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Spiritual Warfare – The Medieval Meets High Tech

candle book Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give. [Matthew 19:8]

But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ [Matthew 28:16-20]

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I have… “struggled” seems too dramatic a word… but I’ve seriously pondered whether or not to pursue a line of discussion that I’ve felt called to engage for a very long time. I’ve decided to open the question to you, Gentle Reader, and listen to your response(s). Feel free, if you wish to remain private, to direct any thoughts to me directly by email at Little_Monk_60@yahoo.com if you wish.

Spiritual warfare is real. Personalities of darkness and shadow are real. All of us interact with such shadows daily to some extent or another. (Do we experience temptation? Yes? Is that from God or any other entity of Light? No? Well then…)

K, now, having said that… there is lots and LOTS of drama that can be made from this fact, and lots and lots of stories, books, movies, and (nowadays) reality TV that can exploit that drama.

Right about there, all consensus falls apart on this subject. From that point forward, worldviews vary along a spectrum of “the collective consciousness of human ‘bad intention'” to the wildly frightened seeing of horned beasts behind every closet door and the need to wrap the self in bubble wrap and cotton wool before getting out of bed.

THEREFORE, the general “polite Christian response” to such matters… is to ignore them utterly. Pray privately, yes… preach by strict scriptural quotation, yes… go with the flow of the politically and socially correct fotm on matters of Halloween or the hottest paranormal movie, yes… but, in general, just hope all this goes away quietly when it comes up.

THIS, ladies and gentlemen, is a real problem.

This “blind eye to the glass” approach leaves lots and lots of hurting people, really struggling in battles of spiritual warfare, cast off out there in a sea of uncertainty as to where and how to get help or support.

As a counselor, a minister, a pray-er, I am periodically deeply involved in spiritual warfare. Whether in the dramatic or the mundane, I feel that it is of paramount importance that Christians be aware and knowledgeable on this.

The problem is… how? The fundamentals of worldview difference means that “dialogue in common language and understanding” is very difficult. Holding the “respect line” when speaking with someone of a radically different worldview is challenging. Denominational, historical, cultural difference… both on the fundamentals of cause, effect, etiology… and in the response and mechanics of ministry to need… The challenges to meaningful dialogue can seem insurmountable.

At the same time, the reality that there is “something there”, and the adventurous spirit of the young and their boldness… combined with the “spiritual vacuum” so often experienced from the public face of the Christian community… have made a situation where this deeply religious matter is more and more entering our homes and minds through the “scientific” application of technology to spiritual entities through prime time television.

For professional reasons, I watch such programming fairly diligently. I’ll be frank, some episodes just scare me to death. NOT as to the “reality” or “power” of the entities involved… I’m painfully aware of that quite on my own, thank you. Rather I am terrified for the risks many of these adventurous and curious persons are taking, often with only minimal awareness or acknowledgment.

Ironically, the “young and the bold” who undertake such endeavors, within a season or two, quite apparently “learn” to have respect for these risks and dangers, as “on the job training” bears fruit. You see initial postures of arrogance or omniscience, fairly quickly be tempered by learned respect for significant forces beyond one’s own control. My general response is to pray for these investigators, and those they help.

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This blog seems a unique venue, if any exists, gently and carefully to begin such a dialogue. But I seek your input on how to meet a number of challenges…

How do we discuss such things without offending one another’s traditions or worldviews?

How do we discuss “experiences” without concern for mutual judgments of one’s “sanity” or lack thereof?

How do we discuss mechanics and realities of such warfare, as a matter of “equipping the saints”, and not see such discussion devolve into either a set of lessons on “DIY Exorcism” (disastrous)… or encouragement to “fear” (which is no part of the Christian walk)?

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I don’t have the answer to these questions, and I’ve known I didn’t have them for a long time now. This is not a “comfortable” area for discussion.

But now, I feel better at least to throw a light on this “elephant in the room”… fling it on the table (a big, sturdy table for this mixed metaphor)... and open the DISCUSSION to possible discussion. I don’t have a solution, but I’m at least “brave enough” (at last)… to ask the question.

So… *BONK!*… ball is served and in the air… heading for your court. Any ideas? By the way, about half our readership is “professional” in ministry, and about half is not. That’s PERFECT! It’s that MIX of viewpoint I so seek to hear!

So, please let me know what you think!

Grace to you — The Little Monk

 

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Because I say so…

244px-messier-42-10-12-2004-filtered-e1401834586474While working on some projects over the past few weeks, I was struck with an amazing realization…

Are you a parent? Were you a parent? Or… do you remember your own parents? Imagine, if you will…

  1. You tell your child to do something or other that they don’t particularly want to do.
  2. They (predictably) ask, in a whiny voice, “But… but… WHY?”
  3. And you say? (fill in the blank here) (Psst! Hint: Check the title of this post!)

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Have you ever noticed how often God Almighty, when faced with parallel situations with His Old Testament children, identifies Himself thus…

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt.”

Time and time again, He identifies Himself this way. And one day this realization just stopped me cold, as I thought… “Waitaminute! Why does God EXPLAIN Himself? Is He coddling His children? I mean, why doesn’t He say… ‘Because I am the Lord your God who could squish you like a bug?’ or “I am the Lord your God who created heaven, earth, and you?’ or even the tried-and-true…. “Because I say so!”?

It started me looking up one passage after another, and I saw this pattern repeated over and over. And this confused me. After all, if ANYONE has the right to pose an argument from authority without qualification, it must be Him, no? And yet, He doesn’t. In fact, He NEVER EVER does.

I was stunned.

We do it, we humans, all the time. Certainly with our children and subordinates. We claim our authority by position and rank, not by our actions and history. At least, not usually we don’t.

It all started me thinking… Why? Doubtless God is more emotionally secure than we are. We have greater need to massage our egos and pride, true enough. But still, does it make sense that we tend to point to ourselves when we assert authority, while God points to the children when He does?

So, I pondered, “Why?” Clearly, God gets it right more than I do. So, He has a method to why He asserts His authority in these terms rather than mine. As I pondered, I came to a conclusion.

I’d like to know what you think about what I thought… which was…

It seems that God defines “authority” in terms of His own commitment to the care and welfare of the other.

Perhaps that is a critical key. Perhaps “authority” only has true meaning in relationships of care, and it is directly related to the degree of commitment one has for the nurturance of the other. Like when God placed Adam into the garden to “protect and to serve” the plants, THUS exercising dominion. Is it possible that God always intended Adam’s “authority” and “dominion” to extend only to the limits of his caretaking?

Could God’s authority be infinite in that His caretaking is infinite? And the reverse? God’s caretaking is infinite in that His authority is infinite? Is the assertion and exercise of authority only godly and legitimate to the extent that we are committed to the well-being of the other? Is such assertion without commitment nothing more than the haughty posing of the self-righteous whitewashed tombs?

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That’s where my ponders led me. What do you think?

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

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2015 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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Ripples and Birthdays

WisdomIn the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. [Genesis 1:1-2]

Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David,  in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.  And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. [Luke 2:4-7]

While I know that technically it is “Christmas Day” as I write, Gentle Reader, for me it is the ending of Christmas Eve for I’ve not yet slept. These several days, I’ve yet been struck with the awesome power of “silence’ and “waiting”. I know there are those who decry the customs and traditions of the Liturgical Year, and the cycle of holidays such as Christmas and Easter in the Christian Church. I realize, with all educated theologians, that the decisions to select the dates we have are more dependent on the incorporation of customs by pagan peoples into Christian practice, than any scriptural seasonal basis. But it has always seemed more to me an apt unification of God’s people, rather than any denial or wrongful compromise.

Paulfg (Just me being curious) speaks often of dropping pebbles and watching the myriad ripples that follow. So much of grace is like that. God, or one who follows Him, drops a pebble, and the Holy Spirit echoes and reverberates among many others like variations on a theme of music. I was recently struck by the rhythmic nature of reality, of the necessity of opposites. In order to know true freedom and choice of good over evil, we MUST of logical necessity, have the capacity to choose evil. In order to know light, we must have the ability to apprehend darkness. For me, limited as I am by my own culture and upbringing, I’m coming to consider this the nature of yin and yang. Even Paul’s ripples have peaks and troughs, a zenith and nadir to define them.

This “silence”, this “fasting”, this preparation for the annual commemoration of the Great Events of the Nativity and the Resurrection that comprise Advent and Lent… these are important, and can do much to enrich our experience of God. Why? Because they are, in and of themselves, some sort of “magic times”? No. Because God takes special note of those who are devout enough to honor these penitential periods, and rewards the faithful with special Brownie Point Blessings? No. Because we have to “purge ourselves of our worldliness and sin”, in order to benefit from these sacred feasts? Well, such exercise may well bear some fruit, yes… but not in such a transactional way, no.

Now, I know you’ve heard this before, but let me say it again. I write from my own experience and subjective perspective. My opinions and conclusions are my own, and if they do not agree with yours I am NOT implying that you are wrong. For you, in your life, your world, your walk with the Lord, these ideas may not fit at all… and if that is the case, please cast them aside without hesitation. But perhaps these reflections will spur a new thought or idea to explore with Him, and that may bring additional grace or blessing. I share to expand our sense of the Possible in the realm of the grace of God.

This night, I’ve been struck with the Ripples of the Nativity. With this transition from Advent into Christmas. From pregnancy to parenthood. I was struck with those TWO texts quoted at the beginning of this post. All of “Not-Yet-Created” waited silently and darkly for “Creation”. The verb there for God “formed” is a word that means “brought forth from nothing at all”. This is not like a conjurer’s trick, the magician who unveils and releases a dove from a handkerchief and his “empty” hand. No, this is vastly more profound. This is God the Father and God the Son and God the Breath of God speaking, extending, and hovering over the expanse of darkness to bring forth… EVERYTHING. Birth!

And then, much later on, we see this scenario play out into our world, our time and space, as the Father sends forth Gabriel and speaks, the Son extends, and the Holy Breath overshadows Mary in her home. Nine months later, according to the rules of biology established in our lives, we have… Birth!

In my own life, this is a night each year when the universe itself holds its collective breath and gazes upon THE miracle of birth. It is God’s glory, God’s act, God’s love, God’s grace. It is entirely and wholly His, and it could well be said that He alone has the right to rejoice in it. But… just as He invited the shepherds and the maji so long ago to take part, to come, to witness, to celebrate… so too, He invites us. Isn’t that wondrous?

But watch this, it gets better! It is not only the celebration of the Birth of Jesus that is going on here.  Jesus said, “you in Me and I in you and together we in the Father.”  John the Apostle calls you a “Child of God”. Paul the Apostle waxes eloquent about “joint-heir with Christ,” including the training and discipline involved. We never see any of these texts grovelling in any sort of “worthless worm theology”, as so often undermines Christians in the name of humility.

The Nativity is not only Jesus’ Birthday… but ours as well. We are here to commemorate a birth… your birth, my birth… as sons and daughters of God… joint heirs… princes and princesses of kingdom… called to do the works of Jesus and greater yet because He is risen to the Father.

God Alone creates something from nothing. God Alone chose to lay down His divinity and become a man like us in all things but sin. God Alone moves the Holy Breath Spirit to dwell within us and among us. Why? Because He chooses to. Because that’s what Love means to Him.

And God Alone could make royalty of you and me. “Holy and Royal Priesthood” is all well and good as long as we speak of it in some vague corporate collective of “The Church”. But people become vastly less comfortable when one points out that means that YOU, are a sacred prince/princess priest/priestess. *I’m* not saying that… Scripture says that.

So… for tonight… let us continue to be silent, waiting, and ready. For, tomorrow, there will be Birth. And there will be a Gift. And the Gift will be an entirely new life… not just a “getting by” life… but a holy and royal life. A life filled with life, love, joy, truth, beauty, goodness, power, authority, and duty. Life that gives itself away and pours itself out for others…

Why? Because that’s what God has chosen to do. Because that’s what Love means to Him.

Happy Birthday, Your Highness.

 

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2014 in Advent Devotions, Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds

 

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Compassion

 

Image: The Good Samaritan (after Delacroix) by Vincent Van Gogh, 1890

Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation

Compassion

God-in-Me Loving God

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Last year I had the honor of representing the Christian tradition at the Festival of Faiths in Louisville, Kentucky. Leaders of many faiths, including the Dalai Lama, came together to talk about the role of compassion in our spiritual practice. The following is what I shared from the Christian perspective:

The Christian who has gone to his or her own depths—not all of us, I am afraid—uncovers an Indwelling Presence, what might even be experienced as an I-Thou relationship (to use the language of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber). In Christian theology this would be described as the “Holy Spirit,” which is precisely God as immanent, within, and even our deepest self. Some saints and mystics have described this Presence as “closer to me than I am to myself” or “more me than I am myself.” Many of us would also describe this as the True Self. It must be awakened; it is never “created” by our actions or behavior, but naturally “indwelling,” or our inner being with God.

Much of culture and religion encourages us to cultivate our False Self or reputation, self-image, roles, and possessions. It is only as this fails us, and it eventually does, that the True Self stands revealed and ready to guide us. The True Self does not teach us compassion as much as it IS compassion already, and from this more spacious and grounded Self we can naturally connect, empathize, forgive, and love all reality. In Christian language this is “God-in-me-loving-God.”

The False Self does not know how to love in a very deep or broad way. It is too small and self-referential to be compassionate. The True Self also does not choose to love as much as it IS love itself already. Loving from this spacious place is experienced as a river within you that flows of its own accord, as Jesus promises us so beautifully (John 7:38).

Adapted from Silent Compassion: Finding God in Contemplation, pp. 46‑48

Gateway to Silence:
May I see with eyes of compassion.

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2014 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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The Journey

Sunrise CrossTherefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. [Hebrews 12:1-2 ]

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Remember, O man, that: “dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”

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These words, these Garden Farewell words, open Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.These were the last words we heard from the lips of God as we were clothed by His compassion, and sent forth from our access to the Tree of Life so that we did not destroy ourselves further.

Gentle Reader, if you come here often, you know that this blog is, in part, an “Experimental Laboratory” of prayer, and that together we explore new and different avenues for the experience of the Holy Spirit teaching and guiding.

The Lord is challenging me this year, as in some (not all) past years, to journey through the next 40 days towards Resurrection Sunday (Easter), in a special way. That I will discover something new and wondrous when I reach the Empty Tomb that day.

Every other time I have made this journey (sometimes terrifying or grief-filled, btw), I have traveled this road alone, or with one other for protection. This year, I invite companions, that we make each our OWN journeys, but we can do that in company if you would care to travel together.

We are headed from our homes to Jerusalem for the Passover Celebration at the Temple, before the Ark, at the Holy of Holies. I go to present my gift. I shall come away with Greater gift. I know this, for so it has ever been. But I do not present mine IN ORDER TO receive.

That is important. I do not invite you on a “Trade Caravan”. I invite you on a “Pilgrimage”.

If you would like to come along, to join this caravan, then welcome to you. Feel free to pitch your tent over there for tonight, and tie your camel or donkey up yonder. Enjoy the time, the company, and the food.

This should be a very interesting trip.

Blessings and grace to thee — The Little Monk

 

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Greatest in Kingdom

Disciples18 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. “Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes! “If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire. If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell. 10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven. 11 [For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.] 12 “What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying? 13 If it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray. 14 So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish.” [Matthew 18]

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This morning I listened to a wonderful sermon on this passage. The very gifted preacher is a terrific man, husband, father, son, neighbor, servant, and teacher. His sermon “grew me”, “fed me”, “enriched me”. What’s more, like almost everything True that rings of God in my heart and spirit, this sermon prompted “further echoes” and harmonics, as God carried on with grace beyond the words. And I’d like to put some of that extension down here.

That pastor’s message centered on godly parenting. Their church is going through a time of examination and renewal on Christian families, and raising blessed children. This morning’s message looked at some of the duties of parents towards their children in and through Jesus’ word(s) in the passage above.

The Three Points of the Sermon were:

  1. Parents need to provide “humility” for their children
  2. Parents need to provide “protection” for their children
  3. Parents need to provide “stability in relationship with God” for their children.

THERE, is that gifted man’s Rose for today. He embraced it, highlighted it, shared it with his congregation. That is WONDERFUL. That is TRUE. That is TRUTH and straight from the heart of scripture and Jesus’ words and heart. I want to be very clear here about all of that. Those of you who follow this blog very much, understand what I mean about the Lord giving each of us our own Rose, our own view of Him, truth, grace, in the garden of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and minds. Each of us see our own Rose, and can describe the experience of that to others, so that they may enter into their own gardens and look upon their own Rose.

The spotlight this gifted pastor threw onto these reflections, prompted me to look upon my own walk in parenting and reflections on these points and insights. My Rose included his petals… our spotlights twinkled in much the same way. My reflections though, included an additional point I would like to share here. And it is important to me that you, Gentle Reader, not see this as “critique” by any means. Especially if you are a casual, or unaccustomed reader of this blog. I’m going to say something here that is a bit different, a bit additional, to that wonderful sermon… and it is, indeed, intended only as “enhancement”, not “correction”… which would be very out of order for me. OK? Fine then. Here we go.

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The pastor read the text (cited and printed above), and began his exposition saying…

“The first thing we need to do for our children, the first gift we need to provide for them, is ‘humility’.”

The pastor pointed out, correctly and accurately, that the first words of Jesus here show the need for the disciples to humble themselves like the child, and that the child must begin from a posture of humility. He then went on to comment on our culture, and the pitfalls of raising youth with the all-too-common sense of entitlement and immunity from correction, accountability, or criticism that we see far too often in these days. It was a well made, well thought out, point.

The pastor spoke of the experience that he and his wife had bringing their children home from the hospital when they were born… that sense of responsibility for another human life… and the overwhelming sense of need of God’s grace and guidance in such an awesome endeavor. As he spoke so movingly, so deeply and sincerely, about his experience in those moments… it threw me back to those parallel moments in my own life and heart, 28 or so years ago…

(* Insert Flashback Here *) My beloved and I stood hand in hand, staring at our three day old daughter sleeping in her infant bed. Wordless… just staring… pulses racing… as the same realization hit us both at the same moment… Conversation (sort of), starts…

“Little Monk? We don’t know what we’re doing…”

“I know.”

“She’s a person! I mean, a real live human being!”

“I know.”

“God has given her to US! I mean, we are supposed to RAISE her. We are her PARENTS! As if we knew what we were doing…”

“I know.”

“Little Monk? How are we supposed to DO that? I mean, God is trusting us with this whole… this… this real… this BABY! This HUMAN! This PERSON! What do we DO? How do we DO this? I mean, we’re gonna mess this UP! Is God crazy? How could He trust us with something so precious as… HER?”

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Don’t know if you’ve been there, Gentle Reader. In that you’re reading this at all… if you are a parent… you probably remember a moment or two like this. God led us, in the next few hours after that, in some serious “together time” with Him, that I’ll not try to recount, but just summarize here:

  • God had entrusted to us as parents, a sacred child of His… wrapped in His love, whose angel stood ever before His face, having fashioned her down to the smallest atom of her being in His mind and heart. He was TRUSTING us, to “foster” her, to “care for” her, as “stewards” for her life… until she stood on her own before Him.
  • We realized… ACCURATELY… that we, of ourselves, were not up to the task, and hadn’t the slightest clue how to do this.
  • We, in this moment of her brand new life, stood in the “shoes of God” for her. Her very survival depended on our care. WE at the moment, represented GOD in her world. Over time, as she grew, as she formed relationships, ideas, thoughts, awareness, our “godhead” would diminish, and her “hand would transfer” across 18 or so years, as we diminished to “merely human” in stature, and God took over His own identity in and to her.
  • In that… in that period of our “Temporary God Permit” of 18 or so years, WE were responsible for laying down the template, the relationships, the principles, of Truth, Love, Trust, Provision, Authority, Protection… that would pave the way for God to fill those channels with His Own Being in her adult life. Right now, at her birth, our “Divinity” (in her consciousness, her universe) was “total”, nearly “absolute”. At 18, it would be utterly gone. Life from now til then, would be a progress of ours diminishing, as His directly increased as His own relationship in her.

When we saw this, as we prayed and pondered through this, when we fully grasped this and its gravity… we were utterly terrified. We both counseled. Both of us were already painfully aware of the devastation in the lives of sacred people, of parenting that maimed and twisted the souls of children. Both from our own lives and from our work, the prospects of “error” here, terrified us.

In the face of that terror, God led us to:

  • Humbly embrace this realization, that she was a “temporary trust in His Name”, and that of ourselves we didn’t know how to do this.
  • Trust Him in faith, that if we would rely on Him and His Spirit and Word(s) for guidance, He would bless this and bring forth the fruit He intended.
  • Understand, that this is and has ever been His design for family, and that it was the journey together that bore the fruit, not just the arrival at the destination of her adulthood.
  • Realize, with great gratitude, that as long as we truly sought her good in Him, He could and would, “redeem and indemnify” even our frailties and errors… bringing about blessing to her and to us, even if in the limitations of our finite wisdom, we were “incorrect” in one call or another. (In other words, we did not have to “get it all perfect”, in order for Him to bless us and her as if we had.)

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Now, all that may seem like a roundabout way to get to what is a fairly simple and straightforward point, but I wanted you to get the context here, because this point is critical…

My colleague, the pastor there this morning, began his parenting observations from the point of Jesus spoken words… at verse 3. That’s fine, that’s well and good, that’s where his Rose petals led him.

But when we, 28 years ago, prayed SPECIFICALLY before God as to “what does our child need, First and Foremost from us!?” God was extremely clear and detailed. The pastor this morning started with verse 3, saying “children need us to give them humility”. The Lord, with us so long ago, started with verse 2 (a petal earlier on the Rose), saying, “More than anything else, Little Monk, I need you to teach her to TRUST YOU, that she learn she can trust ME.”

Look at verse 2 there for a moment.

And He called a child to Himself and set him before them..”

This is “scripturally unusual”. Jesus seldom EVER “makes a display of others”. PEOPLE tried to do it a time or two, and Jesus does not approve. In Mark 8:22-26, some villagers grabbed a blind man because they wanted to see Jesus do a miracle. The villagers wanted a “show”. Jesus takes the man away, heals him in private (with some difficulty) and tells him to go home without even passing back THROUGH the village. People tear off roofs to get to Jesus, they reach out through crowds to touch His garments, they get friends to carry them there, they climb trees to see Him. All this! But how often do we see Jesus call someone to Him, simply to display them? This may be the only time.

So… put yourself there for a moment. There’s Jesus. There’s the Disciples. There’s a crowd. The Disciples ask their question, “Who’s greatest?” The crowd leans closer to hear this answer. After all… who WOULDN’T want to hear this answer? Now, there’s this little kid there. (Ever notice how often there’s a “little kid there” for Jesus? Anyway…) here’s this little kid. Are his parents there? Dunno. Has he ever seen Jesus before? Dunno. Do his parents believe? Dunno. Is he “friends with Jesus?” do they have some prior relationship we know nothing about? Dunno. Jesus and scripture make no reference to any of that, so let’s use “conservative interpretation” and not assume anything not there. No crutches, eh?

Now, it’s one thing for Jesus to say to a grown man, “Follow Me!” and be followed. But imagine being a little kid, in a crowd of gawkers, with Peter and all the rest of the guys hanging on His every word there, and seeing Jesus… “beckon you”… call you out from the crowd to go stand by Him, after someone has just asked a question like THAT, and the whole crowd hushes to lean in like someone just said, “E. F. Hutton says…”

What would that be like? Would you go? Would I? Would we walk away from our parents, our chores, our lunch, the safety of the crowd, to go stand in THAT spotlight? Wouldja? Would *I*? I dunno.

Well, that little kid did.

(I’d love to know what that child turned into as an adult. I intend to see, when I get to heaven. One of those “To Do” list elements I have… lol.. my “Beyond the Bucket List”.)

That boy trusted Jesus, and fearlessly came when Jesus called.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

And THAT is what Jesus said was the FIRST thing, the MOST IMPORTANT thing for us to teach our daughter.

We were to teach her to TRUST us, so that, in time, she could TRUST HIM.

Jesus was extremely clear and specific as to how to do this, and without much discussion, I’ll set some of His rules to us on that here:

  • Trust to His Provision – we were to “meet her needs… always… immediately”. He asked that we trust HIM on this, but that (contrary to LOTS of advice we were given), we were to understand that the only means an infant has initially, to express a need, is to cry. Children do not cry for “no reason”, they NEED something, but unfortunately, they cannot tell us what that is, yet. Jesus challenged us, when we heard her cry, to GET TO HER, and comfort her by touch and voice, assuring her of our presence and our love… IMMEDIATELY, OR WITHIN 60 SECONDS. He assured us, this would bear delightful fruit. (And, of course, He was right. From 6 months old on, we could stop our child from crying with our voices alone… even if we were unavoidably delayed in getting to her directly. She LEARNED, she KNEW, she could trust that we would address her needs once she let us know she had one, and could trust that we would not ignore her or her suffering.)
  • We were never ever to lie to her, deceive her. Always be honest. Now, subject to “age appropriate context”, and with due regard for “privacy” or “what we may choose not to answer or discuss”. “Honesty” is not the same as a “Top Secret Clearance Pass”, or total access to all information.
  • We were never EVER… to Call Her to Us… and then Hurt Her. Not physically, emotionally, or spiritually. There are times in parenting, where one inflicts “hurt” in any of those areas. But, in such moments… WE were to approach HER. Never were we to call her to us, say or imply “Trust Me”, and then betray that trust with pain. If she was in trouble, she would know it, be sent off for “cool down” (both us and her) and THEN we would meet as we went to her, not the reverse.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It is this last rule… the “Call to Trust”… that is the “Petal for Today”. Whether you are a parent, a teacher, a mentor, a friend… should you be called to “speak forth in His Name” in whatever role you play at that moment… ask Him if this is a principle He writes in your life and spirit. If so, grace to thee… if not, just cast this aside.

But the single greatest challenge I know in this broken fallen world… (Redeemed already by the Cross… yes… but not yet aware of that Redemption… yet “groans and suffers” for ITS adoption as Paul says (Romans 8:21-23))… The hardest hurdle to surmount for broken children to grasp the rescue and healing of Jesus… is MISTRUST of Him. Fear of Him. Fear that to touch Him will hurt, will bring pain, will bring punishment!

Such heartbreak for Him!! Who can imagine its magnitude!

How wondrous is it for Him, on the other hand, simply to BECKON a child… and have them joyously trust Him and come to His call?

Original sin did not leave us with a trusting nature. Eve did not trust God. That is buried DEEP within our hearts. Parents, pastors, teachers, mentors, friends… WE are the key in healing this “congenital defect” we have inherited in our DNA from Adam and Eve.

Give children humility? Yes! (Most effectively by EXERCISING it… especially TOWARDS them! But that’s for a different post.)

Give children protection? Yes! Stand in the gap for them. Let them know always that you are there to preserve them from harm, even when they are sure you are wrong.

Give children the gift of relationship with God? Yes! Be the exemplar of a Child of God, before the Father, alongside the Firstborn! By all means!

And see that ALL of this rests on a necessary foundation. FIRST there must be “Trust”. Teach that you can be TRUSTED, and that God can as well. Without knowing that your children can trust you… they will not learn “humility”, or “safety”, or “godliness” from you. For they will always reserve something behind a wall of their heart, waiting for “the other shoe to drop”… waiting for the “inevitable betrayal”.

Trust is the hardest thing. And, once attained, it is the most precious thing we could ever have!

Blessings and grace to thee, Gentle Reader. Trust Him! He is Safe! Honest!

 
6 Comments

Posted by on February 16, 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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