“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; those who act accordingly have a good understanding; his praise endures forever.”
While Jesus tells us to not be afraid, and Paul says that God has not given us a spirit of fear, the Psalms have a way of putting us in our place. Those who are wise rightly fear the Lord, even if God does not come to us with thunder and fire.
The gentleness and meekness of Jesus is much like the same approach of Moses, who veiled his face after seeing God’s glory. God does not seek our worship or reverence through intimidation, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fear the holiness and power of God.
A healthy “fear” of the Lord keeps us humble and helps us see God’s love and mercy with greater clarity and gratitude.
Week Four: Finding God in Silence…
Perhaps you’ve hoped, prayed, and waited for God to speak or you’ve spoken many words in your pursuit of God. Henrí Nouwen writes that God is present in the silence and that our pursuit of silence may be one of the surest paths to God.
While acknowledging the place of speaking and teaching, Nouwen reminds us that our words can often get us in trouble. James assured us that the tongue is a restless evil that the Desert Fathers and Mothers sought to overcome by “fleeing” the use of many words.
Out of this pursuit of silence, they found freedom to speak less but with greater insight and awareness of God.
“Silence is the way to make solitude a reality. The Desert Fathers praise silence as the safest way to God.”
“The Word of God is born out of the eternal silence of God, and it is to this Word out of silence that we want to be witnesses.”
“Speaking gets us involved in the affairs of the world, and it is very hard to be involved without becoming entangled in and polluted by the world.”
“Sometimes it seems that our many words are more an expression of doubt than of our faith. It is as if we are not sure that God’s Spirit can touch the hearts of people: we have to help him out and, with man words, convince others of his power.”
“In order to be a ministry in the Name of Jesus, our ministry must also point beyond our words to the unspeakable mystery of God.”
Read more in The Way of the Heart.
Grant that I, Lord, may not be anxious about earthly things, but love things heavenly; and even now, while I am placed among things that are passing away, hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Source: The Divine Hours
“And Mary said,“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…”
After hearing news that I suspect no one can fully comprehend, Mary responded with words of praise for God. The word to “magnify” is sometimes translated as extol or praise, as we don’t often speak of “magnifying” someone these days.
Mary saw her role in the salvation plan of God as a reason to praise God. She didn’t have to bear the burden of seeking her own glory, defending her own name, or exalting her own plans.
There is great freedom in our surrender to God’s direction for our lives.
As we limit ourselves to the actions that draw glory to God, we shake away the many ambitions and fears that can drag so many down. May we find the joy of Mary as we surrender ourselves to God’s loving direction.
Week Three: The Roots of Compassion
According to Henrí Nouwen, judgment prevents us from ministering to others, while compassion makes all ministry possible. Compassion comes from the practice of solitude where God can ministry to us with mercy.
Once we have experienced God’s compassion and mercy for us, we’ll be able to share the same with others. Here are Nouwen’s thoughts on solitude from his book, The Way of the Heart:
“Compassion is the fruit of solitude and the basis of all ministry.”
“We have to give up measuring our meaning and value with the yardstick of others. To die to our neighbors means to stop judging them, to stop evaluating them, and thus to become free to be compassionate.”
“Solitude molds self-righteous people into gentle, caring, forgiving persons who are so deeply convinced of their own great sinfulness and so fully aware of God’s even greater mercy that their life itself becomes ministry.”
“When we are filled with God’s merciful presence, we can do nothing other than minister because our whole being witnesses to the light that has come into the darkness.”
Read more in The Way of the Heart.
“Why do you hide your face?
Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?”
Psalm 44: 24, NRSV
The writer of this Psalm of lament notes in the the earlier verses that God surely would know if he had lifted his hands to worship another God. It’s just as likely that God wouldn’t be surprised to hear the laments of his people in the midst of their suffering.
Of course God doesn’t literally hide from us or forget our suffering. In our darkest moments it can surely seem that God is distant and hidden, but even if these remain impossible things for God to do, the Spirit guided these poets to share their laments, frustrations, and fears in the starkest language possible.
What do you fear today about God?
What do you leave unspoken about God?
What if today you could be completely honest with God?
It’s possible that the scriptures telling us about God’s knowledge of our thoughts can assure us. God knows our deepest laments and fears but continues to reach out to anyone who is thirsty and heavy-burdened.
Week Two: The Struggle of Solitude
Solitude is good for us, but that doesn’t mean it will be an easy or tranquil time. In fact, Nouwen assures us in The Way of the Heart, that solitude is where we struggle to find our identity.
Each day we are hit with new expectations, desires, and compulsions that could pull is in so many different directions. The voice of God can be drowned out if we don’t pull back, face the worst parts of our false selves, and quietly wait on the Lord.
This week Nouwen describes some of what we can expect in solitude:
“Solitude is not a private therapeutic place. Rather, it is the place of conversion, the place where the old self dies and the new self is born, the place where the emergence of the new man and the new woman occurs.”
“This struggle is far, far beyond our own strength. Anyone who wants to fight his demons with his own weapons is a fool. The wisdom of the desert is that the confrontation with our own frightening nothingness forces us to surrender ourselves totally and unconditionally to the Lord Jesus Christ. Alone, we cannot face the ‘mystery of iniquity’ with impunity.”
“We are responsible for our own solitude. Precisely because our secular milieu offers us so few spiritual disciplines, we have to develop our own. We have, indeed, to fashion our own desert where we can withdraw every day, shake off our compulsions, and dwell in the gentle healing presence of our Lord.”
“Solitude is not simply a means to an end. Solitude is its own end. It is the place where Christ remodels us in his own image and frees us from the victimizing compulsions of the world.”
Read more in The Way of the Heart.
Let us bless the Lord God living and true!
Let us always render him praise, glory, honor, blessing, and all good things!
Amen. Amen. So be it! So be it!
-St. Francis of Assisi
Source: The Divine Hours
Week One: Head for the Hills
Henrí Nouwen distills the teachings of the desert fathers and mothers into a brief but incredibly useful book on silence, solitude, and prayer called The Way of the Heart. Grounded in the experience of ministry, Nouwen’s insights are refreshingly accessible and practical.
Readers need not be involved in ministry. If anything, ministers face heightened or exacerbated situations that call all the more for the wisdom in this slender book. This week we’re looking at why we need to head for the hills.
“The words flee, be silent and pray summarize the spirituality of the desert. They indicate the three ways of preventing the world from shaping us in its image and are thus the three ways to life in the Spirit.”
“Our calendars are filled with appointments, our days and weeks filled with engagements, and our years filled with plans and projects. There is seldom a period in which we do not know what to do, and we move through life in such a distracted way that we do not even take the time and rest to wonder if any of the things we think, say, or do are worth thinking, saying or doing.”
“Solitude is the furnace of transformation. Without solitude we remain victims of our society and continue to be entangled in the illusions of the false self. Jesus himself entered into this furnace. There he was tempted with the three compulsions of the world: to be relevant (‘turn stones into loaves’), to be spectacular (‘throw yourself down’), and to be powerful (‘I will give you all these kingdoms’). There he affirmed God as the only source of his identity (‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve him alone’). Solitude is the place of the great struggle and the great encounter – the struggle against the compulsions of the false self, and the encounter with the loving God who offers himself as the substance of the new self.”
Today’s prayer comes from the Common Prayer app:
Soul of Christ, sanctify me;
body of Christ, save me;
blood of Christ, inebriate me;
water from the side of Christ, wash me;
passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O good Jesus, hear me;
within your wounds hide me;
suffer me not to be separated from you;
from the malicious enemy defend me;
in the hour of my death call me,
and bid me come to you
that with your saints I may praise you
forever and ever. Amen.
Find more prayers in Common Prayer