2015 - "Three Little Words" by Terry Ferguson
The Fruit of the Spirit
2016 - "Through the Year with Francis of Assisi"
by Murray Bodo
2017 - Thanks-Living

Sunday, January 31, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - January 31

Admonition for Peacemakers

"The peace which you proclaim with words must dwell even more abundantly in your hearts.  Do not provoke others to anger or give scandal.  Rather, let your gentleness draw them to peace, goodness, and concord.  This is our vocation:  to heal wounds, to bind what is broken, to bring home those who are lost."  --Legend of the Three Companions, 58 (1305-1320)

"Hurt people hurt people."  Just coming to Christ is not enough.  You have to let Him heal you so He can use you to heal the wounds of others.  If you are broken and hurting, how can you help others?  They will not believe your words of peace.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - January 30

The Beginnings of the Order of St. Francis

"And after the Lord gave me some brothers, no one showed me what to do; but the Most High revealed to me that I was to live according to the manner of the Holy Gospel.  And I had it written down in brief, simple words, and the Lord Pope confirmed it for me.  And those who came to receive this life gave everything they had to the poor; and they were happy with one tunic patched inside and out, and with a cord and breeches.  And we had no desire for anything else."  --The Testament of St. Francis

It occurred to me while reading today's entry that the men who did not have very many worldly goods to begin with had an easier time giving it all up.  Those who had much to give up may have had second thoughts to contend with before following Francis.  The parable of the rich young man that Jesus used to show how hard it is for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God should help us to quit desiring more than we already have.  I will keep this in mind as I tackle my decluttering project this year.

Friday, January 29, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - January 29

How the Early Brothers Lived

"We prayed the Office, the clerics like other clerics, and the laics saying their Our Fathers.  And we most willingly lived in abandoned churches.  And we were without learning and subject to all."  --The Testament of St. Francis

"Saying Our Fathers" was to recite the Lord's prayer.  This prayer was given to us by Jesus as a model of how we are to pray, but it, like anything we memorize, can be recited by rote without any thought to its meaning.  This is why I like to write out special passages that speak to me.  Because I have to pay attention to what I'm reading in order to write it, I see it more clearly.  The act of memorizing can do the same for me.  I did not understand Shakespeare until I had to memorize a passage for an acting class I was taking.  The problem comes when we become so familiar with the words we can recite them without thinking about them!  What I need to do is write out the Lord's prayer each morning, pausing after each phrase to let it soak in so that it becomes a real prayer and not just a recitation.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - January 28

Conformity to Christ

"In everything he did, St. Francis was conformed to Christ.  When he began his Order, he did as the Blessed Christ had done when he chose twelve Apostles to despise the things of this world and follow him in poverty and the other virtues.  He too had twelve chosen companions who were followers of total poverty."  --Little Flowers of St. Francis, Chapter 1

Statements like this can cause me to get discouraged with my Christian walk until I realize I have not been called to a life of poverty in the physical realm.  But I do believe we have all been called to a life of poverty in the spiritual realm.  By "poverty" I mean the recognition that without God we are all impoverished.  If I do not recognize that I am "nothing" without God, and live as though it is true, then I cannot follow in Christ's footsteps.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - January 27

Of Brother Bernard of Quintavalle

"Brother Bernard was the first brother the Lord gave me.  He was the very first to begin and to fulfill the perfection of the Holy Gospel by distributing all is goods to the poor.  For this reason and for the many other good qualities in him, I am bound to love him more than any brother of the whole Order."  --Writings of Leo, Rufino, and Angelo, 42

As someone who has "vowed" to declutter her house the thought of distributing all my goods to the poor is rather sobering because most of what I own would be of no use to anyone.  After I gave away everything of use I'd still have a house full of things to dispose of.  So why am I having such a hard time getting started giving away the things in the "not of use" category?  In fact, it would be easier to give away the useful things because I'd know I was helping someone in need.  This points out to me is that we live in a society that encourages accumulation by touting consumerism every time we turn around.  If I would just refrain from buying things I did not really need and instead gave the money to those who had a real need, I would not only be serving the Lord but taking care of my clutter problem.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - January 26

St. Francis's Words on Working

"I used to work with my hands, as I still want to, and I want all the other brothers to work at a task which is honest and becoming to our manner of life.  Those who do not know how to work should learn, not because they are eager for the pay due their labor, but for example's sake and to banish idleness.  And when we receive no pay for our work, let us have recourse to the table of the Lord, begging alms from door to door."  --The Testament of St. Francis

I would fit well in Francis's Order (there were Sisters under Clare's care).  I need to keep my hands busy.  I think that is part of why I became a writer--to keep my hands busy.  I do not do needlework and you can't garden in the winter.  There's just so much housework to be done.  But put a computer keyboard under my fingers and it seems my hands are doing all the work--words just flow through and out my fingertips!  Now that I've taken up drawing, I'm looking forward to what flows through my fingertips in pictures.

Monday, January 25, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - January 25

A Letter for Brother Leo

"Brother Leo, wish your Brother Francis health and peace!  I want to say this, my son, as a mother would.  My response to all the words we spoke along the way I would sum up in a brief counsel; and should you wish to come to me later for my advice, this is what I would say:  Whatever seems best to you in order to serve the Lord God and to follow his footsteps and his poverty, do it with the blessing of the Lord God and with the blessing of my obedience.  And if you believe it is necessary for the good of your soul or for your consolation to come to me, and you want to come, then, Leo, do come!" --Parchment written by the hand of Francis himself.  It is kept in the Cathedral of Spoleto, Italy.

Francis summed up his counsel to Brother Leo by telling him to do what best enables him to serve the Lord God and adds that he should do it with the blessing of the Lord.  "Blessing" means "favor and protection."  I recently read another's thoughts on blessing whatever comes into your life--even the difficult things.  Using Francis's words to "do it with the blessing of the Lord" is actually the same thing since God does not let anything come into our life that can't be used for good.  By "blessing" everything in our lives we are acknowledging that God is right there with us and for us.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - January 24

A Holy Contract

"There is a contract between the world and the brothers:  The brothers are bound to give the world a good example, and the world to provide for their necessities.  If, then, the brothers break their contract by reneging on their good example, the world will withdraw its hand in just censure." --Celano, Second Life, 70

Would that today's followers of Christ remember the cause and effect of their public lives and stop blaming others for their misfortunes, especially when their basic necessities are provided despite their lapses.  God's grace is never sufficiently appreciated!  When I am overcome with discontent over something in my life, I need only remind myself of this.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - January 23

St. Francis's Love and Affection for a Troubled Brother

"One day Francis said to Brother Riccerio, who was deeply troubled interiorly:  'Don't let your thoughts depress you, for you are very dear to me.  Know that you are among those especially dear to me and worthy of my affection and intimacy.  Come to me confidently whenever you wish, and don't be afraid to talk to me with utmost familiarity.'" --Celano, First Life, 50

This is a good opportunity to talk about what it means to love everybody.  When God calls us to love everyone, even our enemies, He is not asking us to have "affection and intimacy" with everyone.  "To love" is an action--not a feeling.  When we love someone we are kind to them, help them, forgive them.  In short, we show them God's kind of love--unconditional.

Friday, January 22, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - January 22

On Those Brothers Who Are Placed in Authority

" 'The Son of man came not to be served but to serve' (Mt. 20:28), says the Lord.  Those brothers who are placed in authority over the others are to glory in their office as much as if they were appointed to wash the feet of the brothers; and if they are more disturbed when their office is taken from them than they would be if the service of washing feet were taken from them, then to that extent have they amassed treasures for them- selves to the peril of their souls.--St. Francis, Admonition 4

This is an excellent way to test the motive behind our desire to be a leader to see whether or not we will lead as servants--whether it be in a job in the workplace/community or the job of being a mother or a father.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - January 21

The Preaching and Example of St. Francis

"My office of governing the brother is spiritual, in that I must overcome and correct vices.  If I cannot do this by my preaching and example, then I surely do not want to do it like a taskmaster, beating and flogging the brothers the way a worldly master does."  --Writings of Leo, Rufino, and Angelo, 23b

This is good parenting advice for today.  Example is a big part of it, but as we all know, children are wont to do what they want no matter what we say or do.  How we correct them can make the difference in our relationship with them--we can foster resentment or encourage respect and a trust that we are looking out for their best interest--just as God does when He disciplines us.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - January 20

St. Francis's Care for His Sick Brothers

"It happened once that a sick brother longed to eat just a few grapes.  So St. Francis took him by the arm to a vineyard, and sitting with the sick brother beneath some vines, Francis began to eat first, to give the brother courage to eat too."  --Celano, Second Life, 176

Helping someone sometimes means just sitting with them and showing them you care or setting an example for them of what they could/should be doing.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - January 19

Those Who Wish to Join the Brotherhood

"If anyone by divine inspiration wishes to embrace this life and comes to our brothers, let him be kindly received by them.  And if he remains constant in his resolve to accept our life, the brothers are to be careful not to meddle in his temporal affairs, but they are to present him as soon as possible to their own minister.  Let the minister receive him kindly and encourage him and diligently explain to him the nature of our life.  After this, if he is willing and able to do it in conscience and is without legal impediments, he is to sell whatever he has and set about giving the sum to the poor."  --St. Francis, Rule of 1221, Chapter II

The key to this way of life is in the first sentence:  by divine inspiration.  I've taken on leadership roles in the church and community through the years which could only be by divine inspiration because I am by nature shy.  Along with divine inspiration comes the ability to overcome any obstacle that you might otherwise feel prevents you from doing the thing.  So while it may sound difficult to sell everything you have and give it to the poor, it would not be so if you have been divinely inspired to do so.

Monday, January 18, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - January 18


"Among other graces which the Divine Mercy has deigned to give me is this:  If a novice only one hour in the Order were made my guardian* (*guardian and prelate are words for religious superiors), I would obey him as scrupulously as I would the oldest and most prudent brother in the Order.  A subject should not see the man in the prelate," but him for whose love he is subject."  --St. Bonaventure, Major Life, 6:4

This last statement, "A subject should not see the man in the prelate but him for whose love he is subject," needs to be dissected.  I'm having trouble sorting the pronouns.  Who is "him" and who is "he" in the second half of the last statement?  If "him" is the prelate and "he" is me, then I understand it to say that I should see myself as the object of the prelate's love.  But if "him" is me and "he" is the prelate, then I understand it to mean that the prelate is the object of my love.  As I sit here and ponder this I realize if I substitute "God" for "prelate," both interpretations ring true for me.  God is my prelate and if I believe that God is good and only wants what is best for me, I will obey Him.  At the same time, my love for God leads me to obey Him.  If I see God as LOVE rather than as AUTHORITY it changes the whole context of our relationship.  I will serve willingly whom I love and who loves me.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - January 17

A Message of Peace

"St. Francis used to say to his brothers, 'Go, announce peace to all people; preach repentance for the remission of sins.  Be patient in trials, watchful in prayer, and steadfast in weariness.  Be modest in your speech, responsible in your actions and grateful to your benefactors.  And know that in return an eternal kingdom is being made ready for you.'" --St. Bonaventure, Major Life, 3:7

These short few sentences seem to wrap up the Christian walk.  Some of these actions come naturally in the course of my day, like being modest in my speech (I'm don't talk much to begin with) and being responsible in my actions (it's not in my nature to take risks so being responsible is not a hard requirement for me).  Some of the others, however, I must be reminded to do/be.  While I don't have a St. Francis in my life to remind me, I do have the Holy Spirit.  This is why being in a relationship with God where you are sensitive to His voice is essential.  Otherwise, it's far too easy to go down the path of least resistance.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - January 16

The Marvelous Companions of St. Francis

"Just as the holy Apostles were marvels of holiness and humility throughout the whole world, and were filled with the Holy Spirit, so the companions of St. Francis were of such sanctity that not since the time of the Apostles were there such marvelous and holy men in the world...." --Little Flowers of St. Francis, Chapter 1

Today's selection goes on to list how the various Brothers had experiences of earlier Saints:  being caught up into the third heaven as Paul was; lips touched by an angel with a burning coal as did Isaiah; speaking with God as one friend to another as Moses did; having Divine Wisdom revealed to him and opening up the Scriptures in the most profound ways as John did. Since I've not had such radical experiences I wondered what I would write about today, but then I read another devotional that asked the question, "Can one obey without actually obeying?"  It spoke of the desert hermits (such as St. Francis and his Brothers).  The author, James Hannay says, "The desert hermits 'understood the sayings of the Lord and adopted them as a practical rule of life."  He said for most of us we too often take the Lord's commands and reconcile them to our way of thinking because it would seem "absurd" to us to follow the command, 'If any man take away your coat, let him have your cloak also.'  Hannay notes that "it did not occur to them to cast round for an explanation of the words which would enable them to think of themselves as obeying while they refused to obey literally."  This is why we do not have experiences like Paul or Moses or John or the desert hermits.  We do not obey literally.  We are too often like the rich young man (see Mark 10:20-22).

Friday, January 15, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - January 15

Overcoming Shame

"And when people shame you by refusing you alms, you should give thanks to God for that, because in recompense for shame we receive great honor before the judgment seat of our Lord Jesus Christ.  And you should know that shame is imputed not to the one who suffers it, but to the one who inflicts it.  And alms are the inheritance and the justice due the poor which our Lord Jesus Christ acquired for us.  You who labor to acquire alms, then, have a great reward and also enrich those who give to you; for everything that people leave behind in the world will perish, but for the charity and almsgiving they've practiced they will have their reward from the Lord."  --Rule of 1221, Chapter IX

You may not go out begging alms for the poor as St. Francis and his brothers did, but if you take a stand for policies that help the poor you often put yourself in the same position to be ridiculed and shamed for being "liberal."  Do not let this bother you for in the end the one who shames shall be the one feeling shame when they stand before the Lord and hear Him say, "Depart from Me.....for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me." (see Matthew 25:35-43)

Thursday, January 14, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - January 14

St. Francis Receives Brother Giles into the Order

"...[Brother Giles] was a fellow Assisian, a man full of faith and devotion to whom the Lord had given a singular grace.....Years later St. Francis said of Brother Giles that he more than any other had arrived at the perfection of contemplative prayer.  And Brother Giles himself used to say, 'The contemplative life is to leave behind all earthly things for the love of God, to seek only the things of heaven, to pray without tiring, to read often and with concentration, to praise God continually with hymns and canticles.  To contemplate is to be separated from all and to be united to God alone.'"  --The Anonymous of Perugia, Chapter 3, #14; The Mirror of Perfection, 85; The Golden Sayings of Brother Giles, Chapter XIII

The contemplative life, such as Brother Giles describes, you might say, can only be carried out in a monastery-type setting since one's essentials (food and shelter) would have to be provided for you.  But the contemplative life can still be achieved by the rest of us since it's really a mindset rather than a way of life.  Having a time to read God's word, pray, and praise Him should be a part of every Christian's day.  Once established you will find that the everyday mundane activities become metaphors for the truths you've been reading in God's word.  You'll find yourself talking with Him and praising Him just because you've begun to experience Him in all things.  As for leaving "behind all earthly things for the love of God" we are each called not to be of  the world already.  Earth is not our real Home.  Our mindset should be that we are merely stewards of all that we have here.  This one change in our thinking would help us loosen our grip on the things of the world.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - January 13

St. Francis Educates St. Anthony

"I am pleased that you are teaching sacred theology to the brothers, so long as this kind of study, as our Rule has it, does not extinguish the spirit of prayer and devotion."  --St. Francis's Letter to St. Anthony

This makes me think of what we call "Bible thumpers."  People who become legalistic with God's word.  Their mind detaches from their heart, where Spirit resides.  The only true change happens in the heart.  Our hearts must be transformed, and prayer and devotion to God is the inroad to the heart. Written word is important, but the Living Word is where God resides.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - January 12

St. Francis's Portrait of the True Franciscan

"St. Francis used to say that a good Lesser Brother should emulate and possess the virtues of these holy brothers: ......Brother Bernard--perfect faith and love of poverty; ....Brother Leo--simplicity and purity; ....Brother Angelo--courtesy and kindness; ....Brother Masseo--gracious bearing and common sense and noble and devout eloquence; ....Brother Rufino--mind lifted up to God; ....Brother Giles--constant prayer; ....Brother Juniper--state of perfect patience by keeping the truth of his low estate constantly before him and whose supreme desire was to follow Christ; ...Brother John--physical and spiritual courage; ....Brother Roger--charity; ....Brother Lucidus's caution, for when he began to like a place, he would leave immediately, saying 'Our home is not here, but in heaven.'"  --Mirror of Perfection, 85

What I noticed was that no one possessed all of these traits.  They were parceled out amongst the brothers and St. Francis seems to be fine with this.  Perhaps this is why we are called to be in community with one another.  Each of us has a strength we can offer to a group to build it up and to set an example.  Our weaknesses in certain areas won't be a detriment if our brother or sister has a strength in that area to contribute to the community.  This works only if we are not jealous of others' strengths or prideful of ours, or resentful of our weaknesses or judgmental of theirs.  There are many scriptures warning against being jealous or critical (which is usually just jealousy turned inside out).   Instead we are to not think too highly or too lowly of ourselves.  We are called 'with humility to think of others as being better than ourselves'.    It's not that anyone is any better than anyone else, but rather to think this way helps us stay humble.  Remember, but for God's grace, which we receive through humility, we, too, are in danger of stumbling.

Monday, January 11, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - January 11

The Lowest of Sinners

"St. Francis was the humblest of men and thought of himself as the lowest, most contemptible of sinners.  In prayer he would implore, 'Lord, why have you laid this burden on me?  Why have you made a simple, unlettered, wretched creature like me the head of this Order?' And the Lord would reply, 'I have placed a man like you over this Order to show that what I achieve in you is of my grace and not a human accomplishment.'"  --From a sermon of St. Bonaventure, October 4, 1262

Paul received the same answer in 2 Corinthinians 2:9.  This verse always comes to mind when I begin to question whether I'm capable of doing something I feel compelled to do.  It helps me to also check my motive for wanting to do it.  It helps me to hold the end goal lightly and, instead, pay attention to the process.  Harper Lee's 1960 book, "To Kill a Mockingbird."  was the result of her editor telling her to take a different tack in her story.  "Go Set a Watchman," the original story, was never published--until recently.  It has not been as widely acclaimed as "To Kill a Mockingbird."  But Lee had to write the first manuscript in order to write the second, better one.  If she'd considered the first as her goal and given up when it was turned down, she never would have succeeded.  If we leave the end goal to God and remain humble and open to the process, never quitting, we'll eventually succeed in what our true goal should be--glorifying God with our lives.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - January 10

St. Francis's Natural Courtesy

"Even before his conversion St. Francis was by nature courteous in manner and speech and followed a practice born of deep conviction, namely, never to speak a rude or unseemly word."  --Legend of the Three Companions, I, 3

My early years were spent in the South where I learned to say "mam" and  sir" whenever speaking to an adult.  This was all a part of the courtesy towards others that I was taught.  When I moved North at age 11 my 6th grade teacher held me up to the class as an example because of this, adding that I walked up and down the stairs, instead of running.  You'd think this would make me proud, but instead, being the new kid in class, it made me feel different, but not in a good way.  While I soon dropped the "mam" and "sir"so that I'd fit in, I continued to be courteous and have always seen myself in that light.....until recently.  It seems I can be provoked into being discourteous.  I did not know this about myself until the words were out of my mouth. But it taught me a lesson.  Carrying resentment towards someone is like a viper in the grass waiting to strike!  The only way to be sure to never speak a rude or unseemly word is to make sure you have no reason to.  Forgiveness must be given immediately, or else the "rudeness" done to you will fester in you and make you just as guilty whether you're provoked or not to "share" it.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - January 9

Make Your Needs Known to One Another

"Be confident in making your needs known to one another.  For each of you, to the extent that God gives you the grace, should love and nourish one another as a mother loves and nourishes her child."  --St. Francis,  Rule of 1221, Chapter IX

When I have some "thing" that comes into my life three times within a short span of time, I get excited because I feel there is a message for me personally in it.  It makes me sit up and take notice, and I don't want to miss the opportunity to glean something for my betterment in it.  This morning I read today's entry on my Freedom in Christ blog.  I wrote this year-long devotional in 2003 and posted it on-line in 2011.  I've been rereading it this year to see just how far (or not) I've come since writing it.  Today's included a quote from Sarah Ban Breathnach in her book Simple Abundance, "....it's more important for us to get everything we need.  Like infants, we feel contentment when our essential needs are met.  Be courageous.  Ask yourself: what is it I truly need to make me happy?"  And because I'm also rereading Simple Abundance I came across the quote a second time.  Now with the St. Francis quote, I've read for the third time the importance of making my needs known.  But this "needs" message is not done with me yet, for I received a fourth message in my daily e-mail from the Moravian church this morning with today's scripture.  They always conclude with a summarizing prayer:

"Sustaining Creator, in our weakness you give us strength; in hardship, an oasis; in persecution or calamities, protection.  You are everything to us, dear Lord.  Beyond our temporal concerns you bring love and hope.  May we be such beacons in the lives of others.  Amen"

God gives us everything we need by way of strength, comfort, and protection, but He often uses others to meet these needs.  By letting others know what our needs are, we are enabling them to be a beacon of God's love and power in and through our lives.

Friday, January 8, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - January 8

Lesser Brothers

"Francis, the model of humility, wanted his brothers to be called Lesser and the superiors of the Order to bear the name 'servants,' thereby preserving the very words used in the Gospel which he had promised to observe.  At the same time he enabled his followers to learn from their very name that they had come to the school of the humble Christ to learn humility.  Jesus Christ, the teacher of humility, intending to form his disciples in true humility, said, 'Anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be your slave' (Mt 20:26-27)."  --St. Bonaventure, Major Life, 6:5

There is a slogan thought to have originated with sports, but often used in business to motivate their employees to work as a team:  There is no "I" in Team.  It's one of those truths that when I first heard it, I was struck by it because I've always preferred to work on my own.  Being a part of a "team" does not come naturally to me.  Even growing up I hung out with one friend at a time, never in a group.  I have to say this has made it difficult for me to feel truly a part of a church.  St. Francis knew that humility was the core of one's relationship with God and with others.  For him there was no "I" in the brotherhood, for God was at the center of his life--not his self.  Even if you are not a part of a "team" of people, you are a part of God's team.  There is no "I" in Team.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - January 7

Of Those Who Are Sick

"I ask the sick that in everything you give thanks to the Creator.  And whatever it might be that the Lord wants for you, whether it be health or sickness, let that be what you want also.  For all those the Lord has "destined for eternal life" (Acts 13:49) he teaches by using the allurement of trials and sickness and compunction of spirit.  As the Lord himself says, "I reprove and train those whom I love" (Rv 3:19).  And if you become upset or angry either against God or against others, or are overly insistent on medicines to free the flesh which is soon to die anyway and is the enemy of the soul, that kind of behavior comes from the evil one.  It is carnal and is not seemly because it shows that you love your body more than your soul."  --St. Francis, Rule of 1221, Chapter X

This one is a hard one to understand if you are seriously ill, especially if you don't feel well.  I find being in pain terribly distracting even if I am able to bear it.  I am sure some will say, "But doesn't God want us to be well?  Can't we serve Him better in good health?"  The answer, of course, is "Yes to the first and not necessarily to the second."  But that isn't the point Francis is making.  For whatever reason there comes a time when we are all sick--whether it's just a cold, something life threatening, or a life-long disease. It's not that we shouldn't try to become well, by taking care of ourselves and using medical help that might make a difference.  The point is we mustn't let this be more important than learning what God has to show us in our illness.  This is why I cringe at the term "fight" used by organizations to raise funds for research on diseases.   That is placing our focus on the body.  Instead, how much better it would be to lay our illness in God's Hands, asking first to be made aware of His Presence in it so we can put our trust in His Healing, if that is what He intends.  Then ask what He wants you to learn from this experience.  It may just be to bring you to an awareness of His Presence and teach you how to walk with Him on a daily basis.  If you are a Christian, dying is NOT the worst thing that could happen to you.  In fact, when it is time, it will be your reward.  Embrace your illness, and see what God does through you and for you in it.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - January 6

The Spirit of the Lord and His Grace

"Guard against all pride, vanity, envy, avarice, the cares and worries of this world, detraction and complaining.  And if you do not have book-learning, do not be eager to acquire it, but pursue instead what you should desire above all else, namely, to have the Spirit of the Lord and his grace working in you, to pray always with purity of heart and to have humility, patience in persecution and in infirmity, and to love those who persecute and rebuke you and slander you, because the Lord says, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Mt 5:44) "Blessed are those who are persecuted in the cause of uprightness: the kingdom of Heaven is theirs" (Mt 5:10)  "Anyone who stands firm to the end will be saved" (Mt 10:22)" --St. Francis, Rule of 1233, Chapter X

St. Francis' admonition not to seek out book-learning was no doubt based on experience.  Having come from an affluent family he was well educated and knew the perils it presented in living a life of humility.  I know a child who asked Jesus into his heart at age 10.  The next year in school he stood up for his belief in creation vs. evolution in science class and was ridiculed for it by his peers.  At that tender age his very social survival depended on his falling into step with his peers.  The more educated he became the more his mind overrode his heart and child-like faith.  I do not think he's ever recovered that first tenderness of heart that led him to ask Christ into his life.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - January 5

Concerning Preachers

"....I also admonish and exhort those who preach to use well-chosen and chaste words that are practical and edifying.  And let them point out to the faithful what is evil and what is virtuous, what merits punishment and what leads to eternal glory.  And let your discourse be brief, because the Lord's words were few when he was on earth."  --St. Francis, Rule of 1223, Chapter IX

This makes a case for being daily in the word of God rather than saving it for one day a week in church.  The preacher has to pack seven days of living for God into one hour.  This reminds me of the high school language class I took.  I spent the first year learning the basics of German five days a week throughout the school year.  The second year, however, when we were to learn to speak it, I took a summer school course in eight weeks.  I'm a confirmed believer that languages are learned and retained better over a long period rather than condensed into a few short weeks.  Learning to walk in the Spirit is much the same way.  It's in the daily walking in the Spirit that we learn to be in the Spirit. It's a way of life and since life is daily, it must be learned daily--in small increments.  Jesus spoke directly to the needs of his hearers as He moved through the countryside and villages.  His actions often spoke louder than His words.  As messengers of God word let us live our daily lives as witnesses to His Love.  Then our words need only be few.

Monday, January 4, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - January 4

The Rule of the Lesser Brothers

"Note:  St. Francis called his friars, or brothers, 'lesser' to locate them in society among the little people, the poor and lowly, who were called 'minores,' 'lesser ones,' in medieval Italy.  The more affluent, or the nobility, were called 'majores,' or 'greater ones'."

"....The Rule and Life of the Lesser Brothers is this:  to observe the Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by living in obedience, without anything of their own, and in chastity."  --St. Francis, Rule of 1223, Chapter 1

This "Rule and Life" doesn't just apply to friars.  All who are called into a relationship with Christ must live in obedience to Him, and while we may possess much, we are to live as though we do not own it.  Everything comes from God and belongs to Him.  As for chastity, these men were to devote their entire lives to God and therefore not marry.  Chastity was part of that.  But we who are married must also be chaste in our relationships outside of our marriage relationship.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - January 3

St. Francis's Advice to a Minister

"Let there be no brother who has sinned, no matter how seriously, who would look into your eyes seeking forgiveness, and go away without it.  And should he not seek forgiveness, you should ask him if he wants it.  And if after that he were to sin a thousand times, even before your eyes, love him more than me, for this is now you will draw him to the Lord; and always have mercy on such as these."  --St. Francis, Letter to a Minister ("Minister" is a superior, a word that St. Francis does not use for those brothers in positions of authority.)

I have always forgiven anyone who has asked for it.  The problem is, people rarely ask because in most cases they do not know they need to be forgiven.  St. Francis says that if the person does not ask for forgiveness we should ask them if they want it.  I have rarely been  fearless enough to do this, but I can see the wisdom in it.  Sometimes an offense is a matter of a misunderstanding that the person could quickly rectify if they knew about it.  Other times, you may find out more information that puts you in the wrong and the need to be the one asking for forgiveness.  And in the case where the person has clearly wronged you but refuses to acknowledge such, you then gain this opportunity that St. Francis points to of drawing them to the Lord by your forgiving them anyway.  What good does it do to forgive someone in secret if they do not even know they have sinned against you?  Let them know their offense against you so they have the opportunity to ask for forgiveness and set things straight (and from experience I can say it needs to be face-to-face, if possible, and if not, in a phone call--never in a letter or e-mail), then forgive them even if they don't feel they need it.  In this way, your heart is freed from all the unkind thoughts that kept God's love from flowing through you to them.  And in doing so you will be an example of how God draws us to Him.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - January 2

St. Francis Speaks of the Early Days of the Brotherhood

"...Although it was already a holy place, they made it even more holy by constant prayer and silence.  If anyone spoke after the time set aside for silence, it was to speak devoutly and discreetly of things pertaining to the praise of God and the salvation of souls.  They curbed the desires of the flesh, not only by fasting, but also by frequent vigils, by enduring the cold in light clothing, and by working with their hands.  In order to avoid idleness, they would often go and help poor farmers work their fields, and sometimes after work the farmers would share their bread with them for the love of God.  They sanctified themselves and the place by these and other virtuous acts."  --St. Francis, Legend of Perugia, 57f

The first time I attended a Quaker meeting for worship I encountered this experience of being in a holy place made more holy by the "constant prayer and silence."  As I sat on the bench, deep in prayer, someone stood to speak.  At that moment I knew I was in the right place because the gentleman's words spoke right to the burden I was carrying in my heart.  I attended another two years until we moved out of the area, but I often think of my time there in congregational worship.  Silent prayer allows your heart to open up and receive what God has for you.  Sometimes it may be through words spoken by another, but the most worshipful times for me have been when my spirit hears God's Spirit, and that can only come in silence for God's voice is that quiet, still voice that can only be heard when we've quit talking and started listening.

Friday, January 1, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - January 1

A New Kind of Fool                                                                                                           "The Lord has called me into the way of simplicity and humility, and he has indeed made this way known through me and through all who choose to believe me and follow me.  So I prefer you not talk to me about any other Rule, whether St. Benedict's, or St. Augustine's, or St. Bernard's, nor recommend any other ideal or manner of life than that which the Lord in his mercy has revealed and given me.  He told me I am to be a new kind of fool in this world."  --St. Francis, Mirror of Perfection, 68
Years ago I was to play my guitar and sing a song in front of my church one Sunday.  The song meant a lot to me so I memorized it so I could look out at the congregation and connect with them as I sang. I was not, and still am not, at ease in front of an audience and was feeling very nervous that I would forget the words and look like a fool......This was what was going through my mind instead of paying attention to the service while I awaited my time to present my song.  But then the Holy Spirit broke into my thoughts reminding me if I was willing to look like a fool for Him that's all that mattered.  In that moment that I consented, all my anxiety left.  When I stood up on that platform and began to sing every memorized word left my mind.  I could not think of one line from that song.  But as I strummed my guitar and opened my mouth, I heard the words and melody coming out of me.

It's not that He asks us to be fools for Him, but rather that we be willing to look the fool.  I'm sure St. Francis had his detractors who thought he was foolish for his way of simplicity and humility, and people may have thought I was a fool for thinking I had any playing or singing ability to offer, but what God saw was my willingness to answer the call He'd laid on my heart.  And that's all that mattered to Him.

Through the Year with Francis of Assisi

Today I am beginning a new series using the book "Through the Year with Francis of Assisi."  It is a book of daily meditations from St. Francis' words and life, selected and translated by Murray Bodo.  Each day I will quote some or all of that day's meditation then write my own response.  This is a method I've found very useful when I want to learn something:  write it out, then write a response.

Francis of Assisi was born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone to a wealthy silk merchant in either late 1181 or early 1182.  His father was in France when he was born and christened.  Upon his return he started calling him Francesco (it means "the Frenchman") because his business with France had been quite successful and he liked all things French.  Francesco was typical of a wealthy young man of the time and even became a soldier.  After spending a year in captivity and then a serious illness in 1204 he had a spiritual crisis.  You can read a short biography of his life HERE.

In the introduction to this book Murray Bodo explains what he feels is the message of St. Francis' life:  Our need to be purer vessels for holding all that God is lavishly pouring into us.  Francis felt the way to achieve this was through living the Gospel.

He is best known for this prayer:

Bodo writes concerning the above prayer where Francis says, "For it is in giving that we receive". . . ."but that can only be prayed well by one who knows that it is only 'in receiving that we give.'  For God has first loved us, and given himself to us, and that is what we learn from the mystics like St. Francis, who are brave enough to close their eyes and lips and listen.  Then what begins to rise in us is that which has been lifted up by him who comes in love, and what he lifts up is the heart itself, rising from within to meet the Love descending to embrace it."   Bodo explains that the time Francis spent in meditation and prayer enabled him to serve those in need without regard for himself just as Jesus did.

I hope you will join me on this journey as I seek to live more simply and more humbly.