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What If?

This is not a challenge to anyone else… just one the Lord has posed to me. Rather a fun ponder… you may enjoy…

What If…

for just one day, I truly believed that God spoke only the Truth, and never lied…

I believed He never left me alone, that He is always present with me in every moment?

I believed each moment were only a gift of His grace, and not a test?

I believed He always had my back, and I had nothing to fear?

I believed He always spoke clearly to my heart and conscience, and I did not have to play “guessing games” about His will?

I believed He embraces me in my frailty, understands my faults and failures, and is not disappointed in me, even when I disappoint myself?

I believed He can be fully trusted, and has no “hidden agenda” working to catch me out somehow?

I believed He fills my moments with grace, that I be light and salt in the world, reserving judgment entirely to Himself, freeing me from that duty and burden over others?

I believed He spends every moment of every day just giving good gifts to His children, and making way for His servants to do so in His name?

I believed He is Light and Love, and in Him there is no darkness at all?

I believed I were His beloved child and heir, able to look Him straight in the eye, with no shame or cringing?

I believed that He knew me, and knows me, all the way through… and yet still He loves me utterly?

I believed He seeks that I know Him utterly, all the way through… despite my frailties and failures?

I believed He loved me utterly, and I could without reservation, love Him the same way?

I believed I could trust Him… really?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

What difference would this make in how I walked through my day tomorrow?

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2012 in Quiet Time

 

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Sacred Children of God

I once made an “official statement” in establishing a ministry, that outreach ministers for that program need to “see the lost, the broken, the marginalized and disenfranchised as sacred and beloved children of God, fashioned from before the beginning of time by His hand in His image, worthy of love, care, and respect, but often denied all of that both by their circumstances and their decisions. Such children will not be seen as simply ‘sinners out there’ to be accosted, spiritually assaulted, and exploited or judged.”

My heart is heavy this evening, as twice this week I’ve heard exception taken to the observation that the “lost” could be considered “sacred and beloved children of God.” One of those disputing the statement was even a pastor, and he denied this even replete with scriptural proofs…

Sad, really…

One can look at the statements of the Letters of John, his distinctions between children of God and children of the devil, and make them “exclusionary”… establishing a view that only through “election” in the old Puritan sense, does one become a “child” of God… I cannot scripturally gainsay such a view.

But it so seems to “miss the point”. We know that Jesus is “the radiance of [God’s] glory, and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things through the word of His power.” (Hebrews 1:1)  We know “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” (John 1:3). David tells us, “Your hands made me and fashioned me; Give me understanding, that I may learn Your commandments.” (Psalm 119:73) And we know that “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

I have to wonder whether those who deny God’s fatherhood over the children He came to save do so because they think such people somehow exist beyond the power and upholding sustenance of the word of God’s power… or if they deny the very humanity and soul of such people… how can they justify such a view?

Human beings, fashioned from before the womb, from before hearing the Word of God, from before having the opportunity to learn His commandments… are LOVED BY GOD. This, and this alone, should be sufficient to define their lives as precious and sacred.

How do we dare despise ANYONE for whom Christ came, lived, suffered, died, and was raised from the dead? How can anyone dare to declare such persons to be less than sacred?

Perhaps it is not the “sacredness of such persons” that is in dispute. Perhaps it is their nature as “children”. But if not “child”, then what? Surely these are not “objects”… “things”… inanimate forms of pseudolife, fashioned by the hand and will of God into some “lesser” state of humanity?

Even for those dedicated to exclude the lost from their very fashioning and creation, even Paul is willing to grant them the dignity of “illegitimate children and not sons” (Hebrews 12:8). He discusses the adoption of children as sons and heirs, but he does not dehumanize the others… and not even HE dares to deny the love God holds for such children.

There are only a few logical possibilities to the view of such as reject God’s love for the lost as His sacred children… That:

  • Such people are not “children”, somehow born either as non-human objects or as some fully adult form, or
  • God does not love them, or
  • Such people are not rendered sacred by the very breath of life within them, fashioned from His hand, or
  • Jesus did not die for them, JUST AS THEY STAND…

I cannot find God’s heart or scriptural truth in any of those positions. Sorry. For me, the great tragedy of the lost is that here are these beloved and sacred children, loved, died for, upheld at each and every moment by the loving word and breath of God… who fail to accept that love, their adoption as son/heir of Kingdom, and all the benefits and joy that comes from such love and grace.

For me, the issue is not with the words “children” or “sons”… but with the word “heir”, which is the only issue over which they have authority. How they have been formed, Who formed them, or Who sustains them… all this is beyond them. But whether they accept adoption… THAT’s up to them.

But… sadly… there are those of us who have accepted our adoption, and pridefully point to our Adoption Papers, despising our illegitimate brethren. I’ve never been able to do that, really. I guess I’ve just never forgotten… I am adopted too. But once upon a time, before Our Father took me into His household… I was… *blush*… illegitimate myself.

Pray for me. Grace to us all!

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2012 in Quiet Time, Uncategorized

 

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Giving “Orders” to God?

7 “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. 8 So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.

9 “Pray, then, in this way:

Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.
10 ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread.
12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’

14 For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matthew 6)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This prayer, usually called “The Lord’s Prayer” or the “Our Father”, is probably the singularly best known, most frequently uttered set of sacred words on the face of the earth. Despite our denominational differences, our exegetical attitudes and conflicts of interpretation of Holy Writ, these words, these simple words from the lips of Jesus unite us in worship and surrender to the Lord of Hosts.

They came to me this morning, as I contemplated the first cup of coffee of the day, and as I sat down at this lovely table watching birds hunting worms among the ever heightening grass of the back yard, God asked me a question…

“Do you understand this prayer?”

It really hardly seemed fair. I wasn’t even halfway through this first cup of coffee, and couldn’t claim even to “understand” how to operate my own automatic coffee maker (hence it is programmed the night before), and the Lord asks me something like this…

“I’m going to take a wild shot in the dark, here, Lord… and say ‘no’… ‘no I don’t’… for at this precise moment, that is true. Although I’ll admit, when I move through my typical day, I think I understand it.”

To which He laughed and said, “Ah, I know that. But that’s why I’m specifically asking you right now. Once you attain full speed in your day, you are much more on ‘auto pilot’, and you assume that you understand things just because you’ve heard them over and over again so much that you just credit them as being true. When you are like this… you are actually forced to slow down and think things through. I can teach you better this way. Now, HOW do you understand this prayer?”

I blinked… quite a bit… swallowed some more coffee… tried, as best I could, to think clearly and answer. ‘How did I understand this prayer?’ Well, (I thought silently), it starts off establishing our relationship with God and with each other, it places our petitions and needs before our Father, and it ends with affirmation of His greatness and role in the universe. It sort of “covers all the bases” for our day, our lives… identifies God (“hallowed be thy name”)… identifies His agenda and authority (“thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven)… establishes our dependence on Him (“give us this day our daily bread”)… acknowledges our need for His mercy and for our own (“and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”)… acknowledges our need for His guidance and protection (“and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”)… and states why and how He has the authority and sovereignty to do all this (“for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever,)… and we yield and agree to that (“Amen”).

As I put all these bits together, rather slowly and carefully, the Lord was kind enough to just receive them, relieving me of the need to reframe them into speech. So He nodded in seeming approval, at least of the fact that I could yet construct a train of thought, notwithstanding whether it was correct or not. As He lifted His coffee cup, He said, “Now, Little Monk, consider your ‘verbs’ there…”

Verbs? Ugh, let’s see… verbs, I used to know what ‘verbs’ meant… ah yes, “action words”, “action or state of being”. I could do this… find the verbs, ok.

So I said, thinking more in the modern English, “are, be, come, done, is, give, forgive, forgive, lead, deliver, is.”

“Good,” He replied. “Now remove the ones that describe God and the relationship. Focus on the others. Look at ‘give’, ‘forgive’, ‘forgive’, ‘lead’, and ‘deliver’. In fact, take out that second ‘forgive’ since it refers to what you do not what God does. Now, what do you have left?”

“I have ‘give’, ‘forgive’, ‘lead’, and ‘deliver’,” I said, sitting up straight and tall smiling at successfully surmounting this hurdle and correctly calculating the verbs!

“Very good!” He approved. “Now, here’s My question… As you and most people typically think of those words, in that prayer, aren’t they ‘imperative’?”

Ack! “Imperative”… wait a moment, I know that word, just give me a minute. Grammar… voice… yes, something about types of verbs… um… Ah, yes, and “imperative verb” is one of command, an order, an instruction. Like saying, “Come here”, or “Go there”. Er… I started to see a problem here with the Lord’s question. Of course I’ve always thought of these verbs as “imperative case”, that’s the only way they’ve ever been spoken or taught in my environment, in my life, among the people I congregate with. Of course, we don’t really FOCUS on that little point. Now that He has called my attention to it, it seems to present some… er, “uncomfortable implications”. Of course, He was still waiting for my answer…

“Well, uh, yes, I suppose they are.”

“Now, Little Monk, does that ‘sit right’ with you? Does that even make any sense? Does it seem as if I would teach you, or my disciples, or those who would come after them, to ‘give orders’ to My Father, to Our Father? More to the point, beyond any of the ‘respect’ issues raised by such a possibility, does it even make sense that such ‘orders’ would be NEEDED? I mean, do you REALLY think you have to ‘think up and command’ that Our Father take basic care of His children? Or that I would even permit in My presence, let alone teach or encourage, such an attitude or view?”

“Well, Lord, now that You mention it… um… no, not really. Doesn’t make sense. So… there’s something new here for me to learn, right?” I followed up.

“Yes, I would like you to understand that just as I said,32b your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.’ When you pray this, realize that those verbs are not ‘words of command’ to the Father, nor even ‘words of suggestion’ or ‘words of reminding Him what is needed’… none of that. Those are simple statements of the case, they are affirmation of what IS. Your Father, Our Father, provides all those things for you all the time… provision, forgiveness, safe leadership, and protection from darkness. You need not be anxious about that, but you DO need to realize their availability, the faithfulness of His grace, and your need to look for and receive them.

“The Father gives all these things, does all these things, each and every day. But you can only see them, only receive them, only benefit from them, when you are ‘looking His direction’ and have your hands open or your steps ready to follow. When His children look in other directions, or order their steps apart from Him or following an unworthy lead… those blessings are missed.

“When you pray this, realize that from beginning to end you are simply stating WHAT IS THE CASE… and orienting yourself, your gaze, your steps, your will into alignment with His. That is where and how you will ever find and experience maximum blessing, joy, grace, and safety.”

“Got it! Thank you, Lord.” And we continued drinking our coffee…

 

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When Words Are Not Enough…

1 5:28  I Give Myself Away

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Heads I Win. Tails You Lose.

A confession to you from Little Monk. I seek always to honor God, but that does NOT mean that I always do so. I have failings, flaws, attitudes, adrenalin, and a healthy dose of pride as part of my make up. The Lord’s “agenda” with me is ever to keep my focus on Him, and my heart solid and humble as servant to the sacred lives with which He populates the world. The Enemy’s “counter agenda” is to get me to focus on myself, without regard for or at the expense of others.

That may seem very simple and clear, and I suppose it is, except when adrenalin and vulnerable attitudes get in the way.

But here’s something the Lord has just taught me that helps me a lot, and may be of use to you at some future time. The details don’t matter, but I was faced with two alternative courses of action, both of which were “lawful, above board, decent and orderly”. There was no question of one being “right” and the other “wrong” on their face. (That WOULD have been too simple.) The problem was, one pandered to and reinforced some “boxes” and “wrong attitudes” of others that the Lord often uses me to prompt folks to question and surrender to Him; while the other action would probably confront these boxes a bit, raising an eyebrow or two.

I knew, I could see, that my most godly course of action was the to reject the pandering and choose the second option. OK, no problem then! Ah, but here’s the rub… this course of action ALSO appealed to my pride, my own ego, and “joined in with the flow” of my natural fleshly adrenalin. I have learned to mistrust such moments. I have learned to examine “where is the humility?”, “where is the servanthood?,” of a given course of action.

If a statement or action is going to be “outrageous” or “raise eyebrows”, then is the Spirit in me making it (as Jesus often startled those who followed, watched, and heard Him as He tried to “break hearer’s boxes” of misunderstanding righteousness or the Father’s heart)? Or am I drawn to this action simply out of my impatience with the narrow-minded?

I knew, this morning, that both elements were present. So I simply stopped. I could not decide on a course of action in the place, the mindset, the state of heart, I held at that time. If I chose one, I was pandering to the wrongful hearts of others. If I chose the other, I was satisfying my own pride and ego. There was no humility or servanthood to either option in my heart at that moment. Just a sense of “resentment” on the one hand or “self-satisfaction” on the other… both attitudes quite out of order.

I opened the matter to godly accountability mentors in my life, and then sought out peers, some who have walked with me for many years and know both my strengths and weaknesses, disclosing the situation and my struggle of conscience transparently. One of them brought me to “light” and total resolution of my dilemma.

In short, I was “twisting together” TWO issues into one, and trying to judge my proper course in a contradiction. The first issue was which course of action was better for the sacred lives around me, which choice was right or wrong, and that was fairly clear and simple. The second issue was my wrongful heart about that course of action. And that was easy to deal with, just take THAT to God and repent, seeking my own growth and transformation by renewing.

Once I was repented and transformed, after SEPARATING my attitude from the context, (which was accomplished with great speed, once I saw the problem clearly), I could then embrace humility and the heart of a servant in taking the right action. That I had been “interfered with” by the injection of my own ego and pride, and thus unable to see my path clearly.

This guidance, this teaching from a brother in Christ, rang deeply in my heart and spirit as being absolutely correct. My struggle was not with choosing the right action. My struggle was with my wrongful heart and attitude ABOUT the right action. I simply needed to surrender there and let God heal my heart. And so I did.

Quite amazing really. Once that was done, I had no further “emotional attachment” to the alternatives, there was no further ego or pride involved, and the solution presented itself in total peace. God is most gracious and faithful to honor a heart of obedience.

I was just sitting, sipping some coffee of course, as I thanked and praised God for sorting this out in and for me so rapidly and neatly. And He took the moment to teach me this new little thing about “strategies of the Enemy”, especially as he tries to trip up faithful children/heirs seeking to honor God and build Kingdom. God showed me…

Heads I Win, Tails You Lose…
That given a choice between two alternatives, God always has a “preference”, one alternative will bring greater blessing, be more edifying, have greater light in a given moment, than the other. The Enemy has the counter-preference, always. Servants often learn to “resist wrong attitudes” (like pride) in making choices, as the Enemy has often mislead them this way in the past, using appetite to distract them from the will of God. HOWEVER, when one has learned to “go against” such appetites, the Enemy can simply “change strategies”… and enhance the sense of ego on a choice the we see to be “right”… and paralyze us.

When a “wrong attitude” can be wrapped around a “right choice”, then the Enemy wins. If the servant chooses the wrong alternative, fails to serve the people around him in light… the Enemy wins. If the servant chooses the right alternative, but thereby surrenders to a wrong attitude focused on the self and pride and ego, rather than focusing on God, His grace, and serving the people… the Enemy wins. It is a subtle and elegant trap.

The escape, the Key to this little puzzle, was my brother’s insight. To “unwrap” the attitude from the choice. Repent any attitude and surrender as humble servant, focus totally on God, His glory, and service to the people. THEN look at the choices and see where the light is.

My brother is brilliant… I am blessed… and God is Awesome and Faithful in His Infinite Patience with me!

Little Monk

5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2)

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2012 in Quiet Time, Uncategorized

 

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Clarification

God brings earth from nothingness, with water clay is formed…
  A potter’s wheel receives our portion, not yet living, still yielding…
    The Master’s hands impress our shape, fashioned unique in His mind.
  Into us He breathes… aware… life… self… we awaken… we begin…
Birth, in this vessel of our sacredness, our life…
  Holy Spirit anoints, surrounds, woos intimately to enter…
    We hear… we answer… we are filled… but we are clay…
      We hear more…we respond…we change… part clay… part diamond…
    Until we are no more, there is only Light…
  When we are truly transparent…
Who are we?
  Are we less?
    or
      Are we All?
 
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Posted by on April 16, 2012 in Quiet Time, Uncategorized

 

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Little Monk

I don’t know if you have ever seen my second favorite book in the whole universe, but it’s called “Tales of a Magic Monastery” by Theophane the Monk.

The book is hard to describe, filled with a number of short parables or reflections, accompanied by glorious pen and ink artwork, that just make your heart and soul sing, while you mind sometimes cramps. This book is planted deep within the soil of my heart.

While I am a staff minister with a metropolitan church, I am a fairly simple “child of God”, without a lot of political or diplomatic sophistication. To put it bluntly… people and their motives (especially regarding religion and church) often baffle me utterly. Sometimes, my elders and betters have to ‘splain things to me before I “get it”.

One day, a few months ago, this happened and I laughingly apologized to my endlessly patient friend and colleague who, once again, had to explain to me the social folkways, ins and outs, of this wondrous (but sometimes confusing) people I live with and serve.

I apologized for “being such a child”, and for them having constantly to educate me about how things really worked, and what things really meant and how to translate from the “complicated” that surrounded me, into the “simple” that I can understand and deal with.

And this friend corrected me, saying, “We really don’t see you like that you know. You have apologized before for seeming like ‘a child’, but we don’t see you that way… You’re more like this wonderful Little Monk that has come down off a mountainside somewhere to walk among us. And when things are empty, you ‘don’t get it’, and in explaining them to you we also see that they are empty, where we’ve never looked at them really before. And there’s other things that capture your attention that we never notice, and you point them out to us in wonder and worship of God. No, you’re not a child, but our Little Monk, and you bless us, but you are indeed very very strange.”

And somehow, loving the Magic Monastery as I do, the nickname “Little Monk” has stuck. I am happy with it. It is very “me”. And now much of my correspondence, my emails, little cards and such… are signed with this moniker, and it seems to “fit me well”.

So thank you, Gentle Reader, for coming to visit this little corner of the Kingdom of God. And let me welcome you, serve you, and send you love, blessings, and grace from…

Your humble servant,

Little Monk

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2012 in Quiet Time, Uncategorized

 

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It’s A Matter of Give and Take

41 Hearing this, the ten began to feel indignant with James and John. 42 Calling them to Himself, Jesus *said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. 43 But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; 44 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7 for he who has died is freed from sin.

8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, 13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! 16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. 22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I know that’s really really long. Sorry ’bout that. What I want to point out here is only a SMALL portion of this incredible rich passage, and I always struggle trying to figure out what to “edit out” of a passage, since the Word of God so richly “colors” His bold strokes with the textures and hues in among them.

This morning, over coffee, God just “lit up” this text and a very specific truth He wanted me to understand. Thought I’d get it down. There’s much much more in these verses than just this piece, but this is the one for today.

As we worked through our first cup of coffee, God started telling a story, weaving a picture of biblical times and customs. We live in a here and now world of “credit/debit cards”, and “mortgages”, and “revolving credit”, and “interest”, and “Bankruptcy Laws” that protect our person and belongings from loss if we get financially over our heads. Furthermore, businesses and farmers, who must live (for a long time) in thrall to “borrowing money to make money” have established financial institutions and protocols not only to gain “seed money” to get established, but to “spread risk” should disaster occur.

None of that was the case in biblical times. When a person of limited resources “borrowed” the means to get along, or to gamble on future growth, he took a grave risk. Either he “pledged” his valuables as collateral against the loan, or he pledged himself (and possibly his family) against default. If a debt was not paid on time and in full, the creditor had the right to claim the debtor for as long as it took to pay off the default. The debtor became the creditor’s “slave”, fully and completely, until the debt was worked off at going rates of labor.

This fairly simple economic system was securely in place for thousands of years. Our own civilization only abandoned it a couple centuries ago. Many of our original colonists arrived on our shores as Indentured Servants. (Some would argue, we’ve not abandoned it yet… however…)

Anyway, God painted this picture before me… a picture of two kingdoms, two kings. (Well, one actual “King”, and the other a self-styled pretender to the throne who simply refuses to bow to the inevitable, as he has already been defeated.) But, for the moment, both vie for the love, obedience and trust of us, God’s children. Both kingdoms are essential spirit, but both penetrate into our world as we choose and act from our allegiances. Neither king nor kingdom may be seen with the naked eye (usually), but both can clearly be felt with the naked heart.

And that, pretty much is where their similarities end. Let’s call these kingdoms, Light and Darkness, for the sake of clarity. And from that point on, everything gets simple.

Every child chooses allegiance to one kingdom or the other. Each of us come under the ownership of one king or the other. Once we align with a king, their rules apply, our accounting comes into play, and they hold sway over how we are treated and compensated for our work and time. They own us, define us, influencing all that we think, do, say, and feel. Their influence shapes our days, our feeling, our relationships, and where we fit in our world.

The kingdom of Darkness is one that claims us when we go into debt by the commission of sin. Our very natures place us in its sway from the beginning, but once we commit personal sin, we are “bought”. We belong to this master, we are members of this domain, and we are enslaved with this allegiance.

This Darkness is a kingdom of “Taking”. This domain sucks the life, the joy, the peace, the beauty and truth right out of us. Our membership presses and urges us to further and greater sin, twisting our hearts and souls into crippled forms. Each sin increases our debt and deepens our master’s claim over our lives. This takes everything imaginable from us, leaves us empty and worthless, and our payment for our services is only deadness… further loss of life until we reach the ultimate… death.

The Kingdom of Light, however, is altogether different. This is life-giving, empowering with truth, goodness, beauty, meaning, and joy. This is a Kingdom of “Giving” of “Receiving”. This is a place of healing, of self and of others. This is where the twisted becomes straight and the broken becomes whole. Here is love, light, and meaning. But the ultimate realization is… this is the Kingdom of Grace. This is available to us by free gift, and is the realm where we are set free, not by paying the debt that we owe, but by receiving the free gift of life and freedom.

For in THIS realm, the King Himself bought us out of the Dark Domain by trading His own life, redeeming… paying our debt to Darkness… using His own debt-free life to pay the ransom to allow us access to His Kingdom. Who can imagine loving that much?

How amazing…

One kingdom sucks the life from us and everything we care about. The Other Kingdom, the Real Kingdom, fills us with life to overflowing such that we can fill others, and asks nothing in return but to enjoy and reflect this very light and love.

How is it we even hesitate? How do we even ponder Darkness?

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2012 in Quiet Time, Uncategorized

 

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Little vs Small

Why is it that the older I seem to get, the larger and greater God seems to get? It’s weird. As if the bigger I get, the smaller I get. How can that be?

Reminds me of the description of “Space” in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams: “Space,” it says, “is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space, listen…” (Chapter 8)

The more I realize that, as life seems to draw me ever more frequently and deeply into orbit around the life and heart of an infinitely loving and care-taking God, the more I am struck with the parallel that “God… is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big He is. I mean, you may think that everything you can possibly imagine is big, but that’s just peanuts to God, listen…” And there we are.

That’s not the worst part, of course. If God chooses to “grow” in my experience and universe, well… that’s His choice innit? That’s fine with me. The problem is, I seem “smaller”. You see, God doesn’t only seem to be getting “bigger” in the sense of being “larger” and “occupying more space”. The older I get, He seems truly to be growing “greater”… kinder… more loving… more understanding… more patient with me and my faults.

Now, this is awkward. Why? Oh, well, because apparently I should be doing the same… and I am not sure that is the case. I took this to God this morning over coffee. (We sit down fairly early most mornings at a nice little table downstairs and have coffee together. Blinking at each other comfortably… for a while…. After the first cup is safely and successfully down We get more daring, venturing into words… tentatively. I’m just not much good before coffee.)

But the Bigger God Gets, the smaller I seem to get, and I really wasn’t comfortable with that concept. It confused me. (Even after enough coffee that I knew… for sure… I was fully conscious.) So here I was, this morning, staring at this infinite God as He just sat there sipping coffee, radiating… kindness, patience, love, and grace at me… as I worked up the courage to attempt words… articulated words… for the first time in the day.

“So, um… God… Lord? I’m noticing a thing here…”

“Umm hmmm,” He says, over the rim of His mug as He’s taking a sip…

“It seems like You, over time, are getting nicer, kinder, bigger, more patient with me. But I don’t feel like I’m keeping up. But I feel like I should be. Like I’m supposed to get nicer, kinder, more patient with others. Like that would make ME ‘bigger’, but I feel like I’m getting ‘smaller’.

“Umm hmmm,” was all He said, nodding and setting down his coffee mug.

“Well… THAT wasn’t real encouraging, Lord,” I retorted. “I was kinda looking for you to disagree there, to say something a bit consoling or praising… not just AGREE with me!”

“Oh,” He replied. “Well, good job! Good insight! You are seeing pretty clearly, and that’s a good thing!”

“Um… thanks,” I responded, still wishing He would disagree, rather than praise the truthfulness of the critique. I always hate it when I have to “fish” for “mercy-praise”. Anyway, “what should I be doing? Why do I feel like I’m getting smaller?”

“Because,” He explained patiently, “the more time you spend with Me, the better you know Me, the more clearly you understand what you ought to be, and if you don’t grow apace, you feel ‘smaller’. It’s important not to mistake the ‘small’ and the ‘little’.”

I didn’t get it. Not at all. And God could see the look of confusion on my face.

“My Kingdom is made up of My Children. All My Children are ‘little’. I do the work of the Kingdom, I bear the fruit, I carry the heaviness of any load. But I seek and enjoy the companionship and effort of My Children along the road. My ‘little’ but willing children walk alongside Me, hold My hand, provide the branches to My vine, and take on My yoke even though the burden is light because I carry the weight.

When you stay ‘little’ you stay humble, you let Me provide for you, you receive and respond to My love, and you transform to be much more like Me. Mainly, you grow in love and grace. More than anything else, your love grows, along with your patience, forbearance, and generosity.

Try that, Child… instead of growing ‘small’, grow ‘little’ instead. See how that works for you.”

“Righto, Lord. I’ll work on that. Thank you.”

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2012 in Quiet Time, Uncategorized

 

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If the Temple Were a Teahouse

Have you ever gone to a Tea Party with your child or your grandchild? Lol. Thrilling, isn’t it? Well, it may not be so for you, but it probably is for them. Children absolutely adore it when we can enter into their world, on their level, and talk to them about what is important to them. It’s not really the “words” that matter, it’s just the love. It is your attention. It’s your being there. Maybe you have a big important job, and it’s hard to make this kind of time… but try it once in a while. You’ll be amazed at what you learn, and what they learn.

I found myself thinking of this in an extraordinary way today. It was just a quiet relaxed moment of prayer in the afternoon. I found myself reflecting on the Holy Temple that we are. A Temple set aside, sanctified, purified through the sacrifice and agency of Christ. A Temple that we are “accustomed” to thinking of as housing the Holy Spirit, but that also shelters Christ in us, the Hope of glory, and as He promised, as we keep His words the Father and He make their abode with us. Our Temple provides sanctuary for God… Almighty, Triune, Omnipotent God… we walk around through our days carrying Him with us in our hearts, our spirits.

Ever have a moment where that thought just makes you stop in your tracks? Like… “deer trapped in headlights” stop? That’s what happened to me today. I started really pondering this.

I mused on the questions: “How big is God?”… “How powerful, how awesome is God?”… “How busy is God?”

Right alongside that there was, “How small am I?” “How simple? How NOT important, in the big scheme of things, am I?”

And gently… softly… quietly… but definitely… my brain went “TILT”!

It made no sense. I thought of the God that created our world… that created all life… that powers the sun… that keeps the stars in their courses… that created and orders the immeasurable cosmos… and AT EVERY MOMENT SUSTAINS EXISTENCE BY THE WORD OF HIS POWER!! I thought of all that…

And then I thought… “and HE chooses to squeeze into my little Temple, to be here, to spend eternity with me in my heart? Um… why, exactly?”

And that’s when I thought of the Tea Party. Our God is Our Father. He seeks to be with us, to care for us, to provide for us, to protect and love us infinitely, all the time, simply because this is His heart and His nature. He has arranged things in the universe so that He can dwell in us, make His abode with us, throughout or lives and beyond… simply because He loves us that much.

Great big Him… Itty bitty me…Wow! Ain’t that somethin’?

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2012 in Quiet Time, Uncategorized

 

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