Palm Sunday

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palm-sunday-clipart

The Donkey

by G. K. Chesterton

When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born;

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.

The Lenten Prayer

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Misty morning

Misty morning at Skidaway Island State Park.

Virtues are formed by prayer. Prayer preserves temperance, suppresses anger, restrains pride and envy, draws down the Holy Spirit in to the soul and raises man to heaven.

~~St. Ephrem the Syrian

THE LENTEN PRAYER

O Lord and Master of my life
take from me the spirit of sloth,
faint-heartedness, lust of power
and idle talk.
But give rather,
the spirit of chastity,
humility, patience and love to thy servant.
Yea, O Lord and King,
grant me to see my own errors
and not to judge my brother;
for Thou art blessed unto the ages of ages.
Amen.

Ephrem_the_Syrian_(mosaic_in_Nea_Moni)

Ephrem the Syrian (c. 306 – 373) was a deacon, prolific Syriac language hymn writer and theologian of the 4th century. He is venerated by Christians throughout the world, and especially among Syriac Christians as a saint. Ephrem wrote a wide variety of hymns, poems and homilies in verse, as well as prose biblical commentaries. These were works of practical theology for the edification of the church in troubled times. So popular were his works, that, for centuries after his death, Christian authors wrote hundreds of pseudepigraphous works in his name. Ephrem’s works witness to an early, vibrant expression of Christian faith, little touched by the European modes of thought, and more engaged with eastern methods of discourse.

The Hills of God

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Monserratestations

From the Stations of the Cross atop Monserrate in Bogotá, Colombia.

And a poem by my great grandmother, Mary Griffin Kramp:

The Hills of God

Whence comes my help? The hills of God.
The fields and flowing streams,
The changing seasons with their wealth,
The rain and light that beams.

Whence comes my strength? The word of God.
With messages so dear:
The blessed thought that though we sin,
His help is ever near.

Whence comes my help? The promises
That e’er before me rise,
To know that after all this earth
We dwell in Paradise.

Whence comes my all? The gift of God,
Our blessed Saviour’s love.
His sacrifices, pain and tears,
To make our home above.

Generosity

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SouthMountain

View from the South Mountain Trail in Phoenix, Arizona. Photo by Griffin Logue

During the third week of Lent, Frank and I focus on “Generosity” in A Spring in the Desert. In specific, we write about giving and tithes. We have chosen generosity as the opposite of covetousness, one of the Seven Deadly Sins.

Covetousness covers a number of things that might not first come to mind when one considers this sin. According to the St. Augustine’s Prayer Book, these are:

COVETOUSNESS is the refusal to respect the integrity of other creatures, expressed in the inordinate accumulation of material things; in the use of other persons for our personal advantage; or in the quest for status, power or security at their expense.

Inordinate Ambition. Pursuit of status, power, influence, reputation, or possessions at the expense of the moral law, of other obligations, or of the rights of others. Ruthless or unfair competition. Putting self or family first. Conformity to standards we recognize as wrong or inadequate in order to get ahead. Intrigue or conspiracy for self-advancement.

Domination. Seeking to use or possess others. Over protection of children; refusal to correct or punish lest we lose their affection; insistence that they conform to our ideal for them contrary to their own vocation. Imposing our will on others by force, guile, whining, or refusal to cooperate. Over-readiness to advise or command; abuse of authority. Patronizing, pauperizing, putting others under a debt of gratitude, or considering ourselves ill-used when others’ affection or compliance is not for sale. Respect of persons, favoritism, partiality, flattery, fawning, or bribery to win support or affection. Refusal to uphold the truth to fulfill duties, to perform good acts, or to defend those wrongfully attacked, because we fear criticism or ridicule, or because we seek to gain the favor or approval of others. Leading, tempting or encouraging another to sin.

Avarice. Inordinate pursuit of wealth or material things. Theft, dishonesty, misrepresentation, or sharing in stolen goods. Cheating in business, taxes, school or games. Making worldly success the goal of our life or the standard for judging others.

Prodigality. Waste of natural resources or personal possessions. Extravagance or living beyond our income, to impress others or to maintain status. Failure to pay debts. Gambling more than we can afford to lose, or to win unearned profits. Unnecessary borrowing or carelessness with others’ money. Expenditure on self of what is needed for the welfare of others.

Penuriousness. Undue protection of wealth or security. Selfish insistence on vested interests or on claimed rights. Refusal to support or help those who have a claim on us. Sponging on others. Stinginess. Failure to give due proportion of our income to Church and charity, or of our time and energy to good works. Failure to pay pledges promised to the Church or charities, when able to do so.

Kind of eye-opening, isn’t it, especially considering it is just one of seven sins? If I am ever feeling a little holier than thou, all I have to do is open up the St. Augustine’s Prayer Book to the Self-examination, and I quickly regain some humility.

But the Third Week in Lent is about generosity and giving. I think this poem by the Poet Laureate of Arizona says it well:

When Giving Is All We Have

Alberto Ríos – 1952-

                                              One river gives
                                              Its journey to the next.

We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.

We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.

We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it—

Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.

Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:

Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.

You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
Together we are simple green. You gave me

What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give—together, we made

Something greater from the difference.

 

The Second Week in Lent

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HipstamaticPhoto-591477601.909703 4

The Elvis Presley Memorial Chapel at the Lost Dutchman Museum in Apache Junction, Arizona.

The lesson of not judging others is an incredibly difficult one to learn. It is human to struggle with being critical about others or to look down on those we deem to be spiritually or morally inferior. Unfortunately, it is impossible to fully love God and experience spiritual freedom if we do not love others, including our enemies, without any kind of judgment.

A lack of judgment, on the other hand, is not the same as discernment, which is a spiritual gift. For example, discernment might lead me to stop associating with someone who causes me to fall into some type of sin, either because of that person’s sinful habits or my own sinful inclinations. In not associating with that person, I do not condemn them, but rather I know it is not beneficial for me be with them.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 10:16 that we should “be wise as serpents (use discernment) and as innocent as doves (don’t judge or condemn people when we happen to notice their faults)”. An excellent start toward living into that is to prioritize not judging others. Using discernment will help us to realize our own sinfulness, which, in turn, will deepen our purity of heart. Being aware of our own sinfulness should help lead us to genuine repentance.

Interestingly, the New Testament Daily Office reading for Saturday was from Paul’s  First Letter to the Corinthians and spoke on this very thing. In Chapter 4 it reads: But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. I do not even judge myself. I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive commendation from God.

This week in A Spring in the Desert, we write about “Forgiveness” and “Judgement”. Below, you will find some quotes from the Desert Fathers that address these subjects:

ISAAC THE THEBAN

One day Abba Isaac went to a monastery. He saw a brother committing a sin and he condemned him. When he returned to the desert, an angel of the Lord came and stood in front of the door of his cell, and said, ‘I will not let you enter.’

But Isaac persisted saying, ‘What is the matter?’

The angel replied, ‘God has sent me to ask you where you want to throw the guilty brother whom you have condemned.’

Immediately Isaac repented and said, ‘I have sinned, forgive me.’

Then the angel said, ‘Get up, God has forgiven you. But from now on, be careful not to judge someone before God has done so.’

THEOPHILUS THE ARCHBISHOP

Theophilus was asked, ‘Father, in this way of life which you follow, what do you find to be best?’

Theophilus replied, ‘The act of accusing myself, and of constantly reproaching myself to myself…There is no other way but this.’

MOSES THE BLACK

If we are on the watch to see our own faults, we shall not see those of our neighbor…To die to one’s neighbor is this: To bear your own faults and not to pay attention to anyone else wondering whether they are good or bad. Do no harm to anyone, do not think anything bad in your heart towards anyone, do not scorn the man who does evil…Do not rail against anyone, but rather say, ‘God knows each one.’ Do not agree with him who slanders, do not rejoice at his slander, and do not hate him who slanders his neighbor.

POEMEN

A man may seem to be silent, but if his heart is condemning others he is babbling ceaselessly. But there may be another who talks from morning till night and yet he is truly silent; that is, he says nothing that is not profitable.

Quincey P. Morris

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I’ve had to completely switch gears on what I’m writing in order to have an actual agent look at my work. The past week has been spent doing research, research, research. So, now that I have a basic book outline, I need to work on character descriptions. So who would you choose as my Quincey P. Morris model? And in case you haven’t read Dracula by Bram Stoker, Quincey is the American from Texas, one of the three men who ask for Lucy Westenra’s hand in marriage.

Quincey--Jared

Tall and dark?

Quincey--Jensen

In between?

Quincey--Hedlund

Blonde and blue-eyed?