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“When will then be Now?”… “Soon…”

Is anyone else out there a die hard “Spaceballs” fan? 

I enjoy a rare day of Sabbath, Gentle Reader, when God puts the brakes on my hyperactive cat herding and rabbit chasing, and commands that I “let Him do what He does best” (manage Kingdom) and sit back to rest, play, recreate, and pray/worship without “work” involved. (Sundays, are NEVER “sabbath” in a Sunday Worship ministry life. THAT is a “work day”.)

I originally thought not to post today, but through the day I’ve felt an ever greater unction simply to share a wonderful image posted by Paulfg this morning on Just me being curious in his post, God Needs Me, along with my comment on it. Here is his imagery, as he spoke of a “Christmas in October” custom he kept with his family::

Our youngest son was mad keen on skateboarding. And as the shop-bought ramps were way (way!!) over our small budget, we decided to buy a bunch of wood – and then he and I could make his own ramp. We even wrapped some wrapping paper around some of the wood in the garage.

(if you are ahead of me right now – well done!)

Come the day, cometh the hour, cometh the fallen face – the simple disappointment: “wood?”. I felt terrible. And it has since become a family joke: “Wood? You brought me wood?”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

His jottings prompted my heart in seeing how often I respond to God’s unrecognizable gifts with my very own version of, “Wood? You brought me wood?” And my spirit took it on from there. The circumstances of this day, led me from “one ministry moment”, One “Now of Grace” with Paul… smoothly into the next “ministry moment”, the Next “Now of Grace” with the coming appointment.

I’ve come to realize how deeply true is the “Mark Lesson” about “ministry versus fellowship”. Each moment is a “Now” and an opportunity for grace. And that is wonderful, as God is the one who conducts this moment, and we just get to come along because He so enjoys our company…

I offer this… that you grasp and enjoy each “Now of grace”…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Wood? That’s all you brought me? Wood?” How incredible. I cannot, at this moment, take the time and prayer I need to speak the words in my heart. In a few minutes I must go out and meet with a stranger who called because they and their family are in pain, because someone who knows us both said, “you might want to call this odd Little Monk. That may help.”

When I do that, I will walk into the garage of my own life, and look upon my very own, ribbon wrapped “pile of wood”. And I will have no idea whatever, of the ramp Our Father has in His mind. I will have no clue of the vision behind His eyes of me, sailing through the air, flying, in the joy of the passion I hold for skateboards.

Once upon a time, when I was early in this daily journey of discovery, I would look upon the beginning of such days, grab my tools, and think, “I have to build something out of this that is either (a) pleasing to me, or (b) *later in my walk* pleasing to the Father. LONG ago, I looked on the woodpile as a “Test”. LESS LONG ago, I looked on it as an “Opportunity”. In both cases, I would think Our Father either came and went, at His good pleasure, to “check my work”… or that He would leave me on my own, and come when I was ready to present my finished product to “judge and evaluate it”.

Know what? I never managed to create the ramp, the vision, He originally intended. Not because I didn’t WANT to. Not because I didn’t want to PLEASE Him. I did. But simply because I couldn’t see what He had in mind in the first place, and frankly… I didn’t have His skills to do the work. So, MY creations always “limped”. Oh, they gained some utility and grace through the years, but they always fell short… vastly short… of what they could have been. Still, He always praised them for the heart of the gift that they were meant to be, but I knew they were short of what they COULD be.

And then one day, I finally realized… I looked up from my own fevered and intense efforts and intentions… and I saw that He never “came and went”. He never “left me on my own”. He was always there, always encouraging, always inspiring and hoping. One day, one very strange day, as I was so frustrated with my own shortcomings and lack of imagination, I decided to do a strange and daring thing, with this Magnificent and Dignified… all Kingly… Dour… Father.

I asked… * cough * (this is a little embarrassing) … I asked if He would like to help, and I offered Him a hammer. Now how silly is that? This Magnificent Father in those Kingly Robes and everything… and me all mucky and full of sawdust.

But to my vast amazement, suddenly there He was beside me, in coveralls and a flannel shirt, helping create something new WITH me. And later still, I had the brilliant inspiration, to OFFER HIM the woodpile, just to see what HE would build. And then it was HE who did the amazing thing…

HE asked ME to “come help”, and offered me a hammer. BUT, the really incredible thing… He just let me put my little child hands, on top of His Big Strong Skilled Hands… and together, He and I, we “Created”.

There, for the first time, was the Ramp. It was beautiful. It was strong and safe. And I discovered how to fly.

In a few minutes, I will get in my car and go out to meet today’s Woodpile. When I was younger, these moments, knowing that I am called to bring light into a dark place for sacred lives in great pain… these moments used to make me anxious or nervous. I would spend these moments… these… right now… while I am typing to you so far away… I would spend these moments on my knees in urgent prayer…

Prayer for wisdom. Prayer for discernment. Prayer for peace. Prayer for the “right words”. Prayer not to say the “wrong words” So much tension. So much fear. So much anxiety. I would want to “work so hard to build something WORTHY of Him!”

This morning, Paul. I spend these moments writing to you. I praise and encourage you. I thank you, for gifting me this day, with the “Ribbon” atop my own “Wood?” as I wait for the phone to ring, announcing the arrival of sacred, hurting, children of God. Because when we meet, when we shake hands, when we smile… these Children of God and I… *I* won’t be there to “do” a thing.

I will not lift a single tool, swing a single hammer, or pound a single nail. I will not go to this appointment alone, but Our Father is going to go to work. And He will allow me to come along, and I will get to put my small child hands on top of His Big Skilled hands as He performs open heart surgery, bringing light into dark corners of someone’s life.

Isn’t it amazing, when we get to go to work with Daddy? Thank you for the ribbon, Paul. It’s the greatest gift I know. — LM

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2014 in Quiet Time, Uncategorized

 

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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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Have a Perfect Day


One morning recently, as I sat silently waiting on Him, literally sipping my coffee, Jesus said:

“Little Monk, thank Me for the perfect day I am about to give you.”

I blinked, said “Thank you, Lord”, and tried to process this. He laughed, knowing I was obedient, but confused. I was thinking of my upcoming day… middle of a four day week, staff with needs, problems to solve, clients to see. Bad things would happen today, I would have challenges today. I would sin today… guaranteed… several times. I would stumble at times, forget things… *sigh*. I could readily and sincerely thank Him for the gift of the DAY! THAT wasn’t a problem. But the “PERFECT” part… that had me a bit stumped. And He laughed…

“Little Monk. ‘This is the day that *I* have made, and you will rejoice and be glad in it”…. No?”

Yes, Lord. No problem there.

“OK, now, does Anyone Else create ‘days’? Or is it only Me? And are they not a gift to you directly from My Hands?”

“Only You. Only gift. Yes, every breath every heartbeat. Yes.”

“OK, that’s settled then. Now…. do *I* fashion anything, any gift, less than ‘perfect’? Is that even POSSIBLE for Me?”

And I saw this. Of course not. God cannot fashion a “less than perfect gift”… and even were it possible and He did so… He would never give it to a child. This was clear and obvious… but then… what about all the “bad stuff”? Sort of a new twist on “bad things happen… good people”. But I did NOT ask. I just waited. Of course, He knows… asking isn’t an issue with Him.

He went on, “So… how do I tell you to thank Me for the perfect day you are about to have, when you see all that ‘bad stuff’ in it… right?”

“Child, I have laid out for you an absolutely Perfect Day. There will be joy in it, laughter in it, love in it… yes. BUT there will also be challenges in it. You will learn things in it. Together we will heal some, we will share grace, you will speak of Me in many forms and ways. You will also fail in some challenges. You will pass through some dark places and moments, and there your faith will grow. Every time you fail and fall, you bring that to Me and you grow from that. Constantly you pray to grow, and I answer that prayer. Is it not your desire?”

“It is, Lord.”

“Then understand, once and for all here… I craft and fashion a Perfect Day for you, as My Child, every single day. Not all of it ‘feels good’… but that has nothing at all to do with perfection. Every single moment is perfect… for you… and for Me in your life… and for you and Me together. NOW… do you suppose you could thank Me for it again, this time… MEANING it? Not just being obedient?”

I was thunderstruck. I’d never ever seen this before, and I thanked Him with great depth and sincerity.

He closed with this, “Little Monk, I give you a Perfect Day every single day! I want you to thank Me for it every single morning and evening. Now, crafting that for you… that’s My Part, and I do that perfectly, every time. Your Part is to realize that, see that, embrace that, and watch each moment as it unfolds and as I reveal Myself in it. Because I have woven Myself, revelation of Myself, into every single moment of your day. THAT is what MAKES it Perfect.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This has changed my days a great deal. When I was quite young, I was trained in a discipline called “Learning to see God in all things.” I’ll not say I’ve ever LEFT that discipline, but I have to admit, this morning meditation the other day certainly “sharpened my acuity” a great deal.

So there you are, Gentle Reader. My gift to you… my suggestion… that tomorrow morning you begin life with thanking God for the perfect day you are about to have, because He is there, He is in it, woven throughout each moment of it, deep in each breath of it, blessing you with His love and grace with every heartbeat. Together we will move through those moments in our lives, seeking to embrace and realize all that!

Blessings and grace to thee! – Little Monk

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2013 in Quiet Time, Uncategorized

 

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Benediction on Preaching

Is there a preacher/teacher (or several) that you would bless this day? Here are words The Lord gave me once, that I use each week for the six or so that I lift up to Him.

If they fit, accept them with my blessings… grace to you, Gentle Reader.

May the Grace and Joy of the Father
Fill to overflowing your heart, your mind, your body, and
Your voice today, as you speak to your beloved flock
Gathered in His Service and Love.

Let the Holy Spirit so anoint their hearing,
Their hearts, their minds, and their wills,
That they not even see or hear their human teacher,
But through Jesus’ use of your voice,
they come simply to experience fully
The Father’s Love, the Son’s forgiveness and cleansing,
and the Holy Spirit’s Presence in such a way
That it changes their lives forever.

Dearest and Precious Lord Jesus,
Let these shepherds be wholly transparent in You,
That Your glory be clearly seen, and
That they simply bring You where and
As You command, a vessel in Your service.
For this alone will bring them the greatest joy,
and thus, in You, their greatest rest and strength.

For all that You ever do, Almighty God,
As You speak Light into darkness,
Dispense grace through hope, and
Transform us through the renewing power of Your Word,
We thank and adore You, now and forever. Amen

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2013 in Quiet Time, Uncategorized

 

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