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Journey – Timothy Leary Meets the Borg

Desert CaravanTherefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. [Philippians 2:1-11]

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Forgive me my absence yesterday, Gentle Reader. Combination of both work and being a bit under the weather conspired, along with the nature of the day’s travels. The Lord did not identify the “stuff” to be disposed of in so clear a fashion as He had thus far. Not that there ISN’T something to be released, but rather that it’s not so simple a matter as “reputation” or a spider or scorpion. It wasn’t really until this morning that I could “identify” the encumbrance.

Having identified and disposed of my scorpion and spider, Don Merritt did a wonderful article on this same topic in The Nature of Debate. A comment to that article included the following words by fairyneedle:

Christians have become so afraid of losing their kids to the culture, that they don’t even see that that very mentality is making Christianity seem weak!! I know there is a proper defense of the faith since the Bible speaks of it, but debating political issues or retrying the Scopes monkey trial over and over again is not it! The Church will prevail over the gates of hell and greater is He who is in us than he that is in the world. I personally believe that none of this has anything to do with the Gospel but rather that the American church world bought into the mentality of empire long ago.

Now, the issue is not whether I agree or disagree with this position. (That would simply be to enter into another debate.) What was meaningful to me was something very deep that clicked in my soul at the underlined phrase. I realized that for years I have been part of a movement… a not-so-popular movement… an underground resistance movement… in opposition to what I now call the Imperial Church.

Let me be very clear here. I LOVE the Church! I love the Body of Christ. I love the Bride of Christ. I love a body of believers who gather to encourage one another and stimulate one another to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24-25). I have been blessed, across my life, to worship and to serve on staff of such churches. These are places, “houses of God”, where the mission and passion is to lift up Christ in every way He sees fit, and greet, feed, and heal people with His words and touch, in His name. These are love-driven places, ministry priorities are dictated by ministry to the needs of both congregation and community, and where grace raises and equips “ministers” from among the people, more than “administering programs” of the management, into which the “people” will fit like neat cogs in their ecclesiastic machine.

Sheep… in such flocks and sheepfolds… THRIVE. They grow, they dance, they bleat and leap and laugh with the very JOY of service and sainthood. Imagine, if you will, a flock of sheep constantly moving upstream towards a mountaintop. Imagine them surrounded by cool water of a gorgeous river on their left, and fabulous glades of delicious grass on their right. See them bounding and prancing along upstream, with a shepherd laughing as they walk among them. Sometimes they nuzzle that shepherd. Sometimes the shepherd pets one or another, with no reason but love for flock. Now… imagine THIS strange thing… sometimes you see the shepherd become a sheep… and you see sheep become shepherds. And this vibrant dance, this joyful adventure, always moving towards the Source of the River. I have known, and been part of such flocks… known and been one of those “mutable” shepherds. Yes.

But now, as you imagine this in your mind’s eye, imagine the camera panning back to more of a “wide shot panoramic view”, and see that between you and your point of view you see an endless row of “other flocks”. You see before you a number of other flocks all walking in circles, as if circling a running track around a drinking pond. Their heads hang down, they follow nose-to-tail. There is no dancing, no singing, no bounding… the shepherd “herds them” rather than dances with them… and they never EVER break out of their lines. They don’t dare. The shepherd and the sheepdogs will hurt them if they do. Not to mention the other sheep.

Many years ago, the Lord showed me this. I came to understand that churches differ, pastors and shepherds differ. And I was to understand that to which I was called. So I have sought to serve Him.

But just now He has added a new element to this picture. I see one small oval flock, overrunning and trying to absorb another. Sheepdogs wander far and wide seeking sheep, not for their care and protection, but simply to grow the flock’s numbers, and to gain the yield of spring lambs. Sheep are kept in their boundaries and in line by fear. Fear of the shepherd, fear of the sheepdogs, and fear of the monsters they are told about in the wilderness.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

What is wrong with this picture overall? Is it the mood of the sheep? Is it the “management” of the shepherd? Is it the trajectory of the flock’s path? Clearly grace, is present with the first flock, and not nearly so apparent with the second. So what is the difference? Well, it’s easy to “point at the management” with an accusing finger, and that has been my struggle over years. And there’s truth to that, no denying it.

But I’m coming to see in a new way… it’s not the “management” that is the “cause” or the “root” of the situation. The pastoral outlook is also “fruit”, just like the attitude and posture of the sheep, and the aimless circling. The issue is “navigation”, “destination” and “focus”.

The First Flock is focused on a real destination… the Source. They are moving forward, scattering across the face of the earth, being fruitful and multiplying. They aren’t HUNTING, they’re MULTIPLYING and there’s a world of difference between the two. Multiplication and fruitfulness results from love, acceptance, intimacy of heart, and creativity. Only God and grace can bring about multiplication by fruitfulness, where people come as attracted by light, love and joy… to find safety, encouragement, and LIFE. How does this come about? They look BEYOND THEMSELVES, even beyond their human shepherds… they seek, and pursue, the Source. They seek and build the Kingdom itself, as His joyful children.

But the Circling Flock can realize this doesn’t go anywhere. There’s no new life, no joy, no grace, no growth. They can turn predatory, focus on themselves, and determine that their imperative is to grow… by consuming others if necessary. God says “grow”. God says “grow is good… big is good… small is bad”. (Where this idea comes from, frankly, I’m not sure… but its a powerful belief system in church management). God says, “if you do right, if you manage right, if you administer right… YOU TOO can have a MEGACHURCH!” And as we all know, bigger, better, badder is where it’s at! Where is the focus of this flock? On themselves, on their pastor, on their finance committee, on their programs, and on their campaigns. “Just keep them dollars rollin’, folks!” And when we’re big, bad, shiny, and rich… we’ll know God has BLESSED US as a church!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Here is the tension I’ve felt for a whole career. And it is not quite right. It is ALMOST right, but not quite. Until I released my spider and scorpion I couldn’t SEE clearly enough to find the flaw in my thinking. My spider and scorpion had to be let go, before I could let go of today’s encumbrance.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Leary PosterWhat is that? What is the item the Lord points to for me to drop along our wayside? It’s a neon, glow-in-the-dark poster. A “vintage” 1960’s psychedelic poster, memorializing the face and mantra of an icon of the times, Dr. Timothy Leary. The saying expressed was his oft-quoted motto: “Turn on, tune in, and drop out.”

Now, please understand, I didn’t even KNOW this was in my pack. Am I a “child of the 60’s”? Well, *cough*, to be truthful, yes… yes, I am. But I wasn’t exactly a “hippie” either. I was a bit of an “overachiever” type, scholastically, well-behaved, yadda yadda. So at first, this poster confused me as the Lord and I looked at it.

BorgBut as I looked at it, the Lord held up a model in His hand, and smiled at me. The model was a bit less “vintage” than my poster… but still a symbol from an earlier time. It was a plastic model of a Borg ship. You may, or may not, know who the Borg are. They were an adversarial race on Star Trek: The Next Generation. They were a hive-mind culture of predatory nature, dedicated to absorbing technology whenever and wherever it was found. Rather the extreme of Deus ex Machina.

The Lord didn’t accuse at all, in fact He did not speak. But just standing there, looking at this model… the Borg mottos: “Resistance if futile. You will be assimilated,” echoed in my mind. I realized that across the years, this was to a large extent, how I can come to see the “Imperial Church”. Impersonal, bureaucratic, mechanical, predatory, determined to assimilate all competition, having forgotten “why”, except in the most cliche and abstract terms. I mean, it’s all well and good to SAY “scriptural things”. But when you continue, day after day and week after week, to pass by the starving Lazarus at your gate, barely looking down at him with disdain (Luke 19:16-31), driven to glorify covenant, pastor, council, and denomination by constructing a more intimidating campus than anyone else… well, I’ve struggled more than a bit to keep my attitude balanced across the years.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It is a hard thing… for me at least… to see a “bias” in myself. A “prejudice”, an “unfair judgment” of someone or something. Only recently have I come to realize that the essence of “judging” is NOT in criteria of measurement applied to a subject, or the manner of applying criteria to a subject… but rather the believing one “looks upon a subject of measurement” at all. It’s not a problem “out there”, it’s a problem “in here”, in believing one has the standing to judge another.

Intuitively, I’ve known this, though I’ve always struggled with it. Knowing my heart was out of order, knowing that to judge in this way was definitely not Light, my own “coping mechanism” was “avoidance.” I do not do well with conflict, whether violence is physical, emotional, or spiritual. My upbringing was filled with conflict, and I learned, as one friend puts it, not to so much be a “peacemaker” as a “peacekeeper”. To maintain stability in the environment, to placate aggressors, feed predators, palliate those who wound others… whether me or someone else. After all, this controls chaos, this makes for peace, this keeps everyone’s voices calm and reasonable. Right?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So, in my own way… in my own (what’s called) “passive aggressive” way… I learned to “Tune in. Turn on, and Drop Out”. I could see only “conflict”, in my own form of “straw-manning” the Corporate Culture Church, the Six Sigma, Church Business. I could see my “spider”, and could not resist transformation into “my scorpion”. My only acceptable alternative was to “look away” entirely, to “ignore” the conflict and fail to engage. To avoid the arena of “church politics” altogether and focus on individual discipleship and spiritual direction. Was this, is this, a BAD thing? No, not entirely. But it is an INCOMPLETE thing. It is an approach that fails to embrace all people as equally sacred.

So… what’s changed?

It seems that for me, at least, the “sequence” has been important.

  • First, that “judging” is not just to draw the conclusion of value… but to reach for the specimen in the first place.
  • Second, that “dispute” is a meeting of two “aggressors”, without  much difference between them, once both are armored and loaded for bear.
  • Third, that when faced with the Borg Imperial Church, I was both judging it… and fleeing from it as overwhelmingly powerful at the same time. Rather than surrender, or be defeated, I would flee.

So what about today?

Today, I will stop fleeing in fear… either of the Borg Collective, or of my own reaction to it. Jesus did not flee, nor did He fight. He told us, time and again, to keep our focus on what is Real and what is Important, and let the winds and waves of the meaningless just flow around us without regard. Jesus interacted with His own Borg Collective constantly… the monolithic religious establishment that said, “you will believe as we believe, or you will be assimilated or eliminated. You will act as we act, or you will die.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Isn’t that amazing, Gentle Reader? THIS is what He is showing me to throw away, today. He did not “fight, fly, or freeze” in the presence of the Collective. He just stood still, stood strong, stood fast, and spoke the Truth. He tells us to do this, to love one another as He loves. To forgive as the Father forgives. To love without taking offense, counting cost, or expecting anything in return. He assures us that when we DO this, when we love with the Father’s heart, follow in Jesus’ steps and love as He loves… He assures us that we will be reviled, persecuted, put out of assemblies, rejected by both friends and family. Why? Because we will love no matter what, and speak Truth no matter what.

Love, real love, the Love that God gives us, that He gives us to touch others with… That kind of love CHANGES people. It changes lives. It changes hearts. It changes agendas. It changes institutions. Therefore, THAT kind of love is very VERY threatening to the “smart” people, the “clever” people, the “power” and “control” people. For those who must constrain, control, and micromanage their environment within close boundaries and rules… this kind of love is not acceptable.

My response to all that has simply been to close my eyes and look away from it. But now, finally, I can be free of that. Fear of conflict, constraining love, is just one more constraint. Jesus did not have this, did not yield to this, and… it is His preference, if I’m ready to face this… that I don’t either.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Yup, my poster is now gently set on the fire. “Tune in, turn on, drop out”… even with regard to the Imperial Borg Church… will no longer dictate my responses. I will simply decline to enter that dimension of dialogue… having hung up my Lab Coat… and work to love, embrace, and accept ALL people as sacred, speak Truth, love and serve them… without regard for response.

Apparently, He would not have me constrained any more by fear of “myself”… than of my fear of “others”.

“Tune In, Turn On, and Drop By”, Gentle Reader.

 

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Harmony, Humor, Which Voice?

Gentle Readers,

I just posted, I know… but that took me to this recording, and I had to share it.

It made me ask myself, isn’t this what Harmony means? In music. In family, and comedy? In the Body of Christ? Which “voice” here is “more right” or “more important”?

Please enjoy this with my love… Little Monk

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2014 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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The Jeweler’s Tale — A Fable

Desert CaravanOnce upon a time there was a rather foolish, but lonely, man named Elias. He was not the eldest son of his family, and had no fortune to claim. He had a craft, being a jeweler, but always wound up working long hours for others and never getting ahead. One day a trader came to him with a proposition, that if he would invest in a shipment of precious metals and gems to come by caravan from the East, he would make his fortune with his skills.

But what to do? He had no capital, no property, no equity… not even any livestock. He could not raise the funds among friends or family, so finally, in his desperation to make his fortune and his reputation (which he felt sure would solve all of his problems), he took out a loan at usurious rates with some disreputable money lenders. Having no collateral, he wagered his freedom against his debt. He made his investment. He cast his lot. He hoped for the best.

Fate, however, was not kind to poor Elias. (Or, so he thought.) As he waited, day by day, for news of the arrival of his fortune. He worried his way through every report of distant wars, distant sandstorms, and bandit activity. Unseasonably harsh weather made everything even more risky, and at long last, with his caravan weeks overdue, a poor survivor finally made it to his city… only to report that the caravan had been waylaid by highwaymen, and all was lost.

His creditors’ “representatives”, big surly men with markedly bad attitudes, appeared at his doors that same day, to claim him and his tools. A quick stop by the Temple and magistrates, to make everything legal and tidy, and *poof*, there he was, sold into slavery, working for the next 7 years for his creditors. Well, he had no one to take leave of, he owned nothing to “shut up” or settle accounts for. So, by that night, he just settled into his new quarters, having “changed employers” in his mind.

Life for poor Elias was not “happy”, but he was not “suffering” either. He was a fine and skilled jewelsmith, and his masters had considerable wealth. For the first time in his career, he had nearly unlimited resources. Between that, and no longer being distracted by the worry of how he was going to make his fortune, suddenly he began creating real masterpieces. His work far exceeded anything anyone had ever seen him do, or even that he ever thought he COULD do. He changed. He changed from “craftsman” to true “Artist”. As he developed not only skill and creativity, but also logistical and administrative skills.

Well, by the end of his first year of servitude, little Elias had indeed made an enviable reputation for himself. His work traveled far and wide through the kingdom, on only the most noble of customers. One day, an ambassador of the king himself came to the home of Elias’ owner, seeking to buy out Elias’ indenture. The offer was so good, along with the prospects of good will from the crown, that Elias was sold on the spot. Immediately, his little shop and tools were packed up, a royal coach was waiting, and Elias found himself on his way to his new home at the King’s Palace.

“Six more years,” Elias thought, as the royal carriage rolled along the marketways and streets to his new home. “Six more years before I am again my own man,” he sighed. “Well,” he thought, with resignation, “it could be worse. I could be cold, or hungry, or they could beat me. I am well fed, well cared for, and generally well treated. Life is not so bad. Empty, perhaps, but not so bad.” And so the horses clip-clopped on.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

When Elias was shown to his new shop and quarters, he thought he was dreaming. It was magnificent. Every forge, kiln, furnace… every sort of tool… every surface, curve, anvil, and vise… all there for his shaping and crafting of metal or stone into beautiful shapes. And his STORES!!! Gold, silver, bronze, and access to the Royal Treasury for gems of every description. It was incredible, it was unthinkable, it was… wonderful! His own chambers were comfortable, verging on opulent. He had his own chamber servant to deal with housekeeping. There was space to work and think, to draw, his own fireplace, his own bathing room. Poor Elias had never imagined he’d live in such luxury.

After reporting to the Chief Steward of the Palace, little Elias was presented to the King and the royal family. The King was kind, but stately. He made clear that Elias had cost him a great deal of gold, but that the work he had seen with Elias’ hallmark would make the investment worthwhile.

Elias had only one command from the King..

“Do your best work.” He could take all the time he needed for a piece. He could requisition anything he needed to do it. He was to be honest with his accounts. But he was to create beauty, of the finest order he could muster. Just “do his best work.”

At first, Elias scarcely knew what to do. He had never EVER had orders like that. Customers always had something specific in mind. Either a piece that “looked like” another piece. Or a family crest of some sort. Or a cluster of fruit. Or something… But slowly, gradually, he began to let himself dream of beauty and beautiful things, shapes, motifs, curves… and bit by bit, day by day, Elias began to do his best work. Masterpieces flowed from his shop.

A year passed. Elias was very comfortable, well respected, and the King loved his work. The King had even begun an account in Elias’ name, that when he was free, he would have capital to start his own business with. All this, and he was satisfied, but he was not yet truly “happy”. “Five more years,” Elias thought. “Five more years until I am my own man. Well, things could be worse.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Chief Steward would visit him in his shop from time to time. Even the King or members of his family would come visit from time to time. They enjoyed his quiet company, and his unceasing attention to creating beauty. But they always went away realizing, Elias was never yet “happy”.

One day, the King came to Elias’ shop accompanied by a beautiful young woman named Miriam and her two small children.

“Elias, may I interrupt you for a moment?” the King asked.

“Of course, Majesty,” Elias replied promptly, leaving his workbench and stool to bow as he approached the party. “What brings you, this day?”

“Elias, you craft beautiful jewelry that adorns me, my family, and my home. But you work alone. And it is not good for a man to be alone. There is beauty in you that you’ve not yet touched. This is Miriam. She is the widow of a faithful retainer of mine who gave his life in my service. She and her children are now under my protection.

“Miriam is also an artist. She can draw and paint with such passion and grace that from any distance it is easy to confuse her flowers or birds with the living thing. If you are willing, I should like to see what the two of you could create together… she aiding in the design… you applying your talent in the crafting… together to create greater beauty.

“I would place her quarters down the passageway here, and she could draw and sculpt, as you mold, forge, and smith. Would you be willing to try such a collaboration?” the King proposed.

“Of course, Majesty, if that is your will,” Elias responded.

“Good, then,” the King answered, inclining his head to them as he made to leave. “I’ll let you all get acquainted then, and see to the arrangements. Do well.” And he left.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Now poor Elias wasn’t entirely sure what to do about all this. He was, after all, just a slave. But, it turned out, Miriam was also. She and her husband had belonged to the King, but he treated her more as family than servant, so she seldom thought of it. Her children were well cared for, and just as spoiled as those of the royal household, so she was quite content.

For many days, Miriam simply sat and watched Elias work. She watched him heat metal to brilliant red or white brilliance in his furnace… then draw it into wire, or spirals… or pound it into plates, or leaves, or even foil. She watched him seat gems, precious stones, cut, uncut, semiprecious, pearls, chips… all forms of glitter and glint in gilt. Sometimes, when it would not disturb him, she would approach his bench, his work, and just rub her hands along his pieces, as though she could learn something from their very feel.

Elias had thought her presence would disturb him. But she was so quiet, so attentive, so focused… he found she did not disturb him at all. In fact, he rather liked her being there. He enjoyed her attention, not so much to HIM, as to the work. That felt… “gratifying”… to him, somehow. Then, one day a couple weeks after her arrival, he found it disturbing when she did not come in and sit at her accustomed spot as he worked. He… he wondered where she was, though he would never admit that he cared.

At the end of that day, she came in to the workshop with a parchment in her hand. She sat silently on her stool and waited for him to finish his work. When he did, her gentle voice called out…

“Elias, may I show you something? I’d like to know what you think.”

He came over as she unrolled the scroll and he saw her work. It was a beautiful rendering of one of his favorite masterpieces. It was a Rose broach… beautiful hammered petals with pearls inlaid at the center. The beauty of the sketch, it’s detail and realism caught his breath. He’d never known an artist of this caliber before. But, seeing his joy and amazement, she smiled and felt encouraged to unroll the scroll further, and he saw that she had drawn a matching necklace or multiple roses, chained together like a wreath of diminishing size, and delicate earrings, and even a diadem that could be made, all in the same design. He had never thought of this before, but what a tremendous set this would make!

Without uttering a word, yet in the sheer shock of joyful discovery, Elias threw his arms around Miriam and laughed. Together, nodding and laughing, they began to chatter about the designs. From that moment forward, they never worked their arts without the other’s help and cooperation.

The year cheerfully came, and went. On his anniversary, Elias said, “Four more years. Life is not so bad. Four more years and I am my own man again.”

Days came and went. Masterpieces, the envy of the entire kingdom, flowed through the hands of Elias and Miriam. Their lives, their minds, their hearts drew closer. Ultimately, they seemed to think and feel as one, and Elias grew as fond of her children as if they were his own. The year flew by, until Elias could not remember what life was like without this shop, or without Miriam, or without the children.

Elias asked Miriam to be his bride. Joyfully, she said, “You must ask the King for my hand. He is my guardian. But if he says yes, then I am willing.”

So Elias prepared a magnificent bracelet for his King… with panels in it for each of his children and scenes of the family. Miriam sketched the designs, and Elias crafted the molding and polishing. Gems punctuated the piece, without rendering it gaudy. No one had ever seen a “Family” presented in such a way before. It was the finest, most beautiful piece, Elias and Miriam had ever crafted.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“My dear Elias! You have asked for a private audience, and it is my pleasure to oblige! Your work is unparallelled. But where is your partner? Why is Miriam not with you in this appointment?”

“That’s what I wanted to speak to you about, Majesty. Thank you for seeing me and for your kind words. But I would seek a further boon, if you are willing. I ask for the hand of Miriam in marriage. She completes me, I have grown to love her. I cannot imagine life without her. I seek your permission to wed her. She is willing and joyful, if this meets with your approval.”

The King nodded, and had Miriam called to his presence along with his own family. Together they sat and talked. The King heard Miriam appeal as well, for permission to wed, and granted his approval joyfully. Elias and Miriam gave the King his gift of the family bracelet, and all together they began to plan a great celebration and wedding.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The next three years past in what seemed a flash of joy. Elias no longer marked his anniversary of enslavement, but only his anniversaries of joy… his wedding, the birth of his two children, the births of his eldest children. Elias and Miriam had never known such peace or happiness in all their lives. But then, one day…

The King summoned Elias to his presence, and said, “Elias, it is time for you to prepare to leave my service. Your indenture is finished, your servitude ended. You may now return to your home, and I will send with you this sizable fortune with which to establish yourself.”

Elias was crushed… “My lord… Majesty… No! No! I am at home here. My family is here. Your family is here. I am happy and satisfied here as I never imagined I could be. You have taken me into your home as though we were kin. No, Majesty… I do not want to leave. Let me stay, let me continue to serve you. THIS is freedom, not life out here. Allow me, please to remain.”

The King was very solemn as he answered, “Dearest Elias. This cannot be. You came to me a slave indebted. Your term of service is ended. You have more than repaid your debt. What would my people think, knowing you entered my service for a term… believing I refused to free you? That is contrary to law and to custom. That cannot be!”

“Majesty, can you not retain my service? Can’t I tell the people that this is MY choice? That you offer me my ‘freedom’, but that I CHOOSE to remain, because I love it here? I love you and your family? I love my family, and we are all together here? This… this house… this service… is where my joy is! I would remain here! If you will allow it…”

“Very well, Elias. If that is your choice, I will arrange it. But your choice must be made public. Do you make this choice freely, for your whole life? Do you choose my service for your lifetime, and foreswear your freedom out of love alone, not fear?”

“I do, Majesty. I love you, and this house, too much ever to want to leave.”

“So be it, then, Elias. Craft for yourself a single ear ring or stud, and in one week, my arrangements will be complete.”

“Yes, Lord,” and Elias bowed, returned to his shop, and told Miriam of all that had transpired. She was delighted, for she, too, never wanted to leave the royal family’s service.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The next week, the King and his family, and Elias and his family, all went together to the Temple and there was a great assembly of the kingdom, come to see what all the fanfare was about.

There, before God, the King and Elias exchanged words of covenant and mutual commitment. Elias abandoned his “rights” forever, foreswearing his freedom, surrendering to permanent servanthood in the household of the King, out of love alone. The King, for his part, swore to care for Elias and his family as “his man” forevermore, providing for them and treating them with fairness and kindness as long as they lived. The people witnessed this, and said “Amen”, as the families returned to the Palace.

When they reached the door of the Palace, the King stood solemnly with Elias at the doorpost of the main entrance.

“Elias, you have sworn me your lifelong service this day. You have given up all right to freedom and choice for the rest of your life. You have promised, before God, to enter this house as family forever, and never to leave this threshold without my will, my word, my authority. Do you remain determined in that?”

“I do, my Lord.”

“Then stand here, and endure…” and the King placed Elias’ ear against the doorpost, took an awl from the Chief Steward (who had himself, years before, stood right where Elias was standing)… placed the point at Elias’ earlobe, and with one swift sharp blow from the heel of his hand, pierced his new Bondservant’s ear.

“Welcome to you, Elias… now of my very family. I have myself drawn your blood this day, and it now rests in the threshold of my house. Your blood will be a testament, marks a covenant, between you and me. We are now bound together, for the rest of our lives. Congratulations.”

Everyone hugged, laughed, and cried as they went inside to a magnificent banquet always thrown at the induction of a new bondservant. Miriam helped Elias put the special ring into his ear, and the King blessed them all, as family, as for the first time, they all sat down to eat together.

Without a doubt, they all lived, quite happily, ever after…

The End…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Well, almost… There is another way to tell this story…

21 “Now these are the ordinances which you are to set before them:

“If you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve for six years; but on the seventh he shall go out as a free man without payment. If he comes alone, he shall go out alone; if he is the husband of a wife, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master gives him a wife, and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall belong to her master, and he shall go out alone. But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife and my children; I will not go out as a free man,’ then his master shall bring him to God, then he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him permanently. [Exodus 21]

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2014 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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Pulling the Heads Off Flies — Part II

Drosophila melanogasterAll righty then…

When last we left our intrepid padawan, Little Monk sat, frustrated and convicted… of “judging others”, by the very act of LOOKING AT THEM! *sigh*..

Best efforts not withstanding, conviction notwithstanding, repentance notwithstanding, even the Lord’s good will and undivided attention notwithstanding… try as I might to pass even one single hour without “judging” anyone or anything… I failed.

I’d asked the Lord to do me the kindness of “buzzing me”, making clear to me and my conscience, when I “looked upon another with measurement”, or “judged” another, and He was kind enough to honor my request. This resulted in hours of His gentle reminders, somewhere from 4 to 6 times an hour, over three or so hours.

The result? Sheer frustration!

After three hours of sheer frustration, I felt so deeply angry at myself, defeated, and futile. I felt weak, helpless, ashamed… totally aggravated… and the ultimate irony. The Lord said, “Little Monk, you’re doing it to YOURSELF now, and I won’t allow that either! Stop it!”

AARRGGHH!!! And in utter rage and futility I flopped down on my couch and said, “I give up! I can’t do it! I hear this, I see this, I know what You want… I am WILLING… in fact, I now passionately WANT to be free of this sin. But it seems WIRED in me. I have no idea how to learn ‘not to see this way’. I give up!”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

To which, Jesus simply said, “Good! Stay that way, because you cannot fix this, but *I* can. Just hold still, and let Me transform. YOU needed to ‘renew’… you needed to see this, understand this, and renounce this. But YOU cannot fix it. It is beyond your ability. I must transform this in you and your heart. Like any sin, I can take it away… you cannot remove it by your own strength. But I needed to let you try. Now, sit back, be patient with yourself, and give Me some time to work. I have this now.”

So things are. He is working. I don’t know how and won’t try to describe it. But I’m learning, slowly, simply to “gaze, then bless” rather than “gaze, then measure”. It will take time, I know. It’s kind of like feeling a tightness in your chest gradually relaxing.

Well, you can understand, I know… What am I saying really? What’s the affirmation?

I’m saying, “Gosh… I judge others. That’s wrong, that’s sin. I need to stop. Jesus says ‘don’t judge lest ye be judged.’ And I’ve been convicted of this, and repented it.

How has Jesus responded to that?

I, of myself, cannot correct my tendency to fail here, my innate vulnerability is too strong. However, Jesus having brought my attention to His word(s) on this (Matthew 7), and my having surrendered in submission of will to His authority on this (Romans 12:1), my focus and willingness to allow this Truth to “soak into” my mind and rewire my very consciousness (Romans 12:2). opens the way for Jesus Himself to “transform” me.

I’ve found that THAT transformation is (always) beyond my own skill, power, or authority… However, the Lord Himself really needs me to “get out of His way” when He determines to rewire such a thing.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So… how has this all turned out? Simple… slowly…

I THOUGHT I needed to try some bizarre “custody of the eyes”… that the Lord somehow wanted me to “stop looking” at others with a discerning eye. But, rather… that’s not how it’s been working out…

What has been happening is interesting… I yet look upon others as my mind, heart, or spirit flow in their direction. BUT, rather than my “spiritual hand” extending outwards towards them with my “measurement forceps or calipers” within my fingers… my hand extends outwards towards them, extended flat in benediction and blessing.

This has not been so through an act of my own will, but rather it has been so of its own accord, and I’ve seemed “prompted to observe” the difference between the “now” and the “before”.

So, here’s just an “experiential observation” offered to you for your own “spiritual experimentation”, but I’ve had this happen to me a few times before in my life. It’s like Jesus offering me “training wheels” for a time, as I develop a new way of thinking, perceiving, or behaving. When this becomes “muscle memory”, and its own reliable discipline, no doubt I shall be held accountable for maintaining it… but right now, this is sheer grace gift.

I’d love to hear of any parallel learning you have known in your own walk, Gentle Readers. This isn’t so much “teaching”, as a simple “report along the way of the journey”.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Jesus concluded with this:

“God Himself wrote with His own hand, ‘Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin.’ on the walls of Babylon. Only God can say such a thing. YOU cannot. So, stop doing it, saying it, thinking it, or even feeling it. It is simply and totally My job, not yours… above your pay grade. K?”

I nodded, happily… realizing that I am His child who doesn’t have to carry that responsibility. And He pats me on the head. “Good.”

Pray for me, always! Please! And grace to thee!

 
12 Comments

Posted by on February 15, 2014 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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Keeping Your Head on Straight — Not a Fable

Drosophila melanogasterOnce upon a time… I used to pull the heads off flies.

Excuses:

  • I was only following orders.
  • I did it for the “greater good”.
  • I was swift, steady, gentle, and merciful
  • They were very small flies, (fruitflies, gnats, no-see-ums, the kind of fly we wipe off the back of our necks on a warm summer evening on the porch).

Drosophila melanogaster – the common fruitfly

Biology pre-med major… lots of bio lab courses… histology… genetics… experimenting with fruit flies. Breeding them. Then, measuring them. Anesthetizing a tube of dozens, sprinkling a few out, grasping one with forceps and placing it (the size of a gnat… a no-see-um) on my slide, separating the head from the body carefully to preserve the salivary glands intact, applying stain and solvent then a cover slip to the glass slide, and putting it under the microscope (that had a grid, and measurement scales on it), to measure and classify the results.

Jesus had brought these memories back to me with crystal clarity. He focused, minutely, on the diligence, the care I would take, my hands… steady and careful, my eyes… obsessed with getting just the accurate count of hairs (or whatever criterion evaluated)… the care to focus perfectly… to standardize my scales properly… then notate my results without error. He reminded me of my intensity to attain perfection in this! (For I was very dedicated, indeed.)

What had brought this memory about? What was Jesus teaching me at the time?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

About a week ago… Saturday… I was reviewing some notes on The Lord’s Prayer and Sermon on the Mount. Suddenly these verses stopped me, amplified, and would not let go of me…

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you…” [Matthew 7]

(I’m sure you’ve known such moments from time to time.) And the Lord was present, and intense. Not angry… not at all… just… well, “intense” is the only word I can find. It was clear, He was “teaching”… “renewing”… “transforming”… and I just had to hold still and “hear Him… wait Him out… let Him ‘speak’ into my heart in such a way that He accomplished His purpose”. (I wish I had better words for such moments. They happen seldom, and they are “cosmic” in impact, and I’ve never found the right language to wrap around them, because they are “wordless” moments. All I could do was “wait” and “attend”.)

Don’t “judge”… (And I DO this… all the time… so STOP IT!) That simple!

I mean, really… how simple is that? God said.. “Don’t judge, Little Monk. It’s above your pay grade. It’s not your role. It’s not your right. When you do it, you bring judgment upon yourself! Just… just… DON’T!”

How SIMPLE is that?

And yet… and yet… I’ve done it every day of my life, since I was old enough to… probably about 3 years old or so. At LEAST every day, no doubt every HOUR, sometimes for hours on end! Pride is, and has ever been, my besetting sin. I was raised this way. I was raised “proud”, and “elitist”. I was raised constantly to “keep score”… grades, popularity, wealth, intelligence, social standing, uprightness. Later this translated into piety, dedication, holiness, even servanthood. (How ironic is that? To keep a “pride meter” going on how “humble” you are?! Nonetheless, it can be done, trust me on that!)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

After ruthlessly showing me my ongoing failure to overcome my sin of judging, Jesus had rolled that “instant replay video” of the “white lab-coated me” before my eyes. Reaching out for my specimens, examining them, measuring them, drawing my conclusions, making my notes.

He likened all of that to “judging”, and said that across my whole life, I had tried to overcome my sin of judging by trying to rid myself of my methodical diligence. I’d tried to learn not to tear apart the bug. Not to stain the glands. Not to mount the slide. Not to measure the outcome. Not to notate the results… I tried to “unlearn diligence”, thinking I was “doing right”. And, He concluded, rather matter-of-factly… I’d failed. My whole life, I had tried to correct this sin this way, and failed. Not utterly… I’d succeeded in muddling the process up to now. He said I’d made some progress… I no longer came up with my “quantitative result”, and I never ever “wrote the results down in my notes” anymore. Good show! But…

But… I had missed His point entirely. “The sin,” Jesus said, “is not in the means you use to measure and evaluate the specimen. The sin, is in believing that you have a ‘specimen to evaluate’ in the first place! Your sin of judgment isn’t in how you treat the fly to measure it. Your sin is in ‘seeing a fly’ and reaching for it at all!

“Don’t you see, Little Monk? Your judging isn’t in ‘HOW you answer the question of another’s worth’. You sin by judging when you think you have the right to ASK the question at all! From that point on, you’ve violated their sacredness, and all the rest is just a matter of degree.

“I’m not telling you just to quit measuring and evaluating everything. I’m telling you to stop even asking the question, even framing the thought, or allowing your mind to reach out to anyone or anything else to ‘evaluate’… beyond simply distinguishing or identifying it, him, or her.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It took me a while, Gentle Reader, even to UNDERSTAND what He was saying. Wondrously, He almost seemed to “still time” for me, for a number of hours to grapple with my own “hardness of heart and head”, until I could SEE, I could HEAR, what He was saying here. When at last I did…

When finally I did… I was horrified. I DID see, I DID hear. And it horrified me. I got it. Now, to make a long story short, having now embraced this conviction, I renounced it, and tried to resolve never to do this again.

But you know what? I failed. For hours I tried… until I realized that it was as if there were “gridlines” in my very eyes. For me to THINK about anyone, anything, ideas, positions, opinions, people… was for me REFLEXIVELY to evaluate them… reach out and grasp them, define their “edges”, and then “measure them” according to my own criteria and judge them, good/bad, like/don’t like, right/wrong, want/don’t want… on and on without pause or reflection. I tried, for several hours I tried… and failed dismally. I could not stop myself.

I wondered why? I asked Him why? Where had I learned this? Why was this so deeply a part of how I even LOOK AT things, let alone think about them? Where did I pick this up, that I could learn to “put it down”? How could I “unlearn” this?

The Lord was gracious enough to respond…

“It is in you from the beginning. It is part of Original Sin. It IS the original sin of Eve. The Serpent posed her a proposition, a different view of God’s will, and she BOUGHT IT. That there was some ‘conceivable good’, some good thing, some advantage available to her and Adam, that was outside of and contrary to, the will of God. She conceived the possibility that God’s mind and words held something less than their utter, and absolute, good. She ‘tested this hypothesis’, and ‘measured’… looking upon the fruit and measuring it against three criteria of her choice… that it was a delight to the eyes, good for food, and desirable to make one wise. She MEASURED, then concluded, decided, and acted.

“Your drive to do this, Little Monk, is a part of your very DNA, your legacy from Adam and Eve.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Now… I want to do something unusual here.

I am going to stop. I will offer “my” conclusion to this post tomorrow (Lord, willing). But this was a very VERY “experiential” moment of prayer in my life. I want to invite you, Gentle Reader, to experiment on your own.

No, don’t go pulling the heads off fruitflies, or anything else. But take a few minutes, see if you “judge” as regularly as you see me convicted of here, see if after a few minutes you can “Get it”, as I struggled to do…

It’s not… murder, but anger… not adultery, but lust…. not measuring, but asking… “Sin”, as Jesus would have us avoid it, is not in “what we DO to others”, but how we “LOOK UPON others”. That was a tough, tough realization for me.

Jesus gave me time. Quiet time. To hear, to ponder, to consider His words, to look at scripture, to see those words… before He concluded this episode and lesson for me.

So, I want to give YOU time as well. Consider all this, “look upon Your Rose” with all this, and let the Holy Spirit speak into your own heart. Then come back, and see whether you and I come to the same, or similar places.

This has a happy ending, I assure you. It may surprise you, or it may not, but it’s nothing to shrink away from… truly. No pain here, no guilt, shame… in fact… how Jesus dealt with THAT may actually make you laugh.

Meet you here tomorrow, Good Lord willin’ an’ the creek don’ rise (as my mother used to say)…

Blessings and grace to thee, Gentle Reader! — The Little Monk

 
5 Comments

Posted by on February 14, 2014 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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The Candidate Meeting – A Fable

Good Sam GlassOnce upon a a Sunday morning…

“I’d like to thank you all for coming,” the friendly Pastor entoned. “Last Sunday, Mr. Josephson asked to join our church, and we’ve discussed this among our church leadership and Membership Committee this week. I’d like to ask Mr. Michaels to present their findings and recommendations now.”

“Thank you, Pastor,” Jerry Michaels began, as he addressed the half dozen or so church leaders gathered around the small conference table drinking coffee during the Sunday School hour before Worship. “As you know, here at First Godly Church in the Community, we try to take a leadership role in presenting the Gospel and godly civic and family values for and to our town.

“We did some ‘due diligence’ research, Mr. Josephson, regarding your membership here. You have shown remarkable Biblical knowledge, and have volunteered to teach Bible Study for the church. You’ve already impressed a number of our members and young people, and we wanted to consider you for a position of leadership in the church, beyond simple membership.

“So, it was a bit of a disappointment, on all of our parts,” as Jerry looked sadly around the table, to nods of some of his committee colleagues, “when we looked into your activities in the community, to find that you have a very questionable reputation. You’ve been seen to drink, and provide drinks for others. You keep very unsavory company. You are unmarried, but have been seen in the company of women of… well, let’s just say, very colorful reputation.

“You must understand, its not just our concern about yourself, your own morality, or whether we trust you and your actions. It’s a matter of your witness, your identification with our church, and what the community will think of this church, and us as members.

“I’m very sorry, Pastor… Mr. Josephson… but at this point it is the recommendation of our committee that you NOT be accepted as a candidate for membership, although you are welcome to continue to worship with us. You go to unacceptable places, consort with unacceptable people, and engage in unacceptable activities, such as drinking, dancing or partying, that give you a reputation for disreputable living and deeply compromise your witness both within this church and in the community.

“At some future date, should you repent of your sins and these activities, we would be happy to reconsider your request for membership. But for the moment, I’m afraid that’s not possible. Is there anything you would like to add, Pastor?” Jerry asked.

“No, not really,” the Pastor said, sadly, “except to invite Mr. Josephson,” he interrupted himself to look kindly at the candidate with his warmest smile, “is it all right if I call you by your first name, Josh?” Seeing the young man nod, he went on, “I really want to invite you to come join us, let us pray for you, and encourage you to repent your sins and your lifestyle whenever you are ready. We truly care for you here at the First Godly Church.”

All eyes turned to the candidate, Joshua Josephson, as he smiled gently and nodded. Everyone waited for him to say a few words in response. Finally, he spoke.

“Well, Pastor… Gentlemen… I’d like to thank you for your courtesy and consideration this morning, and your warm fellowship in this time. I think I’ll be moving on now. Please don’t think I’m upset or angry at your words, I have been through meetings like this more times than I can count. I come to serve, and right now I am seeking a church home that will hear and receive Me just as I Am. Ministry is sort of a family business for Me, and this is how we’ve done it for ages.

“You’ve been very gracious, and I know you guard your reputation very diligently. At the moment, I have come to seek a church a bit less concerned for reputation, as concerned for grace and faith. I’ve nothing to repent, I’m afraid. But I shall move on down the road to seek a church. I’ve come back here, wondering if when I came I would find faith.

“I am still seeking, but I always hope. I’ll look forward to seeing you around town from time to time. For now, I’ll just take My leave and move on.

“By the way, feel free to just call me Josh. Somewhere, I’m sure there’s a church for Me. Have a great Worship Service. Goodbye, for now.”

And, quietly wiping His feet at their door, gently He closed it behind Him as He left.

The group sat sadly for a moment just sipping their coffee. Finally, Jerry said, “Well, that was a doggone shame. But… well… He just wasn’t our sort, was He?”

“No,” the Pastor agreed, shaking His head, “He really just didn’t get it. Not our sort at all.”

The End

 

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Love, Life, and Light – John’s Letters

Spine of a BibleThe letters of John, these incredible little documents, drafted towards the end of the First Century, as one who is probably the Last Living Disciple (in this body) nears the end of his life… as a very old man now, this Pastor of Pastors writes “love letters” to “his dear children”.

From what we consider to be the youngest of the Disciples walking with Jesus, the one most beloved of Him, to the eldest Disciple walking among us…

These letters have held a precious place in my heart all my life.

Don Merritt is currently going through reflections on 1 John right now in Life Reference, and I applaud that, I endorse that, I recommend you go be a part of that! I have preached and taught from these texts. And it’s all DIFFERENT! Gloriously DIFFERENT! We all, as God-led teachers, see a number of the same “landmarks”, a number of the same “highlights” and “critical pieces”. But at the very SAME TIME… we perceive those landmarks from our own locations, our own footings, our own “scenic overlooks”… so we see them, we flavor them, we color them DIFFERENTLY.

To many people “comparison shop” in the Kingdom of God. They “shop” churches. They “shop” religions. They “shop” preachers and teachers. They “weigh, measure, and find wanting” between one or another. In short… they JUDGE! And Jesus was very clear that this is out of order. Recently I have come to realize just how deep in my own nature is this “judging sin”… that the sin is not only in the “manner of measurement” that we use, but (like Sermon on the Mount) the sin starts long before that, in the “reaching out to place a specimen on the scale” in the first place. The sin is not so much in “how we answer the question of how to judge another”… as much as it is in “believing we have the right even to ask the question.” It is NOT a matter of “criteria”… the sin is in the act, the attitude, itself.

So I want to be very clear here. I am posting a “different take” on the Letters of John here, by a different preacher entirely. But I am NOT posting this, that you or anyone else, “compare and contrast” this teaching with anyone else’s. That would be VERY out of order for me. I am posting these only to “enrich” your experience of this magnificent text… to add another palette of color to the beauty of this masterpiece… and expand the spaces of your heart to admit even greater light, life, and love.

Please take your time and savor, rather than otherwise. I pray these bless you and yours as much as they have me and mine. Grace to thee — The Little Monk.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Faith Foundations – Jesus is God

Posted in Uncategorized on Jan 5th, 2012 Comments

One of the first great doctrinal understandings of the Christian church is the idea of a Trinitarian God. Minister of Music Greg Whaley begins the series of Faith Foundations by looking at 1 John 1:1-3 in the context of four Greek words: logos, zoe, phaneroo, and koinonia. The message reminds us that Jesus is God and any doctrinal attempt to separate the Trinity ends in a wrong understanding of the nature of God.  Our Trinitarian God is One, seeking us out in love and doing what only He can to save us.  Greg Whaley preached this message on Sunday morning, January 1, 2011 at First Baptist Church of Bogalusa, LA. This podcast is a ministry of First Baptist Church. Thank you for listening.

Listen Now

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

What is the message that a fallen world needs to hear from Christ’s church?  Though we may tempted to preach from the context of our culture, the apostle John preaches from the message he has received from Jesus.  Pastor Adams takes us to the Epistle of 1 John and explores this message of the ancient apostle – “God is Light and in Him there is no darkness at all.”  Pastor Adams preached this message on Sunday morning, January 8, 2012 at First Baptist Church of Bogalusa, LA. This podcast is a ministry of First Baptist Church. Thank you for listening.

How can we, who are sinners, have any connection with this God who is Light and Life?  In this sermon from the Faith Foundations Series, Pastor Bob helps us to see how very far even the best of us are from God.  But far more than just getting us to feel bad about ourselves, the message of I John 1:8-10 exhorts us to confess our sins because Jesus is faithful and righteous to forgive us.  We are all sinners with a Savior!  This message was preached on Sunday morning, January 15, 2012 by Pastor Bob Adams.  This podcast is a ministry of First Baptist Church of Bogalusa, Louisiana.  Thank you for listening.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Faith Foundations – He Himself

Posted in Uncategorized on Jan 31st, 2012 Comments

Pastor Bob continues in the series of Faith Foundations with this sermon from I John 2:2.  Last week’s message dealt with Jesus as advocate with the Father.  Today, we look at Christ’s role as the propitiation for our sins.  Pastor Bob traces the true understanding of propitiation all the way back to the Old Testament and the Ark of the Covenant.  In this sermon, we learn that Christ, Himself is the covering for all of our sins, and not just ours, but that of the whole world.  This sermon was given by Pastor Bob Adams on Sunday, January 29.  This podcast is a ministry of First Baptist Church of Bogalusa, LA.  Thank you for listening.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Faith Foundations – Called to Love

Posted in Uncategorized on Feb 23rd, 2012 Comments

Pastor Bob teaches from I John 2:3-6 about what it means to know Jesus and to walk in His way.  Love is not something that we make ourselves to do.  Love is something we are called to live through the indwelling Presence of Christ Himself.  This sermon was given by Pastor Bob Adams on Sunday, February 5.  This podcast is a ministry of First Baptist Church of Bogalusa, LA.  Thank you for listening.

Listen Now

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Faith Foundations – Love is Light

Posted in Uncategorized on Feb 23rd, 2012 Comments

In the last of the series, “Faith Foundations,” Pastor Bob returns to I John to show us light and love exist in perfect harmony.   Drawing on four truths from the Scriptures, we learn that to have love is to have Light.   This sermon was given by Pastor Bob Adams on Sunday, February 12.  This podcast is a ministry of First Baptist Church of Bogalusa, LA.  Thank you for listening.

 
4 Comments

Posted by on February 11, 2014 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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