Classic Prayers: A Second-Century Martyr


This is a prayer from the account of the martyrdom of Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna who died for his faith in the mid-second century (and paraphrased a bit for language):

“O Father of Your well-beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, through whom we have known You; O God of the angels and powers and of every living creature, and of all sorts of just ones who live in Your presence, I thank You for graciously giving this very day and hour to me—to be numbered among those martyrs for the faith and to be given a place among the people of God in the resurrection into everlasting life, both of body and soul, in the incorruption of the Holy Spirit; among whom I will be received into Your sight this very day as a fruitful and acceptable sacrifice, as You have prepared, revealed and now fulfill. For all things I praise You, bless You, glorify You through the everlasting High Priest, Jesus Christ, Your well-beloved Son, to whom with You and the Holy Spirit, be all glory, world without end Amen.” 

Tested Faith is No Game


desert-cross-798493

(Today, my last full day in the Dominican Republic, I will spend at a remote Trappist monastery above Jarabacoa working on my book project on “Unhurried Time.” The quiet in this location is like a soft blanket on a cold morning. I’d be grateful for Your prayers that my heart and mind would be attentive to whatever God may wish to give me as I write. Thank you!

I fly out of Santo Domingo tomorrow afternoon and arrive at LAX midnight. I will unlike be able to approve or respond to comments them. Thanks for your patience.)

I appreciated hearing Emilie Griffin present at the “Jesus Way” conference sponsored by Renovaré in San Antonio, TX back in July 2009. I returned to my excerpts from her book, Clinging, and found this one:

“Yet we experience trials. We say they are tests, and so they are. Not that God is playing games with us. Far from it. Instead, as our love deepens and our capacities grow, He lets us share in the very reality that lies at the center of things. And we sense this growth as a cross. The stretching is painful. But in the letter of James, we are told not to think, ever, that evils are sent to us from God.” (Emilie Griffin, Clinging. New York: McCracken Press, 1994, p. 82)

When you experience seasons when you feel your faith is being stretched to near the breaking point, how do you feel towards God? How psalm-honest do you pray the truth of your heart to Him? Are you able to begin recognizing the realities to which He is awakening you?

Buy a copy of Clinging: The Experience of Prayer at Amazon.com

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The Priceless Worth of Tested Trust


A surf shack on a beach near Cabarete, The Dominican Republic

(A repost from September 2008)

It can be very hard in the world of instantly expected results to understand that spiritual formation always takes longer than we thought it would—in our own lives, in the lives of those we care about, in our faith communities.

Below are a couple excerpts from Jean Grou (who I quoted in an earlier post) on this theme:

See by what a series of misfortunes Joseph attained the summit of honour: for long years he only escaped from one danger to fall into a still greater one; and when he believed himself to be hopelessly forgotten in the depths of a dungeon, God drew him from thence and raised him to a position of the highest dignity. What was it that supported Joseph during this chain of adversities? It was the spirit of faith: he never lost his confidence in God; he always believed that God would accomplish what He has promised.” (Fr. Jean Grou, S. J. Manual for Interior Souls. London: St. Anselm’s Society, 1913, p. 135-36.)

Do I have such a spirit of faith as Joseph did in his long wait for God’s fulfilled promise? Do I believe that faith is only proven through testing, and only deeply proven through deep testing? Sometimes! In my own waiting rooms, do I continue to believe that God will accomplish what He has promised to me in the past? And will God’s faithfulness dim if mine falls short at times?

As Grou continues to comment on the place of testing in the lives of the faithful, he offers one view of the terrain in this extended excerpt (and it’s not for the faint of heart!)

“So it is in the law of grace with those souls whom God calls to a high state of [holiness]. He generally begins by unveiling His designs for them; He loads them at first with gifts and favours; and when they think that they are far advanced in His good graces, little by little He withdraws from them: he takes away his gifts; He casts them from one abyss into another; and when He has brought them to a state apparently of utter loss, to an absolute sacrifice of themselves, He raises them up again, and, with the new life which He communicates to them, He gives them an assurance and a foretaste of eternal beatitude. This state of probation, which is a series of crosses, of bodily sufferings, of mental agonies, of desolations, humiliations, calumnies, and persecutions, lasts sometimes for fifteen or twenty years, sometimes longer, according to the designs of God, and the greater or less generosity and faithfulness of the soul.” (Grou, p. 136.)

This won’t sell a lot of his books today, will it! And it may take you a couple of readings for it to soak in.

Grou may be overstating his case a bit, but my experience is that the reality of the life, the death and the resurrection of Christ has to actually do its work in me over time so that He might be more formed in me. By His life, I mean those experiences of vitality, exuberance, comfort and consolation. By His death, I mean those trying, losing, suffering places. By His resurrection, I mean those expressions of His presence and power that cannot be explained by merely human resources—a life that comes on the other side of a death (hence resurrection).

Are there times when you feel like something you had hoped for from God (and perhaps even felt promised by him) has actually died? Perhaps it won’t be until it is well dead and gone that He surprises us with an unexpected resurrection.

Click here to make any Amazon purchase in support of this blog.
This does not add to the cost of your order, but provides a small referral fee to this ministry

Psalm 9: Trusting in the Midst of Trouble


A courtyard at the Serra Retreat where our upcoming Streams of Grace retreat will be held

[As you’ve likely read before, this post is part of an ongoing discipline through Thanksgiving of “Praying the Hours”. It has continued to be a rich place of meeting with God for me. Feel free to download the resource and join in anytime]

Psalm 9:9-10
The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
Those who know your name will trust in you,
for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.

When my life feels heavy, how do I respond? Do I get depressed? Do I try to escape the pressure and hide from the burden? Or, do I learn to find myself, in the midst of the hard place, in the comfort and nurture of God’s presence? It’s one thing to think about God as a refuge when I don’t feel the need for one. It’s something else to remember in the midst of feeling anxious, fearful and threatened that the Lord is with me there to care for me and walk with me. I’m not alone. He is a refuge for the oppressed.

When trouble strikes and I’m not sure where to turn, how do I respond? Do I let anxiety drive me to mindless reactions? Do I allow fear to paralyze me from moving forward? Or, do I find, there in the midst, that God is a very safe place to live? In trouble, how might I learn to allow God’s Spirit to draw me into the safety of His presence? When I feel exposed outwardly, how might I learn to trust inwardly in that He is for me a strong tower in which I can find security? He is a stronghold in times of trouble.

When life becomes oppressive or enters times of trouble, this is when my gut image of God is exposed. The hard places reveal what I truly and deeply believe about Who God is. How well do I “know His name”? Am I tempted to think, “If You really loved me, You would never have allowed this!” or “If You really were protecting me, I wouldn’t have ended up in this mess!” It’s in the times when outward evidence tempts me to conclude that God has forgotten me (or worse) that I can offer simple trust in His goodness and reliability. I can remember what I’ve learned about “His name” in the places of felt blessing, provision and protection. I can remind myself that God is not in the habit of abandoning those who are turned towards Him and aiming their lives towards Him. Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.

Reflection Question:

  • What have been the troubling or oppressive places in your journey most recently? In what ways have these places turned you away from God? Towards God? Talk to Him about this. Welcome His help. Acknowledge times you’ve been more forgetful than faithful. Feel the welcome of His mercy and grace.

 

A Good Word: Spiritual Sunrise After a Dark Night


“Teresa of Avila and her great companion, John of the Cross, have both written of a stage on the [journey] known as the dark night of the soul, where all the light of warmth and joy in their spiritual lives seemed quenched, and where in their desolation they seemed destined to go on wearily plodding through the darkness, forsaken by every comfort and consolation, and despairing of ever finding light again. To those who flung themselves on God and went on, however, they give ardent testimony that this state passed away and a new sense of their utter reliance on Him and His bounty emerged. Now they were tested. Now they knew at first hand that nothing, “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38, 39). Until this has taken place the estate of rapture is still young and [immature] and in a way is not yet theirs. Only as they work through it, incorporate it, lose it, and by faithfulness regain it again do the deeper stages of contemplation come to them.” (Steere, Douglas. Work & Contemplation. New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, p. 133-34).

Buy a copy of Work & Contemplation on Amazon.com

 

Looking Back: Tested Faith is No Game


Today, I am enjoying the opportunity to lead “An Unhurried Day with Jesus” at Sunrise Community Church in Fair Oaks, CA, where I began in ministry and where Gem and I met, began dating, were engaged and married. What a gift to serve this community that so served me. I’d be very grateful if you would take a moment to pray for us that we will be enabled to enter in to all that God desires to give and to do in and among us today. (I’m also preaching both Sunday morning services at Sunrise if you happen to be in the area. I’m sharing a message from Ephesians 3:16-21 titled “Prayer: A Relationship With God.” I’ve really been enjoying that passage over the last year.)

By the way, I am in the process of exploring church hosts and partners for late 2010 and 2011 “An Unhurried Day with Jesus” events. If you have any interest at all in the possibility of hosting such a Saturday retreat at your church, would you get in touch with me so we can talk (alan@tli.cc or 949.951.5558). It would be a treat to serve your community, and perhaps other churches in your area who might be open to partnering in such a day.

For today’s post, I’m sharing a link back to a post from June 2009 about the gift of proven faith. How does God go about testing and more deeply rooting our faith in Him? I think you’ll appreciate this good word from Emilie Griffin’s book Clinging.

CLICK for “Tested Faith is No Game”

Buy of copy of Clinging on Amazon.com

 

A Good Word: Tested Faith is No Game


desert-cross-798493I enjoyed hearing Emilie Griffin speak at the recent “Jesus Way” conference sponsored by Renovaré in San Antonio, TX. I went back to some of my excerpts from her book, Clinging, and found this one:

“Yet we experience trials. We say they are tests, and so they are. Not that God is playing games with us. Far from it. Instead, as our love deepens and our capacities grow, He lets us share in the very reality that lies at the center of things. And we sense this growth as a cross. The stretching is painful. But in the letter of James, we are told not to think, ever, that evils are sent to us from God.” (Emilie Griffin, Clinging. New York: McCracken Press, 1994, p. 82)

When you experience seasons when you feel your faith is being stretched to near the breaking point, how do you feel towards God? How psalm-honest do you pray the truth of your heart to Him? Are you able to begin recognizing the realities to which He is awakening you?

Buy a copy of Clinging: The Experience of Prayer at Amazon.com