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Phyllis Tickle: Divine Hours

Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous rules. Psalm 119:164

For the peace from above, for the loving kindness of God, and for the salvation of my soul, I pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.

For the peace of the world, for the welfare of the holy church of God, and for the unity of all peoples, I pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.

For the leaders of the nations and for all in authority, for my city and community, and for those who live in them, I pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.

For the aged and infirm, for the widowed and orphans, and for the sick and the suffering, I pray to the Lord. Lord have mercy.

For the poor and the oppressed, for the unemployed and the destitute, for prisoners and captives, and for all who remember care for them, I pray to the Lord. Lord have mercy.

Grant that every member of the Church may truly and humble serve you and show your love and kindness to all people, I pray to the Lord. Lord have mercy.

For all who have died in the hope of the resurrection, and for all the departed, I pray to the Lord. Lord have mercy.

Phyllis Tickle in Divine Hours: Pocket Edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007) adapted from the litanies on pages 5, 20, 21, and 69.

Lent begins tomorrow. It is a season to grow in the areas of prayer, fasting, and giving. My hope for my Lenten journey (and for yours) linked to generosity is that kindness will shift from sometime I do to something I am. Make it so, Lord Jesus.

For the discipline of prayer, I plan to pray the divine hours. This simply means I have set a daily alarm on my phone from 6 March 2019 to 21 April 2019 to pray at 6am (Prime), 9am (Terce), 12noon (Sext), 3pm (None), 6pm (Vespers), 9am (Compline), and in the night (Lauds or Matins).

This is not about winning brownie points with God. It’s about becoming a person after God’s heart. I will join followers of Christ through the centuries and servants of God all the way back to the days of King David, who paused seven times a day. Care to join me?

Sometimes I plan to read a Psalm. Other times I will pray a prayer like the litany above. I may proclaim praise or cry out for help depending on my situation. Whether or not you join me, I pray you take time to focus on prayer this Lent.

Today’s Scripture comes from Psalm 119, often called “the treasury of David.” I must note that David shouts praise for the “righteous rules” of the Lord. This refers not to a list of things to do so God will accept you. Hear him praising the Lord that when we walk in His ways, we find the path that is right and good.

Those who follow God’s ways or His design for life and living, become loving and kind. We serve as conduits of divine generosity through which spiritual and material blessings flow. May God guide us all on what to pray for, fast from, and give to this Lent so that, like our Lord Jesus, we become kind and generous.

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Magnanimous

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8

“Although we are not Christ, if we want to be Christians we must participate in Christ’s own magnanimous heart by engaging in responsible action that seizes the hour in complete freedom, facing the danger. And we should do so in genuine solidarity with suffering flowing forth, not from fear, but from the liberating and redeeming love of Christ toward all who suffer. Inactive “waiting-and-seeing” or impassive “standing by” are not Christian attitudes. Christians are prompted to action and suffering in solidarity not just by personal body experience, but by the experience incorrect by their fellows for whose sake Christ himself suffered.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) in “After Ten Years” Berlin, 1942 as recounted by Chris Pepple in Reflections on Suffering: Defining Our Crosses and Letting Go of Pain.

I shot this new header photo yesterday between snowstorms while walking Sammy’s dog, Hope St. Teresa, along the Bear Creek trail. Navigating the frozen and winding trail in single digit temperatures (in Fahrenheit) reminded me of the rigors ahead in the Lenten journey.

For our kindness and generosity to be magnanimous, we must not wait-and-see or stand-by but take action. Part of Lent, which begins Wednesday, is learning to move away from comfort and toward service to the hurting. Linked to generosity, we do this by giving alms, which is making gifts to the needy.

Part of the reason fasting and prayer are coupled with giving in Lent is that the disciplines are interconnected. To move toward the poor is to move away from our own desires or things that might benefit us. What direction should we go? Whom should we serve? That’s where prayer comes into play.

If you want to bear the name “Christian” then don’t let passivity characterize your living, giving, serving and loving. The journey to the cross is one that embraces (rather than runs from) suffering. It does hard things. It counts the cost and pays the price. Jesus moved toward us with kindness. Let us do likewise.

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Ignatius of Loyola: Kindness is central to the common plan

How precious is your loving kindness, God. The children of men take refuge under the shadow of your wings. Psalm 36:7

On 13 December 1545 at the Council of Trent, Ignatius of Loyola offered this instruction which he referred to as their common plan, entitled, “On Dealing with Others.” It’s lengthy, so I offer these excerpts today.

“Since associating and dealing with many people for the salvation and spiritual progress of souls can be very profitable with God’s help so, on the other hand, if we are not on our guard and helped by God’s grace, such association can be the occasion of great loss to ourselves and sometimes to everyone concerned.

In keeping with our profession we cannot withdraw from such association and, therefore, the more prepared we are to proceed according to a common plan, the more likely we are to succeed in our Lord. In the following notes, which may be modified or amplified according to need, we may be able to offer some assistance.

Be slow to speak. Be considerate and kind, especially when it comes to deciding on matters under discussion…and only after having first listened quietly, so that you may understand the meaning, leanings, and wishes of those who do speak. Thus you will better know when to speak and when to be silent…

In lecturing follow the same rules as you do in preaching, and try to enkindle in souls a love of their Creator and Lord, explaining the meaning of the passage read, and have your hearers pray as has been indicated….

Visit the hospitals at some convenient hour during the day, always taking your health into consideration. Hear the confessions of the poor and console them, and even take them some little gift if you can…

But on the other hand, if you wish to urge souls to make progress in the spiritual life, it will be better to speak at length, with order, and with kindness and love.”

Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) in his remarks “To The Fathers Attending The Council Of Trent: On Dealing With Others” in Selected Writings of St. Ignatius of Loyola with commentary by Joseph N. Tylenda, 19-20.

Ignatius instructs us to be good listeners, to be generous ministers to the poor and needy, and to make sure that when we speak, we do so, with kindness and love. What beautiful advice! When we speak truth with the kindness and love of God, through our ministry people find refuge in Him.

Too often we think of generosity only in financial terms and kindness only in interpersonal interaction. Here Ignatius frames these ideas in the context of the common plan for the care of souls. Think of it this way: 0ur generosity and kindness are means that the Spirit employs to work through us to help souls connect with Jesus.

With unselfish awareness we listen and attune to the needs of those we serve. Gifts flow through us to those who are sick, hurting, or needy. And, when we speak, our words are filled with kindness. I have room for improvement in this area. God help me, and may He help you too. Let’s make this our common plan today and every day.

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Catherine of Siena: Kindness and the Contrary

By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Matthew 7:16

How virtues are proved and fortified by their contraries:

“Up to the present, I have taught you how a man may serve his neighbor, and manifest, by that service, the love which he has towards Me. Now I wish to tell you further, that a man proves his patience on his neighbor, when he receives injuries from him.

Similarly, he proves his humility on a proud man, his faith on an infidel, his true hope on one who despairs, his justice on the unjust, his kindness on the cruel, his gentleness and benignity on the irascible. Good men produce and prove all their virtues on their neighbor, just as perverse men all their vices; thus, if you consider well, humility is proved on pride in this way. The humble man extinguishes pride, because a proud man can do no harm to a humble one; neither can the infidelity of a wicked man, who neither loves Me, nor hopes in Me, when brought forth against one who is faithful to Me, do him any harm; his infidelity does not diminish the faith or the hope of him who has conceived his faith and hope through love of Me, it rather fortifies it, and proves it in the love he feels for his neighbor.

For, he sees that the infidel is unfaithful, because he is without hope in Me, and in My servant, because he does not love Me, placing his faith and hope rather in his own sensuality, which is all that he loves. My faithful servant does not leave him because he does not faithfully love Me, or because he does not constantly seek, with hope in Me, for his salvation, inasmuch as he sees clearly the causes of his infidelity and lack of hope.

The virtue of faith is proved in these and other ways. Wherefore, to those, who need the proof of it, My servant proves his faith in himself and in his neighbor, and so, justice is not diminished by the wicked man’s injustice, but is rather proved, that is to say, the justice of a just man. Similarly, the virtues of patience, benignity, and kindness manifest themselves in a time of wrath by the same sweet patience in My servants, and envy, vexation, and hatred demonstrate their love, and hunger and desire for the salvation of souls.”

Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) in The Dialogue of Catherine of Siena, trans. by Algar Thorold (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., Ltd., 1907) and ed. by Harry Plantinga (1994) 22-23

I wish I could have engaged in dialogue with Catherine. In this excerpt from “How virtues are proved and fortified by their contraries” she reminds us that our true colors come out not so much on good days but in times of adversity.

To see if virtues of generosity and kindness are present in our lives we must look on bad days when evil abounds against us and not just good days when we live in harmony with our neighbor.

How are you doing with regard to difficulty?

One of my daily readers replied a few days ago rejoicing that God allowed generosity and kindness to flow through him when everything around him seemed to be unraveling. Of course I affirmed him and praised God for this testimony, but let’s reflect on it a moment.

The reason we marinate in God’s Word is so that its flavors come out when we are cut. The reason we soak in Scripture is so that living water saturates us and spills onto others when we are knocked over. We must not be overcome by contraries but overcome them with good.

How do we grow in these areas? We can’t apart from allowing God to work in us.

Hear this as yet another invitation to make the most of Lent in 2019! Consider what you will fast from, give to, and pray for this Lent and how God might want to use those disciplines to make sure the fruits of kindness and generosity are “proved and fortified by their contraries.”

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Julian of Norwich: Goodness and Blessed Kindness

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:13-14

“This shewing was made to [teach] our soul wisely to cleave to the goodness of God. And in that time the custom of our praying was brought to mind: how we use for lack of understanding and knowing of love, to take many means [whereby to beseech Him].

Then saw I truly that it is more worship to God, and more very delight, that we faithfully pray to Himself of His goodness and cleave thereunto by His grace, with true understanding, and steadfast by love, than if we took all the means that heart can think. For if we took all these means, it is too little, and not full worship to God: but in His goodness is all the whole, and there faileth right nought.

For this, as I shall tell, came to my mind in the same time: We pray to God for [the sake of] His holy flesh and His precious blood, His holy passion, His dear worthy death and wounds: and all the blessed kindness, the endless life that we have of all this, is His goodness.

And we pray Him for [the sake of] His sweet mother’s love that Him bare; and all the help we have of her is of His goodness. And we pray by His holy cross that He died on, and all the virtue and the help that we have of the cross, it is of His goodness.

And on the same wise, all the help that we have of special saints and all the blessed company of Heaven, the dear worthy love and endless friendship that we have of them, it is of His goodness. For God of His goodness hath ordained means to help us, full fair and many: of which the chief and principal mean is the blessed nature that He took of the maid, with all the means that go afore and come after which belong to our redemption and to endless salvation.

Wherefore it pleaseth Him that we seek Him and worship through means, understanding that He is the goodness of all. For the goodness of God is the highest prayer, and it cometh down to the lowest part of our need.”

Julian of Norwich (1342-1430) in Revelations of Divine Love, recorded at Norwich in A.D. 1373 (London: Methuen, 1901) Ch. 6. This one of my favorite people on the journey through church history. She reminds me of my wife, Jenni.

Julian was an English anchoress and well-known Christian mystic and theologian. She experienced and recorded 16 shewings or revelations of divine love. After that, she dedicated her life to helping people anchor their lives to God.

Likewise, my wife, Jenni, today serves as the Soulcare Anchoress. Having experienced the goodness of God, she too desires that everyone learns to cleave to Him and His goodness, so she spends herself to helping people do that.

Why cleave to the goodness (or generosity) and blessed kindness of God? Julian says it best: “It cometh down to the lowest part of our need.”  That’s precisely what we celebrate at Easter.

God, because He is so generous and kind, came down to the deepest part of our need. He dealt with our sin on the cross. As we discover this afresh during Lent, life in the light of Easter propels us to do the same thing.

God makes us into people who are generous and kind. We go down and minister to the lowest place of need of those around us. Or in plain terms, our generosity and kindness gives people not what they deserve but what they need most.

Want help from the Soulcare Anchoress for your Lenten journey? Visit her website and download the Lent 2019 Journey with Jesus. Print it and enjoy the journey of learning to cleave to the goodness and blessed kindness of God.

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Meister Eckhart: To grow capacious of receiving much

He told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Luke 21:29-31

“Schoolmen have often asked how it is possible for the soul to know God. It is not from severity that God demands much from men in order to obtain the knowledge of Himself: it is of His kindness that He wills the soul by effort to grow capacious of receiving much, and that He may give much. Let no man think that to attain this knowledge is too difficult, although it may sound so, and indeed the commencement of it, and the renouncement of all things is difficult. But when one attains to it, no life is easier nor more pleasant nor more lovable, since God is always endeavouring to dwell with man, and teach him in order to bring him to Himself. No man desires anything so eagerly as God desires to bring men to the knowledge of Himself. God is always ready, but we are very unready. God is near us, but we are far from Him. God is within, and we are without. God is friendly; we are estranged. The prophet says, “God leadeth the righteous by a narrow path into a broad and wide place, that is into the true freedom of those who have become one spirit with God.” May God help us all to follow Him that He may bring us to Himself. Amen.”

Meister Eckhart (1260-1327) in “The Nearness of the Kingdom” in Meister Eckhart’s Sermons, Trans. Claud Field (London: H. R. Allenson, 1909) 11-12.

Sit with two ideas as we think about the intersection of kindness and generosity.

Firstly, consider this thought. “It is of His kindness that [God] wills the soul by effort to grow capacious of receiving much, and that He may give much.” Anyone who desires to be generous must first learn to grow capacious of receiving because everything good and perfect comes from God.

Are you putting yourself in a position to receive from God? Is there noise or are there distractions in your life? We must learn from God how to grow our capacity to receive. The season the church sets aside to grow in this area is known as Lent.

As we approach Lent, what will you fast from to increase your receiving capacity? Once you make that decision, decide what you will give to, so that that self-indulgence will not swallow your surplus time, energy, and/or resources.

Secondly, consider this saying my wife, Jenni, likes to say during Lent while fasting. “I am feasting on Jesus. I am feasting on Jesus.” She says that because we need to train ourselves to forgo that which does not satisfy in order to partake of the only thing that does.

Eckhart says it this way. “The renouncement of all things is difficult. But when one attains to it, no life is easier nor more pleasant nor more lovable, since God is always endeavouring to dwell with man.”

When we fast or renounce other things, we grow our capacity to gain the one and only thing that satisfies. God takes us on this journey because He wants us to find our satisfaction in Him.

Lent begins next Wednesday. Follow God’s leading regarding what to fast from, give to, and pray for. As Eckhart concludes: “May God help us all to follow Him that He may bring us to Himself.”

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John Ruusbroec: Meekness and Kindness

A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity. Psalm 37:10-11

“From the same source which gives rise to meekness there also arises kindness, for only a meek person can be kind. This kindness makes a person present a loving appearance and give affable responses and do all kinds of benevolent deeds for those who are quarrelsome, in the hope that they will come to see themselves as they are and amend their ways. Through graciousness and kindness, charity remains living and fruitful in a person, for a heart of kindness is like a lamp full of precious oil. This oil of kindness enlightens erring sinners through good example, and it salves and heals through comforting words and deeds those whose hearts are wounded, grieved, or embittered. Though the fire of charity it provides a flame and bright light for those who are living virtuous lives, and neither jealousy nor disfavor can harm it.”

John Ruusbroec (1293-1381) in The Spiritual Espousals (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1985) 58-59.

When we combine kindness with generosity we enlighten the erring through our example and we bring healing wherever we go.

In practical terms, we get to “give affable [or friendly] responses and do all kinds of benevolent deeds for those who are quarrelsome.”

This is not easy. Frankly, it’s downright difficult. Furthermore, it’s the opposite of how our flesh and the world leads us to interact with such people.

When, however, with God’s power, we do this, we inherit the land and enjoy peace in a world filled with wounds, griefs, and bitterness.

Our lives shine like bright lights in dark places, and we radiate with beauty like this the sunset last evening in the header photo.

Father, make meekness, kindness, and generosity spring from our lives people, so that others may find light and life. Hear our prayer in the name of Jesus. Amen.

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Bernard of Clairvaux: Kindness so unexpected

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of is mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. Titus 3:3-8

“What could result from the contemplation of compassion so marvelous and so undeserved, favor so free and so well attested, kindness so unexpected, clemency so unconquerable, grace so amazing except that the soul should withdraw from all sinful affections, reject all that is inconsistent with God’s love, and yield herself wholly to heavenly things? No wonder is it that the Bride, moved by the perfume of these unctions, runs swiftly, all on fire with love, yet reckons herself as loving all too little in return for the Bridegroom’s love. And rightly, since it is no great matter that a little dust should be all consumed with love of that Majesty which loved her first and which revealed itself as wholly bent on saving her.”

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), French abbot and reformer among the Benedictine monks, in his classic work, On Loving God, excerpt from chapter 4.

Lent is drawing near. It’s the season when reflect on the kindness and generosity of Jesus Christ leading up to Easter. It begins on Ash Wednesday, which this year is on 6 March 2019. Each Lent, we adopt fresh patterns of fasting, praying, and giving to shape life after Easter in service to Christ.

The Apostle Paul, in his letter to Titus, stated plainly that before experiencing the kindness of Christ, we were slaves to all kinds of nonsense. Since experiencing His marvelous love, we are free but must use that freedom with intentionality. We must devote ourselves to doing what is good.

Bernard, one of my favorite monks, would challenge us to fast from anything that is inconsistent with God’s love or that hinders us from yielding ourselves wholly to heavenly things. Contemplate the compassion of Christ and His favor so free. This propels us to doing good.

What will you fast from, give to, and pray for this Lent? Think about it. You have a week to decide. I am thinking about it too.

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Symeon the New Theologian: Amazing kindness

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:6-10

“For God who is all goodness fills the soul in which He dwells with all goodness as far as our nature is capable of receiving it, because God is infinite and cannot be contained by any created nature…

So God who dwells in him teaches such a man about things to come and things present, not by word, but by action and experience and reality. As God removes the veil from the eyes of his mind He shows him what is His will and what is useful for him.

As for other matters, He persuades him not too be inquisitive about them or seek them or be curious about them, for he cannot boldly look into even the things that God reveals to him and shows him.

When he stoops low to inquire into the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God, he immediately becomes dizzy and is struck with amazement as he thinks of itself and who he is to be counted worthy to behold such things.

As he looks on the greatness of God’s loving kindness he is struck with amazement. He considers himself with all his soul to be unworthy of the vision of such goodness and…he is constrained by trembling, fear, and reverence.”

Symeon the New Theologian (929-1022) in The Discourses, trans. C.J. decatanzarn (Mahwah: Paulist Press, 1980) 190.

Notice the irony that Symeon brings out for us about the goodness and kindness of God toward us through Christ Jesus. It’s really unfathomable. We get a glimpse of it in Christ and yet we cannot comprehend the depths of it.

What is the significance of this for us as we seek to combine goodness and kindness? 

The deeper we get in our faith journey, the more God will reveal things to us that will stretch us. We may respond with trembling and fear. In those moments, we must resolve to trust in the goodness and kindness of God.

Jenni and I have returned safely home from an unbelievably fruitful trip. We arrive a bit weak and weary but also filled with deep gratitude God for His amazing kindness toward us even with the rigors of a very long journey and a full schedule.

Pause to thank God today for His goodness and kindness toward you. Despite any fears, lean into the reality that He’s blessed you to be a blessing. Now, go do the good works He’s prepared in advance for you to do with kindness.

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Isaac of Nineveh: Kind words and encouragement

Kind words bring life. Proverbs 15:4a

“If thou givest something to one who is poor, let gladness of face and kind words and encouragement for his suffering precede thy gift. When thou doest this, by thy gift the delight of his mind will be greater than the want of his body.”

Isaac of Nineveh (c. 613-700), a Christian bishop and theologian in Mystic Treatises by Isaac of Nineveh, trans. by A.J. Wensinck (Amsterdam: Uitgave der Koninklijke Akademie van Wetenschappeeen, 1923) 233.

Isaac connects kindness and generosity by exhorting us to smile and combine kind words and encouragement with our giving to those in need. This is great advice.

Often we can give resources, which may aid someone for a time. But, when we combine giving with a joy-filled countenance, kind words, and encouragement, we uplift the mind and hearts of those we bless.

Think of a time when someone extended such kindness and generosity to you. It really lifts your spirits, doesn’t it! That happened on the last day of this trip.

An Aussie couple who will remain unnamed expressed a desire to make a generous gift to Global Trust Partners to help the organization get going. What blessed me deeply were their kind and encouraging words that accompanied the gift. “We’re all in with you, Gary!”

Thank you Jesus for your provision for global ministry through this couple and so many others. Moreover, thanks for their “all in” encouragement. Bless them richly, Lord, for their kindness and generosity.

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