Friday, February 12, 2016

Well, it’s Lent again.

Who has a stronger conflict than he who strives to overcome himself? – Thomas à Kempis

Well, it’s Lent again.

Every year it’s the same thing. Christmas is over and I’m constantly thinking about how far away Lent is.
I always think to myself how the season of Lent is so spiritually benefiting to me.
How wonderful it is. How valuable it is.
And I’m always glad…it’s weeks away.
I think it’s often hard to transition from the spirit of Christmas, to a spirit of penance.
But the reality is, that if you do practice Lent, in the spirit it is intended to be practiced, it’s certainly not easy. But of course, I don’t think it’s supposed to be.
Lent is a time to meditate on the Passion of Our Lord – to think about how much He has given for us – everything.  It is a time for us to look into ourselves and think what we can offer back to Him.  Especially the attempt to overcome things inside us that are not very nice – a time to put into practice a new virtue.

Through Lent, we reflect on the life of Jesus, and through Him, we take a deeper look into our own lives.

It’s a time to make an honest assessment of where we are on our path (and some times struggle) for holiness.
Throughout my 10 years of being Catholic, I have given up various things for Lent, including coffee, alcohol, movies, news, Facebook, restaurants, time out with friends, and certain foods.
I have also given up other things that often seem to come easy to me. Like discussing others behind their backs, complaining, being ‘worst case scenario’, defensive…and more things like this.
And each year I’ll add things as well. Like spiritual reading, being nice to people that I don’t want to be nice to, smiling more, being more patient, listening more, being more charitable…i.e. things that do not come natural to me.
And after years of giving up things and adding certain penances during Lent,  my understanding of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us has grown deeper and deeper, resulting in a deeper gratitude to Our Lord and greater changes within me.

When you think about it, Lent is kind of like a Spring cleaning, but for the soul.

This year, I have added another thing too. Saying a prayer called “The Litany of Humility” each day…preferably at the start of my day. I am hoping that any pride I have about myself and my own abilities I can keep in check during this season of Lent, and beyond.
I am including the prayer, hoping that it may help you too. God bless us this Lent, and every Lent. May we all live for God and our neighbors more, and for ourselves less.

Litany of Humility

This prayer was composed by Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930), Cardinal Secretary of State of the Holy See under Pope Saint Pius X.  
O Jesus, meek and humble of heart,
Hear me. 
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, O Jesus. 
From the desire of being loved,
Deliver me, O Jesus. 
From the desire of being extolled, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being honored, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being approved, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being despised, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being calumniated, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected, Deliver me, O Jesus.
That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. 
That others may be esteemed more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. 
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I go unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

It's Thursday - Number 57 Howard Webber


Thursday 11 February 2016

Thursday word from Genesis 57

'They also took with them their livestock and the possessions they had acquired in Canaan, and Jacob and all his offspring went to Egypt,' Genesis 46:6

One can imagine the carts meandering along the dusty track all the way to Egypt like a wagon train, laden with the wives and children and belongings of the brothers, (v5,6), even though they were told that they need not bring their belongings, (45:20). 

It isn't always easy to part with our belongings; to dispense with what we have become attached to. Often we don't have to, but there are circumstances and times when God requires it. May none of us be so attached to 'things' that we cannot part with them should God require it of us.

One is reminded of that rich young ruler who met with Jesus, (Luke 18:18-23). With all his goodness and virtue, the one obstacle he had to receiving eternal life, was that he just could not part with the 'things' he had. Had he been willing, I sometimes wonder whether Jesus would have actually had him part with them. What he requires is our willingness to part with them; that pleasing him be our foremost desire; that we recognise him to be the rightful owner and Lord of all we have. Sometimes he wishes us to keep what we have and dedicate it to his service, considering it to be his, acknowledging him as the owner rather than ourselves. 

God bless you all.

Howard Webber

'I first received a copy of Howard Webber’s book, Meeting Jesus, October 2012 as a gift from General Linda Bond(R). Howard’s straight forward and real life stories of the challenges of evangelism inspired me. I shared a copy with the principal of the training college and we agreed that every cadet would receive a copy.
In my opinion Howard has done it again. He has written a candid and straightforward description of the struggles of a follower of Jesus midst the difficulties in of life and Christian service. Read this book with a spirit of joy. Be in prayer. You will discern wisdom, uncover resources and see insights in dying to self and living for Jesus. Your life will be deepened.'
Commissioner David Jeffrey. The National Commander of The Salvation Army USA

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

“Of making many books there is no end” (Ecc 12:12).

I cannot really remember when I did not love to read books. I do know that I was very eager to learn to read, and that I quickly found myself immersed in the world of books and literature. It may have been a seduction of sorts, and the Christian disciples must always be on guard to guide the eyes to books worthy of a disciple’s attention—and there are so many.

As Solomon warned, “Of making many books there is no end” (Ecc 12:12). There is no way to read everything, and not everything deserves to be read. I say that in order to confront the notion that anyone, anywhere, can master all that could be read with profit. I read a great deal, and a large portion of my waking hours are devoted to reading. Devotional reading for spiritual profit is an important part of the day, and that begins with the reading of Scripture. In terms of timing, I am somewhat unorthodox. My best time for spending time in the Word is late at night, when all is calm and quiet and I am mentally alert and awake. That is not the case when I first get up in the mornings, when I struggle to find each word on the page (or anything else, for that matter).

In the course of any given week, I will read several books. I know how much I thrive on this learning and the intellectual stimulation I get from reading. As my wife and family would be first to tell you, I can read almost anytime, anywhere, under almost any kind of conditions. I have a book with me virtually all the time, and have been known to snatch a few moments for reading at stop lights. No, I do not read while driving (though I must admit that it has been a temptation at times). I took books to high school athletic events when I played in the band. (Heap coals of scorn and nerdliness here). I remember the books; do you remember the games?

A few initial suggestions:

1. Maintain regular reading projects. I strategize my reading in six main categories: Theology, Biblical Studies, Church Life, History, Cultural Studies, and Literature. I have some project from each of these categories going at all times. I collect and gather books for each project and read them over a determined period of time. This helps to discipline my reading, and it also keeps me working across several disciplines.

2. Work through major sections of Scripture. I am just completing an expository series, preaching verse by verse through the book of Romans. I have preached and taught several books of the Bible in recent years, and I plan my reading to stay ahead. I am turning next to Matthew, so I am gathering and reading ahead—not yet planning specific messages, but reading to gain as much as possible from worthy works on the first gospel. I am constantly reading works in biblical theology as well as exegetical studies.

3. Read all the titles written by some authors. Choose carefully here, but identify some authors whose books demand your attention. Read all they have written and watch their minds at work and their thought in development. No author can complete his thoughts in one book, no matter how large.

4. Get some big sets and read them through. Yes, invest in the works of Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards, and others. Set a project for yourself to read through the entire set and give yourself time. You will be surprised how far you will get in less time than you think.

5. Allow yourself some fun reading, and learn how to enjoy reading by reading enjoyable books. I like books across the fields of literature, but I really love to read historical biographies and historical works in general. In addition, I really enjoy quality fiction and worthy works of literature. As a boy, I probably discovered my love for reading in these categories of books. I allow some time each day, when possible, for such reading. It doesn’t have to be much. Stay in touch with the thrill.

6. Write in your books; mark them up and make them yours. Books are to be read and used, not collected and coddled. (Make an exception here for those rare antiquarian books that are treasured for their antiquity. Mark not thy pen on the ancient page, and highlight not upon the manuscript.) 
Invent your own system or borrow from another, but learn to have a conversation with the book, pen in hand.

I would write more for this post, but I must go read. More later. For now: Tolle legs!

Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. 

President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary – the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world.

Monday, February 8, 2016

All is Well - Voctave

The possibility of 'gay marriage' does not detract from heterosexual marriage

Bishop restates gay marriage is an endorsement of the institution of marriage and "a matter of justice".

The Bishop of Salisbury writes today that "The possibility of 'gay marriage' does not detract from heterosexual marriage unless we think that homosexuality is a choice rather than the given identity of a minority of people. Indeed the development of marriage for same sex couples is a very strong endorsement of the institution of marriage."

In a letter delivered to Lord Alli at the House of Lords, Bishop Holtam believes that civil partnerships have been a natural precursor of gay marriage being recognised in law: “Open recognition and public support have increased in civil partnerships those very qualities of life for which marriage itself is so highly celebrated. It is not surprising this now needs recognition in law."

Replying to a letter from Lord Alli of Norbury who requested that Bishop Holtam clarify his position on the issue as a member of the House of Bishops for members of the Upper House, Bishop Holtam stresses that this issue is about justice: “In the current debates it is striking that within the Anglican Communion one of the strongest supporters of same sex marriage is Archbishop Desmond Tutu. From his experience of the racism of Apartheid he sees same sex marriage as primarily a matter of justice.”

Bishop Holtam states: “there are a variety of views within the Church of England where we are experiencing rapid change similar to that in the wider society. This is complex to express, partly because there are those who see this issue as fundamental to the structure of Christian faith.”
In his letter the Bishop of Salisbury also observes that the church has adapted its approach to marriage in light of social change including the widespread availability of contraceptives so that couples may choose to have children; the acceptance of divorce and possibility of marriage in church after divorce so that not all marriages are lifelong, and the acceptance of couples living together before marriage by a Church that still teaches sexual relationships are properly confined to marriage.

The Bishop then explains to Lord Alli that biblical texts never change but sometimes the interpretation of them develops: “ Christian morality comes from the mix of Bible, Christian tradition and our reasoned experience. Sometimes Christians have had to rethink the priorities of the Gospel in the light of experience. For example, before Wilberforce, Christians saw slavery as Biblical and part of the God-given ordering of creation. Similarly in South Africa the Dutch Reformed Church supported Apartheid because it was Biblical and part of the God-given order of creation. No one now supports either slavery or Apartheid.”

Bishop Holtam is the only serving diocesan bishop among a number of retired and suffragan bishops in the Church of England who have given their support to gay marriage. Here is the full text of the Letter to Lord Alli sent today by the Bishop of Salisbury.

Contact the Bishop's Office:

01722 334031, bishop.salisbury@salisbury.anglican.org

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Pictures from Russia 1918

For a while the Army made encourag­ing progress. A refugee home was opened, as well as one for children. On Easter Sunday, in 1917, The Salvation Army made their first march down Nevski Prospekt, singing salvation songs. Thousands watched and 450 were attracted to a public indoor meeting. They were given full liberty for street meetings, and the officers' training school (seminary) was opened.

2 November 19182 November 1918
 It happened a couple of years ago but we thought it apropos for the War Cry to share…. Editor


It was a bitterly cold evening. There was heavy knocking at the front door. Adjutant Helvy Boije heard it, and so did her two companions. • But they thought it was some night creatures that happened to pass by, and gave it no further thought. ? But then they thought they heard a man's voice, shouting: "Open the door!"

"But as the pounding and the shouts soon ceased, and our supposition strengthened, we quietly went back to sleep."

After a couple of hours the adjutant thought she heard a sound again and sat up in bed to listen.
This time it was not possible to err: someone knocked, though much softer but more rapidly than before.

The adjutant jumped out of bed, threw on some clothing and ran down to the door to see what was going on.

For the moment everything was quiet and still, but then the knocking again, and a voice: “For heaven’s sake, please be so kind and open!” Without hesitation the adjutant opened the door and saw a pitiable man shaking because of the bitter cold. He was weeping bitterly but not for his own sake.

Are you the Salvation Army?" He asked. "Yes," replied the adjutant.

"Then you shall for the blessed Savior's sake show mercy to my wife and my four children. If you’ll allow them stay in one of the outbuildings of your farm, it is at least better than here in the cold."
The adjutant, immediately called on her comrades, and was very distressed that she had caused the people to wait so many hours outside the door.

As soon as they came in from the cold, the man, a Russian Pole, began to tell tell their story.

Lian had worked in Copenhagen but. because of the war, the factory, where the man was employed, had to lay off his people, and he stood there with his family.

The Russian consul in Denmark said to the man, when he wrote out the passport, including a note, for them in order that they could return to Russia:"Take this piece of paper! It is Salvation Army address, and remember, that when you come to The Salvation Army, you shall not hold back from knocking on their door, let it be night or day. "

The adjutant cannot share this without her eyes being filled with tears.

"How completely and intensely did this man trust us in his task to reach us! And yet, when the man came and knocked at our door, the man had to wait so long."

In short time both the man and his wife and children were in every way cherished. First they received a sufficient amount of food to banish their hunger. The officers smoothed out their own beds where they soon were sufficiently warmed and they were soon asleep.

They had arrived at the train station very late, without a penny, and so the hungry and tired, at once gone to The Salvation Army.
The wife was later taken to the hospital, while her husband and children spent two months stayed at the Army's slum colony. The man managed to get work in a factory, and after some time he had scraped together enough to provide a small home for his family.

Among those attending the Army meetings (religious services) in Petrograd, and rarely absent, was this grateful and happy family.

Yes, that was a story of the Salvation Army officers' work during the quiet hours of the night.

We shall now take an example from their daily work.

Early one morning one of the officers was on her way to slum colony. At the tram station she entered into another tram, where a woman was seated and who looked very worried and troubled. The lady was reading a magazine and didn’t notice the arrival of the embarking passenger.

To her surprise the officer noticed when she glanced at the newspaper that it was, Vjestnik Spasenija (the SA’s Russian version of the War Cry)  No one was out and selling newspapers this early: the woman could not have bought the paper the same
day. It was apparently an old issue.

The officer's curiosity was aroused.

The poor woman's face was, as I said, sad and distressed. And she read the newspaper in a way, as if searching where she might find a glimpse of hope, a release from her difficulties.

After some moments she raised her eyes from the newspaper pages and then observed the Salvation Army officer.

Her eyes shone reflecting surprise and joy, and she asked, “Mam, are you a Salvation sister?"

"Yes”, answered the officer, "I am. Can I be of service to you in any way? You appear troubled”.

Yes, I am, but now I am glad; so happy to have met the people I’ve been seeking."

So she told the officer her story.

Together with her dying husband and their small children she had made the journey from Brazil to Petrograd.

When they finally arrived all their money had been spent and she’d left her husband and children behind at the station.

When their train passed through Stockholm’s Central Station (traveling to northern Sweden, crossing the border and south through Finland to Russia), a Salvation Army officer gave her a copy of Vjestnik Spasenija and
said that; “When you reach your destination you should go to the Salvation Army at the address on this newspaper.”

Continued p.8[1]


Translation: Sven-Erik Ljungholm

[1]Stridsropet- Stockholm 2 November, 1918 - Stockholm 2 1918- Stockholm 2 1918