Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Merton on Humility

 The saints are what they are, not because their sanctity makes them admirable to others, but because the gift of sainthood makes it possible for them to admire everybody else. It gives them a clarity of compassion that can find good in the most terrible criminals. It delivers them from the burden of judging others, condemning other men. It teaches them to bring the good out of others by compassion, mercy and pardon. A man becomes a saint not by conviction that he is better than sinners but by the realization that he is one of them, and that all together need the mercy of God!

New Seeds of Contemplation, Thomas Merton

Friday, September 4, 2020

Worldwide Pandemic of Hate

 If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. -- John 15:18-19

The world Jesus is talking about comes from a Greek word we transliterate as kosmos.  It is used in various ways, sometimes to mean the planet, the universe, an order, the human family, etc.  Let's ask, what is hostile to Christ, and, by association, to us as Christians?  It's not nature or the planet.  I don't think it's all the inhabitants of Earth.  Rather it is the order of the world under Satan, and something else as well, but we'll get to that.

Creation was ordered under the control of the first man, Adam.  When Adam fell, the kosmos changed hands falling, also, under the dominion of Lucifer.  The first rule of luciferian government is that men can "be as gods".  We can handle everything ourselves.  Man is the measure of all things.  Lucifer had picked up a lot of bad press and a negative image through the ages, so we changed it to humanism.  It's still the same message.  

When Jesus came along with His message of repentance, redemption, and the opening of the Door into the Kingdom of God, those of the kosmos were, understandably, perturbed.  They saw immediately that this meant an end to their power, which is principally the ability to deceive and manipulate.  If Christ is king and a new dominion is established under the Second Adam, what will become of the the old order?  It's going to be abandoned, destroyed, wiped out, of course.  And what of the Old Adam?  He's to be put to death, oddly enough, via crucifixion.   

And that's the second thing that is an enemy of Christ, not just the luciferian world order, but my own old adamic nature.  It is, in fact, my old nature on which the humanistic, anti-Christ order is built.  Apart from me giving heed to the old man within, I am truly in the world and not of it.  

Current events are, at the moment, pretty dismal.  The level of delusion and confusion surpasses anything I remember.  The '60s were bad.  I was perhaps more sheltered.  Newscasts were not so overwhelming.  People had time to think a little while reading the newspaper rather than being hypnotized by flashing images and nice-looking people with nice voices telling us what we ought to think about the latest Big Concern.  The luciferian order has advanced greatly in the information age.  The modern tower of Babel is being built of 1's and 0's.  The voice of the old man is amplified to the point that it threatens to completely deafen us to the reality of Christ. 

It comes at us from all political points of view, from science, from academia, entertainment, even, at times from pulpits and the voices of those who are considered religious leaders.  The solution to our problems is not political, economic, or environmental.  They won't be solved by a war, civil or otherwise, nor, for that matter, by surrender to the violent.  

I have to stop listening to the fear-mongering of the kosmos and its sympathic reverberations in my own old nature.  I need to remember that God is in control.  He's in control if he's in control of me.         

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Virtue and Reward

 Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.  Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. -- Matthew 6:1-4

I have always thought of virtue as something that God approves of, perhaps even something He has led me to do.  The Lord enables and empowers us to act righteously, and He often gives us opportunities to exercise virtue, to meet the needs of those around us.  

Virtue does not require consensus.  All the right people don't have to agree about what is good.  Not in God's universe -- maybe it's different over in the twitterverse.  I don't know.  

Jesus tells us here that we should not seek to curry favor with the public by our acts of righteousness.  We should keep them quiet, and do good, as much as possible, privately.  Do good out of humility.  Pride is always something we have to guard against.  As the  Lord told Cain, "[I]f you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door.  Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it" (Genesis 4:7).  Pride is the foundational sin, and it can be subtle, insidious, lurking.  I'll be doing all right and suddenly find myself thinking that I really am something, after all.  

Keeping our virtue quiet is one way to avoid having other people brag on us and inflate our sense of worth.  Not that you shouldn't have a sense of worth, it should just be based, not on works, but on the love Christ has for us made manifest in the Cross.  

And, in light of the Cross and all that has been done for me, to what do my acts of righteousness amount?

Monday, November 4, 2019

Reality Rules

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. -- James 4:8
I happened to pick up Oswald Chamber's My Utmost for His Highest this morning and read the entry for today. It's based on James 4:8 and is call "The Authority of Reality", so I am riffing on that. 

Faith is acting on what you know to be true, what you know to be real.  I have a spare tire on my truck and a patch kit I carry on my bikes because punctures and road hazards are real.  We stop at stop signs, drive on the right side of the road, stay out of certain parts of town after dark, pay our taxes, watch what we eat, and all the rest because of what we believe to be real.  For me, I know, it is difficult to believe in anything other than the material world I see and experience on a daily basis.  I am, after all, a native Missourian.  "Believe half of what you see [perspective] and none of what you hear [opinion]" was drilled into me from birth.

My mother used to check the almanac for the various moon signs or whatever they are.  By the signs, you are told to plant potatoes and other root crops in "the dark of the moon".  My father's response?  "I always thought they do better if you plant them in the ground."  My favorite, though, was castrating calves.  Dad didn't have any fancy equipment, just a classic stockman pocketknife with a scary sharp spey blade, and he usually kept some pine tar in the truck.  We'd see a new calf, determine it was a bull, catch it, and cut it.  In the summer, if we had it available, we'd smear some tar around the cut to keep away the flies.  Back at the house, Mom might wonder if the calf would be all right as the sign was in not in the feet that day.  Dad again, "The sign is in the knife."

Since then I have experienced things that were inexplicable in a material sense, usually having to do with the timing of events -- things happening or coming together at just the right time to benefit me.  I have been in the right place at the right time on multiple occasions.  I have been blessed over and over, and I have come to believe that God is Good, all the time.  Have I experienced upheavals and tragedies?  Have I seen bad things happen to good people?  Have I been taken aback by the utter stupidity and the malice of people?  I have certainly, especially that last one. 

Malicious people are acting on what they believe to be true, on what they believe is real.  Perhaps they are philosophical atheists or practical atheists who believe we are alone in a purely material world with no one to answer to except our fellow humans.  Perhaps they believe in some kind of vindictive god, or they are deeply religious pharisees who think they are better than other people.  I don't know, but I pity them.  However, if they come to my house with their evil, the sign might be in the Glock. 

I believe Jesus, the Son of God.  I believe He described the real world perfectly and completely, that He is Truth incarnate.  I believe He is with me, that, now and then, He has worked through me, that He has guided my steps even when I had no idea what was going on.  By all rights, I should have been dead forty-nine years ago and probably more times than I know since, but here I am, and I am going to do my best to act on what I believe.  The just shall live by faith.  The just do it.

Monday, February 11, 2019


Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble. Say to those with anxious heart, "Take courage, fear not.  Behold, your God will come with vengeance; the recompense of God will come, but He will save you".  -- Isaiah 35:3-4 (NASB)
I haven't written much for a long time.  It is a spiritual discipline for me, and I have neglected it.  I'm not sure why, other than I have been doing other things -- often less constructive and beneficial to myself.  I'm not sure, either, that I am back to a regular routine.  I think I needed a break.  I started this around the time my father's age finally caught up with him, eleven years ago.  I began to neglect it sometime after my wife passed away, four years ago.  I've sorted through a lot in the last several years. 
I am more certain than ever of the goodness of God.  I am more confident that He knows what is going on.  I am a lot less certain that I do.  I think it used to be reversed.  I think I spent a lot of time trying to tell the Lord what I wanted Him to do.  These days my prayers tend to be more like, "Lord Jesus, have mercy on me."  
At one time, I could have believed I was a messenger of God, along the lines of the prophet Ezekiel, though writ quite small and modestly.  Perhaps I was -- to a person or two, thirty years ago.  I did the jobs that were given to me, delivered halting messages to best of my ability, struggled with my weaknesses and limitations, and moved on.  And I'm still here.  I wanted to be like Joseph.  I might have been more like Moses when he murdered the Egyptian in his self-righteousness.  I always wanted wisdom, but I knew a lot more than I understood, though I was certain I knew what needed to be done.  Without getting all megalomaniacal, I wonder if I have not been afflicted with the malady that hinders and binds the modern Church.  The Church seems confused, divided, and cut off from what is going on in the world with all its ugliness, vulgarity, hate, and violence.  Perhaps it's evidence of a surrender, perhaps just a recognition that Christians can't beat the world at its own game.  
The hope for me is summed up in the quoted passage.  God is not unaware of what is going on.  A person not cognizant of Scripture could be forgiven for assuming God doesn't know or doesn't care about the increasing insanity, the ongoing suffering, and senseless, manic actions that look more like an attack of St. Vitus' dance than ballet or even the boogaloo.  
The pendulum has swung far.  I would like to think it has reached its limit in the direction of chaos and destruction, but it may be a while before it swings back.  But swing back it will.  We may not recognize the world when that happens.  We may find it disorienting.  We may be appalled at the destruction this decades-long descent into pandemonium, this reign of flesh bring about.  The recompense will come.  The correction will come.  
In this time of doubt and questioning, of this I am certain:  if we trust in the goodness of God, in the grace of Jesus Christ, we will be all right.  We will come out whole.  

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Feeling Nothing

Sometimes prayer is like going to the dentist. When serious work is required, the dentist injects Novocain into our gums so we feel nothing during the procedure.
When we feel nothing during prayer, it could be that the deep healing has begun. This is the point where the act of prayer becomes a work of faith. We come to our chosen time, place, and rule of prayer. We are reluctant, procrastinating, distracted, and restless. We feel nothing, if not a little foolish. Nonetheless, we pray. The Latin word for “faith” is credo, the source of our word “credit.” At heart, it means “trust.” To pray during the dry times is to trust that the emptiness within and the absence without constitute, in fact, a presence. To pray a few words while frantically running from task to task is to trust that God hears us even if we can’t hear Him. To have faith also means to act as if—as if God is real, as if God is there.
 -- from When You Pray: A Practical Guide to an Orthodox Life of Prayer, L. Joseph Letendre

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

What You Can

She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. -- Mark 14:8

The story, there in the first few verses of Mark 14, is that a woman with a sordid past came and broke an alabaster container of rare and expensive perfume and used it to anoint the Lord.  Those who witnessed the event criticized her, thinking the costly ointment had been wasted.  If she desired to do good, she could have sold the flask and given the proceeds to those in need.  

Jesus put a stop to their analysis of the woman’s actions and motives by saying she had done a beautiful thing for Him.  The poor, He reminded them, would always be around.  “[W]henever you want, “ He said, “you can do good for them” (v. 7). 

The woman could not make up for all the sins of her life.  She could not put all the things right that had gone wrong.  She could not change the world or save the world.  Perhaps she was wise enough to know that.  Instead of fretting about what she could not do, she did what she could.  I don’t know if she realized that Jesus was about to undergo His Passion, be beaten, humiliated, and murdered by my sins and iniquities upon the Cross.  In fact, I rather doubt that she was such a prophet.   I think she saw that she could express her love for this extraordinary Man, respond to the forgiveness and reconciliation she sensed she was offered in Him, and she did what she could.  

That is all God asks of any of us.  There are so many things I can’t do, but there are a few things I can do.  I ought to do those things without worrying about the rest.  Even when it comes to something like prayer, I’m never going to be one of those people who can spend an hour or two on my knees before daylight every day.  But I can pray -- when and as I can.  I should not neglect prayer or Bible study or acts of kindness just because I can’t do it the way I want, or the way a saint, a monk, or someone of great spiritual power might.  I am not a preacher, but I can tell others what I know, what I have seen, what I believe, when the occasion arises.  I am an introvert and not pushy, but I can respond when questioned.

I don’t have the gift of healing, but I can offer to intercede just the same.  I can’t lay hands on the sick and see them recover, but I can put an arm around a suffering person and share perhaps a little of their burden.  

Whatever it is today, all you have to is what you can.