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I Can’t Blame the Cat!

15 Jan

“Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison”. [Matthew 5:23-25]

OK, so… “Imagine… if you will...”    * insert best Rod Serling voice imitation here *

Let’s say you are an Elder of a “Liturgical Persuasion”, and this Little Monk comes to your monastery cell, taps gently on the door, and says… “Um, Senior Brother… got a spare moment for a Confession?” And, smiling, you come out, put a bookmark at the page you’d been reading of a really EXCELLENT mystery… and together we head to the Confessional. Or, depending on generation, we head for a quiet private spot in the Garden. (Both are fine…)

And my first words after the preliminaries are… “It’s not my FAULT! I just followed the CAT! Honest!”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

OK, so what in the WORLD am I babbling about, this time? Lol. Well, I have a confession to make, and it’s as well to make it here, to you, as anyone else. You are, after all, Holy and Royal Priest… as endowed as any brother or sister of Kingdom. And you may have guessed that in sharing an idea of spirit, especially of prayer, I’m much more dedicated to “laboratory” than to “lecture” format. The most convenient lab specimen I know… considering confidentiality and everything… is myself as guinea pig, so here we are.

Well, a few nights ago, I “blew it”. I “sinned”. (Lol, nothing unexpected there, but this makes a decent illustration for today.) You may recall, the standard to which I am held regarding sin is quite simple (as I can’t handle a lot of rules or complicated stuff). So, what did I do? I “treated something or someone God loves (thus holds in existence), as less than sacred.” I desecrated someone, treating them as less than sacred.

The Crime: No big deal… (well, it was “murder” actually, but we’ll get to that.). Group of guests in my living room, as we play a paper-and-pencil role playing game. (I am a player, not a game master.) We are facing a challenge, discussing our options, and one of our company proposes a thoroughly destructive, but simple solution, that would have devastating impact on the environment and innocent bystanders. I oppose this plan, simply, logically, and succinctly. Nothing complex about the response. First speaker nods, says, “OK”, and we all go back to pondering a workable solution. (So far so good.)

But, THEN, that first guy (we’ll call him “First Guy” for convenience)…. that First Guy comes back, and restates HIS ORIGINAL PROPOSAL… like he hadn’t even HEARD me! How DARE he! (see the little “pride worm” there? I didn’t.) And in a flash, in less than a breath… I turn to him. (like, *slowly I turned… step by step… inch by inch*…)

I say, “Which word was too long?” And the entire room is suddenly filled with the slightly smothered sound of a bunch of guys trying to suppress a laugh they know would be rude. While *I* just sit there with a gobsmacked, wide-eyed look of… “Are you KIDDING me? Really? REALLY?”

God is so GOOD! Gentle Reader. Even when I SO don’t deserve it. Like a flash, one of my young ministry friends, sitting alongside me, gently and discretely tapped my arm to break my “adrenalin moment”, and took over the conversation with SUCH grace… “First Guy, we’re saying that might not be our best plan because these things would happen, and then…, and then…, and that might not be good for us. OK?” as he explains the situation with better detail and clarity. And the evening moved on smoothly. But…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Outcome:I knew the rebuke of the Spirit from that on a few issues. One, it’s perfectly ok that my mind chases cats, and sometimes moves with a speed or in an unexpected direction. Everyone in the room had followed my reasoning, except First Guy. THAT was not out of order. That, is life. Where I moved out of order, was my sarcastic remark. He was asking a legitimate question, posing a legitimate thought. Rather than receiving that and responding, my words “ridiculed” him, implied that he was “a fool”. The Lord is extremely straight up on such things… that… is out of order…. that’s sin… and, in His Book… that’s the same as murder. [cf Matthew 5:22]

My words “devalued” my friend… took life FROM him… rather than giving life TO him. I am unreservedly grateful that my apprentice stepped in as he did, and moved the words along rapidly, so that First Guy never embraced my insult. He never took it in to himself, and was never harmed by it.

Needless to say, as soon as these realizations HIT my arrogant little heart, I apologized to First Guy, and to the room for my carelessness and lack of manners.

I love Mark Lowery’s disclosure on such moments… about “sassing his mother” and “backtalk in general”… that… “Something BRILLIANT would always pop into my mind, and be out my mouth, before I stop it!” I share that feeling so easily!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So here we are, in our little “sacred space” as you hear this confession, and you agree with the Spirit, that my words and heart were out of order. Just to see my “defensiveness” blurt out! “But it’s not my FAULT! I was just chasing a suddenly jumping cat! And it was out my mouth before I could stop it!”

And as the Lord shakes His head calmly, with the comment, “No excuse, there…”

I find myself whining, “These cats… that YOU GAVE ME!” and I try to blame HIM, for my behavior, since He made me as I am!

+ Ever been there? Ever done that? It’s my most convenient excuse and whine. *

Then the Lord echoed this in my mind:

Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” [Genesis 3:9-12]

See it? See it? “Not MY fault, Lord! YOU gave me the woman! YOUR FAULT” Of course, it didn’t fly. Not for him, not for the woman when she tried to blame it on the Serpent. And not… for ME. My cats are a part of my life. I am big enough, old enough, and well-enough trained to refrain from jumping after them, or allowing my words to flow in a harmful way. It was not my “cat”, but my “pride” that poked my words from a wrong heart. The sooner I saw that, the wiser and more loving I would be.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Together, you and I laugh at how silly such defensiveness is. We share that the Spirit doesn’t correct us, isn’t correcting us, to make us feel bad, or punish us. That my “fault”, my “failure”, my “sin”, isn’t so much an “affront at Holy God” as it is, and was, a “moment of missed sharing, missed love, missed relationship.” I could have drawn my friend “closer” to me in friendship that evening, rather than letting pride try to puff me up at his expense.

As it turned out, reconciling things and humbling myself to him, that closeness came anyway, and it edified our relationship. But I could have done the same thing without the embarrassment, if I’d gone with God’s “Plan A” direction at the fork of my temptation, rather than yielding to my own “Plan B” path of sarcasm, repentance, reconciliation! But it all ends up in the same place, because that’s how Grace works in This Family.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So I thank you for your time and kind attention Elder brother monk. I appreciate you. Speaking with you, I see that such sarcasm, even leaping after a darting kitten, offends Love and devalues a sacred heart. That’s not why I am here. It is not how He, or you, or most any of Our Family treat me, nor how I want to be treated. I shall deal more gently with my brethren in future.

Thank you for your support. Pray for me always. We’re all in this together, and I too struggle not to make childish mistakes! Grace to thee!

 
6 Comments

Posted by on January 15, 2014 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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6 responses to “I Can’t Blame the Cat!

  1. paulfg

    January 16, 2014 at 2:35 AM

    Morning LM – I read this last night. Agreed with every word. Chuckled along with the learning. And was left with an annoying itch. This morning – and after adding the “I do choose. Be clean” piece have been shown why.

    Because I was mulling things with him as I went to get dressed for the day – and remembered a piece I had omitted from my blog. And was gearing up to come back for an edit. Except the lord just said no. Long story/short version:

    That one more polish, one more perfect I have – where does that leave room for others to find their own truth when they read? Make it perfect (which it never can be) and I cover so many bases the main one is lost. For me and anyone else following. It leaves no room for anyone else. It squeezes god out of the reason. And then your post came to mind.

    What caught my eye was “ But I could have done the same thing without the embarrassment” talking about relationship with First Guy. And my curiosity is this: how do you know? Why would that have been the same outcome?

    I have seen enough of your cats to know this is where my contribution stops.

    With affection and respect –

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  2. Little Monk

    January 16, 2014 at 4:25 AM

    G’morning Paul. I appreciate you, your words, mind, spirit, questions… more than you can know. To respond to this question:

    And my curiosity is this: how do you know? Why would that have been the same outcome?

    That is a belief I hold by “faith informed by experience”, as much as any scriptural or theological basis. The short form of the insight is more like, “God always wins”. A “fancier” or more “seminary appropriate” statement would be, “God is sovereign.” or “I observe the unavoidable sovereignty of God”. I find such verbiage for ME (not necessarily others), to be a bit pompous and sanctimonious.

    What I MEAN is pretty simple. Like in Ugly Branch, Rich Fruit… about Jonah. It seems as if: God knows, and desires, and intends… to get to a certain point. (Road trip, vehicle moving from Point A to Point B. Like on MapQuest.) Now, He’s GONNA get there, no doubt. But route? Route now… there’s variability available to route.

    To apply the principle…

    Jonah. Jonah was anointed, surrendered, functional prophet. (King’s Kid, living in house, dedicated to Family Business.) Therefore, HE, Jonah, had already “officially, formally, publicly” constrained his free will to God’s forever service. (Doulos, bondservant, pierced ear at the household door.) God will never “snatch away” our free will… but He will “accept it as gift” when freely offered, to some extent when we covenant that. When Jonah did that, he became a “registered vehicle” for the Father’s Road Trips. God could “plan outcomes, in pen” based on Jonah’s service. So God fills out his “Trip Plan”, pen in hand, thus “Jonah goes to Ninevah, gives them My warning, Ninevah repents, Ninevah is saved.” Now, as it turns out, Jonah HAS, and abuses, his freedom WITHIN that plan. He can “mapquest his route”, either taking the shortest distance route, or dragging the line out trying to make it stretch to Spain. Now, he THINKS he can break the trip line altogether… but NO, that he cannot. The ‘penned in’ elements of the Trip Plan are God’s, and He is sovereign. So Jonah’s freedom does NOT include WHETHER… yes or no… but simply HOW… easy way, or hard way.

    It seems my experience and perception that the same is true for me and my life. I “vowed”, quite formally covenanted, years ago… and I affirm frequently in both small and large ways… that my ear is pierced at God’s front doorpost. I’ve affirmed my desire for God’s will in my life, voluntarily truncated my sovereign free will by covenant, and said, “Yes, Lord. I WANT, I WILL, Your sovereignty… and recognizing my own limitations and shortcomings, knowing that from time to time I will rear up on my hind legs and oppose You and Your will, consciously or not… I ask, if ever I ‘fight You’ on something… that You promise to win! (I can’t even BEGIN to find a sanctimonious way to phrase that, so it just is what it is.) Whatever it takes to have Your way, please just go on with it, and I’ll catch up.”

    That’s it. So I see LOTS of forks in the road… mine, Jonah’s… lots of folk. But just like “intimacy with His children” was God’s sovereign plan, and there was the Garden (Plan A) or the Cross (Plan B), so I see Jonah, me, and so forth.

    Not sure this makes sense, but this is always in the back of my mind. The little “run to the shops” for that night (as opposed to a grand Road Trip), was “Little Monk and First Guy deepen their friendship”. I could do that “easy way”… “resolve dispute about a game plan together”… or I could do that the “hard way”… “resolve and reconcile Little Monk’s attempted murder of First Guy”. But it was going to happen, whichever way. The route was my choice. The destination, was not. The destination had been selected “above my pay grade”, and I am already on board with that.

    Hope this makes SOME sense. lol

    Grace to thee — LM

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  3. paulfg

    January 16, 2014 at 9:55 AM

    LM – wow! Play with the heavy hitters and the game can get intense. I had in my mind something entirely different and simpler. And for that I am so glad I asked the question – your train of thought has opened up a new branch as yet unconsidered (other than in general terms). And I have copied/pasted your answer into a word doc (so my brain can strain more comfortably).

    If I can clarify – just so that we both know I have got it? Your faith is a covenant willingly committed to repeatedly. The path that follows is determined by the lord. Where you take a detour, the conditions of that journey may accommodate that, but will return you to the “agreed” destination. In this case “relationship” with Guy One was to happen. The way it happened was influenced by your response in that room. Therefore a better response would not have changed the outcome, merely the route to the outcome. Therein is free will. You have authorised use of your services, but retain the right to deviate along the way.

    LM – (if I have it) – another wow! And off to ponder again. Takes love to an (applied) whole new level. I am privileged to have seen your answer (it feels way above my pay grade)

    My thought and curiosity? Where does Guy One and his journey fit? Maybe his relationship with you would not have been achieved so quickly had you taken the “gentler route”. Seeing another’s vulnerability and response (as I have experienced so much this past week – and still am) is a massive part of relationship.

    With huge affection – Paul

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    • Little Monk

      January 16, 2014 at 10:40 AM

      As you say, Paul, Wow! As to your recaptulation… ALMOST… and this is SO incredibly difficult to clarify in text… lol. What a wonderful example of God’s grace in action. Lemme digress just one moment here and observe something. You and I are not only “communicating” at this moment, we are “effecting Communion” at this moment. My mind, heart, spirit, has an experience and a (limited, finite) understanding and comprehension of “something True of God” in my own universe and life. You, have agreed to trust yourself into God’s hands for Him to grow you in Him, spirit, truth, to know Him… and your mind, heart, spirit are also very integrated together and He works with all of that. But, you being you, have YOUR OWN universe and life, different from mine.

      For simple “human communication” to take “experience, awareness, understanding… Truth” (if True it be) FROM my mind… INTO your mind… is, and would be, utterly impossible. And yet, human communication is all we have direct access to regarding one another alone. HOWEVER, and this is huge, we both have an additional Resource. Or rather, that Resource has us, and He has His own agenda. The Holy Spirit binds us Both, in a voluntary matrix of good will, agreed to and embraced by us both. (Lol, I just realized this is about to look like “spiritual excuse-making” and that’s very far from my meaning, but anyway)… I am speaking “words” to, and about, Truth as I experience Him. Those words “pluck strings” in you… generate tune, or harmony in you… that may bring you to the Same Song in Him. When you, yourself, experience THAT Music… perhaps the same music I am hearing, then we attain mutual understanding… even though I may have no access to the “score”, the “sheet music”, the “specific verbiage” that will clearly express my perception or experience.

      Does that make any sense at all? I hope so…

      But as to your restatement of me, it is extremely close to what I mean.

      Your faith is a covenant willingly committed to repeatedly. The path that follows is determined by the lord. Where you take a detour, the conditions of that journey may accommodate that, but will return you to the “agreed” destination. In this case “relationship” with Guy One was to happen. The way it happened was influenced by your response in that room. Therefore a better response would not have changed the outcome, merely the route to the outcome. Therein is free will. You have authorised use of your services, but retain the right to deviate along the way.

      I think where I would make adjustments in that paragraph… (I wish I could highlight or italic or something, would make more sense)… would be the words “path that follows”, “take a detour”, and “retain the right”.

      Imagine that, just as in the Gospels, Jesus makes steps in each moment that are “perfect”. How do we define that? As “perfectly loving in response to the moment and needs”. Sometimes He needs rest, goes to pray. Sometimes people need Him to heal, or speak, or teach, or socialize with them. So on and So on… ALWAYS He responds as the Father responds, thought, word, deed. Always He is servant, and “learns obedience” (interesting phrase that, from Philippians 2).

      And now, here we are, in OUR time and place. And we have made voluntary surrender, and accepted His promises of John 14-17, agreeing to… well, not to creep anybody out… but that can only be called “possession”. That He enter into us and direct us, Spirit, Son, Father… all three. We in Him, He in us, together we in the Father. And we surrender to that, we release ALL our “rights”, declaring that we… doulos… choose by love alone to remain servant in His house forever. So, as to “retain the right to deviate”… nope, no retention. (Now, do we “snatch back” as if we HAVE “rights” from time to time… perhaps frequently… Oh, yes. Easily. We are not “chained up”, nor are we “constrained by fear”, but by “love alone”. When the Enemy dangles the right cat, pours on the right adrenalin, the right prick to my ego or whatever, I am perfectly capable (as you saw) of snatching back the “steering wheel” and driving us off into a hedge.

      Now, I’m saying that, since we are “growing children”, we do not yet “see as He sees”, so we don’t necessarily know the correct turn at every crossing. The Jesus within us knows, because He does as He always did, “feels the love”, senses the “right step” for each moment. And we have the “equipment”, the “development” to do the same. When we stop and think of it. But, when I “sin”, I have NOT stopped to consider the “other” the “love in the moment”…. I have shifted to the “me” rather than the “I”. “He ignored ME, he’s insulting ME, how dare he say that to ME!” Rather than, “I am here to love him and bring light to this moment.” See?

      So it’s not that God gives me the whole roadmap. In fact, I may see none of it, except in the most general terms. But (and I really like the Mapquest illustration)… God has plotted certain Waypoints into the trip… specific destinations through which we will pass. And Jesus, given no more information that I have, will follow a “perfect loving path” (shortest distance in grace) through whatever route we have. When I stay “in synch” with Him… I sense and follow that path. When I “sin”… let myself get distracted from grace… I follow illusion and baits leading me off into a less efficient route. (Generally including some very tough terrain, or brambles and thickets that cause me hurt… which God sought to help me avoid). But smoothe or rough, easy or difficult, long or short… I will get to the Waypoint one way or another, because I myself have asked God to ‘tether me to this Journey, and never let go of me, lest I become lost and terrified)… and He, with great joy and love and kindness… has let me watch as He attached US. So I KNOW I will hit the waypoint, and I can even drag Jesus in me off onto my own “rebellious, defiant, or blind” route… but it won’t be as comfortable as the one He was trying to travel along.

      Anyway, do I have the “right” to deviate? No, I abnegated all “rights” apart from Our Father’s love and guidance on day one. BUT, do I retain the “ability” to deviate? The “power” to do so by abuse of my will? Yes, yes I do. Because “covenant” does not render us into automatons that can only follow God’s will point for point. It “transfers” us onto a grid of His Kingdom, where His will is now sovereign at ALL points, and He can redeem and rescue even our wrong, rebellious, or defiant choices… into grace for all involved.

      I am going to stop right there. You bring up also the issue of “What about First Guy, and HIS will. How does that effect the unfolding of this journey?”

      I am not going to open any response to this yet. Let’s see how this morsel goes down, before we add another dimension to this. We will, later, if you like. I promise. But not now, not yet.

      * And Little Monk settles back, sending these words into both the WWnet, and the Holy Spirit, trusting that meaning, Truth, and grace will emerge far away, in the heart of a beloved brother.”

      Grace to thee — LM

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      • paulfg

        January 16, 2014 at 12:16 PM

        Communing. I am sensing words and phrases. Some “blindfolded” purpose on this page. Discernment in text from the heart and soul. And in the best traditions of recovering perfectionists I have put down my keyboard after much honing – which could continue for a long time yet!

        (There was a time I would shrink back – “what if” whispers in my ear. What if someone sees this? What if I am using too many words? What if … So many doubting whispers. I cannot hear them right now – which is why I note that)

        Your faith is a covenant willingly committed to. The path that follows is determined by the lord. You have willingly agreed this is so. You reaffirm that agreement constantly. However, this includes faith in allowing the route to be travelled “blindfold” in its purpose.

        There are key points through which your journey will pass. Travelling closely with the lord will take you through the most beautiful / fruitful paths to each point. This “style” includes those you will encounter – who are brought to your path. Each on their own journey (whether that is in willing covenant such as yours, or those who have yet to agree, or those yet to even realise there is invitation on offer).

        Where you decide to travel by peeking through the “blindfold” of purpose, you may experience a bumpier ride, a less fruitful experience, or delay your progress. All the while the “enemy” ** is watching for these opportunities for distraction. And your choice is how you deal with those ever present moments. The lord accepts this individuality – both in dealing with and falling into distraction – with the same love you give to him. Even though it may cause him pain to share your distraction.

        Slight Paul detour: where this brings you into the path of others, you have the same choice of one-ness with their path and yours, or of “distractions” – which may cause their own distractions – or even cause them to falter if they are not as closely bound to the lord as you.

        This encapsulates the sacredness of God’s every creature and paying attention to “distractions” which may cause harm: to others’ – or your own – sacred-self. One-ness with the lord allows the beautiful path – your own and of others – to be just that

        >>> and now the whole day – all day – every day opens up!! Wow again
        >>> it also brings into play the concept of “maturity” and mentoring?

        In all this your waypoints are pre-determined. No matter the distractions or damage along the way they must be achieved in sequence. Your covenant is to remain true to reaching each in order and as beautifully / fruitfully as you are able, even though you travel “blindfolded” to purpose and destination. Therefore your one-ness (or “un” one-ness) with the lord determines not only the success of your journeying, but also the beauty and fruitfulness he wishes for you.

        The challenge of “perfection” is never really knowing what and where will bring that “perfection” at any point. Discerning / one-ness in the moment – in each moment – with the lord is the closest we can ever reach. Whether or not we are in the moment he will advise, and we must discern.

        The intentional smashing of sacredness in that moment(s) is sin. Whether it be to self or others. That moment(s) may only be viewed in hindsight – whether it be immediate or at a later time. But as his forgiveness past present and future is already assured, then the distraction of shame / guilt (rejection that forgiveness) is as equally a delay (maybe even intentional smashing of sacredness all over again) and simply delays the journey and his purpose.

        ** the enemy: another place another time. another searching for truth.

        LM – you don’t get this stuff on a normal Sunday! 🙂

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  4. Little Monk

    January 16, 2014 at 12:24 PM

    Wow, Paul. I’m nearly speechless. NO WAY I could have written that. I read that entire thing… hearing “ring, ring, ring, echo” all through it… Not a single “thud”. I’m not even sure I UNDERSTAND everything you just said there. But I AM sure, that whatever it was God was “speaking through” me this morning, He has now “spoken into” you… and you thoroughly GET IT. I’m gobsmacked. How incredible. Thank you, Paul. Grace

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