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How to be Great!

‘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. And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”‘ [Matthew 18:1-6]

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When I was younger, this text mystified me a bit. I mean, on the surface its meaning is obvious… innocence… simplicity… yadda yadda. But when you know children, I mean really get to KNOW children… they can be a real pain. Hence, my confusion.

I mean, frankly, while this seems like a lovely image… have you honestly ever met a “humble” child? Really? I haven’t. Children can be brutal. They clamor for status and primacy. Some of the cruelest people on the face of the earth I’ve ever known have been children.

So… what is Jesus saying here, really?

I’ve finally resolved that for myself, but if your ponderings lead you to a different place, that’s fine, too. Just thought I’d share this.

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The disciples are in the time where Jesus is preparing them for His crucifixion. He has told them He is going to be killed, but that He will rise again three days later. He is extremely clear about who He is… Son of Man, Son of God. So, in the midst of sorting these confusing things out, they ask a question only someone in His unique position could answer…

“Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?”

Pretty big question. Pretty bold question. I suspect they were expecting a pretty big bold answer. What about you? If you had been standing there listening, or even if you had had the chance to ASK this question, what answer would you expect?

Something like, “He who does the will of the Father, He is the greatest…”

Or, “He who upholds the Kingdom in righteousness, He is the greatest…”

Or, “He who speaks the truth of God, He is the greatest…”

Right? I would. Or perhaps they were thinking of all the history… the patriarchs, the prophets, the judges, the kings, King David. Perhaps they expected Him to name one of those.

But no. As per usual for Him, He does something totally unexpected. He calls a little boy to Him from among the bystanders, and has him stand in front of the disciples like an artist’s model. He answers them in a very odd way. He does NOT tell them WHO is the greatest in the Kingdom. Instead (again consistent with how He usually does things), He tells them HOW to BECOME the greatest in the kingdom. (Perhaps that’s really what they wanted to know in the first place, bless their competitive little hearts.)

“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.

WHAT?

I bet they didn’t see THAT coming! Remember, they’d just shortly before been at the Transfiguration. Peter, James, and John had seen Jesus, Moses, and Elijah appear before their very eyes, and take counsel with Jesus. Peter wanted to make a shrine on that mountaintop. So I am more than certain that when they inquired about heaven’s greatest soul, they weren’t expecting some little kid in the street!

So what was so special about kids? Or… what was so special about THIS little kid? What do kids have, that we don’t have? Why does Jesus use words like “converted” and “become like” as He points to this boy? How did this boy so dramatically “humble himself” that Jesus uses him as a model for the greatest in heaven?

Only in recent years have I figured it out. What do kids have, that we don’t? What did this little boy show, that we lose over time and must be transformed to recapture?

Trust

Children raised by loving healthy parents, learn “Trust” from the cradle. At least, trust of their parents. They learn to trust that they are provided for… mom and dad will make sure they have something to eat. They learn to trust that they are safe and protected… mom and dad will make sure others don’t hurt them, that they don’t get lost or injured. They learn to trust that they are valued, treasured, affirmed… they will carry on the family legacy, delighting the heart of their father, bringing joy to their mother.

As trust grows, obedience grows apace. When a child is secure that mom and dad seek only their good, their provision, safety, and security… parental directives are far more likely to be seen in that light. The child may wonder, or even ask, “Why?”. But the question is more likely to come even as the child is assenting and obeying, as opposed to the suspicious argument and immobility of the child who has learned NOT to trust.

Are there such children? Untrusting children? Those who have learned to be insecure, suspicious, perhaps rebellious and disobedient? Oh, yes. Both kinds of children surround us all the time. We adults, parents and others, can send a child down either of these two paths. Jesus tells us how in the lament that follows:

And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me;  but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”

Jesus didn’t pose as His model just a “little boy”, but rather a “TRUSTING little boy”. Why do I say this? How do I know this? Because the text says Jesus “called a child to Himself and set him before them“. Let’s see… Jesus calls on a stranger boy in a crowd, as He talks Kingdom-of-God-stuff with His disciples… AND HE COMES!

[Pause]

Think that through a minute. So… imagine yer a kid in the street. Maybe you’re alone. Maybe you’re passing by with mom and dad. Maybe you’re standing there with them listening to this (now) notorious or famous Preacher-Guy everyone’s talking about… and He looks your way with a simple, “Please come here a moment…” What do YOU do?

Ever been called up onstage for a Magician… or a hypnotist? Ever been there when this happened to a friend? It’s SCARY! But this kid COMES!

Why? Because the kid trusts Him and obeys Him. OR… perhaps it’s more accurate to say… this kid obeys Him BECAUSE he has been taught to trust adults in the first place.

This boy obeys, yielding to Jesus’ invitation and will, TRUSTING that nothing bad will happen to Him because of that trust. Or, he may have trusted that his loved ones nearby would make sure nothing bad happened to him.

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Gentle Reader, I believe we’ve lost that capacity. I think the disciples, like ‘most all adults, had lost that capacity. We have to weigh the alternatives, look at it from both sides, consider the pros and cons, and come to a reasoned decision about what to do.

Want to enter the Kingdom of Heaven? Want to attain greatness there?

Gotta find another way to live. Gotta rediscover “trust”. Gotta get “reborn”, and then “grow up all over again”, reestablishing the sort of trust for God that we once knew as little one’s with our loving parents. When we do, we discover that God will ALWAYS provide for us, ALWAYS keep us safe, and ALWAYS cling to us as the delight of His heart and apple of His eye.

When we honor that trust in one another, dealing uprightly, sacredly, honestly with one another… we fulfill the promise of His last words on this. Sometimes, our trust is abused and we are betrayed. Sometimes, even though we walk  in trust honoring Him, we will be hurt by others. It is not our role to protect from that, or avenge it. Our part is to forgive. But Jesus is unmistakably clear that when we honor our Kingdom citizenship, living in trust and transparency, the King Himself, Our Father, will deal with those who abuse our trust.

Jesus closes with His lament of such foolish people…

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Good news? Bad news? Well, it is certainly unexpected news… do you aspire to greatness in the Kingdom? Then aspire to Trust and Reliance on the unknown will of God. Trust Him enough to obey. Treat others as equally sacred children. And as gradually our trust transforms us into yielding to Him (as we lose our self-protective fear), watch what happens!

 

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I Believe… I Can Fly!


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

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

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

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


What if….

What if your Father were King of the Universe?

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Can you find and release your Inner Child?

Can you believe?

Can you fly?


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

Joy and grace to you!

The Little Monk

 

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Always Safe, Never Alone!

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

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

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

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

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

The most frightening words we can know?

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

When we allow…

The answer is love. What was the question?

Enjoy the song again. Now, go love somebody!

Joy, blessing, and grace to you!

The Little Monk

 
8 Comments

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

 

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The World Needs More Sleep

mary jesus sleepsRejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is [near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” [Philippians 4:4-7]

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A comment to a recent post discussing spiritual warfare brought up the topic of sleep. There are times that the enemy seems able to mess with our ability to fall asleep, the content of our dreams or nightmares, our ability to stay in peaceful restful sleep, and the like. I was struck with the vivid reminder of how true all of that is, and how important is our ability to rest, renew, and refresh in peaceful sleep.

So this is a quick “How-To” post regarding peace and sleep. As per usual, while there are scriptural anchors to this, along with some traditional theology, this is not “authoritative” “finger-pointing” “take notes now, ’cause you gotta do it THIS way” stuff. This is just “here’s some stuff I’ve learned along the journey and if it helps you, use it… if it doesn’t fit, throw it away” stuff.

Background Info:

  • Jesus is/was Son of Man, Son of God… both
  • We, in His image, have physical and spiritual nature
  • We, in His image, have will and creativity… imagination, ability to form and direct the mind in configurations we design
  • We, in His image, are subject to “spiritual input of others” whether of darkness or of Light, and we can choose how to respond
  • God is Our Father, Our Mother, Our Parent… neither abusive, nor neglectful
  • NO ONE and NOTHING is more loving, powerful, and/or protective of us… than Our Father
  • Sabbath is not only a command, but a blessing, a time for “trusting God with the care of ourselves and our stuff” without our own effort or help
  • God is Light and in Him is no darkess
  • Darkness cannot bear Light

OK, I could write an entire post (and often have), and more (and sometimes have) on EACH of those bullets… but not here, not now. If any one (or more) of them need more words from me… leave a comment or send an email.

The enemy can, at times, intrude on our thoughts and minds to prompt anxiety, stress, and restlessness. God, on the other hand, brings peace, trust, joy.

Before bed, take a few moments to prepare:

  • “Count blessings” – Childish as it sounds, “enter His gates with thanksgiving” is real, true, and grown-up. You are preparing to “sleep like Samuel” in the Holy of Holies of the Temple that is you, your own life. Begin, simply with a heart of gratitude (“gratitude is foundational”, a friend of mine says… True ‘dat.)
  • Leave worries outside the gate – Don’t deny or repress, just acknowledge all the stuff on the To Do list, pat them on the head, wish them a good night’s sleep, and resolve to see them tomorrow. For right now, you all need rest. They will manage without you for this time.
  • Wash up to change clothes – We all accumulate “road dust” through our days. Without making any big deal of it, take some time to reflect and acknowledge those moments of the day where conscience prompts that “this could have been handled better”, and resolve to improve. No archaeology here… no deep digging… just the thanks for what was done well, acknowledgement that not all was done perfectly, and resolution to do better… in our role of “clear vessel” for Him in our days.
  • Put on Your Night Robes – Draw onto your clean washed self, the fullness of your Private Interior Robes of the righteousness of Christ. He clothes you in His power, love, grace, and righteousness. Such clothing is embued with the very aroma of His grace and care. NOTHING can damage these, or pass their protection.
  • Enter the Holy of Holies, and settle in for the night.
  • Let Daddy tell you a bedtime story. Go to the Gospels, let the Spirit select a scene. Read it over, close your eyes. Use your sacred imagination to “apply the senses” to the scene. Envision it utterly, including sights, sounds, smells, textures, flavors… Then put yourself into the scene, AS A SMALL CHILD, hanging on to Jesus’ robes, or hand. When He sits down, climb into His lap and listen to Him speak.
  • Let the Spirit do whatever the Spirit chooses, and let Jesus rock you to sleep in His arms, there by the fire after supper. (Btw, He often sings or hums.)

No mother bear ever so guarded her cubs, as He guards a child in His arms.

Over time, with practice, this becomes ever more fun. He not only guards His children with peace, but He starts taking them places in their dreams and sleep. And THERE, they can do extraordinary things together.

When threatened with violence by human authorities that were astonished by His lack of fear, He responded, “…do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” [Matthew 26:53]

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“Well!” one could say, “If we can do all this… Why isn’t EVERY night like this?! If THIS is what God intends in sleep, why hasn’t it ever happened to me before NOW??!!”

Um, it kinda depends on where we choose to sleep, dunnit? I myself, used to sleep in the scrub… at the mercy of every passing weasel and wolf. Then I figured out that I had my own “fortifications” available, and I used that. My own mansion, prayer closet, chamber. I knew I could hedge and post angels, and I did that for a long time.

Why didn’t I sleep in His arms? Um, ’cause nobody told me it was OK. Sounds dumb, I know… the Bible screams it at us constantly, but frankly… I thought it would be too “bold”, too “forward”, too “irreverent”. But then, one day I paid some serious attention to Samuel as a child in 1 Samuel 3, and found myself thinking/praying, “Wow, how neat would it be to have slept in the Holy of Holies with the Ark?”

God challenged me to try it. We actually LIVE in the presence of the Ark. The Ark dwells within us. The Holy Spirit within us occupies the Mercy Seat.

So… things have never been quite the same.

As to “night terrors” I shall say only this. The Immediate Presence of God is Light… no darkness. Darkness cannot enter that space. Evil, sin, cannot enter that space (just ask Nadab and Abihu). WE can enter that space because of the cleansing we have undergone in Jesus.

Use Superpowers… will, co-creation… following the prompts of Holy Spirit… and try an evening sleeping there.

Let me know how that goes…

Grace to thee — The Little Monk

P.S. This may help…

 

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Pick Your Planet

earth deadSome days, it can seem as if the world is dead. Covered in a  coating of ash and choking dust. The evening news, calls from friends or family about tragedy, painful memories and regret of past decisions, misunderstanding by those we love… Some days, it seems difficult to look about us and see any light at all, see any purpose, see that we are making any difference with our little candle flames against what seems the overwhelming force of darkness and shadow.

Yes, life can seem like that at times.

And if we aren’t careful… if we stay in that posture… if we continue to see only the darkness and shadow… it can seem to leach the very life force from us, and we can find ourselves in a very dark place indeed. A dangerous place. An empty and painful place.

What then? What are we supposed to do? Are we supposed to put on “Rose Colored Glasses”, pretend to be Pollyanna, just ignore all the pain and hurting people around us? Are we supposed to lie? To ourselves, to others, to God? What do we do, to be honest and truthful… and yet not be overwhelmed by the sorrows we open our hearts to?

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We exercise our Super Power. We use our power of Choice and Free Will to see Truth beyond the appearances. We can grasp and embrace a deep spiritual truth, at the same time that we heed the advice of one of the greatest realists of all time… The Apostle Paul.

Paul gave this instruction to the Philippian Church: Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9]

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Paul is hardly a “Pollyanna” guy. He’s been chased hither and yon by both Religious Authorities and Romans… he’s been stoned, flogged, shipwrecked, thrown in jail, threatened with execution… you name it, he’s been there, done that. He’s seen friends and co-workers tortured and killed. Nothing “warm and fuzzy” about Paul, or rose-colored to his view of the world.

We all “know” these verses. We could probably recite them. But do we ever really LOOK at them? Do we ever really see what he’s saying here? Let’s do that…

Let’s look at this from the bottom up. Let’s see that Paul is giving a very PRACTICAL instruction here, revealing a very profound spiritual secret, a “technique” here.

We, in general, people, seek “peace”. “Peace of mind”, “peace of heart”, the kind of peace that lets us sleep easily and sit quietly without a thousand worries wrinkling our brow when the noise dies down on a quiet day. Paul says, “the God of peace will be with you…” That’s an extraordinary promise. The number one pharmaceuticals, the biggest money makers in the drug world in the U.S. today, are anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications. Astonishing, no?

So… for the “God of peace” to be “with us”… Paul says, “dwell on” and “practice” this dwelling as he’s been observed to do… Dwell on whatever is “excellence and worthy of praise”.

WHAT?

What about all the Bad Stuff? What about the occupation army? What about the Temple Guards breaking into our homes and dragging us off to be flogged or executed? What about our families turning us in? Is Paul CRAZY?

Nonetheless… Paul says for the God of peace to come to us… dwell on the excellent and worthy of praise. He even gives specific examples, whatever is: true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, good repute.

Any questions? Pretty straightforward, isn’t it? Let’s be even MORE clear. Here’s what NOT to dwell on… Whatever is Untrue, False, Dishonorable, Wrong, Impure and Corrupt, Ugly, and Shameful.

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Gentle Reader, I’m not finger-pointing. This is as much confession as exhortation… But if you want to know “Peace”… DON’T let your mind revolve on all that negative, toxic, “stuff”. Just DON’T. It is poisonous, it is stress-inducing, it will rob us of peace, joy, and love. I’m not saying to ignore it, or deny it. When bad stuff happens, when toxic stuff happens, acknowledge it, embrace it, then release it and let it go. DON:T DWELL ON IT! Don’t ruminate, contemplate, meditate, and cling to it.  Minister in difficult situations as you can, embrace, affirm, encourage, acknowledge, love… and then refocus and re-sensitize to the good, the true, the lovely.

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Here’s the deep spiritual truth underlying this “technique”…

“The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” John 1:5

Jesus taught:“You are the light of the world. A city set on a [hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” [Matthew 5:14-16]

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Practical Application: Here’s the thing I’ve noticed in/for myself and my own life… When I focus on the “stuff out there”, the darkness and ash, I can lose my peace and joy, lose my center, and grow heartsick and weary. This leads me to a rather pathetic form of self-pity that takes away all my effectiveness. When the Lord gently leads me out of this spiral… when I again heed Paul’s advice… when I focus on Light instead of darkness, then two things happen.

earth beautifulOne, the God of peace joins me, feeds and nurtures me, and I focus again on the “I”… (what I can do, how I can help, how I can love), rather than on the “me” (the situation doesn’t heed me, appreciate me, acknowledge me). I get to bask in the radiance that is God, His love, His care, His glory… rather than the mud and the muck.

Two, (and this may sound a bit strange), but I “see” an entirely different world. I see a world of people doing unexpectedly kind and loving things. I see the flowers growing out of the sidewalk cracks, rather than just the concrete jungle. I see the grace, the joy, the laughter, the redemption and blessings, even in the midst of the most challenging environments and situations.

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I’ve come to realize that my Super Power, this Power of Choice and Will that God has given us, being created in His Image, allows me to “pick my planet”.

I can choose to see, focus, and dwell on that first one at the beginning of this post. I can glue myself to the “all bad news, all the time” channels on my mega-cable boob toob. OR… I can choose to get out amongst people, encouraging love, understanding, grace and embracing one another… whether for better or worse, in good times or bad, sickness or health.

That’s MY Choice! I can pick my planet! So can you. What’ll it be?

Grace to thee!

The Little Monk

 
 

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Journey – Leaving Trust Behind

DisciplesBut the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” [Matthew 28:16-19]

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For some, these have been “aversive verses”... (“averses”?)... for years. “MAKE DISCIPLES” can look arduous, peremptory, invasive, offensive, manufactury… as if we are to invade the surrounding enemy territories… like an infection… and remold sovereign people and consciousnesses into our own image! Hmmm… seems a familiar historical model, no?

Yes. Unfortunately, these verses were used as “syrupy theological veneer” to excuse and justify military, economic, cultural, political conquest for so many centuries… such atrocities have been committed and rationalized under the aegis of these verses… the very  nausea of cultural and physical genocide has created sincere crisis  of conscience for many.

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But if you can set all that aside… if you can ignore all our human perversion and prostitution of these incredibly BEAUTIFUL Word(s) of God… just for a moment…

LOOK at this sequence, that we seldom consider as part of a “whole picture”…

Check this context as perceived and recorded by Matthew:

  1. Women arrive at Jesus’ Tomb to find an angel sitting atop the seal stone, after opening the tomb with an earthquake. The angel had appeared in his glory, and the guards fainted away from fear. The angel greets the women (first telling them not to fear him), then announces that Jesus is risen, invites them to come and see (where have we heard that before?), tells them to run ahead to the Disciples and where He will meet them.
  2. The women leave in great joy to do as the angel commanded and share the good news with the Disciples, and Jesus HIMSELF appears to them on the roadway. They are overcome with joy, and begin to worship Him, grasping His FEET. He repeats His instructions for the Disciples to them.
  3. While the women are traveling, some of the wimpy guards head back to their bosses in town and tell them what happened. They get paid off to lie, saying that disciples stole Jesus’ body… thus covering their jobs and reputations for failing at their task (guarding the Tomb).

OK, so the stage is set….

Now, check out this really cool thing… So often we “abstract” these verses from their setting, like cutting a rose blossom from its bush, or prying loose a gem from its setting.

But LOOK…

Jesus does NOT just say… “Here’s my orders! Go DO this thing!”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

No. Instead, these verses tell an entire STORY! Matthew 28:16-20:

But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated.

Jesus had “left orders” by means of the women, as first articulated by the angel. The women had doubtless told them the whole story. They needed to travel, trusting both the source(s) and the content of the instructions.

When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful.

WHAT? Wait, look at that. REALLY? This says three distinct things: (1) They SAW Him! (Amazing). (2) They worshiped Him! (Understandable). (3) But some were doubtful! (Huh?) Just rest here a moment, Gentle Reader. It says “some”, not “one”, so we can’t just write this off to Thomas alone, huh? Now, they’ve had Jesus’ statements BEFORE the Crucifixion, His miracles at and around the Crucifixion itself, the testimony of the angel, the testimony of the women on the road (not to mention all the surrounding narratives of the other Gospels), they travel (in faith and obedience) to this mountaintop… and THEY SEE HIM. They worship? But some are DOUBTFUL??? Does that make you blink?

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”

I’m really not sure how or why, but these words are usually divorced from the rest of what is often called The Great Commission. Why is this particularly important? Well, first off… because it’s like… *cough*… HERE… and HE SAID SO?! But also, because the next two words to follow are “Go THEREFORE”!!!! So… all the REST only works BECAUSE… OF… THIS!

Huh? So, like… what’s so important about THIS, eh? Well, it’s really a pretty massive statement, and it follows because of and consequent to… all of the Redemption. The whole Incarnation, Ministry, Crucifixion Thing. The Father has chosen to give to Jesus ALL Authority, in heaven and on earth. NO ONE ELSE holds that authority… not the Father (any longer, He has given it over)…. not the Enemy, Darkness, Satan former ruler of this world… but only Jesus. This is a progression even beyond the promises of the Garden, even beyond John 17.

This… is a massive…. statement.  Jesus has pointedly and specifically ordered the Disciples to come up on a mountain so He can announce to them that… HE ALONE is now LORD of ALL.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you;

And HERE, at the kernel of this whole discourse… Jesus uses a “THEREFORE”!!! Jesus does NOT simply “issue these orders” to the Disciples, and (derivatively) to us! He issues these instructions as a LOGICAL CONCLUSION of that which has been said before… He says, “Now that the Father has invested all authority over heaven and earth in Me… NOW this Chain of Grace continues and I invest this authority in you, to continue My Kingdom. GO! Love as I have loved! Speak My word(s) as I spoke those of the Father! Touch with My love and healing and wholeness, doing My work(s) as I did the Father’s. Lift Me up that more may fall in love with Me, as you fell in love with Me! Call them, show them, walk with them, live with them, and cover them up in the Father’s Love, My forgiveness and cleansing, and the Holy Spirit’s infinite and intimate Presence.”

Beyond all this He adds only one more revelation…

and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

He’s said it before. He will say it again. He whispers it in our hearts and minds every second of every minute of every day… because here is the ultimate fear, the ultimate torment, the ultimate terror… the be Utterly Alone in the Void. Here is the darkness that drives otherwise balanced people to take their own lives. The sundering of abandonment, betrayal, alone-ness. HE WILL NEVER DO THIS! He does not, and will never, cut you off and abandon and forsake you. The ultimate assurance… whether we feel Him or not, whether we welcome His presence or not… He promises…. “with you always, even to the end of time.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Essence of Discipleship

An endnote I would leave here is that a disciple is a living testament to a Master. Whether the master is Jesus, or Socrates (who discipled Plato, who discipled Aristotle), or otherwise… a disciple is a field into which a Living Presence is planted, and lives on. Jesus, Living and Very God, is immediately present and not subject to “generations” and “adulteration” over time.

The Key to Discipleship is Living Presence, and Immediate Love. Oddly enough, the Foundation of the Great Commission is in the LAST statement. It is the: “Lo, I am with you always!”

Know this… we can UTTERLY TRUST Jesus in that statement, and it is the hardest statement for us (as humans) to believe of anyone else.

Most if not all the suffering and insecurity in the world is based on the fear that, “If I don’t have… if I don’t show… if I don’t act… THUS, then this person or these people (who I need in my life)… will cast me out and abandon me.” Doesn’t matter if what we must have is money, power, status, control, authority, respect… doesn’t matter. Insecurity is the fear that if we do not possess those things or attributes, then those we value will not find us acceptable.

People then live out their lives trying to accumulate “insurance” against abandonment. They (we) can never fully rest with true peace. They (we) can never truly trust.

Now, it would be nice to say simply, “this isn’t true! People will not abandon you because you do not have or do whatever.” But, truth be told, I, for one, cannot say such a thing. I cannot say, “Trust people not to abandon you. Trust that people will not measure and judge you for what you have and what you do… Trust people to keep their word… Trust that those who say they love you, or treasure you, or will always walk with you… will keep those promises.” I cannot say that. I have experienced too many liars, too many oathbreakers, too many who speak such words falsely… no matter how sincerely they may once have been uttered.

In fact, it has been my experience that the more closely the Lord and I walk, the more truly His word(s) speak, the more like Him I love and touch… the MORE frequently I (and my words and touch) will be abandoned and cast out. He was clear about it. I’ve asked to be blessed, and He has declared this to be blessedness… that to speak His Truth means that it is RIGHT that some I never thought possible have called vile names, found me unworthy of ongoing friendship, or even rejected me from presence in public worship.

People… will DO that. No matter how sacredly you treat them, how deeply you bless them, how truly you deal with them, or how intensely you pray for them. Sometimes, to speak truth to someone… is to sacrifice their very friendship to the Truth. For they will sometimes betray you. He promised it. That should be no surprise.

BUT NOT HIM! NEVER HIM! JESUS DOES NOT, and WILL NOT, DO THAT!

And, by the way, how do you treat the betrayer after they break their word? How do you deal with them after they declare you “unclean”? How do you ever “trust” that oathbreaker again?

Lol. You treat them, love them, speak to them, pray for them, and even TRUST them… EXACTLY AS YOU DID BEFORE! It makes NO DIFFERENCE! All that “Stuff”…. is THEIR “stuff” to deal with before God. It’s not your (or my) “stuff”. The ONLY standard we have for relationship is the standard the Father holds towards and for US. It’s the same old lesson from Sermon on the Mount!

Jesus taught: “The Father deals with you as a sacred person, thusly. THEREFORE… you will treat other sacred people, the same way.” Period, full stop. There is no “transaction” to relationship. You treat “enemies” with the same love as “family”. No difference.

I love, trust, speak… to/for others… because and as God treats me. At least that is the standard… and I (of course) have my own “good and bad days” with the challenge of that.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Disciple others? Yes… simple… love them, bring the Living Presence of Christ… in you (in us)… to them, and walk with them thus.

Live, each moment, as though “He were with us, even to the end of the age.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

From my pack, I remove all “Trust” for people… lay it reverently on the fire… and watch it slowly burn to ash. My heart is lighter by the weight of its fear.

 

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Knowing Who You Are

Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation

The First Half of Life

Knowing Who You Are

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Gentle Reader — These are not my words. I reblog the wisdom of another. BUT, after 35 or so years of counseling, prayer, pondering the human heart, mind, soul… I couldn’t possibly have summarized what I have come to know to be true… as well as these words describe. This, this short and simple disclosure, is True. May it bless you and yours — Little Monk.

The first half of life is of crucial importance. You need boundaries, identity, safety, and some degree of order and consistency to get started personally and culturally. (Conservatives are much better here, but the trouble is that they stay here!) You have to have boundaries to move beyond boundaries, without dropping the boundaries! This is paradox. It’s both-and. You have to have a home to which you can return. In other words, you need to know who you are.

You also need to feel “special”; you need your “narcissistic fix.” By that I mean we all need some successes, response, and positive feedback early in life, or we will spend the rest of our lives demanding it, or bemoaning the lack of it, from others. There is a good and needed “narcissism,” if you want to call it that. You have to first have an ego structure to then let go of it and move beyond it. Only people who have internalized some impulse control tend to be successful in life, jobs, and relationships.

If you are mirrored well by others early in life you do not have to spend the rest of your life looking in Narcissus’ mirror or begging for the attention of others. You have already been “attended to” and now feel basically good—and always will—and can now attend to others instead of yourself. If you were properly mirrored when you were young, you are now free to mirror others and to see yourself honestly and helpfully.

I can see why a number of saints spoke of prayer itself as simply receiving the ever-benevolent gaze of God, returning it in kind, mutually gazing, and finally recognizing that it is one single gaze received and bounced back. And I do believe some people receive this loving gaze from God, even though they never got it from either of their parents. Their longing and their need is so great, and grace is always there to fill the vacuum.

Adapted from Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, pp. 4-5
and The Two Major Tasks of the Spiritual Life (CD, MP3 download)

Gateway to Silence:
Receive and reflect

 
4 Comments

Posted by on March 4, 2014 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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