All Posts in Category: (04) The Mentor of Life

Mentor of Life – The Spirit of Jesus

The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, will remind you of everything I have said to you.  John 14:26

GPS (Global Positioning System) is a common feature on cell phones. With it you can be guided anywhere. Directions are provided both visually and verbally. And, if you mistakenly or willfully choose the wrong road, the program will immediately reveal your mistake and provide a course correction.

We’re all seeking happiness. However, most of us are clueless about the best route, the one that guarantees optimum fulfillment … eternal life. So, we waste time and energy on detours that only lead to increasing levels of disappointment, frustration and emptiness. Aware of our situation, the Maker designed a Life Guidance System, LGS, called “The Jesus Journey”.

Originally “Jesus recruited a band of twelve to be his traveling companions.”  (Mark 3:14)Come, follow ME!”(Matthew 4:19) On this journey Jesus is the North Star, the only point of navigation required.

At the end of his earthly journey Jesus told his followers: “The Father will give you another guidance counselor who will be in you(John 14:16) and “make sense out of all that I have done and said.(John 14:26) The Spirit of Jesus is an internal LGS app. The Mentor’s task is to keep you “focusing on Jesus”. (Hebrews 12:2) He receives data from the Father that are meticulously tailored to your journey with Jesus. His primary methods are coaching, counseling and correcting.

That’s the Life Guidance System. And, here’s the best news. LGS is a free gift from the Creator! All that’s required is connection to the system. More about that later.

Practical points for praying (part 2)

From Making All Things New by Henri Nouwen.

If you missed part 1 of “Practical points for praying,” check that out here.

nouwenHenri Nouwen’s books are widely read today by Protestants and Catholics alike. The Wounded Healer, In the Name of Jesus, The Life of the Beloved, and The Way of the Heart are just a few of the more widely recognized titles. After nearly two decades of teaching at the Menninger Foundation Clinic in Topeka, Kansas, and at the University of Notre Dame, Yale University and Harvard University, he went to share his life with mentally handicapped people at the L’Arche community of Daybreak in Toronto, Canada. After a long period of declining energy, which he chronicled in his final book, Sabbatical Journey, he died in September 1996 from a sudden heart attack.

For the background to this post, please first read Prayer—an inventor’s perspective.

Write It in Black and White

Five or ten minutes a day may be all we can tolerate. Perhaps we are ready for an hour every day, an afternoon every week, a day every month, or a week every year. The amount of time will vary for each person according to temperament, age, job, lifestyle, and maturity.

But we do not take the spiritual life seriously if we do not set aside some time to be with God and listen to him. We may have to write it in black and white in our daily calendar so that nobody else can take away this period of time. Then we will be able to say to our friends, neighbors, students, customers, clients, or patients, “I’m sorry, but I’ve already made an appointment at that time and it can’t be changed.”

Bombarded by Thousands of Thoughts

Once we have committed ourselves to spending time in solitude, we develop an attentiveness to God’s voice in us. In the beginning, during the first days, weeks, or even months, we may have the feeling that we are simply wasting our time. Time in solitude may at first seem little more than a time in which we are bombarded by thousands of thoughts and feelings that emerge from hidden areas of our minds.

One of the early Christian writers describes the first stage of solitary prayer as the experience of a man who, after years of living with open doors, suddenly decides to shut them. The visitors who used to come and enter his home start pounding on his doors, wondering why they are not allowed to enter. Only when they realize that they are not welcome do they gradually stop coming.

This is the experience of anyone who decides to enter into solitude after a life without much spiritual discipline. At first, the many distractions keep presenting themselves. Later, as they receive less and less attention, they slowly withdraw.

Tempted to Run Away

It is clear that what matters is faithfulness to the discipline. In the beginning, solitude seems so contrary to our desires that we arc constantly tempted to run away from it. One way of running away is daydreaming or simply falling asleep. But when we stick to our discipline, in the conviction that God is with us even when we do not yet hear him, we slowly discover that we do not want to miss our time alone with God. Although we do not experience much satisfaction in our solitude, we realize that a day without solitude is less “spiritual” than a day with it.

The First Sign of Prayer 

Intuitively, we know that it is important to spend time in solitude. We even start looking forward to this strange period of uselessness. This desire for solitude is often the first sign of prayer, the first indication that the presence of God’s Spirit no longer remains unnoticed.

As we empty ourselves of our many worries, we come to know not only with our mind but also with our heart that we were never really alone, that God’s Spirit was with us all along. Thus we come to understand what Paul writes to the Romans, “Sufferings bring patience … and patience brings perseverance, and perseverance brings hope, and this hope is not deceptive, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (Rom. 5:4-6, JB).

The Way to Hope

In solitude, we come to know the Spirit who has already been given to us. The pains and struggles we encounter in our solitude thus become the way to hope, because our hope is not based on something that will happen after our sufferings are over, but on the real presence of God’s healing Spirit in the midst of these sufferings.

The discipline of solitude allows us gradually to come in touch with this hopeful presence of God in our lives, and allows us also to taste even now the beginnings of the joy and peace which belong to the new heaven and the new earth.

The discipline of solitude, as I have described it here, is one of the most powerful disciplines in developing a prayerful life. It is a simple, though not easy, way to free us from the slavery of our occupations and preoccupations and to begin to hear the voice that makes all things new.

Practical points for praying (part 1)

From Making All Things New by Henri Nouwen

nouwenHenri Nouwen’s books are widely read today by Protestants and Catholics alike. The Wounded Healer, In the Name of Jesus, The Life of the Beloved, and The Way of the Heart are just a few of the more widely recognized titles. After nearly two decades of teaching at the Menninger Foundation Clinic in Topeka, Kansas, and at the University of Notre Dame, Yale University and Harvard University, he went to share his life with mentally handicapped people at the L’Arche community of Daybreak in Toronto, Canada. After a long period of declining energy, which he chronicled in his final book, Sabbatical Journey, he died in September 1996 from a sudden heart attack.

For the background to this post, please first read Prayer—an inventor’s perspective.

Hard Work

The spiritual life is a gift. It is the gift of the Holy Spirit, Who lifts us up into the kingdom of God’s love. But to say that being lifted up into the kingdom of love is a divine gift does not mean that we wait passively until the gift is offered to us.

Jesus tells us to set our hearts on the kingdom. Setting our hearts on something involves not only serious aspiration but also strong determination. A spiritual life requires human effort. The forces that keep pulling us back into a worry-filled life are far from easy to overcome.

“How hard it is,” Jesus exclaims, “… to enter the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:23, JB). And to convince us of the need for hard work, He says, “If anyone wants to be a follower of Mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matt. 16:24, JB).

The Still Small Voice

Here we touch the question of discipline in the spiritual life. A spiritual life without discipline is impossible. Discipline is the other side of discipleship. The practice of a spiritual discipline makes us more sensitive to the small, gentle voice of God.

The prophet Elijah did not encounter God in the mighty wind or in the earthquake or in the fire, but in the small voice (see 1 Kings 19:9-13). Through the practice of a spiritual discipline we become attentive to that small voice and willing to respond when we hear it.

From an Absurd to an Obedient Life

From all that I said about our worried, overfilled lives, it is clear that we are usually surrounded by so much outer noise that it is hard to truly hear our God when He is speaking to us. We have often become deaf, unable to know when God calls us and unable to understand in which direction He calls us.

Thus our lives have become absurd. In the word absurd we find the Latin word surdus, which means “deaf.” A spiritual life requires discipline because we need to learn to listen to God, Who constantly speaks but Whom we seldom hear.

When, however, we learn to listen, our lives become obedient lives. The word obedient comes from the Latin word audire, which means “listening.” A spiritual discipline is necessary in order to move slowly from an absurd to an obedient life, from a life filled with noisy worries to a life in which there is some free inner space where we can listen to our God and follow His guidance.

Jesus’ life was a life of obedience. He was always listening to the Father, always attentive to His voice, always alert for His directions. Jesus was “all ears.” That is true prayer: being all ears for God. The core of all prayer is indeed listening, obediently standing in the presence of God.

The Concentrated Effort

A spiritual discipline, therefore, is the concentrated effort to create some inner and outer space in our lives, where this obedience can be practiced. Through a spiritual discipline we prevent the world from filling our lives to such an extent that there is no place left to listen. A spiritual discipline sets us free to pray or, to say it better, allows the Spirit of God to pray in us.

A Time and a Space

Without solitude it is virtually impossible to live a spiritual life. Solitude begins with a time and a place for God, and Him alone. If we really believe not only that God exists but also that He is actively present in our lives—healing, teaching, and guiding—we need to set aside a time and a space to give Him our undivided attention. Jesus says, “Go to your private room and, when you have shut your door, pray to the Father Who is in that secret place” (Matt. 6:6, JB).

Inner Chaos

To bring some solitude into our lives is one of the most necessary but also most difficult disciplines. Even though we may have a deep desire for real solitude, we also experience a certain apprehension as we approach that solitary place and time. As soon as we are alone, without people to talk with, books to read, TV to watch, or phone calls to make, an inner chaos opens up in us.

This chaos can be so disturbing and so confusing that we can hardly wait to get busy again. Entering a private room and shutting the door, therefore, does not mean that we immediately shut out all our inner doubts, anxieties, fears, bad memories, unresolved conflicts, angry feelings, and impulsive desires. On the contrary, when we have removed our outer distractions, we often find that our inner distractions manifest themselves to us in full force.

We often use these outer distractions to shield ourselves from the interior noises. It is thus not surprising that we have a difficult time being alone. The confrontation with our inner conflicts can be too painful for us to endure.

This makes the discipline of solitude all the more important. Solitude is not a spontaneous response to an occupied and preoccupied life. There are too many reasons not to be alone. Therefore we must begin by carefully planning some solitude.

Stay tuned for Part 2 from Henri Nouwen coming next week…

Prayer—an inventor’s perspective

So let us step boldly to the throne of grace, where we can find mercy and grace to help when we need it most.  Hebrews 4:15

On December 2, 2015, in San Bernardino, California, 14 people were killed and 22 injured in a terrorist attack at a county Christmas party. The next day the NY Daily News featured this bold headline on their front cover: “God isn’t fixing this!”

Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, countered: “They have the audacity to criticize politicians who had publicly offered prayers and asked for God’s comfort following the killings.  It’s evident that this group is bashing the importance of prayer in order to promote their own gun control agenda. Here s some ‘news’ for the NY Daily News—prayers are not ‘meaningless platitudes’ as they say on their cover. Prayer is direct access to Almighty God and is the most powerful tool a Christian has. Prayer does make a difference in heartbreaking situations like this.”

Guglielmo Marconi (1874–1937) was an Italian inventor. Like Einstein he was a genius that did very poorly in school. However, at a young age he began to conduct experiments based on the pioneering work of Heinrich Hertz who was able to produce and detect electromagnetic radiation (radio waves). His goal was to use radio waves to create a practical system of “wireless telegraphy”—i.e. the transmission of telegraph messages without connecting wires as used by the electric telegraph.

After years of experimentation on January 18, 1903, Marconi sent a message of greetings from Theodore Roosevelt, the President of the United States, to King Edward VII of the United Kingdom, marking the first transatlantic radio transmission originating in the United States. He shared the 1909 Nobel Prize in Physics with Karl Ferdinand Braun “in recognition of their contributions to the development of wireless telegraphy.”

Here’s what the father of modern, wireless communication said about his faith as a scientist: “I am proud to be a Christian. I believe not only as a Christian, but as a scientist as well. The more I work with the powers of Nature, the more I feel God’s benevolence to man; the closer I am to the great truth that everything is dependent on the Eternal Creator and Sustainer. A wireless device can deliver a message through the wilderness. In prayer the human spirit can send invisible waves to eternity, waves that achieve their goal in front of God.”

“God isn’t fixing this!”? So let us step boldly to the throne of grace, where we can find mercy and grace to help when we need it most.” I think the NY Daily News should focus on reporting!