Friday, November 20, 2009

Spiritual Counsel

If there is major ongoing sin in your life, cut it out... at least want to cut it out... cultivate repentance by thinking on the glory and compassion of God and your squandering of that love.

Look for a spiritual mother or father. For some Christians this is their pastor or priest. To talk with someone about one's spiritual life is a good antidote to spiritual pride.

Attend worship. Confess your sins... there is great solace in speaking your sins out loud and hearing the words of forgiveness.

Pray, fast, give alms. Give a tenth of your income if you can. If not, work up to that. Give wisely.

Serve those in sorrow and need. In person, if possible, personal contact will affect you in ways not gained through writing a check. The scriptures presume all charity is taking place in the context of personal relationships.

Practice Agape (long suffering, self giving love) in every context ( and it does take a lot of practice). Every person you meet gives you a God appointed opportunity to die to self. The six or ten people you deal with today are meant to furnish your own personal "Roman Coliseum" where you can battle against self-will till your last breath.

Avoid excessive sleeping and leave the table before you feel full. Overeating undermines the ability to maintain constant prayer. Continually stretch yourself with small challenges in all areas of your preferences and desires, cutting away little pleasures that you think you cannot live without. But don't go overboard with a sudden, possibly prideful, attempt at excessive asceticism. One needs to get used to moderation gradually.

Expect that you will have sorrow and that you will suffer injustice. Expect this and it won't shatter your faith. Believe firmly that all your joy is with Christ and you will be able to bear it if other resources of joy prove temporary or are never found at all. Pain may be inevitable but it also temporary; pain is mandatory but misery is optional.

Humility is of more value than the greatest asceticism. Pride can be hard to detect because it disguises itself in innumerable ways. It appears most often in relationships because pride springs up when comparing yourself to other people. Instead compare yourself with God and with what God is calling you and enabling you to be, then humility is not so hard to feel.

Avoid anger at all costs. It shows up when pride has been dealt a wound. Anger poisons the soul; it is an acid that destroys its container. Consider yourself too immature to handle so-called "righteous anger". Most often it turns out to be self-righteous anger. Jesus was righteously angry but he had certain spiritual advantages that we don't.

This is a long list and no one will do it perfectly. But we should keep pressing onward. Every failure can be turned to gold, if it increases your humility.

From The Jesus Prayer by Frederica Matthewes - Green, pages 52-54

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