Friday, September 22, 2017

giving kudos

St Augustine talks to us about giving praise to other people, or receiving it, in A Year with the Church Fathers.  His main point is that we should not go seeking after the glory of people, but instead we should seek God's favor. Probably nothing you haven't heard before.

But then he says something interesting. He says that the person GIVING the praise to another person is much better off than the person receiving the praise. And he's right, for many reasons. The reason HE gives is that the person giving the praise is recognizing the goodness that God has created in the other person, while the person who receives the praise is preferring the glory of men to the glory of God. But I've also noticed in life that the people who consistently and, very importantly, SPECIFICALLY praise other people are the ones who are most appreciated. They're the ones who are "the bigger person" in the room. They're the ones who have it together. The ones who constantly seek after the praise of others are the ones who, you might notice, come across as desperate.

In case you wondered, kudos comes from the Greek word kydos, meaning praise.

So let's learn to praise other people. Praising them specifically for things they've done right. And therefore encouraging them to do greater good, for the greater glory of God.

God, thank You for teaching us to praise, and not to seek it.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

falling on our own sword

St John Cassian talks to us today about vanity in A Year with the Church Fathers. He tells us that being proud of our accomplishments, in a "vainglorious" way, is one of the hardest sins to conquer, because as soon as we overcome it, we are tempted to be proud of our victory.

He reminds us not to "fall on our own weapon". Since our enemy is unable to defeat us in an honest way, he resorts to hurting us with our own weapons.

To stay on guard against this, we should keep Paul in mind. Paul wanted to be free from the "thorn in his flesh", which he asked God to take away three times. But God said His grace was sufficient for Paul.

His grace is sufficient for you and me, too. And it prevents us from getting to impressed with our own holiness.

God, thanks for using little thorns to protect us from our own swords.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

repentance isn't easy

St Theodoret tells us about repentance today in A Year with the Church Fathers. He tells the story of a time when the emperor had thousands of people killed... and then tried to go to church. St Ambrose confronted him (no small feat) and told him he could not enter the church until he had repented. Since his actions had been so public and so bloody, his repentance had to also be public, and it had to be real. The emperor publicly repented for months, before Ambrose finally accepted him back into the church.

How does this story fit into our lives today? Our sins have consequences. Yes, God forgives us when we repent. If we sin 1,000 times this week, He forgives us 1,000 times. But the time we spend sinning, we won't get back. The lives we hurt through our selfishness won't magically be free from pain. The effects to our reputation won't go away.

There is good news... God can and will redeem everything in our lives, past, present, and future. He will work everything for our good. He will make all things well, and all things well, and all manner of things well, in the words of Julian of Norwich.

But the repentance that we face in order to cooperate with that redemption has to be real. Sometimes it has to hurt. Sometimes, like with the emperor, it will involve tears. Let's repent genuinely, so that we will experience His genuine redemption.

God, please help us make a good confession, and truly repent of our sins, so that You can make us new.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

I'm the humblest person I know

St Ignatius of Antioch gives us a good lesson in humility today in A Year with the Church Fathers. He says that the greater we get, the more humble we need to be. And that makes sense, doesn't it?

It reminds me of the passage in the picture above. Tradition tells us that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible. So Moses wrote that he was the meekest (some translations read "humblest") person on Earth. That will make you scratch your head. How can he be humble if he's so amazed by his own humility?

It turns out that humility is not just a virtue that Christians recognize. Here is an article that gives you some pointers on how to be more humble. And it's a business article. The secular world also recognizes that pride is an ugly thing, and humility is genuine and attractive. I found the pointers in that article helpful.

So as you grow in faith, and as God uses you more and more with the talents He's given you to make a difference in this world, remember to stay humble. Ask for feedback. Really listen. Keep learning. Practice awe. Focus on loving other people.

These practices will make sure that we don't get so full of ourselves that we miss out on all the cool things He has for us in life.

God, thanks for teaching us the importance of humility.

Monday, September 18, 2017

remember who you are

Today St Gregory the Great reminds us to remember who we are, in A Year with the Church Fathers. This reminds us of Mufasa's appearance to Simba in The Lion King, reminding him of the same words, but with a different meaning.

Of course, Mufasa was reminding Simba that he was a king. He couldn't go on leading a selfish life of Hakuna Matata forever... his people needed him to come home and be king. He was bigger than the life he was currently leading. And that's good advice for us, too. We, too, were made for bigger things. We are sons of the King, just like Simba was. And our people need us to step up and help them to face off the jackals and scarred leaders who try to bring them down.

But St Gregory uses the same words in another direction. He says that when things go WELL, we need to remember who we are, too. We can't let our heads get puffed up with pride, because everything we do is only possible because God enables us. Without Him, we can do nothing.

So, "remembering who we are" puts us on the road, away from the ruts on either side. We don't selfishly live lives of squander and care-free existence, because we're better than that. But we don't think of ourselves too highly, either, because everything we have and do is a gift.

It brings to mind another lion's words to the children in the Narnia books. "You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve," said Aslan. "That is both honor enough to raise the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth. Be content."

Let's remember who we are.... and be content.

God, thank You for helping us find the road, and stay out of the ditches of selfishness and pride.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

the good is oft interred with your bones

St John Chrysostom gives us some great advice today in A Year with the Church Fathers. He tells us that God is going around looking for reasons to give us praise and honor. To save us from our sins. He takes the smallest reason and uses it to do good in our lives. Even if we sigh or weep, St John says, God uses that as an excuse to do good for us. He loves us so much that He is constantly giving us the benefit of the doubt. He gives us a full day's wages, even if we only worked one hour.

But we can thwart His work in lifting us up very easily if we're not careful. As long as we forget the good we do, and let Him bring it up and praise us for it, we do well. But if we brag about the things we've done, and get puffed up with pride, then we lose our reward.

Let's give Him every excuse to work things for good in our lives. Forget the good deeds you've done, and focus on the good others have done for you, as is mentioned in the picture above.

God, thanks for looking for every reason to give us Your amazing blessings. Help us to stay humble.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

washing feet

St Cyril of Alexandria talks to us tonight about humility. He gives us the example of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples.

In one way, this is a humble act. He does the work of a "lowly servant". It's definitely a lesson in humility.

But, it's also a picture of love. Jesus, as God, created the disciples. He loved them like they were His children. He created their feet. The same kind of love that leads parents to change their baby's diaper was present in Jesus, to a far greater degree, when He performed this "humble act." How much more humiliating would it be to change a baby's diaper? But when done in love, it doesn't feel like humility. Because it's not about how it makes the parent look, or feel. It isn't about the parent. It's about the baby, the focus of the parent's love.

When we learn to see those in need as God's children, taking care of them won't feel like humility.

It'll just be love.

God, please fill us with Your love, so we might follow Your example.