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The Jeweler’s Tale — A Fable

Desert CaravanOnce upon a time there was a rather foolish, but lonely, man named Elias. He was not the eldest son of his family, and had no fortune to claim. He had a craft, being a jeweler, but always wound up working long hours for others and never getting ahead. One day a trader came to him with a proposition, that if he would invest in a shipment of precious metals and gems to come by caravan from the East, he would make his fortune with his skills.

But what to do? He had no capital, no property, no equity… not even any livestock. He could not raise the funds among friends or family, so finally, in his desperation to make his fortune and his reputation (which he felt sure would solve all of his problems), he took out a loan at usurious rates with some disreputable money lenders. Having no collateral, he wagered his freedom against his debt. He made his investment. He cast his lot. He hoped for the best.

Fate, however, was not kind to poor Elias. (Or, so he thought.) As he waited, day by day, for news of the arrival of his fortune. He worried his way through every report of distant wars, distant sandstorms, and bandit activity. Unseasonably harsh weather made everything even more risky, and at long last, with his caravan weeks overdue, a poor survivor finally made it to his city… only to report that the caravan had been waylaid by highwaymen, and all was lost.

His creditors’ “representatives”, big surly men with markedly bad attitudes, appeared at his doors that same day, to claim him and his tools. A quick stop by the Temple and magistrates, to make everything legal and tidy, and *poof*, there he was, sold into slavery, working for the next 7 years for his creditors. Well, he had no one to take leave of, he owned nothing to “shut up” or settle accounts for. So, by that night, he just settled into his new quarters, having “changed employers” in his mind.

Life for poor Elias was not “happy”, but he was not “suffering” either. He was a fine and skilled jewelsmith, and his masters had considerable wealth. For the first time in his career, he had nearly unlimited resources. Between that, and no longer being distracted by the worry of how he was going to make his fortune, suddenly he began creating real masterpieces. His work far exceeded anything anyone had ever seen him do, or even that he ever thought he COULD do. He changed. He changed from “craftsman” to true “Artist”. As he developed not only skill and creativity, but also logistical and administrative skills.

Well, by the end of his first year of servitude, little Elias had indeed made an enviable reputation for himself. His work traveled far and wide through the kingdom, on only the most noble of customers. One day, an ambassador of the king himself came to the home of Elias’ owner, seeking to buy out Elias’ indenture. The offer was so good, along with the prospects of good will from the crown, that Elias was sold on the spot. Immediately, his little shop and tools were packed up, a royal coach was waiting, and Elias found himself on his way to his new home at the King’s Palace.

“Six more years,” Elias thought, as the royal carriage rolled along the marketways and streets to his new home. “Six more years before I am again my own man,” he sighed. “Well,” he thought, with resignation, “it could be worse. I could be cold, or hungry, or they could beat me. I am well fed, well cared for, and generally well treated. Life is not so bad. Empty, perhaps, but not so bad.” And so the horses clip-clopped on.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

When Elias was shown to his new shop and quarters, he thought he was dreaming. It was magnificent. Every forge, kiln, furnace… every sort of tool… every surface, curve, anvil, and vise… all there for his shaping and crafting of metal or stone into beautiful shapes. And his STORES!!! Gold, silver, bronze, and access to the Royal Treasury for gems of every description. It was incredible, it was unthinkable, it was… wonderful! His own chambers were comfortable, verging on opulent. He had his own chamber servant to deal with housekeeping. There was space to work and think, to draw, his own fireplace, his own bathing room. Poor Elias had never imagined he’d live in such luxury.

After reporting to the Chief Steward of the Palace, little Elias was presented to the King and the royal family. The King was kind, but stately. He made clear that Elias had cost him a great deal of gold, but that the work he had seen with Elias’ hallmark would make the investment worthwhile.

Elias had only one command from the King..

“Do your best work.” He could take all the time he needed for a piece. He could requisition anything he needed to do it. He was to be honest with his accounts. But he was to create beauty, of the finest order he could muster. Just “do his best work.”

At first, Elias scarcely knew what to do. He had never EVER had orders like that. Customers always had something specific in mind. Either a piece that “looked like” another piece. Or a family crest of some sort. Or a cluster of fruit. Or something… But slowly, gradually, he began to let himself dream of beauty and beautiful things, shapes, motifs, curves… and bit by bit, day by day, Elias began to do his best work. Masterpieces flowed from his shop.

A year passed. Elias was very comfortable, well respected, and the King loved his work. The King had even begun an account in Elias’ name, that when he was free, he would have capital to start his own business with. All this, and he was satisfied, but he was not yet truly “happy”. “Five more years,” Elias thought. “Five more years until I am my own man. Well, things could be worse.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Chief Steward would visit him in his shop from time to time. Even the King or members of his family would come visit from time to time. They enjoyed his quiet company, and his unceasing attention to creating beauty. But they always went away realizing, Elias was never yet “happy”.

One day, the King came to Elias’ shop accompanied by a beautiful young woman named Miriam and her two small children.

“Elias, may I interrupt you for a moment?” the King asked.

“Of course, Majesty,” Elias replied promptly, leaving his workbench and stool to bow as he approached the party. “What brings you, this day?”

“Elias, you craft beautiful jewelry that adorns me, my family, and my home. But you work alone. And it is not good for a man to be alone. There is beauty in you that you’ve not yet touched. This is Miriam. She is the widow of a faithful retainer of mine who gave his life in my service. She and her children are now under my protection.

“Miriam is also an artist. She can draw and paint with such passion and grace that from any distance it is easy to confuse her flowers or birds with the living thing. If you are willing, I should like to see what the two of you could create together… she aiding in the design… you applying your talent in the crafting… together to create greater beauty.

“I would place her quarters down the passageway here, and she could draw and sculpt, as you mold, forge, and smith. Would you be willing to try such a collaboration?” the King proposed.

“Of course, Majesty, if that is your will,” Elias responded.

“Good, then,” the King answered, inclining his head to them as he made to leave. “I’ll let you all get acquainted then, and see to the arrangements. Do well.” And he left.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Now poor Elias wasn’t entirely sure what to do about all this. He was, after all, just a slave. But, it turned out, Miriam was also. She and her husband had belonged to the King, but he treated her more as family than servant, so she seldom thought of it. Her children were well cared for, and just as spoiled as those of the royal household, so she was quite content.

For many days, Miriam simply sat and watched Elias work. She watched him heat metal to brilliant red or white brilliance in his furnace… then draw it into wire, or spirals… or pound it into plates, or leaves, or even foil. She watched him seat gems, precious stones, cut, uncut, semiprecious, pearls, chips… all forms of glitter and glint in gilt. Sometimes, when it would not disturb him, she would approach his bench, his work, and just rub her hands along his pieces, as though she could learn something from their very feel.

Elias had thought her presence would disturb him. But she was so quiet, so attentive, so focused… he found she did not disturb him at all. In fact, he rather liked her being there. He enjoyed her attention, not so much to HIM, as to the work. That felt… “gratifying”… to him, somehow. Then, one day a couple weeks after her arrival, he found it disturbing when she did not come in and sit at her accustomed spot as he worked. He… he wondered where she was, though he would never admit that he cared.

At the end of that day, she came in to the workshop with a parchment in her hand. She sat silently on her stool and waited for him to finish his work. When he did, her gentle voice called out…

“Elias, may I show you something? I’d like to know what you think.”

He came over as she unrolled the scroll and he saw her work. It was a beautiful rendering of one of his favorite masterpieces. It was a Rose broach… beautiful hammered petals with pearls inlaid at the center. The beauty of the sketch, it’s detail and realism caught his breath. He’d never known an artist of this caliber before. But, seeing his joy and amazement, she smiled and felt encouraged to unroll the scroll further, and he saw that she had drawn a matching necklace or multiple roses, chained together like a wreath of diminishing size, and delicate earrings, and even a diadem that could be made, all in the same design. He had never thought of this before, but what a tremendous set this would make!

Without uttering a word, yet in the sheer shock of joyful discovery, Elias threw his arms around Miriam and laughed. Together, nodding and laughing, they began to chatter about the designs. From that moment forward, they never worked their arts without the other’s help and cooperation.

The year cheerfully came, and went. On his anniversary, Elias said, “Four more years. Life is not so bad. Four more years and I am my own man again.”

Days came and went. Masterpieces, the envy of the entire kingdom, flowed through the hands of Elias and Miriam. Their lives, their minds, their hearts drew closer. Ultimately, they seemed to think and feel as one, and Elias grew as fond of her children as if they were his own. The year flew by, until Elias could not remember what life was like without this shop, or without Miriam, or without the children.

Elias asked Miriam to be his bride. Joyfully, she said, “You must ask the King for my hand. He is my guardian. But if he says yes, then I am willing.”

So Elias prepared a magnificent bracelet for his King… with panels in it for each of his children and scenes of the family. Miriam sketched the designs, and Elias crafted the molding and polishing. Gems punctuated the piece, without rendering it gaudy. No one had ever seen a “Family” presented in such a way before. It was the finest, most beautiful piece, Elias and Miriam had ever crafted.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“My dear Elias! You have asked for a private audience, and it is my pleasure to oblige! Your work is unparallelled. But where is your partner? Why is Miriam not with you in this appointment?”

“That’s what I wanted to speak to you about, Majesty. Thank you for seeing me and for your kind words. But I would seek a further boon, if you are willing. I ask for the hand of Miriam in marriage. She completes me, I have grown to love her. I cannot imagine life without her. I seek your permission to wed her. She is willing and joyful, if this meets with your approval.”

The King nodded, and had Miriam called to his presence along with his own family. Together they sat and talked. The King heard Miriam appeal as well, for permission to wed, and granted his approval joyfully. Elias and Miriam gave the King his gift of the family bracelet, and all together they began to plan a great celebration and wedding.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The next three years past in what seemed a flash of joy. Elias no longer marked his anniversary of enslavement, but only his anniversaries of joy… his wedding, the birth of his two children, the births of his eldest children. Elias and Miriam had never known such peace or happiness in all their lives. But then, one day…

The King summoned Elias to his presence, and said, “Elias, it is time for you to prepare to leave my service. Your indenture is finished, your servitude ended. You may now return to your home, and I will send with you this sizable fortune with which to establish yourself.”

Elias was crushed… “My lord… Majesty… No! No! I am at home here. My family is here. Your family is here. I am happy and satisfied here as I never imagined I could be. You have taken me into your home as though we were kin. No, Majesty… I do not want to leave. Let me stay, let me continue to serve you. THIS is freedom, not life out here. Allow me, please to remain.”

The King was very solemn as he answered, “Dearest Elias. This cannot be. You came to me a slave indebted. Your term of service is ended. You have more than repaid your debt. What would my people think, knowing you entered my service for a term… believing I refused to free you? That is contrary to law and to custom. That cannot be!”

“Majesty, can you not retain my service? Can’t I tell the people that this is MY choice? That you offer me my ‘freedom’, but that I CHOOSE to remain, because I love it here? I love you and your family? I love my family, and we are all together here? This… this house… this service… is where my joy is! I would remain here! If you will allow it…”

“Very well, Elias. If that is your choice, I will arrange it. But your choice must be made public. Do you make this choice freely, for your whole life? Do you choose my service for your lifetime, and foreswear your freedom out of love alone, not fear?”

“I do, Majesty. I love you, and this house, too much ever to want to leave.”

“So be it, then, Elias. Craft for yourself a single ear ring or stud, and in one week, my arrangements will be complete.”

“Yes, Lord,” and Elias bowed, returned to his shop, and told Miriam of all that had transpired. She was delighted, for she, too, never wanted to leave the royal family’s service.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The next week, the King and his family, and Elias and his family, all went together to the Temple and there was a great assembly of the kingdom, come to see what all the fanfare was about.

There, before God, the King and Elias exchanged words of covenant and mutual commitment. Elias abandoned his “rights” forever, foreswearing his freedom, surrendering to permanent servanthood in the household of the King, out of love alone. The King, for his part, swore to care for Elias and his family as “his man” forevermore, providing for them and treating them with fairness and kindness as long as they lived. The people witnessed this, and said “Amen”, as the families returned to the Palace.

When they reached the door of the Palace, the King stood solemnly with Elias at the doorpost of the main entrance.

“Elias, you have sworn me your lifelong service this day. You have given up all right to freedom and choice for the rest of your life. You have promised, before God, to enter this house as family forever, and never to leave this threshold without my will, my word, my authority. Do you remain determined in that?”

“I do, my Lord.”

“Then stand here, and endure…” and the King placed Elias’ ear against the doorpost, took an awl from the Chief Steward (who had himself, years before, stood right where Elias was standing)… placed the point at Elias’ earlobe, and with one swift sharp blow from the heel of his hand, pierced his new Bondservant’s ear.

“Welcome to you, Elias… now of my very family. I have myself drawn your blood this day, and it now rests in the threshold of my house. Your blood will be a testament, marks a covenant, between you and me. We are now bound together, for the rest of our lives. Congratulations.”

Everyone hugged, laughed, and cried as they went inside to a magnificent banquet always thrown at the induction of a new bondservant. Miriam helped Elias put the special ring into his ear, and the King blessed them all, as family, as for the first time, they all sat down to eat together.

Without a doubt, they all lived, quite happily, ever after…

The End…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Well, almost… There is another way to tell this story…

21 “Now these are the ordinances which you are to set before them:

“If you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve for six years; but on the seventh he shall go out as a free man without payment. If he comes alone, he shall go out alone; if he is the husband of a wife, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master gives him a wife, and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall belong to her master, and he shall go out alone. But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife and my children; I will not go out as a free man,’ then his master shall bring him to God, then he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him permanently. [Exodus 21]

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2014 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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And Now, for Something Completely Different…

Is anyone else out there a die hard Monty Python fan?

This morning, Don Merritt got the ball rolling with a couple dynamite posts on Life Reference, and this is an “extended comment” to the second one, “Form, Faith, and Following“. I suggest you look that over before this, because…. well… it will just make more sense that way.

We, as practicing Followers of Christ, and often (this humbles me a lot), actively serving ministers… spend a great deal of time, effort, prayer… sometimes tears… pondering and shaping “worship” or the “practice of religion” in such a way as to strike a balance among three elements of tension…

(1) The Holy Bible, repository of the Words of God as expressed through the Words of Jesus, the Word of God that is Jesus (Logos), the Law and the Prophets, interpreted through the Word of God that is the Holy Spirit (Rhema). We seek to be “true to the Word”, however that may be.

(2) Relevance to Our Time, Our Culture, Our People. Speaking God’s Truth is not merely a matter of parroting holy words. Telling our people how to care for sheep, without applying and illustrating Biblical principles in our time, culture and lives would be foolish. Jesus did not do that. Neither should we.

(3) Tradition. Almost all of us worship and live our Christian lives out as a part of a community of faith, whether how we worshiped as children, how we trained, how we formalized our service to God… that community comprises its own culture, history, practices, interpretive frameworks of scripture and experience. We are usually part of a “continuum” from past to future, through this present.

Personally, I think this is a GOOD “tension”. These are each important things. Remove any of these elements, and I believe “religion” would suffer, and the people would not experience what God would provide in such experience. But where it all goes wrong, for me, is when we get the “cart before the horse”. When we focus with such intensity on our “religion”, that we fail to recognize that this is a Two-Party enterprise between ourselves (human people) and God…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Please understand. I grew up in a “Religion Free Zone”. While I, myself, had a vibrant prayer relationship with God and all His Persons, I was not a member of any religion, nor allowed to be so, nor allowed to speak of God, or Jesus, or prayer in my home, nor allowed to own a Bible. (Though God cut me some slack on the “obedience” of this part, and I had one (a Gideon… I didn’t steal it… the stamp said ‘if you don’t have one, and you want one, take this one’… and I didn’t, and I did, so I did) that I had to hide under my bed mattress and read by flashlight in the night. Anyway, I grew up with only a Bible (King James, at that) to tell me what God was, is, could do, couldn’t do, and how He related to me. So, I’d pray, talk to Jesus, He’d answer, talk to me, take me places, show me things.. and we had a marvelous time together. (Btw, He’s also SUPER in math! He tutored me a whole year in 8th grade Algebra, and I’d never have gotten it without Him.)

Anyway, later on in my life, after I was beyond the authority covenant of my parents, I asked Him a question… asked Him to show me something… explain something to me… and He said He could not answer. Not that He didn’t KNOW the answer… He did. But that I would not comprehend the answer, so… no answer. This was a first in my little spirit. Never, my whole life, had He failed to answer something about Himself. So, I was insistent! I argued! I wanted to KNOW! NOW! So… being a Child of His not accustomed to not getting my own way… I pitched a fit. Didn’t help a bit. It was still, “No.”

So, I calmed down, pondered a bit, and devised another strategy. OK, so if He would not answer because I would not yet understand the answer, could He teach me THAT? Whatever it was I had to understand, to understand the answer? (Anyone hearing echoes of “42”, and Deep Thought here?)

To this request, he said, “Little Monk, for me to answer this question, show you what you want to see, you must first enter in to a…” (I’ll never forget these specific words as long as I live…) “corporate worship experience of Me.”

Gentle Reader, I was so shocked I couldn’t even respond. I could barely even interpret the words, make sense of them. I had to just sit for a moment, repeating them to myself, and let them soak in. When at last they DID, I said,

“Are… are You…. are You talking about joining a CHURCH!!!???” *insert tone of utter shock and disbelief here*

“Yes. Yes, I am.” Jesus responded.

“WHAT? Are You KIDDING? You’ve GOT to be Kidding! They don’t Know You. They don’t mind You. They just talk ABOUT You, they don’t actually DO anything You’ve told us to DO! You’re way stricter with me than I see you with Any of Them! Heck, they can’t see You, or hear You. They don’t let You take them places. As far as most of them are concerned, You’re just an Absentee-Landlord, deaf mute, they just send telegrams to once in a while!”

Now, Gentle Reader, let me hasten to point out… I was very young. I was very arrogant. (Please see “Recovering Omniscient” for my repentance on this.) And I was, for the most part, very WRONG. But, I was sincere.

His response? He didn’t discuss or argue. He just said, “Nonetheless…”

And that was it, To get my own way, I needed to (*blech!*… *insert shudder here*…) join a church! So I yielded, in that I’d already learned that, stubborn as I am, He is even more stubborn still. This began a journey of discovery of “what church” He wanted me IN. He would not drop hints. He said I needed to take what I knew to be True, the Bible, and find what fitted most closely for me and my spirit. And so I did, resulting in my baptism two years later, and His almost immediate answer to my question. *None of which we will discuss here right now.*

But, in that seeking process I had to think through “Religion”, what it meant, what He means by it, and how all that lines up with Scripture. I mean, there are (according to fairly recent research), approximately 32,000 registered “religions” in the world, of which about 28,000 claim Christian as their basis. So… what does that MEAN? Who has it right? Who has it wrong? What if we choose wrongly?

I mean, if I picked wrong, would I find myself at the Judgment, all shiny and hopeful, just to find I’d been hanging with the wrong crowd? Would I get there just to see some old guy looking like the Knight from Indiana Jones’ Quest for the Holy Grail shaking his head and saying, “You chose… poorly,” and then be sent to Hell?

This was a real CONCERN, Gentle Reader. YOU may have the luxury of being from a family of faith, and may never had to “shop” for your eternal salvation… but this was life or death for me!

When I took all this concern, all this anxiety, to Jesus… well, I won’t say He “laughed at me” exactly… but He did sort of waft all my fears aside with a gentle wave of His hand… and He taught me something I’ve never forgotten or let go of. I think I’ll close this post with this lesson I learned, and as always if it fits for you… great! Blessings to thee! And if it does NOT fit, or the Holy Spirit does not affirm it as truth in your heart, then cast it aside without hesitation or remainder.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

He took me to Samaria, sitting by a well. The woman came with her waterpot, and they talked about gifts, and thirst, and water. And then, she started to suspect Who she was talking to… and she dared to ask Him a question…

The woman *said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” Jesus *said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:19-24)

She asked Him a question of “Religion”, and He answered with something completely different… an answer of Truth, of Spirit, of Relationship with God. He was ALWAYS doing that kind of thing… the Woman Caught in Adultery, the question of Taxes to Caesar, Nicodemus and how to enter one’s mother again. He never EVER seems to ARGUE about “religion”… He just tells you something completely different about Truth, and Spirit, and Relationship with God.

When the conversation was finished, and Jesus returned us to the here-and-now… (well, granted, it was the there-and-then so many years ago, but still… you know what I mean)… He taught me this:

God and man are in Relationship. God, never changes, never alters. God is timeless, Eternal. Man, on the other hand, is constantly changing, constantly adapting, and constantly altering himself and his social groupings through time. Think of a “Light Beam” exchanging light in relationship between God and man. From “God’s side”, that is pure spirit. God’s love, grace, inspiration, care, all of that… just flows, timeless and unchanging onto and into His Beloved Children.

But what about Man? How does he RESPOND to that? How will he REFLECT that back to God? How will Man express love, gratitude, worship, service? Well, he will do so in “human language”, “social language”. He will respond in his relationship with God, however he best perceives such a response, such an expression to be, in any given time, place, or culture.

Those are going to DIFFER from place to place, time to time, culture to culture. And so they SHOULD! Man will try to reflect and give to God, the best he can conceive of, in any given time and place. Since time and place, for MAN are ever-changing…. so will religion be. Since they do not change at all for God, God’s side stays the same.

God is ever Spiritual. Man, expressing himself in private before God, is also spiritual. But, when people gather, as they are wired to do (man is a social creature), then that CORPORATE expression, will codify into a “religion”, and these will differ by culture.

It’s not that one is wrong, and another right. It’s that these provide arenas for congregate expressions of relationship back to God… birthed from spirit in private.

In short? God to Man? One… Men to God? Many…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I’ve really struggled with how to express this last “conclusion”, Gentle Reader. Feel free to help me express what is a very simple vision, that seems to convolute into much more complicated words when I try to say it.

Comments MORE than welcome!

Blessings and grace to thee! I am yet SO much a student, sitting at the Teacher’s knee, listening… listening… listening…

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2014 in Quiet Time, Uncategorized

 

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The Day Before Christmas!

I awoke with this rolling through my head this morning… I needed to get it down and share it with you. Merry Christmas to you all! Blessings and Grace to thee, Gentle Readers!

Twas the Day Before Christmas!

T’was the day before Christmas, and all through God’s Kingdom
His children were pondering how to be right.
So much preparation! The shopping! The travel!
The wrapping of presents on Christmas Eve night!

“This time should be Sacred! A Holy endeavor!”
Declare countless critics, most solemn in tone.
“This shopping is frivolous! Music commercial!
There’s nothing that honors Our God on His Throne!

“The Yule Log, Saint Nicolas, Stockings by Fireplace… all Pagan!” these holy ones sneer.
With voices of outrage, these judges condemn all
The joy and the laughter, to them empty din,
“These people should be on their knees in repentance,
Just muttering thanks that God came for their sin!”

At the opposite end, there are those who’ve forgotten that
There is a God in the heavens at all.
For these, Blessed Christmas is simply a holiday
Break from their workload to party with all.

And here in between there are millions of followers,
Worshipping God as their Father and Friend,
But hearing rebuke from the pious and critical,
Now fearful that Christmas traditions offend.

Now I am a simple Monk, not very bright, I fear…
Studied in all the right subjects, I guess.
All the right “ologies”, customs and languages,
But even this Little Monk, ponder as hard I might,
Couldn’t determine what God sought to bless!

So off to my closet I trudged on this Christmas Eve,
Finally sick of the whining and strife.
I thought, “Surely God will be willing to share with me,
What the Nativity means in my life.”

So down I sat, pouring two coffees and waiting,
When much to my shock, the Great Father appeared…
I started to kneel, He at my little table,
He shook His head smiling, said, “Sit down right here.”

“Don’t be so flustered, My loving but Little Monk,
Jesus has made it quite clear,
that each time you sit drinking coffee across from Him,
you drink with Me.
Son, there’s nothing to fear.

“You want to know, ‘Who is Right’ in this debate of yours?
How do I want to see this time of year?
Those who have lights, tinsel, presents, and parties,
Or those who seek sacred remembrance austere?

“O My dear Little Monk, when will you ever learn?
Though I applaud that you bring this to Me…
It’s not in the forms or the outward appearance,
But what’s in the heart of the child that I see.

“To answer your question of who’s right and who’s wrong,
I tell you quite clearly, you don’t see aright.
The question’s not whether there’s presents and tinsel,
But rather are gifts being given with LOVE?
When gathered in love, peace and joy at His coming,
My Son’s there, in midst of them, all through that night.

“For others who walk with Me daily and deeply,
Who live by My breath and each heartbeat they hear,
The sense of the sacred seems poignant and stately,
They sometimes mistake that all see Me so clear.

“Don’t JUDGE, precious Little Monk, one or the other,
It’s not just a question of ‘wrong’ or of ‘right’,
Like meat bought from temples, a person of conscience
Must simply do what My Spirit instructs THEM,
And no one but Me can condemn them that night.

“The one thing I want you, like any who love Me,
To do as you celebrate My Son’s great Birth,
However you choose to make merry and gather,
Is simply invite Him to join you on Earth.

“Let Jesus take part in your party or service,
Imagine Him sitting there, singing along.
For always He loves to take part with Our children in gathering,
The Gospels show as often He partied as preached,
He spent as much time in the houses of sinners AND Pharisees,
As ever He went to the Temple to teach.

“So there, Little Monk, I have answered your question.
‘Who’s right?’ or ‘ Who’s wrong?’ has no meaning to Me.
‘Why do you gather? Is love, peace, and joy there?
Have you invited My Son there to join you?’
These matter, not whether you tinsel a tree!

“Keep asking your questions, My sweet son, thou Little Monk.
One day you may yet grow up and be wise.
For life’s not a test, that you worry to pass or flunk,
But seeking to please Me is grace in My eyes.

“So much do My children fret, worry, and ponder,
That this course or that is the line of My will.
Their fear can unhinge them, just freeze them immobile,
They seek to be pleasing, they stop and stand still…

“I wish I could tell them, they’ve already done it!
I’m pleased when they look to Me first!
The left or the right path is far less important to Me,
Than asking Me which best or worst!

“In asking, they please Me. I’m simply a Father
who loves them and seeks all their best.
I manage My Kingdom, it does not depend on their
Efforts or strength in the test.

“I seek to be with them, as always I have from before the beginning of time.
Tonight let us celebrate, ‘God Come Among Us’,
(‘Tis one of Our greatest of triumphs, you know)
Quit fretting and judging,” He tousled my hair as He rose,
Then gently He said, “I must go.”

And He walked away, slowly.
I knew that I had to get paper and pen in my hand.
To share such a moment, such comfort and warmth,
On so cold a day all through this land.

I shall celebrate Christmas, the Birth of Our Savior,
With family, and tinsel, and lights,
And sacred remembrance of price that was paid,
For my love, joy, and peace in this Night.

I love you, my Family, all brothers and sisters! Let’s celebrate Birthday of  Jesus the Son!
For one night, no differences as we stand arm in arm, Children the Father’s made One.

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2013 in Quiet Time, Uncategorized

 

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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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New Year Joy… Top Secret…

A really quick word for all Gentle Readers…

First off, Happy New Year! (And I really mean that!)

Second, Jesus taught me this really cool thing this morning over coffee… as I pondered all that… end of the old year… start of the new year… resolutions… stuff. Thought I’d share it with you.

But here it is…

He, His Father, and His Spirit don’t just “come around” when we’re “good”. He doesn’t just “hang with us” when we “ask Him to”, He doesn’t just “hear us” when we close our eyes, bow our heads, and fold our hands. In fact, He is not just “with us” in the sense of “remaining within our personal space”. He is Life Himself… there is no form of life beyond Him. He upholds ALL things by the word of His power.

Simply… He beats our hearts. He breathes our breaths into us. His very love and life vibrate every atom that exists. All that is, or was, or will ever be begins with Him, is sustained by Him, and returns to Him. Know it or not, like it or not, deserve it or not, He is with and in all that exists… or rather, all that exists is with and in Him.

And here’s the incredible part.. the joyful part…

Every single day, He gives us life, and breath, and heartbeats… time… just as His gift! And alongside that, He loads each moment with grace. And within that grace, there is joy. And within that joy there is strength.

People the world over, me included, sometimes miss the moment… that grace, joy, and strength… because we are focused on the past instead of on the present. Maybe we’ve had a tough week, or month, or year. Maybe we’ve even had a horrendous life!

But watch this! All that… everything that has happened up to this very moment… is in the “past” and DOES NOT EXIST ANYMORE!

There! Right there was the secret the Lord taught me this morning over coffee!

It takes the Imagination to dredge up past hurt. Whether we hurt someone else, or someone else hurt us, or we suffered through terrible circumstances… NOW… at THIS moment… ALL that is IMAGINARY! And there is no grace in the present moment, to strengthen us to deal with it. We’re dealing with it out of “battery power” rather than being hooked up to our real Power Line. And that will weary us in no time flat.

So there you go, Gentle Reader. A Top Secret method for foolproof Joy and the Strength He brings. Embrace, then dismiss, the Past as the memory and imagining it is.

Embrace and grasp the Present. He is Here. He is Now. He is Grace! Seek that, find that, focus intently on that… Accept the gift of these breaths and heartbeats… no one truly knows how many we are allotted. Thank, praise, and worship Him in them… then receive the grace in this moment and pass it along in relationship with someone else.

Maybe a family member… maybe a friend… maybe a total stranger. Pass the grace along! Love without fear or reservation! Let Him be Him in and through you, as He challenges me to allow!

I promise… I absolutely promise with all my heart… when we do this… there is grace, there is joy, there is strength. And the past, and all those hurts, all those mistakes and misunderstandings, will lose their grip on your heart!

Happy New Year! It is a gift, straight from the hand and heart of our holy and completely loving God! Don’t worry about focusing on resolutions! Just focus on Him, on receiving the grace and joy He has nestled in each and every day for you, and on passing that along in relationship with another!

Grace and joy to you, Gentle Reader!

Little Monk

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2013 in Quiet Time, Uncategorized

 

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Gratitude is Foundational

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Posted by on November 16, 2012 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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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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