RSS

Tag Archives: life

Ain’t That Somethin’?!

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…

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 22, 2015 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Can You Hear the Bacon Sizzle?

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

It’s creepy.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Only one thing…

Only one way…

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

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

Simply to “Hush”… and “Be”…

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

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


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

Wait… listen… trust… do you hear it?

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

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

 

 
3 Comments

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

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Spiritual Warfare: Non-Linear Authority

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

Have a Look at:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Joy, blessings, and grace to all!

The Little Monk

 
4 Comments

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

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Splinters to Petals

elk againOnce upon a time, I had a house in the Pacific Northwest (U.S.) with some acreage in front, and a half mile driveway. The house was just a little ways uphill from a river, a lovely… mountain… river. You know the kind, made of melted glacier water that never rises much above 2 degrees above freezing? (My daughter “taught our dog to swim” there. How? By standing on the bank and throwing her in… repeatedly. Daughter claims dog loved it. Dog never said a thing about it… Daughter only told me years later. But anyway…)

So… every winter, I had “Elk”. (Sounds like some sort of rash, put that way, dunnit?) This is to say that a herd of about 60 elk would meander up and down the river, across my patch, every three days or so all winter long. That sounds lovely, until you are trying to drive your car up your driveway at 10 p.m. after a 16-or-so-hour workday, and you have to stop, flash your lights, honk your horn, and try to motivate sleepy, settled in, supine elk off the gravel onto the verge… hoping the bulls surrounding the cows surrounding the calves don’t label you a “threat” and charge your car and tyres with their antlers… their nasty, pointy, antlers.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So… OK, Little Monk, does this have anything AT ALL to do with anything we normally talk about?

Sorry, going on…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Well, one spring, my family planted a series of rose bushes along the driveway verge up where the house and drive roundabout led onto the gravel stretch to the road. Little bushes (18 to 24 inches high)… we read the instructions… we dug holes 24 or so inches deep. We had the potting soil, the root-nutrient-stuff, the rose-nutrient-stuff, the water hose… We had EVERYTHING to plant whizz bang rose bushes, in order to yield a bumper crop of whizz bang roses.

And we had FRIENDS. My daughter had invited some of her school chums to come over that day to “dig holes” and roast weiners in the back yard, play music I didn’t get, and generally enjoy the day, the yard (garden), the river, and the expert-swimming dog. It was a fun day. And there was a funny moment in it…

One of her friends had been permitted, after much begging, to dig the hole for the last rose bush at the end of the line. (And she really DID beg, I’m not kidding.) We looked up to check on her progress, and gasped to find her waist deep in a pit she had obviously mistaken for the beginnings of either a gold mine or a Journey to the Center of the Earth. In the short time she had been left unattended, my daughter’s friend had dug this “rose bush hole” deeper than 3 feet and easily 24 inches around. We stopped her, lifted her out of her pit, and asked (laughingly) what she was doing?

She responded that she just loved to dig holes, that she’d begged because she wasn’t allowed to dig holes at her own home, and that she wasn’t allowed because her parents didn’t like the holes she dug since they were too big and too deep. (Ah! The tale emerges…)

So… we thanked her for all her efforts, told her we were just digging the hole to loosen the soil for the rose’s roots, we weren’t planning to bury it… and now we needed to fill most of it back up. Anyway, all the bushes got planted, but I worried that this one on the end… the one with the hole twice as deep as it should have been… would be at some disadvantage compared to the others… the “properly done” others. But, time would tell…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Well, time DID tell, as that end bush went absolute hog wild. It grew 2 or 3 times faster than any other bush. It yielded easily 3 times as many roses. The rose border were “creeping” variety, that I intended to support into a living rose “fence”, and this bush was simply astonishing in its growth and beauty. Wonderful!

Now, come winter, rose bushes are supposed to be “pruned”. Purists will tell you to cut them back to the main stalk and stem… remove all the little dependent tributaries and leave just the central stalk.

Well, that always seemed “cruel” to me, so I wouldn’t do it. I would nip off the small, weak twiglets… but I left a rather “bushlike” semblance of the plant to stand through the winter. Each spring I got a very adequate growth of roses, though my “wildly ambitious” bush at the front managed to settle down across the years to a more reasonable yield.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

But then, came the elk…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

One year, we had a very hard winter. Lots of snow, lots of ice, lots of frozen… not much greenery. Fall had ended early, spring began late, and wildlife had to hustle to make it through. That winter we saw more cougar tracks across the yard than usual, and we kept the dog in more than we normally did. The elk were with us more frequently than usual that winter… like every other day, rather than every 3 days.

And then it happened! (*insert dramatic organ chord here*)…

I drove in one evening, and my headlights flashed through the place my special rosebush should have been… and it WASN’T THERE! I stopped the car, right there in the cold, and the snow, and the elk… and everything! I was angry! My BUSH was GONE!

I had grabbed my flashlight (you always carry a flashlight, in fact a spotlight, in your car when you have to navigate elk herds on a regular basis in the nighttime) (betcha didn’t know that, didja? See what tidbits you can pick up here?) Anyway, I could see masses of hoofprints all over the snow here, and they led up along to the rose bushes… closer to the house than the elk had ever come before… and they had EATEN my ROSES! All that remained were some pitiful little gnawed, splintered, stubs… poking up out of the snow!

I was FURIOUS! My ROSES! Those mangy, hairy, overgrown antlered beasts had assaulted my ROSES! (It had been a long day, folks.) Anyway, I went on inside, cursing elk from now til kingdom come, and grieving my ex-rosebushes. Winter eventually gave way to spring.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

That spring, planning and budgeting to replace these rose-corpses, rather than expand the line of border, the most astonishing thing happened…

They resurrected. That is to say, they grew. But they not only grew, they GREW! They Exploded! The gnawed, splintered little stubs burst forth with new growth the like of which I had never imagined! As if struck by some alien life-ray, they burst forth sooner, stronger, more fruitful, more beautiful, than they had ever been or I had ever dreamed possible…

Over time, I realized… “pruning”. The Elk had “pruned” the rose bushes. They had done what I, in my misplaced compassion and personal judgment, could not. They severely cut back all the dead and unnecessary wastage on these plants, leaving them only with their vibrant central heart… and when the time and conditions were right… life burst forth in beautiful expression.

I forgave the Elk. I thanked the Elk.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Today, Paulfg posted “Your relationship with me,” and discusses “pruning” as he looked at John 15:1-8.

‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. John 15:1-8

It made me think of my elk and my roses.

And “become my disciples” made me think of…

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” [John 13:34-35]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

My rose bushes flourished because they were “pruned”. They “gave themselves away” to “feed the elk”. I’m not saying the roses MEANT to do that… but it’s just what happened. The elk ATE, CONSUMED the rose creatures, and so the rose creatures flourished.

Jesus says we are to “love” without recompense. We are to love as HE loves, without regard for whether He, or we, get love back in return. We are to give ourselves away. Unless we eat His body and drink His blood… We are to offer our bodies a living and holy sacrifice…

Here’s a great, and yet tremendously joyful, mystery, Gentle Reader.

We bear the more fruit, the more richly we are given away. The Father becomes the more Radiant as we bear the more fruit, as we benefit from the explosion of Life within us, Him within us… as we give ourselves away and become the more disciple, We show ourselves to be disciples, we are recognized (by others) to be disciples, by the quantity and quality of our love, as we love others.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Bah! Sometimes words so seem to get in my way… But it’s all “connections”, it’s all “relationship”, it’s all “Love”.

The more of Him we “give away” to others (the more light we “refract”)… the stronger our connection with Him becomes. The more secure and solid it becomes. Because the “mystery” part is that, like electricity, the “power” can only exist “in motion”, not in a static state.

Even elk and bushes, on some creation-fundamental level, realize this.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

God doesn’t “prune” because He’s “mean”, or because “it will hurt”, or even to cut away the useless and dead. God “prunes” only when He MUST, to stimulate growth. When we willingly “give ourselves away”… when we love freely… when we embrace one another… when we “do the works of the Father” and work His will… just loving and encouraging one another without malice, selfishness, judgment, arrogance… then we lose ourselves and our egos in Him and in one another, and there’s little left for Him to cut away.

It’s just all so wondrous! He is ever about revealing Himself in what I suspect is His Favorite Name… Even elk and bushes get it… Our Father, the Giver of Life through Love! His favorite thing…

 
 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Discipleship & Spiritual Direction: A Fable

MoonlightOnce upon a time, I was not yet “Little Monk”… I was simply “Little”. I first awoke in darkness and I was afraid. I don’t know why I was afraid… I just was. And in my fear I would not, could not, move. I just lay there, still, eyes closed… quiet.

But then I heard voices around me, friendly voices, peaceful voices, comforting and loving voices…

They said, “Little, do not be afraid. Here, take our hands, stand, rise up and walk…” And so I did…

After a while, I felt around at things, learned that these voices (I learned to call them “friends”) meant me no harm. They meant me only good. I learned I could trust them, that they would not hurt me. I explored everything around me, by hearing and touch.

But then one day, my friends said, “Little, open your eyes. Look around. Discover your life, your world.”

Again, I was afraid. This would be very daring, very different. I feared hurt. I feared… I don’t even know what, I just feared.

But my friends said, “We will be with you. You will come to no harm. Trust us.”

So… timidly… fearfully… I opened my eyes…

And I could SEE! O… My… what Wonders! Imagine, blind since birth, and now I could SEE!

It was nighttime, but yet the stars! The stars were SO Beautiful. They gave forth Light! Who could imagine this?

I could see my home, our hillside, this monastery I was sheltered in. I could see… I could see FACES! I could SEE my FRIENDS! They smiled at me… they embraced me with joy! They… they LOVED me… and now I could SEE that! What wonder! I learned more that I could trust to the voices of my friends. I came to see them as my “brethren”.

But THEN… (you may not believe this)… but THEN the MOON came out! The Light of It! No words… My joy overcame me. I could see for MILES! I could see beyond our hill, across plains and valleys, and just barely make out OTHER hills, and perhaps even something beyond that! I gasped with the sheer overpowering wonder and joy of it all.

I began to laugh and to dance and to cry all at the same time. I grabbed onto my brethren and dragged them out to the clear hillside to share in the wonder of the vista and view. You, Gentle Reader, would have thought me mad to see this, but it is just a leaping of heart I cannot describe.

My brethren laughed with me, danced with me, wept with me… sharing my joy and my wonder. It was an amazing time. A time I yet enter into now and again… for time is very “wibbley wobbley” on the hillside of my monastery.

But as I caught my breath, panting in joyful recovery, my brethren said, “You are no longer just ‘Little’. Welcome among us, now ‘Little Monk.'”

And I understood… it wasn’t a matter of where I was from, or what I had learned, or what I did. It was simply a matter of what I could see and understand. And one other thing…

I was no longer afraid. Not of anything. I could SEE, and my brethren embraced me and I them. Oh, pain may come or go, I could bark my shins or fall or anything… but I could TRUST… and that meant everything was, and would be, all right. I had nothing left to fear, for I could SEE! Even in this ever night, illumined by nothing but moon and stars… I could SEE and I could trust.

And then… one incredible day… the brethren came to me and said, “Little Monk, we want to show you something you’ve not yet seen, and it will amaze and delight you.” They reached out their hands to me, and trusting them utterly, I followed their lead.

They walked eastwards, and pointed at the farthest ridge of mountains there…

O, Gentle Reader… there was a Glow there! It was the most incredible thing… totally indescribable. I have lived this entire life in the blue and purple hues of moonlight and starlight, and that has been wondrous. But there… there to the East… there was the coming of Dawn.

New colors, new radiance, a promise of brilliance so far beyond my imaginings as a mountain is to a grain of sand. O… My… Word. I looked about us, and found that many monks, many brethren, just sat on this western hillside gazing in love at that growing glow. For a quite long time, I did so myself…

~ ~ ~ ~  ~

We now go on about our affairs, take care of one another and others in the love of this twilight of stars and moon. We dance, we sing, we embrace, we eat and feed others, and we love in trust and without fear. This is a wondrous and wonderful life.

But deep within, at least, my own heart… I gaze eastward. I see that growing glow of the coming Dawn. I can nearly feel its warmth and can only imagine its brilliance. I know, I absolutely KNOW, that when Dawn comes… when the Sun (as the brethren have spoken of) breaks above the horizon… that it will be more marvelous than I can possibly imagine or speak of.

And within me, I wonder as I look about this life… Once the Sun rises in Dawn… When the promise of that Light and Radiance touches me… WHAT will I be able to SEE then?

We all wait together, embraced and anticipating with breathless love and trust…

No words…

 
3 Comments

Posted by on April 23, 2015 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Beyond the Pain…

depression“Are you saying you want to kill yourself today?”

“Well, I wouldn’t have put it that way, but… yes.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I have a friend, a brother deep in my heart who, in this year 2015 has endured devastating losses. Relationships… career… finances… physical health… professional esteem… sense of personal esteem… All that — devastating.

This is not to say that he has not participated in, made decisions that have led to, much of this loss. (Some would say “all” of it, but perhaps it is more fair to say “most”.) Some people, both in general and regarding him specifically, respond with, “Well… he’s made his bed…” or its more “Christian” counterpart, “Well… he’s sinned, so if/when he repents…”

News Flash: My friend, my brother, is a “sinner”.

Stop the Presses: So am I.

Random Conjecture: So is every reader here.

So… chalking suffering and pain up to the presence of “sin”, may be “theologically accurate”, but I’ve never found it particularly “helpful”. That is not what this discussion is about. The questions I find most meaningful in these days are no longer questions of “What?” or even of “Why?”… but rather, the question of “How?” In the midst of devastating, breathtaking pain, How do we go on? How do we “live”, when even breathing hurts? How?

This post is not being written to evoke darkness, despair, hopelessness or depression. (In fact, this isn’t even a technical consideration, or intended to have a primary focus on, depression. If pieces of this discussion address some of that, good. But that’s really not what this is about.) This post is being written to communicate the precise OPPOSITE… I seek to proclaim Hope, Purpose, Life, and Light. But here we are, right here, right now, in the trenches… in the nitty-gritty of darkness… WAY past the place of “preaching” or “platitudes”. These hurts, these fears, this despair can run so dark, so deep, so bloody… that “quoting verses” doesn’t even scratch the surface.

Seldom… thanks be to God it is ever so seldom… am I in a moment where reflecting this depth of darkness is appropriate in this place, this blog, before you, Gentle Reader. But this is one of those moments, and I am irresistibly moved to repeat to you what I’ve just shared with that brother on the phone in a second call this day.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Context:

First, I will not share the sequence of events, decisions, or circumstances that have brought my brother to despair of life and its meaning. That would not be appropriate professionally, spiritually, or relationally both with God and with him. You do not need that information to hear truth in these words. Just imagine that you have lost your connection with everything in your life on earth that you hold dear, and you can find common ground with the heart of my friend/brother.

Second (last): “There but for the Grace of God…” Believe me when I say, *I* am by no means “superior” to this friend/brother in any dimension of Christianity. He is as “called and gifted” as I, most would say more so. He is as “highly trained and educated” as I, in fact… demonstrably more so. (I have one doctorate, he has two.) He is as “experienced in ministry” as I, as many years of service. He has counseled as many in pastoral counseling as I, perhaps more. He has as much “denominational stature” as I, in fact… demonstrably more. Believe me when I say to you, set the two of us side by side in columns on paper… pick ANY criterion of “evaluation and job performance” you choose… in ANY regard (Christian, community, professional, pastoral, financial, you name it…) and you’ll grade him as “superior” to me EVERY time. That’s just the truth.

And those are the only critical information you need to hear the truth I seek to speak in this post. There is not an ounce of “superiority” or finger-pointing in me towards this friend/brother… he is “better than I” in every measure for what we have dedicated our lives to, and I accept that as true, so you can as well. I am painfully aware that “there but for the grace of God go I” as I walk with him, and I walk in the holy “fear and trembling” of deep humility as I speak with him.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Here’s What I Have Come to Say:

My friend/brother has experienced devastating, catastrophic, losses in every arena of his life this year. He spent considerable time, energy, and resources initially in denial of these losses, and then in trying to combat them and recover lost resource. Now, only now, is his grief reaching “acceptance”, and in that acceptance he is finding is pain so great and his life so empty… that he is considering relieving his pain by ending his life.

This is the call I got first thing this morning, that my friend/brother had come to this point in his walk, in his life. This was the call that contained the opening two lines of this post.

THIS, this “bottomless pit of unrelieved darkness”, THIS is the “reality” the “battlefield” of real “spiritual warfare”. (There are many others, of course… but this is certainly one of them.) And this one is life or death, right here right now.

I embraced my friend/brother on the phone. I “loved on” my friend/brother on the phone. But I love/loved him too much to “feed into his spiral”. I was not going to say all the “warm, soft, fuzzy words” that were going to roll off him like so much rainwater off a duck. You know what I mean… words like, “Just trust in God.”, “This too shall pass”, “People love you.”, “Time will heal this.” or quoting any of dozens of appropriate scriptures.

Why? Why would I not say those words? Because in that moment, he would not “hear” them. He was trapped in a “death spiral”, a place nearly dead to hearing and vision, trapped in thrall to an image of himself in a mirror… the image of his miserable self, against a backdrop of a life he did not have and could not re-acquire… a mirror image filled with the “sorrow that leads to death”. He was trapped in what Eric Berne would call the “Yes, but… Game” (Games People Play). He wanted me to float “warm fuzzy balloons” that he could dart and destroy in his misery, justifying his resolve to quit, to give up, to die.

I floated no such balloons. Instead, I said a couple very blunt things, couched and cushioned in many “gentling words”. I’m going to put the “bald statements and questions” out here before you now, but please understand they were not expressed this starkly… but rather nested in softening words that he could hear. OK?

Statement of Observation: “My brother, you have found that when stripped of your ‘stuff’, your money, prestige, resources, and your own plans… you have lost your will to live.”

Statement Two: “Good! You and I share the same background and know the same things. I don’t have to… I CANNOT… ‘preach’ to you and I refuse to try. You’re better than this! You know better than this! You know as well as I that OUR lives, at least… CANNOT be grounded in our ‘stuff’. If you had forgotten this, and are being reminded of this, I grieve for your pain, but I am grateful for the insight.”

“WE, at least, CANNOT ground our lives, our purpose, our meaning… in our STUFF. This is what we try to communicate with others, that’s a false foundation and it will not, it cannot, sustain us. I cannot tell you this, you know it as deeply as I.”

Challenging Question: “You consider ending your life because so much has been lost. Well, then I ask you this… ‘Why are you ALIVE in the first place? Why do we have life? Why are WE here?'”

And I shut up… for a long time to silence on the other end of the phone…

His Response: “I’m not comfortable with this conversation any more, so I don’t want to talk to you. I’m going to let you go now, so God Bless!” And he hung up.

For the next hour I pondered whether I had just killed my friend and brother. I prayed, I pondered, I studied, I listened, I realized…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

An hour after that realization, I phone back… and he answered (the first of my calls he’s answered directly for weeks). I said…

“Please hear me out and don’t hang up. I’m not going to yell at you, preach at you, and I’m not mad at you or disappointed. OK? I just want to ask you a question…”

“OK, so ask…”

“OK. How much money, how much would it be worth, how much of your resources would you spend, if I could put one human soul in front of you… just ONE… who was destined to go to hell for eternity, but you could write a check and buy him/her out and head them to heaven, instead? What would that be ‘worth’ to you, of your holdings and accounts, or your reputation, or whatever?”

…. long silence… then a weary sounding, “I don’t know… I can’t answer that…”

“Well, *I* know… because I know you, I know your heart and its generosity and what you give, and have given, all your adult life to rescue souls from hell. And here’s why that’s important…

“You, at this moment, are buried in pain so terrible that you despair of life and hope all together. I understand that. I’m not denying it, or minimizing it, or any of that. Life, right now, is walking across glass shards into blazing coals. I agree…

“But here’s the thing… we, you and I, are here for a very specific purpose. A purpose of rescue. ALL Christians are, actually, but most aren’t aware of that. We ARE aware of that. If you die today… your timeline, your road, comes to an end in this world. Your pain would end, true.

“BUT… so would your encounters. You and I are not here for the ‘pretty cobblestones’. We are here because we carry Him in us, and we love, and we encounter people in their darkness with hurts as deep as any we’ve ever known, and we can offer them Light, and Love, and Hope, and Life. Not only in the here and now, but in eternity.

“If your life were to end today, there are people God has stationed along your future road, encounters He has planned to happen, people He has intended for you to love and lift up Christ to and for… who will never encounter you. They will never hear you. They will never be loved by you, and perhaps they will never hear and see the Christ you would show them, to embrace Him.

“You are here, you live, dedicated to rescue of the lost. You’ve done it your whole life. You  know what I’m talking about. You can remember those you have personally loved into the embrace of Jesus. Well, my brother, they are not the ‘only’ ones you are destined to meet.

“There are more, there are others, but they are stationed on the other side of this pain you have now. How much pain would you endure, what would you suffer, what would you pass through… how much glass, how much flame would you walk across… if I stood at the end of that track with a group of broken, suffering, lost and damned souls that it was your destiny to love, heal, and let Jesus rescue… through you and your presence in their lives?

“How much pain would you bear? How much resource would you spend?”

… long pause… hoarse whisper of response… “Everything, anything… I’d give anything…”

“Good. THAT is all I called to say. Your pain is horrible and real. I don’t deny that. I just deny its relevance to our lives. We are here to carry what dwells within us to people who desperately need to see, feel, be touched by that… through us, and embrace… Him. And when everything, and I mean EVERYTHING else is stripped away… even our “gracious feelings” and our piety, and our devotion, and our sense of His presence…. When we are left naked and whimpering in a darkness so thick we can’t even BREATHE for its choking us… when religion fails… intelligence fails… sentiment fails…

“Sometimes all we have left is sheer ‘stubborn’. You NEVER quit. You never EVER quit. If not out of obedience, or devotion, or even ‘love’… You are a competitive man, I know that. You are as stubborn as I, I know that. You simply cannot quit, because underneath all of that, ‘faith’ will energize the ‘good form’ of your pride… if you quit, the enemy wins. Ministry stops. Grace and love through you and your present life here, stop. And he, the enemy, wins.

“I am going to let you go now. I don’t know if you’re comfortable or not, but I have faith that you are too competitive, too stubborn, too proud… to quit this contest and walk off the field, losing by forfeit. If you cannot continue to rescue people out of obedience, or duty… then do it out of love. But if even THAT cannot be felt in this moment… ask yourself if you really want to throw up your hands, forfeit this battle, and concede… letting the enemy win.

“I know you. You can’t let that happen. There’s just too much to be done yet, and too many out there to love that you haven’t met yet.”

…. and we blessed one another and hung up.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Gentle Reader, I don’t know if you personally have ever been in that dark place. I have. I pray I never need to return, but I know that place. We can be stripped, just like Job, of every sense and sentiment of grace and blessing we’ve ever known. When all the trappings, all the ‘stuff’ of our Christianity, all the percs and comforts, are removed from us and all we feel is abandonment, despair or hopelessness…

Within us, there is yet a Flame. Within us, there is yet a Servant. Within us, there is yet Love that Gives Life. He can resuscitate life within ourselves, but only when we acknowledge and embrace that our Purpose is to share Life with Others through Love.

I hope this has not come off as a “depressing” post, or even a “depression” post, because that is far from my heart…

My heart proclaims a wondrous Truth…

The God of Hope dwells in every Christian, seeking and saving that which is lost, lonely, hurting. He does this, amazingly, through our frail and fragile selves as vessels of love. When we lose sight of this, when we become distracted by mirrors or the barns of our stuff, we can find ourselves dizzy, disoriented and confused. But when we embrace the Light within us, when we cherish Him and rejoice in His embrace, then our feet find our right road and we encounter wondrous adventures of rescue all the time.

This is not the “Minister’s Job”, or the “Pastor’s Job”, or the “Preacher’s Job”, or the “Counselor’s Job”, or the “Deacon’s Job”, or even the “Churchgoer’s Job”… This is not a “job” at all…

This is a “definition” of our very Selves. This is Who we are, What we are, called and anointed, commanded, simply… to love.

Every one of us, when we love another and connect heart to heart, provide the conduit of Light necessary for Him to reach across and spark Life in the other. For some, for those also dwelling with that Light inside their spirit, such touch offers comfort, encouragement, endorsement, affirmation of Life. For others, for those who have never trusted to or embraced that Light and Truth, this touch brings Life Himself. We offer love, that the other may receive, embrace, reflect and refract love, and thus live..

Why are we here? To love and carry Light, Life, Love in our steps. There is Purpose in that. There is Meaning in that. There is Life in that. There is Love in that. And there is Joy in that. This, to me, is the deepest meaning of “Grace”.

Why are we here? To bring Life through Love. Why? Because we can, and we are privileged to do what Our Father does… always. Little else is worth worrying about. And, oddly enough, when we remain focused on our purpose, other worries seem to fade into insignificance.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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.

Amen

 
2 Comments

Posted by on April 21, 2015 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

God of Life in Love

hurricane[Written a few days ago…]

A very strange thing happened today… as I slept far too long. I wrote it off simply to recovery and recuperation, but this was not the only strange thing. Last night, when I retired, God broke upon me with a powerful new thing. It is not at all unusual for Him to do this when I wake, or even to wake me with… some new thing. But normally, once I nest into Him for the night… that’s it. We may do things, fly, music, whatever… but not teaching. Not new things. This time, was different.

This time, as my soul tried to quiet, He became very active, very… effervescent is I guess the closest word I can come to this. The “statement”, if one can be made without sheer irreverence to these moments… the “statement” was… “I am the God of Life! I am Love, the God of Life! and Life and Living Only! NOT Death!”

Now, needless to say, that is a simple statement. And, cognitively, we can readily assent to it. We can nod, with some intensity, and pronounce, “Yes, of course, Lord… that is True!” And so, of course, I did.. though a bit taken aback. But that wasn’t nearly enough. That… that… awareness… simply went on, becoming more and more intense and more and more clear.

The Truth became bigger and bigger, faster and more powerful… like a tornado growing to encompass all of me, of my life, of my universe, then all of this time, this space, then all of time, space, life, existence and Being. This Truth became The Communion, the Church, all of mankind, all of Life Everywhere.

And then, just as this Tornado had become huge, like a hurricane, embracing and engulfing all… It focused “down” again, into a pinpoint of accuracy and specificity… It came to the Cross 2000 years ago… It came to the Resurrection of Jesus.

“I AM the God of Life! Death is meaningless to Me. Man brought Death into being by believing in it, by believing in something Other than Life! Something Other than Me! The Serpent exists to promote Death, to bring My children to believe in it… engage in it. But to believe in Me is to embrace Life through Love. SEE this!”

And sleep totally escaped me as I sat up and “waited out this storm” to see what I was to understand. I just tried to be still and calm, and wait.

And what came was… Easter…

Our entire Christian existence… our Lives… are made meaningful by Easter. The God of the Resurrection. The Resurrection of Jesus, the Raising of Jesus… God Himself… by the Father… God Himself… in Love… God Himself. Yes.

That Jesus became “dead” by accepting into Himself… Death.

He “captured” it… He “engulfed” it. He “embraced” it. By doing that, doing that without resistance, He could and did bring all of that within Himself… all sin, all fear, all mistrust, all dissonance, all darkness… and thus… being God Himself, being the contrary of all that, in Infinite Selfhood… All that was utterly destroyed.

Dying, He destroyed our Death. Rising, He restored our Life.

And then… the Father… the Source… the Giver… the Lover… Raised Him up again from Death to New Life. Yes.

But also… this is the story of the Christian, the simple Christian… dead, then raised by the grace and power of God Alone into Life.

And the story of the entire Cosmos…. Dead, by the fall in the Garden… raised to new life by the Power of Life and Love that is God.

It just went on and on… but always, in those moments after waking, the focus was “God of Life through Love”… and it reverberated unceasingly.

He bid me go to my tools, and check out “raised from dead” in Scripture. He said, and I had no reason to doubt Him, that Paul… over and over again… repeated this Truth as the anchor truth of our Way. The Theology of the nature of God, or Christology, or Trinity, or church organization and discipline, or even works, signs and wonders… all these were important things, yes.

BUT… THE most important thing, mentioned (apparently) in every document Paul ever laid his hand to… was the “Resurrection of Jesus”.

God pointed out that in all these years I had missed even the critical nature, the right-out-there-in-the-open statements of Paul when He said, “But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” [Romans 10:8-10]

If there is a single Truth that is the most critical as the statement of faith for union with God… it is this truth… That God is God of the Living, not of the Dead. That the Nexus of Time… the Setting Right of the Cosmos… was not only The Crucifixion, but inextricable with The Resurrection.

Have I “seen this before”? Could I have said this is/was true in terms of theology?

Yes, of course. Is it, therefore, “new”, in that sense? I guess not.

But what I had NOT seen, not understood so viscerally, is God’s Name as Life Not Death, and that when we yield in Him we promote life. That it is the enemy’s agenda, ever and always, to promote and try to “dress up” death in some way to make it appealing. (As the Serpent did in the Garden). That to sin, to choose “not God” in any given moment, is to choose death in that moment and bring shadow, darkness, into our world.

I’m liking Paul the Apostle more by the day. He got this. He really had this.

What a shame… So many people terrified of The Father. So many people who hate Him, or flee Him, or mistrust Him, or choose… like the children of Israel at Sinai… “you go listen to Him, and tell us what He says. His voice frightens us…”

How heartbreaking for Him… when all He wants to do, all He does, always… is Give Life through Love.

 
7 Comments

Posted by on April 1, 2015 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: