat was completely gone. In addition, he began to feel dry, then drier and drier. Then the rains came and beat at him, the winds battered him, and finally a mightly gust snapped him loose from the earth. He lay desolate on the ground, broken, bruised, and heavy-hearted. Some days later, a young man came by and picked him up. He put him into his bag where it was dark, so dark that poor reed could see nothing at all. He longed for the end. Anything would be better than this unending darkness. Finally the day came when the young man took him back out of the bag. How good to see the light again! He saw the fields and rolling hills, and sheep grazing peacefully around. The young man took a sharp knife and cut part of the reed away, hurting him so acutely he couldn’t help but cry out. Then the man ruthlessly pierced him through from end to end, clearing out his hollow. Every inch of his being quivered with pain. Then he was thrust back into the darkness again. Sometime later he was taken out again. He welcomed the light, yet dreaded the pain he anticipated would come along with it. And sure enough, there was the knife. This time the young man mercilessly cut several holes in him. He wept silently. Then he was plunged once more into darkness. The day came when reed, from his black home in the bag, sensed something different about everything; there was some excitement in the air. The young man joined some of the other shepherds and they hurried toward the edge of town. There they went into a cave, and the young man pulled reed out of the bag. Reed braced himself for the inevitable knife. Instead, to his surprise, he felt only the gentle caress of the young man’s hands as he lifted him tenderly to his lips. Then the young man poured his life-breath into him and there came forth from reed a beautiful song, simple and pure. And as reed looked out he saw a young mother and her little Baby. And they both smiled at him.
We moved this past summer, away from the hum of traffic, next to the peace of the woods. Now that winter has arrived, our horizon has changed from bricks and mortar to snow laden trees, colourful birds, quiet foxes and the odd hesitant deer. In order to entice the deer to come around more often my husband bought a salt block and placed it on the small patio across the stream amongst the trees. I was looking at it the other day and noted that the snow had melted in a perfect circle all around this block of salt. I also noted its label which stated that it was pure, no additives, no contaminants, nothing that would harm the environment. It simply rests where it has been placed, quietly offering a pleasant taste, its natural ingredients exuding warmth into the cold snow............
And I thought that is how I must be........... content to be where I am placed offering a pleasant taste to anyone who is hungry or thirsty, providing a natural warmth that would penetrate coldness, clearly labelled by my life so that all could see: pure, no contaminants, nothing artificial, safe...........
no bells or whistles, no lights or drum rolls, no platform .........just quietly and naturally altering the environment around me......
unless you become like a child... 8 or so months ago an older couple were having lunch at my restaurant when they happened to mention that they had inherited an orphanage in Haiti, and had no means to feed them. as we sat and talked i realized that something had to be done so i asked a couple of club members, who happened to be waiting on tables, if we should do something. we voted and adopted an orphanage. we had no committees to run it through, no old members to placate. there were no financial balance sheets to reconcile. the kids needed to eat.so i went to my little group of club members - 30 or so mostly teens and young adults and we talked about what we could do. that saturday we took an "offering" (i hate that word) and the kids got to eat for a month. within a couple of weeks we had 4 months worth of money. the giving never ended. let me assure you, i had very little to do with this. young adults signed over their whole paychecks, others gave 50% or more of their income. it was a marvel to watch.a couple months later we found out that a local pastor that had been helping 'our kids' had died falling off a roof and his body was stuck in the morgue, no money to release it for a funeral. so i told the peeps and that night, on top of the money they already shelled out, they raised $400. there was about 15 teens and young adults, and a few others, there that night.sometime later we found out that if we could somehow raise $800 bucks in 6 months the kids could have a teacher and books come in and have school. 2 or 3 weeks later we sent the money.last night a guy from haiti was here and i interviewed him. i asked him what they needed - $200 bucks for more books and approximately $300 bucks for shoes for all 30 kids. i put it out there, we have a month to raise it, and the kids ponied up $680 plus change. i couldn't get my head around it.one of the seniors who was visiting last night asked me how i could get young people to give and live so sacrificially. i simply said, "i told them if we don't give they don't eat'. i really did nothing else. they are rough and rude, loud and unpolished, authentic and sacrificial.maybe the problem with today's youth isn't that they aren't committed. maybe the problem is that we haven't given them anything of value to be committed to
today I have been ambushed by longing what if I dare to touch the place of longing and desire within me, allow myself to really feel how deep it goes only to discover that those desires cannot be met - what do I do with myself then - how will I live with desire that is awake and alive rather than asleep and repressed can I, like Bartimaeus reach deep within, touch the place of fundamental human need and cry out from that place - Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me! will Jesus hear above all the other voices clamoring for his attention am I willing to embarrass those who surround me by shouting out my honest expression of need and thus capture Jesus' attention will I allow His question "what do you want me to do for you" bring me face to face with my vulnerability, my need, strip away the layers of pretence and superficiality and expose what is truest in me - that most tender and fragile place
seeking the path where there is no trail to know and be known truly seen facing myself and living to tell the tale only done by leaning onto His breast listening for His heart beat until the trumpet sounds
blessed be the name of God forever and ever to whom belong wisdom and might He changes times and seasons He removes kings and sets up kings He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding He reveals deep and hidden things He knows what is in the darkness and the light dwells with Him Daniel 2:19-22
the leader is the guardian of unity he or she must thirst for unity and work for it day and night for this the leader must not fear conflict but rather accept it and strive to be an instrument of reconciliation the leader must be in contact with all the different elements in the community and particularly with those who are in pain or who are angry with the community
A priest spoke to a young man with a disability who was dying of AIDS. "Mike, are you OK?" he asked. Mike in turn asked the priest, "Does God love me?" The priest said, "I'm convinced that God has always loved you and loves you very much today." Mike then asked, "Do you love me?" The priest answered, "I really do, Mike." Spreading his arms to embrace the priest, Mike said, "Then I'm perfectly OK
Of all the things, I remember his feet the most. They showed all the signs of never being used. Gordy had been unable to walk for ten years by the time I met him ......I’ve met very few people who don’t admit to some insecurity about their feet. Foot washings, commemorating Christ’s work at the Last Supper are enough to keep many of us from church. But Gordy was silent. He knew I would see everything but he said nothing. It was as I was putting on his socks one day that I realized Gordy was the holy one in all our efforts. He was serving me and in some very practical ways sacrificing the privacy of his body to do it. I was so disabled inside, afraid to let people see my faults and struggles, because my disabilities could be hidden. Gordy’s outward disability became in a very real sense my inward cure. His willingness to let another see his weakness revealed an inspiring inner strength. Gary Thomas
awakening to the inner garden learning to accept it and live within it we uncover the mysterious seed of divine life within us lovingly energizing our lives moment to moment (1 John 3:9) the Spirit of Christ alive in our hearts this is the gift of contemplation the intimacy we crave remaining in the garden aware that we live and breathe and exist in God we find strength to resist the temptation to project our thoughts into the future and become overwhelmed with fears rather we find our home in the present moment a gate into the eternal Now it is here in the dynamism of the present that God finds us Wayne E. Simsic
Parker Palmer: "a leader must take special responsibility for what is going on inside him or herself lest the act of leadership create more harm than good."
when able to claim our experiences as our own and acknowledge the ways they have shaped us then we are in a position to take responsibility for ourselves rather than be driven by our unconscious patterns of manipulating and controlling reality
most often our reactions are more connected to the past than to what is actually going on in the present
one can only say to God I recognize what I am now and I am none other than what I am - whatever it is that most needs to be done in my life You will have to do ..........
in the realization that it is not about fixing but about letting go life is birthed and freedom tasted
An Unfinished Sermon Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. COLOSSIANS 4:5
My friend and pastor Denny Denson was in the middle of a sermon one Sunday morning when a young man he had been witnessing to for months slipped into the back of the church. The young man was a victim of crack cocaine and had more than once tried to get off the drug, promising to someday attend our church. When Denny saw him walk in that morning, he was hopeful and excited that he had come. After a few minutes the young man got up and walked back outside. Denny understood at once what he needed to do. He stopped in the middle of his sermon and asked the congregation to go to prayer. With that, he followed the man outside and caught up with him a block from the church. After perhaps fifteen minutes the two of them came back inside with good news. The young man had finally accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior. The remainder of the service was spent in worship. Denny never finished his sermon!
Are you willing to be interrupted for the sake of someone who needs the Lord? Michael Card
“I saw a monk working alone in the vegetable garden. I squatted down beside him and said, “Brother, what is your dream?” He just looked straight at me. What a beautiful face he had. “I would like to become a monk.” he answered “But Brother, you are a monk aren’t you?” “I’ve been here for 2 years but I still carry a gun” he drew a revolver from the holster under his robe. It looked so strange, a monk carrying a gun. “And they won’t, are you saying they won’t let you become a monk until you give up your gun?” “No, it’s not that. Most of them don’t even know I have it, but I know.” “Well then, why don’t you give it up”. I guess I have had it so long. I’ve been hurt a lot and I’ve hurt a lot of others. I don’t think I would be comfortable without this gun.” “But you seem pretty uncomfortable with it.” “Yes, pretty uncomfortable, but I have my dream.” “Why don’t you give me the gun?” I whispered. I was beginning to tremble. He did, he gave it to me. His tears ran down to the ground and then he embraced me.
Most of us have a gun, some way of protecting ourselves and making ourselves feel safe, hidden under the robe of our persona.
Are we too comfortable with it to hear God whispering, “Why don’t you give me the gun?”
Will we hand it over and let our tears run to the ground?
Calls are essentially questions. They aren’t questions you necessarily need to answer outright; they are questions to which you need to respond, expose yourself, and kneel before. You don’t want an answer you can put in a box and set on a shelf. You want a question that will become a chariot to carry you across the breadth of your life. Gregg Levoy
Many of the things happening inside of me seemed too shameful to talk about out loud. Laid low by what has happening at (my church) I did not have the energy to put a positive spin on anything ....... beyond my luminous images of Sunday mornings I saw the committee meetings, the numbing routines and the chronically difficult people who took up a large part of my time. Behind my heroic image of myself I saw my tiresome perfectionism, my resentment of those who did not try as hard as I did and my huge appetite for approval. I saw the forgiving faces of my family left behind every holiday for the last fifteen years while I went to conduct services for other people and their families. Above all I saw that my desire to draw as near to God as I could had backfired on me somehow Drawn to care for hurt things, I had ended up with compassion fatigue. Drawn to a life of servant hood I had ended up a service provider Drawn to marry the Divine Presence I had ended up estranged .... Like the bluebirds that sat on my windowsills pecking at the reflections they saw in the glass I could not reach the greenness for which my soul longed. For years I had believed that if I just kept at it the glass would finally disappear. Now for the first time I wondered if I had devoted myself to an illusion........... BTB
Calls are essentially questions. They aren't questions you necessarily need to answer outright; they are questions to which you need to respond, expose yourself, and kneel before. You don't want an answer you can put in a box and set on a shelf. You want a question that will become a chariot to carry you across the breadth of your life." Gregg Levoy
"In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade, or convince, nor to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are focused to remain silent when they are told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. (Probity: the quality of having strong moral principles; honesty and decency) To assent to the obvious lies is to cooperate with evil, and in some small way to become evil oneself. A person’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control."
While pastoring, one day a person named Joey slipped into a back pew - I later found out that Joey was a drug addict living a lifestyle that included thieving, selling drugs and living in a drug induced high, his world a network of young men and women whose world from dawn until late into the night was the pursuit of getting high. He continued to come back week after week, eventually asking for baptism. He sent out invitations to his family and the network that read simply
"You are invited to Joey's funeral and resurrection on Sunday night."
They came, curious and confused.
Joey stood by the baptismal water and said
I am leaving the world that all of us know for real life in Jesus
You will see me around and we will talk
and I hope I will continue to be your friend.
But the Joey you have known has died and in a few minutes will be buried.
The man you will be talking to is somebody who has risen from the dead
and for the first time in his life is really alive.
And seeing as he is dead,
Joey will not be selling drugs any more
and will not be joining you to shoot up or be at parties."
while the land was still enveloped in an early morning fog there was a rap rap rap on the door
our neighbour looking for coffee and company
and so while nibbling on still warm muffins and watching the steam curl up from our cups we sat by the water comfortable in silence
and then his story chapter by chapter came out
this man is now 77 years young born in Austria he came to Canada in his late teens to work on the pipe line
a true self made man little formal education his hands capable of doing almost anything
he fell in love with Canada specifically the lake we both now share
he married a girl from his Austrian home town they had two sons
his wife was never happy here soon she and the boys went back to Austria and he followed to care for them ...........
but his heart remained in this land
and so even now at the age of seventy-seven he still comes back alone every summer for three months ......
every log of his cottage selected and put in his place himself
every stone in his garden selected and put in place himself
the building looks very Austrian in this very Canadian spot
and this sometimes gruff tough rough edged man five years ago became our neighbour
this is the one who led me to the poustinia
suddenly softly he opened the first page of his story
his mother worked as a maid for a wealthy family in Germany the son of this family became attracted to her and she found herself pregnant the family kicked her out the son would have nothing to do with her
she somehow made her way back to Austria where she gave birth to a baby boy
at three days she gave her baby away to a farmer and his wife
and now seventy-seven years later this man/child sitting beside me is weeping with all the "nevers" in his life
the touch of his mother words of love of acceptance of well done the hug of a dad the name of his father
the farmer family fed him clothed him worked him but were unable to love him
never receiving love he has never learned how to give love
and my heart broke at the seventy-seven years without love
so I shared the absolute fact that he had a Father who loved him who accepted him who wanted him
the coffee and muffins long finished he now feasted on the love of a Father
and this man became a boy listening to his Dad loved by his Father
like an unfinished painting a song not yet sung a dream still in the foggy recesses of the unseen a life ending yet barely begun an unformed hope a dance waiting for its rhythm arms full yet empty wrapped in a sigh so wide it would fill the universe I wait in silent stillness noting the storm the fire the earthquake but listening for the whisper
You do not know who I am, and I have never met you, but a friend of mine told me he has been greatly helped by your wisdom and he gave me your address and urged me to write. I trust you will read this email and give me some answers. I am writing to you because my Christian life is a disaster and I have nowhere to turn. I am in a position of leadership in my church and if I shared with the pastor or any other deacons the way my life is, I do not know what would happen. I know I would no longer be welcome in the church. I pray you will read this and be able to help me. Let me say upfront that if you saw me in the context of the church, in the weekly meetings, in social gatherings with other church members or teaching my adult Sunday school class, you would never imagine that I am not the person you see. I did not set out to be a hypocrite. From the very first I gave my very best to live for Jesus. I have disciplined myself to pray every day and read and even memorize scripture. I honestly set out every week to live for Jesus. But I fail every time. The life that my family and the people I work with see is very different from the one that is portrayed before the church. I have a terrible temper that I cannot control however much I try. I wrestle every day with lustful thoughts and when I am out of town on business I watch pornographic movies in the hotel room. I have a brother I have not spoken to in twenty years and cannot bring myself to forgive because of a betrayal of confidence that deeply hurt me. If Christianity is loving as Jesus loved then count me out. But above all I do not love God; I do not find joy in prayer or bible reading - it is something I do because I have been told that it will nurture my Christian life. But my heart is not in keeping His commands and being with Him; in fact there are times I have to admit that I envy the world - they look a lot happier than I ever feel. Maybe I have continued to live this way for the past ten years because in the church I can get by with a veneer that satisfies my peers and leaders. You know what I mean by veneer - the rules of the subculture we evangelicals are part of. I went over them the other day. We are the people who do not do certain things; we do not go to certain places; we do not smoke or drink liquor, nor do we dress like the world, especially our poor women! As long as I keep these rules everyone thinks I am a great Christian. But in the last weeks I have faced myself and realized that the Bible primarily addresses my thoughts, motives, and relationships not so much the lists that I spend my life trying to keep that have been given by the church. Above all it commands me to love God and delight in Him, to obey His commands out of love for Him. I miserably fail. The truth is I do not love God. It would be more correct to say that I am afraid of Him and go to church and pray because I am afraid if I do not, I will go to hell. I look around at the others in my church, even my friends, and wonder if they are living in the same craziness that I am - and why not? They do not know what I am really like. Do they scream at their kids and sneak pornography when no one is watching? Do they go through all the words and motions on Sunday while their hearts are untouched and without love for God? Is their religious life like mine, just a millimeter thick mask over the real person underneath? There have been times when I think that I have had an experience of God. At special meetings when hands have been laid on me I have felt a warm glow inside, the flickering of a joy that has lasted for a couple of weeks and I have wondered if that is how real Christians feel all the time. At times I have heard a message that lays out a formula for living as a victorious Christian and I have tried it, but it feels artificial when I try to live it out with the guys at the office. All my spurts of hope that I can live this life are dead ends and leave me in greater despair than before. In the last weeks I have looked at myself and evaluated what my life is really like. It has left me in utter despair. This letter is my last attempt to ask someone I can trust if the Christian life can be lived by ordinary people like my friends and me. Tell me honestly, is it for a few unusual people who do not have the desires that we have, who really do hate the world and love God? And if it is for everyone, then is there something I have missed. Is there a level of dedication or an experience I need to have that will finally get me living the Christian life? Or is my life as I have tried to describe it to you as good as it gets? If my experience of Christianity is as good as it gets then I will quietly walk away from it all. I can no longer live a life that is so incredibly shallow and meaningless. Please be honest with me - if you tell me that this is the way Christianity really works out in practice I will not tell anyone you said so; I will burn your response and drop out. There is a Bible study and prayer meeting at the church tonight and I do not want to go; in fact I have no interest in being there. If I go, it is because I do not want to go through the hassle of being asked by the pastor why I was not there or of having my friends think I am backsliding. But I think I will stay home because I am sick of this game. Please answer me and be honest with me, whatever the answer is. Thank you.
dark still rain pelts against the window no bird songs filling the air the house is silent as the land simply lies there drinking in the rain
only six hours remaining here then pack up and off to the cottage and although it has been amazing I am ready to go and happy to be leaving some baggage behind to go home lighter than I arrived
the Spirit had His own plans for yesterday I learned a lot about myself and others I learned a lot deeper things of God, His Son and Spirit I learned more about what it means to embrace the altar and die I learned that in the body we really do feel one another's pain I learned that freedom comes with a cost I learned there is a lot of judgement within the body I learned to stand at the foot of the cross
and so here I am Friday .......... and while other days have been days of giving this is a day set aside to receive
something not always easy for me to do
still unsure exactly what it is that God wishes me to be transparent about I went to the very end of the dock last evening, to be close to the water – I lay on the dock and noted that although the waves would cause the dock to shake a bit, it remained solid – did not collapse – or be destroyed– that is how I feel at times, there is a shaking when stuff comes against me, but my feet are solidly planted on the Rock of Jesus – and I am not destroyed
a boat must have gone by somewhere – I did not see it nor hear it but the waves, the ramifications of its passing, now reach me, touch me – and this makes me think of sin in the body of Christ, or our own generational sins – we do not see it, nor hear it, and yet it eventually reaches us, crashes into us, touches us if it is not cut off...........
then I looked up and saw a huge hawk or perhaps an eagle??????????? (I have been crying out to see an eagle) circling above, floating in the thermal, never moving its wings, content to go where the wind took it, not fighting, resisting or even assisting the wind, just soaring in the heat of the love of God, in the wind of the Spirit – no matter where, no matter when ........ and how I long to live like that ........... no matter where, no matter when, no resisting or assisting, soaring in the wind........... completely abandoned to the Wind .............
and so we will see what comes out of my mouth when asked to share .......
and so here I am tucked away in this beautiful room in this quite amazing place on the shores of Wolfe Lake
I have been blessed this time with a private room called eagle I wonder at the name and what it is I will see whether it will be an outward seeing or an inward seeing
there are only five of us on this course some came farther than others but we all came because of One
it is an eight day course necessitating bringing some luggage but we quickly learned tucked in our luggage is some baggage
yesterday we shared our stories and we all have a story ...........
last evening was very tender after worship we positioned ourselves before the Lord in a womb of silence allowing Him to place His finger on areas needing His touch
I discovered my well of grief has not yet been emptied and the grief is far wider deeper more encompassing and painful than I knew
it was sort of fitting that it was storming outside the pelting rain and bending trees a vivid picture of what was going on inside my heart
later I lay in this huge bed and simply let the tears flow until it seemed my heart was pillowed on a sea of salty water
in the middle of the night I got up to pray and journal and found a tender prayer that had been emailed to me by this new found friend in England
he also included a picture of the view from his poustinia his name is David how fitting as he spends his days watching the sheep of his pasture .......... he says we have much to learn from sheep ..........
this is now day 3 of the course and I somewhat hesitantly await its unfolding .....
tonight we will simply gather and worship for the evening .....
I have no doubt it will be a day of wonder .............