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Once Upon a Time: There Was a Knight upon a time, the Lord King selected a willing warrior, and tasked him to protect a valley nestling a lovely village dear to the Lord King’s heart.

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

“You will see,” answered the Lord King.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No. He could not succeed at that.

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

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


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Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus…

GodThrone“SANCTUS, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth. Pleni sunt caeli et terra gloria tua. Hosanna in excelsis. Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini. Hosanna in excelsis”

HOLY, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts. Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.”.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

What is God’s Name?

We are taking a short journey into the past, looking at how Jesus taught people to pray. No one who has ever walked the earth is more qualified to teach this lesson. Here is a prayer that, as Christians, we learn from our earliest years. Many of us recite it daily as The Lord’s Prayer. Many of us hear and recite it weekly as part of our order of worship. I venture to guess, ALL of us, here reading, KNOW it.

But for several weeks, in my own life, the Lord has returned me to this… this… Marvel. This “Singularity” in the cosmos. He has placed it on a pedestal, like a precious stone in a museum, and shone a brilliant light upon it, bringing me to focus upon these few and simple lines as being one of the most extraordinary gifts He has ever granted to man. It has become like a Rose in the garden of my spirit, slowly, gradually, and beautifully unfolding before me. And I have invited you, Gentle Reader, to find this Rose anew… Your Rose… anew in your own garden, and examine yours as I examine mine.

He granted this Gift, the Lord’s Prayer, in two different forms to us. One rendering was for the Multitudes in the Sermon on the Mount. This form has more words to it, more of a “setting to the gem”.

“Pray, then, in this way:

Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 ‘Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread.
12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’] [Matthew 6]

The other rendering was the direct response to His Disciples request that He “teach them to pray”. This second form is more stark, fewer words, more directive, less explanatory. Why should He waste words on explanations and commentary, when there He was, 24/7, DEMONSTRATING the context for them?

“When you pray, say:

Father, hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.’” [Luke 11]

In our little process of Lectio Divina here, slow and prayerful reading, allowing time and silence for the Spirit to speak and teach, we will only highlight one phrase. This phrase appears in both versions, and thus it is a “critical instruction” of Jesus teaching on prayer, not a matter of amplification or commentary truth.

“Hallowed be Your name.”

Jesus has just “named God” for His listeners, telling us “how to address Holy God”, and there is no way around the fact that the shock must have been beyond imagining. The Name of God was considered SO sacred, SO holy, that it was not to be spoken or written. It was written in “code” only, a four letter acronym of what God spoke to Moses from the Burning Bush. It was spoken only as “The Lord”. Even in English, in English Bibles, the custom has remained of translating this notation simply as “The Lord”, rather than “Yahweh” (pronunciation of YHWH, the Tetragrammaton acronym of “I AM WHO AM”.)

Like pronouncing the name of “Voldemort” in the Harry Potter stories, and the insistence of most of referring to him only as “The Dark Lord”… even to pronounce these syllables was to invite destruction and wrath.

And then here’s Jesus saying, of all things, “when you speak to Almighty God, you address Him as ‘Dad’, as you would in your home…” Somehow I just see multitudes of listeners standing or sitting there blinking in utter shock, trying even to process the words!

But He goes on, immediately with, “Hallowed be Your Name”…

As earlier, as I sense His leadership throughout this little trip, Gentle Reader, I am NOT going to detail all the nooks and crannies these words have carried me to in spirit. I leave you and the Holy Spirit to explore on your own.

But here’s just a thought or two, a question or two. “Hallowed… Holy… Name of God…” But for myself, for so many years, I could only see “Holy” as an adjective, or an adverb. It was a modifier. It gave some quality, some description, to a noun. The Noun was meaningful and central, the adjective just helpful and descriptive. Hmm? So… “God’s Name has a holy and sacred quality or nature.” Right? That’s what Jesus was saying here, right?

Well, yes. That is very true. But many years later, one day, He challenged… “What if those weren’t just ‘adjective’, but Noun?” That is, what if Jesus was saying that God’s NAME…. was “HOLY”… like “I AM WHO AM”… or “LOVE”… or “FATHER”… or any of the other names we know of God? And what if ALL names, this one included, are all Infinitely Equal and Correct and Expressive of God? That is… God = Love, Love = God, God = Holy, Holy = God, Love = Holy, Holy = Love, and so on? Really gave me pause for quite a while. That was one thought.

The other thought, or question I would leave with you… “What if ‘Father/Dad = Holy”? What if that all encompassing, protective, providing, nurturing, raising-up-a-prince-or-princess-of-Kingdom Love… is ‘Holy’?” What if it is part of the essence of God’s very Holiness, that He loves us as His children? What if it is His love for Children that empowers His essence as Father, and Father is His Holy Name? That probably makes no semantic sense, and I’ll just stop there.

Just see where your Rose unfolds now for you. And I rejoice in that, wherever it leads and whatever it looks like.

Grace to thee, beloved brother or sister. — The Little Monk


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New Year Joy… Top Secret…

A really quick word for all Gentle Readers…

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

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

But here it is…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace and joy to you, Gentle Reader!

Little Monk

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


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The Pearl Inside the Gift Box

The holiday season, pretty lights, gifts under the tree, and… in OUR lives… consistent reminders of the Greatest Gift! Right? So… like… here’s another post, another Christian post, this one a little late… but another “sermon” about the Greatest Gift… right? Well… almost right.

Yup, this is about that Greatest Gift of God to our lives. Yup, that gift is Jesus. But it is NOT about a baby in a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes. At least, not directly. This is about a gift I’ve learned to seek and find every day. I guess you could say this blog post is a “story”. A story about a little boy. But this little boy wasn’t born in Bethlehem, but right here in the U.S. And he’s not newborn, he’s seven years old. And he’s not headed off to exile in Egypt with his mother and foster father, he’s here in my house and we had breakfast this morning, and his father was murdered two feet away from him a couple years ago and his mother is in prison. A very different little boy…

Yesterday morning I was driving to our local hospital (a not unusual place for a church staff minister to be headed, even on this “off week” between Christmas and New Year’s). I got a phone call from my boss asking if I could house a little boy at risk of violence in his home, and of course I could. So I was told to drive home, he came, and I have enjoyed his presence immensely. I had the privilege of walking with this youngster through much of the pain he has been through, and of helping him meet and embrace His King Jesus, and agree to be His little boy forever more. I watched him, months ago, become an indwelt son of Our Father, and from time to time I have encouraged him in his growth into his inheritance. The situation is a bit delicate and somewhat awkward, I must tread carefully and gently, but I do what I can. In short, this precious little boy lives in a fairly sad place. There’s sadness in his past, and more sadness in his future, and it frustrates me sometimes that I can do nothing to “fix it”.

This morning, over breakfast, knowing that I will shortly surrender this boy back to the sad currents of his own life’s river, unable to intervene or change its course, I handed this all to Jesus, sitting there at the breakfast table with us. I had a moment, not one of my shining moments, but a simple and human moment where I felt angry and frustrated that “all I can do for this little boy is pray for him”.

“All I can do is pray!”

I thought that thought apologetically… weakly… timidly. I turned my frustration and helplessness to Jesus, and He answered that without hesitation or remainder. I was so very out of order.

Prayer. We do it all the time, don’t we? We talk about it, teach about it, proclaim its power and impact. But so often, at least for me, when it is “all I can do”… I look upon prayer as rather the red-headed-stepchild of my personal impact arsenal. As if I could do MORE than God can do if only I could get on the phone and make some arrangements to fix the problem, or counsel, or teach. If I can intervene in a situation under my OWN power, and see the forces at work, then I FEEL much more “effective”, much more “capable and potent”, than if I simply wrap my love around the one I am concerned with, and place him/her into the hands of Our Father with my faith, hope, love, and trust.

Do I hear an “Amen?”, or am I the only one here who ever feels this way?

But then Jesus taught me this wonderful thing, and had me share it with my young friend. The Lord wasn’t even mad or disappointed at my weakness of prayer, He just assured me that He SO honors loving trusting prayer that this was NOT the weakest weapon in my arsenal, but my strongest. That, in fact, everything else would only “work” to the extent that prayer made way for the success.

But as to the gift He showed me, we see it here:

Judas not Iscariot said to Him, “Lord, how is it You’re going to reveal Yourself to us and not to the world?”
Jesus answered, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word. My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. The one who doesn’t love Me will not keep My words. The word that you hear is not Mine but is from the Father who sent Me. “I have spoken these things to you while I remain with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit—the Father will send Him in My name—will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.

“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Your heart must not be troubled or fearful. You have heard Me tell you, ‘I am going away and I am coming to you.’ If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happens so that when it does happen you may believe. I will not talk with you much longer, because the ruler of the world is coming. He has no power over Me. On the contrary, I am going away so that the world may know that I love the Father. Just as the Father commanded Me, so I do.“Get up; let’s leave this place.” John 14:22-31

Now, there’s all kinds of richness there, but Jesus only wanted me to focus on one thing this morning… on the “gift He left” there for His formerly-disciples-now-called-friends. He left them the gift of “peace”. He gave them His own peace. And He wanted me to receive that this morning, and to share it with my young friend.

But the context here is and was critically important. He was about to leave these men who had followed Him for so long and who loved Him so deeply. They were going to feel alone, orphaned and abandoned. That is a dreadful, powerful feeling. It is a feeling of ultimate weakness, anxiety, fear, and timidity. There is little in the world as dreadfully sad as feeling orphaned and abandoned by those you love most. And that is what these men were beginning to feel, and worse… would shortly feel with a far greater depth.

But Jesus knew better. Jesus could see what they could not see. Jesus knew they were in the “now”, in a single passing moment of the present. Jesus knew that those moments were moving forward to the greatness of the full Redemption, and beyond that, to the coming of the Holy Spirit… to His very presence, and that He would be with them in an undeniable way forever after that. And in that moment… in that in-between moment… fear and pain behind them, more fear and pain before them… He gave this gift, this incredible gift… His Own Peace. What grace!

In THAT moment, whatever had gone before and whatever was to come, He was with them. He was present with them. And they could rest in that, rely on that, and trust to that. He was in the midst of the greatest teaching discourse in the entire Bible, and equally in the midst of the greatest act of divine grace in the history of Creation. And right here, right now, with Him, He gave peace and there could be joy, free of all anxiety and fear and timidity. What would it take to receive this gift? Only trust… to trust and believe in the words He spoke, uttered, shared from the Father… to be “kept”, “received”, and embraced by their hearts and minds.

This was what Jesus showed me this morning at the breakfast table with my coffee and with my young friend. That this youngster had painful fearful days in his past. He had more painful days in his future. But at THIS moment, in the NOW, in this sacred space of the grace and love of my house, we had and could share and enjoy… Peace. Right here, right now, Jesus was present with us and there was nothing to be anxious, timid, or fearful about. At this table, we could talk, and laugh, and rest in the joy and peace of loving one another and Jesus loving us and we loving Him.

Our Lord had me speak words into my young friend’s heart and life. That he should always remember that Jesus gives us peace, as a grace gift, whenever we look to Him for it. That every day… every… single… day… Jesus gives us a whole new day of life for ourselves as a gift. We don’t “make” a day, we can’t “manufacture” or “create” one, we can’t even “lengthen” one or “slow it down”. Each day we have is a gift directly given us from the heart, and love, and hand of God Himself. But that beyond even THAT gift, Jesus gives us Peace, and has promised us that. And that in each day, somewhere, there is joy.

I told him that Jesus only gives us one day at a time. We only have the “now”. And that is precious. If we spend today, the Now, focused on the past and its pains, or focused on the future and its worries, we miss the gift entirely. That if we can focus on today, and on Jesus being with us in today, we will find that He places a “pearl” in the day for us… there will be joy somewhere. If we seek it, if we will love others without fear, and let them love us without our mistrust, we will find the pearl of joy that Jesus places somewhere in every single day. But if we forget Him, forget to thank Him or forget to look for the grace and blessing in today, we’ll get caught up in the memories of pain in the past, or fears of the pain of the future, and we’ll miss the gift entirely.

I didn’t know if this little boy could understand me. But he did. That’s the strange thing about suffering… sorrowful as it is, it can bring an amazing degree of wisdom with it. He understood. And I was very relieved, for so many adults I walk with and love deeply find it impossible to understand this.

“Look for the joy in every day. Hold on to the Peace Jesus puts in every day. And see, and remember always, that you are NOT alone… ever. He is there, right there with you all the time, and you are never ever abandoned. Don’t let pain in the past, or fear in the future, take away your peace or joy in today. The grace is only HERE! This gift… today… it is only here! Don’t miss it, or walk past it.”

He needed to hear that, and he received it and has embraced it all this happy day. But I needed to hear that, too. I have had sadness in recent days. And there are some fearful challenges in the days to come. It is so strong in me, this temptation to focus on shadows, sadness, grief, fear, or timidity.

But Jesus reminded me today, through a wonderful seven year old boy, of this incredible Gift. I needed to be reminded that He gifts with only today, and there is grace enough only for today. I know this. I know you know this. But as for me, sometimes, well… I’ve learned that even though I’ve heard something many times, sometimes, I just need to hear it again.

It seems that Jesus agrees… or, at least, He did this morning. Peace and grace to you, Gentle Reader!

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Posted by on December 28, 2012 in Quiet Time, Uncategorized


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