Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Devotional reading 230211

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Life is full of all kinds of challenges and surprising turns. Who knows how the political unrest in the Middle East may lead to at the end? The spirit of revolution is spreading like wild fire in that general region. Many M workers who have been ministering in that region for a long time, believe this political unrest should bring better future for the grass-root people. The question is how much will it cost for such revolution. Let’s pray for peaceful transition and minimum casualty in that region. Pray also for churches and Christians in those countries that they will not become scapegoats in the conflict…

One of the most positive of the ten commandments stresses the need for a weekly time of reflection. The commandment to keep holy the Sabbath requires that once a week we stop every kind of active endeavor, that we rest and turn to our Creator and to our fellow creatures. We meet together for worship. It makes little difference whether the time of rest is Saturday or the Christian first day of the week; the principle is the same. We need both the activity of worship and the time for preparation, time for a little spiritual housecleaning beyond the daily tidying up and dusting. We need to take out the trash in ourselves and perhaps straighten up the deepest closet or file away some of the things on top of an inner desk.

I find that I need a couple of hours each week for this, to see what I have been doing, how I have been doing, and what I need to be doing. This is a time for centering and getting my perspective back, in which my daily times of quiet are brought together and come to fruition. This time can be used in various ways, perhaps to read more in the Bible, or to take a longer look at either a problem or a project in one’s spiritual life. It may be needed to probe deeper, to get at the roots of things and unravel those too complex for the daily times of quiet. Sometimes these hours are needed just to become really still, to let the rush within one die down. Or again, they can be used to check one’s life and action against the priorities one has set for oneself…When these longer periods of stopping have borne fruit, they carry over into ordinary life. We become aware of this deeper level of reality in the midst of ordinary preoccupations, and strangely it does not make us less efficient, but more so. It is almost as if, even when we sleep, we become conscious of the presence of God touching us.

I have learned to try to check with this deeper insight and when I do, the best intuitions come. They are purely given, striking like an arrow with a message hanging from it that passes before the inner eye. Even in public when I am speaking from a prepared talk. I find that if only I can hang loose, often a new idea inserts itself into my outline and I say something unexpected that gets through to people. This is just a sample of the ways in which one can catch momentary reflections of the spiritual dimension and find oneself looking both horizontally—at the physical world—and vertically at the same time.

The same thing happens when people use the Eastern Orthodox technique that has become so widely known as the “Jesus prayer.” As a person says this brief prayer over and over again—“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”—gradually the entreaty becomes the undercurrent, the very foundation of life and action. Somewhere deep within, a person becomes aware of contact with another reality. The classic story of this devotional practice, the Way of a Pilgrim, describes the growth of this awareness and some of the effects on the world of people and matter. This kind of sustained concentration on another level of reality can go on while one is at work mowing a lawn, or even while adding a column of figures or writing a letter. It is possible to live on two different levels at once, and even to increase one’s efficiency in the outer world at the same time.

Someone has said that the lives of most persons are like jewelry store where some trickster has mixed up the price tags. The diamonds are priced at next to nothing and some worthless baubles at thousands of dollars. Unless we stop business as usual and take stock, we are likely to end up in bankruptcy. So long as the store is crowded with people, there is no chance of taking inventory and putting things to rights. We must close the doors and take the time alone. Then we can check with the stock list, our list of priorities, and give the right value to the right object. If we truly believe that God is a loving Father, there need be no fear He will take away what we need (or think we need). He wants us to find Him so that He can bring us to our deepest and most lasting satisfactions.

Still, life has a way of keeping our priorities or price tags shuffled, and to bring order and harmony into life, to find meaning in it, requires stopping and redeeming time by reflection in quiet and silence. Indeed, we need to quiet before the Lord, collect our many fragmented pieces in life and submit them to Christ. If we are attentive to the Author of Life in meditation, we will discover how He can put all these fragmented pieces of life into a beautiful picture for us. It is energy saving when life is integrative. It is draining when life is compartmentalized into different pieces – we feel like we are being torn apart by different demands in life. Through our quiet time in the Lord, He put us back into one wholesome being again. So again, devotional time is not something you do for God’s favor but for yourselves. You are being built up and healed through your daily devotional time with the Risen Christ or Holy Spirit…Remember. God wants to make you whole again.

Enjoy His love with you in Christ,

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