Encouragement for a lifelong journey of faith

Tag: Francis of Assisi

October 16, 2017 — Laugh with the holy Fool

By Marcy Hall, Abbey of the Arts

Today’s Bible reading

For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?

Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have begun to reign—and that without us! How I wish that you really had begun to reign so that we also might reign with you!

For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings. We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in  Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment. — 1 Corinthians 4:7-13

More thoughts for meditation

So much is made of “identity” these days — and for good reason, since the world plasters labels on us, puts us in restrictive boxes accordingly, and then persecutes us if we don’t stay there! Let’s spend a week trying on some “identities” that are gifts of God and serve to free us and fulfill us, not exploit our desires or restrict our fulfillment. For instance, try on the “holy fool” today. If you are filled with the Spirit, you’ve got that “fool” in you.

In today’s reading, Paul names himself and other apostles as “fools for Christ.” Francis of Assisi wore the title proudly, as do many of the members of Circle of Hope. Francis stripped off his clothes in public and handed them back to his parents; he renounced all his wealth; he befriended creatures (like a man-eating wolf, one time); he walked beyond Crusader battle lines to speak to the Egyptian Sultan! All seemed foolish to almost everyone.  Isn’t that why he is a saint?

The holy fool in all of us longs to turn things upside down and helps us see things from God’s perspective. The fool in us dismantles the wisdom of our times — like Paul says, “Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” (1 Corinthians 1:20). Shouldn’t we knock “gods” off their pedestals: productivity, progress, consumption, speed, virtuality, capitalism, individualism, etc. etc.? If we do that, the world will likely confirm our identity as fools, if not holy.

Most fools, like Jon Stewart and other late-night hosts have become, reveal the hypocrisy of the powerful. They point to the possibility of truth beyond normal conformity. Through playfulness and humor, or just being kindly bizarre, the fool tears down treasured illusions and illuminates new paths.

Suggestions for action

Have you ever demonstrated this movement of the Spirit? If you did, it might have been the time you appeared most like Jesus, who declared his kingship by entering Jerusalem with an “army” bearing palm fronds instead of pikes.

Most of us never want to look foolish; we have a knee-jerk reaction to the shame we feel when others look at us funny. We may have lived by the “rules” or been very concerned with how we or how things appear. It might be hard to play, or laugh at ourselves. (By the way, humor and humility have the same Latin root humus, which means earth, or ground.) What does God say when you two talk about not wanting to look foolish in the eyes of the world?

Do questions about your hair, clothes or living room furniture get in your way of praying about being a holy fool? The word is: a fool has no possessions, no family, no position, and so can speak with prophetic boldness. Doesn’t that sound like Jesus in you?

One more thing to act on: take an inventory of whether you activate the “shadow” fool. When the fool is not inspired by God, or the calling is suppressed, the energy can come out in destructive ways. The shadow fool uses humor to tear people down or to get attention for how “wild” they are, or how “rebellious.” We can find ourselves moving toward cynicism rather than constructive criticism of the world’s problem, adding to the confusion rather than the hope. What’s more, the shadow fool can end up breaking rules for the sake of the breaking, rather than to reveal a truth. They can ignore all the norms of behavior at great cost to themselves and those who follow their recklessness rather than balancing tearing down with building up.

Pray: I receive what you give me. Give me courage when my prize is mocked and my praise misunderstood.


February 6, 2017 — Madeira in the 1400’s

Today’s Bible reading

Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” — Matthew 9:37-38

More thoughts for meditation

We are on a spiritual pilgrimage with daring Jesus-followers who were convicted to act on today’s reading.

Franciscan missionaries accompanied Portuguese expeditions to Maderia in 1420 (pictured above), the Azores (1431), and the Cape Verde Islands (1450). Their evangelistic efforts were a complicated process, since they were all wrapped up with their government’s plans for exploitation. Plus, the Pope still had a lot of political power and held sway over what countries could explore what territories. In exchange for the rights to colonize, the Pope required the civil authorities of each territory to appoint and subsidize missionaries to propagate the faith.

On Madeira, two priests disembarked with the ship captain. One of their first acts was to lay the cornerstone for a church building dedicated to the Redeemer of the World. The record says they met “no people, no ferocious animals or biting insects.” Soon they cut down a large tree near their harbor and built the first chapel. Eventually, new settlers would begin to perfect the fine wine people still enjoy, today. Soon the church was planted all down the coast of Africa and into India by the end of the century, following exploration by Europeans of previously unknown places.

We might be more familiar with the excesses and corruption of the colonial enterprise and the often-coercive and misplaced evangelism that accompanied it. You may feel that you were colonized yourself by aggressive men! There is a lot of heartbreaking things that happened in the name of Jesus. No doubt He’s more aware of it than we are. We don’t need to let that pain go, necessarily. But we at least need to see the faith of these two intrepid, nameless Franciscans, who took the lead of Francis of Assisi and got on a boat for who knows where with hope of spreading the news about Jesus, the Redeemer of the World.

Suggestions for action

Pray: Send out laborers into your harvest.

Pray for the burned-out evangelicals who will be stung by the Bible’s call for evangelism this week. They will have trouble separating European corruption from the theme from God’s presence in the lives of many true believers over the past 700 years.

Pray for yourself and your cell. In this era, it is hard to see the harvest. The Lord’s work has been hard before. But then, as now, the Spirit is at work preparing hearts to live out faith, hope and love. Let’s find them and catalyze new life.

May 9, 2016 — simplicity

This week we will be using Francis of Assisi as the framework through which we dive deeper into important areas of our faith. Francis can be an inspiration to us for several reasons, not least of which is that he was a very genuine salt-of-the-earth guy. He passionately embraced the disciplines of simplicity, joy, creativity, community, and service. Out of that embrace grew the beautiful Franciscan ministry we see throughout the world.

Today’s Bible reading

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? “He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” — Matthew 18:1-5

Francis gives his coat to a poor knight. Giotto — 1299

More thoughts for meditation

Francis on simplicity:

“Handing his cloak to a beggar one day, Francis said, ‘We only got it on loan until we found someone in greater need of it.’ When his friars complained, Francis responded, ‘God, the great Almsgiver, will regard it as a theft on my part, if I do not give what I have to someone who needs it.” –The Lessons of St. Francis: How to Bring Simplicity and Spirituality into Your Daily Life.

One noteworthy thing about children is that their brains haven’t fully developed. They have almost no sense of consequences. When they fall, they trust that someone will catch them, clean their scrapes, and send them on their merry way. They don’t think about the weather—if they will need rain boots or mittens. They know that someone bigger will hover over them providing proper attire for the day. In this way, they are like the flowers and the birds of the air that Jesus calls us to emulate. Children trust they will be taken care of.

Francis had that inherent trust in God. It is what freed him to give his coat to a beggar with no thought of how he would survive the elements himself. It can be painful to think of simplicity to the extent that Francis lived it, with only a habit, a cord, and a pair of trousers as his possessions. But we must remember that it was not simply a desire to follow the rules of poverty that inspired him toward simplicity. It was his belief that God would provide for him. Jesus says faith as small as a mustard seed can make big changes. 

Suggestions for Action

What are some small acts of faith we can make today in an effort to live simply?

  • Write in your journal some things you would get rid of if fear were not an issue.
  • Is there a small act of faith you can imagine doing today in an effort to live simply?
  • If not, invite Jesus into the question. Lord, how can I do this?