Welcome

Christ Presbyterian is a spiritual incubator, caring for members as we listen for the voice of the Spirit calling us to service.  We affirm that as a spiritual community we seek growth, not perfection, and welcome all in love.  We are hopeful that each of you will form a stronger bond with God and the community of Christ on your journey.

Thought for Contemplation

To Be Thought of Kindly
How Time Heals – from Henri Nouwen’s Bread for the Journey

“Time heals,” people often say. This is not true when it means that we will eventually forget the wounds inflicted on us and be able to live on as if nothing happened. That is not really healing; it is simply ignoring reality. But when the expression “time heals” means that faithfulness in a difficult relationship can lead us to a deeper understanding of the ways we have hurt each other, then there is much truth in it. “Time heals” implies not passively waiting but actively working with our pain and trusting in the possibility of forgiveness and reconciliation.

– Henri J. M. Nouwen
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Thomas Merton

To be “thought of” kindly by many and to “think of” them kindly is only a diluted benevolence, a collective illusion of friendship. Its function is not the sharing of love but complicity in a mutual reassurance that is based on nothing. Instead of cultivating this diffuse aura of benevolence, you should enter with trepidation into the deep and genuine concern for those few persons God has committed to your care.

Source: Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

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The Quest
I have discovered that the religious quest is not about discovering ‘the truth’ or ‘the meaning of life’ but about living as intensely as possible here and now. The idea is not to latch on to some superhuman personality or to ‘get to heaven’ but to discover how to be fully human.

Karen Armstrong
Source: The Spiral Staircase
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Song of the Builders
.
On a summer morning
I sat down
on a hillside
to think about God—

a worthy pastime.
Near me, I saw
a single cricket;
it was moving the grains of the hillside

this way and that way.
How great was its energy,
how humble its effort.
Let us hope

it will always be like this,
each of us going on
in our inexplicable ways
building the universe.

Mary Oliver
Source: Why I Wake Early

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Only One Voice
.
Only one voice,
but it was singing
and the words danced and as they danced held high—
oh, with what grace!—their lustrous bowls of joy.
Even in the dark we knew they danced, but we—
none of us—touched the hem of what would happen.
Somewhere around a whirl, swirl, a pirouette,
the bowls flew and spilled,
and we were drenched, drenched to the dry bone
in our miserable night.

Only one voice,
but morning lay awake in her bed and listened,
and then was out and racing over the hills
to hear and see.
And water and light and air and the tall trees
and people, young and old, began to hum
the catchy, catchy tune.
And everyone danced, and everyone, everything,
even the last roots of the doddering oak
believed in life.

Jessica Powers
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A Courageous Life – from Henri Nouwen’s Bread for the Journey

“Have courage,” we often say to one another. Courage is a spiritual virtue. The word courage comes from the Latin word cor, which means “heart. A courageous act is an act coming from the heart. A courageous word is a word arising from the heart. The heart, however, is not just the place where our emotions are located. The heart is the centre of our being, the centre of all thoughts, feelings, passions, and decisions.

– Henri J. M. Nouwen
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Spiritual Courage – from Henri Nouwen’s Bread for the Journey

Courage is connected with taking risks. Jumping the Grand Canyon on a motorbike, coming over Niagara Falls in a barrel, or crossing the ocean in a rowboat are called courageous acts because people risk their lives by doing these things. But none of these daredevil acts comes from the centre of our being. They all come from the desire to test our physical limits and to become famous and popular.

Spiritual courage is something completely different. It is following the deepest desires of our hearts at the risk of losing fame and popularity. It asks of us the willingness to lose our temporal lives in order to gain eternal life.

– Henri J. M. Nouwen
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Words That Come From the Heart – from Henri Nouwen’s Bread for the Journey

Words that do not become flesh in us remain “just words.” They have no power to affect our lives. If someone says, “I love you,” without any deep emotion, the words do more harm than good. But if these same words are spoken from the heart, they can create new life.

It is important that we keep in touch with the source of our words. Our great temptation is to become “pleasers,” people who say the right words to please others but whose words have no roots in their interior lives. We have to keep making sure our words are rooted in our hearts. The best way to do that is in prayerful silence.
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Small Steps of Love – from Henri Nouwen’s Bread for the Journey

How can we choose love when we have experienced so little of it? We choose love by taking small steps of love every time there is an opportunity. A smile, a handshake, a word of encouragement, a phone call, a card, an embrace, a kind greeting, a gesture of support, a moment of attention, a helping hand, a present, a financial contribution, a visit … all these are little steps toward love.

Each step is like a candle burning in the night. It does not take the darkness away, but it guides us through the darkness. When we look back after many small steps of love, we will discover that we have made a long and beautiful journey.

– Henri J. M. Nouwen

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Words That Create Community – from Henri Nouwen’s Bread for the Journey

The word is always a word for others. Words need to be heard. When we give words to what we are living, these words need to be received and responded to. A speaker needs a listener. A writer needs a reader.

When the flesh – the lived human experience – becomes word, community can develop. When we say, “Let me tell you what we saw. Come and listen to what we did. Sit down and let me explain to you what happened to us. Wait until you hear whom we met,” we call people together and make our lives into lives for others. The word brings us together and calls us into community. When the flesh becomes word, our bodies become part of a body of people.

– Henri J. M. Nouwen
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The Fruit of the Spirit – from Henri Nouwen’s Bread for the Journey

How does the Spirit of God manifest itself through us? Often we think that to witness means to speak up in defense of God. This idea can make us very self-conscious. We wonder where and how we can make God the topic of our conversations and how to convince our families, friends, neighbors, and colleagues of God’s presence in their lives. But this explicit missionary endeavour often comes from an insecure heart and, therefore, easily creates divisions.

The way God’s Spirit manifests itself most convincingly is through its fruits: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22). These fruits speak for themselves. It is therefore always better to raise the question “How can I grow in the Spirit?” than the question “How can I make others believe in the Spirit?”

– Henri J. M. Nouwen
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Words That Become Flesh – from Henri Nouwen’s Bread for the Journey

Words are important. Without them our actions lose meaning. And without meaning we cannot live. Words can offer perspective, insight, understanding, and vision. Words can bring consolation, comfort, encouragement and hope. Words can take away fear, isolation, shame, and guilt. Words can reconcile, unite, forgive, and heal. Words can bring peace and joy, inner freedom and deep gratitude. Words, in short, can carry love on their wings. A word of love can be the greatest act of love. That is because when our words become flesh in our own lives and the lives of others, we can change the world.

Jesus is the word made flesh. In him speaking and acting were one.
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Growing into the Truth We Speak – from Henri Nouwen’s Bread for the Journey

Can we only speak when we are fully living what we are saying? If all our words had to cover all our actions, we would be doomed to permanent silence! Sometimes we are called to proclaim God’s love even when we are not yet fully able to live it. Does that mean we are hypocrites? Only when our own words no longer call us to conversion. Nobody completely lives up to his or her own ideals and visions. But by proclaiming our ideals and visions with great conviction and great humility, we may gradually grow into the truth we speak. As long as we know that our lives always will speak louder than our words, we can trust that our words will remain humble.

For further reflection …

“Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!” – James 2: 12-13

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Fullness of Life
Our God, the God of love, does not want a broken and divided self. God created us for fullness of life. God created each of us to be a free son or daughter, that son or daughter who in our deepest being each of us longs to be, to become. And we all know in our heart of hearts (even if we are unwilling to admit it) that this healing of our divisions, this search for wholeness, must be an ongoing process. There is no once and for all moment when we can say that at last we are whole, the past is buried and over, the hurts forgotten, the wounds healed. Instead we find that it is to be a search that we must expect to continue throughout our lives.

Esther de Waal
Source: Living With Contradiction

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Let Us Sing
Let us sing now, not in order to enjoy a life of leisure, but in order to lighten your labors. You should sing as wayfarers do—sing, but continue your journey. Do not be lazy, but sing to make your journey more enjoyable. Sing, but keep going.

St. Augustine of Hippo
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Witnesses of Love – from Henri Nouwen’s Bread for the Journey

How do we know that we are infinitely loved by God when our immediate surroundings keep telling us that we’d better prove our right to exist?

The knowledge of being loved in an unconditional way, before the world presents us with its conditions, cannot come from books, lectures, television programs, or workshops. This spiritual knowledge comes from people who witness to God’s love for us through their words and deeds. These people can be close to us but they can also live far away or may even have lived long ago. Their witness announces the truth of God’s love and calls us to act in accordance with it.

– Henri J. M. Nouwen
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Despair and Joy
Happiness is the absence of discord; joy is the welcoming of discord as the basis of higher harmonies. Happiness is finding a system of rules which solves our problems; joy is taking the risk that is necessary to break new frontiers…. The good life, obviously, includes both joy and happiness at different times. What I am emphasizing is the joy that follows rightly confronted despair. Joy is the experience of possibility, the consciousness of one’s freedom as one confronts one’s destiny. In this sense despair, when it is directly faced, can lead to joy.

Rollo May
Source: Freedom and Destiny

To Be Myself
I do not have to pretend that I am better than others and that I have to win in all the competitions. It’s okay to be myself, just as I am, in my uniqueness. That, of course, is a very healing and liberating experience. I am allowed to be myself, with all my psychological and physical wounds, with all my limitations but with all my gifts too…. Experience has shown that one person, all alone, can never heal another. A one-to-one situation is not a good situation. It is important to bring broken people into a community of love, a place where they feel accepted and recognized in their gifts, and have a sense of belonging. That is what wounded people need and want most.

Jean Vanier
Source: From Brokenness to Community
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Do Nothing
It is so hard to sit and do nothing. And yet in many a case that is all one can do. Just listen. And do nothing.

Dorothy Day
Source: The Catholic Worker (November 1951)
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The Power of the Spirit – from Henri Nouwen’s Bread for the Journey

In and through Jesus we come to know God as a powerless God, who becomes dependent on us. But it is precisely in this powerlessness that God’s power reveals itself. This is not the power that controls, dictates, and commands. It is the power that heals, reconciles, and unites. It is the power of the Spirit. When Jesus appeared people wanted to be close to him and touch him because “power came out of him” (Luke 6:19).

It is this power of the divine Spirit that Jesus wants to give us. The Spirit indeed empowers us and allows us to be healing presences. When we are filled with that Spirit, we cannot be other than healers.

– Henri J. M. Nouwen
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Claiming the Identity of Jesus – from Henri Nouwen’s Bread for the Journey

When we think about Jesus as that exceptional, unusual person who lived long ago and whose life and words continue to inspire us, we might avoid the realisation that Jesus wants us to be like him. Jesus himself keeps saying in many ways that he, the Beloved Child of God, came to reveal to us that we too are God’s beloved children, loved with the same unconditional divine love.

John writes to his people: “You must see what great love the Father has lavished on us by letting us be called God’s children – which is what we are.” (1 John 3:1). This is the great challenge of the spiritual life: to claim the identity of Jesus for ourselves and to say: “We are the living Christ today!”

– Henri J. M. Nouwen