Meditation for Sep 4, 2017

The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.  
Mat. 14:45-46

God has been encouraging me lately to appreciate the spiritual discipline of simply remaining in His love—how this one practice is sufficient for all His objectives within me.   The Lord is also helping me recognize the many ways I so easily allow myself to be drawn away from His presence, especially during my prayer time.   And I am coming to accept more and more that it is who am the principal cause of my straying—that it is ultimately my own free choice that determines whether I remain with Jesus or not.

My spiritual director often reminds me of this—that to remain in God’s presence requires that I simply choose not to leave.   The opposite is also true—that the act of leaving God is the result of my own free choice to depart from His presence.  All that is necessary for me to enjoy a sustained spiritual life is that I choose to remain in Christ’s love.  Could it be any simpler?  And yet the conversion of will that this implies means that I must first acknowledge the many things I seem to prefer instead of being with Christ.

Prayer forces me to accept the disturbing fact of my own concupiscence.   When it comes to that which should be most precious to me, I am increasingly dismayed by the frivolous things I allow to distract me from God.

To remain in God’s presence during prayer is an invitation to choose the Lord above all the other considerations of my heart    And a large part of my spiritual growth—of God establishing Himself as the increasingly precious pearl of my life—must include the recognition and confession that He is not so at present.   To this confession I must add the genuine desire that it be otherwise.  And then I must submit to the Holy Spirit for the purification of my desires.

Like all of us, I long to be more rooted in Christ, not only in my prayer time but also in my day, and throughout my whole life.   I am learning to accept, more and more, the radical conversion of my will that this will necessitate.  As Jesus plainly taught, before I can claim this pearl of great price I must first get rid of all I otherwise possess.   And until I do, the preciousness of my love for God will remain hidden, buried in the ground of my own preferred distractions.

A Prayer
Lord, I offer all that I am to all that You are.
I stretch up to You in desire, my attention on You alone

I cannot grasp You, explain You, describe You.
I can only cast myself into the depths of Your mystery
I can only let Your love pierce the cloud of my unknowing.
Let me forget all but You

You are what I long for, You are my chief good
You are my eager hope, You are my all

I glimpse Your eternity, Your unconditional freedom
Your unfailing wisdom, Your perfect love
I am humble and worshiping
Warming to love and hope
Waiting and available
For Your will
Dear Lord
by George Appleton

Rob Des Cotes
Imago Dei Christian Communities
(written for Jan. 19th, 2012)

For Group Discussion:

1. How might the practice of remaining in Christ’s love be sufficient for advancing all of God’s objectives within us? How might we increasingly recognize the precious nature of God’s love, and value this passive posture as being foundational to our transformation?

2. Why is the simplicity of “remaining” such a challenge for us? What impulses, distractions and other factors can we identify that subvert this blessed practice?

3. In specific terms, how might we move toward and participate in the “radical conversion” of our wills in order to become habituated to the practice of remaining in Christ’s love?

For Prayer:
The “Prayer” above by George Appleton is a humble celebration of the preciousness of God and his love. It is also an explicit surrender of one’s will to God. This week, spend time entering into this prayer or specific phrases in it that express your thankfulness for all that God is, and the desire of your heart for a more devoted and singular love for him.

Meditation for June 5, 2017

Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.   Matt. 7:13-14

The grace I most often seek in my daily prayer is for Jesus to simply gather me to His presence—that He would bring my scattered self into focus and shepherd me to a place of unity with Himself.  The idea of being gathered unto Jesus certainly resonates with the Lord’s teaching regarding the narrow path we are being drawn towards.  He invites us to choose for ourselves this narrow way rather than the wide way we more often prefer.

We usually interpret this passage as primarily evangelistic, where Jesus is the Way to the Father, and wide is the way of those who refuse Him.  But I believe these verses also apply to how we are to continue living as Christians in ever-growing proximity to our Lord, which comes from the narrowing of our focus.   Like a river that gets stronger as it passes through a narrow channel, a more Christ-constrained focus will produce greater strength in our lives.

A funnel might be another illustration of the way Jesus shepherds us towards what is more beneficially narrow in life.  Picture the funnel on its side, with its mouth representing the width and breadth of life, and the spout being the more narrow way.  Where are you today in relationship to this funnel?  Perhaps you are not even in the funnel, but wandering somewhere outside, not ready yet for the journey inwards (A).  You’re in the general program of Christianity but you know that you are living life with much more latitude and self-determinacy than you suspect is consistent with your professed faith.


Growing maturity in faith helps us cooperate with this process of being shepherded more deeply into the funnel (B).  There is a lessening desire in us for the wider latitudes we once enjoyed.  We also have a better understanding of how to participate with this process.   What are the forces that now encourage you towards the more narrow way (C)?  What people, practices or disciplines help constrain you as you advance towards this self-simplifying path?

As the Way gets narrower it conforms you more and more in the direction of the funnel spout (D).  It is the funnel that now defines your movements much more than your own self-determination.  You find it both restricting and yet freeing as you recognize the hand of God more closely on your life than ever.

More and more your spiritual formation revolves around one simple question:  how can I participate more fully with this action of being gathered by Jesus?  How can I let myself be shepherded by Him towards the beauty of this narrow relationship?   The answer to this question demands only one thing of you—a sustained willingness to let go of your wider agendas in favour of Jesus’ promise of a more abundant life.

In our most profound instincts, we all long for such narrowing of our lives—a simplification, a stilling, a silencing of all that spreads us out too thin. To allow Jesus each day to draw us deeper into His “funnel” is to truly live a spiritual life.  His promise is that this one choice will lead us, like a river being forced through a narrow chasm, to greater strength and abundance in our lives.

Rob Des Cotes
Imago Dei Christian Communities
written for July 17th, 2014

FOR GROUP DISCUSSION

  1. Where do you presently find yourself in relationship to the funnel?  Do you welcome this narrowing in your life, or are you afraid of what it might demand of you?
  1. As you have begun participating with this process what resources or responses of submission have you found helpful?  What helps draw you more in the direction of the narrow way?  What scatters you and moves you back towards the mouth of the funnel?
  1. What signs of new life have you begun to notice that you might attribute to the benefits of the narrow way Jesus is drawing you to?

FOR PRAYER:  In your prayer, ask Jesus to gather you to Himself.  Ask Him to help you yield more fully to this process.  Allow the Lord to simplify your life so that you might conform more and more to the shape of His shepherding .

Meditation for Monday May 15, 2017

As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus, was sitting by the roadside begging.  When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”   Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Mark 10:46-48

Perhaps you too have cried out at times with what might be called a “shot in the dark” prayer—those prayers we make to the walls and ceiling in the hope that there is a God out there who just might hear us.  Bartimaeus, the beggar from Jericho, certainly exemplifies such faith and the blind hope (in his case literally) that reaches out for God’s help in spite of our doubts.

Bartimaeus is used to calling out in the dark for what he needs.  He is a beggar after all, and blind to boot.  Sitting by the roadside, with only the sound of footsteps to go on, he spends his day calling out to passersby, trying to draw attention to himself.  So why should today be any different?

The blind man hears a crowd going by.  “What’s happening,” he shouts to anyone within earshot.  “It’s Jesus of Nazareth,” a woman replies as she walks past the beggar.  Bartimaeus spends a lot of time listening to the conversations that surround his dark world.  He’s heard of Jesus before.  And he knows that this man apparently heals people.  What’s there to lose?

“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me,” he yells above the din of the crowd.  He is just one of many voices in the confusion of people that surround Jesus, but Bartimaeus, more than anyone, knows how to make himself heard.  He lets out another plaintive and well-rehearsed cry that cuts through the otherwise civil discourse of others.  “Have mercy on me,” he shouts in the most poignant tone he can muster.  Those closest to him certainly hear him, and their response is a familiar one to Bartimaeus.  They want to quell this overly opportunist beggar.  But, to everyone’s surprise, the first miracle happens.  Jesus hears his cry.

The crowd hushes as the Lord suddenly stops and says, “Call him to me.”  Anticipation rises.  Something is about to happen here.  Bartimaeus is not sure what is going on.  And he is more surprised than anyone when, instead of trying to shut him up, he hears someone from the crowd actually calling him to come to the Master.  “Cheer up,” the voice says, “On your feet!  He’s calling you.”

Bartimaeus doesn’t waste a second.  A beggar man knows just how fickle people’s generosity can be.  He jumps to his feet and lets himself be led a short distance.  Then he hears a voice that asks what seems like a most rhetorical question, “What do you want me to do for you?”  No introduction is needed.  He knows who this is, and he replies in the most simple terms, “Rabbi, I want to see.” Jesus responds with an equally direct pronouncement, “Go, your faith has healed you.”

Bartimaeus has his reward.  He, who only moments ago, from his dark and lonely world, had enough faith to at least try a blind shot in the dark, can now see.  Everything has changed for him because of a little gumption on his part—the type of chutzpah that has sometimes worked for him in the past, but never as successfully as it has on this day.

Bartimaeus will live a very different life than would have been his lot had he too soon disqualified himself from the abundant possibilities that lay just beyond his capacity to see.  His experience of God will also be very different than had he chosen to obey the voices suggesting to him that such a close relationship was somehow inappropriate for him.  Instead, as Scripture tells us, when those doubts were raised in him, Bartimaeus, in blind faith, simply shouted all the louder.

Rob Des Cotes
Imago Dei Christian Communities
(written for May 15, 2014)

FOR GROUP DISCUSSION:
Do you remember a circumstance in your life when you offered a ‘shot in the dark’ prayer?  How would you describe the quality of faith that countered your doubts at that time in order to help you pray?Are there times when, in asking God for something, you have felt more like an opportunist beggar than a child of God?   How did you respond to the negative voices that tried to discourage your prayer?Is there a prayer in your life that you have perhaps been offering more tentatively than you should? What would it look like for you to instead “shout all the louder?”

FOR PRAYER:  Explore boldness in your prayer.  Try asking for something that you’ve never dared ask before.  If, at some point, this starts feeling inappropriate, try shouting all the louder.

Meditation for Monday, February 06, 2017

I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple…..Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’
                                                                        Isa. 6:1,8

Beauty has a way of transforming us.  It never leaves us indifferent or unaffected but moves us towards action, sending us back into the world as witnesses of what we have seen.  As Hans Urs von Balthasar puts it, “Beauty works its way into our bones, into the sinews of our life, indelibly marking us, and then setting us off.”

Isaiah, having tasted the goodness of the Lord, is sent out as a herald of the beauty he has seen. As the Catholic theologian Robert Barron writes,

  • The one who has been grasped by the beautiful is like the woman in the Gospel who breaks open the alabaster jar at the feet of Jesus and allows the aroma of the perfume to fill the entire house; she is willing to break open her life in order to witness to what she has seen and heard.

Experiences of beauty always imply mission.  We are changed by what God has shown us.  And whatever we receive in such encounters is always for the sake of others.  As Barron notes,

  • Visions of the divine are never given merely for the sake of private edification or contemplation. The “seeing” is never an end in itself.  On the contrary, there is always a commission attached to the insight. Vision opens you to mission.  You have been shown so that others might see as well.

There are countless examples in Scripture of this movement from “seeing” to “being sent.”   Moses is so marked by his encounter with God that his face became radiant.  He doesn’t stay on the mountaintop but comes back down to set his people free.   Saul of Tarsus, dazzled by Christ’s light, is sent to Damascus where he is given a mission to carry the message of Jesus to the gentiles.  And Peter, the first to discern that Jesus is the Messiah, is immediately given the commission to anchor and ground the community through which the glory he has recognized will now be proclaimed to the world.

God, it would seem, does not disclose himself without a “price”. He commissions the one who has seen with a call for service to the whole community, a call that is both compelling and inescapable.  The beauty of the Lord becomes a fire within us, prompting us to a missionary life of proclamation.  As Barron puts it, “To refuse this call would be tantamount to refusing the best of oneself.  To ignore it would be to ignore the person we are meant to be.”  He adds,

  • The summons from God is like the coal placed on the lips of Isaiah, or the fire burning uncomfortably in the bones of Jeremiah, or the compulsion that Paul feels  to proclaim the Gospel:  ” I am ruined if I do not preach it!” The beauty of God  so possesses us that our very identity, our very person, becomes the mission to communicate this to the world.

Whatever we have seen of Christ transforms us into witnesses of the gospel.  And the same mystery that first drew us to His beauty now sends us out to share with the world the glory we have seen.

Rob Des Cotes
Imago Dei Christian Communities
(written for June 27th, 2013)

QUESTIONS

1.  In what ways has the beauty of God transformed you?  What particular aspect of God’s beauty comes to mind for you today?

2.  What do you wish you could share most with others about the beauty of the Lord?

3.  How do you relate to Robert Barron’s statement that “To refuse this call would be tantamount to refusing the best of oneself.  To ignore it would be to ignore the person we are meant to be?”

PRAYER:  Take time to meditate on the things you already know of God’s beauty.  Express to God something of your desire to know more—that He would open your heart to more fully appreciate the beauty of His ways.  Now pray for those who you would like to share this knowledge with.

Meditation for Monday January 16, 2017

Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you   Mat. 6:33

If you need a good New Year’s resolution you don’t have to look much further than Jesus’ exhortation for us to prioritize the kingdom of God and the many expressions of His righteousness in our lives.  According to this Scripture, by simply obeying the promptings of righteousness all the other resolutions we feel our life needs will automatically be looked after.

We generally think of righteousness in terms of our relationship to morality or to people.  But the word means much more than that.  It means to be rightly related to all things in your life—to exercise, to sleep, to your diet, to your finances, to work, to ministry, to your possessions, to entertainment, and yes, even to your computer and smart phone.  These are all areas where righteousness applies.  And they are also areas where we likely feel off-kilter at times.  We keep trying to find a balance, but we keep missing the mark.

God is always indicating to us adjustments we need to make in life, which is why we should approach righteousness more as an act of obedience than one of discipline or management.  If we simply heed the correctives of the Holy Spirit, God is prepared to show us how to live without excess or neglect in our relationship to all things.

Peace and stability are generally the indicators of being rightly related to something.  In the OT, when righteousness prevailed in the land, the people enjoyed shalom, a word that means much more than peace.  It speaks of wholeness, rest, harmony, and of the absence of agitation or discord.  When everything is in right relationship to everything else, the result is shalom.

Turmoil, on the other hand, usually indicates that adjustments are still needed.  It creates tension in us until the changes life is crying out for are made.  Such restlessness is a God-given instinct through which the Holy Spirit teaches us the correctives we need.  Just as our inner ear can tell us when we are standing off balance, so this God-given instinct can help us recognize when we are off-kilter in a relationship.  If we simply follow its leading, the Holy Spirit will free us from all the unnecessary wear and tear that being wrongly related to something produces in our lives.

The correctives of the Holy Spirit have a way of nagging us until we either do something about them or else shut them out.  If we consistently ignore these promptings we will develop what Jesus calls a “calloused heart,” which is not much different from the calluses we develop on our hands from manual labour, or on our feet from walking.  Our bodies warn us when a blister is developing.  It even provides pain to alert us of impending injury.  And if our inattentiveness persists, these repeated blisters eventually become a callus.  Having refused to heed its first warnings, our body shifts to plan B.   It hardens the skin, making itself insensitive to further stimulus.  This is what happens when we also ignore the Holy Spirit’s promptings.  We end up losing our relational sensitivity to that area of our lives.

To seek and find righteousness in all our relationships is certainly a realistic goal for any of us in the coming year.  We were created for righteousness in all areas of our life.  And in order to enjoy such accord with everything we need simply be more attentive to the discords we sense, to recognize them for what they are—the promptings of the Holy Spirit—and to be more willing to obey whatever adjustments they are calling for.

Rob Des Cotes
Imago Dei Christian Communities
(written for Jan. 9th, 2014)

FOR DISCUSSION:

  1. How would you describe the shalom you feel when you are rightly related to some aspect of your life?  How would you describe the experience of not being in right relationship to something?
  1. In what relationships have you allowed a callus to develop over your heart?  Are there areas in your life where, by ignoring the Spirit’s promptings, you have lost your relational sensitivity?
  1. Consider an area of your life where God is presently indicating that correctives are needed.  How does it change your motivation to consider this prompting as a call to obedience rather than a burden of responsibility?

FOR PRAYER:  Choose one of these two prayer options to be the focus of today’s prayer.  Choose the other one for some other day.

1) Imagine living in right relationship to all things in your life. Meditate on the quality of “shalom” that God envisions for you in these relationships.

2) Take stock of an area in your life where there is still turmoil in your relationship to something.  Welcome whatever correctives the Holy Spirit is suggesting to you.  Ask God for His aid in helping you choose to obey these promptings in your life.

Meditation for January 2, 2017

I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw.
Prov. 23:32

The end of the year is always a good time to look back and learn from decisions that either helped or hindered our passion for the Lord.  From the wisdom of hindsight, what might we learn from the ways we have observed ourselves growing (or not) over the past year?  And what adjustments might we consider in the coming year to ensure that we keep strong in our spiritual direction?

Consider the following Awareness Examen as applied to your spiritual growth over the past twelve months:

  • What particular seasons of growth do you remember?  What were the dry times?
  • What circumstances occasioned these experiences?  How did you respond to them?
  • What has grown in you as a result of these dry or abundant times?
  • What has been pruned as a result of these?
  • What new or deeper desires do you now have that you didn’t have a year ago?
  • What desires did you have then that don’t seem to be as pressing today?
  • What do you know about God that you didn’t know a year ago?
  • What do you know about yourself that you didn’t know a year ago?
  • How is your relationship to others different than at this time last year?
  • How can you apply what God has taught you about your own spiritual growth in the coming year?
  • What choices will help you remain fruitful?

As you look back on the previous year make note as well of particular activities and choices that most significantly contributed to your spiritual passion and growth.  What insights, books, people or events helped fuel the flame of your zeal?  Consider as well the decisions or conditions that quenched your spiritual life—situations that either distracted or dissipated your spiritual passions.  As we “apply our heart” to what we have observed in the past year we can easily learn what adjustments will be needed in order to assure a more profitable future.

FOR GROUP DISCUSSION:

  • Discuss together the questions above.
  • Make resolutions for the coming year in light of your answers.
  • Write these down and plan to revisit these resolutions together later in the year

FOR PRAYER:  Ask God for insight into the “garden” that is your life, that He would show you what grows well in you and whatever hinders your growth.  Offer yourself as “co-creator” with God of your own life, or as a servant who wishes to steward well the garden God has given you.

Rob Des Cotes
Imago Dei Christian Communities
(written for Jan. 1, 2015)

Rightly Related To All Things –
Saturday January 28, 2017

“In Christ, all things hold together” Col. 1:17

There’s only so much of you to go around. Where do we draw the line on the many demands for relationship we face in life? How much weight should we put on our own desires, hopes and needs? By what measure does the Lord define right relationship in our lives?

Rightly Related to All Things considers spiritual principles by which we are to discern the right relationship God is calling us to in the various facets of our lives. This day retreat will include teaching, discussion and opportunities for prayer in the belief that the more we center our lives in God, the more we will find our proper relationship to all other things.

The seminar details are as follows:

Leader – Mary Reimer
Date: January 28, 2017
Time: 9:00am to 4:00pm
Place: FaithWorks Office, 775 Cambridge St., Winnipeg MB
Cost: $40, includes lunch
To register call the FaithWorks office at (204) 477-0689

Meditation for November 21, 2016

IMAGO DEI: November 17, 2016
www.imagodeicommunity.ca       

I am like a deaf man, who cannot hear, like a mute, who cannot open his mouth;  I have become like a man who does not hear, whose mouth can offer no reply,  I wait for You, O Lord; You will answer, O Lord my God.    Psalm 38:13-15

Most of us live in a fog when it comes to any real sense of God’s presence in our lives.  Like the Psalmist, we find ourselves more deaf and mute than we would like to be regarding the quality of our communication with the Lord.  There are, of course, those rare and wonderful occasions when the clouds part and we experience a moment of clarity in this relationship.  But, for the most part, like the Psalmist, we tend to see, hear and speak dimly.

Psalm 38, however, affirms this condition as normal.  As the Psalmist matter-of-factly confesses, “I am like a deaf man who cannot hear, like a mute, who cannot open his mouth.”  It might seem like a hopeless position from which to cultivate a relationship—like being in a foreign country where you cannot speak or understand the people you are trying to communicate with—if not for the faith that God understands our human predicament.  Such is the confidence of the Psalmist.  Rather than despair over his inability to pray, he offers the very condition of his lostness as the basis of his prayer.
Those rare times—when the sky opens up and we once again know clarity in our communications with God—are what provide faith for us that, if we simply keep returning to prayer, these times will surely return.  Such hope is certainly the Psalmist’s inspiration when he says to God, “I will wait for you, O Lord,” and then adds his confident assurance that “You will answer, O Lord.”

Maturity helps us accept the limitations of our creatureliness when it comes to initiating communications with God.  But experience also teaches us that, if we wait long enough—if we persevere, and not give up on prayer—the Lord, in His time, will answer us.  From His own gracious initiative, clarity will return to us. The fog will lift, the clouds will part, and the sun of truth will shine on us once again.

Rob Des Cotes
Imago Dei Christian Communities
(written for July 10th, 2014)

FOR GROUP DISCUSSION

  1.   How would you describe your own experience of feeling deaf or mute in your prayers?  Have you ever used this condition as an excuse to leave your prayer?
  1.   What happens when you accept the “fog” as normal for the spiritual life rather than seeing it as a sign of failure on your part?  How is your faith especially purified during such times?
  1.   When you are in such a fog, how does God instil faith in you that spiritual clarity will eventually return?  What posture does the Lord invite you to assume during such times?

FOR PRAYER:   Accept your feelings of deafness or muteness as a normal part of the creature’s relationship with its Creator.  Consider the Psalmist’s stance whereby he simply prays, “I will wait for you, O Lord.”  And then rest in the confident assurance he then models that “You will answer, O Lord.”

Meditation for Monday November 7, 2016

IMAGO DEI: November 3, 2016
www.imagodeicommunity.ca       

If a son asks his father for bread, would he give him a stone instead?
Matt. 7:9

To know God is to trust God.  It’s as simple as that.  And the opposite is just as true.  To not trust God is an indicator that we do not really know God.  In other words, the “god”  we do not trust is not really God, but rather a false imagining of our own making.  This reasoning also applies to people who believe, for instance, that God is absent, that He has wronged them, or somehow betrayed or abandoned them.  The untrustworthy god that they are imagining is not truly God.

To accept the fact that such “gods” are actually fictitious projections of our own fears is a first step towards establishing a more truthful relationship with the real God.  Confessing our false images provides an opportunity for us to start all over again— a chance to be re-introduced to this “Jesus I never knew.”  The alternative is to continue living in a dysfunctional relationship with the “god” of our fears.

The “God who cannot be trusted” does not really exist.  And yet, through our imaginations, we often live in complex relationships with such non-existent gods.  It is important to recognize and name the presence of false idols in our theological thinking.  Such caricatures are most readily identified by their un-Godlike character,—e.g. the god who is always angry with you, the god who is always disappointed in you, the god who is always demanding more from you.  Or, conversely, the god who doesn’t care what you do or how you live.

There are many Christians whose relationship with the spirit they call “God” actually produces desolation in them.  But, mercifully, the Lord will not allow us to establish our foundation on such unstable idols.  Instead, the inner turmoil these relationships produce is meant to reveal to us the unfittingness of our images of God.

The Lord once taught His disciples how ridiculous it would be to not trust His Father.  He asked rhetorically, “if a son asks his father for bread, would he give him a stone instead?”  Of course not.  That would be laughable.  And yet that is exactly what we imply when we imagine God as not being good or faithful towards us.

To know God is to trust God.  We can then rest in the secure fact that He is good—in other words, in the truth of who He really is.  Faith is what assures us of God’s character—that He loves me, that He is merciful, that He is trustworthy, that He is faithful, that He understands me, and that He will never abandon me.  To think of Him otherwise, as Jesus suggests, would be laughable.

Those who know you, Lord, will trust you.    Psalm 9:9  (Good News)

Rob Des Cotes
Imago Dei Christian Communities
(written for June 26th, 2014)

FOR GROUP DISCUSSION

  1. What are some imaginary characteristics of God that you think you might be living with?  How would you describe the “merciful turmoil” God allows you to experience in relation to these false images?  How does confession of such idols open us to the possibility of a new relationship with God?
  1. In what ways have you underestimated God in the past?  How does the discrepancy between the fearful projections of your imagination and the revelation of God’s character in Scripture suggest that you do not yet know the Lord as fully as you might in these areas?
  1. Consider the invitation to let go of an image of God that you suspect is false.  How would you feel having to start over again with “the Jesus I never knew?”  Would you welcome this?  Or might you find yourself clinging to the false god you know rather than risking the mystery of the God you don’t know?

FOR PRAYER:  Come to God as a child, ready to be taught anew.  Confess your ignorance and ask the Lord to reveal Himself to you afresh, as He really is.  Let God confirm directly to you all the attributes that Scripture speaks of Him.

Meditation for Monday October 17, 2016

IMAGO DEI:
www.imagodeicommunity.ca

Do I bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery?” says the Lord
                                                                               Isa. 66:9

The end of any discernment process will naturally presume some action on our part.  That’s why Fr. Thomas Green, in his book, Weeds among the Wheat, refers to discernment as “prayer meeting action.”  In other words, the final stage of discernment, will inevitably require of us the courage to act.

But the process of discernment can sometimes lead to a place of paralysis where a person cannot, or perhaps will not, choose a course of action out of fear of being wrong.  They have done all the preliminary prayer work of discernment.  They have established impartiality in themselves, remaining at an equilibrium regarding all the options before them, they have removed from themselves the influence of inordinate desires or fears that would affect their decision, and they have given their wills over to God’s pleasure as best they can. But in the process of being so open-handed in their disposition, they have perhaps also relinquished their will to act.

We often have a pretty good idea of what God is calling us to do.  But, consciously or subconsciously, we also want to delay the inevitable action that this choice will require of us.  Feeling stuck like this—unable to bring to birth that which we have conceived—reveals an underlying disposition that is important to acknowledge in the discernment process.  It is the fear we have of facing the onerous responsibility of making a choice.  Through our inaction, we are in fact saying to God, “I don’t really want to make this decision. I want You to make it for me.”  But this is where God turns the tables on us.  If we have been saying to the Lord, “I want whatever You want,” the Lord now says to us, “Good, but you are the one who must now choose what you think I want.”

As discerning Christians we are to assume the responsibility of not only seeking God’s will in our lives but of also acting in the world according to that discernment.  In the freedom of faith, it is up to us to choose, with God’s counsel, how to best serve Him.  And it is a shirking of that responsibility when our discernment process simply ends with the prayer, “You decide for me.”

Fear of the responsibility of making a choice can keep us paralyzed in an unfruitful state of discernment.  This is the image the Lord gives in Isaiah—of a baby stuck in the labour process.  Discernment, however, is never a substitute for faith. Nor is it an excuse to dump our hard decisions on God.  But it does take courage—the final thrust of faith—to bring to birth that which we have conceived in our discernment, and to counter the paralyzing fear that sometimes sabotages the process of “prayer meeting action.”

Rob Des Cotes
Imago Dei Christian Communities
(written for Oct.17th, 2013)

QUESTIONS

1.       Do you remember an occasion when the fear of making a wrong choice paralyzed you?  How did the situation resolve itself?  Were the fears warranted?

2.       How might the open-handed disposition we are trying to maintain in our discernment process wrongly suggest to us that we are also letting go of our responsibility to choose?  How is asking God to decide for us a shirking of the freedom He gives us to discern His will?

3.       What will you need from God in order to find the courage to act, in faith, in the midst of uncertainty with regards to the outcome of your decision?

PRAYER:  If there is an issue that you are presently discerning, consider the posture of saying yes beforehand to God, regardless of which option He will indicate.  In other words, lean forward with your will, and be fully prepared to act according to either direction the Lord might choose.