Tag Archives: arrogance

Because I say so…

244px-messier-42-10-12-2004-filtered-e1401834586474While working on some projects over the past few weeks, I was struck with an amazing realization…

Are you a parent? Were you a parent? Or… do you remember your own parents? Imagine, if you will…

  1. You tell your child to do something or other that they don’t particularly want to do.
  2. They (predictably) ask, in a whiny voice, “But… but… WHY?”
  3. And you say? (fill in the blank here) (Psst! Hint: Check the title of this post!)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Have you ever noticed how often God Almighty, when faced with parallel situations with His Old Testament children, identifies Himself thus…

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt.”

Time and time again, He identifies Himself this way. And one day this realization just stopped me cold, as I thought… “Waitaminute! Why does God EXPLAIN Himself? Is He coddling His children? I mean, why doesn’t He say… ‘Because I am the Lord your God who could squish you like a bug?’ or “I am the Lord your God who created heaven, earth, and you?’ or even the tried-and-true…. “Because I say so!”?

It started me looking up one passage after another, and I saw this pattern repeated over and over. And this confused me. After all, if ANYONE has the right to pose an argument from authority without qualification, it must be Him, no? And yet, He doesn’t. In fact, He NEVER EVER does.

I was stunned.

We do it, we humans, all the time. Certainly with our children and subordinates. We claim our authority by position and rank, not by our actions and history. At least, not usually we don’t.

It all started me thinking… Why? Doubtless God is more emotionally secure than we are. We have greater need to massage our egos and pride, true enough. But still, does it make sense that we tend to point to ourselves when we assert authority, while God points to the children when He does?

So, I pondered, “Why?” Clearly, God gets it right more than I do. So, He has a method to why He asserts His authority in these terms rather than mine. As I pondered, I came to a conclusion.

I’d like to know what you think about what I thought… which was…

It seems that God defines “authority” in terms of His own commitment to the care and welfare of the other.

Perhaps that is a critical key. Perhaps “authority” only has true meaning in relationships of care, and it is directly related to the degree of commitment one has for the nurturance of the other. Like when God placed Adam into the garden to “protect and to serve” the plants, THUS exercising dominion. Is it possible that God always intended Adam’s “authority” and “dominion” to extend only to the limits of his caretaking?

Could God’s authority be infinite in that His caretaking is infinite? And the reverse? God’s caretaking is infinite in that His authority is infinite? Is the assertion and exercise of authority only godly and legitimate to the extent that we are committed to the well-being of the other? Is such assertion without commitment nothing more than the haughty posing of the self-righteous whitewashed tombs?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

That’s where my ponders led me. What do you think?

Blessings and grace to thee, Gentle Reader! — The Little Monk


Posted by on January 15, 2015 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized


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Pulling the Heads Off Flies — Part II

Drosophila melanogasterAll righty then…

When last we left our intrepid padawan, Little Monk sat, frustrated and convicted… of “judging others”, by the very act of LOOKING AT THEM! *sigh*..

Best efforts not withstanding, conviction notwithstanding, repentance notwithstanding, even the Lord’s good will and undivided attention notwithstanding… try as I might to pass even one single hour without “judging” anyone or anything… I failed.

I’d asked the Lord to do me the kindness of “buzzing me”, making clear to me and my conscience, when I “looked upon another with measurement”, or “judged” another, and He was kind enough to honor my request. This resulted in hours of His gentle reminders, somewhere from 4 to 6 times an hour, over three or so hours.

The result? Sheer frustration!

After three hours of sheer frustration, I felt so deeply angry at myself, defeated, and futile. I felt weak, helpless, ashamed… totally aggravated… and the ultimate irony. The Lord said, “Little Monk, you’re doing it to YOURSELF now, and I won’t allow that either! Stop it!”

AARRGGHH!!! And in utter rage and futility I flopped down on my couch and said, “I give up! I can’t do it! I hear this, I see this, I know what You want… I am WILLING… in fact, I now passionately WANT to be free of this sin. But it seems WIRED in me. I have no idea how to learn ‘not to see this way’. I give up!”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

To which, Jesus simply said, “Good! Stay that way, because you cannot fix this, but *I* can. Just hold still, and let Me transform. YOU needed to ‘renew’… you needed to see this, understand this, and renounce this. But YOU cannot fix it. It is beyond your ability. I must transform this in you and your heart. Like any sin, I can take it away… you cannot remove it by your own strength. But I needed to let you try. Now, sit back, be patient with yourself, and give Me some time to work. I have this now.”

So things are. He is working. I don’t know how and won’t try to describe it. But I’m learning, slowly, simply to “gaze, then bless” rather than “gaze, then measure”. It will take time, I know. It’s kind of like feeling a tightness in your chest gradually relaxing.

Well, you can understand, I know… What am I saying really? What’s the affirmation?

I’m saying, “Gosh… I judge others. That’s wrong, that’s sin. I need to stop. Jesus says ‘don’t judge lest ye be judged.’ And I’ve been convicted of this, and repented it.

How has Jesus responded to that?

I, of myself, cannot correct my tendency to fail here, my innate vulnerability is too strong. However, Jesus having brought my attention to His word(s) on this (Matthew 7), and my having surrendered in submission of will to His authority on this (Romans 12:1), my focus and willingness to allow this Truth to “soak into” my mind and rewire my very consciousness (Romans 12:2). opens the way for Jesus Himself to “transform” me.

I’ve found that THAT transformation is (always) beyond my own skill, power, or authority… However, the Lord Himself really needs me to “get out of His way” when He determines to rewire such a thing.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So… how has this all turned out? Simple… slowly…

I THOUGHT I needed to try some bizarre “custody of the eyes”… that the Lord somehow wanted me to “stop looking” at others with a discerning eye. But, rather… that’s not how it’s been working out…

What has been happening is interesting… I yet look upon others as my mind, heart, or spirit flow in their direction. BUT, rather than my “spiritual hand” extending outwards towards them with my “measurement forceps or calipers” within my fingers… my hand extends outwards towards them, extended flat in benediction and blessing.

This has not been so through an act of my own will, but rather it has been so of its own accord, and I’ve seemed “prompted to observe” the difference between the “now” and the “before”.

So, here’s just an “experiential observation” offered to you for your own “spiritual experimentation”, but I’ve had this happen to me a few times before in my life. It’s like Jesus offering me “training wheels” for a time, as I develop a new way of thinking, perceiving, or behaving. When this becomes “muscle memory”, and its own reliable discipline, no doubt I shall be held accountable for maintaining it… but right now, this is sheer grace gift.

I’d love to hear of any parallel learning you have known in your own walk, Gentle Readers. This isn’t so much “teaching”, as a simple “report along the way of the journey”.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Jesus concluded with this:

“God Himself wrote with His own hand, ‘Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin.’ on the walls of Babylon. Only God can say such a thing. YOU cannot. So, stop doing it, saying it, thinking it, or even feeling it. It is simply and totally My job, not yours… above your pay grade. K?”

I nodded, happily… realizing that I am His child who doesn’t have to carry that responsibility. And He pats me on the head. “Good.”

Pray for me, always! Please! And grace to thee!


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


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What Do You Expect?

Lion AngryYesterday, AGAIN, Don Merritt published a great post that God just grabbed in my heart and ran with. And *cough* AGAIN, I wrote this… erm… well… “comment”. Come to find out, that comment has set Don’s new “record for longest comment ever received”, and it has prompted some very gratifying discussion appended to his post. I decided the comment deserved its own post here, and I’d love to see the discussion continue.

His post is “What do you expect from the Bible?” and was prompted by the recent Creationism/Evolution debates on YouTube. Please look at his post, and then contribute to the dialogue, either here or there! Here are some “critical trigger words” that Don wrote:

What do you expect from the Bible?

Have you ever thought about that?  Are you looking for a science textbook or a history textbook? The end of the world? Sex and violence? Facts, trivia and minutia? The way to follow Jesus? Maybe something else?

It could be argued that you can find all of these in the Bible to one degree or another, and people seem to find what they are looking for in most cases. [Don Merritt, Life Reference]

Here was my response:

What do we Expect?


How incredibly powerful this one little word is. Don’s post, the title itself… the Lord took this in an utterly “unexpected” direction for me as I pondered, and I thought you might enjoy the trip. The title, as read by most people, would seem like… “What do we expect from THE BIBLE. But my reflections sounded more like… “What do WE EXPECT from the bible?” Entirely different syllabic emphasis.

Without getting lost in detail and footnotes, let me just air this thought for consideration. You, as all readers, are welcome either to ponder and affirm this as true in and for your spirit, or totally cast it aside if it does not ring true. But through years of ministry and counseling, I have discovered…

In any and every encounter or relationship, we, as humans, tend only to see, perceive, hear, and experience that which we EXPECT to experience. Events that ‘surprise’ us, tend to be perceived and reported subject to a great deal of factual error (such as accident or crime reports). Emotionally, we experience ‘negative’ emotions (anger, sadness, disappointment, fear) when we hold one set of expectations for an event, and the actual outcome is ‘less, or lower’ than anticipated. We tend to experience ‘positive’ emotions (joy, love, gratitude, awe) when our expectations are exceeded.

Here’s a piece of research that changed my life when I was in my graduate studies as a counselor. There is an 80% correlation between ‘pre-therapeutic expectation of outcome effectiveness’ for any given school or style of treatment, regardless of modality. That is, no matter which of the 15 or so types of dynamic therapies a client undergoes, 8 times out of 10, if they expect to complete treatment with a positive outcome and improvement, they do so; and 8 out of 10 times if they expect counseling to make no difference to their situation, it does not. Didn’t matter if that was Freudian Psychoanalysis, Behavior Modification, Adlerian, Gestalt, Transactional Analysis… didn’t matter. Intake expectation was far and away the strongest predictor of discharge outcome.

As a counselor, for decades, that truth struck deep in me. And I never EVER began actual “work” with any client, until I could determine whether they BELIEVED and EXPECTED that this work would help, and change their situation. Until I had that, my focus was to improve their expectations, rather than begin the work on the specific issue.

That just came leaping to mind today, after reading Don’s post. The old saw,

“For those who believe, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not, none is sufficient.”

Don knows my view on “The Holy Bible” as a document, a book. For me, this fully sacred text is almost what we would think of as “magical”… a “dimensional portal”… where we, as finite, four-dimensional, little creatures as frail and faulty as we are… can encounter and engage FULLY… with the Presence and Person of Infinite Holy God — Omniscient Omnipresent Omnipotent Omnidimensional Omniconscious God — from our universe to His Omniverse. And THAT… I submit… is just plain flat AMAZING.

Why is this so? Because here is this “physical object”… two covers, white paper, black ink marks… this finite simple “book/thing”… that sets down symbolically the Word(s) of God (utterances of Jesus and God through historical revelations of the Holy Spirit)… ALONG WITH HIS PROMISE and ENDORSEMENT that when we “seek Him” here, He Himself will teach and reveal through the Living Word of His Holy Spirit.

So why is it then…

Why is it that some people can “read the Bible” and find nothing more than a series of dead historical reports… fodder for argument on philosophy, comparative theology, history, or literature? And others can enter into this Omnidimensional Portal and experience rhapsodies?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I believe Don hit the nail on the head. The difference is “What do we expect…”

I hope this offends no one, but the very power of God on earth, among men, can be “limited”… but only by a single thing, a single factor. The factor is: Faith. Look at the 6th chapter of Mark, the very beginning narratives and the ending narratives, and look at the progression through the chapter. Jesus is very very clear here, as is the inspired author of the chapter. Jesus’ “potency” is conditioned by the faith of the people surrounding Him, and grows from “He could only heal a few…” at the beginning, to mighty works at the end. Did Jesus change through the chapter? Of course not. But clearly the “dunamis” changed, and the chapter identifies only one factor to explain that:

The Power of Expectation…

9 “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened. 11 Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? 12 Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? 13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” [Luke 11]

Here, it seems Jesus Himself teaches of “expectation”.

Anyway, I thank Don. I think “debates” such as have been discussed, are really an “Apple/Orange” situation. If one approaches the Bible expecting an “encounter with God”… to “seek, ask, knock, know”… God honors that, and the encounter happens. If one does not… well…

But it’s important to note, merely pinning the label “Christian” on one’s lapel before approaching the Bible doesn’t define one’s expectations of encounter. I know countless “Christians” who diligently sit before their Open Bibles, NOT seeking an encounter with Holy God on HIS terms… but rather seeking to “Master the Bible” on their own. They’ve been taught to see scripture verses as “darts”, “weapons”, to be collected and mastered (largely through memorization)… not that the verses CHANGE THEM… but that they learn to “handle and wield them with dexterity” in order to defeat and wound others they define to be “the enemy”… whether that is non-believers, or other Christians not of their culture and traditions.

Approaching the Bible as one would approach caged animals… complete with whip and chair, to “train them to do one’s bidding and obey”… well, the Holy Spirit really has to struggle to get heard in such encounters.

I have found in my own walk, that what I “bring away” from an encounter with God in the Bible depends a lot on how I approached the encounter in the first place. When I go to meet Him, to seek, knock, ask, know Him… on His terms… I come away changed. When I go out of “duty” or “habit”, or to “get some verses down because of an argument I’m in”… or in ANY way… to MASTER the BIBLE… well… at best, there’s “no magic there”, at worst the Father has to pull this Kingdom over for a “little chat in the woods” for a bit.

“What do we expect?”… What a marvelous question. It’s not just “The Book” that is holy… the physical object. It’s not the black marks on the white pages. But rather, it’s that when we sacredly reach THROUGH the black marks of the object, our minds and spirits can encounter the LIVING WORD(S)… the “Speaker” of the utterances, and the “Teacher” of the utterances, and Giver of understanding and wisdom…. ON HIS OWN TURF! But ONLY when we EXPECT to find Him there!

Isn’t that amazing? Wow! Grace to thee! — The Little Monk

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Posted by on February 9, 2014 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized


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Hearing from God

tardis_xmasWhen I was a child, I remember my mother and her mother exchanging letters each week. My grandparents lived in Hawaii, and my family in New York. On holidays… Christmas, Thanksgiving, Birthdays, we would all gather around the telephone and actually TALK to one another, for just a scant few moments… but it was so tremendous to actually hear my grandmother’s voice, or Grandpa’s… it was like magic!

My biological father did business all over the world, 6 continents. And at least once a week, he “phoned home” as he traveled… sometimes for weeks at a time. As years progressed (and phone service improved), that became daily calls, I got to talk to him every day. It was like magic!

A few years ago, my son-in-law’s army unit deployed to Afghanistan. His daughter was two, and his wife (my daughter) was expecting their second child. Alongside all reasonable concern for his wellness and safety, I thought about the impact this separation would have on his family. I thought of the numbers of times I’ve seen returning service personnel run to their children to hug them, and seen that child pull away in fear at this “charging stranger”. I shuddered to think of my granddaughter doing this.

But my fears were ill founded. We have progressed to the age of “Skype”. My granddaughter and daughter talked, laughed, waved, with their beloved EVERY EVENING… FACE TO FACE! He saw her walk that first day, he heard many of her first words, and he laughed and giggled with her “Goo’ Nye, Daddy” over and over. It was like magic!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Yesterday, Don Merritt wrote a great post, “Anybody Listening?” on his Life Reference blog, discussing the importance of prayer. He highlighted the reality that most of us are busy people, hard pressed to find the time to spend with God, and that often those of us who DO take time to pray, spend most of that time “talking”, and maybe not so much “listening”.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I may have mentioned that I grew up in a home that “officially/parentally” hated God. I was not permitted to speak of, hear, discuss God, pray, or have or talk about the Bible. He was just “not allowed in our house”. Equally, I was not allowed to attend church or Sunday School, and managed to go to about 5 services (when I stayed overnight with some other family who went, and took me along).

At 7 years old, moving across country, I encountered a Gideon Bible in a motel drawer that said (effectively), “If you don’t have one, and you want one, take this one.” (I didn’t, and I did, so I did… and hid it under my mattress to read behind my locked bedroom door or under blankets by flashlight.) So, until I was 18 years old and began college, all I knew about God was what He Himself could teach me, primarily from the Bible, especially the Gospels, and through prayer.

Now, Jesus “spoke to me” through the wee small voice of conscience, quite clearly, since I was three… and once I had a Bible, He would “take me there”, using what I later learned were “meditation” and “application of the senses”, making scenes clearly play out before my mind’s eye. He would “invite me along” and let me “participate” as we walked together end to end through the Gospels… Him, me, and “the guys”.

By the way, pastors and Sunday School teachers, I only got to “hear” about 5 sermons before the age of 18, and I still remember 3 of them. One of them I’m going to mention here, was an “anchor” in my whole formation and spiritual life. But believe me when I say… you will NEVER KNOW when you plant seeds of truth and grace in the heart of a one-time visitor, perhaps a child, and have an impact that persists for the rest of their life.

One of those sermons, I will ALWAYS remember, I was about 11 years old. And this preacher was talking about “the Voice of God”. He said he had always noticed that God spoke clearly to small children in a “wee small voice” of conscience. But that as we get older, start to get to our teens and such, we have a choice whether to heed that voice, mind that voice of conscience telling us right from wrong, or not. That, the more we heed right, the louder and clearer this voice became. But when we ignore it, turn from it, choose to do wrong, that voice becomes more and more faint… until eventually, we may no longer hear it at all. It was our choice. That almost all children had and heard it, over our teen years fewer heard it, and that, frankly, few adults heard it at all.

I recall praying, right there and then, in great anxiety… “Lord, is this true? Can I lose this voice of Yours?” And Him responding that, at least for me, this was true. Very fervently I prayed right there, that He never EVER allow me that. Whatever He had to do, whatever it took, that He never allow me to ignore or miss His voice guiding me. I begged that He promise me that, and He did, provided I would listen and heed Him. I was at peace with that, and have been for the ensuing 5 decades.

There are lots of excellent resources on prayer, on experiencing God, on meditation and contemplation. These are good things. It is difficult, nigh unto impossible, for anyone truly to “communicate” an experience directly from one person to another. Do you disagree? Well, imagine smelling jasmine perfume, or tasting a fabulous slice of chocolate cake. Now, try communicating that EXPERIENCE to someone else who has never done so.

It was not until I entered a parochial Christian college, and entered into discussion of such things with faculty trained to help others develop prayer skills, that I came to realize that my own “experience” of God through prayer was not “typical and common”. (At least among “Christians”.) I clearly remember being shocked, utterly gobsmacked, in a discussion with my Theology professor, to find that my “wee small voice” had a “technical name”. It was a “sensible grace” called “Prayer of Locution”, and that according to best estimates, it is experienced by about 3% of Christians.

Unfortunately, given my youthful omniscience and arrogance, (once I got past the shock of realizing that not everyone could hear the clear voice of God… *honest, I thought this was “normal”*) I took this information in the best traditions of my pride, considering others… “normal” people… as “deaf-mutes”. (If you find such arrogance and attitude shocking and offensive, you are right, and I apologize… it was unconscionable, indefensible, and quite out of order. “Spiritual elitism” of the worst kind, and it shames me (now) to admit how solidly I believed it (then).)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

But here, with nearly a shuddering halt, is the entire point of this post.

Ten years later, as I began public ministry and my world view expanded exponentially, I learned that I was totally, completely, and utterly wrong on a critical truth. What truth?

God “speaks” to those willing to “hear” Him, in a multitude of ways. This issue of discernment does not depend on “modality”, it depends on “willingness to obey”.

Experientially… I have learned that a multitude of deeply God-led Spirit-filled people, do not have Prayer of Locution. Some have “direct impression”, or “insight”, a straightforward understanding of the will and leadership of God in their lives. Others derive very specific inspiration through their studies of scripture and text. Others have totally other means for perceiving God’s leadership and guidance.

I was blessed even to have mentors, of tremendous value in my life, who initially I radically underestimated because they did not “hear” God in prayer the way I did. Nonetheless, their discernment, guidance, and mentoring in my development was a laser-sharp and on point as anyone who experienced two-way vocal prayer.

Scripturally… God “speaks” to man in a variety of ways, from thunder on the mountainside, to a wee small whisper of a breeze. When the Holy Spirit speaks, some people heard words, others heard a rushing wind. Prayer experiences differ… throughout the Bible, and even within a single small prayer group.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Bottom Line Here: This is not a post about “devotion”, or “teaching”, or “exposition”. I suppose it is just a reflection, a bit of confession. Don Merritt wrote a terrific post, encouraging all of us to allow God to speak to us, commune with us, communicate with us, in prayer.

It made me reflect on my own short-sightedness in years past, believing that My OWN experience of prayer and communion with God, could somehow define and constrain the “right way” for OTHER people to experience God. It has been a very long and humbling trek to realize how much bigger than me, bigger than my imagination, bigger than my own comprehension is God’s grace and determination to be intimate and clear with His children.

This is a note of Encouragement, beyond all else. When you grow in your sense of the greatness and glory of God, and your own humility in face of that… When you grow in your love of others, and sense of service to God… When you grow in your awareness of Jesus’ heart and mind, and how He walked lovingly among people… those are “influence of the Holy Spirit”, and whatever means the Lord uses to do that, is pure Gift. Don’t let anyone else “judge” or “evaluate” the modality God uses to speak to your heart, as better or worse than theirs. And don’t think your own is better or more valid than anyone else’s.

It’s not HOW God speaks to you that is important, what matters is how you respond to Him when He does.

(* Took me a while to learn that! *)


Posted by on February 5, 2014 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized


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I Can’t Blame the Cat!

“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!


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


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Whose House? – Part III – The Discovery

And now… the conclusion… of “Whose House?”…

*OK, imagine that line said in one of those GREAT television moderator kind of voices! Sorta gives you chills, doesn’t it?*

So, this continues from:  Whose House? – Part I – The Fall and  Whose House? – Part II – The Restoration

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Topic: Comparison and Contrast Between “Ministry” and “Fellowship” in Evangelism

The Modality: Sharing one of my most embarrassing and shameful experiences in ministry, face-to-face defiance of God… Oh, and the consequences thereof.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

We last left our young ministry padawan sitting smug and self-satisfied at home, having completed what seemed like a four hour homework assignment in a mere two weeks.

The next day, pages in hand, I march triumphantly into The Pastor’s Study, and with great flourish, nearly fling those papers into the beloved Inbox! You could almost hear the “AHA!!!!” of victory in the gesture. Never one to unduly coddle childish pride, my Mentor says, in a tone far too soft and understated for the occasion, (in my humble opinion), simply, “Mark?”

“Yessir, Mark!”

“It’s finished?”

“No, sir, it’s not. But I am.”

He smiles and says, “What do you mean? If it’s not complete, you should finish it. Why are you turning it in, unfinished?”

“Because, sir, it is a trick question. It cannot be done!” and we are BOTH smiling, because I’m right, and I know I’m right, and I know I know I’m right. And he knows I am correct, and that being correct, I’ve learned what I needed to learn.

“Explain, please,” as he leans back, points me to my accustomed chair, and waits.

“It is a trick question. That’s why it was taking me so long. It wasn’t cataloging the verses. That’s easy enough. But it was that last column. Jesus went all over the place, into all sorts of venues, met all kinds of people, often mixing them in ways that couldn’t POSSIBLY have been comfortable for THEM… and He just did what He did!”

“Well, Little Monk, did Jesus ‘Fellowship’ in the way Uncle Elder means it? Did He truly and sincerely enjoy the company of the people around Him?”

“Yes, yes He did. No doubt. Scripture even says He smiled, or rejoiced (I suspect ‘laughed’, more like) here and there. You especially see this like at Capernaum, or Peter’s house, or Martha and Mary’s house, or with Zaccheus, and on and on… He certainly did ‘Fellowship’.”

“Well, then what about ‘Ministry’? Didn’t He ‘minister’?”

“Absolutely! He ministered all the time. Every time someone asked a question, or brought Him a need, or asked for healing, or whatever. He constantly poured Himself out and met the needs around Him.”

“Then what’s the problem with the homework?”

“THAT’S the problem with the homework. He’s ALWAYS doing BOTH! With the possible exception of worship, and even there I suspect He enjoyed the company of those around Him… He was always doing Both, wherever He was. You cannot separate events into one category or the other. You can’t divide encounters into ‘Ministry’ or ‘Fellowship’. That’s why this took me so long, I kept going back to that Fourth Column and changing my answers… “F”, no “M”, no… back to “F”.

“Until finally I realized… that was the point. That’s what you, and He, wanted me to see.”

“And what IS that, Little Monk. What do we want you to see? What is the point you’ve come to understand now?”

“That Jesus NEVER divided His time or His love or His life into boxes like ‘Ministry’ versus ‘Fellowship’. He did not divide people that way. He did not divide Love that way. He just went. He experienced. He loved. When there was celebration around Him, people around Him, sinner or Pharisee, He just loved them without judgment or hesitation. When THEY brought a question, or a need, He would respond to that. But ‘Fellowship’ or ‘Ministry’ are not ‘different activities’ or ‘different classes of heart’ we intend in a given event or moment. They are simply things we DO in a given moment, in response to the needs of the people around us who we love in that moment.”

“Thank you, Little Monk. Yes, this is what we needed you to see. And I know, now, given the same circumstances as last week, you would handle that encounter entirely differently…”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Which, at long last, Gentle Reader, brings me back… after this HUGE cat stampede and rabbit run, to what was the point in the first place… Let me repeat the opening paragraphs that started this whole thing three posts ago…

A comment in another great Christian Blog (Life Reference) yesterday, has moved me to discuss something I find to be a great “tension” both in the lives of the Church as a corporate body, and in the hearts of individual Christians now and again. The topic is really too big for a single post, so I’ll probably address it in pieces across some time. The poster made the following statement in his response to the comment:

If we feed, clothe and wash, it is for the purpose of reaching them for Christ. If we serve others it is for the purpose of reaching them for Christ, and if they are already in Christ, it is for the purpose of helping them to grow in their faith so that they, too will come to the point where they reach out… None of this “reaching out” is just to look good and be thought nice, it is always for the cause of Christ! [Don Merritt – Life Reference]

When The Pastor DID preach/teach it was just some simple sharing from this adventure in the Gospel of Mark, that he wanted me to understand for the rest of my life.

“This is such a common problem, Little Monk. Well meaning Christians, like Uncle Elder, separate people in their hearts as Believers, Non-Believers, Lost, Saved, Sinners, Saints and so on… and treat them differently. They use these categories like “Fellowship” versus “Ministry”.

“I never see Jesus DO that! At least, not in the way we like to think! If anything, He is more strict and corrective of the religious leaders, than of those we would call ‘sinners’ and ‘lost’.

“I know you didn’t know this, and probably don’t fully understand even yet. But God had a purpose for you sitting in that party last week, that He didn’t care to share with you, or maybe you weren’t ready to hear it yet. But you carry Him in you and with you. Thus, you can take Him into places that would never admit ME in a million years. They invited you because they sought your company. There was something about you they liked, and wanted to be with.

“Now, don’t feel bad about this, that’s not why I’m saying it. And next week maybe we’ll start to look at ‘Ministry of Presence’, that we’ve not discussed yet. But sometimes, the most important ministry you can bring to a moment is to say nothing, do nothing, just BE. Just BE THERE. Just love those around you. Pray for them, if you feel moved to. But sometimes, you just SIT THERE, as He was asking you to do.

“Now, you don’t just sit there to look all around in disapproval and judge them! Not our job. Do they sin? Yes. Do we sin? Yes. To God? No difference. He judges, you don’t. Leave that alone. Just LOVE THEM! And then, when the Spirit is finished with whatever He was doing as you brought the Jesus in you into that space and time… when He dismisses you, you go home, thankful for the fellowship. Now, if someone expresses a need, asks to talk, wants prayer or whatever, then you step aside privately and you do that. But whether that happens or not, just bringing Jesus into dark places in love, IS ministry!

“Never forget this. Don’t judge. Just love those He puts you among, and meet needs as they present themselves to you. That’s what the Perfect Minister did. That’s what I try to do. That’s what I want you to grow into.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Needless to say, this episode changed my life and the entire trajectory of my career. I’ve administered a great deal of “Church Growth”, and “Evangelism” activity across the years, and there are two things I ask of anyone who wants to engage in Evangelism, Visitation, or Community Ministries in my teams.

One: “Never say ‘Jesus’ name first.” This is a rule the Lord put on my life when I was a teenager, and wanted to share my joy in grace. Just SHARE, share joy, share love, share amazement, all of that. Love without hesitation, remainder, or boundaries… whether or not the person is ‘unlovable’. (Perhaps ESPECIALLY if the person is ‘unlovable’!) And when they’ve finally decided that I’m just crazy, and they’ve had enough… they ALWAYS ask, “What’s WRONG with you? Why do you do these things? Why don’t you get all puffed up, or mad, or tired of me, or whatever… like everybody else does?” “THEN”… the Lord said, “THEN you just answer their question honestly, and now you can say My Name. You tell them you just love them, regardless of what they do or how they do it, just because I love you that way. And now, they’ll listen to what you have to say.”

Two: You never ever talk about the Gospel, until you love the person or people. It’s that simple. If you’re just “making brownie points”, “headhunting” (we call it in Evangelism), trying to harvest “jewels for your crown”… whatever… go find another way to do it! Fold bulletins, stuff music folios for the choir, make flower arrangements, whatever. Just don’t touch sacred lives and broken hearts with a trophy-hunting spirit. When you know the name of the person you are SERVING… when you feel their pain, and love them despite their infirmities and failings… NOW… YES… by all MEANS “share the Gospel”… because you now HAVE a Gospel to share!

What do I mean by that? What IS the Gospel!? It’s not a TRACT! It’s not a set of theological tenets to which we give assent. The GOSPEL is a RELATIONSHIP… a relationship that says, “You are NOT ALONE! You never have to know that loneliness and despair again. You are not hateful and flawed. You are LOVED by the Great Divine Lover, and He seeks to fill you and your life with abundant life and joy just as you are, just because He is as He is!”

The Gospel is NOT!!! “You are a sinner! Clean up your act or else! God’s gonna send you to Hell if you keep disobeying Him and ticking Him off… So… Get with the Program! And, oh, by the way… HERE is the Program. Repeat after me…” as you hand them a tract of the Roman Road and Sinner’s Prayer.

I have spent countless hours over countless years, trying to repair and restore the victims of this kind of “Evangelism”. When you, or I, or anyone at all, preach the Gospel without Love… we are not only a clanging cymbal… we wound the precious child we address. And that wound, in their heart, is always blamed on Jesus.

I’ve sworn never to do that as long as I live. And those with whom I’m privileged to walk, young ministers and growing Christians, learn early on of my failures. They get the point, and they don’t try to talk, or “share”, or preach, or counsel, until they have developed enough relationship with the person they are serving to feel their pain and sense their need. Until they love!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

*slowly and discretely tries to slide out from behind the pulpit I find myself at… or climb down from this soapbox… whichever way one sees it…* and says…

Er, um, sorry ’bout that. Didn’t mean to preach there, really. I just kinda feel a bit, well, passionate about all that. Ya know?

So, however you in your ministry conduct Evangelism activities, just consider these thoughts as you go. And see if there’s a way to assure that there is relationship first and foremost, before presenting any theology. It really won’t be heard until there’s trust ANYWAY. And there won’t be any trust, until there’s relationship.

Thank you for your support. I’m gonna quit typing now. Good Show! You got clear to the end! Blessings and grace to thee!


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Whose House? – Part One – The Fall

A comment in another great Christian Blog (Life Reference) yesterday, has moved me to discuss something I find to be a great “tension” both in the lives of the Church as a corporate body, and in the hearts of individual Christians now and again. The topic is really too big for a single post, so I’ll probably address it in pieces across some time. The poster made the following statement in his response to the comment:

If we feed, clothe and wash, it is for the purpose of reaching them for Christ. If we serve others it is for the purpose of reaching them for Christ, and if they are already in Christ, it is for the purpose of helping them to grow in their faith so that they, too will come to the point where they reach out… None of this “reaching out” is just to look good and be thought nice, it is always for the cause of Christ! [Don Merritt – Life Reference]

What I want to address here is an “Implied Conflict”, an apparent dichotomy or contradiction, seldom ever explicitly named and examined, concerning “Evangelism”. The tension exists between such phrases as “sharing the Gospel”, or “teaching the Word”… and “ministry”, or “community ministry”, or “meeting needs”. I sense this tension all the time, since I am a “Contemplative/Active”, and I live my life FULLY in both states at the same time. That has taken a lifetime to be able to say as a true statement. Most of my life was spent “trying to balance” the two, looking like a newborn foal trying to find their legs and how they work, or like a child on ice skates for the first time. *Truly, not a pretty sight at all*

But then, through the grace of God, and the unspeakable patience of those He placed in my path to teach, correct, coach, and encourage me, there came that wonderful day. “The Day I Gave Up”. I kid thee not, it was a wonderful day. I discovered, admitted, then finally embraced as a fact the truth  that… I didn’t get it… I couldn’t get it… and I never WOULD get it! And when I finally gave up… really on ministry itself… it’s as if I flopped down exhausted, disheartened, maybe even dead.

And THEN… FINALLY… it was as if God whispered in great joy… “At LAST, Little Monk… We’ve waited So Long!” and He just breathed into me, and resurrected me, and it’s never been the same. I cannot balance my life, my mind, my heart, my spirit, or my ministry. As long as I embrace that truth, HE CAN, because I stay out of His way. Yes, Gentle Reader, the day I died was a wonderful day.

One would think that Truth, grace, lie on one alternative or the other. That God is an “either/or” proposition. “Life OR Death”. When I find so often, it’s simply not so. It’s in the dichotomy itself… the seeming contradiction itself… where Truth lies. It’s not “either/or” as much as it’s “both together”. “Life AND Death”, or “Life THROUGH Death” God seems not so much “Yes, BUT…” as He is “Yes, AND…”

So here we are, with this apparent contradiction between “Gospel Sharing” and “Ministry” or “Meeting Needs”…

And, quite true to form, I’m not gonna argue this or propose a white paper about it. I’m gonna tell a story. It’s a story of one of my most glorious failures, and what I learned from it, through the grace of God and godly counsel.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I was quite young in my ministry. Fresh out of training, arrogant, omniscient, determined to “straighten out everything wrong” with Kingdom, the Church, and Christians. Oh, Yes, Gentle Reader… I was indeed, God’s Gift to Christendom! A Legend in My Own Mind. *You have no IDEA, you will NEVER know, the grace-filled patience of those among whom God nested this little life in that time! lol!*

But God had sent me to a new place, in a strange city where I knew no one. I had a ministry of my own to tend, and God placed me on staff of a local church within a tradition I was not familiar with. God made me accountable to the pastor of that church, both as to “staff service” (he became my “boss” in a work context), and as my Spiritual Director, coaching and guiding me in deepening my walk both as God’s child and as God’s servant. He was a Master Minister, well integrated in grace, and my task was to learn from him (among other things) how to allow the grace in my mind and heart to flow all the way through me and my life… to let grace flow through my hands, my lips, my tongue. For in my heart, in my head, in my prayer life and prayer closet… there was abundant grace, yes. BUT, in my ministry, my expression… well, not so much. So, I struggled with “balance”.

My outside work and ministry, were among “unchurched” people with what were often deeply broken lives. One weekend, at the home of an Elder Deacon couple who had sort of “adopted” this waif in a strange city, we were discussing some of the challenges of my apostolate. He, this wonderful warm and loving man, became very serious and earnest…

He said, “You know? You have to be careful with what you do…”

I looked at him a bit quizzically. Yes, my work was not the safest, but I seldom felt vulnerable at risk of violence, and I said so.

“No, no. I don’t mean that. But I mean you have to maintain your Boundaries. You always have to be aware, when you serve, of whether this is a ministry moment, or a fellowship moment. “Fellowship” is something you do with Believers. We fellowship in church. We’re in fellowship now. We both surrender our lives to Christ, and so we can have Fellowship.

“But OTHER people, Non-Believers, or sinners… you can ‘Minister’ TO them… but you cannot ‘Fellowship’ WITH them.

“You always have to hold yourself apart, hold your standards as a Christian. You can’t let sinners drag you down with them. You must always be trying to raise THEM up!

“You see?” he looked hopeful…

And, unfortunately, I DID see…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

OK, so scene changes… Narrator speaks for a moment…

Now, it’s important to note right here that the pastor (we’ll call him “The Pastor” for convenience)... was a bit of an odd duck. He lived, managed, administered, taught, fathered, husbanded… only as he could discern Jesus willing him to, as expressed through the Gospels. Now, did he have all hs right “ologies” covered, and wall paper? Sure he did. But years before, God had branded on his heart that ministry was much simpler than all that.

Example: When I first began to work as part of Staff, The Pastor called me in, sat me down and said, “Let me explain something a bit different here, than you may be used to in other churches where you’ve served…

“This,” and he indicated all around us, “this building, this church, this staff, all of this… is NOT mine. I am NOT the one in charge of this. It does not belong to me. BUT, now here’s the unusual part, it does not belong to the people either. It is not ‘the congregation’s’. We work here by a simple principle… and I’d like you to adopt this as you work here.

“This is NOT ‘Our House’… this is ‘God’s House’… but treat that literally. We are not a staff with a hierarchy, and I am not ‘on top’. We are ALL jointly, Children of Our Father, and we all exercise our gifts, talents, and training in whatever way we are called. But we are ALL ministers, servants, bond-servants living out our lives in His service. Therefore, you are to treat the Church Secretary, or the Bookkeeper, or the Custodian, with the same regard and respect that you do or would me. I do so, I expect you to do the same, as all the staff.

“Second, we are but ‘household servants’… footmen, butlers, handmaids… to God Our Father and King. We maintain this house, His House, in His Name on His behalf, as we are called and equipped. We are accountable for that. And He will invite whomever He chooses, whenever He chooses, however He chooses to come interact with us as His Family and keepers of His House.

“That is, whether it is a ‘stranger at the door’, a ‘walk-in’, a ‘call out for visit’, or a ‘phone call’… there is NO SUCH THING, in this house, as an ‘interruption to your day’. Every person, at every moment, who encounters us is to be considered an honored guest, personally invited by God Himself from before the beginning of time, to come to His House and encounter Him through one of us in this moment. All such moments are sacred. All such people are sacred, and that is NEVER an ‘inconvenience’ or an ‘interruption’.

“Any questions?”

Uhhhh… nope. That about summed it up, what?

Now… is that a “conservative”, or a “liberal”? I always loved watching people trying to label him. Now, before you answer that, let me tell you… loose cannon that I was, wild child of ministry that I was, if YOU were so unfortunate to have been assigned me as your intern, what “rules” would you have posted around my life, my training, my schooling, my apprenticeship, my ministry? Well, I’ll tell you, he gave me, basically, just One. I call it, (and we’ve discussed it since), his “One Rule”. He argues that in this One Rule, are contained all other right rules.Here it is:

The One Rule: Hear the clearly discerned and scripturally consistent will of God as expressed by the Holy Spirit through conscience, and obey that without argument, hesitation, or remainder.

When I “messed up” (frequently), THIS was the only issue that mattered. If I had not violated conscience, then the issue was one only of “education”, and he would teach me. Sit down, go through Scripture, show me where Jesus handled a parallel situation in a way differently than I did, send me off to pray and ponder, and then affirm transformation once God had renewed. Simple, gentle, painless…actually I found that process rather fun! Certainly it was exciting!

BUT, if I had done what I did in violation of conscience, that was an entirely different matter. Something of my heart was resistant to God and grace, and there was rebuke leading to conviction, contrition, and repentance. Equally, this was always simple and gentle… but never painless. There was always that “remorse” thing. This happened exceedingly seldom, for I truly serve (and served) out of love, not fear, and sought to be pleasing to God almost always, no matter how clumsy the effort.

But Now we return you to your regularly scheduled story…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Anyway, the week after this conversation with my “Uncle in Christ Elder Deacon”, I was invited to a birthday party for one of the folks I minister to. It was in the afternoon, I walked to the house, people gathered… and “stuff” started. Music was loud, people paired off in couples in corners, and “uncomfortable stuff” started happening.

Now, people “knew me”… Knew who I was… Knew I was the Assistant Chaplain at the workplace we labored and lived… so they tried to be “discreet”. But, it was a really small apartment, without a lot of room for “discretion”. And then “more stuff” started happening, and people began following one another, in quick succession, into and out of the bathroom.

This was a major metropolitan area, very urban, and not in the best part of town, and lots of this “stuff” started making me twitch vastly beyond discomfort. I had to go! I had to leave! I had to get out and go home! This was wrong, this was sin, and it was all around me! I needed to DO something! I needed to SAY something! I needed to ACT!

And God said… “No.”

WHAT? I had to FIX this!

And, in His calmest, clearest voice, God said, “No. You need to simply sit still and let people be people around you, while you be you in their midst. You don’t know it, but you’re making a difference, and you simply need to keep Me there, this way, and sit still.”

Long story short (or at least short-ER), Gentle Reader. When “stuff” started happening right in front of me, at the coffee table, I… had had… enough… of THIS! God would not give me leave to speak or to act, so I would simply LEAVE. I’d been there long enough, it wouldn’t be impolite… I needed to go!

God repeated, “No, sit still…”

But I didn’t. I arose, said my goodbyes to my host, got to the front door.

As my hand touched the door handle, God was intense, clear, unmistakeable, saying… “NO! Do NOT leave yet! Go back and sit DOWN!”

And I shook my head. This made no sense. I could not fellowship here, I could not minister here, so I didn’t need to be here. God was clear, my conscience had clear awareness that this was defiance, but my pulse was racing so… my fear was so great…. I’d like to say I was simply overwhelmed, but that would not be true. I was not overwhelmed. I was in charge of the hand that turned the nob and closed the door, and of the feet that carried me hurredly down the block.

All the way down that sidewalk, my spirit protested, “Stop! Go back! You’re NOT supposed to leave yet!” But I studiously ignored and defied it, until it stopped when I reached the next corner and crossed the street. I paused, considered, breathed, prayed… and repented, saying, “Shall I go back?”

In a somewhat sad voice, God said, “No, the moment has passed. It is over now, I only needed you there those few more minutes. You’re done.”

And I felt the crash of conviction and remorse. I can’t explain it, I won’t try to describe it. You’ve either been there or you haven’t. I was WRONG. I trusted my own judgment rather than God’s direction, and a moment of grace had slipped through my fingers, with fruit that would never come to be.

I apologized to God, asked His forgiveness and He gave it. But, He said, this had been straight up defiance, and I did not know or understand fully where my error was. I knew WHAT I’d done wrong, but not WHY. This would be opened the next day, to The Pastor. And so it was…

So, I went home, wrote this up for the following day of “Supervision Study” (we did about an hour of that one-on-one each weekday… (*imagine that, if you can, Ministry Brethren! That’s what God had of us, and it grew us both, but 5 hours a week of “ministry tutoring”… tremendous gift of grace!*)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Anyway, looking at this word count, I am going to stop here, ask you to imagine how you would deal with your own intern disclosing such an “adventure”… and pick this up in a Part II. I suspect the results will surprise you a bit.

Lol.. I don’t do “Cliffhangers” as a rule, but this story has to be split!

Blessings and grace to thee, Gentle Reader. From your Oh-So-Frail-But-Blessed… Little Monk


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Recovering Omniscient

Hello there, my name is Little Monk, and I am a Recovering Omniscient. “What’s an ‘Omniscient’?” you ask? That is “a person who suffers from the delusional belief that they know all there is to know, and that anyone with an opinion contrary to their view is clearly and utterly wrong!”. You see, once upon a time, I knew everything. As I have gotten older, it seems my command of “everything right in the universe” has eroded a bit… and I find life filled with more wonder at all the things I NEVER knew and am enjoying learning, rather than arrogance over my ignorance.

There is a great freedom and sense of “release” once one gives up Omniscience as a lifestyle. I mean, it’s really a tough gig… knowing everything… knowing when everyone else is “wrong”… knowing it is somehow your personal, God-ordained, DUTY to set everyone else right! What a burden!

I’m not entirely SURE when God released me from this task… like what was the date when He rewrote my Kingdom Job Description… but I know He did, and it wasn’t that long ago. I mean, it’s a wearying job… knowing EVERYTHING… and listening to so many people around us just be WRONG! I mean, really, right out there in front of God and Man and everybody… they just SAY STUFF! And I would have to wade in there and “set them straight”.

There should be a 12-Step Group…. “Omniscients Anonymous”. Haven’t found it yet. In the past I might have started one, but now I’d be concerned that to start one would just be another expression of “Lookit What *I* know”, so I’m happy enough to just sit here in the corner and share this with you.

The thing is, when you’re Omniscient… well, when *I* am, anyway, I’m constantly having to focus on my “Self”… on my very own mental encyclopedia of “all that I know”… constantly to judge everyone else’s ignorance and error. So there’s very little spare time, leisure time, to actually pay any attention to God Himself at all. No time to gaze upon Him in worship or praise, no unction to thank Him, certainly no need to LISTEN to him or learn anything more. Ah, me.

Somehow this little house of cards all came tumbling around my ears one morning over coffee with The Lord, as I was bringing Him my “prayer requests” (translate that: “Laundry List of Complaints about Everyone Else”), regarding teaching/preaching to all the “poor ignorant brethren” surrounding me in my little corner of the Kingdom. Have you ever seen the Lord’s face sort of darken and cloud up when you’ve “crossed the line” in attitude, and deep in yourself you start to hear the words… “I… have had… enough… of THIS!”? Not a happy moment. (For those who’d like to see the “scriptural expression” of this moment, feel free to check out Job 38:1-3. I’ve known more than a few of these moments across my life.)

Did you have a “finger pointing” parent? Or boss? Or teacher? Fill in the blank with any authority figure you’ve dealt with in your life. God SELDOM deals with me thus, but one morning… well, He did. You see, there’s this very VERY inconvenient section of scripture that I for one… and MOST of my colleagues or the churches I’ve lived among… really don’t like to deal with very often or very deeply. On THIS occasion? God chose to deal with this passage VERY intently, determined that I stop tarnishing His reputation and grace through my arrogance and attitude.

The passage is… *sigh*… Romans 14.

The Apostle Paul may not have been married and had kids, but he certainly has command of the “Paternal Tone” when he speaks to churches from time to time. Romans 14 is one of those places where, when convicted here, you can find yourself standing before him as he makes his instruction crystal clear, complete with admonishing finger points straight at your heart.

It seems I am not the only Christian in history who sensed a call to “Omniscience” and “correction of all errors of others”. It would seem I had at least a few brethren of spirit in Rome when Paul dealt with this. And it would further seem, that Paul clearly heard God’s utterence… “I have had enough of this!” and gave voice to three things: (1) what was wrong (very specific on what they were doing); (2) that that behavior was to STOP (in no uncertain terms); and (3) why that behavior was to stop (which he used to buffer and frame each of his “imperative” points).

I’m not about to analyze the chapter, but it boils down to: two (2) sharp “rebukes”; six (6) distinct and unmistakeable “orders”; and layers of explanation spread between and separating them, chockablock with illustration and revelation.

The rebukes are delivered in the “Form of a Question” at verses 4 and 10. I have a friend who has recently pointed out that sometimes, when Paul “asks a question” he is not looking for a response or an answer… he is simply “making a point”. (Remember when your parents asked these kinds of “questions”? Or perhaps you have done so yourself? “What’s so hard about cleaning your room?” “I’ve told you to take the trash out 3 times now, are you deaf?” These are not questions seeking an answer. They are simply making a point.)

The orders, the directives issued in fully authoritative tones, are at verses 1, 13, 15, 16, 20, and 22. Can’t you almost see that index finger wagging as he speaks these words? I won’t try to speak for you or for anybody else, but I can just tell you… as The Lord went over these words in MY face? There were not His “suggestions”… these were “orders”. Just in that fully Paternal Tone that says, “You will NOT do this anymore!”

As Paul does so well, he includes in the chapter the “Key Insight”… the “summary statement” that puts all this teaching into the context of Christ (not to mention countless illustrations and applications)… but he states clearly…

“For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love…” (Romans 14:15a.) And Paul says, “Why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.” (Romans 14:10b)

That’s all pretty straight up, isn’t it?

So, the Lord’s bottom line to me on this rather confrontive morning was pretty straightforward. *I*, along with many other Christians who are “meat eaters”, enjoy the fullness and maturity of our freedom in Christ. (“I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself…” Romans 14:14a).

Now, that gives me both a choice and a responsibility. I can take that freedom and understanding, and flaunt my “superiority” and “maturity” with it before younger Believers or those yet growing in the faith, the “milk drinkers”. I can show contempt for them, and try to “force them into MY way of thinking”, pushing them beyond the boundaries of their own conscience and experience with the Holy Spirit. (Can be very “ego fulfilling” to think one can stand in the place of the Holy Spirit, or of conscience, in the life of “brother who is weak in faith”. But, oh… my… do we REALLY want to try to put on those shoes? Really? When we tread such holy ground in the heart of another we should take our shoes OFF entirely?)

Nope, certainly not where I want to posture MYSELF before the Lord of Hosts… thank you, very much! No, sir.

Instead, *I*, at least, am to recognize the sacredness and vulnerabilities of those yet learning the way. I must act with particular sensitivity and attention to the rules and directives the Lord is placing in THEIR lives, and attend to my own actions that I NOT cause them confusion or “premature advancement” into territory or actions not yet suitable for them.

In short, rather than being all arrogant and lording it over others with my own understanding and freedom, I am to be the MORE accountable and servant to them and their needs to mature and advance. I am here to edify, encourage, and enhance the development of the young or the immature… not seek their acclaim or their emulation beyond their own convictions.

‘Twas a tough morning, that. Still a work in progress I admit. But at least I’ve gotten the point, not only in my head, but in my heart. The point is not “who is right?” or “who is wrong?”. The point is “Who is God?” and “Where is the love?” Arrogance is just another form of bullying, intellectual or not. And, in Our Father’s House, in This Family, among These Brethren… the Father will NOT permit bullying of little ones, no matter how “right” an elder brother/sister thinks he/she is. He’ll warn us off a time or two, but then, warnings will cease and “behavior will be modified”.

Yup… my name is Little Monk… and I’m a Recovering Omniscient. Still assuredly a work in progress. Keep me in your prayers!

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Posted by on November 2, 2012 in Quiet Time, Uncategorized


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Life is Complicated… Not

The Complications

Life can get very complicated. At least it can seem so. It always seems like “the hurrieder I go the behinder I get”. Like there aren’t enough hours in the day (though the ones there are, already exhaust me). For someone who tries to live their life apart from Christ and His leadership, I don’t know how they can even get through a single day. But even for us, for Believers, for those determined to follow the Lord’s leadership and will throughout each day and each moment… it sometimes seems hard to pick our right path among the rocks. At least, it’s hard for ME to do so.

And it’s not just “tasks”. It’s “preparation”, study, counseling, phone calls and conversations, emails and correspondence, relationships with friends and colleagues, prayer time, meditation, worship, family… even walking a beloved pet. None of which touches the issue of “sabbath” and how to take proper care of ourselves guarding against that pernicious “heart-weariness” that can so easily infect us.

Here’s the ultimate irony, at least for me in my life… I have actually come to a place, come to a season of my life, where beyond all else I want to “get it right”. I truly want to honor God with each moment. Here’s the comical part though… because of that, I am developing a fear of “getting it WRONG”… and in that fear, find I am wasting precious time and energy second guessing myself, triple guessing, or hesitating from taking forward steps for my concern that I’m not reading my path aright.

Today, thanks to the infinite grace and understanding of Our Lord, He has really had me just slow down a bit and realize this. I verge on the sin of “scruple”… to regret and accuse myself of sin, failing, or frailty that is not truly there. To entertain doubts that are based on nothing more than illusion and shadow. As He had me sit back today and take a deep breath… as He invited that I relax a moment and ponder this situation… He showed me that I was letting my life become this rabid case of “Twister”. (Ever played the game? Colored spots on the floor, a random spinner assigning the placement of a hand or foot on the given colored spot? Excellent way to either exercise or sprain the spine…)

So, how did my week become a “Game of Spiritual Twister”?

Three things have brought this about:

1. My innate vulnerability to “perfectionism”, and hesitation to perform a necessary task to completion, then set it down and LEAVE IT ALONE. Perfectionists, like me, are prone to “fiddling” with a task or product constantly, never making the necessary adjustments and compromises necessary to get them to completion… and then picking them back up once they’re finished to “make one more correction”. This results in a deadly form of procrastination, guaranteed to lead to frustration or failure.

2. My prideful carnality, and insistence on “doing it my own way”, or having to “do it myself”, in many areas that are simply God’s… not mine. One of my clearest failings here is the simple refusal to yield to “sabbath”. One seventh of the time, I… even I… am called to “trust God alone with the care and keeping of His Kingdom, even my little corner of it.” For some totally inexplicable reason, it is incredibly easy for me simply to REFUSE to stop, to rest, to recreate, to stay away from the office. As if, somehow, I believe the world will just spin off its axis, if I am not at my desk every daylight hour. This has the vague “appearance” of piety or righteousness, but is nothing more than pride and personal arrogance… abject refusal to trust to God and His competence, or to obey Him in an order He found serious enough to make one of the Ten Commandments.

3. This one? “Prayer Paralysis”, I guess. Hard to name. Maybe a weakness of faith or hope? Just such an intent desire not to be “wrong”, I struggle with the determination to risk being “right”. I am afraid of making a mistake, doing a wrong thing, having a wrong attitude. I can tell myself that the Lord has not given us a spirit of fear but of conquest, and yet still I can fear. Not even sure of what I am afraid OF! Isn’t that ridiculous? I think so.

So somehow all these factors just twist into a Gordian Knot I just label… “Life is Complicated”.

Which is actually, pretty much a lie I think. LIFE isn’t really that complicated. At least, not the way the Lord would have me live it. It’s just that when I pull back from Him, get focused in and on myself and my own center rather than on Him… I complicate it.

That is what I came to understand today. Life isn’t complicated. I am complicating life.

My mistake is to try to focus on my schedule, my tasks, my appointments, my responsibilities… in and of themselves. When I do this, I take my focus off the Lord and His love, both His love for me and His love for others. I start to switch over to relying on my own love, my own wisdom, my own intelligence, my own strength. I “disconnect” from my Source of All (which is God Alone), and try to run off my own resources. This is like cutting my home off from the power grid and “switching over” to a little portable generator. May seem fine for a little while, but once the fuel is exhausted… well, there I’ll sit in the cold and dark.

So, if the answer to the situation is to “stay connected to the Source”, to “rest in Him”, (which it is)… then the next question is “how do I do that?” The solution is not so much “technique” as it is correction of “underlying assumptions”. I have to reset my “anchor points”, reminding myself that HE is in charge. That HE establishes the sequence of time, schedules, responsibilities, and that He is fully aware of what is beyond the horizon (which I am not).

There’s nothing wrong with “planning” one’s month, week, or day in a responsible manner. As long as that planning is done from a heart of servanthood and dependance upon grace, rather than from an arrogant attitude of “managing and controlling” the day. Only God Alone is sovereign, and when we mistake our “responsible stewardship” of time… with “sovereign control” of it… we skate out on to thin ice, ripe for a rude awakening.

This may sound silly, but this day of rethinking my “Complicated Life” has left me with three strategies for correcting my errors:

1. Recognizing the Sovereignty of God, and my role and identity as both His child and His servant. I MUST trust Him as being Lord of Time, and take each moment as a gift from His hand, realizing that He will, with perfect balance, call me both to work and to rest at His good pleasure and in His perfect care of me.

2. Love. Simply that. Love God. Love others as they cross my path, whether colleagues, friends, family, or those with needs. Love freely and openly, without reservation, and I will find that I am as much “refreshed” as “depleted” by the exercise. Stop evaluating moments or categorizing them, and simply love through them.

3. Trust to His Fatherhood, and recognize my frailty as readily as He does. Wonderful insight from Brother Lawrence (Practice of the Presence of God): “When he had failed in his duty, he only confessed his fault saying to God, ‘I shall never do otherwise, if You leave me to myself. It is You who must hinder my falling and mend what is amiss.’ Then, after this, he gave himself no further uneasiness about it.” If I will release my pride and embrace humility, accept how helpless a child I am without the Lord’s firm hand holding my own, then I can forgive and release my own faults and failures with the same ready ease and grace that the Lord does. It is subtle pride to wallow in self-disappointment.


Posted by on October 29, 2012 in Uncategorized


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