It has been almost three months for me that it has been dark. Not just dim or lights out, but an all-consuming darkness. I have asked God to lift it, take it away, but the shadows have endured. I can see the sun outside, but on the inside there is no light.
In the midst of all of this, God asked me to make some of the biggest decisions I have ever made in my life. Actually, He didn’t ask me, He told me. It wasn’t in the usual way He spoke to me either. It was soft, subtle, barely a whisper, so much so that I felt myself putting my spiritual ears to the wall saying, God I can barely hear you!
I chased after the whispers like a wild, hungry animal desperate for food, but the whispers only became softer. The prayers I was praying were not in desperation but were now in full belief that God would answer, even when the timing seemed way off. But God said He would, and He did, and now I just want to run away…
The darkness has not lifted, the enemy is fierce. As my soul lifts up and magnifies the Lord, the devil denies Him and his plans for me. Not that I believe him. But Like Job, my spiritual outsides seem to be collapsing, even though I know they are not. When the walls come tumbling down, where then do you run?
It was in my prayers this morning after Morning Lauds that the sky started to open. It is amazing what singing God’s praises can do for your spiritual life, even when you don’t feel like doing it. But today was different. Today I felt a glimpse of joy return to me, call my name, beckoning, we are almost there. It was that small slither of hope that I hung onto like a precious medallion from God, an inch of rope, an anchor. And I followed that into my prayer closet and in praying this prayer: Why now God? Why now in the midst of all of this are you answering this big prayer of mine? I sat back and closed my eyes, soaking in the warmth of the silence, a gift. And He said back to me with a smile on His face, “Yes the timing is very important. What day is it today on the Jewish calendar. This is your answer.”
With the Holy Spirit still vibrant and burning within me, I quickly rushed to check today’s calendar in Israel. It is the 17th day of Tammuz, a dark month for the Jews, a reminder of their unbelief.
Tammuz was supposed to be a time of blessing for the Jewish people. Moses had received the 10 commandments and was ready to bring it to God’s people. But when He was delayed (of course divinely so), the Israelites were inpatient and their unbelief became prominent. Instead of waiting, they decided to make for themselves a golden calf. And we know the rest of the story, the tablets that God had given us were broken and destroyed and we missed this divine miracle. It was a short delay that Moses had in coming down the mountain, but it was enough to turn the Jewish people to worship a man-made idol. It was enough to turn them away from God.
So the month of Tammuz is known for our fall. It exposes our sin and our falling away from God. But it also provides for us great insight into how we can repent, especially in the midst of darkness.
Today, the 17th of Tammuz marks the beginning of the “Three weeks of sorrow.” Today also is a day of fasting, to instill a sense of repentance in God’s people; to remember the darkness, the tragedy, the idolatry- to instill in us a time of reflection. As Christians, we refer to this spiritual exercise as an examination of conscience, something we should strive to accomplish daily. A time to repent, to ask God to help us in the areas we need help, a daily spiritual housecleaning, a learning to see in the dark.
God’s answer to me was this, How can I be glorified if you do not learn to see me in the dark? If you don’t repent of your unbelief and glorify me in this very time, how will you lead others to me? It is easy to see me in the light, but in the darkness requires a special kind of faith. It requires you to believe me.
So I say to you my brothers and sisters, let us repent of our unbelief for the world is a liar! We have the hope of Christ within us, yearning to be set free! Do not believe the lies of the darkness but instead lift up your hands in glory to our King! Christ has risen my friends, we are free! I pray that you will open your eyes and come out of your slumber and see Him in the darkness. This of course requires you to believe Him.
“that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”
1 Samuel 8:20 (NKJV)
Behold him, the name of whose empire is eternal- Mass entrance
We are all looking for our King, I am convinced of that. Our desire is to be free and do what we want, when we want, but soon thereafter we find ourselves craving structure, and form. It’s why we make New Year’s Resolutions, go on diets, make amends and go to confession. And some way, somehow, we are all connected by the sense that we need something more. It is what that “something” is that we make our ultimate King.
Prophets among men have always been extremely unpopular. So unpopular, their message has preceded their untimely death. The message and the mission of prophets is to bring God’s warning and wisdom to those who will listen. But ultimately, they are rejected by the very people who they were sent to preach to.
And so to it was with the prophet Samuel, that his people did not care to listen. Demanding a fleshly King rather than God, the King of the Universe. “We want to be like everyone else,” they said, “We don’t trust in a God that we cannot see.”
The people did not want to fight their battles with God or listen to what the prophet Samuel had to say. But no matter, Samuel had done his job. He had given his warning, he had spoken. But nobody wanted to listen.
And so it is in our own lives. We may have found God, but He’s so last year. We’ve moved on to the next thing. Now it’s about the wisdom of the wind, or whatever is trending. We don’t trust and cannot follow a God we cannot see. We say that we can do whatever we please, but are the first in line to hang onto every word of the next quote coming from the next best thing. Even if you believe in nothing, that is something, and that my friends is your King.
Our views on God are small, minute actually. They are good enough for now. And when God is just not good enough, we cast Him off to the side like an old and worn out pair of shoes. Until of course we need Him again.
I had an old friend come to visit me today. He was seeking answers. What I am supposed to do? He himself had left the throne empty. He wanted God, craved God, but not enough to want to hear my answer. When we do it our way, it just doesn’t seem to work out, and that message is not religious, its universal.
So who or what is the King in your life? What rules your day or even your life? Are you depending on a fleshly King, or could it be that there is something more?
From some years ago…
Sleeping… waken… open eyes… beautiful… lights dancing, but small lights. Seemingly in random motion, yet not… as I rest, relax, cease striving, I see pattern, beauty, praise. This is life itself… rather, Life Himself. Truth, beauty, goodness, love, peace, joy, music, praise, thanks… worship. Somehow, I have wakened inside worship. How amazing.
“Lord?” I whisper, reverently, sacredly… awed.
And there is caress, a tender hug and enfolding… no words… direct impression of idea… He unspeaks… “Hush… be… I AM… you… be.” Can’t really translate the impression into words. That is as close as I can come. I was simply to exist in Him, and hush. So I did.
And then… I was inside of Someone with no boundaries or limits. Strange, to be inside One Who has no “outside”. But then He spoke, He uttered, and I flowed with that tide, that current from within Him to “other”, to “beyond” Him… He had spoken The Word.
And now, with infinite others, I was inside that Other… Holy Other… spoken forth from the First, from the Prime Mover… still dancing lights, all the same, identical pattern, Life Himself. Truth, beauty, goodness, love, peace, joy, music, praise, thanks… worship. No different, yet different, for now all this worship and praise had an Object, a Focus, the Other, the Prime Mover.
And This One, This Holy One, spoken forth from the Object of His Love, now spoke forth His Own First Word… it was, “Father”, as He wholly and entirely adored the Prime Mover. And again there was movement, the lights, we, flowed from Him, outwards, back to the Father. Amazing.
And then, between them, forevermore, remained that “word” that “bridge” the relationship between Them. And it grew, expanded, encompassing all and everything, in its own light, as This Too became Alive and Whole in and of Himself… the Relationship Between Them, as the Prime Mover spoke again… the word “Son.”
There was nothing to say, nothing to do, nothing to think, but to flow with this Life, this Love, these Words… There was no awareness of anything beyond the moment… the “I”… the “Now”… the “Here”… and Here, was, distinctly, worship.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Oh, sweet irony. I do not wish to speak. I am yet There… and when I “hush”, when I now “relax” and allow Him to draw me into Him with “no distance”, “no apartness”, then my mind stops thinking, there is no more I/Thou, and I am there! Such… no, no words. The sweetness, the joy and light of that, is so immediate, so poignant, that it pierces the heart and soul. Seems strange to say… joy so great it is nearly painful in its intensity. A moment more… then work… then obedience…
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There are some who pray, who have discovered God in Silence. I never understood before. Trappists, Carthusians… My Jesuit father frequently said, if God did not command his obedience and service as a Jesuit, or if the Order ever chose to release him (as he had a request before them to do for years)… he sought to join a Carthusian monastery he knew. I asked why, and he said, “They are forever silent. They live ever in His immediate presence, and hear only Him. God grants me that only when I contemplate… but then commands me to teach. So I obey. But someday, if He grants my wish and reward, I shall be a Carthusian.”
I did not understand. I do now.
The Music! The Harmonies of the Silence! Would that I never again spoke or uttered a sound. The irony. It seems I very much am “my father’s child”. Now, that finally I desire no speech… now I am properly prepared to craft words. Now, it is time… to teach. Though all I would seek is solitude and silence.
OK, this is just a dumb little post, but it was so funny… I just had to put it in here.
The other day I posted “Refrigerator Magnets and Acid Rain”, discussing that little nanosecond of “pure intention” I have when God prompts prayer, versus me wrapping all my own mental debris around it, by the time I get to “Amen”.
Well, last night God sorta tacked His own “epilogue” on to it, and it just turned out hysterically funny. I needed to share.
I… am sick.
Right now, along with others in this house and probably millions dealing with this bizarre weather… I have a cold.
It’s only that… a cold. Not pneumonia, influenza, bronchitis, copd, or a number of actually SERIOUS conditions worthy of any note or sympathy. I just have… a cold. I’m sniffling, blowing my nose a lot, sneezing from time to time, and coughing. I have NO PAIN whatsoever… the cough hasn’t made the ribs hurt, the kleenex hasn’t yet burned my nose, and there’s no sore throat. Sympathy, while always welcome, is not the least bit called for.
Nonetheless… I don’t LIKE being sick. I don’t have TIME to be sick. I don’t feel my normal jovial perky SELF when I’m sick. So IDON’WANNABE sick. My general, all-purpose response to such situations is… I whine. Nothing earth shattering. Just generally a fairly quiet mantra that goes something like… “I’m sick. I hate being sick. I’m sick and tired of being sick. So, Lord… if it’s all the same with you… I’m through with this now. Let’s move on to ‘Little Monk isn’t sick anymore’ days. OK? Thanks. Oh… Amen.”
It’s just irritating. Stuff doesn’t taste right. My eyes are a bit blurrier than normal. My chest feels heavy. And… (OK, you can go ahead and laugh if you want)… my voice… my voice has a distinct amphibian twang… I sound like a frog croaking, “I hab a code id by doze.”
So, last night I’m sitting on the couch in no physical discomfort at all, but mentally bemoaning my fate, and quite suddenly, the Holy Spirit pops up with, “Hey! This would be a GREAT TIME to praise and thank God!”
Stunned… I reply. “But I’m SICK! I dun WANNA pray and praise. I’m not happy!”
But then, suddenly, I get this brilliant idea… “Wait, You’re RIGHT. This is the PERFECT time! I don’t feel good, perky, holy or any of that. Yeah. Great!”
So, quickly I dash to the Throne, and start praising God… embracing how icky I feel. I didn’t even look anything up, but just started winging it (in my own unique idiom) through some version of Daniel’s Canticle, just making up a litany of my own interspersed with “praise the Lord”, “thank the Lord,” or “praise and exalt Him above all forever.”
And my mind was just casting about for new things to “name” to call them to “praise”.
(OK, now, did I mention I’m sick? So… this will get kinda silly. And it’s prayer. So… I don’t want to offend anyone with my irreverence, but this is just what happened, OK? So, try not to judge. By the way, I’m sick… so I’m grabbing on to that in case I need an “excuse”.)
Anyway, I found myself like, running out of things to name… sun and moon, stars and sky, trees and flowers, grass and shrubs, cold and heat, so on.. so on… and it kind of gets like one of those back seat kids word games you play on a long road trip? I’m naming things to praise Him, but running out of things, so I’m losing my rhythm.
So I’m sitting here praising, running dry on fodder. And I repeated myself… and He says, “You said that one already…” and like, without thinking, I shot back, “well I’m running out, how about a little help here”... and HE starts naming animals, and stuff.
The absurdity of the situation strikes me, and I start laughing.
“Wait, Lord, YOU can’t help! This is MY praise to YOU!”
“But you’re running dry… Here, see if this helps.” And He just ‘dumped’ a metric ton of JOY on top of my head. It was like getting rained on by Skittles and M&M’s at a Willy Wonka factory. I just started laughing and couldn’t stop. (It’s really hard to ‘pray’ when tears of laughter are welling up.)
I actually sat here (you won’t believe this), and sorta stomped my foot in pique as I said, “Lord! Cut it out! You’re wrecking this whole thing! I’m trying to do something SERIOUS here! And You’re making me laugh! I can’t concentrate!”
Yes, Gentle Reader, I actually said that to the Lord High God. It must have been fever!
Far from being offended, HE laughed uproariously, and said, “STOP! For goodness sake, quit taking yourself so seriously. You’re praising and thanking Me. I GOT that! I receive that. I embrace that, and it makes Me happy. I’m just embracing you back, and that… is… Joy! Get over it!”
At which point, I fully realized the absurdity of my heart… and together the two of us laughed ’til my coughing stopped me. In those quiet moments I found myself thinking about that “nanosecond” post I mentioned. I shook my head and said to Him, “No one would believe this, You know.”
“That prayer can be like this. That You can reflect back simple determination to praise with a pure intention… without having to ‘feel good’ first… as a cascade of pure Joy and clean laughter.”
“They might, Little Monk. From YOU, they just might. Try it. Go ahead and write it up and see what happens. In the meantime, I was enjoying that Name Game thing we were playing. Let’s go back to that for a while.”
“You got it, Lord”… and with His help, I kept naming pairs of creation… prompting them to “praise and exalt Him above all, forever.”
It was a glorious evening, and for quite a while there, I didn’t even mind the fact that…
Joy and grace to you, Gentle Reader! Praise and exalt Him above all Forever!
The Little Monk
“And when he had taken leave of them, he went off to the mountain to pray.” Mark 6:46
His tombstone reads, “Pauper, servis a humilis” (a poor and humble servant) Saint Andre Bessette
When we are too close up, we can see nothing. Our nose presses up against the glass window, and all we can see is, us. A reflection of our own eyes and mouth looking back at us. I demand this! I want that! I pray your will be done, but I am looking back at me… I don’t mean it. This ministry you planted in my heart God, why won’t you move me? Stomping, exasperated, shaking a door that won’t come unhinged. And all the while He sits by and lets us trip over ourselves, fall, fail, get back up. He’ll let us do it as many times as we need, until our face comes away from the glass in front of it. We are so myopic in our view of God. It’s our corner of the universe, our family, our denomination, our church. This is the God of the Universe, not 7th Street. He didn’t give you the job you wanted? This is a grain in the essence of time compared to His vastness. Get your face off the glass and start walking backwards. No really walking. Keep going until you are at least a couple of feet away. You can’t see yourself so well can you? Now let’s start climbing.
As you back away from the glass window, it’s time to climb. You can only see laterally. You can only see what’s right in front of you. It’s time to get some perspective. Off in the distance you see the peak of a mountain. Suddenly, without thought, you see it right beneath your feet. Look up. It’s time to climb. God, He is up there.
So you leave your purse or wallet or bag behind. Maybe you have some other baggage. Leave that behind to, God’s calling. You start to edge up the mountain. Only a couple of feet up, you look down. Everything appears smaller. You’re not carrying anything with you. You are far from seeing your own face. You are far from seeing anyone at all.
You are now climbing with purpose. You’ve left the world behind you. You are just focused on getting to the top. You look down again and now all you can see are clouds and sky. You feel yourself breathing for the first time in a long time. Your spirit is lifted. You’ve forgotten about whatever it was you were asking God for. Your face is far from the glass window that is now a distant memory. You can’t even remember why you are climbing in the first place or how you got there, all you know is that you are free. Before you know it, you’ve made it to the top. You realized you’ve enjoyed the journey, without even knowing it.
You look down from the top. It is just wind and open sky. You can practically touch God’s roof. He shows you how big the universe is, and it is all His. You don’t even remember your own life down there. You see God’s infinity. You want to stay there. He says you can. That mountain, it is in you.
You’re still in front of the glass window. You open your eyes. You’ve just prayed “your will be done.” Now you know how.
Invite someone else on the trip up the mountain…
Come climb the mountain with me at There’s Something about Mary
This will be a very simple, fairly short, post. A few days ago I posted “Greatness Defined” challenging all of us, Gentle Reader, to increase our awareness of the Intimate and Immediate Presence of God through developing (or rediscovering) simple childlike trust, and applying that to Our Father.
I phrased this thought in a comment below the post, thus:
“[Our Father] has LOTS of children! … It goes on and on and on. All it takes to enjoy that play… those warm strong arms and hands… is a brisk sprint and the flying leap in His direction, trusting that He catch you. He ALWAYS does. He ALWAYS has. He ALWAYS will.”
Our Father delights in children. I’ve said before that the single unrelenting truth I see repeated throughout the Bible from one end to the other, is the ongoing saga of God seeking to live intimately among His children… to provide for us, care for us, protect us, love us… and our equally unrelenting determination to resist or eventually sabotage His efforts.
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But here’s a critical thing I neglected to mention in the challenge to Trust…
In order to know that experience… of being caught and cherished in Our Father’s strong warm arms and hands… we MUST first make that flying leap of faith.
What’s worse… Only our Inner Child can do that!
Think about it. How likely are you, or me, or anyone else… to get a sprinting running start, and then leap out into empty space? How silly do/would we feel? Ever gone to one of those… (I’ve thought of several adjectives to insert right here, but I’m resisting the impulse)... “Teamwork Building Workshops” in management or an organization? You know… the ones with the obstacle course, the ropes course, the puzzles to work out? The ones where you do the “Trust Fall” and let yourself Nestea-Plunge backwards in the hope that your colleagues and teammates will catch you, preventing a heart-stopping diaphragm-paralyzing fall that puts you in traction for a week? Ever been there? So… how silly does all that feel?
You have to “change gears” to get into all that. You have to “shift into Game-Mode”. Remember the folks who seemed to be having a great time, and did pretty well? Then, remember the grumps who just stood off to the side, arms crossed, shaking their heads at all this “waste-of-time-foolishness”?
What’s the difference between those two groups?
The first have discovered and liberated their Inner Child. The second, have him/her locked in their room for the duration (of life).
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So what has any of this got to do with Prayer, with the Bible, with Jesus, Little Monk?
Just this… does God love us any less when we grieve and confine our Inner Child? No. He loves us just the same.
Is there anything “wrong” with behaving like a mature, sensible adult in our lives? No, of course not… that’s why we bother to grow up at all!
Then what are you talking about?
Our upbringings… our parents, mentors, teachers, school, religion… teach us “Da Rules” to constrain and conform our Inner Child to adult norms of behavior. (That is a GOOD thing. Inner Child, left to his/her own devices can become a selfish little monster.) Inner Child is that essence of the “self alone”, of “me”, of “my”, without much regard for others except as they bring us comfort or pleasure. Our “Inner Parent” is the authority, the Rulegiver, the programming we carry with us telling us all the objective standards for right, wrong, acceptable, unacceptable, and what makes us OK or not.
As we grow and develop, these interactions go along, and we become the “Inner Adult”… the personal voice of judgment, reason, consideration, and decision-making on what we do, what priorities we set, what values we adopt, and how we choose to live.
Sooo… this leads into Jesus… how, exactly?
Just this. We can become utterly addicted to our Inner Adult. We can, gradually, surreptitiously, become convinced that our own judgment… our own thinking… our own reason… is the only trustworthy criterion we have for choosing lifestyle. And, to be perfectly frank… Jesus “won’t fit” inside that paradigm at all.
Jesus can certainly “work with” it. We can “believe” in Him with our head. And we can “confess Him” with our mouth. And thus… assuredly… we can be “saved”.
Is that enough?
Yes. Yes it is. That “saves… from the pains of the second death and fires of hell”. We can say all the Roman Road “magic words”… confess our sins, ask Him into our hearts and lives, declare our willingness to be His, and He is EVER and ALWAYS faithful to take that offer, redeem us, and declare us His forever. Yes.
At that point… at that moment… we are “safe forever” from the Father’s Wrath and Punishment Due Our Sin! Yes.
But again, I ask… Is that enough? Is that enough for you? Was it enough for me?
It was not. I want/wanted more. I want/wanted all God has/had/will ever have for me. I want to love God with ALL my heart, mind, strength… to love as Jesus loves… I want so much MORE than “enough”.
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And then one day, God answered the “desire of my heart”. He issued a challenge, I responded, and everything changed. I’m not going to tell you “how that went down” for me, because such words create an expectation that that’s how it “should go down” for anyone or everyone else, and that’s just not true. HOW such things progress is individual… as the Holy Spirit ushers one’s own soul along the right path.
But here was the challenge…
“Only one’s Inner Child can make the leap of faith… the Trust… that you crave, Little Monk. Put aside, for the moment, all that you know… all that you think… all that maturity and training you’ve worked to endure… embrace your Inner Child, and give that permission to leap… unrestrained… into the Void calling My Name. I shall catch you… every single time. There is nothing to fear.”
[NOTE: Please bear in mind, Gentle Reader… though this should go without saying… I speak here of a Prayer Event… a metaphorical leap. This is an experience of meditation and prayer. This has nothing to do with children’s tying a towel around their necks, and plunging off the garage eaves! Please step off no roofs, climb from no boats in deep water expecting to walk ashore… None of that, to be taken from this post!]
There is nothing WRONG with our Inner Adult. But he/she is “limited” by the horizons and boundaries of our own minds and hearts. Only when we embrace and accept our own Inner Child… allowing him/her access to our prayer lives, will we discover the trusting Leap of Faith.
I am reminded of an instruction oft-repeated to me years ago, long before I came to understand it…
“Please stop trying so hard to be Jesus. Only Jesus can be Jesus. Instead, just try to LET Jesus be Jesus IN you, because only He can.”
Jesus, never lost His embrace of His Inner Child. His Inner Child always knew the Joy and Love of Our Father!
Now, Gentle Reader… go “play” for a bit!
And for your joy…