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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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Man Push or God Pull — Pick One

WisdomThis Advent morning I’ve wakened in the early predawn hours with what I can only describe as a tremendous sense of joy and gratitude.

I often rise on Sundays and pray for ministers who today will lend their voices to the Lord, that He touch hearts, minds, and souls of His beloved children.  I will, in fact, have that privilege today as I serve in place of a friend who is a bit under the weather at the moment.

I have this overwhelming sense of this “Good News” I come to bring. To “lift Jesus up, that HE draw all men to Himself”. I need not draw or push them, they need not work or beg or force that to happen. Christians, with such frequency, tragedy, and futility try to “climb to the mountaintop of God”, or “purify themselves to warrant His grace”, and so on and so on. My heart breaks in the presence of such misunderstanding.

I have a friend who once lamented: “On my best days my highest thoughts of God are yet so poor as to be slanderous. He receives my thoughts of Him as a loving parent receives the rough crayon pictures drawn by their little boy.”

And that’s TRUE, Gentle Reader. I cannot gainsay that. It’s like setting a matchflame alongside the inferno of the Sun, and imagining that to be anything but pathetic. Yes, I agree.

But here’s this incredible thing… this ebullient joy I’m filled with this morning, that I almost feel as if welling up inside me…

Because GOD HIMSELF knows all that… Because He Himself yearns for our intimacy and closeness… HE has done ALL the “heavy lifting”:

  • He pulls… we need not push.
  • He lifts… we need not climb
  • He embraces… we need not thrash about to cling
  • He offers… we need not beg
  • He reveals… we need not dig

All He requires of us is trust and faith. The amazing thing about our matchflame, is that He Himself sucks it into the center of His heart, and melds us there… our limited little selves, utterly united with Him, and all that that means.

All that that means, though, is vastly more than our little selves can encompass, comprehend, understand, or express. Nonetheless, we certainly CAN “experience it”. We can live through it, know it, know that it is real, and be nourished by and grown from it.

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Today many of us will go off to worship, to praise, to fellowship with God and one another. All our words, all our songs, all our expressions of love and adoration, will… assuredly… fall pitifully short of doing justice to the glory that is Him.

But watch this… “Ecce!”… “Behold!”… “Look at this!”

KNOWING that, God has done this incredible thing that it is very easy to lose sight of. WE DON’T WORSHIP of our own selves. We cannot. We cannot create “good” apart from Him. It is He Himself, within us, in His Infinite Self who is the Holy Spirit, who is responding to Him with worship in the first place. We merely “ride along on His coat tails” anyway.

So… do you want to praise, pray, worship Him “worthily” (whatever that truly means)? Then “hush”, listen and ride along with the wordless Holy Spirit as HE worships the Father this day. When you feel your heart soar or flutter at an unexpected moment… go with it… don’t look about or read the bulletin to “quit being distracted”. Should tears come unbidden or silence come to your lips during the music, don’t shake yourself, wipe your eyes, and clear your throat for fear of embarrassment before neighbors. Should the sermon prompt in you the need to affirm some incredible truth, and you feel moved to go to the front and share that affirmation in words before a witness, don’t staunch that grace for fear of what the deacons will think. You’re not there for them, you’re there for Him, and He is here for all His family.

This is a wondrous day, Gentle Reader… Beloved Brethren. He came to declare “Jubilee” and fulfill all the requirements of the Law because we cannot and could not. Go forth this day and Celebrate that… with all the joy in your heart!

Grace to thee — The Little Monk

 

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Journey – Getting to Town

JerusalemOur Journey is drawing to a close. We are now in Holy Week. Different religious traditions deal in a variety of ways with the “rhythms” of the Liturgical Year. But no matter the tradition, there are few who fail to sense the increasing intensity and background hum of the Passion of Christ as we approach Easter Sunday.

Jesus, just ahead of us, has just made His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.

When He approached Bethphage and Bethany, near the mount that is called Olivet, He sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you; there, as you enter, you will find a colt tied on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of it.’” So those who were sent went away and found it just as He had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They said, “The Lord has need of it.” They brought it to Jesus, and they threw their coats on the colt and put Jesus on it. As He was going, they were spreading their coats on the road. As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, shouting:

Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord;
Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!” [Luke 19:29-39]

It has been this last line that has captivated me in recent weeks. “Crying Stones”… “Talking Rocks”. I know that may sound strange, but that was what struck me about this passage. I mean, Jesus SAID that. I’m kind of used to just blowing past that in the text, but this time it stopped me dead. Usually, I just pass over it, unconsciously covering it with a “poetic license” or “hyperbole” label. But recently, I’ve learned not to do that. I’ve learned not to assume that Jesus could speak anything less than the truth.

So I found myself pondering how stones could cry out. To be honest, I haven’t figured it out. My brain, my mind, cannot comprehend how rocks… can speak. But there’s lots of things Jesus taught, that stretch my reasoning beyond the way words are typically used. Things like being born again, or dying to save one’s life, or worshiping in neither mountain nor temple. I believe Jesus utterly, but I also acknowledge that there are times He uses words differently than I do.

So I took this Truth, that stones could praise Jesus, and looked across scripture for other similar applications. In short, I came to realize that there are many times “inanimate creation” does “living things”. All the way back to Cain and Abel, blood can call out to the Lord. Many Old Testament passages state that the blood of the righteous call out to God. Balaam’s mount clearly spoke in defense of her actions. Trees and mountains will obey a command uttered in sufficient faith. All these thoughts and reflections blended together into what seemed a single truth.

That all of creation is a unified whole. Everything “lives” in God, and He is God of All. We, His children, are a PART of that, but we are part of a greater life that is all of creation itself. All of creation praises and worships Him, and while we are blessed to be graced with free will, we are not the only creatures who inhabit His Kingdom.

This scripture seemed to echo:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. [Colossians 1:15-20]

“In Him all things hold together…”

That phrase arrested me as well. He is Life Himself.

I still cannot say I “understand”, in the sense of “comprehending”, or being able to contain and constrain this truth by my reasoning and logic. Nonetheless, I KNOW that Jesus spoke the truth of creation praising Him. There are moments, like in the quiet of the night or extremely early morning, where I can almost hear the praises of nature and stars as they sing to Him.

And beneath all of this, there is great joy in knowing… we are not alone. We are never alone. Not only does God Himself wrap us in the arms of His embrace, but we are surrounded by a creation that is held together at each and every moment in and by Him. We are inextricably woven into the fabric of Creation, and all of that, is woven in Him.

 

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No Comma… His Kingdom!

Night Castle“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]

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“Your kingdom come.”

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Your mind’s ear may hear that the same way that mine does… as “THY Kingdom come.” If so, that’s fine. We are about a process that started with the Post, “Whose What???!!!” exploring what seems to me like a beautiful Rose. It is the gift of the Lord’s Prayer, first unveiled by Jesus at the Sermon on the Mount, later repeated in a leaner form as instruction to His Disciples on how to pray.

This little “mini-journey” into the past, into trying to “hear HIM as He spoke this” to both the Multitudes and the Disciples, is rather a “prayer laboratory experiment”. I am not trying to “teach” here. The task is not for me to take information, or even insight, garnered from my OWN prayer and experience of these scriptures, and communicate that information to you. The task is vastly more subtle, and more fun, to pick up and examine this extraordinary Gift in myself and my own spirit, make a few gentle and general observations, and encourage you to pick up and examine this Gift in your own spirit… and it will thus be different, look different than mine… and see where the Holy Spirit in YOU guides your consideration.

We are considering the Lord’s Prayer like the unfolding petals of a gorgeous Rose, planted by the Lord and nurtured in the prayer garden of spirit, where we have all the time in the world simply to admire it, watch it unfold, and marvel at its beauty. We are taking one line at a time, considering and savoring the experience, as we let the Spirit echo, reverberate, indicate, and whisper… like sensing the fragrance of this Rose’s perfume, letting the Spirit wash over and through us with whatever He would have us see and know.

This Post considers the line, “Your kingdom come.”

It has been a couple days since the line before was considered, because I have struggled… terribly… with “how to do this”. I needed to sit, ponder, listen, and take instruction of the Lord as to what to type here.

What’s the problem?

Well, for one thing… “God’s Kingdom” is a scripturally gargantuan concept. Old Testament, Gospels, Epistles, to Revelation… the Kingdom of God is a HUGE chunk of understanding, or even RELATING to God as Our King. I needed to sit still, get out of ALL THAT… theology… commentaries… word studies… (one day, you may want to go check out the distinctions between “kingdom of God” and “kingdom of heaven”… both generally translated in English Bibles as “kingdom of God”… lol… you have no idea!) All that “stuff” just tends spontaneously to “spring up” around the phrase “Your kingdom come”, like weeds seem to burst forth in a rose garden. I KNEW getting lost and entranced in and by all that minutiae is/was simply NOT what the Lord would have of this post.

Second, there’s Greek. (There is a reason for the phrase, “It’s Greek to me!”) This line of the Lord’s Prayer, and the one that follows use an unusual form of language that is very difficult to express in English. This post is NOT meant to be a technical consideration of exegesis (the fancy term for figuring out what Greek really says). To let myself get lost in that, beautiful though it is, would quite defeat the mission here. This blog is NOT a consideration of technical theology or the skills thereof. This is, hopefully, a simple consideration of Jesus Christ and His grace in the lives and walk of those who love and choose to follow Him.

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So there I have sat, Gentle Reader. Perched like a frog on a toadstool, asking Jesus for help… trying not to let my “cat herding nature” distract me into chasing a number of very enticing directions. He just said, “Sit! Wait!” And so, I sat and waited.

Finally, today, He answered. I did not expect quite the answer I got… but here it is…

Jesus said I should, “Focus on the comma that isn’t there…”

What? I heard it repeated. It reminded me of a famous Sherlock Holmes exchange between him and Inspector Gregory in the story “Silver Blaze”…

“Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”
“To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
“The dog did nothing in the night-time.”
“That was the curious incident,” remarked Sherlock Holmes.

And then I understood. Here’s what I can tell you about “the comma that isn’t there”.

When I was young, learned this prayer, memorized this prayer, said and repeated this prayer countless times… in my heart and mind there was always a “COMMA” between “Thy Kingdom” and “Come”. As though it were a command. “Yo! Kingdom! Come HERE!” See? Not that I would express it in so rude a form to Almighty God, but much gentler… yet and expression of command, or maybe of petition.

But later, when I got into higher education and was sentenced to study Greek, I discovered an odd thing here. This word “come” is written in an unusual Greek form, almost like a “magic verb”, that can encompass all sorts of situations in the single word. Past, present, future… completed action, ongoing action… already here, yet coming. As I said, sort of a Mr. Clean Magic Thingy of words. (* tries to avoid twitching at flashback memories of Greek class… wonders if one can get PTSD from surviving Ancient and Koine Greek in consecutive semesters… hopes other survivors of Greek Class out there reading this don’t explode looking at this kind of description *)

Any… wayyyyyy….. (* tries to slide past this extremely sticky wicket with a minimum of stickitude… *)

What I want to suggest, as you look at and handle your own Rose of this verse, is:

What happens when we release all boundaries around the word “Kingdom”? And when we release all boundaries around the word “come”? And when we make sure there is no comma in the phrase?

Like, “What is a Kingdom?” How big is that? Is that a ‘territory’, or a ‘place under authority’? Can one always see the borders and boundaries? Does everyone living there always know they do? All that… any of that…. And the scriptural issues… Where is it? When is it? Is it after we die, out there, up there, somewhere? Is it wherever Jesus IS? Is it within us? Is it among us?

And what if “come” is just vastly bigger than we ever thought. Is it invitation? Yes. But is it statement of something done? Yes. Something happening right now? Yes. Something to happen in the future?

So many echoes. So many ideas. So many meanings… AND HERE’S the COOLEST PART! As God unfolds these incredible petals, one after another, they HARMONIZE like notes in a chord! It is not discord and confusion, but harmony and music! At least, it is if we don’t push or pull… if we just let Jesus highlight and unfurl the Rose.

Great phrase I read a few weeks ago… “You can’t push the river”.

God really marked that for me, especially about prayer and grace. Sometimes, you just enter the water to float with the current, knowing that God alone sets the pace. You can get in or out if you choose, but you cannot stop it, you cannot slow it, and you cannot push it. Once you’re in, you’re in HIS domain, and you can trust that He will handle that perfectly.

Enjoy your Garden, Gentle Reader. Grace to thee! – Little Monk

 

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Paul’s Song

The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.

Day to day pours forth speech,
And night to night reveals knowledge.

There is no speech, nor are there words; Their voice is not heard.

Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their utterances to the end of the world.

I stand at the edge of the Omniverse ask, “Am I? Do I Exist? Am I a Figment?” and wait… silence.

Then Omniverse answers, “You are, because I AM.”

“Why?” I ask.

“That I may Love Thee.”

“What must I do, to be so loved?”

“Continue to exist. To be. To live.”

“What more?”

“Nothing more.”

And from the silence, the darkness, I begin to hear… The music comes, the rhythm comes, the pulses of praise of worship, from hearts and voices without lips or form. The music builds, layer by layer, to a chorus beyond count. Songs without words. Music without notes. The very humming of the IS… the ARE… THEMSELVES.

“What… What is that? What do I hear?”

“You hear the IS… it comes from I AM… this is Worship, this is Life, this is Love, this is to BE!”

I listen… I hum… I vibrate… I AM… I live… I love… No longer just me… Now we… Us…

The Omniverse, and all within hums, vibrates, thrums… Is He/She the Source of the vibration? Or does the hum answer Him/Her?

“Yes… and No… Both!”

“I do not understand.”

“I know. But that does not matter. It is all right.”

“But what IS all this?”

“Love. My love.”

“But Who AM I?”

“Love. My love.”

But WHY is all this?”

“Love. My love.”

“But What is it all about? Why is there life? Why are there others? Why is there freedom? Why can some do good, and others do ill?” and as if in some gigantic canyon, some cosmic canyon of stars and galaxies, I heard my wee small voice echo…

WHY?… WHY?… WHy?… Why?… why?…”

And the Stars, and Galaxies, and Universes, picked up my echo, and all vibrated with…

WHY!… WHY!… WHy!… Why!… why!…” But from THEIR voices, it was not a question, but a statement…

The Omniverse completes the statement… “Love. My LOVE!”

And I see. I know, but not comprehend… the answer to all “Why?”…

“Love. His/Her Love.”…

“Yes.”

The Song… It is so beautiful… I no longer hear it… I no longer sing it…

I am a… a Note. NO! More than a “note”, I am a Harmony WITHIN it! Yes!

The Song is:

Love… MY Love…

The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
Day to day pours forth speech,
And night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words;
Their voice is not heard.
Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their utterances to the end of the world.In them He has placed a tent for the sun,
Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber;
It rejoices as a strong man to run his course.
Its rising is from one end of the heavens,
And its circuit to the other end of them;
And there is nothing hidden from its heat.

The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether.
10 They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them Your servant is warned;
In keeping them there is great reward.
12 Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults.
13 Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins;
Let them not rule over me;
Then I will be blameless,
And I shall be acquitted of great transgression.
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer. [Psalm 19]

 
3 Comments

Posted by on January 15, 2014 in Quiet Time, Uncategorized

 

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The Gift Box

The BoxIt was Christmas Morning at the Magic Monastery, and all the monks were filled with joy and excitement. A wondrous Christmas Tree stood in the Great Hall, and St. Nicholas had come and gone the earlier night, leaving beautifully wrapped gifts for all the brethren.

I could scarcely contain my excitement as my name was called and a brother brought me a gorgeous gift box with a great scarlet bow on the top and a card reading, “Merry Christmas, Little Monk, from Your Father.”

“What could it be?” I wondered, as I shook the box as discretely as possible. It made no sound. In fact, it had no sensation at all. It seemed… empty… which disturbed me a bit. I began to worry.

Was the box truly empty? Had I displeased the Father this year? Had I misbehaved? Sinned? Treated others as less than sacred? Had I disobeyed Him, or crossed His will? These fears shot through my heart like lances of ice.

I thought through the year, all my challenges, temptations, falls… my shortness of temper, impatience, mistrust, lack of faith… my carelessness, my selfishness, my failures in grace. For just a moment, it seemed overwhelming. Of COURSE, this box was empty! What ever made me think that I deserved a Christmas present from the Father of Lights? I was, and had been all year, an utterly undeserving child. Why should I even bother to open the box?

I sat, dejected.

Then, my name was called to open my gift, as all the brethren sat around me with smiling encouragement and the joy of grace on their faces. I wanted to weep. I wanted to tell them my box would be empty, for I’d earned no gift from the Father this year.

But an older monk, a few seats away, just nodded and smiled at me, as though he could see deep into my heart.

“Ah, Little Monk… you are filled with fear. Do not be afraid. All of our boxes are light. Be brave, Little Monk. Trust the Father, and open your box. See what lies within. You cannot see with eyes of fear, look inside with eyes of trust,” his gentle voice intoned, as he encouraged me.

So I took a deep breath, removed the bow and wrappings, and found a carved wooden chest with the most beautiful scrollwork engraved all around, inlaid with silver and gold. The box itself took my breath away. And when I opened it…

There was not “nothing”. Within the Box… was “Everything”. Inside the Box was all I ever needed or would ever need, all my friends and the family of God, all joy, beauty, truth, pleasure, and beyond everything else… love. There were no words to describe… either the Gift, or my heart at receiving it.

As I gazed, rapt in awe, at the contents of my Box, a scroll seemed to float upwards among the infinite contents, and catch my eye. I grasped the scroll and drew it out, as the Box sat warmly on my lap.

“Read it,” the old monk prompted, as the brethren looked on.

The Scroll said: “My dear son, Little Monk. Merry Christmas, and enjoy this Box and its contents in this new life, this new beginning, this new year that I give to you. Never forget, My presents do not come because you deserve them, or because you have earned them. I do not ‘compensate’ My children as employees. I, your Father, give My children GIFTS, simply because I Love you, and for no other reason. I Love you, I seek only your good, always… and I keep My promises. You can always trust to that.

“Remember this, written by My great musician… ‘Trust in the Lord and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, and He will do it.’

“This Box is My ultimate Gift and contains all other gifts. The name… is Grace. You delight in Me, Little Monk. That is mutual. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.”

And the scroll was signed, “Your Loving Father.”

All around me, the brethren smiled, nodded, and simply said, “Amen”.

 
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Posted by on December 26, 2013 in Quiet Time, Uncategorized

 

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The Day Before Christmas!

I awoke with this rolling through my head this morning… I needed to get it down and share it with you. Merry Christmas to you all! Blessings and Grace to thee, Gentle Readers!

Twas the Day Before Christmas!

T’was the day before Christmas, and all through God’s Kingdom
His children were pondering how to be right.
So much preparation! The shopping! The travel!
The wrapping of presents on Christmas Eve night!

“This time should be Sacred! A Holy endeavor!”
Declare countless critics, most solemn in tone.
“This shopping is frivolous! Music commercial!
There’s nothing that honors Our God on His Throne!

“The Yule Log, Saint Nicolas, Stockings by Fireplace… all Pagan!” these holy ones sneer.
With voices of outrage, these judges condemn all
The joy and the laughter, to them empty din,
“These people should be on their knees in repentance,
Just muttering thanks that God came for their sin!”

At the opposite end, there are those who’ve forgotten that
There is a God in the heavens at all.
For these, Blessed Christmas is simply a holiday
Break from their workload to party with all.

And here in between there are millions of followers,
Worshipping God as their Father and Friend,
But hearing rebuke from the pious and critical,
Now fearful that Christmas traditions offend.

Now I am a simple Monk, not very bright, I fear…
Studied in all the right subjects, I guess.
All the right “ologies”, customs and languages,
But even this Little Monk, ponder as hard I might,
Couldn’t determine what God sought to bless!

So off to my closet I trudged on this Christmas Eve,
Finally sick of the whining and strife.
I thought, “Surely God will be willing to share with me,
What the Nativity means in my life.”

So down I sat, pouring two coffees and waiting,
When much to my shock, the Great Father appeared…
I started to kneel, He at my little table,
He shook His head smiling, said, “Sit down right here.”

“Don’t be so flustered, My loving but Little Monk,
Jesus has made it quite clear,
that each time you sit drinking coffee across from Him,
you drink with Me.
Son, there’s nothing to fear.

“You want to know, ‘Who is Right’ in this debate of yours?
How do I want to see this time of year?
Those who have lights, tinsel, presents, and parties,
Or those who seek sacred remembrance austere?

“O My dear Little Monk, when will you ever learn?
Though I applaud that you bring this to Me…
It’s not in the forms or the outward appearance,
But what’s in the heart of the child that I see.

“To answer your question of who’s right and who’s wrong,
I tell you quite clearly, you don’t see aright.
The question’s not whether there’s presents and tinsel,
But rather are gifts being given with LOVE?
When gathered in love, peace and joy at His coming,
My Son’s there, in midst of them, all through that night.

“For others who walk with Me daily and deeply,
Who live by My breath and each heartbeat they hear,
The sense of the sacred seems poignant and stately,
They sometimes mistake that all see Me so clear.

“Don’t JUDGE, precious Little Monk, one or the other,
It’s not just a question of ‘wrong’ or of ‘right’,
Like meat bought from temples, a person of conscience
Must simply do what My Spirit instructs THEM,
And no one but Me can condemn them that night.

“The one thing I want you, like any who love Me,
To do as you celebrate My Son’s great Birth,
However you choose to make merry and gather,
Is simply invite Him to join you on Earth.

“Let Jesus take part in your party or service,
Imagine Him sitting there, singing along.
For always He loves to take part with Our children in gathering,
The Gospels show as often He partied as preached,
He spent as much time in the houses of sinners AND Pharisees,
As ever He went to the Temple to teach.

“So there, Little Monk, I have answered your question.
‘Who’s right?’ or ‘ Who’s wrong?’ has no meaning to Me.
‘Why do you gather? Is love, peace, and joy there?
Have you invited My Son there to join you?’
These matter, not whether you tinsel a tree!

“Keep asking your questions, My sweet son, thou Little Monk.
One day you may yet grow up and be wise.
For life’s not a test, that you worry to pass or flunk,
But seeking to please Me is grace in My eyes.

“So much do My children fret, worry, and ponder,
That this course or that is the line of My will.
Their fear can unhinge them, just freeze them immobile,
They seek to be pleasing, they stop and stand still…

“I wish I could tell them, they’ve already done it!
I’m pleased when they look to Me first!
The left or the right path is far less important to Me,
Than asking Me which best or worst!

“In asking, they please Me. I’m simply a Father
who loves them and seeks all their best.
I manage My Kingdom, it does not depend on their
Efforts or strength in the test.

“I seek to be with them, as always I have from before the beginning of time.
Tonight let us celebrate, ‘God Come Among Us’,
(‘Tis one of Our greatest of triumphs, you know)
Quit fretting and judging,” He tousled my hair as He rose,
Then gently He said, “I must go.”

And He walked away, slowly.
I knew that I had to get paper and pen in my hand.
To share such a moment, such comfort and warmth,
On so cold a day all through this land.

I shall celebrate Christmas, the Birth of Our Savior,
With family, and tinsel, and lights,
And sacred remembrance of price that was paid,
For my love, joy, and peace in this Night.

I love you, my Family, all brothers and sisters! Let’s celebrate Birthday of  Jesus the Son!
For one night, no differences as we stand arm in arm, Children the Father’s made One.

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2013 in Quiet Time, Uncategorized

 

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