Perhaps there is no finer ministry than just to be in meetings or crowds, whispering “Jesus,” and then helping people whenever you see an opportunity.
It is through prayer that God works directly on your soul, and not through theological rumination.
Possession by the Spirit and life under his constant personal guidance constitute the highest conceivable spiritual state.
~The Interpreter’s Bible
In deep prayer God’s Presence becomes the reality and experience of our lives.
There are many disciples of Christ who can justly claim that they are indifferent to material possessions. They happily live in simple huts, wear rough woolen clothes, eat frugally, and give away the bulk of their fortunes. These same people can justly claim that they are indifferent to worldly power. They happily work in the most humble capacities, performing menial tasks, with no desire for high rank. But there may still be one earthly attribute to which they cling: reputation. They may wish to be regarded by others as virtuous. They may want to be admired for their charity, their honesty, their integrity, their self-denial. They may not actually draw people’s attention to these qualities, but they are pleased to know that others respect them. Thus when someone falsely accuses them of some wrongdoing, they react with furious indignation. They protect their reputation with the same ferocity as the rich people protect their gold. Giving up material possessions and worldly power is easy compared with giving up reputation. To be falsely accused and remain spiritually serene is the ultimate test of faith.
The brothers asked Agatho, “Abba, which virtue in our way of life needs most effort to acquire?” He said to them, “I may be wrong but I think nothing needs so much effort as prayer to God. If anyone wants to pray, the demons try to interrupt the prayer, for they know that prayer is the only thing that hinders them. All the other efforts in a religious life, whether they are made vehemently or gently, have room for a measure of rest. But we need to pray till our dying breath. That is the great struggle.”
-from The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks
Remember that if the mighty ones of this world are honored with noisy eulogies and public fanfare, I am honored by the silent and attentive heart, by a delicate sacrifice known to no one, by a secret surrender, a tender inner glance.
~from He And I by Gabrielle Bossis
There’s this quote I read in May that will not leave me alone. It keeps haunting me and following me around:
In order for humility to mature it must blossom into self-forgetfulness.
After decades of pastoring, counseling, and clumsy attempts at helping other people, I am coming to a not so obvious but compelling conclusion: Much of our helping is like hoping for first-class accommodations on the Titanic. It feels good at the moment but it is going nowhere. The big tear in the hull is not addressed, and we are surprised when people drown, complain, or resort to life boats. Most of the people I have tried to fix still need fixing. The situation changed, but the core was never touched.
But what is the core? And how do we touch it? What does it mean essentially to help another person? If we can find the answer to these questions, we are coming close to what the world religions mean by true ministry. It is absolutely unlike any other form of helping. It has many counterfeits and disguises. What Jesus, Buddha, Confucius, the saints, and the prophets are talking about is the Absolute Help, which alone is worthy of the name–the radical help that none of us can give to another. We can only point to it and promise that it is there. That is the first and final work of all true religion. All else is secondary.
Call it grace, enlightenment, peak experience, baptism in the spirit, revelation, consciousness, growth, or surrender, but until such a threshold is passed, people are never helped in any true, lasting sense. After the early stages of identity and belonging are worked through, real transformation does not seem to take place apart from some kind of contact with the Transcendent or Absolute. We now live in a secular culture that is largely afraid to talk about such contact except either in fundamentalist or vague New Age language. Neither is sufficient to name the depth or the personal demand of the true God encounter. What characterizes the trustworthy conversion experience is a profound sense of meeting Another, who names me personally and yet calls me to a task beyond myself. Therapeutic healing will always be an effect, but it is never the goal itself or even a concern. One’s own wholeness pales into insignificance in relationship to the wholeness one is now delighting in.