It hasn’t been a peaceful year. We’ve been anxious and worried about many things –our health, politics, the state of the world. It’s been said that only God can make a bad man good, and that’s true. I’d liked to add to that statement here at the end of 2021 and say, only God can give a worried man (or woman) peace. I wish all of our readers peace in the New Year.
“‘These things we write unto you, that your joy may be full.’ What is fullness of joy but peace? Peace is the privilege of those who are ‘filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.’ ‘Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee.’ It is peace, springing from trust and innocence, and then overflowing in love towards all around him. He who is anxious thinks of himself, is suspicious of danger, speaks hurriedly, and has no time for the interests of others. He who lives in peace is at leisure, wherever his lot is cast.” John Henry Newman
“We ask to know the will of God without guessing that His will is written into our very beings. We perceive that will when we discern our gifts. Our obedience and surrender to God are in a large part our obedience and surrender to our gifts. This is the message wrapped up in the parable of the talents. Our gifts are all on loan. We are responsible for expending them in the world, and we will be held accountable.” Elizabeth O’Connor in Eighth Day of Creation
When our congregation went through the Fanning the Flame process (How it Works — the Fanning the Flame Process, part 1) a few years ago, my job was Spiritual Gifts Coordinator, and it involved asking our members to complete a spiritual gift assessment, and then meeting individually with each person to help them understand the results. Some were reluctant to do this, and I have a hard time understanding why. A few people said they were leery of being “pigeon-holed.” But being aware of our natural gifts certainly doesn’t mean we can’t try something new. It may actually help us to see how our particular abilities fit into a new project. I suspect some members saw the assessment as a “test” and therefore something they could fail. This is a misconception as well. We will have high scores in some areas, and low scores in others. The point is to discover what you are best at, and everyone is good at something. I can’t help but wonder if gift assessment is avoided because once we know our gifts, we may be asked to use them, and many would rather just sit on the sidelines. We know from the parable referenced in the quote that God expects more than this. He wants our involvement and engagement in His plan to evangelize the world.
So if you have an opportunity to learn more about your spiritual gifts, please do it! You may be surprised, you may be affirmed, and you will be better able to serve God and your neighbor.
This quote seemed to go along well with my previous post about really seeing those around us.
“Jesus stands at the door knocking (Rev. 3:20). In total reality, he comes in the form of the beggar, of the dissolute human child in ragged clothes, asking for help. He confronts you in every person that you meet. As long as there are people, Christ will walk the earth as your neighbor, as the one through whom God calls you, speaks to you, makes demands on you. That is the great seriousness and great blessedness of the Advent message. Christ is standing at the door; he lives in the form of a human being among us.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God is in the Manger
We will always have to deal with someone we don’t like, at church, at work, maybe in our own family. Here’s some good advice from Lorenzo Scupoli, (1530 – 28 November 1610) who was the author of Il combattimento spirituale (The Spiritual Combat), one of the most important works of Catholic spirituality.
“If thy disturbance of mind proceeds from a person who is so disagreeable to thee, that every little action of his annoys or irritates thee, the remedy is to force thyself to love him, and to hold him dear; not only because he is a creature formed by the same sovereign hand as thou art, but also because he offers thee an opportunity (if thou wilt accept it) of becoming like unto thy Lord, who is kind and loving unto all men.”
“These things I command you, that you love one another.” John 25:17
“For God’s ancient people that time was fulfilled with Christ’s advent in the flesh, and in like manner it is still being fulfilled in our daily life, whenever a person is illumined through faith, so that our serfdom and toil under the Law come to an end. For Christ’s advent in the flesh would be useless unless it wrought in us such a spiritual advent of faith. And verily, for this reason He came in the flesh, that He might bring about such an advent in the spirit. For unto all who before or after believed in Him thus coming in the flesh, even to them He is come. Wherefore, in virtue of such faith, to the fathers of old His coming was ever present.”
It’s the last month of 2021 and we are starting to look forward to a new year. For some of us that means thinking about what we want to change or improve in our lives. Here are some helpful resolutions for any Christian from Harriet Beecher Stowe. You might consider putting them on your list:
“Let us all resolve–First, to attain the grace of SILENCE. Second to deem all FAULT-FINDING that does no good a SIN, and to resolve when we are happy ourselves, not to poison the atmosphere for our neighbors by calling on them to remark every painful and disagreeable feature of their daily life. Third, to practice the grace and virtue of PRAISE.”
If we could all do this in 2022,,we’d be happier and so would those around us!
“He who is alone with his sin is utterly alone. It may be that Christians, notwithstanding corporate worship, common prayer, and all their fellowship in service, may still be left to their loneliness. The final breakthrough to fellowship does not occur because, though they have fellowship with one another as believers and as devout people, they do not have fellowship as the undevout, as sinners. The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everybody must conceal his sin from himself and from the fellowship. We dare not be sinners. May Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy.”
“If as God’s Son, Jesus shed His blood to redeem us and cleanse us from sin, and if we believe this, rubbing it under the devil’s nose whenever he tries to plague and terrify us with our sins, the devil will soon be beaten; he will be forced to withdraw and to stop pestering us.”
“The true proficiency of the soul consists not so much in deep thinking, or eloquent speaking, or beautiful writing; as in much and warm loving. Now if you as me in what way this much and warm love may be acquired, I answer, — By resolving to do the will of God, and by watching to do His will as often as occasion offers. Those who truly love God love all good wherever they find it. They seek all good, they always acknowledge and defend all good. They have no quarrels. They bear no envy. O lord, give me more and more of this blessed love! It will be a magnificent comfort in the hour of death to know that we are on our way to be judged by Him whom we have loved above all things. We are not going to a strange country, since it is His country whom we love and who loves us.
I came across this quote in my daily devotional. John Ruskin (8 February 1819 – 20 January 1900) wasan English author, philosopher and art critic. His thoughts about eliminating our sins is spot on.
“You will find it less easy to uproot faults, than to choke them out by gaining virtues. Do not think of your faults; still less of others’ faults. In every person who comes near you look for what is good and strong: honor that; rejoice in it; and as you can, try to imitate it. Your faults will drop off like dead leaves when their time comes.”
I agree that everyone, even those we dislike, has something to teach us, something we can strive to emulate. When we focus on that we can be grateful even for our enemies and begin to love all others as children of God.