Category Archives: Europe

Columba — June 9

Bible connection

Praise the Lord from the earth,
    you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,
lightning and hail, snow and clouds,
    stormy winds that do his bidding,
you mountains and all hills,
    fruit trees and all cedars,
wild animals and all cattle,
    small creatures and flying birds,
kings of the earth and all nations,
    you princes and all rulers on earth,
young men and women,
    old men and children.

Let them praise the name of the Lord,
    for his name alone is exalted;
    his splendor is above the earth and the heavens. — Psalm 148:7-13

All about Columba (521-597)

Columba is a “saint” who still appeals to our imaginations almost fifteen hundred years after his death. He is credited with bringing Christianity to Scotland. He was not only a great leader, he had a big imagination that resulted in an outbreak of Celtic art we still admire. He also had a big voice and might have sang his own version of today’s psalm, since the Celtic church had a deep respect of God’s presence in creation and Columba, no doubt, met the Lord on his many daring sea voyages and missionary journeys.

He was born in Ireland, on December 7, 521 A.D. to Fedhlimidh and Eithne in Donegal (Northern Ireland). He was of “royal blood,” and might have become High King of Ireland had he not chosen to be a priest.

As a young man, Columba soon took an interest in the church, joined the monastery at Moville, and was ordained a deacon by the famous and influential Finnian. After studying with a bard called Gemman, Columba was ordained a priest, then bishop of Clonfad. Columba entered the monastery of Mobhi Clarainech and trained with the others who became “the twelve apostles of Ireland.” When disease forced the disbanding of that monastery, Columba went north and founded the church of Derry.

Tradition has it that after founding several other monasteries, Columba copied Finnian’s psalter (or was it a precious copy of the Latin Vulgate? Sixth century history was not fastidiously collected). He did this without the permission of Finnian, and thus devalued the book and broke with common decency. When Finnian took the matter to High King Dermott for judgment, Dermott judged in favor of Finnian, stating “to every cow its calf; to every book its copy” (the first copyright law!). Columba refused to hand over the copy, claiming that his converts deserved the scripture. King Dermott forced the issue militarily. Columba’s family and clan defeated Dermott at the battle of Cooldrevny in 561.

Tradition further holds that Molaisi of Devenish, Columba’s spiritual father, ordered Columba to bring the same number of souls to Christ that he had caused to die as penance.

For his theft and the deaths it caused, Columba ended up in exile from Ireland. He settled at the first place where his homeland could no longer be seen across the sea. With twelve companions he started a new life, founding a monastery on the island of Iona in the year 563. They lived as Celtic monks in a community of separate cells. But Columba and his companions combined their contemplative life with extraordinary missionary activity.

Among his many accomplishments, Columba was a splendid sailor. He sailed among the islands of Scotland and traveled deep inland, making converts and founding churches. In Ireland, it is said, he had already founded a hundred churches. In Scotland he is credited with converting the Picts, including a journey to witness to the King during which he thwarted the Loch Ness monster.

Columba and the Loch Ness monster, found in British Library

Of all the Celtic saints in Scotland, Columba’s life is the best documented, because manuscripts of the Life of Columba, written by Adamnan, one of his early successors as abbot of Iona, have survived.

Columba was a poet as well as a man of action. Some of his poems in both Latin and Gaelic have come down to us, and they reveal him to be very sensitive to the beauty of his surroundings, as well as, in Adamnan’s phrase, “gladdened in his inmost heart by the joy of the Holy Spirit.”

He died on June 9 in the year 597.

More

Rod’s Columba the Creative Sufferer [link]

Dramatic video about Columba on Iona [link]

Columba (and others) and the Book of Kells [Part 1 link] [Part 2 link]

What do we do with this?

Columba might have been king if he had not been serious about Jesus. He might have been a powerful church man in Ireland if he hadn’t put himself on the wrong side of the law and started a war!

Maybe you wish you had never followed Jesus. Maybe you wish you had not done those wrong things. Maybe Jesus can use you anyway, starting on whatever little island you find yourself today, despite the desires that threaten to dominate your life. Consider what would happen if your future were in God’s hands (since it is).

Hudson Taylor — June 3

Bible connection

Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple, and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.

But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me, for I would rather die than allow anyone to deprive me of this boast. For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. — 1 Corinthians 9:13-17

All about Hudson Taylor (1832-1905)

In 1853 a small boat left Liverpool with Hudson Taylor on board, a gaunt and wild-eyed 21-year-old missionary. He was headed for a country that was just coming into the European/American Christian consciousness: China. By the time Taylor died a half-century later, China was viewed as the most fertile and challenging mission field of all and thousands volunteered annually to serve there.

Taylor was born to a Methodist couple fascinated with the Far East who had prayed for their newborn, “Grant that he may work for you in China.” Years later, a teenage Hudson experienced a spiritual birth during an intense time of prayer in which, as he later put it, life stretched out “before Him with unspeakable awe and unspeakable joy.” He felt called to China. He spent the next years in frantic preparation, learning the rudiments of medicine, studying Mandarin, and immersing himself ever deeper into the Bible and prayer.

His ship arrived in Shanghai, one of five “treaty ports” China had opened to foreigners following its first Opium War with England. Almost immediately Taylor made a radical decision (as least for Protestant missionaries of the day): he decided to dress in Chinese clothes and grow a pigtail (as Chinese men did). His fellow Protestants were either incredulous or critical.

Taylor, for his part, was not happy with most missionaries he saw: he believed they were “worldly” and spent too much time with English businessmen and diplomats who needed their services as translators. Instead, Taylor wanted the Christian faith taken to the interior of China. So within months of arriving, and the native language still a challenge, Taylor, along with Joseph Edkins, set off for the interior, setting sail down the Huangpu River distributing Chinese Bibles and tracts.

When the Chinese Evangelization Society, which had sponsored Taylor, proved incapable of paying its missionaries in 1857, Taylor resigned and became an independent missionary; trusting God to meet his needs. In 1861, he became seriously ill (probably with hepatitis) and was forced to return to England to recover. In England, the restless Taylor continued translating the Bible into Chinese (a work he’d begun in China), studied to become a midwife, and recruited more missionaries. Troubled that people in England seemed to have little interest in China, he wrote China: Its Spiritual Need and Claims. In one passage, he scolded, “Can all the Christians in England sit still with folded arms while these multitudes [in China] are perishing—perishing for lack of knowledge—for lack of that knowledge which England possesses so richly?”

Taylor became convinced that a special organization was needed to evangelize the interior of China. He made plans to recruit 24 missionaries: two for each of the 11 unreached inland provinces and two for Mongolia. It was a visionary plan that would have left veteran recruiters breathless: it would increase the number of China missionaries by 25 percent. He was wracked with doubt about the dangers his plan presented. But at the same time he despaired for the millions of Chinese who were dying without the hope of the gospel. While walking along the beach on day, his gloom lifted:

“There the Lord conquered my unbelief, and I surrendered myself to God for this service. I told him that all responsibility as to the issues and consequences must rest with him; that as his servant it was mine to obey and to follow him.”

His new mission, which he called the China Inland Mission (CIM), had a number of distinctive features, including this: its missionaries would have no guaranteed salaries nor could they appeal for funds; they would simply trust God to supply their needs; furthermore, its missionaries would adopt Chinese dress and then press the gospel into the China interior. Within a year of his breakthrough, Taylor, his wife and four children, and 16 young missionaries sailed from London to join five others already in China working under Taylor’s direction.

Taylor continued to make enormous demands upon himself. He was accused of being a tyrant and people left for other missions. Yet by 1876, with 52 missionaries, CIM constituted one-fifth of the missionary force in China. Because there continued to be so many Chinese to reach, Taylor instituted another radical policy: he sent unmarried women into the interior, a move criticized by many veterans. But Taylor’s boldness knew no bounds. In 1881, he asked God for another 70 missionaries by the close of 1884: he got 76. In late 1886, Taylor prayed for another 100 within a year: by November 1887, he announced 102 candidates had been accepted for service.

His leadership style and high ideals created enormous strains between the London and China councils of the CIM. London thought Taylor autocratic; Taylor said he was only doing what he thought was best for the work, and then demanded more commitment from others:

“China is not to be won for Christ by quiet, ease-loving men and women,” …“The stamp of men and women we need is such as will put Jesus, China, [and] souls first and foremost in everything and at every time—even life itself must be secondary.”

Taylor’s grueling work pace, despite poor health ended in a breakdown in 1900. He also lost his wife and four of his eight children by living like the Chinese. Between his work ethic and his absolute trust in God (despite never soliciting funds, his CIM grew and prospered), he inspired thousands to forsake the comforts of the West to bring the Christian message to the vast and unknown interior of China. Though mission work in China was interrupted by the communist takeover in 1949, the CIM continues to this day under the name Overseas Missionary Fellowship (International).

More

OMF biography 

Four-minute YouTube bio [link]

Chinese pilgrimage to Barnsley, birthplace of Hudson Taylor [link]

What do we do with this?

What do you think of Taylor’s passion for evangelism? In some ways he was strikingly anticolonial. In some ways he was self-destructively obsessive. What do you do with that? What do you think God thinks of Hudson Taylor?

The Lord’s mission also ended in Jesus’ “untimely” death. Do you think we are called to imitate him in some way?

Are you aware of a people group who need to hear the truth about Jesus? Are you called to do anything about that?

Bede — May 26

The Venerable Bede writing. Detail from a 12th century codex

Bible connection

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. — Hebrews 11:13

All about the Venerable Bede (c. 673-735)

“The Venerable Bede” died on this day in 735. He is widely recognized as one of the greatest Anglo-Saxon scholars. When he was seven, Bede was sent to Benedict Biscop at the monastery of St. Peter at Wearmouth, Northumbria, for his education; when he was nine he moved a short distance to the sister house in Jarrow, where he would live out the rest of his days. Bede became a deacon at age 19 and priest at 30.

Page from History

Eventually, Bede was the first native of the British Isles to be named by the Pope as Doctor of the Church (in 1899). His most famous work, which is a key source for understanding early British history and the arrival of Christianity, is Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum or The Ecclesiastical History of the English People which was completed in 731 AD. It is the first work of history in which the AD system of dating is used.

Much of Bede’s observations and writings were focused on the natural world. His scholarship is notably advanced because of his ability to weave together fragments into coherent works with very limited resources.

Here is a bit from his most famous work:

“The present life of man, O king, seems to me, in comparison of that time which is unknown to us, like to the swift flight of a sparrow through the room wherein you sit at supper in winter, with your commanders and ministers, and a good fire in the midst, whilst the storms of rain and snow prevail abroad; the sparrow, I say, flying in at one door, and immediately out at another, whilst he is within, is safe from the wintry storm; but after a short space of fair weather, he immediately vanishes out of your sight, into the dark winter from which he had emerged. So this life of man appears for a short space, but of what went before, or what is to follow, we are utterly ignorant. If, therefore, this new doctrine contains something more certain, it seems justly to deserve to be followed.”

Try on this quote:

“Better a stupid and unlettered brother who, working the good things he knows, merits life in Heaven than one who though being distinguished for his learning in the Scriptures, or even holding the place of a doctor, lacks the bread of love.”

This is also a good image:

“Jesus opened the tavern of heaven and poured out the wine of the Holy Ghost.”

Bede’s work was so famous and respected that it earned him an honorific addition to his name. The title Venerabilis [Venerable] was associated with the name of Bede within two generations after his death. There is no proof for the legend that an unskilled monk composing an epitaph on Bede was at a loss to complete the line: Hac sunt in fossa Bedae . . . . ossa (in this grave are Bede…bones) and then found the next morning that angels had filled the gap with the word venerabilis [venerable]. The title is used by Alcuin (a Northumbrian teacher who became the lead scholar in Charlemagne’s court), Amalarius of Metz and Paul the Deacon within years of his death. The important Council of Aachen in 835 describes him as venerabilis [venerable] et modernis temporibus doctor admirabilis Beda [venerable and admirable doctor of our time, Bede].

More 

Want to read Bede’s groundbreaking book? [link]

More from English people who love him? [link] 

Additions from Orthodox Wiki: [link]

This Channel 4 story takes less than 2 minutes:

What do we do with this?

Bede was a writer and researcher. He was a preserver of good things and true things. If you are a writer, too, take your art seriously and tell the truth. Maybe you should write a little history of your church, your team, or of a person you admire. Or write your spiritual autobiography! Bede’s work has made a difference for 1300 years!

Brendan — May 16

By Rachel Arbuckle. Click the pic for her store.

Bible connection

How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:14-15

All about Brendan the Navigator (c. 484 – c. 577) 

Brendan was an Irish monk called “the Navigator”, “the Voyager”, and “the Bold,” a man who was inspired to walk in extreme vulnerability. His example made him a sturdy leader and winsome evangelist as the Church was built in Ireland.

The story goes like this. Brendan and his companions went on a nautical pilgrimage in the Atlantic Ocean in search of the Island of Paradise. They searched for seven years and had many adventures along the way. The chronicle of Brendan’s journey [Navigatio Brendani] became a medieval blockbuster. Much later, some historians decided that Brendan actually made it to the America’s in his leather bound boat (a “coracle”). Brendan’s outer quest reflected his inner quest to put himself at the mercy of God, which is always the greatest adventure.

Brendan was born in Tralee in southwest of Ireland. His parents were Finnlug and Cara. He was baptized by Saint Erc, and was originally named “Mobhí.” But the signs and portents attending his birth and baptism led to be christened Broen-finn, meaning fair-drop. For five years he was educated under Saint Ita. When he was six he was sent to Saint Jarlath’s monastery school to further his education. Brendan is one of the “Twelve Apostles of Ireland”, one of those  tutored by the great teacher, Finnian of Clonard.

At the age of twenty-six, Brendan was ordained a priest by Saint Erc. Afterwards, he founded a number of monasteries. Brendan’s first voyage took him to the Arran Islands, where he founded a community. He also visited Hinba (Argyll), an island off Scotland where he is said to have met Columba. On the same voyage he traveled to Wales, and finally to Brittany, on the northern coast of France. Between the years 512 and 530 Brendan built monastic cells at Ardfert, and, at the foot of Mount Brandon. From there he set out on his famous seven-year voyage looking for Paradise.

St. Brendan’s Prayer

Shall I abandon, O King of mysteries, the soft comforts of home? Shall I turn my back on my native land, and turn my face towards the sea?

Shall I put myself wholly at your mercy, without silver, without a horse, without fame, without honour? Shall I throw myself wholly upon You, without sword or shield, without food and drink, without a bed to lie on?Shall I say farewell to my beautiful land, placing myself under Your yoke?

Shall I pour out my heart to You, confessing my manifold sins and begging forgiveness, tears streaming down my cheeks? Shall I leave the prints of my knees on the sandy beach, a record of my final prayer in my native land?

Shall I then suffer every kind of wound that the sea can inflict? Shall I take my tiny boat across the wide sparkling ocean? O King of the Glorious Heaven, shall I go of my own choice upon the sea?

O Christ, will You help on the wild waves?

More

Launch on St. Brendan’s Day [link to Development]. Memorial to Brendan [poem]

From St. Brendan’s monastery in Maine [link]

Poem: The Death of St. Brendan by J.R.R. Tolkien. [link]

Frederick Buechner’s Brendan: A Novel.

Revisioning the inspiration for one of the most popular and enduring medieval legends, Frederick Buechner tells the tale of the colorful sixth-century Irish saint Brendan through the eyes of his loyal friend and follower, Finn. This animated vision of Brendan’s dynamic path chronicles the Celtic world of fifteen hundred years ago and contains all the complex moral messages that abound in the best mythology. 

Brendan’s life illustrated by Irish children:

What do we do with this?

May we quest so boldly toward new waters with God. May we face the fears of the deep and unknown so faithfully. See if you can pray Brendan’s prayer for yourself. Maybe you can even envision you and your friends in a coracle, testing your trust on the sea. What kind of “sea” is it for you. How are you called to voyage?

Here is another rendition of his prayer for you to pray:

Help me to journey beyond the familiar
and into the unknown.
Give me the faith to leave old ways
and break fresh ground with You.
Christ of the mysteries, I trust You
to be stronger than each storm within me.
I will trust in the darkness and know
that my times, even now, are in Your hand.
Tune my spirit to the music of heaven,
and somehow, make my obedience count for You.

Nikolaus Zinzendorf  — May 9

Bible connection

Read Isaiah 58

Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;
lighten the burden of those who work for you.
Let the oppressed go free,
and remove the chains that bind people.
 Share your food with the hungry,
and give shelter to the homeless.
Give clothes to those who need them,
and do not hide from relatives who need your help.

All about Nicolaus Zinzendorf (1700-1760)

Nicholas Ludwig, Count Zinzendorf, was born in Dresden in 1700. He was deeply involved in the Pietist movement in Germany, which emphasized personal devotion and the emotional component of life in Christ. This was in contrast to the state Lutheran Church of the day, which had grown to symbolize a largely intellectual faith centered on belief in specific doctrines. He believed in “heart religion,” a personal salvation built on the individual’s spiritual relationship with Christ.

In 2000, German Moravians created a trail of sculptures commemorating the 300th birthday of Zinzendorf. This one features the Count with children, whom he believed modeled the kind of faith we are to have. The gray figures behind represent the rigidness of those leading the old church. Photo taken in Großhennersdorf, Herrnhut, Germany.

Zinzendorf was born into one of the most noble families of Europe. His father died when he was an infant, and he was raised by his Pietist pioneer grandmother, Henrietta Catherina, Baroness von Gersdorff, at her castle Gros Hennersdorf. There are many stories about his deep faith during childhood. As a young man he struggled with his desire to study for the ministry and the expectation that he would fulfill his hereditary role as a Count. As a teenager at Halle Academy, he and several other young nobles formed a secret society, The Order of the Grain of Mustard Seed. The stated purpose of this order was that the members would use their position and influence to spread the Gospel. As an adult, Zinzendorf later reactivated this adolescent society, and many influential leaders of Europe ended up joining the group. Their number included the King of Denmark, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Archbishop of Paris.

Zinzendorf was one of the most controversial figures of the early eighteenth century. The crowned heads of Europe and religious leaders of both Europe and America all knew him or knew of him — and either loved him or hated him.

Although born to an aristocratic family, Zinzendorf decided to use his wealth to shelter a group of Christian radicals: the Unitas Fratrum (The Latinized form of the Czech jednota bratrská/society of brethren. This name was was assumed by the branch of the Hussites known as the Bohemian Brethren and their successors, the Moravian Brethren).  It was a tumultuous time in Europe when it was unsafe to not be part of an established state church.  In 1722 a small band of Jesus-followers who chose not to be part of the state church crossed the border from Moravia to settle in a town they built on Zinzendorff’s estate. They called it  Herrnhut, or “the Lord’s Watch.”

During its first five years of existence the settlement showed few signs of spiritual power. By the beginning of 1727 the community of about three hundred people was wracked by dissension and bickering. So the village was an unlikely site for a revival! Zinzendorf and others, however, covenanted to prayer and labor for the Holy Spirit to move among them. Largely due to Zinzendorf’s leadership in daily Bible studies, the group came to formulate a unique document, known as the Brotherly Agreement, which set forth basic tenets of Christian behavior. Residents of Herrnhut were required to sign a pledge to abide by these Biblical principals. There followed an intense and powerful experience of renewal, often described as the “Moravian Pentecost.”

On May 12, 1727 during a communion service, the entire congregation felt a powerful presence of the Holy Spirit, and felt their previous differences swept away. This experience began the Moravian renewal which led to remarkable ministry. Christians were aglow with new life and power, dissension vanished and unbelievers were converted. Looking back to that day and the four amazing months that followed, Zinzendorf later recalled: “The whole place represented truly a visible habitation of God among men.”

A spirit of prayer was immediately evident in the fellowship and continued throughout that “golden summer of 1727,” as the Moravians came to designate the period. On August 27 of that year twenty-four men and twenty-four women covenanted to spend one hour each day in scheduled prayer. Some others enlisted in the “hourly intercession.” For over a hundred years members of the Moravian Church maintained this continual prayer. “At home and abroad, on land and sea, this prayer watch ascended unceasingly to the Lord,” stated historian A. J. Lewis.

In 1731, while attending the coronation of Christian VI in Copenhagen, the young Count met a converted slave from the West Indies, Anthony Ulrich. Anthony’s tale of his people’s plight moved Zinzendorf, who brought him back to Herrnhut. As a result, two young men, Leonard Dober and David Nitchmann, were sent to St. Thomas to live among the slaves and share the good news about Jesus. This was the first organized Protestant mission work, and grew rapidly to Africa, America, Russia, and other parts of the world. By 1791, sixty-five years after starting their hourly intercession, the small Moravian community had placed 300 missionaries from Greenland to South Africa, literally from one end of the earth to the other.

Members of the Mo­ra­vi­an Church helped populate the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania. They are known as an historic Peace Church, as are the Brethren in Christ and Mennonites.

More 

Zinzendorf in America

Zinzendorf the hymn writer [people singing one at Herrnhut]

Christian History 1) bio, 2) Magazine: Zinzendorf and the Moravians

The early Moravians were accused of sexual impropriety. The criticism may have been appropriate, at times. Here’s an investigation: Wound Worship, “Enthusiasts” and “Sodomites”: A History of Radical Moravians (2019)

1982 movie:

All sorts of stuff at Zinzendorf.com. You need to work at this old website to reveal its treasures.

What do we do with this?

Pray: May our whole church be a truly visible habitation of God.

The Pietists wanted heart religion. They used Bible study, prayer and intentional community to grow it. They shared resources and went on mission to show it. What do you want? What yearning in your spirit meets the passion of God’s Spirit?

Julian of Norwich — May 8

Statue of Julian of Norwich, Norwich Cathedral, by David Holgate FSDC (2010)

Bible connection

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. — Ephesians 3:14-19

All about Julian of Norwich (1342-c.1416)

Julian of Norwich is known to us almost exclusively through her book, The Revelations of Divine Love, which is widely acknowledged as one of the great classics on the spiritual life in Christ. She is thought to have been the first woman to write a book in English which has survived.

We do not know Julian’s actual name. Her name is taken from St. Julian’s Church in Norwich where she lived as an anchoress for most of her life. We know from the medieval literary work, The Book of Margery Kempe, that Julian was known as a spiritual counselor. People would come to her cell in Norwich to seek advice. Considering that, at the time, the citizens of Norwich suffered from plague and poverty, as well as a famine, she must have counseled a lot of people in pain. Yet, her writings are suffused with hope and trust in God’s goodness.

Julian’s Revelations of Divine Love is based on a series of sixteen visions she received on the 8th of May 1373. Julian was lying on, what was thought at the time, to be her deathbed when suddenly she saw Christ bleeding in front of her. She received insight into his sufferings and his love for us.

Julian’s message is one of hope and trust in God, whose compassionate love is always given to us. In this all-gracious God there can be no element of wrath. The wrath —

all that is contrary to peace and love — is in us and not in God. God’s saving work in Jesus of Nazareth and in the gift of God’s Spirit, is to slake our wrath in the power of his merciful and compassionate love.

Julian did not perceive God as blaming or judging us, but as enfolding us in love. Famously, Julian used women’s experience of motherhood to explore how God loves us, referring to Jesus as our Mother.

The Revelations of Divine Love comes to us in two versions; the first (the short text) written shortly after the revelation given to Julian , the second (the long text) written twenty years later. The long text is greatly expanded to include her meditations on what she had been shown. Today, only seventeenth century copies of earlier manuscripts of the long text, and fragments from the fifteenth century survive.

Julian recounts that she was thirty and a half years old when she received her visions and this is how we know she was born in 1342. (An editor to one of the surviving manuscripts speaks of her as a “devout woman, who is a recluse at Norwich, and still alive, A.D. 1413”). There is further evidence to be found in a contemporary will that she was alive in 1416, and that she had a maid who lived in a room next to the cell. Apart from that, we know nothing else about Julian’s life. However, reading Revelations of Divine Love, reveals an intelligent, sensitive and very down-to-earth woman who maintains her trust in God’s goodness while addressing doubt, fear and deep theological questions.

St Julian's Church, Norwich, 2009.jpg
The building where she lived

Interest in Julian’s writings has grown over recent decades More and more people have discovered the significance of her book. Her lyrical language and positive image of God speak to the present-day reader. Her work is well-respected by theologians, historians and literary scholars, and there are now dozens of translations of her Revelations, together with countless commentaries. Modern poets and writers as diverse as T.S. Eliot, Denise Levertov, and Iris Murdoch reference Julian in their writing.

Julian’s Shrine, off Rouen Rd. in Norwich (above), is visited by pilgrims from all over the world.

Quotes

If there is anywhere on earth a lover of God who is always kept safe, I know nothing of it, for it was not shown to me. But this was shown: that in falling and rising again we are always kept in that same precious love.

And all shall be well. And all shall be well. And all manner of things shall be exceeding well.

God, of thy goodness, give me Thyself;
for Thou art enough for me,
and I can ask for nothing less
that can be full honor to Thee.
And if I ask anything that is less,
ever Shall I be in want,
for only in Thee have I all.

Our Savior is our true Mother in whom we are endlessly born and out of whom we shall never come.

Truth sees God, and wisdom contemplates God, and from these two comes a third, a holy and wonderful delight in God, who is love.

More

Revelations of Divine Love [audio book]

Robert Fruehwirth’s book that puts Julian into action [Amazon] [lecture]

Julian was not alone. Other women of her time were writing down similar experiences. You might like to know her predecessors from among the beguines: Mechthild von Magdeburg (ca. 1207-ca. 1294) and Hadewijch of Antwerp (13th centruy). Her contemporary, John of Ruysbroeck (1293-1381) writes in and about the tradition Julian resembles.

What do we do with this?

Julian’s revelations are not unattainable to any person who is seeking. Maybe we all have some kind of early experience that informs much of our lifelong walk with Jesus. Try the prayer of imagination.

Spend some time seeking. Let God clarify for you just what you should be hearing. If you really want to take Julian’s example, you will dare to write it all down and meditate on it another day.

Anselm — April 21

Bible connection

Read Psalm 14

The fool says in his heart,
    “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
    there is no one who does good.
The Lord looks down from heaven
    on all humankind
to see if there are any who understand,
    any who seek God.
All have turned away, all have become corrupt;
    there is no one who does good,
    not even one.
Do all these evildoers know nothing?
The illuminated beginning of an 11th-century manuscript of the Monologion.

All about Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Anselm was a Benedictine monk, Christian philosopher, and scholar who is recognized for many intellectual accomplishments, including his application of reason for exploring the mysteries of faith and for his definition of theology as “faith seeking understanding.”

The brilliance of Anselm’s thinking and writing about the nature of faith and of God has intrigued and influenced scholars since the Middle Ages. His highly respected work, Monologium, rationalizes a proof of God’s existence. His Proslogium, advances the idea that God exists according to the human notion of a perfect being in whom nothing is lacking. Since they were first written, both works have been studied and praised by many of the world’s greatest theologians and philosophers. In our set of explanations, we recognize Anselm’s contribution to the meaning of the atonement with his work Cur Deus Homo (Why the God-Man?). In it he suggests a concept of satisfaction that seems to relate to the way feudal society honored their betters (video explanation).

Born near Aosta in Italy in 1033, Anselm began his education under the tutelage of the monks of a local Benedictine monastery. After his mother died, Anselm observed a period of mourning and then traveled throughout Europe. At that time, the spiritual and intellectual reputation of the monk Lanfranc, who belonged to the monastery of Bec in Normandy, was widespread. Anselm was drawn to Lanfranc, and in 1060 he attached himself to Lanfranc’s abbey. The community soon recognized Anselm’s unique abilities and assigned him to teach in the abbey school. He was made prior of the monastery in 1063 when he ws only 30 years old.

It was during his days at Bec that Anselm composed his innovative works on the existence and nature of God. Indeed, it was only out of a sense of obligation and submission to the will of the community that he undertook the duties and burdens of administration.

William the II demands Anselm take the Archbishop of Canterbury crozier from his sickbed. By James William Edmund Doyle (1864)

His election to the position of abbot of the community in 1078 speaks to the love and regard in which he was held by his confreres. But Bec was not to be the end of his journey. In 1093 he was summoned to England to become the Archbishop of Canterbury, succeeding his master and spiritual director, Lanfranc. Anselm’s years at Canterbury were rife with political controversy. He showed great courage in disputing with William II and Henry I in regard to ecclesiastical abuses visited upon the church by those kings. Twice he was banished while making appeals in Rome. Twice he returned to Canterbury, his abilities as an extraordinary theologian, negotiator, and statesman having added luster and authority to the cause of the church.

Throughout his years, Anselm maintained a strong allegiance to his monastic lifestyle and to his intellectual pursuits. He composed several philosophical and theological treatises, as well as a series of beautiful prayers and meditations in addition to his often inspirational correspondence. Anselm held the position of archbishop until his death in 1109. A biography by his contemporary Eadmer provides many insights into the life of this remarkably saintly and scholarly man.

Anselm quotes:

From the Preface to the Proslogion:

I have written the little work that follows… in the role of one who strives to raise his mind to the contemplation of God and one who seeks to understand what he believes. [More from Rod on this]

I acknowledge, Lord, and I give thanks that you have created your image in me, so that I may remember you, think of you, love you. But this image is so obliterated and worn away by wickedness, it is so obscured by the smoke of sins, that it cannot do what it was created to do, unless you renew and reform it. I am not attempting, O Lord, to penetrate your loftiness, for I cannot begin to match my understanding with it, but I desire in some measure to understand your truth, which my heart believes and loves. For I do not seek to understand in order that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this too I believe, that “unless I believe, I shall not understand.” (Isa. 7:9)

A prayer of Anselm

My God,
I pray that I may so know you and love you
that I may rejoice in you.
And if I may not do so fully in this life
let me go steadily on
to the day when I come to that fullness …
Let me receive
That which you promised through your truth,
that my joy may be full.

A song of Anselm

Jesus, as a mother you gather your people to you:
You are gentle with us as a mother with her children;
Often you weep over our sins and our pride:
tenderly you draw us from hatred and judgement.
You comfort us in sorrow and bind up our wounds:
in sickness you nurse us, and with pure milk you feed us.
Jesus, by your dying we are born to new life:
by your anguish and labour we come forth in joy.
Despair turns to hope through your sweet goodness:
through your gentleness we find comfort in fear.
Your warmth gives life to the dead:
your touch makes sinners righteous.
Lord Jesus, in your mercy heal us:
in your love and tenderness remake us.
In your compassion bring grace and forgiveness:
for the beauty of heaven may your love prepare us.

More

Here is another more detailed bio. [link]

A lecture that tells you everything [link]

What do we do with this?

Anselm did administrative work because he was asked to do it. He would have preferred meditating, studying, writing and mentoring to having conflicts with the kings of England. Doing what he did not prefer did not diminish his influence, however. Living with an attitude of obedience grates on most people we know. We don’t always know what we want, but it is often not what we are supposed to be doing! How are you working that out?

Rest in the Lord for a moment and settle down. What is the best thing you can do today despite distracting or detracting circumstances? For now, you can pray and worship, that is something good we can do no matter who is trying to get us to do something  else.

Corrie ten Boom — April 15

Related image

Bible connection

You are my hiding place;
    you will protect me from trouble
    and surround me with songs of deliverance. Psalm 32:7

All about Corrie ten Boom (1892-1983)

Corrie ten Boom and her family helped Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust during World War II, saving hundreds of lives.

Cornelia “Corrie” ten Boom was born in Haarlem, Netherlands, and grew up in a devout Protestant family. During World War II, she and her family harbored hundreds of Jews to protect them from arrest by Nazi authorities. Betrayed by a fellow Dutch citizen, the entire family was imprisoned. Corrie survived the concentration camp and started a worldwide ministry. She later told her story in a book entitled The Hiding Place.

The ten Boom family lived in the Beje house in Haarlem (short for Barteljorisstraat, the street where the house was located) in rooms above Casper’s watch shop. Family members were strict Calvinists in the Dutch Reformed Church. Faith inspired them to serve society, offering shelter, food and money to those in need. In this tradition, the family held a deep respect for the Jewish community in Amsterdam, considering them “God’s ancient people.”

After the death of her mother and a disappointing romance, Corrie trained to be a watchmaker and in 1922 became the first woman licensed as a watchmaker in Holland. Over the next decade, in addition to working in her father’s shop, she established a youth club for teenage girls, which provided religious instruction as well as classes in the performing arts, sewing and handicrafts.

In May 1940, the German “blitzkrieg” ran though the Netherlands and the other Low Countries. Within months, the “Nazification” of the Dutch people began and the quiet life of the ten Boom family was changed forever. During the war, their house became a refuge for Jews, students and intellectuals. The façade of the watch shop made the house an ideal front for these activities. A secret room, no larger than a small wardrobe closet, was built into Corrie’s bedroom behind a false wall. The space could hold up to six people, all of whom had to stand quiet and still. A crude ventilation system was installed to provide air for the occupants. When security sweeps came through the neighborhood, a buzzer in the house would signal danger, allowing the refugees a little over a minute to seek sanctuary in the hiding place.

The entire ten Boom family became active in the Dutch resistance, risking their lives harboring those hunted by the Gestapo. Some fugitives would stay only a few hours, while others would stay several days until another “safe house” could be located. Corrie ten Boom became a leader in the movement, overseeing a network of “safe houses” in the country. Through these activities, it was estimated the lives of 800 Jews were saved.

On February 28, 1944, a Dutch informant told the Nazis of the ten Booms’ activities and the Gestapo raided the home. They kept the house under surveillance, and by the end of the day 35 people, including the entire ten Boom family, were arrested, Although German soldiers thoroughly searched the house, they didn’t find the half-dozen Jews safely concealed in the hiding place. The six stayed in the cramped space for nearly three days before being rescued by the Dutch underground.

All the ten Boom family members were incarcerated, including Corrie’s 84-year-old father, who soon died in the Scheveningen prison, located near The Hague. Corrie and her sister Betsie were remanded to the notorious Ravensbrück concentration camp, near Berlin. Betsie died there on December 16, 1944. Twelve days later, Corrie was released for reasons not completely known.

Corrie ten Boom returned to the Netherlands after the war and set up a rehabilitation center for concentration camp survivors. In the Christian spirit to which she was so devoted, she also took in those who had cooperated with the Germans during the occupation. In 1946, she began a worldwide ministry that took her to more than 60 countries. She received many tributes, including being knighted by the queen of the Netherlands. In 1971, she wrote a best-selling book of her experiences during World War II, entitled The Hiding Place. In 1975, the book was made into a movie starring Jeannette Clift as Corrie and Julie Harris as her sister Betsie.

In 1977, at age 85, Corrie ten Boom moved to Placentia, California. The next year, she suffered a series of strokes that left her paralyzed and unable to speak. She died on her 91st birthday, April 15, 1983. Her passing on this date evokes the Jewish traditional belief that states that only specially blessed people are granted the privilege of dying on the date they were born.

Quotes

  • Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.
  • Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.
  • When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.
  • Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.
  • The measure of a life, after all, is not its duration, but its donation.
  • Any concern too small to be turned into a prayer is too small to be made into a burden.
  • Let God’s promises shine on your problems.
  • Memories are the key not to the past, but to the future.
  • Faith is like radar that sees through the fog.
  • Discernment is God’s call to intercession, never to faultfinding.

More

The movie: The Hiding Place

The Maranatha song associated: [link]

The Corrie ten Boom museum [link]

Teaching YWAM trainees:

What do we do with this?

Corrie ten Boom overcame her trauma and proved God’s faithfulness. It propelled her to tell her story and made her world famous. You don’t need to be famous, but don’t you need to tell your story?

How do you know Jesus is faithful? Or have you yet to trust Him?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer — April 9

Dietrich Bonhoeffer at 18 in 1924

Bible connection

Read Matthew 5:38-42

Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

All about Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945)

Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his twin sister were born in a Prussian city (now in Poland) in 1906. His family moved to Berlin a few years later. Bonhoeffer earned a doctorate in theology at the age of 21 from one if the most prestigious universities in the world at the time – the University of Berlin.  He began to work as a pastor and also continued to pursue academic studies which took him to Spain and then to Harlem. Dissatisfied with the lack of rigor at Union Seminary, where he was teaching and doing post graduate work, he became a disciple and Sunday school teacher at Abyssinian Baptist Church, where his love for spirituals developed along with his deep desire for the Church to change the world.

Two years after his return to Germany, the Nazi Party rose to power. Bonhoeffer was overtly critical of the regime and a resister from the beginning.  While Hitler and the Nazis infiltrated and found a stronghold in the German Church, Bonhoeffer was building something new in Germany through the Confessing Church.  After only a few months living under Nazi control, Bonhoeffer moved to London to work on international ecumenical work. He was very frustrated with the state of the German church.

Two years later, rather than going to study non-violent civil disobedience under Gandhi, he returned to Germany, responding to the repeated pleas and demands of Swiss theologians and Karl Barth, who’s battle cry, “Revelation, not religion!” would remain a basic element of Bonhoeffer’s theology to the end. Barth was sent back to Switzerland and Bonhoeffer found the Confessing Church to be under fire by the Nazis.  He soon lost his credentials to teach because he was a “pacifist and enemy of the state.”  He began underground seminaries and further resisted.

Bonhoeffer became more involved in direct resistance and was arrested in 1943.  He was part of a group that was responsible both for attempts at liberating Jews and attempting to assassinate Hitler. His pacifism has been widely written about, especially in light of this glaring contradiction. In the last 10 years historians have disputed the assumption that Bonheoffer deserted his pacifism for the practicality of assassination. See Mark Theissen’s book: Bonhoeffer the Assassin?: Challenging The Myth, Recovering His Call To Peacemaking (2013).

Dietrich was executed on this day in 1945, two weeks before US soldiers liberated the  camp where he was imprisoned.  He is largely considered a martyr for the faith and for peace, and for being a Nazi resister.

Two of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s most influential works are Life Together and The Cost of Discipleship this quote is from the latter:

Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

More

Want to watch a small documentary about his life? Here is a [link] Another from 2003 [link] One is upcoming [link]

Bonhoeffer speaks out against Hitler [link]

His philosophy, theology and books. [link]

Biographer interview. [link]

What do we do with this?

Bonhoeffer applied himself to unmasking the lies of his culture and the ideologies that took God’s place. It was not easy, since the church was generally in line with them. In spite of state threat and lack of support from the church, he took risks to teach the truth, even moving back to Germany when he would have been safer elsewhere.

That kind of courage is demonstrated in the Bible repeatedly by people whose loves are trained on God. What threat do you feel from those you know and from the great “other” of the powers that be when it comes to expressing your faith in word and deed? Pray for courage. Pray that we build a confessing church in a culture of lies.

John Leonhard Dober — April 1

Bible connection

Read Acts 13:16-52

Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For this is what the Lord has commanded us:

“‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
    that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.

All about John Leonhard Dober (1706-1766)

Let’s celebrate one of the Moravian Brethren’s first residents of the Americas who was part of their amazing and extensive missionary efforts in the 1700’s. As you know, the Moravians are still alive and well in the United States. A main center for them is just up the road in Bethlehem, PA.

Leonhard Dober was born on March 7, 1706, in Bavaria, Germany. Like his father, Johann, Leonhard was trained as a potter. When he was nineteen years old, he walked 315 miles to join his older brother, Martin, in Herrnhut. We do not exactly know how Martin had heard about Herrnhut, the community founded by Protestant refugees from Moravia just a few years earlier. By 1727 about half of the population of Herrnhut came from other parts of Germany. Other members of the Dober family soon joined Leonhard and Martin in their vibrant Christian community: their parents, Johann and Anna Barbara in 1730, and their younger brother Andreas in 1733.

An important event in Leonhard’s life took place in 1731 when Anton, a former African slave from St. Thomas, visited Herrnhut. Count Zinzendorf, on whose land the village was built, had met Anton in Copenhagen, Denmark, where he was employed as a servant. Anton, who was baptized, impressed Zinzendorf and his traveling companions with his accounts of the situation on St. Thomas where Africans lived under the harshest of conditions. Zinzendorf sent Anton to Herrnhut where he told the congregation about his sister on St. Thomas who was “eager to learn about Christianity if only God would send someone to teach her.”

Leonhard felt he should be the person to go to the Caribbean island and tell the slaves “about their Savior.” The Church, however was not quick to rush into such an enterprise, and it took another year until Dober and David Nitschmann, his fellow missionary, received permission for travel there. The day they left Herrnhut, August 21, 1732, marks the beginning of mission work of the Moravian Church.

After being sent out by Count Zinzendorf, the two traveled from Herrnhut to Copenhagen, Denmark, where their plan initially met with strong opposition. When asked by a court official how they would support themselves, Nitschmann replied,

“We shall work as slaves among the slaves.”

“But,” said the official, “that is impossible. It will not be allowed. No white man ever works as a slave.”

“Very well,” replied Nitschmann, “I am a carpenter, and will ply my trade.”

After some difficulty, the missionaries found support from the Danish Queen (a freind of Zinzendorf) and her court. Even though the Danish West Indian Company refused to grant them passage, a ship was eventually procured. They left Copenhagen on Oct 8, 1732 and arrived in St. Thomas two months later on December 13. While in the St. Thomas, they lived frugally and preached to the slaves, and had some success. Some still tell the tale they succeeded in selling themselves into slavery and were never heard form again. But Nitschmann returned to Europe four months after arriving. Dober remained until 1734 when he was called back to become General Elder, a position he would hold until September of 1741. Other Moravian missionaries continued the work, establishing churches on St. Thomas, St. Croix, St. John’s, Jamaica, Antigua, Barbados, and St. Kitts. Moravian missionaries baptized 13,000 converts before any other missionaries arrived on the scene.

Dober served the Moravian Church in many places. He worked in Amsterdam where he tried to evangelize the Jewish inhabitants of that city (1738/39). He was appointed head of Moravian activities in the Netherlands (1741-45), in England (1745-1746) and later in Silesia (1751-58). He was also ordained a bishop of the Church in 1747. After Zinzendorf’s death, Dober became a member of the Directorate of the Unity – a position he held until he died in Herrnhut on April 1, 1766.

Dober’s letter describing his motivation for going to St. Thomas says:

Since it is desired of me to make known my reason, I can say that my disposition was never to travel during this time [that period in his life], but only to ground myself more steadfastly in my Savior; that when the gracious count came back from his trip to Denmark and told me about the slaves, it gripped me so that I could not get free of it. I vowed to myself that if one other brother would go with me, I would become a slave, and would tell him so, and [also] what I had experienced from our Savior: that the word of the cross in its lowliness shows a special strength to souls. As for me, I thought: even if helpful to no one in it [my commitment] I could still give witness through it of obedience to our Savior! I leave it to the good judgment of the congregation and have no other ground than this I thought: that on the island there still are souls who cannot believe because they have not heard.

More

A lesson from the Greenbay Sunday School in Antigua:

What do we do with this?

Herrnhut is a good model, don’t you think? Radical Christians crossing lines of nationality and race, prayer, community and imaginative mission worldwide. That’s good Christianity in any era! How are we doing?

Is God is calling you to some new obedience? What will you do about it? You can start by letting others know — even if it takes a long time to be sent into it, it is good to have someone backing you up (and maybe holding you accountable!).