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Refrigerator Magnets — and Acid Rain

 

Spine of a BiblePsalm 8

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

The Lord’s Glory and Man’s Dignity.

For the choir director; on the Gittith. A Psalm of David.

O Lord, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth,
Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!
From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength
Because of Your adversaries,
To make the enemy and the revengeful cease.

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him?
Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty!
You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet,
All sheep and oxen, And also the beasts of the field,
The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, Whatever passes through the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

OK, so some morning this comes into your heart and you just SOAR… right? I mean, for a moment, just the barest fraction of moments… you are utterly rapt in true praise and worship… right? But then… then… the moment drifts away… as the leg cramps, or the chair is uncomfortable, or the day’s appointments intrude on consciousness, or the coffee pot burps, or the dog barks… and the moment is gone, like a soap bubble popping in a stiff breeze.

Gentle Reader, it should come as no surprise that I am a bit strange… that my prayer life is a bit strange. I mean, if the TITLE of this blog doesn’t give a clue, certainly the years of blog posts within it have…

So it won’t come as a shock to anyone here to say, I had a strange thing happen the other day, as God gave me one of the oddest moments of encouragement I’ve ever known. I invite you into this moment, though it may well stretch the imagination a bit. Forewarning, you want to pull out and dust off your “science fiction mind” for a few minutes. You’ll need some of that “physics – edges of the universe” thinking for just a bit.

Anyhow… the moment started, typically enough, with an instant of pure, clean, clear praise/worship prayer. Kinda like what the heart feels/experiences with we gently move through that 8th Psalm up there… just this beauteous, lovely, moment lost in Him…

So far, so good… for like… nanoseconds…

Then, it starts… all the little frailties, foibles, distraction, sparkly bits, chaotic cats… like my mind/spirit is a little bar magnet tied on a shoelace, being dragged through a pan full of metal shavings! By the time I come to the “Amen”, I can scarcely recall the essence of the Heavenly Throne where I started…

And that depresses me. That disturbs me. I… ** watch me draw myself up in my very best monastic dignity here **... I… am a GROWNUP, gosh-darnit! And I should be capable of maintaining a train of thought longer than my  caboose linked directly to His locomotive.

For I realize that it is the Lord Himself, who BEGINS every worship, praise or prayer. It is the impulse of the Holy Spirit, towards His Own Person… the Father… through the Son… that sets up the “cycle”, the “convection” of prayer, thanksgiving or praise that we are privileged to “ride along with”, like surfing a wave of grace that upholds the omniverse.

I realize that!

I just get so frustrated that before hitting the beach, almost at the same moment I catch the initial wave… I suddenly have to pull every bit of seaweed, flotsam, jelly fish, seashell, foam… and every other thing I encounter, up onto the board with me. I NEVER get there with a “pure intention”… with simple, straightforwardness… with a clean heart.

(You may recall, for years I really felt down on myself for that. Then, a couple years ago now… Jesus sat down alongside me when I was in one of these mini-tantrums, put His arm around my shoulders, and said, “Little Monk… I KNOW this. I’ve ALWAYS known this. And I embrace and treasure you… AND this… always! Now, if I embrace this truth of you, don’t you think you can too? Without all this regret?”)

So, I learned to “shrug” rather than condemn, accepting this frailty as my human condition, knowing by faith that the Lord receives the “prayer of my heart”, my “will”, my “intention”, despite all the debris I hang on it by the time I release it.

So, the other night, I found myself “shrugging this off”. As simple praise that started so clear, got tangled in other thoughts and ideas by the “Amen”. I didn’t fixate on it… I just “shrugged” and carried on, wrapping a silent “I’m sorry” around my thoughts, as I continued to pray.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

That’s when God did this incredible thing.

He stopped me.

“O Little Monk!” He laughed, compassionately. “You try so hard, you work so hard, and you SO miss the point. Let Me try to fix this a moment!

“Behold… here is what you see…”

And I saw my “convection” model… like rain forming in the clouds. The water up there, in the atmosphere at high altitude, is largely crystal. It is pure, it is clean, like “ice”… it is pure water. At some point, temperature, humidity, pressure, wind, come together in just the right proportions and “rain” begins to descend from the heart of a cloud. THAT is pure water. Like the environment impels the cloud, and the cloud responds releasing a drop of pure water.

Like, the Holy Spirit impels the heart in God, and the heart/mind/spirit responds releasing a drop of pure… “prayer”.

But then, as that drop from the raincloud falls, it passes through haze, smog, dust, dirt, smut. It picks up “stuff”, some of which is really “bad stuff”. These days, the world is losing (every day) irreplaceable artifacts, architecture, and art to “Acid Rain”. By the time that raindrop falls to earth, it picks up enough pollution and toxicity that it’s dissolving the details of stone carved hundreds or thousands of years ago.

This is sad. This is how I saw my prayer. God agreed… this made me sadder, not relieved! I was confused.

“But wait!” He said. “That is only how YOU see it. How YOU experience it, Little Monk. Your drop has to ‘fall down’, has to filter on through your own mind and consciousness (complete with all your ‘stuff’), before YOU get to your ‘Amen’. So YOU experience it as polluted, watered down, and vastly short of what the Holy Spirit called it forth to be.”

“Yes, Lord. That’s true.” I nodded, not quite following Him.

“But don’t you see, Little Monk? I am NOT you! I do NOT work that way! I do not have to ‘wait for your Amen’. For Me, I am there, I am present in the moment of your RESPONSE. Let Me show you.”

And He showed me an “impulse of the Holy Spirit”… Um, imagine a “spark”, triggering a “heartbeat”. So there is a moment of a “call to worship”, or a moment of “thanksgiving”, or a moment of “loving petition or intercession”…  like a laser ray, shining like a beacon towards the Father’s heart.

And, for a moment of response, I JOIN with that. For a time, however brief, my attention is focused entirely on Him, and/or on the person being loved and prayed for. For however brief a time, *I* am OUT of the loop. The prayer is “selfless” in the right sense of that.

But then, as I watched this “reconstruction”, I started moving further down the timeline, to where it gets polluted, and He said…

“STOP! Don’t DO that! THAT’s what you are not understanding. That’s what I want you to see here and now. That is what YOU do, what YOU experience… but not Me. Let me show you how I see that same prayer…”

** Now here’s where it gets a bit more weird, Gentle Reader. Just try to ride with me here **

But imagine a visible “time line” in front of you. Like a “number line” back when you were in grade school math. And imagine that on that Time Line you can see the… whatever the period was… lots of seconds, a few seconds, one second, nanoseconds…. whatever… where that RESPONSE to the call of the Holy Spirit (that “pure prayer of will and heart”) was demarcated, before magnetic sticky stuff started to glom onto it.

Right… now imagine that God just “magnified” that section of the timeline in front of you, so that it wasn’t just “inches” anymore, but “feet”, then “yards” then “miles”…. Now imagine that instead of just ONE dimension… (a time LINE), it became TWO… a surface, like a landscape of miles…

I watched this. I watched this nanosecond, become an entire landscape… a landscape of worship of Him, praise of Him, submission to Him, adoration of Him. It became light reflecting His Light, and He “reveled” in it. He wrapped Himself with it like a coat, and derived great joy from it.

“THIS, Little Monk. This is how I see everyone, anyone’s, response to the Spirit’s impulse to prayer, praise, or petition. Time means NOTHING to Me. I am NOT subject to Time. I capture and treasure moments when My children simply love and trust Me. No matter how short those moments seem to them.

“I can come here anytime. This nanosecond of yours, is like a millennium to Me. I take such moments as these, and preserve them in My heart… like you take the drawings of your grandchildren, and stick them on your refrigerator door… as you did their mother’s before them. Little Monk… EVERY time a child of Mine responds with love to a moment of Spirit… I capture and treasure that moment, like a canvas. I save it in My ‘forever’… like you on your refrigerator door.

“Try to stop focusing on the Acid Rain. I know you see it, but I do not. I see this… and in My House are many refrigerators… and the doors… the doors are huge. Think of those, and enjoy the moments.

“We’ll discuss the Acid Rain more later. But for now, just keep making the artwork. I’ve plenty of room left on your refrigerator door.”

And He hugged me, and returned me to my regularly scheduled dimension.  I felt much better. How about you, Gentle Reader?

 
3 Comments

Posted by on January 4, 2016 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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Worship without but within words…

earth beautifulFrom some years ago…

Sleeping… waken… open eyes… beautiful… lights dancing, but small lights. Seemingly in random motion, yet not… as I rest, relax, cease striving, I see pattern, beauty, praise. This is life itself… rather, Life Himself. Truth, beauty, goodness, love, peace, joy, music, praise, thanks… worship. Somehow, I have wakened inside worship.  How amazing.

“Lord?” I whisper, reverently, sacredly… awed.

And there is caress, a tender hug and enfolding… no words… direct impression of idea… He unspeaks… “Hush… be… I AM… you… be.” Can’t really translate the impression into words. That is as close as I can come. I was simply to exist in Him, and hush. So I did.

And then… I was inside of Someone with no boundaries or limits. Strange, to be inside One Who has no “outside”. But then He spoke, He uttered, and I flowed with that tide, that current from within Him to “other”, to “beyond” Him… He had spoken The Word.

And now, with infinite others, I was inside that Other… Holy Other… spoken forth from the First, from the Prime Mover… still dancing lights, all the same, identical pattern, Life Himself. Truth, beauty, goodness, love, peace, joy, music, praise, thanks… worship. No different, yet different, for now all this worship and praise had an Object, a Focus, the Other, the Prime Mover.

And This One, This Holy One, spoken forth from the Object of His Love, now spoke forth His Own First Word… it was, “Father”, as He wholly and entirely adored the Prime Mover. And again there was movement, the lights, we, flowed from Him, outwards, back to the Father. Amazing.

And then, between them, forevermore, remained that “word” that “bridge” the relationship between Them. And it grew, expanded, encompassing all and everything, in its own light, as This Too became Alive and Whole in and of Himself… the Relationship Between Them, as the Prime Mover spoke again… the word “Son.”

There was nothing to say, nothing to do, nothing to think, but to flow with this Life, this Love, these Words… There was no awareness of anything beyond the moment… the “I”… the “Now”… the “Here”… and Here, was, distinctly, worship.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Oh, sweet irony. I do not wish to speak. I am yet There… and when I “hush”, when I now “relax” and allow Him to draw me into Him with “no distance”, “no apartness”, then my mind stops thinking, there is no more I/Thou, and I am there! Such… no, no words. The sweetness, the joy and light of that, is so immediate, so poignant, that it pierces the heart and soul. Seems strange to say… joy so great it is nearly painful in its intensity. A moment more… then work… then obedience…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

There are some who pray, who have discovered God in Silence. I never understood before. Trappists, Carthusians… My Jesuit father frequently said, if God did not command his obedience and service as a Jesuit, or if the Order ever chose to release him (as he had a request before them to do for years)… he sought to join a Carthusian monastery he knew. I asked why, and he said, “They are forever silent. They live ever in His immediate presence, and hear only Him. God grants me that only when I contemplate… but then commands me to teach. So I obey. But someday, if He grants my wish and reward, I shall be a Carthusian.”

I did not understand. I do now.

The Music! The Harmonies of the Silence! Would that I never again spoke or uttered a sound. The irony. It seems I very much am “my father’s child”. Now, that finally I desire no speech… now I am properly prepared to craft words. Now, it is time… to teach. Though all I would seek is solitude and silence.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on December 29, 2015 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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Inner Child makes the Flying Leap!

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jason R. Zalasky/Released)

This will be a very simple, fairly short, post. A few days ago I posted “How to be Great!”  challenging all of us, Gentle Reader, to increase our awareness of the Intimate and Immediate Presence of God through developing (or rediscovering) simple childlike trust, and applying that to Our Father.

I phrased this thought in a comment below the post, thus:

“[Our Father] has LOTS of children! …  It goes on and on and on. All it takes to enjoy that play… those warm strong arms and hands… is a brisk sprint and the flying leap in His direction, trusting that He catch you. He ALWAYS does. He ALWAYS has. He ALWAYS will.”

Our Father delights in children. I’ve said before that the single unrelenting truth I see repeated throughout the Bible from one end to the other, is the ongoing saga of God seeking to live intimately among His children… to provide for us, care for us, protect us, love us… and our equally unrelenting determination to resist or eventually sabotage His efforts.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

But here’s a critical thing I neglected to mention in the challenge to Trust…

In order to know that experience… of being caught and cherished in Our Father’s strong warm arms and hands… we MUST first make that flying leap of faith.

What’s worse… Only our Inner Child can do that!

Think about it. How likely are you, or me, or anyone else… to get a sprinting running start, and then leap out into empty space? How silly do/would we feel? Ever gone to one of those… (I’ve thought of several adjectives to insert right here, but I’m resisting the impulse)... “Teamwork Building Workshops” in management or an organization? You know… the ones with the obstacle course, the ropes course, the puzzles to work out? The ones where you do the “Trust Fall” and let yourself Nestea-Plunge backwards in the hope that your colleagues and teammates will catch you, preventing a heart-stopping diaphragm-paralyzing fall that puts you in traction for a week? Ever been there? So… how silly does all that feel?

You have to “change gears” to get into all that. You have to “shift into Game-Mode”. Remember the folks who seemed to be having a great time, and did pretty well? Then, remember the grumps who just stood off to the side, arms crossed, shaking their heads at all this “waste-of-time-foolishness”?

What’s the difference between those two groups?

The first have discovered and liberated their Inner Child. The second, have him/her locked in their room for the duration (of life).

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So what has any of this got to do with Prayer, with the Bible, with Jesus, Little Monk?

Just this… does God love us any less when we grieve and confine our Inner Child? No. He loves us just the same.

Is there anything “wrong” with behaving like a mature, sensible adult in our lives? No, of course not… that’s why we bother to grow up at all!

Then what are you talking about?

Our upbringings… our parents, mentors, teachers, school, religion… teach us “Da Rules” to constrain and conform our Inner Child to adult norms of behavior. (That is a GOOD thing. Inner Child, left to his/her own devices can become a selfish little monster.) Inner Child is that essence of the “self alone”, of “me”, of “my”, without much regard for others except as they bring us comfort or pleasure. Our “Inner Parent” is the authority, the Rulegiver, the programming we carry with us telling us all the objective standards for right, wrong, acceptable, unacceptable, and what makes us OK or not.

As we grow and develop, these interactions go along, and we become the “Inner Adult”… the personal voice of judgment, reason, consideration, and decision-making on what we do, what priorities we set, what values we adopt, and how we choose to live.

Sooo… this leads into Jesus… how, exactly?

Just this. We can become utterly addicted to our Inner Adult. We can, gradually, surreptitiously, become convinced that our own judgment… our own thinking… our own reason… is the only trustworthy criterion we have for choosing lifestyle. And, to be perfectly frank… Jesus “won’t fit” inside that paradigm at all.

Jesus can certainly “work with” it. We can “believe” in Him with our head. And we can “confess Him” with our mouth. And thus… assuredly… we can be “saved”.

Is that enough?

Yes. Yes it is. That “saves… from the pains of the second death and fires of hell”. We can say all the Roman Road “magic words”… confess our sins, ask Him into our hearts and lives, declare our willingness to be His, and He is EVER and ALWAYS faithful to take that offer, redeem us, and declare us His forever. Yes.

At that point… at that moment… we are “safe forever” from the Father’s Wrath and Punishment Due Our Sin! Yes.

But again, I ask… Is that enough? Is that enough for you? Was it enough for me?

It was not. I want/wanted more. I want/wanted all God has/had/will ever have for me. I want to love God with ALL my heart, mind, strength… to love as Jesus loves… I want so much MORE than “enough”.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

And then one day, God answered the “desire of my heart”. He issued a challenge, I responded, and everything changed. I’m not going to tell you “how that went down” for me, because such words create an expectation that that’s how it “should go down” for anyone or everyone else, and that’s just not true. HOW such things progress is individual… as the Holy Spirit ushers one’s own soul along the right path.

But here was the challenge…

“Only one’s Inner Child can make the leap of faith… the Trust… that you crave, Little Monk. Put aside, for the moment, all that you know… all that you think… all that maturity and training you’ve worked to endure… embrace your Inner Child, and give that permission to leap… unrestrained… into the Void calling My Name. I shall catch you… every single time. There is nothing to fear.”

[NOTE: Please bear in mind, Gentle Reader… though this should go without saying… I speak here of a Prayer Event… a metaphorical leap. This is an experience of meditation and prayer. This has nothing to do with children’s tying a towel around their necks, and plunging off the garage eaves! Please step off no roofs, climb from no boats in deep water expecting to walk ashore… None of that, to be taken from this post!]

There is nothing WRONG with our Inner Adult. But he/she is “limited” by the horizons and boundaries of our own minds and hearts. Only when we embrace and accept our own Inner Child… allowing him/her access to our prayer lives, will we discover the trusting Leap of Faith.

I am reminded of an instruction oft-repeated to me years ago, long before I came to understand it…

“Please stop trying so hard to be Jesus. Only Jesus can be Jesus. Instead, just try to LET Jesus be Jesus IN you, because only He can.”

Jesus never lost His embrace of His Inner Child. His Inner Child always knew the Joy and Love of Our Father!

Now, Gentle Reader… go “play” for a bit!

 
4 Comments

Posted by on December 28, 2015 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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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]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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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Once Upon a Time: There Was a Knight

http://www.fromoldbooks.org/OldEngland/pages/1373-Wood-cut-of-a-Knight/Once 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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Spiritual Warfare: Authority Q & A Two

[This was contained in a comment by Susan Irene Fox to Spiritual Warfare: Authority, Part Deux. I bring this post to expand this discussion. Please feel free to enter in. Here is the response.]


 

“Because we have become God’s children by having been born again of the Spirit, we can truly call God “Father”. Our assurance of this is that the Spirit who indwells us testifies with our spirits that we are His. Because we are now His children, we are also His heirs, co-heirs with Christ; that is borne out by our willingness to suffer with Christ in this life.”


 

You have touched on an absolute truth, and I can illustrate with a very simple parallel. We call “spirits of darkness” that for a very good reason. Let me sum up a very long discussion and presentation simply saying… “Imagine, if you will, that such entities are actually composed of ‘shadow’.” Stop just one moment and get a firm grip on those words in your mind’s eye.

Now… when one such entity steps into a “spotlight”, what HAS to happen?

Not just “what happens?”, but what logically, necessarily, HAS to happen?…… *POOF!*… Right?

Well, theologically, we talk about all these different descriptive systems for dealing with God and spiritual things… one of which is called the “Light Metaphysic”. John, the Apostle, really made use of this trying to describe various aspects of Jesus, of God, and of relationship with Him. (“God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” or “The light shone in the darkness, and the darkness knew it not.” etc.)

But it’s a terrific imagery, way of trying to describe reality, with regard to spiritual warfare. Demons and unclean spirits were distinctly “uncomfortable” in Jesus’ presence. He is/was Light Himself. His very presence and nature threatened their ability to cloak themselves in any form at all. When He encountered a person who needed healing or deliverance, dark spirits wanted to be separated from Him… either that He would go away, or that He would send them away (e.g. into swine). For Him to be present with them, too close, was for them to experience “torment” (are You here to torment us before our time?).

Well, one reason I posted “How much Holy Spirit do you have?” before getting into the current discussion, is that that reality has never changed. Dark spirits are “uncomfortable” (lol, what a wimpy word… but I’ll stay with it)… in the Immediate Presence of Christ. And EVERY Indwelt believer carries in him/her the Immediate Presence of Christ.

Well then, does that mean we cannot be approached, assailed, or even inhabited by any spirit of darkness? No, not exactly. Our free will gives us the option of allowing ingress into what I call “our shadowy corners”… our own wrong attitudes, our own areas for future growth, our own habitual weaknesses, biases, judgmentalisms, unkindnesses… all those areas where from time to time the Lord grows us through rebuke, conviction, repentance and transformation… sort of like “damp spots” in the foundation, walls, floors or crawlspaces of our house where mold can grow undisturbed. We can “host” shadow-infection, just as our bodies can host illnesses… without being consciously aware of it. And the impact of such infection can be more or less serious depending on extent, duration, and how central is the function to our lives.

A Christian need not be “shadow free” to be Christian, but the extent to which he/she consciously embraces and allows transformation of light affects both the “opportunities” for shadows lurking, along with quality of life… Peace, Joy, Humor, Love, Generosity, Satisfaction, etc. Just as a human being need not be “infection free” to be Alive, but the extent of robust health, immune system function, nutrition and wellness certainly affects both the extent of compromise to infection, and the overall quality of life.

Very solid parallel that.

So it’s hard for me to discuss such things without seeming to foster an attitude of “nonchalant indifference”… “Oh well, everybody deals with this all the time, so… no big deal… forget about it.” Or, alternatively, an attitude of hypervigilant terror… “Omigosh, you mean… they’re… they’re… EVERYWHERE? *I* deal with them? My church, my pastor, my spouse, my kids??? What do I do? What do I DO??” And prompt a rapid shopping trip for unguents, candles, incense, oil, tracts, and Christian Books… oh, and miles of bubble wrap with duct tape.

For years I’ve lived quietly, yielding to my caution not to prompt either response.

But a more balanced position is simply this…

Just as physically we live in a world populated with myriads of creatures we cannot see or detect, some of which we interact with, and can harm us… Just as we deal with that reality through simple hygiene, care of our constitutions and health of lifestyle (food, clothing, shelter, hydration, nutrition)… Just as we help one another keep healthy, and offer an aspirin to a friend with a headache… Just as we seek professional expert health care interventions when an illness interferes too profoundly with our activities of daily life, or when infection places others at risk… All that, without panic or arrogance…

So I hope we can look at Spiritual Warfare. We live in a world inhabited by others as well, some of whom mean us harm. There’s fundamental spiritual health, there’s hygiene, there’s mutual support, and there’s acute care. None of that should generate either panic or arrogance.

All I seek to do here is offer “wellness education” for Christendom at large, and issue invitation to those with a call to providing acute care for those in need, to seek out and pursue further education as caregivers.

 

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A Not-So-Random Act of Kindness…

angel glowThe past few days I’ve been thinking of “seeing God in all things”, and my early training in things spiritual. This afternoon, this embarrassing recollection came to me of a “mundane miracle” (the kind folks don’t think much about or speak to others of)… and I had the impulse to write it up. That impulse was instantly smothered by my own pride and sense of dignity, as I thought, “Oh no! I can’t put THAT episode out there. I look so foolish!”

Well, as prayers go, we all know how THAT was going to end up, so please feel free to laugh at the foolishness of my callow youth. I hasten to add that I was deep in the throes of my 19 year old omniscience at the time. I had recently been baptized after a year of catechumenate, thought I had a thorough grip on both religion and spirituality, and… basically… considered myself God’s gift to Christendom. (I shake my head and blush to admit all of that… but there it is… the truth is just the truth.)

Anyway, my Jesuit Dad was out of town on a business trip, I was a college student, and typically I attended noonday Mass at the campus chapel if Dad were not at home to celebrate Mass in the late afternoon. Morning classes finished up, and as I was reaching the brick staircase down to the subterranean Chapel that occupied our subgrade complex of Fountain, Bookstore, Chapel, and Cafeteria, an old tatty hunched over woman asked for my aid. (Insert my instant label “bag lady” right here, as she dragged along a little pull-behind grocery cart thingy, was covered in a disheveled gray wool overcoat, and had a bit of a “mothball” air about her).

She hobbled up to me slowly, said I looked like a nice young student, and did we celebrate the Mass here on campus? “Yes! Yes we do…” I responded, as in my mind I thought, “Poor thing. She just wants to beg a lunch from the Cafeteria, and is using the Mass as an excuse to get downstairs. *I*… I [puff out chest in my mind’s eye here] shall be wondrously charitable and do the ‘Christian thing’, and buy her lunch!”

I helped her down the 20 or so brick steps with her cart and pointed out the Chapel doors.

However… quite sure of myself, and brimming over with smug righteous charity, I said, “Are you sure it is the Chapel you want, ma’am? The Cafeteria is right here, and I’ll be glad to buy you lunch if you’d like!” [I could see the glow of my halo now, as heaven itself would pause to watch the Little Monk executing this act of corporal mercy! I was so proud…]

But she said, No, it wasn’t necessary. She would like to attend Mass if I wouldn’t mind opening the door.

“Of course, ma’am,” I responded, not at all discouraged. This humble beggar woman needed to preserve her pride, of course. Dignity above all. And so she would attend Mass as the appropriate reason for being down here, and THEN ask for lunch afterwards. Ah, I understood. I would be ready… to be kind, humble, and charitable! Yes!

She sat a bit apart, as the dozen or so in attendance were scattered about the comfortable, but quite portable chairs. Weekday Mass was a half hour or so affair, and, while I know I prayed at least PART of the time, and most likely paid SOME attention during the celebration of the Eucharist, my mind was mostly occupied with whether I would offer her a soup and sandwich lunch, or go whole hog with a dinner type entree? After all, “feeding the hungry” was a biggie to Christ, so maybe the dinner menu?

OK, so Mass is ended “go in peace, to love and serve the Lord…” “Thanks be to God”… Right, I’m on my way, Lord. And I rejoin my charge, waiting for the inevitable request for lunch. Which… which… doesn’t come. As we walk out the doors of the Chapel. So, I think I may need to “grease the way” a bit, and I point out the lovely Cafeteria entrance to our right, asking if she’d ever been here before.

No, no she’d never been here. This seemed a very nice place. Nice Mass. Nice people… and I think, “Ah… ‘nice people’… here it comes. She’s going to ask me for lunch. I’m SO ready…” and… her request never comes as we walk past the Cafeteria to the brick stairs up and out.

Now, I’m downright confused. I KNOW I had this sussed. What’s going on?

She simply asks if I will help her get her cart up the steps and walk her to the sidewalk. I say of course I will, but I am so unspeakably confused.

We get to the sidewalk, she thanks me, and begins to toddle away. I keep walking alongside her, and tell her I’m about to go have lunch.

She says, “Oh, how nice, dear. You enjoy that.” and keeps toddling.

Then, nearly with a tone of irritation in my voice, I ask, “Ma’am? Wouldn’t you care to have lunch with me? My treat?”

She stopped, turned to me beaming the world’s most gracious smile, and says, “Oh, no dear. I’m fine. I just wanted to attend Mass, and you are just SO kind to have shown me around and helped me. Thank you. And God bless you.” And off she toddled to the corner, waiting for the light to cross the street.

Um… Gentle Reader… I was “poleaxed”. I turned away, stunned. My grandmother would have told me to close my mouth, as I’d catch flies, my jaw had dropped so far. I’d gotten to the stairs down to the cafeteria again (truly intending to have lunch), and it was only a few seconds later and out of sight of her, when I thought, “I never asked her name, or if she would be coming again.” And I turned back around to rejoin her.

When I got to the corner (no more than 10 seconds later), she was gone. I mean, completely gone. Nowhere in sight in any direction. She shouldn’t have been able even to cross the street in that length of time, and the buildings around that corner were not “pedestrian friendly” (college admin offices and such). There was nowhere a casual visitor could have GONE, not to mention that the main building across the street was the Jesuit Residence, with entrance on the other corner.

This was utterly impossible. That was disturbing. But… I… *I*… had been WRONG! Dead wrong! So incredibly, unbelievably, wrong! I had thought I was being “hustled” in the Name of God. And, to show off my incredible Christian largesse I was perfectly willing to be “hustled in the Name of God by this scheming Bag Lady”. And instead, instead, I had helped an elderly, pious, arthritic… come attend Noonday Mass with no other plan or agenda but to honor God.

O… No…

Ever been there? Ever find yourself blushing and stammering with embarrassment before the entire heavenly court? I just stood there, on that street corner looking around stupidly, as waves of conviction and remorse crashed over me. Pride… pride and vanity… and I’d blown an entire Mass where I could have worshiped, and judged this woman the whole time, and utterly failed to receive the blessing and grace she otherwise had for me, listening to my own “interior narration” of this imaginary drama. Aw… maaaan!

Now, without getting into anything deep of denominational differences, at that point in my upbringing particularly, I was being trained to “dump guilt” as rapidly as possible. Having a Jesuit Dad makes this very convenient in general, as access to the Sacrament of Reconciliation is ready to hand almost any time. But Dad was out of town, and this had been SO out of order.

I headed to the office of a friend, who happened to be the Director of Campus Ministry, but he knew my family situation well and knew me pretty well. Fr. Kelly, with this terrific cultured Dublin Irish accent. It was lunchtime and I found him alone in the offices, as I asked if he had a minute. He was happy to see me, directed me to a chair, and asked how things were going. I said I was hoping he would hear my confession.

He was a bit surprised, asked if I didn’t prefer to wait for my Dad to get back, I said no, so graciously he reached for his stole (a purple ribbon-thingy you may see priests use now and again), and we began simply with his words, “OK, tell me about it…”

I told him the story about as honestly as I have just told you, and step-by-step I saw him smile and gently shake his head. He knew me well, he knew my pride and faults, and he could see this whole thing unrolling in front of him. He was not ridiculing me, as he knew I was in real spiritual discomfort here, but at the end he could not help but laugh out loud. (Not the last time I’ve had a priest laugh at my confessions.)

Then we got to the “counseling” part of the Rite, and he nearly glowed with joy.

“Little Monk, I don’t need to say anything about what was out of order there. You’ve seen that quite clearly. But you are NOT seeing the great blessing you’ve had. To be frank, I think it’s entirely possible that this visitor may not have been human at all. I think you’ve just been taught a lesson by an angel. Now, I could tell you ‘don’t judge’ or ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ from now til the cows come home, but this… this lesson God has graced you with… you’ll never forget this as long as you live.

“Have you ever seen her before?” I shook my head. “Well, neither have I, and I know almost all the ‘casual visitors’ to our Masses. I have a very strong feeling we will never see her again, either. But if you ever do, please let me know.

“In the meantime, for your penance just return to the Chapel for a few minutes and pray for that lady, and pray thanking God for this incredible lesson and teaching. I know it has changed you and taught you, in ways that you will always carry with you. Thank you so much for sharing this with me.” And we completed the Rite.

Of course, this woman was never seen again. Now, for any Catholic, an “apparition” of any sort (a physical manifestation of a spiritual entity) is sort of a “big deal”. But, especially at that time, God was doing so many “unlikely things”, and I was yet so “new” as a Catholic, that I didn’t know that or make any big deal of it. The story was so humbling I didn’t really share it outside my family. And, honestly, I’ve seldom thought about it between then and now.

There is no possible way that hobbly woman got away from that corner. So… over time I’ve concluded that was either an angel, as Fr. Kelly speculated, or it may have been the Lord Himself, which my Dad later mentioned as a possible. I hoped it wasn’t Him, as I’d feel all the more embarrassed about the whole episode.

But the bottom line is: Whether this elderly lady was altogether human, or angel, or otherwise… the Event… the Lesson… was totally and thorougly “miracle” in my book. Of all the people she could have approached that day, or of all the people who could have approached ME that day… what are the odds of such a “perfect fit”?

Mundane Miracles… who can fathom the height, the width, the depth of God’s love, grace, and willingness to nurture and grow His children?

Grace to thee… *still blushing a bit*…

The Little Monk

 
6 Comments

Posted by on April 14, 2015 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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