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Angel’s Journal, Second Entry: “Maybe they’re getting it?”

Journal Entry:

I want to get this down, now, while things are still so up in the air.

Clearly, His Majesty’s warning informs us that bad things are yet to happen, and there’s a whole lot of plotting and planning going on behind closed doors. (Of course, no doors are really “closed” to us, so we just have to bear with all the deceit, motionless.)

But a couple “days” ago, The Master entered Jerusalem, earth’s Holy City, where once He resided with them at the Ark of the Covenant and where He instructed (in great detail) how His temple was to be built. (Of course, that has seen better days, since that whole Babylonian debacle… still, the Temple is quite a monument to Him… and The Master always pays a great deal of attention to its goings on… But I get ahead of myself.)

Anyway, like I was saying, The Master rode into Jerusalem. Darius and Erich, on the message delivery rota for that day, were THRILLED when tasked to go to a nondescript farmer in a village near Bethpage outside the city (not the Bethpage on Long Island, but the other one outside Jerusalem), and visit his dreams with the message that The Master would need his small white colt that day, and would send a disciple to pick it up. We angels have been bound to watch these events unfold in something very close to man-time, rather than our own eternal time. But still, at least we sometimes get to participate in LITTLE ways, even if not in the “big stuff”.

Anyhow, The Master mounted the cute little colt and entered Jerusalem, packed with people, visitors there from all over the known world. As he entered, his vehicle striding relaxedly down the main road, a current seemed to move from the outskirts into the metro centre. At first just a few, the young and the quick, dashed off to inform the crowds…

“He is COMING! He’s HERE! Jesus! Jesus! He’s riding into town! He’s Here!”

It reminded me of so long before, the message some of us got to deliver… shepherds, kings, a blind man, an old woman, a priest… of course, Gabriel got to do THE Message. But still, lots and lots of us got to sing with that heavenly host as the Star shone above the Stable. It was magnificent!

And here now, these kids got to do the same. They dashed into the City, telling everyone who would listen… He’s HERE!

Ah… yes… my point. Sorry, I keep forgetting. Anyway… it was just so AMAZING! Makes me wonder if maybe this week stuff won’t be so bad. I mean, you’d swear they GET IT! The people, and I mean just about EVERYBODY, cheered Him! They cried out “Hosanna”, just as we do! They proclaimed Him “Blessed!”, just as we do! They called Him “Son of David”, and “He who comes in the name of the Lord!”, just as we do!

Could it be? Is it possible? Do they really see?

They cheered, bowed, and threw their cloaks and fronds down in front of Him. They greeted Him as the King He truly is!

Those who track the Dark Ones and monitor the conspirators against Him did not seem terribly encouraged, but *I* certainly was. Who knows, maybe this will all work out after all! I can live in hope, no?

Maybe… just maybe… they really ARE getting it?

More later, as things unfold!

Journal Entry by — Makarion Nous, Angel 3rd Class, General Duties

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2016 in Lenten Journey, Uncategorized

 

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Great Questions — The Littlest Question

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©1982KatherineBrown

“How do I LIVE in Christ, right here, right now, day to day?”

THAT, I call “the littlest question”. That is a question of “how?”, not of “Who?” or of “What?”. That is a question of “little me”, not “All Mighty God”, or “The Mighty Counselor”, or “The Messiah”, or “The Savior”. That is a question of right here, right now, not “In Eternity”, “In the Cosmos”, or “From the Beginning of Time”.

As Christian bloggers, as ministers of the gospel, as church people, as teachers/preachers, we spend much of our time dealing with “The Great Questions!” “Who/What is God and His Nature?”, “What is Truth?”, “What is Forgiveness and how Often?”, “How Should the Bride of Christ, The Church, Run?“, and so on. Those are decidedly GOOD questions. They explore our relationship with God as we seek to know Him intimately and thus experience eternal life. Nothing wrong with such questions. I spend much time in them, as do others.

But, once in a while I am reminded of the fundamental simplicity of Christ. Recently I was reminded, by someone INSISTING that I address a single, very simple question. It shames me to confess, their question was so fundamental and so simple, and I spend so much time “in my head” with the great and mighty questions, that for far too long… I couldn’t even HEAR their question properly.

What was the question?

“HOW… in practical terms… How am I supposed to LIVE, as a Christian?”

Every time I answered, the person shook their head and said, “I HEAR that, but I don’t know how to DO that! I hear that from you, I see that in Scripture, I hear that in Church… but when it comes right down to it, I don’t know what that all MEANS outside of church, prayer and religion. HOW do I DO that?”

I realized that THEY were not the one “not getting it”. THEY weren’t “dense”. *I* was. *I* wasn’t getting it, *I* was being slow on the uptake. I didn’t know why communication wasn’t happening, so I backed up a moment to take my confusion to Jesus, and He showed me the problem. It made me blush then, and it makes me blush now.

I kept giving them “Great Question” answers. You know… “Love God with all your…”, “Love as Jesus loves…”, “Forgive always…” so on and so on. I kept answering the “What?”‘s of Christian living. They weren’t ASKING me about “What?” or “Why?” or “Who?”… they got all that. They knew all that. They were asking “HOW?”, and I was utterly failing to respond. What’s more, truthfully, I didn’t KNOW. I hadn’t “thought about it”. It all seems so complicated… “How do you live a perfect (as Jesus commanded at the end of Sermon on the Mount) Christian life?” So many rules. So many opinions. So many interpretations. So many traditions. What was I to say?

So, as I stopped my speaking, closed my eyes, backed up… and “punted”… I prayed, then shut up and listened. “Lord? What’s wrong here? Why are we not connecting? I’m missing something critical here.”

And, at first, all I could hear was Jesus’ laughter. Rather like we laugh when watching a kitten tie themselves up in a big ball of yarn. Not “making fun” so much as “recognizing the absurdity of the moment”. His laughter calmed me in the sense that I knew I wasn’t “misleading” or “speaking less than Truth” here, but I remained confused for the moment.

“You’re just making things all too complicated,” He said. “HOW do you live out love? If you want to focus on one, single, behavior that will have the greatest impact on letting Me be Me in you… ‘be KIND’! The closest human label and emotion to ‘agape’ in behavior, is ‘kindness’. Tell him to go out tomorrow, and every day, in every encounter, making every decision, in the kindest way and being kind to everyone. He will know, as do you and everyone else, when he is being ‘unkind’ and ‘selfish’. Tell him, simply to ‘be kind’, and then follow up from there with him later.”

And so I did.

That has affected me since. I’ve looked at that aspect of my Crystal Rose now from many angles. It’s true. “Kindness” in the way we mean that, is central to all of the Old Law. Central to the Gospels. If we were to line up all the encounters of Jesus, and ask what central characteristic they hold in common, His kindness would be atop the list.

Kindness… to be consistently Kind… is very very simple.

It is also very very hard!

Want the Scriptural take on all this?

Read over the entirety of 1 Corinthians 13 for a moment. (It’s a comparatively short chapter. Go ahead and look at it… I’ll wait here.)

<<     Hums the Final Jeopardy theme music tune here, waiting patiently….  >>

Finished? Good. Now watch this…

In all that chapter, Paul deals with “love”, and simple behaviors, after opening with matters of Great Questions. After all, Paul’s epistles constantly deal with Great Questions and Weighty Matters… the nature of God, the nature of the Church, the nature of Salvation, discipline in the church, the nature of ministry, the qualifications of ministers… and on… and on… and on. We base much of our Great Question dialogue grounded in the writings of Paul. As I said, nothing wrong with that.

But! We can lose sight of the simple fact that over and over and over, Paul is ALSO “making new believers”! He is evangelizing. He is sharing the SIMPLE Good News of the arrival of Jesus, His Kingdom, and the freedom in our lives of our redemption. Paul doesn’t plunge new believers into heady debate about “to meat or not to meat”, or lots of other things. He speaks of Christ, of His love, of Christ come, and crucified, and risen.

The KEY verse, in all of 1 Corinthians 13, I believe to be Verse Four:

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant…”

As I’ve looked and pondered these things, the opening verses deal with the Great Questions! You can have all the “Great Answers”, and do all the “Great Things”… but without this bedrock, this “love” thing… that’s all meaningless. Everything before verse four, seems to lead up to verse four. Everything after verse four, seems only to expand on and refine it.

“Patient, kind, no jealousy or ego…”

To brag and be arrogant are based in pride, and pride (wounded) is part and parcel of jealousy.

So… right here, in front of man and God and everybody, I say openly… “If you want to live out the perfect Christian life, and have the love of Christ flow through you to others, focus behaviors on ‘patient, kind, not ego-bound'”.

There’s HOW!

One last note. Think about, in your own life, those persons… those (usually) handful of persons… who have really “shone Christ” in your own life to you. You know who I mean, the one’s who, when you spend time with them, leave you sensing the nearness and presence of Christ more strongly than you did before. Those ones that just ‘cover you up in’ the Father’s love, the Son’s Forgiveness, the Holy Spirit’s presence. The ones you reach towards when you feel that need for the tangible presence of Jesus.

Now, ask yourself,  “is that person patient? kind? and humble (ego-free)” in their dealings with me?

Let us, then, go and do likewise.

Grace to you, Gentle Reader — The Little Monk

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2016 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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God Is Eternally Giving Away God

Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation
Grace: Week 1

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National September 11 South pool, New York, New York, April 2012. Photograph by NormanB.

Monday, January 25, 2016 – (Feast of St. Paul, the Apostle of Grace)

It is by grace that you are saved, through faith, not by anything of your own, but by a pure gift from God, and not by anything you have achieved. Nobody can claim the credit. You are God’s work of art. –Ephesians 2:8

By grace you notice, nothing to do with good deeds, or grace would not be grace at all. –Romans 11:6

Happy are those servants whom the master finds awake. I tell you he will put on an apron, sit them down at table, and wait on them. –Luke 12:37

I think grace, arising from God’s limitless love, is the central theme of the entire Bible. It is the divine Unmerited Generosity that is everywhere available, totally given, usually undetected as such, and often even undesired. This grace was defined even in the old Baltimore Catechism as “that which confers on our souls a new life, that is, a sharing in the life of God himself [sic].” [1] We always knew it on paper, but much less in experience and conviction.

In the parable of the watchful servants (Luke 12:35-40), God is actually presented as waiting on us–in the middle of the night! In fact, we see God as both our personal servant inside our house and the divine burglar who has to “break through the walls of [our] house.” That’s really quite extraordinary and not our usual image of God. It shows how much God–the “Hound of Heaven,” as Francis Thompson says–wants to get to us and how unrelenting is the work of grace.

Unless and until you understand the biblical concept of God’s unmerited favor, God’s unaccountable love, most of the biblical text cannot be interpreted or tied together in any positive way. It is, without doubt, the key and the code to everything transformative in the Bible. People who have not experienced the radical character of grace will always misinterpret the meanings and major direction of the Bible. The Bible will become a burden, obligation, and weapon more than a gift.

Grace cannot be understood by any ledger of merits and demerits. It cannot be held to patterns of buying, losing, earning, achieving, or manipulating, which is where, unfortunately, most of us live our lives. Grace is, quite literally, “for the taking.” It is God eternally giving away God–for nothing–except the giving itself. I believe grace is the life energy that makes flowers bloom, animals lovingly raise their young, babies smile, and the planets remain in their orbits–for no good reason whatsoever–except love alone.


Gateway to Silence
Open me to grace upon grace upon grace.


References:
[1] The New Baltimore Catechism of yesteryear; the more recent catechisms say essentially the same thing.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Franciscan Media: 2007), 155-156.

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2016 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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Once Upon a Time: There Was a Knight

http://www.fromoldbooks.org/OldEngland/pages/1373-Wood-cut-of-a-Knight/Once upon a time, the Lord King selected a willing warrior, and tasked him to protect a valley nestling a lovely village dear to the Lord King’s heart.

“I shall go,” exclaimed the Knight, pleased to be of service. “From what am I to protect them?”

“You will see,” answered the Lord King.

So the Knight donned his finest armor, selected his keenest weapons and stoutest shield , mounted his bravest steed, and set off towards the valley. As he approached from the south, he crested a ridge and found himself high above the valley that opened like a chasm before him. Across the way, at the opposite side, was the northern crest upon which sat mounted a dark figure, also surveying the valley and its inhabitants.

Instantly, the Knight knew that this was his adversary. He knew that his duty was to protect this valley and these people from being harmed by that dark knight opposing him. He watched as the shadow warrior dismounted his own horse and slowly strode pensively along his cliff, surveying the valley below.

The adversary drew out a bow and began to fire arrows of dark fire into the valley. Wherever his darts struck, there was a splash of shadow and destruction, and the sounds of misery or screaming echoed up to the cliffs.

The Knight’s first thought was to attack in return. Drawing his own bow, he fired arrows of light at the enemy. The arrows shot straight and true directly towards the heart of the aggressor. But yet, they would not find purchase. The enemy would duck, dodge, or twist with preternatural speed, always avoiding a mortal strike. The arrows did distract him a bit, though. So that the enemy’s arrows of dark fire were now directed largely at the Knight, making him dismount (not to be so easy a target), and raise his shield in his own defense. The dark arrows were extinguished harmlessly, when blocked by his shield.

Still, the enemy’s arrows rained regularly down on the people, even as some of them sped toward the Knight. As the Knight was forced to raise his shield often to protect his own heart, the enemy took advantage to attack the village. The enemy was quickening his pace by the moment, and his dark arrows were flying at a remarkable rate.

“This is not working,” thought the Knight. “My attacks on him find no purchase, and though it seems that I am safe, the people are suffering.”

The Lord King’s voice seemed to speak gently into his ear, “You are trying to attack him directly. What if you simply defend the people? Your shield will reach beyond yourself.”

So the Knight sheathed his sword, and focused a moment on his shield. He discovered that he could extend his arm towards the village, as he saw where a dart would strike, and sail a shield out through the air over the people. The dart would strike the sheltering shield harmlessly, sparing the people beneath.

So the battle progressed, ever faster, as the enemy rained down arrow after arrow, and the Knight flung one shield after another like a discus to intercept each blow. But as time passed, the Knight began to tire. The enemy was utterly tireless, and the weaker and slower the Knight became, it seemed the stronger and faster rained the arrows.

Eventually (it seemed like hours, though it may have been but moments), the Knight began to lose heart, realizing he could not keep up this pace.

“Lord King, I am failing in my task. I cannot protect these people. I am flagging, and the enemy is too strong. He grows stronger as I grow weaker. Behold, even now, the people are at his mercy…” choked the Knight. For indeed, it seemed that for every arrow blocked, blindingly quick though the battle progressed, still two others slipped through devastating the village like flaming mortars of pitch blackness.

The Lord King’s voice again came to the ear of the Knight…

“This is what you needed to understand, My son. No matter how sharp your weapons, how stout your armor, or how valiant your mount, you alone… with all your strength and training… simply CANNOT stand against such creature of darkness. All of those things can strengthen you, embolden you, give you affirmation of your mission and confidence. But none of that gives you the resources to prevail against such an adversary.”

“What then am I to do? Why did You send me here?” lamented the miserable Knight.

“To protect this village. To guard this valley,” responded the Lord King.

“But HOW, Majesty?” the Knight cried, in utter defeat.

“Ah,” the Lord King replied, as you could almost hear the smile in His voice. “NOW you are asking, and asking the right question. Now… Behold…”

And the Knight felt his body relax, as though a child in the arms of his trustworthy father. His sword, shield, bow, all weaponry fell away from him. His helmet drifted away. His armor fell away. He stood arms wide open, splay legged, in simple white robe, seemingly utterly helpless and vulnerable on his cliff above the valley.

Until Light, indescribable, warm, brilliant Light… began to infuse him from all around. The glow, the joy, the awareness was both unspeakably wondrous, and unbearably powerful all at the same time. He lost all sense of what was happening, lost all awareness of time, or questions, or answers, or even himself as himself. All the Knight still knew was that… he WAS… He IS. The will of the Lord King was his own will, His desires his desires, and His love his love.

His eyes… his eyes were changed and new. His heart was changed and new, and his heart now held mastery over his eyes. He looked outwards, his arms open wide, and all… ALL was light.

He looked downwards, into the valley, and saw with all the love in his heart, the people there. His ears heard their cries, their joys, their pains. And as he noticed their sufferings, as he realized the darts were striking the streets and homes from overhead, he focused on the opposite crest and for the first time noticed the enemy there.

Suddenly, his love for the people, his passion, his care for and heart of protection for them, caused a phenomenal explosion… a blinding flash and deafening report… as Light burst forth with the strength of a thousand suns, flooding all the land and sky for just a moment as his love for the people, his protection and care for them, utterly overwhelmed him.

In the next moments, as the echoes drifted away, the Knight (now quite recovered as himself) looked down at the valley and saw all filled with light, with hope, with love, and with joy. Looking opposite, there was no more presence of the enemy or of shadow.

And so, in great peace and satisfaction, he set up his camp there on the pinnacle… to protect and to serve the people evermore. He now understood, no force of arms that he could bring to bear would guard them. But the Lord King… within him, through him, around him… when he focused utterly on His Majesty and HIS love for the people… this would care for the people.

Was he, this mighty Knight, sent here to use his strength to protect the valley?

No. He could not succeed at that.

Rather, he, this mighty Knight, was sent here to acknowledge in his weakness that he could NOT protect the valley, but to provide a vessel and a voice, to make way for the Lord King Himself to do so through him.

He became one of the greatest and wisest Knights in the Kingdom, and lived very happily ever after.

 

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Compromising Purity – Adulteration

by yin yang Source:http://everystockphoto.s3.amazonaws.com/clean_simplicity_refreshing_19096_o.jpg

by yin yang Source

Intimacy with God… with self… with others.

We speak here of “Purity” and “Adulteration”, and a reader might think, “Ah… I know EXACTLY what we’re talking about here! This will be about S-E-X! Mwah hah haa!”

But no. That’s not what this is really about. Let’s deal with this bogey in the very beginning.

Adulteration (from which, indeed, we get the word “adultery”) is NOT simply about sex. It’s about “watering down”, it’s about “weakening”, it’s about “rendering impotent”.

“Oooo”, one might say. “Now we’re talking about ‘impotence’. This just keeps getting better and better.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I’ve struggled with how to draft this post, because I feel like I see these “connections” among concepts that are just so clear and simple… and I want to share them with you, Gentle Reader… but I do NOT want to stand in, or even LOOK like I’m standing in, the position of telling you what to think, what to believe, what to be convicted by. That is SO the realm of the Holy Spirit… and you, your mind, heart, convictions… are such a sacred place. I don’t want to just seem like I’m traipsing through your conscience in hobnail religious boots, telling you, “You gotta believe this, or ELSE!!!”

So, I’ve struggled. How do I share, communicate, this lovely picture of connections with you… without the implication that if you don’t see things the same way, you are out of order?

The best I can offer to meet my concerns is simply to say what I’ve just said. To be open and transparent about all this with you, and if these words ring true to you… your heart, your spirit, your reading of scripture and your experience of the presence and ministry of Christ… then great! Feel free to use them in whatever way suits. If these words don’t fit, don’t hesitate to lay them aside.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

There is this simplicity, this joyful and wondrous secret of “how” we enhance our intimacy of relationship with God… that Jesus shares in His opening ministry volley of Sermon on the Mount. And it’s when He discusses, of all things, “Adultery!”

And for centuries since, as all about us in religious circles today, just as people doubtless did the day He spoke… we focus on legalisms and criteria (“annulment” versus “divorce”… how do we interpret “husband of one wife”… or “is a divorced pastor now disqualified to serve”… etc.). In all of this, we rather miss the mark. We can easily miss His point entirely.

Jesus BEGINS with discussion of legalism, yes. But He then elevates the discourse to an entirely new level, as He progresses from “qualifications” to “relationship”.

“You have heard that it was said, Do not commit adultery. But I tell you, everyone who looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart... It was also said, Whoever divorces his wife must give her a written notice of divorce. But I tell you, everyone who divorces his wife, except in a case of sexual immorality, causes her to commit adultery. And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” [Matthew 5:27-28;31-32]

What I would point out here is simply that while Jesus indeed makes reference to sexual immorality as a legitimate reason for divorce, the crux of His teaching here on adultery is the relationship of a husband and wife. His focus is not on carnal faithlessness, but relational betrayal of trust. For Jesus, the issue of adultery is vastly bigger than “sex, drugs, rock-and-roll” as is so often oversimplified.

Does carnal infidelity constitute a form of adultery? Certainly.

But my point here is that “adultery”, as it relates to purity as an aspect of our intimacy with God, is an overarching issue of “trust” in “love”… vastly more encompassing than sexual promiscuity.

For many posts, many months actually, I’ve been struck by the reality that we trust only insofar as we love, and we can truly love only insofar as we trust. If our trust of another is limited or conditional, so will be our love. I’ve come to realize that herein lies the “love limiter” for most people in their relationship with God. Multitudes of believers “love God with all their heart, mind, and strength” insofar as they are able… But that “ability”, their capacity in their “all”, is bounded and limited by the extent to which they can truly trust Him… Him or anyone else in their lives.

It is very hard to learn to trust. Many of us never achieve the skill in this lifetime. Therefore, our capacity to love God utterly is compromised from the front, by our incapacity to trust anyone utterly… even Him.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Could it be that Jesus addresses this here?

Could it be that He references the deep trust relationship that should exist between a husband and wife here?

Could it be that for Him, “adultery” weakens and waters down the foundation of trust itself in relationship? And in that denaturing, compromises the capacity to love at all?

I pose the possibility that the hallmark of “purity” is “trust”, and that trust paves the road of love. There are two means for undermining the trust of purity and love. One is betrayal, to receive and accept the trust of another, claim to fulfill the expectations of the other, and then intentionally fail to meet them. The other, less visible form of adulteration, is simply to refuse to dare to trust.

It’s a rather passive-aggressive situation.

We can adulterate love, violate purity, either by actively betraying the trust OF another… or by passively denying trust TO another. In both cases, we personally maintain the integrity of our own control, our own management, and our own defenses intact. We need not trust the other, we need not trust God, we need not risk… or so we think.

We think such defensiveness keeps us safe, keeps us strong, keeps us protected.

On the contrary… this form of adultery, this isolationism, simply keeps us from connecting. It can “feel” safer… like being wrapped up in cotton wool, or bubble wrap. But it simply keeps us cut off, apart, and alienated from others, from self, from God.

It does not strengthen, it weakens. It cuts off from light, from nurturance, from love.

When we invest our sense of safety, our passionate desire, our sense of “what-we’ve-absolutely-GOT-to-have-to-be-OK” into someone or something else that is not “right” for us… we weaken and water down our own capacity to love and be loved. The most frequent example used is that of the marital covenant… but “adultery”… the inappropriate investment of personal security and passion, can be applied to work, career, community esteem, money, education, anything.

Jesus focuses on the “relationship” with some “object” of our passion that will define us. His teaching here is much broader than just His legalistic example of “pornographic lust”… He speaks of the investment of the heart itself. As so often Jesus does, He starts with the simple and concrete, and elevates the dialogue to the simple and relational.

So… the question I am left with, the challenge I hear in my own heart, is…

Is there anything beyond the gracious gifts that God grants to me, that I look upon with the passionate desire and belief that without THAT (other, unpossessed) thing (object, person, position)… my life is just not worth living?

Such a view will weaken me, weaken my grace, water down my love and my capacity to love. When I do this, I am failing to trust… trust God, trust self, trust others who bless and grace my life. When I do this, I shall find myself hungry and wanting, because I have rendered my own pure nurturance from grace into something lesser and weaker.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Enjoy, in utter purity, the grace and blessings God showers upon us. Do not betray their trust in us… nor reject relationship with them out of mistrust of God or His grace.

God is incredibly faithful and effective in spontaneous provision, and sometimes, reaching for the blessings we wrongly think we need, can weaken the blessing we actually have.

If none of this makes sense, I apologize. This idea is very hard to wrap words around. Your comments are more than welcome.

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2015 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds

 

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99 and 44/100ths Percent

by yin yang Source:http://everystockphoto.s3.amazonaws.com/clean_simplicity_refreshing_19096_o.jpg

by yang yang Source

“Purity”…

We like “purity”… in our water, in our food, in our medicines, toothpaste, or other hygiene products.

But as to ourselves… our character, our morality, our spirituality, our ethics and behaviors…. well…

“Purity” is just not a cool word anymore. It’s like one of those “itchy” words, “uncomfortable” words, that make us squirm in our seats or look down at our toes when it comes up in conversation.

One of those “skewering” words too often abused by some to look down on others, as some self-proclaimed guru of “righteousness” lambastes the culture and all who engage it as “ungodly”, “unrighteous”, and “heathen”.

This is a shame… this “disconnect” between a simple word that we’re all perfectly comfortable with when relating to our water or our food… and the very same word when relating to ourselves, our minds, spirits, souls. It’s a shame, only because this still is, and always has been, an “important” word.

Purity is important, not because God will “love us more” if we’re “pure”, and “love us less” if we’re not. Purity is important because it “maximizes” us and all that is good in and for us, and “protects” us from what is harmful and toxic.

Gonna look at “purity” for a couple posts… because right now we’re looking at “means and methods” for experiencing more closely the intimate connection we have with God. Purity is an important element of clarity and transparency between our own hearts and the heart of God. But the word, the concept, has been so misused and abused that the enemy has made such strides in muddling and befuddling it… we often throw out the baby with the bath water, turning from its abuse…. and miss the critical elements of light embedded within.

For the moment, I just want to point out three simple things about “Purity” by and large, on which we most likely can all agree. This is not particularly “religious” or “spiritual” in application. This is just an observation about Purity, and its mechanics.

There are 3 ways I know of, to compromise “Purity”:

  1. Adulteration – A material may be made less dense and reduced in concentration and potency by the addition of another inert material to it. The addition may of itself do nothing harmful whatever, it simply reduces the effect of the pure substance. (e.g. Adding water to cough syrup adulterates and reduces the health effects of the medicine.)
  2. Corruption – A material may be changed in its essential nature and reduced in its effect or even rendered harmful, by the development of a second material within its mass, that had been a part of itself in potential form, but not activated until the corruption began which depended on the development of the right conditions. (e.g. Food spoils without proper preservation, temperature, or storage because of otherwise harmless organisms already present in that food, such as milk curdling or meat decomposing.)
  3. Toxification – A material may be changed in its essential nature and reduced in its effect or even rendered harmful, by the introduction of some harmful material from the outside environment, foreign to itself. (e.g. Water supply or foodstuffs can be tainted by environmental microbes or chemicals, rendering them toxic.)

These, as far as I know, are the only mechanisms for undermining and compromising purity. They are fundamental and important, and bear as much on the purity of intangible essentials, as they do on food or water. Jesus addressed them, we usually innately know them, but they are not often discussed because the entire topic has become uncomfortable.

In the next few posts, we’ll see if we can get past any discomfort, lay these out on the table, and poke around in this a bit.

Joy, grace, peace, and love to all!

The Little Monk

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2015 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Spiritual Warfare

 

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Persistence of Words…

Shamelessly I have stolen this fabulous video from Paulfg of Just Me Being Curious. But after watching it, I was struck with this story told by Jesus, and thought what an awesome illustration this clip would be in an average Sunday Sermon!

Here’s the Text:

18 Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, saying, “In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’ For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge *said; now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”

We can trust… that He hears, responds, cares, and does not delay. Always! And even those who have no desire to hear, will hear nonetheless.

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2015 in Sermon Seeds

 

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Can You Hear the Bacon Sizzle?

bacon sizzleDiving or snorkling off the Florida Keys, this sound haunts you at all depths. You can’t see why, you can’t explain it, but there it is… always… the distinct sound of bacon sizzling right next to your ear.

It’s creepy.

When I asked around about this, I was told that it was a sound audible in the ocean anytime it is quiet enough. That it is the sound of “sand being made”, as Parrot Fish, from every quarter, rasp algae off hard surfaces… rocks… coral… ship hulls… anything… by scraping the hard wall with their beak-like raspy snouts, consume the mineral mouthful, and eventually eject sand from their gill slits or other orifice.

parrot fishI don’t know if it is true or not, for I’ve not dived or snorkeled in all the waters of the world, and I can’t be sure that all of them ever truly get “quiet”. But I can tell you that wherever I HAVE been, when I am still and silent underwater, and there seems no other sound… I have heard this buzz of sizzling bacon.

I was reminded of all this today when I read some bits and pieces on prayer by some very wise, grace-filled, experienced… um… authors from ages past. The who, what, when isn’t the point here. The topic was “Stillness”, “Silence”, and “Hearing God”. Or rather… “BEING in/with God” beyond hearing or any other sensation.

We tend to be such “people of action”. We want to DO FOR God. Or DO WITH God. Or GIVE TO God. Or GET FROM God. We like to ACT, to DO, to BEHAVE, to somehow perform something that is pleasing to God.

And that it, far and away, a good thing. Yes.


But when we slow down a bit, when we focus on the Him as Him, a bit more… and the Us and Him a bit less… we are sometimes moved simply to HEAR Him. Not to do, or talk, even pray, not even to “worship” (which is often for us another “act for Him”)… but when we just settle down to ATTEND to listening to Him, hear His words, hear Him speak. In such moments we enter into a different kind of prayer than our petitions and intercessions, or even our praises. We enter in to “meditation”. We allow the Holy Spirit directly to teach, in His own words, in our own personal language.

It is like “Sunday School” with the One Teacher we need. It is “Tutorial Time”, as God Himself makes sense of the written words of Scripture, and how the living and active Word of God (Jesus) imbues and exhales His Spirit into our being, our lives, our relationships (with Him and with others). This process challenges the mind, stretches the understanding, expands our boundaries… as we grow in our knowledge (and therefore love) of God in all Persons.

This too, this other form of prayer, is an assuredly good thing. Yes.


But from time to time, at first very much at HIS behest, as He teaches us to find stillness, but then as gradually we learn the path to silence, we become ever more welcome into this… this… “garden”… this “meadow”… this “pool” where all is silent, we can come to sense what I can only call God’s very “Pulse”. It seems to reverberate below all else, and when nothing but the resonance of His pulse fills all of our being, it is as if we (as separate) cease to be at all, and all there is is this pulse, this beating heart, which is both Him and us at the same time.

When I first tried to describe this to a friend… this odd “silence”… this “still place”… and the profound effect it seemed to have for me, where there were no words, no quotations, no lessons… just HIM… and that that very HIM-ness was so profound that it left me gasping and changed in ways I did not understand at all and could not describe… that friend responded with these words:

“There is a life and aliveness in silence and stillness that is ‘other than’ the best and richest of life that is sound and action.  While there will almost always be, in our waking hours, sound and action – at the center of life there is silence and stillness.  We do not ‘go to’ this silence and stillness, we live continually in it and our outward sounds and movements are profoundly informed and changed by it.  Outward sounds and movements are important but not essential to our aliveness.  It is the silence and complete stillness that houses the well spring of our aliveness, which is Jesus Himself.”

And this also, is a different form of prayer. It has many labels and descriptions, lots of books written about it. But I’m not going to go there because all that contains the implication that these labels denote something “superior”, “higher”, “more advanced”, or even… heaven forbid… “unattainable”.

Once upon a time, (please forgive me), I believed that. I was trained that way, and had not yet learned how corrupt and humanistic so much of my training was.


I have come to realize that all such thinking is rubbish. God IS… God expresses constantly ALL that truly IS.

Here is what seems to be the first and last “complete and true” statement to be made of God…

“God Alone is God in Whom All IS. All that is not God, simply is not.”

There can be nothing beyond God. There can be nothing without God. There is God… or nothing. And “nothing” is not. Nothing, cannot be.

Hence, when Moses asked God who he should say sent him to pharaoh, God accurately (and completely) named Himself… “I AM who AM.” There is no more, or less, that can be accurately said completely to denote God.

We can say many other truthful things, yes. But to be honest, we must always acknowledge that while these may be truthful, they are all partial and incomplete. They are “fragments”, “aspects” of Him. They do not come near to “describing” or “naming” Him in a meaningful way. He is just so much bigger, so much greater, so much more, than we can find any words or concepts to relate for Him.

Only one thing…

Only one way…

Only one means, that I have found, to get near enough to “touch” that One Alone…

Silence… to find the Point of Stillness… to “float” or “drift”… to simply “BE”…  in His Ever-Presence… and then halt the mind, the constant interior monologue of thought, question, ponder, wonder, worry, even praise or prayer. To stop the flow of all the words, even for a brief time.

Simply to “Hush”… and “Be”…

This is not an arcane mystical practice, or the effort of decades of monastic asceticism… (or it doesn’t have to be).

This is a simple… “hush”… “Be still, and know… the I AM… God.”


When we dare to seek and embrace the silence… when we seek out not even His words… when we utterly relax in the palm of His hand…

Wait… listen… trust… do you hear it?

Do you hear the Pulse of God? It is there. Just be still, and that Pulse, which is your life, will fill and transform…

That pulse is always there, in the silence, in the stillness, where you may rest and breathe!

 

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2015 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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I Believe… I Can Fly!


When you were little, didn’t you have great dreams? Great ambitions? Great hopes? The line blurs for a child, between “dull reality” and “vibrant creativity”, whether one sees a professional athlete, or astronaut, or the greatest singer EVER, or a knight in shining armor conquering dragons and saving those in distress!

But then, we grow up… We learn… There are limits to the possible. We learn to build our boxes. We learn the myriad of things we “cannot do”. We learn the bumps, the bruises, the batterings of the world and people around us. We learn… all there is… is this. Just little, dull, mundane, me… and you… and them… and this! (With a decidedly NOT “capital T” in “this”.)

But then, one incredible day, Jesus enters our own little, dull, mundane, me-and-you world. And He says things like… “To what shall I liken the Kingdom?” and somewhere, deep inside, there is a heart stirring… a tiny leap of hope… a whisper (too small, too timid, even to be fully “heard” or acknowledged, but still really there)… the child’s heart whisper of… “Maybe… just… maybe…” And old dreams, forgotten dreams of Kingdoms, and knights, and deeds of unrelenting courage and adventure rouse again deep inside…

Beyond this, on just as incredible a day,.. At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, ‘Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said,Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’” [Matthew 18:1-4]


What if….

What if your Father were King of the Universe?

What if He had crafted and designed you, from before the beginning of time, to live fully as Prince/Princess in Him, and your perquisites and authority came into play as you learned to embrace and wield them with grace, love, and wisdom?

What if all those “heroic dreams” of your childhood were not simply aspirations TO Him, but hints to your actual nature FROM Him?


What if all the greatest dreams you ever dreamed were the barest inkling, just the slightest hints, of what you truly are and can embrace right here, right now?

Because… I have come to believe that all those dreams of greatness, heroism, adventure… are simply true. I believe I can fly. I believe I once allowed the truth of my humble childhood to be dashed and devastated by those around me who taught of limits, and boundaries, and boxes for Our Father and His embrace. That those same people BELIEVE in “limits”… that there’s only “so much to go around”, and that for ONE person to acknowledge the reality of Infinite Grace… that must somehow “diminish the availability” for others!

This was the error of the disciples noted above. This was what they needed to learn to “see another way”, to “be converted” from…

They wanted to know… “Who would be greatest in His Kingdom?” Because for the answer to be “ONE” of them… the answer could NOT be “ALL” of them.

Little children do not worry about such things. Little children don’t think such questions.

Little children just ask, “Am I? May I be? May I have?”

They haven’t yet learned the shrewd and measuring “sidelong look” at others around them, and begun the calculation that… “If He gives ME this… then THEY won’t get it!”


Can you find and release your Inner Child?

Can you believe?

Can you fly?


He only awaits your testing your wings, for He’s always holding us up, saying… “Trust Me.” We LIVE in the fullness of His Kingdom, called and equipped to rescue, to seek and save, that which is lost. The greatest adventure any can ever know!

Joy and grace to you!

The Little Monk

 

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Spiritual Warfare: Non-Linear Authority

jesusSpiritual warfare: Angels, demons, possession, oppression, cleansing, healing, casting out, darkness and light.

These sound like medieval issues, and yet we live surrounded by the reality that outcomes of such dramatic battles fill our lives and our media.

So, we look at the encounters Jesus had with unclean spirits, we look at history and texts and journals of our spiritual forefathers, we hear sermons, lectures, conferences and attend services dedicated to healing and wholeness, and we seek to grow. We see and hear words of “command” uttered by those who heal and restore, to banish and exile suffering and torment.

We are struck with a sense of awe and wonder, at the confidence with which words of healing, wholeness, or spiritual cleansing are uttered. “Faith!” we say, and recognize. “Power!” we see and recognize. “Authority!” we realize… and ponder the implications to ourselves, our lives, our prayer, our intercession.


Being so very human, so very normal in our social structures, culture and relationships, we tend to think of “Authority” in terms of “hierarchy”, like the military, or the law… in a line, descending from top to bottom from the Lord on High, downwards through Jesus, through Spirit, through “saints”, through “Christians”, and on downwards from there. Divine Authority seems, to us, a great “Trickle Down Theory” of godly economy, with each tier subject to the next.

Such a view seems affirmed in Jesus’ praise of the faith of the Roman Centurion in the Gospel of Matthew (the event is also reported in Luke 7):

And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented.” Jesus *said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion said, “Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” 10 Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. 11 I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; 12 but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 13 And Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed that very moment. [Matthew 8]

I mean, that certainly SOUNDS like “military”, “straight-line”, authority, right? But look… Jesus didn’t have to speak TO the illness to heal the servant. The servant was healed in the moment of interaction between the faith of the Centurion, and the presence and willingness of Jesus. Would the servant have been healed without the interest, petition, and conversation of the Centurion? Who, then, “did” the healing? Who then, exercised “authority”?


Well, we know that all True Authority rightly vest in and from God. But… but… then what? What “path” does it follow in its “downward trickle”?

Slowly, looking at scripture, watching and listening to Jesus, I’ve realized a rather strange thing. It would seem that “God’s ways are not our ways”, and that He doesn’t wire things quite the way we do.

The Pharisees also struggled with the nature of Jesus’ authority, and one day they asked Him about it, point blank. The answer He gave, I had always thought of as “rhetorically clever”. But in recent years I’ve come to realize that He wasn’t being “mysterious, clever, and obfuscating”… He was, in fact, giving the only correct answer to the question that can be given.

23 When He entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him while He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?” 24 Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 The baptism of John was from what source, from heaven or from men?” And they began reasoning among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the people; for they all regard John as a prophet.” 27 And answering Jesus, they said, “We do not know.” He also said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” [Matthew 21]

Now, was Jesus simply being coy and clever there? Or perchance did He actually answer them with not only a truthful, but an accurate answer? Were they asking a question that did not HAVE an answer of the type they were looking for?


I want to leave you here with some passages to look at, and a “thought”. This is not so much an “answer” to all this, as simply a “response” from my own spirit, heart, mind… to/for your spirit, heart, mind. If it leads to your own “answer”, great. If not, the mysteries play on.

Have a Look at:

  • John 10:16-18
  • Matthew 28:16-20
  • John 14:8-10
  • Philippians 2:5-11

Go ahead and “run the word ‘Authority'” through your tools or concordances, and ponder all that as I did when I “paused” in my posts on Spiritual Warfare…

Ask yourself the question Jesus asked of me after all that study, saying…

“OK, now that you’ve seen all that…. Who currently holds the ‘Authority of Kingdom’? God the Father? Me? The Holy Spirit? The Bride? You individually? You collectively? The Father had all authority, gave it all to Me, I submitted utterly to Him, the Spirit judges… So… like ‘Button, button, who’s got the button?’… or the other child’s game of ‘Hot Potato’… Who NOW holds the Authority? Where did it come to rest?”

Now, that was the question… I STILL do not have what I would call “An Answer”, but I think I may have gotten the Point.

I have come to rest in the belief that this is a Trick Question. This is a question with no answer. The Point rests in “Oneness”. God, utterly and entirely, IS His own Authority. Christ is in the Father, Father in the Son, Spirit in Both, Spirit in Us, Christ in me, I in Him, together we in the Father, All of the Body, All of the Bride, All in Him, Him in All…

The Authority resides in Him, and in all the Oneness with Him in which we engage. This is “Non-Linear” Authority. It vests in the Oneness into which He draws each of us, and when we (individually or corporately) rest in His grace, His will, His words, His works…. His authority is present and effective. When we do not, it isn’t.

This there is no one at whom we can point and say, “HE has/speaks with God’s authority”…. or “SHE does”… by virtue simply of who they are, what they do, what office they hold, or what claims they make.

That authority vests in moments, in persons and events, where God’s will in love, grace, wholeness, healing, truth… is clearly expressed. No more, no less.


That is how I have come to “see things”. I may be right. You may see things differently and you may be right. And perhaps we both are. Far more important than whether I (or anyone else) is “right”, is my prayer that laying this out this way, looking at scripture and pondering the love and nature of God, opening to the teaching of the Holy Spirit, brings all of us greater love, light, and truth in our own walks and lives.

Joy, blessings, and grace to all!

The Little Monk

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2015 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Spiritual Warfare

 

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