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The Child at the Back…

Once upon a time, a small troop of people drudged along an uphill road, and found they’d arrived at their destination. They sought the Kingdom of God, and had reached the front gates.

Together they paused in silence, rapt in wonder, awe, worship, gratitude, and… honestly… fatigue, yet aglow with their sense of accomplishment. Most, but not all, were middle aged or older. Most were well dressed, some in ornate robes, others in business attire, some in Sunday best. There were both men and women.

An ancient man, apparently the porter, appeared outside the door and greeted the group cordially.

“Welcome to the Gates of the Kingdom of Heaven. It is wonderful to see all of you. Now, why have you come?”

At this, there was some milling about and muttering. None was quite sure what to say. Finally a man stepped forward and said, “Sir, we seek to enter. We have have traveled long hard roads, seeking to enter in to the Kingdom of God.”

The old gatekeeper nodded, “that’s marvelous. Well done. Now, good sir, why should I admit you? What is your qualification?”

The man pulled out a neat scroll and handed it forward. “I have sought this gate all my life. I have lived a righteous life, always doing right as I could. I’ve never lied or defrauded anyone. I fear God, and seek to obey His commandments with all my heart.”

The old man nodded approvingly, took the scroll, and said, “Well done, my son. You are very near indeed to the Kingdom.”

Turning to another petitioner, he asked the same questions. This man was mighty in worship leadership and had led thousands of believers in singing the praises and glory of God. He, too, was congratulated on his efforts and assured that he was very near.

The next was a woman who had spent her entire life in prayer and encouraging others to spend time with the Lord. She offered up all sufferings to the glory of God, and sought His will in all things. She had raised her children to fear and reverence God, and do what was right to honor Him. She too was congratulated, encouraged, and assured of her nearness.

This went on as one after another, everyone named their accomplishments and sacrifices in God’s name, and declared their honor and worship of Him. Each had done wonderful things, including one who had studied their whole life acquiring great academic honors and mastering all the sacred languages. He sought admittance through his efforts to teach the world of the wonders of the words of God. The last, or nearly last, conversation was with a mighty pastor who had built a magnificent cathedral, led many thousands to relationship with God, and trained many hundreds in their own lives of ministry and service. When asked why he had done all this, he said that Jesus was his Lord and his model, and he sought to live as Jesus had lived, in honor of God.

Everyone thought, “Ah, certainly THIS man… with all THAT to say…. all THAT he has done…. surely, this man, will pass through the gate.”

Yet, he received the same response, including the great approval and encouragement, from the Porter.

A quiet scuffing sound was heard from the back of the group, as a small child in quite nondescript clothing had turned around and began to shuffle back down the road away from the gate.

The Porter stepped forward, raised his cracked voice, and addressed the child. “You there!” as he stretched his arm towards the child and all the adults made way. (The wee one had been hidden at the back of the group where no one had seen.) The shuffling steps stopped, as the downcast figure slowly turned.

“Mm… me? Sir?” the child responded in a voice nearly too soft to hear.

The old man smiled warmly, “Yes, youngster. You. Why are you here?” The Porter’s eyes shone with friendly light as he encouraged the child to speak. “Don’t be afraid. Please tell me why you’ve come.”

“Well, sir. I came to find this gate, and to pass through into there, into the Kingdom.” The sibilant voice grew a bit, as the child’s eyes rose to meet his.

“Very good, little one. Why then, do you seem to want to leave before we’ve even spoken?”

The gaze and voice quickly dropped again. “Because I see now, I realize… I haven’t done any of the great things all these fine people have done. I have nothing to show you, good sir. I’m not even properly dressed, being a bit ragged and dusty like this. I have no business here. I’ll go quietly, sir.”

“Wait, little one. How did you find the path to here?”

“Oh, that. Well, sometimes, I seem to hear Jesus’ voice calling me, leading me. Sometimes I think I can see His footsteps, or I catch a glimpse of Him up ahead. I think I’ve heard Him call to me, saying ‘Follow Me’, and so, whenever I’ve thought I had the direction right, or I could see the steps, I’ve tried to follow. One day, I met up with all these people, who had maps and books and things. And together, here we are….”

“I see,” nodded the old Porter. “So you followed. Now, granted that you don’t yet have a big list of mighty deeds or works to show, tell me WHY you want to enter these doors? What do you hope to gain?”

The child was a long time before answering, but no one broke the silence. All the elders found themselves thinking about the question for themselves. What did they really seek, hoping to enter in?

Finally the child answered, “Sir, I just want to get in to find HIM. I’ve heard Him. I’ve seen Him from time to time. But I just want to find Him, grab Him, and… and… hug Him.”

At this, some of the elders repressed a snort. How silly did that sound? Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! The Great Majesty of All Creation. And here this child speaks of grabbing… and hugging…  psh.

The Porter came close up to the child, dropped to one knee so they were face to face, and nearly whispered… “And why, child… Why do you so seek to hug Him that you’ve come all this way and dare even this?”

Tears welled as their eyes met, and the child whispered simply,  “because, sir, I love Him. I don’t know very much. I haven’t done very much, certainly nothing great. I’ve just heard His voice, seen Him now and again, and I love Him. That’s why I’ve come.”

The old Porter hugged the child, as the great gate door dissolved. There, to the astonishment of all, stood Jesus Christ, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Joyfully He laughed as He dropped to one knee with His arms wide open for the child.

“Finally! You’ve arrived! I’ve been waiting. Together we will see everything. I cannot wait to show you.” Jesus had lifted the child up in His arms with a mighty heave. If a little one could fly, that’s how it seemed as together they shared a moment of sheer joy unspeakable.

Turning to the others, the Lord said, “I am so glad you are ALL here. You are so very close. You have all done so well, My good and faithful servants. As soon as you are ready, come in and join Us. You lack only one thing…” and, carrying the child in His arms, He passed through the gate back into His Kingdom.

Astonished, all the elders were left standing with the Porter, who had gently arisen and strode back to his post. Everyone was reviewing these amazing events in their mind, pondering heavy to understand.

The eldest and wisest of the lot, suddenly smiled and nodded. He exchanged glances with the Porter, who realized that understanding had dawned. Quietly he walked up to the Porter and whispered in his ear. The Porter stood aside as he passed in.

Everyone left standing there wondered what he had understood, and what he had said.

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2 Comments

Posted by on October 5, 2017 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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What is Sin… Really?

accountability pageYou see this article on “Accountability”, and read this Inventory List for Conscience. It helps you know how and when you’ve “sinned” so you can get forgiveness for it. And your heart responds that there’s value to this, it isn’t “bad”… but somehow you feel it hasn’t quite hit the mark.

USCCB You do more research, you find a Catholic treatment for the Examination of Conscience, and you look it over. Again, not that it’s “bad”, but it just doesn’t seem to scratch the itch in your spirit as you ponder the questions of living in righteousness, versus committing sin. Somehow, virtue and sin don’t seem so cumbersome, so convoluted.

You decide to teach on this topic, and so you begin…

Sin… righteousness… love… peace… one day you are sitting and pondering, studying, working on a lesson or a sermon, and you find yourself grieving, praying, seeking how effectively to communicate something you see in your heart as so simple… You lean back, your brow furrows, your eyes close for a moment…

And suddenly, you no longer seem to be at your desk… You realize that God has heard your heart and your prayers, and He is going to teach you something, show you something, to help you understand and teach…

You find yourself standing out in a large empty space, dim but not utterly dark, neutral neither warm nor cold, with just a sense of vastness, not fearful or threatening. There in the distance you see light on the horizon and you choose to walk towards it. Startled with surprise, you find that each step moves you very far, as if your will moves you forward by thought, not physics.

As you approach closer to the light that a moment before was on the horizon, you realize that you are about to look upon the Father… God… the Almighty over All. Somehow, you know you are at the very Beginning, the Before the Beginning. This, is the Void, the Formless Void, and God (in whatever form and manner you perceive Him/Her) is smiling in welcome at your arrival. Amazingly, when He smiles, He smiles all over… His eyes, His hands, His heart… all welcomes you, and you stand just steps away from Him, unsure of whether to look up or down, to bow or to stand.

He takes your hand, raises your chin, smiles, and simply says, “Behold…”

He turns towards the Void around Him, extends His arms, and the radiance from His heart moves outwards reaching to touch all around Him. You realize, you are watching Creation. As you stand there, awestruck, you know that matter and energy have come into Being.

With another sweeping gesture, His arms raise again, and with a pulsing motion forms take shape all around you, near and far. You see planets, stars, sand, rocks, the forms of grass, trees, even animals. But all seems still.

“Now watch…” He says with a smile, as He turns to you, then back to His work.

You see a richer glow begin at His heart, as it flows upwards and outwards through His arms and fingers. You know, without knowing how you know, that He has just brought forth Life… and you see all these living things now begin to move.

Then, in a way you cannot describe, you see Him touching all of this… Everything… all at the same moment, and you realize that He is loving, He is feeding, He is upholding… All that is. All that He has created. That all of this is from Him, part of Him, has come from Him and is yet Him and His.

He turns to you again, and says… “Here is the best part…”

Again He faces His creation and the glow from His heart moves out through both His hands and His lips as He sings forth music unspeakable. Now there appear… “children”… is the word that goes through your mind. You hear Him sing, “My Children”. And you see that He is singing forth everyone, everywhere, everywhen. The beauty of it all leaves you breathless.

He turns to you again, reaches forth, and puts His hand on your chest.

You are filled with warmth, as a glow lights you up and flows outwards from your heart through every part of your being. You can feel and see that this warmth, this glow, are extending themselves from your heart outwards to your hands, and upwards to your tongue and lips.

You feel moved, without knowing why, and you embrace Him… God… the Father… the Lord of All. Fear doesn’t even enter your mind, though you’d never have imagined doing such a thing before. And He returns the embrace, kisses you on the top of the head, and you are filled with a fullness of love, safety, and nurturance such as you have never known before. You realize, for the first time all the way through you, that He is truly, utterly, and only Good… and you never need doubt, never need ever but to trust Him completely forevermore.

He directs your gaze to the world we know. And He bids you observe His children, their hearts, hands, and lips.

As you look at the world, you see people. Myriads of people… good, bad, young… old… confident, frightened, hurting, healing… You see all kinds of people, doing all the kinds of things people do.

You see some people with dim hearts, laying hands on other people who glow a bit, and where they touch their hands glow as the object of their touch grows dimmer. The heart of the takers has a reddish dim glow, while children start with brilliant white and gold.

Here and there you see clusters of brilliance, often among whom are hearts that reach out with pulsing connection with this heart of God alongside you. You see that God continues to touch, to nurture, to maintain all His children, all these people. But there are vast differences among individuals how they respond to His touch.

Some people welcome, embrace, and reach towards it. Others simply receive it without response or seeming to notice Him. While still others, those with the dimmest glow, seek to avoid His touch and His love and life (for you realize these all are one in Him).

But as you watch longer, you see that everyone, even the most golden or brilliant, have moments when their hearts flash red, and they touch others with a dimming effect. And much touching seems not to have impact. And some touching, brings light to others and eases their way.

“What am I seeing, Father? (or Lord?)” you ask.

“You are seeing the answer to your questions, My child. Righteousness, sin, virtue, love, life… all of it. It is as simple as ‘relationship’… with Me, with others, with yourself. I, and Only I, give life through love. That is all I do, always. And life only comes through love. But children of free will as you are, you may choose at any given moment to GIVE life through loving another and giving from Me through your heart, your hands, your words… to love another and so give them life. Or, you may choose to TAKE life from another, deprive, neglect, injure, or wound another… diminishing their life, feeding upon them, to love yourself.

“It is quite simple, but very difficult to put in words. Nothing living stands still. Life requires consumption. I Alone am the source of life. I alone can feed you with love, life, and being. When you feed from Me, (I once expressed this as ‘eat My body’), I can fill you utterly and beyond. Water that you never thirst again, bread that you never die. To let Me fill you, and then to pass along such love, such life, such abundance to those around you through your heart… this is love, this is righteousness, this is virtue.

“But to choose instead to feed on others, to love the self at the expense of others, is to deprive them of life. This is to consume others for the sake of the self. Whether materially, or emotionally… to feed the ego by belittling others and making them smaller, is no less a taking of their life as to wound them physically. This is predation. This is vampirism. This… is sin.

“Not only is it wrong, for it takes life from another. It is also ineffective. You cannot truly live on ‘second hand life’. Only I Alone can give full life through love. To steal the life of another will never fill or sustain a person. It can barely maintain them. Eventually, such predation leaves only the empty shell of a life.

“Sin leaves you empty and hungry, no matter how much you grasp or take. Like ’empty calories’, there is no real life to it. The hunger gnaws, and will continue to do so until real life, real love, real Light is found.

“So there you are, Blessed child. To give life to others through love of them and Me, is righteousness. To take life from others for love of yourself, without Me, is sin. Any questions?”

You shake your head, a bit bewildered. This really is quite simple. He hugs you again, kisses you atop the head, and your eyes open…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

You are again seated at your desk wondering how in the world you can ever find the words to explain this.

Then you remember, Jesus said,Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated? But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.” [Matthew 15:17-20]

And you get it… everything is sacred. It is ALL held together in His hands, His heart, His love. To treat anything, especially ANYONE… as less than sacred… to fail to love anything or anyone that He died to redeem in the greatness of His love… Yeah, that’s just not OK. You get it now. Righteousness is treating sacred things that He loves as precious. Not to do so… well, yeah, that’s sin. And we do it, because sometimes we choose to… but still He breathes us, He touches us, He loves us… and thus, He lives us.

“Ain’t that somethin’?”  you ponder, silently…

 
2 Comments

Posted by on December 6, 2016 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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I Believe… I Can Fly!


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

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

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

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


What if….

What if your Father were King of the Universe?

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Can you find and release your Inner Child?

Can you believe?

Can you fly?


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

Joy and grace to you!

The Little Monk

 

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Always Safe, Never Alone!

Life can feel scary, lonely, sad, and very very empty. “Beyond here, there be Monsters”! Grief from loss, fear from a bad medical appointment, pain from a broken heart and relationship ruptured, heartache from a loved one careening towards disaster, the stress and anxiety from professional or financial reversals…

Worst of all… the teeny tiny niggling nagging fear that sometimes assails… that we dare not even ADMIT because we are… in our own eyes and those of others… people of HOPE…

The worst one… the wee small voice that comes in our darkest nights and lowest moments saying… “It’s all empty you know. You’re really just alone and floating, drifting, randomly… on the surface of time. There’s nothing and no one else, it’s all just a great cosmic joke.”

If you’ve never heard this little temptation, this voice of internal despair, with its message of either “there is no God”… or “God really despises you, you know”… then I applaud you. There’s fancy names for this… “Existential Angst”, among others…

This is very powerful in our world. In fact, this, the “deadly despair” that can arise… the call to action prompted, and the depression and suicide associated with this channel of thought, are costing countless lives both young and old.

The most frightening words we can know?

“Abandoned!”   “Betrayed”   “Unclean”   “Cast Out!”   “Unworthy”   “Alone”

These are “Killing Words”… These are “Murdering Words”…

21 “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.” [Matthew 5]

Strong words, Our Lord uses here. But I think He knew (knows) and could see the sort of harm, the damage, that happens to people when they are isolated, separated, cut off, declared “good-for-nothing” and valueless… in relationships. To be cut off in a relationship is to be wounded, to be judged, to be condemned, and to wither and shrivel.

In our own world, our own time and space, we see people choose to end life, rather than continue in such a state of shadow being. For those who base their hope, their trust, their sense of being anchored and well, in the human relationships around them, there is a danger. People can fail. People are frail and faulty, and sometimes, for whatever reason, we can cut others off… leaving them alone with their fears and concerns. Wrong? Of course! But yet so much a part of being human! So much a part… of US.


I woke this morning with David Wesley’s song in my ears and spirit. It’s not that I am particularly depressed or anxious in these days (as far as I know). Stuff happens, of course, and I have my tense moments… but nothing profound.

Nonetheless, in these times, these days… where we ask meaningful questions like, “What is Church as God envisions it?” “What is a Christian, how do I live that?” “How do we walk in the intimate Oneness of Christ, here and now… moment by moment?”

This song just rang on and on in my mind, my soul, and I realized something incredibly simple, yet absorbingly profound…

When these lyrics wash through you… Here is God’s ministry TO YOU… Here is your hope, your faith, your life, your breath! Here is the embrace… the absolutely unrelenting love, embrace, support, presence, and affirmation of God FOR you! You are Safe! You are Never Alone!

And, at the very same moment, HERE is the Gospel!

Here is OUR grace towards OTHERS! That God’s love through us, never fails, never gives up, never runs out on others. That’s more of a challenge in practice, I know. But just like Sermon on the Mount, or I Corinthians 13, that is nonetheless the Truth of how God touches others through us when we allow.

When we allow…

The answer is love. What was the question?

Enjoy the song again. Now, go love somebody!

Joy, blessing, and grace to you!

The Little Monk

 
8 Comments

Posted by on August 11, 2015 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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Whom to Love?

I woke this morning with this song, this recording, playing inside my head like an earworm.  I had to go find it when I got up, listen and let it wash over me for a while with coffee. (It’s just that kind of recording… one of those “wash over” kinds.) Acapella is a wonderful vocal form, but to realize this is a “Solo Acapella” just fills me with wonder.

Simple, isn’t it?

Simple, yet wondrous.

All I want to share this morning is one other “Simple, yet wondrous” Truth.

It’s about “loving all”. Jesus command it, yet we resist. Jesus did it, modelled it, demonstrated in His walk among multitudes, and then accomplished the greatest act of love imaginable as He redeemed the very Cosmos… All of Creation… with His death on the Cross.

Simple commands He left us with, right? Love God the Father with all we are. Love our neighbor as ourselves. (When the “clever folk” tried to debate Him on “who is neighbor”, it came down to being our own responsibility to show compassion to those in need… “who was neighbor to the injured man?” The fact that a Samaritan was, by definition of the time, a sinful, depraved, unclean, idolator and pagan… just didn’t strike Jesus as meaningful.)

Here’s this “simple wondrous” thing that has struck me… Jesus tells us to love, countless times. He never once tells us to hate anyone. Friends, enemies, allies, family, strangers, pagans… anyone… everyone… love them. Simple.

Humanity doesn’t really like to hear that, in general. We want clear identifiers, lapel pins, labels… “love her, hate him”… “love them, hate these”… all according to our tribes and divisions and classes and colors and languages and cultures and how we perceive and respond to God.

Do you imagine we often make Him weep?

“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.” [Luke 6:25]

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; Though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” [Romans 5:6-8]


I close with just this thought today.

Look at what the Apostle Paul wrote right there. Recall that in his own mind, his own memory, when he says “ungodly”, or “while we were yet sinners”, he speaks from his own earlier career of persecuting Jesus and killing His followers.

It’s all a matter of the “sequence” you see. GOD loves the “enemies” FIRST. (In fact, WE were “enemies”.. “ungodly”… use whatever label we choose.) Grace, love, relationship, the voice of Jesus the Shepherd somehow reached through our own darkness and shadow to melt our hearts and open the eyes of our heart with His love and embrace.

I, for one, am rescued by Grace alone, despite my own worst efforts. Jesus says that I have been given Life through Love by the boundless Grace of God. And, as His child, He wants me to do the same… just love… embrace… don’t judge, don’t sort, don’t label, don’t “fix”… just love. When I do that, He assures that He will take care of the rest.


The Father loves Children. That’s what He is, that’s what He does. He loves First and Best.

He sent His Son to seek and to save that which was lost.


Have a wonderful day, Beloved Brother/Sister! Go love somebody, and let the Joy touch and wash over you!

Blessings and grace to thee!

The Little Monk

 

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Antigravity and Joy

earth beautiful 2Ever felt joy-less, depressed, overwhelmed, stressed out? (I think “Compassion Fatigue” is the new phrase.) Me too. Here’s how God unexpectedly dealt with all that, one dark night.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This is a “non-sequitur” post, not specifically dealing with Spiritual Warfare, or Authority, and yet… somehow connected with those topics as I have been considering them. I have other things going on a bit, in terms of teaching or counseling, and a little bit ago I went through a bit of a personal “rough patch”. In fact, it was quite rough indeed. I don’t often share of my own frailties or struggles, except in terms of anecdotes or illustrations more or less long after the fact.

But I do have a few… accountability partners, close friends, brethren… call them what you will… close “family members” in this Kingdom Family with whom I am willing to be utterly transparent… generally because they’ve known me for so long, and seen all my warts and blemishes so clearly, that my own failures and slippages cannot possibly cause them shock or offense. I can also be so boldly honest because even when God grants some ridiculously undeserved grace to this pitiful servant, they know me far too well to mistake this for “merit” on my part.

This post is an email I sent to one of these “transparency brethren”. I shared this content with another one, and his response was, “Why don’t you put this up as a post on your blog?” I had a lot of excuses, but in the intervening days I’ve realized they were just that. So, in case you will be scandalized to know that I too can hit deep depths of “shadow attitudes” when my heart and emotions aren’t squared away with the Lord… don’t read any further. If God extending an utter miracle of grace, love and mercy to such a servant as I, tempts you to think (even in your wildest flight of imagination) that I am any more “worthy” than any other sinner-saved-by-grace on Earth… don’t read any further. There is nothing about me that “merits” the kindnesses of God that I experience. And there are none available to me, that are not showered upon every child He has.

But having said all that, and from the safety of my anonymity here on this site… I will open this to you, in a spirit of utter encouragement, worship, wonder, and gratitude that we share such a Father, Savior, and Spirit… who abound with such love and constant care.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Antigravity and Joy

Hey there, [Pastor “X”[.

Happy Anniversary, Happy Birthday, Happy Summer, Happy VBS & Summer Camps and all the other cool stuff you’ve been into since last I darkened your doorway!

I have a profound “interior urging” to write you today about this… which I neither understand (apparently it’s not my business), nor for which will I apologize. If these words make sense to you, accept them with my blessings. If this makes no sense at all, well, just cast them aside… with my equal blessings.

I’m going to cut through all the “backstory”, (to which you are more than welcome, let me know if you want the context)... and start this in the middle.

10 days ago, I was in deep spiritual trouble… actually, I was rather drowning in “muck”… (you know the kind… we normally flush it). Too many days, too many people, too many surprises, too many disappointments… too many shadows and shadow creatures… and I had apparently picked up an “infection”. I was sick, heart sick, soul sick. Saying things like… “What’s the point? I’ve had enough of this. This isn’t worth it, Lord.” and THINKING, though not quite saying, “I’m done. Put a fork in me. I give up, I can’t do this anymore… Gonna do something different now.”

The amazing thing was that even in the worst of it, I could see “two me’s” in that “Pauline Schizophrenia” sense… (“the good that I would do… the evil that I would not do”)… Almost like an out-of-body (or out-of-soul) experience… I could see my “wrong self” (this one… this depressed… discouraged… give it all up… self)… at the very same time as I could see my “right self” standing in Jesus as He seemingly shrugged in confusion at my despondency, saying, “We don’t do what we do for ‘payoff’, what’s the problem? What’s any of that to Me and to you, Little Monk? We do what we do because it is what we do… because it is His will, His words, His works, not because we depend on people listening. We speak the words, and let His words work… some will hear, some will not, that’s not up to us.”

I KNEW that. I had conviction on that. I had scripture on that. My WILL was conformed to that. But my heart… my heart was sinking, I felt I was sinking in this sea of “muck” and I would soon drown. All I could do was resist, continue to tread water and hold on, and endure. But all that with the dwindling strength and resolve that heralds eventual inevitable defeat.

I prayed, studied, sang, pondered, read… all of that… seeking relief. None came. I knew I was in a bad place, a dark place, I rebuked… repented… sought Him… (though He never left, and I could feel/know that)… all of that. I expected Jesus (in His own good time) to “set me straight”. I had the sense of being “unclean”, of holding myself in a place and a mindset that was out of order, of entertaining and tolerating the company of shadow spirits with whom I had no business. Yet, try as I might, I could not rid myself of this.

Why am I telling you all of this? Just so that you embrace the absolute wonder, with which God dealt with the moment, and how utterly “counter-intuitive” it all seems to my “theological/religious” mind. I was, in those evenings… Jonah… with the singular exception of my “will”. My mood, psychology, sense of hope… all that… right there with Jonah… pitiful. The only difference, I sought that my will disappear into His will, regardless how ignoble my vessel at the moment.

At the very nadir of this “pathetic-ness” I was drained, exhausted, anxious… and yet unable to sleep well. Nonetheless, exhaustion took me in the early hours…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

And then God took me…

The modality of my subjective prayer experience is not important, so I’ll not waste the words trying to describe the ineffable symbologies with which He communes in my own consciousness. (I’m happy to share that, if you have interest… but I find everyone’s experiences of this kind are unique and different.)

But the Father took me. (Unusual, that).

He was utterly Light, Clean, Him… and He grasped me without hesitation. (Unexpected, that.)

He had lifted me onto His hand in my mucky, stinky, filthy, exhausted, depressed state without hesitation, and drew me into the Wonder of His Heart. (Inexpressible, that.)

I lay there, too weighed down and exhausted to move, almost panting for breath through the stench in which I was drowning, and as He drew us into His heart… ALL THAT was instantly and marvelously gone. I felt as if I had been being “Pressed”… an archaic form of capital punishment by adding one stone at a time on a board on one’s body, until the ribs are crushed by the weight and breathing is no longer possible… But then suddenly, in the blink of His eye, not only was all the weight gone, but He’d breathed helium into me instead. Instead of heaviness, there was affirmative lightness.

I was revived. I was hale, whole, strong. I stood up. It was wondrous.

A thought came to me… “Duty”, and I knew a twinge of sadness, knowing I needed to return. I had an important appointment coming.

He spoke, “No. Not yet. Tarry with Me a while.”

Delightedly I obeyed.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The next now, I will only summarize, without any of the imagery or symbology of the experience… but…

I had a sense of wonder, as I knew I had entered here… “out of order”. I had been in a wrong place, wrong spirit, wrong attitude… and I am accustomed to “correction” in such times, “teaching” of where I was wrong, and reinforcement of what was right.

As this thought flashed across my mind… as I was simply experiencing waves of “Joy” pouring off from Him, out from Him, I felt a bit “guilty” about that. “Ashamed”, or “unworthy”… my faith, my resolution, my grace had been eroded to paper thin-ness when He grasped me.

His response? Just one word… “Irrelevant”

WHAT?

And He just continued to fill me with “Joy”.

Um… [Pastor “X”]? Stop just one moment and find the greatest joy in your heart. Maybe moments with [your spouse], or playing with your kids, or when you first held them… Maybe a moment with Jesus… or… All of that put together. Capture in your mind/memory that incredible rush of supernatural joy that just makes us laugh and cry at the same time, when we simply need to shout out, or maybe (if we’re not TOO Baptist… even… “dance” for a moment). Now just ramp all that up to the absolute red-line of the meter, and beyond…

And you have a sense of what those next seconds-minutes-hours (who knows) were like, as He held me in His heart. “Ecstasy” is a fancy theology word I’ve never been real happy with, but sometimes (like now), it actually fits.

Jesus came, and joined in. The Holy Spirit came, and joined in. And we all “rejoiced”… sang, danced, played, flew, um… nvm…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Now here’s why I’m writing this… actually I’ll paste in this last section from my notes on this event…

But then, it wound down in “activity”, though not at all in “mood”. There we all were, the Four of us… as if sitting on a picnic blanket in sheer contentment on a warm Spring day. And yet… this was the midst of the Father’s heart, and the monk could look outwards and see with His eyes of sheer love.

Again… the word came… “Duty”… and the monk knew they had to return. But didn’t want  to… and yet did want to, if that was their duty. Yet even that thought didn’t bring sadness. It was as if the joy were a furnace of its own. There was the awareness that the monk didn’t want to go back, but there was no feeling of revulsion or resistance about it.

The Father spoke again… “It is time to return. You must go back.”

Little Monk said, “I know. And I shall, though You know I would rather stay.”

“I know, but it is not yet time. You can come, whenever you choose. But understand… THIS is REAL! THIS is what it is to be here, to be with ME, to let Me be Me in you. THIS is what I have ever intended for Life to be! No guilt. No grief. No darkness. No despair. None of that. All that is shadow-stuff… optical illusion generated by embracing the lies of those who want you separate from Me.

“I need you to go back, because I need you to keep telling them, keep showing them, keep loving them, that THIS is Me! They see it in you, at least some do. I need you to bring more Here… that I may play with them, sing to them, dance with them, and hug away their fears and shames. You will keep this Joy… it will protect you. And you need to share it there, with those who cannot see or feel it. When they are ready… bring them Here. Bring as many Here as you can, as soon as they are willing to trust that I desire only their Live, Wholeness, Good…

“You must go back, for so few know Me as “He who brings Life through Love”… so many fear Me instead… My Son will help. Our Spirit will reach through you… We need you to go back, Little Monk… though it will not be forever. And you can come here, rest, dance, renew, sing… whenever you need. I can protect you this way now. You have discovered this part of My Name… Joy.”

“Yes, Father.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

And this has changed me a great deal.

What if the Father’s Name could be expressed, “Joy Who Gives Life Through Love”?

What if “in Jesus’ Name” wasn’t the “abracadabra” added on to the “white magic spells” of prayer according to the “white magic grimoire” of the Holy Bible… but rather what if Jesus’ Name were “God With Us” — the perfect reflection of God the Father, as Word Made Flesh and so able to enter in to our own spatio-temporal dimension?

What if the “Beatitudes” as expressed in Sermon on the Mount were better translated “Joyful are the poor… Joyful the meek…” etc.

What if Jesus intended the Church to be His Bride? And reasonably expected that that would fill us with Joy, not Dread?

If so, why are so many churches and churchmen filled with fear, and guilt, and shame, and dread? Why do so many spend so much time finger-pointing and accusing… when Accuser is the name of God’s enemy, not His Bride?

What if χαρά (chara) (as in “joy of your master” Matt 25:21) were inextricably linked with χάρις (charis) (as in “grace upon grace” Jn 1:16)? (oops… they ARE… we’re just not at all comfortable with that in English theology.)

What if “grace” and “gift” and “spiritual gifts” and all that… were ongoing expressions of the Father’s very PULSE as “Joy”… and humanity (and religion) simply shrink from the possibility?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

All these things have flowed through me for the past 10 days.

Don’t read me as denigrating or belittling speaking truth with grace, or conviction, or repentance, or regeneration. I think from “our side of the veil”, subject to the distortions and “glass darkly” of “original sin” and our subjectivity to temptation, error, and illusion… yes, those are all necessary tools.

BUT… I am now equally convicted and convinced, that those are tools and vehicles meant truly to get us “elsewhere”… that we come to KNOW Him in His preferred name… as Joy, and God of Hope.

There are few with whom I can share so “irreverent” a thought without causing offense. I trust I have not offended… I pray so. But I know you know this God, this God of Joy… for the very first time I ever heard you preach I was utterly stunned by a single line you intoned. You said,

“We don’t seek the Kingdom of God because it’s our duty. We seek the Kingdom because it is our JOY!”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So, receive this email as encouragement, as a prayer request, as a praise of Him, as a testimony of sheer wonder…

But above all, THANK YOU for persisting in “lifting Him up that He may draw all men to Him”… and pointing consistently at the Joy of this Family and Kingdom, rather than threatening with the fear, guilt, and accusation of threats for ticking Him off.

Here’s what’s becoming one of my favorite verses:

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

Blessings and grace to you and all yours!!

The Little Monk

 
19 Comments

Posted by on June 26, 2015 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds

 

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In Memoriam: Light from Darkness

Robin WilliamsI am not a big fan of “Bandwagons”. I’ve never really liked them, never followed them, seldom jumped on them.

The tragic death of Robin Williams this week is definitely the hot topic of conversation for many, and I don’t doubt that his name will find its way into many pulpits and sermons come Sunday.

I really had to think long and hard about this post before deciding to type. I’ve been deeply affected by this death. I saw Paulfg’s post this morning about the nature of being a “public figure” and how we… the “public”… tend to encroach on the private grief of family and friends who truly knew a celebrity who has passed away. There is a truth to that, yes.

On the other hand, “celebrities” (whatever that means), who earn their livings by moving us to identify with them, laugh with them, listen to them, cry with them, or otherwise enter in to an emotional (and therefore somewhat “intimate”) relationship with them… especially when they employ OTHERS (PR professionals and such) to bind together our lives and interests with those of their client… well, such people DO enter in to some form of “relationship” with us. Not that that relationship should give us access and entree to the private, family, personal environments of their lives and mourners, but it certainly explains (perhaps legitimizes) the true and heartfelt grief we feel at their passing.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So, ever so briefly, I want to address the loss of Robin Williams, and the grief I feel at his passing…

But right here, right now, and as I hope his name will be mentioned among Christians, I choose to focus not on “death”, but on “Life”. There’s a ton of reporting, and speculation, and discussion surrounding the mode and manner of Mr. Williams’ death. which the sheriff’s department released as being caused by “asphyxia due to hanging”. I leave all that to others, as millions of words are being generated as we speak regarding depression, substance abuse, emotional distress, copy cat concerns, and social media.

Suicide is an ugly word. It is seldom heard in Church. It is seldom discussed by “good Christian folk”. It epitomizes “darkness” and somehow seems to negate the very Gospel and mission of Christ.

“I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” [John 10:9-11]

I have no idea what was going on in Mr. Williams’ life, what was in his mind, what was in his heart, in his last days, hours, or moments on earth. It would be the height of presumption for me to address that. But I am deeply and passionately involved in ministry to others who struggle with the decision to end their lives, and with families and friends who seek to recover from the grief of such a loss. I speak, teach, counsel, belong to committees and organizations, aid survivor efforts… all of that. For more than 20 years, in God’s infinite wisdom, He has involved me with churches and people touched by suicide loss.

I want to take this moment to grasp and bring “Light” out of this Dark Moment.

Normal people, ordinary people, non-professional people, are being touched every day by friends and family recovering from a loss to suicide. You may have heard me mention before that in this county, suicide is the leading cause of death for young people between 10 and 25 years of age… and is staggering in its prevalence across many age groups. Suicide is the 7th leading cause of death overall in this country, last I looked.

There’s no “Jerry’s Kids” here. But there should be!

Normal people, normal families, normal churches, can have a positive impact in bringing life to people who struggle with that decision. There is community based training available for non-professionals that can take as little as 90 minutes. I am such a trainer, and I’ll make it public right here… I will come to any church or group that wants to bring me… to train folks in suicide prevention!

Two things I hope get discussed with Robin Williams this week:

(1) Hopelessness… the sense that “this pain” will never end, there is no relief for this… is a hallmark of the decision to end one’s life. A friend of mine observed this morning, as we discussed this, that Victor Frankl had this right… that people are capable of enduring unimaginable pain, as long as they cling to hope. The sense of hopelessness is perhaps the most oft-observed characteristic of the decision to end one’s own life.

Our BUSINESS!!! as the Bride of Christ… as an Holy and Royal Priesthood… is to communicate, affirm, and embrace people with HOPE! “Christ in you, the hope of glory”…. to Love one another, as He loves us… Life, and that more abundantly… these ARE the Gospel!

And I encourage EVERY Minister… clergy or lay… preacher/teacher or otherwise… boldly to proclaim that Life is filled with Hope… and Hope is central to Life Himself!

(2) To be Alone, Abandoned, Isolated… Some people have described it almost like a sort of numbness, like being emotionally wrapped in cotton wool… unable to feel others. There is the creeping conviction that the person is quite alone and isolated in their pain, and that no one else is touching them.

My friend noted a wonderful observation made in some posts he was reading on this today, from people who suffer from depression at times… who said these wonderful words (we both agreed).

Advice from a depressed person: “Please don’t try to ‘fix’ me, lecture me, or ‘cheer me up’. Just BE WITH me”

How wondrous and profound those words! For those of us who do shut in, or nursing home, or hospital ministry at times… how well we know that often our most powerful ministry — perhaps often our ONLY MEANINGFUL ministry — is simply the “Ministry of Presence”. There are times that no words are “right”. Simply to BE, to be in the presence of another, to be in the presence of their pain, and offer the tacit service of bearing part of it… yes, sometimes this is the most valuable thing one can do.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

We all know people, know stories, know churches… that have encountered the challenge of suicide recovery in the past few weeks, months, or years.

I encourage discussion on this. I encourage training on this… (QPR or ASIST are great programs readily available).

I encourage “judgment free” embrace of families grieving in recovery. (One great tragedy of the social stigma still associated with suicide is that churchgoing families who suffer such a loss, often feel so embarrassed and awkward that they cease fellowship. More tragic, their church family, often not knowing what to say or how to help, just watch them slip away to the margins of church life, then beyond… without embracing and accompanying them on their road of grief.)

And, naive and simplistic as this may sound… please pray as you feel led. For those in pain, for their families, for recovering families, and for those who help.

What to pray? Whatever your spirit leads… but for me, beyond all else… Light… that Light and Hope shine out and break through in dark and shadowy places where no one but God and grace can reach. Dying can be a very lonely business. Light and hope are wondrous things!

Grace to you — The Little Monk

 
11 Comments

Posted by on August 14, 2014 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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