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The problem with death is that it feels so final. The material presence of a person who has died is simply gone. Depending upon our relationship with the person who has died, the sense of loss can be utterly devastating.

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The teachers of the ancient desert Christian tradition had a profound understanding of the selfless nature of Christian love.

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For all their spiritual rigour the teachers of the ancient Christian desert tradition, sought to keep their disciplines in perspective. They understood that asceticism is intended to support and never displace the practice of love. 

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Most of us will do almost anything to avoid being taken advantage of. We specialize in boundaries. We know the limits of what should be expected of us and are careful to make sure those limits are respected. Read the rest of this entry »

We live in a culture which insists we need something more. However much we have, it is never enough. If only we had a little more something, we would be content.

Someone sent me an email this morning that included the provocative challenge:

Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after Blue Ray? I don’t want to have to restart my collection…again.

The spiritual tradition of the desert teaches that, if we cannot be content with what we have, we will never be content with anything we might gain. Our addiction to more, better, bigger, faster, is an insatiable monster consuming everything in its path and always returning hungry.
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It is not easy to find balance in our busy world. We seem to be programmed to fill every available space with activity, noise, stimulation, entertainment, and distraction. We may dream of finding quiet time, but it seems a rare commodity.

Most spiritual traditions have been criticized at times for being escapist and passive. Particularly in our activist world, the gentle quiet disciplines of the spiritual life, can seem dangerously irrelevant even self-indulgent.
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Most people in the chronically over-active modern western world suffer from hurry sickness. We struggle under the paralyzing illusion that the meaning of life resides in packing more activities into each day. We believe that the more we get done, the more worthwhile we are as people.
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I love the Bible. It has had a powerful impact upon my life. I would not be the person I am today without the influence of this book.

But, I would be less than honest if I did not admit that I frequently find the Bible a difficult book. Its origins lie in a culture vastly different than our own. Many of its authors are anonymous and even those we can identify are only vaguely known. The original audience for most of the writings are largely obscure.
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It is always tempting to believe I can change myself by changing my circumstances.

The ancient desert teachers of the early Christian tradition taught that true change comes only from within. We may change our external circumstances, move from one place to another to get rid of an irritant in our lives, but wherever we go, we take ourselves with us.
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In preparing yesterday for an address I am giving next month in New Zealand, I was reminded of one of my favourite stories from the ancient wisdom of the desert mystics of the fourth and fifth centuries. The version I have comes from Thomas Merton’s small collection of desert wisdom. It is a humorous story, but when we allow the story to penetrate deep into our being, it carries profound wisdom.
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You have set my feet in a spacious place ~ Psalm 31:8

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