It is very hard to accept an early death. When friends die who are seventy, eighty, or ninety years old, we may be in deep grief and miss them very much, but we are grateful that they had long lives. But when a teenager, a young adult, or a person at the height of his or her career dies, we feel a protest rising from our hearts “Why? Why so soon? Why so young? It is unfair”. But far more important than our quantity of years is the quality of our lives. Jesus died young. St. Francis died young. St. Therese of Lisieux died young, Martin Luther King, Jr., died young. We do not know how long we will live, but this not knowing calls us to live every day, every week, every year of our lives to its fullest potential
- Henri Nouwen
When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world.
I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation. When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family.
Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.
- Unknown Monk, 1100 A.D.
To be simple, to be genuine, to have nothing to do with anything forced, unnatural, or artificial - these things have been of consuming importance to us from the very beginning of our life together. We wanted to live close to creation and nature. We longed to be so natural in our belief in God and in our understanding of His creation that no religious influence of any kind would be able to divert us from a childlike and simple way of living.
We realized that life in Church community is not possible unless it is completely natural. We knew that the common life would be lost if it were lulled into some form of artificial piety, if we were to adopt a language full of pious words that did not spring from deep roots, did not come genuinely from our hearts.
As with language, so it is with everything else. One legacy of the Youth Movement is our attitude toward nature. It was not just romanticism that made us rejoice in meadows and flowers, woods and mountains. To experience nature helped us to come closer to the beginnings, to creation itself. We would have nothing to do with anything that did not spring straight from the innermost source.
Now it is my sincere longing that our common life spring directly from the ground of the heart, just as it is given to each one of us; that all false piety, all hypocrisy, be ruled out and what is natural be allowed to grow. We ask God to grant us a life full of this inner vitality, as alive as the plants, the stars, and the animals; as full of vitality as the birth and development of a child. May this be given in the life of each one of us. Then we shall know true faithfulness.
We should appreciate work on the land, especially in farm and garden, because of its closeness to nature, its intrinsic genuineness. It provides us with our daily food from God’s hand, which gives us strength to cope with all that the heart and mind are called to do.
Eberhard Arnold - March 1935.
Spirituality means waking up. Most people, even though they don’t know it, are asleep. They’re born asleep, they live asleep, they marry in their sleep, they breed children in their sleep, they die in their sleep without ever waking up. They never understand the loveliness and the beauty of this thing that we call human existence. You know ~ all mystics ~ Catholic, Christian, non-Christian, no matter what their theology, no matter what their religion ~ are unanimous on one thing: that all is well, all is well. Though everything is a mess, all is well. Strange paradox, to be sure. But, tragically, most people never get to see that all is well because they are asleep. They are having a nightmare.
Last year on Spanish television I heard a story about this gentleman who knocks on his son’s door. “Jaime,” he says, “wake up!” Jaime answers, “I don’t want to get up, Papa.”
The father shouts, “Get up, you have to go to school.” Jaime says, “I don’t want to go to school.” “Why not?” asks the father. “Three reasons,” says Jaime. First, because it’s so dull; second, the kids tease me; and third, I hate school. And the father says, “Well, I am going to give you three reasons why you must go to school. First, because it is your duty; second, because you are forty-five years old, and third, because you are the headmaster.” Wake up! Wake up! You’ve grown up. You’re too big to be asleep. Wake up! Stop playing with your toys.
Most people tell you they want to get out of kindergarten, but don’t believe them. Don’t believe them! All they want you to do is to mend their broken toys. “Give me back my wife. Give me back my job. Give me back my money. Give me back my reputation, my success.” This is what they want; they want their toys replaced. That’s all. Even the best psychologist will tell you that, that people don’t really want to be cured. What they want is relief; a cure is painful.
Waking up is unpleasant, you know. You are nice and comfortable in bed. It is irritating to be woken up. That’s the reason the wise guru will not attempt to wake people up. I hope I’m going to be wise here and make no attempt whatsoever to wake you up if you are asleep. It is really none of my business, even though I say to you at times, “Wake up!” My business is to do my thing, to dance my dance. If you profit from it fine; if you don’t, too bad! As the Arabs say, “The nature of rain is the same, but it makes thorns grow in the marshes and flowers in the gardens.
- Anthony Demello
Our voice is the essence of who we are; the nucleus of our being. Its demonstration is not limited to the mere function of our vocal chords to speak and decree or the faculties of our body toward action. Our voices can be defined ultimately by the message that radiates from our innermost person and spirit; a message that’s expression is examined by sincerity and truth.
For those of us who claim to be “Christians”, we have been given a voice: It is Christ. To be even more specific… It is Christ in us.
However, it is quite interesting and worthy of noting that first century Christians were not self-proclaimed. I’ll explain… You see, it was not their theological stance that justified them. Nor was it any position held, renowned gifting or attendance to the local assembly that gave them validation. The fact is that it was the unbelievers that invented and directed the term “Christian” toward any person or population of people who not only “followed” Christ, but also reflected his essence.
By their sincere love were they known. By their compassion and unwavering faith could Christ’s life and mission be glorified. It was not necessarily their works, but the heart that fueled those works that provoked even the pagans to say, “Behold, these men are “like-Christ”.
What are you saying today? What is the world saying about you? Not that we be driven by man’s opinion, but we must be sensitive and aware of how we speak to others, tend our marriages, seek and relay the truth, and love mankind.
Remember, it was the religious leaders that killed Christ. And, by the way, they are still figuratively killing Him today. Remember, that Christ loved to be in the presence of the weak, tormented, unhealthy and unrighteous. And remember, that we are to be “like-Christ”.
Our greatest source of suffering does not stem from lack of knowledge, depletion of resources or any foreign enemy. Our so called troubles, when traced back to their source, will indicate the sobering truth that we are simply, and yet strikingly, irresponsible.
We complain about the way we feel, and yet we treat our bodies horribly. We complain about our government (that we voted into office) without so much as lifting a finger to advocate change. We grumble about our so called “poverty” as we purchase vehicles, sound systems, clothes, vacations and movies on credit cards. We complain about the behavior of children while negating our obligation to properly parent and teach them basic principles of respect, chivalry and communication.
Irresponsibility is the nemesis of awareness. It is the adversary of growth and maturity. It is the killer of discipline and destiny. It deteriorates our physical and spiritual vitality. And it manipulates, distorts and destroys the scope by which we were meant to view reality.
The time has truly come my friends to embrace responsibility… and to live in hot pursuit of wisdom. We must engage truth and view discipline as a friend. In doing so, we will witness a progressive weeding out of our ignorance, selfishness and greed and replace our internal maladies with a tender heart of love, a hunger for truth, a blazing spirit and capacity for stewardship of the highest caliber.
To be practical: Learn about the food you eat and the water you drink. Learn about the medications you take and the therapies you allow to be practiced on your body. Learn why you believe what you believe and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Learn forgiveness and honesty both toward others and yourself. And finally, learn to love learning. Learn responsibility.
Then awareness will find you, empower you… and by God’s grace, set you free.
Never punish anyone in the area of faith and love. Wait patiently for God’s hour for each person. These things need time to mature and unfold in God’s way, and we must not act independently to interfere with His plan. One of the worst mistakes people in some religious circles make is to go blundering with their human will into the inner growth of something God is doing through Jesus. In each one of us this inner growth took time, and no human being had an business meddling or interfering with it. It needed to be clarified and illuminated by God’s light and purified by His fire. Then, when we are inwardly ready, we could accept Christ’s truth, God’s love, and the peace of His Kingdom.
- Eberhard Arnold, June 1934
Woe to us if we do the correct thing but have no love. Woe to us if we say the correct thing but have no love. (1 Corinthians 13:1) Then it would be better to say nothing. Never tell a person an unpleasant truth unless the Holy Spirit has given you the assurance that you love that person with all heart and you may therefore say it. (Ephesians 4:15) Woe to anyone who admonishes brothers or sisters and does not have love for them in his heart. He is a murderer. For truth without love kills, while love without truth lies.
- Eberhard Arnold, July 1933.
“Challenge is a dragon with a gift in its mouth. Tame the dragon and the gift is yours”. - Noela Evans
Be honest. Have you found yourself subconsciously, or even consciously, addicted to social networking websites such as Facebook or Myspace? “Of course not, that’s not me”. Well, let’s take a deeper look shall we? When you wake up in the morning before taking a shower, brushing your teeth or eating breakfast, do you trudge tiredly toward your computer only to meaninglessly browse through the status updates of your insomniac buddies and early risers alike ? Perhaps you do not even make it to your computer? Maybe, you just turn over in bed to grab your smartphone off your nightstand as this anxious tension arises inside you to see if maybe, just maybe, someone commented on your picture, posted a note or announced their undying love for you over the world wide web! Even worse! Are you a stuntman? Driving with one hand on the wheel and the other grasping your precious portal into the Facebook world dodging calamity and risking serious injury for… does anybody really know what? “But I don’t care about Facebook, I could quit anytime”. Sounds like a chain smoker in denial to me.
But let’s get this straight. There is nothing wrong with Facebook, or any other social networking website for that matter. They are powerful tools that allow us to keep in touch with friends and family, share experiences and minister love. The problem is not with the website itself, but with our attachment to it. I’ll say it this way… Social networking can be a humble servant, or a horrible master.
And so I offer a friendly challenge. For those who are willing, I challenge you to fast from social networking. WHAT?!?!?!
No, this isn’t some spiritual ritual or an attempt to make God rain angels out of the sky. Nor is it a slam on your personal desire to use Facebook as entertainment. It is simply a challenge toward awareness… Awareness of subconscious dependancy and the potentially shocking answer to this simple question… “What would life be like without Facebook”?
Rules. Well, there are no rules. You set the duration of the fast. Maybe you can make it a goal to not even log on to Facebook (Or even the computer itself except if required for school or work) until noon or one o’clock for three days. For those bold adventurers out there, a one, two, three day or even a week long whole day fast will be your heart’s pursuit and desire.
“People spend over 500 billion minutes per month on Facebook” - Facebook Press Room page. Click [HERE] for more stats.
Be free! So what to do with that extra time. Well, you could take a walk through the park, get some more exercise, get better sleep, pray, spend time with a family member or friend, read a book, learn a language, start a business… hey, there are plenty of things to do. And that is precisely my point.. Life is short, and it is my opinion (and that’s all it is) that our adventures should consist of life-giving-soul-nourishing moments found running, laughing, singing and enjoying life with friends or in intimate solitude with God. Not humpbacked and slouched over in front of a computer screen. (Ha! I caught you didn’t I?)
To conclude. To be wise, to be strong, to be healthy, to be reckless, to be close to God, to be genuine… It always has been, and always will be YOUR CHOICE.
I like Facebook and think it’s great! However, like I mentioned earlier, it can truly be a horrible master. A master that removes us from people and things that matter. It can steal away growth, distract us from reality and weaken our spirits. Nothing my friends, is worth that.
Will you take the challenge? The choice is yours, it always has been… If you do take this noble challenge, let a close friend know, write it in a journal… but do something to ensure you follow through and the fast will be meaningful. Grace to you my friends.. Until next time…
The essence of sincerity is that it is natural and unforced. Let us pray that our love be as Paul writes: “sincere” or “without hypocrisy”, that the world would see and experience a manifestation of Christ’s love in and through His people, taste of God’s goodness and be encouraged after tasting pure water, to follow the stream back to it’s source.
Societal conventionalism, both natural and spiritual, have done much to lead mankind far away from the blessing and purity of truth. Not to be confused with practicality, societal conventionalism has in many ways produced a “religious” community of people with calloused hearts; having lost touch with common sense, sincerity, true love and reality. On the spiritual side of things (that is if in fact we are even at liberty to decipher between “spiritual” and “non-spiritual”) the end result is a population unknowingly driven by fear who’s preoccupation with conventional format in personal relationships leave them numb to the leadings of God’s Spirit and will as their level of sensitivity and love slowly deteriorate. Consequently, all that remains are a people who cling to their traditions so much as to value them above the pursuit of life with God and embodying the characteristics of Christ.
However, if one is not careful he will find himself so enamored with destroying “religion” that he becomes religious in his “anti-religion” and will slowly become the very thing that he opposes. Sadly, this happens all too often. And steadily, many times subconsciously, an internal resentment is formed within our young spiritual pilgrim towards their brother or sister… all the while justifying their pride and inability to receive from others claiming that others are simply “too religious”… Misplaced zeal at it’s finest.
There are two sides to this coin called “religion”. In Jesus’ day, it was the religious leaders, and not the “non-believers”, that ultimately crucified Christ. And figuratively speaking, they are in many ways still doing it today. However, to justify any set of acts or beliefs based on the premise that all who oppose are simply being too “religious” is equally, if not more, prideful. Especially, because most of the time a person’s level of “religiosity” is in truth, opinion based. Pride kills and has no place in Christendom.
The goal here is balance.
Balance is not compromise. Balance is stewardship. It is wisdom and honor; compassion and grace. It is not hard to achieve for the only pre-requisite is sincerity and humility. These are the qualities that breed authenticity and draw us toward common sense, sincerity, true love and reality. They allow us to embrace practicality, simplicity and to evade the wide gate that is societal conventionalism and follow the “narrow road” toward awareness, wisdom and authentic faith.
A man found an eagle’s egg and put it in a nest of a barnyard hen. The eaglet hatched with the brood of chicks and grew up with them. All his life the eagle did what the barnyard chicks did, thinking he was a barnyard chicken. He scratched the earth for worms and insects. He clucked and cackled. And he would thrash his wings and fly a few feet into the air.
Years passed and the eagle grew very old. One day he saw a magnificent bird above him in the cloudless sky. It glided in graceful majesty among the powerful wind currents, with scarcely a beat on his strong golden wings. The old eagle looked up in awe. “Who’s that?” he asked. “That’s the eagle, the king of the birds,” said his neighbour. “He belongs to the sky. We belong to the earth - we’re chickens.” So the eagle lived and died a chicken, for that’s what he thought he was.
- Anthony Demello
Who do you think you are?
What limits have you placed upon yourself?
As a man thinks in his heart, so he is. - (Book of Proverbs, 23:7)