- True Prayer And Blessings
- The Bible version I use
- Why are there so many different Bible versions?
- Casting Mercy Aside
- 1. Mercy Spurned
- 2. Mercy Under Fire
- 3. Mercy and the Strong
- 4. Blasphemy Laws
- 5. Different Paths Lying Before Us
- 6. When a Country and Mercy Part Ways
- 7. Walking Again With Mercy
- 8. Poverty Has Different Forms
- 9. The Question Remaining
Monthly Archives: August 2011
Sustain us through our trials Lord
Whatever they me be
Oh dear Lord, as you will
Please grant us faith and mercy
For your love flows abundantly
Far deeper than the sea
And with you all things are possible
From hurt and affliction you set us free
And truth and glory will ever reign
With you through eternity
“Theology” or “religious teaching” or “spiritual belief” is very much like wine. It may, with proper use, bring people closer together and relax the bonds that hold them apart. Thus it is proper to serve wine at a marriage feast where not just two people but also two families are coming together. Like a wine, different people may find in the same spiritual teaching a different taste. The wine that a complete novice drinks, who has never drank wine before, does not have the same taste as the wine that a person who has made it a point to study wines for many years drinks. The connoisseur will taste things in the wine that are inaccessible to the novice, yet it is wrong to say that the connoisseur is drinking a different or “better” wine than the novice, for truly it is the same wine.
It is God who opens our heart and senses to his Word so that we can taste a richer and “fuller” wine. In spiritual matters, at least, it is quite possible to remain a novice in spiritual drinking even after many years of book study. Indeed, this is likely, for the boat most likely to carry us toward God’s shore is not the mind alone, but the mind, heart, strength, and soul, all acting in concert to please God and out of a deep and abiding love for God. Of course, with God, all things are possible, and even a vessel without chart or compass, without sail or engine or oar, without any trained navigator or seasoned sailor aboard, may still, with God’s grace and the right current, find its way toward a sheltered cove and come to rest safely on the shore.
The wine that the connoisseur drinks is not a “better” wine than that drunk by the novice, for God saw fit to make his blessings available to all, though certainly we do not all receive the same blessings. No one is rejected by God merely on account of their inexperience, youth, or incapacity. This is, after all, the same God who divided the world into day and night, sky and earth, sea and land, and the different seasons; who accorded night to the lion, sky to the birds, sea to the swimming things, and winter to rest and rejuvenation; and left a portion over for man in accordance with man’s capabilities and God’s grace. Why should we think that such a God, who provides for all other living creatures what they need, both those dry and wet, those dangerous and meek, would take his greatest blessing for man, that one blessing which man is most dearly in need of, which is the Word of God all full of grace and truth, and reserve it only for the “wise” or “sophisticated?”
Indeed, if we are to suppose that God has a preference in giving, this preference is for ordinary folk, for lowly folk, for those who humbly cry out to him with tears of brokenness mingled with true hope and faith in God’s power to deliver and save, to forgive and heal. Who needs God’s love more than the least, those who have the least and need the most, those who are least able to provide for and defend themselves, and those who are loved by others the least and are held in general disrepute and contempt? Did not our Lord say that he came to minister not to those who believe themselves well but to the sick, and did he not say that unless we become like children, we will never enter God’s kingdom? If a young child cannot approach God, a child who knows deeply that his Father loves him, who in turn loves his Father, and who seeks all the time to please his Father and takes joy in his Father’s encouragement and praise, then there is little hope that the rest of us can approach God.
For those who claim to have a wine that is too “subtle” and “sophisticated” and “exclusive” for a spiritual novice to sample and derive benefit from, let alone afford, it is likely that what they possess is not the best wine at all, but only vinegar. Vinegar has a taste that some enjoy, but certainly this is an “acquired” or “cultivated” taste. To be sure, this vinegar is still a wine of sorts and retains some beneficial use, as for sanitizing pots and sinks and tubs, though this wine is missing some of its original potency and is not as “rich” and “fortifying,” as “satisfying” and “wholesome,” as the “good” wine that the vinegar once was.
It is not, in any event, the job of the wine steward at the marriage to hold back the “best” wine because it is too good for the guests based on some flimsy excuse about the guests being unworthy and already inebriated. Who is truly worthy, after all, to receive all the blessings that God gives us? And for those who hope for eternal life (or better still, adoption into God’s family and eternal relationship with God), what price can we pay that would be sufficient for receiving such a blessing? In a gathering called in God’s name, where God’s favor and blessing are wholeheartedly sought with a pure and innocent purpose steeped in genuine love and faith, it is fruitless, in any event, for the wine steward to hold back the “good wine.” For God has the power to open our palate and other senses to the true splendor of God’s magnificent reality, so that even ordinary water, after blessing by God, tastes richer than the best wine that any man can produce.
It is God’s will and a sign of his great love for us that he gives us blessings we do not “deserve,” and we should enjoy and share those blessings that God has given us, even though we know we do not truly “deserve” them. Eventually wine that is hoarded too long becomes sour. The steward’s proper task, then, is to see to it that the wine served at the marriage is the best wine that God has provided, and it is up to those who drink it to use it properly, whether they drink it to the health and blessing of the bride and bridegroom and all other company present, or drink it just to relax and chase away their own self-fixation, or drink it without much thought, thus at least benefiting from its cleansing action and fortification against the excesses of a rich table.
It is a sign, indeed, of God’s miraculous power and gracious blessing that the Scriptures in general, and the Gospel in particular, are so very rich in meaning and significance, and remain true whether tasted in the way that a young child tastes, as simple parables and dramatic story about unique individuals, or in the way a mature elder tastes, where a single passage may be a light that reveals many different things about God’s “reality,” all of them “true” and all of them “precious.” A flower may be beautiful to both a child and a botanist, though not necessarily in the same way, and so too God’s Word may be beautiful to both the spiritual novice and the trained elder.
And the Word may be true and beautiful and a blessing in more than one way, just as a flower may be true and beautiful and a blessing in different ways, as in color, in fragrance, in the way it moves in the breeze, in the sweet fruit it develops into, in the way it attracts butterflies and bees, and so on. Is one truth, one beauty, one blessing “better” than another? Did not God make the flowers so that they would be a blessing for all?
With God it is not only possible, but indeed likely, that what may initially seem one thing actually contains within it many different things. Why try to insist that God’s Word has only one “correct” meaning, why suppose that God is capable of expressing only one truth at a time, when we can plainly see that it is otherwise? If we but look around us at God’s creation, we will see that God is quite capable of producing works that are imbued with multiple, if not infinite, levels of beauty, meaning, order, and interaction. A ray of ordinary sunlight, the same sunlight which is a blessing to our eyes, appears of a single hue. Yet if this ray is passed through a clear prism, this hue is revealed as containing within itself a full spectrum of gorgeous colors.
And again, ordinary water, which is a blessing to our blood and heart and body, may be drunk, poured out on the ground to water the tree and vine, heated to form a soothing cloud of steam, or frozen. If frozen, the water may form part of a lovely and soft snowflake, or it may form part of an iceberg, hard as rock but lighter than the sea. Nor is this ice confined to only one form, but rather may be internally joined together at least seventeen different ways (fifteen crystalline and two not so). And these different forms differently interact with light to give off various colors, which may be blue or greenish-blue or blue-black or black or gleaming white. More generally, whatever “natural” or “physical” phenomena or laws man has or will ever “discover,” using all his knowledge, resourcefulness, and imagination, in all their multiplicity, interactivity, and profundity, still describe only a single reality, a work created long ago and “designed,” or purposefully redesigned, by God.
So far, we have noted how God’s Word and truth is prepared for all, nourishing for all, and ready to be served to all, just the way it is, whether they be young or old, high or low, mighty or modest. We have also noted how God’s Word and truth shines with a penetrating light, a light strong enough to simultaneously reach and reveal the meaning of multiple levels of experience and reality. Do not place all of your faith, then, in those teachers and prophets who presume to know the “one correct” meaning of God’s Word, for such as these seek to whittle God down to their own finite size, and fail to perceive the full grandeur and glory, the awesome richness and magnificence and power, of the almighty God.
Yet there is another special and characteristic aspect of God’s Word and glorious truth. Consider, again, the flowers of the field. These flowers that God makes, have they not always been beautiful, even to the youngest child? Were they not beautiful to this child long before there was anything called a botanist with the requisite training to describe, in the most minute detail, a huge number of subtle, but no less beautiful, aspects of the flower? In the same way, God’s Word and truth is timeless, that is, it is true for all time and times. It matters not if we step back in time five hundred years or forward in time five hundred years, we will still find God’s Word speaking with wondrous truth and grace to the people then living who have ears open to hear.
And as we grow in our own lives, God’s Word grows with us. What is truly God’s Word, we will not outgrow. It will not become as a straitjacket or oppressive weight, but once taken up, will ever remain light and easy to carry. This would not be possible, were it not for another miraculous aspect, which is that God’s Word is a “living” Word. God’s Word grows with us, and it will continue to grow and bear fruit long after our individual bodies, and those of any yet to come, have crumbled into dust. Indeed, God’s Word will live and continue to flourish long after every flowering bush and tree on this goodly earth has faded and withered away.
Good wine has many different uses, it can be used to lighten the grieving heart, to chase away anxiety and fear, and to fortify resolution and boldness. Of course, not every liquid having the color of wine is a wine, nor is every fruit and berry wholesome or even safe to digest. Moreover, not all wines are of equal quality and even the best wine can be abused. For those who become addicted to wine, the wine becomes an end in itself, when the proper end is always God. And those who abuse wine can become belligerent and violent, which is the charge made against religion by the atheists and self-elevated. Yet wine and God’s Word are blessings from God, and what profit is there in rejecting any of God’s blessings?
Why single out wine and God’s Word for our especial disfavor when every blessing of God may be abused and distorted and twisted around by man until it finally arrives at an end that is bitter and not sweet? For deep love may be twisted about until it finally becomes loveless sex, strength and health may be twisted about to serve the ends of power and compulsion, intellect and knowledge twisted for manipulation and control, a love for truth and goodness twisted to accomplish deception and betrayal. Saying that everyone who drinks is on the path to becoming a drunk is like saying that every hand strong enough to hold a knife is on the path to becoming a potential murderer, and therefore every healthy hand must be hacked off. If this is true, is not every one of us a murderer, for is there anyone who has never wished, however fleetingly, that some particular person were dead, even if that other person was someone most would despise, such as a serial killer or torturer of small children?
In discerning what is good and what is not, the proper focus is not on what a person inherently “is” but on what they actually “do,” for a tree that produces olives is truly called an olive tree, even if it has the bark and branches and leaves and other attributes of a banana tree. If I sow my garden with salt and water my tree with vinegar, and still it produces lushly with ripe and sweet fruits, is it right to say that the tree is a “bad” tree because of the bad way it was tended? Is this olive tree worse than a fig tree that has been lavished with care and attention, that has been planted in well-drained and warm soil and watered abundantly with God’s water, yet produces only leaves and no figs?
Jesus said, “to whom much is given, of him will much be required,” which to me seems at least one of the messages contained in the parable of the “cursed” fig tree. I put “cursed” in quotes here, because Jesus only said to the fig, which bore leaves but no fruit when Jesus arrived, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” If we consider this, we will see that this is not the sharpest rebuke Jesus could have made. He did not tell the fig tree to die or to lose all its leaves and greenness, or to dry up and wither, yet the fig tree did wither. I do not know exactly why. Did the fig tee realize that it had missed its one opportunity to please God, face-to-face as it were, by adorning itself with fruit, and so recoil with shame? Did the water feeding the fig tree hear what was said and turn away from the fig? Did the fig tree only wither temporarily but later recover its lushness, in leaf if not in fruit, and perhaps later bear edible buds or knobs called “taqsh,” if not fruit? In short, could this fig, by some miracle as it were, be “forgiven” and “reconciled” again with its Creator?
I truly hope so, for our sakes. I like to think that this withering was a sign of genuine contriteness, a temporary, but still very deep and burning, blush of shame, as it were. For Scripture also tells us it was not even the season for figs, and failing to bear fruit just does not seem to be on the same level as the horrendous sin of speaking “against the Holy Spirit” (which I think can mean, for example, deliberately and maliciously calling goodness evil and evilness good). And again, Jesus did return to the fig to tell the disciples, and presumably also this listening fig, how to pray to God in such a manner as to be certain of receiving whatever was being asked for, even if it involved taking up a mountain (where certain pagan and an Abrahamic faith worship) and casting it into the sea.
Surely, were this fig to have asked, with true contriteness, for the water of life, this is not beyond God’s mercy, for is this not also the water that so many of us take for granted, that God has seen fit to freely and widely distribute by cloud, dew, and underground spring, and even by, for a select few, the beautiful feet of the most gracious Bearer of the water of life? Surely this is less than removing a mountain or the firmly entrenched and deep root of overshadowing blindness? Besides unshakeable faith, Jesus mentioned the need to forgive anyone who we had anything against, so that God, in turn, could forgive us. I do not think this was a bitter fig, a fig incapable of forgiving, but a sensitive fig, perhaps even a Samaritan fig, and certainly not, at least anymore, a fig lacking faith in God’s power and grace and the true path and proper place for God’s worship.
I don’t know exactly why the fig withered, but I do believe that many of us are like that fig insofar as we refuse to bear fruit for God, to give our “best” for God, but only pay attention to maintaining ourselves in a grand state of healthy lushness, while holding back on giving to anyone else what God has entrusted us to give. For while there may not be “one” particular and certain way to please God, it does seem that we have been made by God to conform to certain general types, each type capable of bearing a particular sort of fruit, each fruit with its own unique sweetness.
By not freely serving God or others in the way that God intended, we are at least, in modern parlance, not living up to our full potential. And by seeking only to please and increase ourselves, we risk, according to this parable, losing the ability to ever please God, our true Father and Creator. Perhaps we should be praying that God will forgive that fig tree, for the “sin” of that fruit tree is no greater than our own sin. Nor is that fig’s “sin” greater than the sin of Adam and Eve who, in seeking to increase what they had, failed to consider what would best please their Father and Creator and who, like the fig, ended up burning with shame before God and covered with dry fig leaves.
How would it feel to dearly want the love of a parent who you know you will never be able to please? This is hardest for the young child. A young child who suffers under the tyranny of a judgmental, critical, impossible-to-please, unfair, unforgiving, and unloving parent is a child who lives in a cold and bleak world, in a hostile and despairing place. It is easier for the older child, for the older child realizes that their parents are not the beginning and end of everything, and so turns to other things and other people. May these, oh Lord, be good things and good people.
Relative to God, we are all young children and will ever be young children. Unlike with the older child, who begins to realize that their parents are not perfect, there never comes a time, in God’s family, when we begin to feel discouraged because our heavenly Father is imperfect. It is difficult for us to understand this God, for who among has ever had the “perfect” parent? I am not speaking here of “good” parents, which some are blessed to have, or even “saintly” parents, which are rare, though not entirely unknown. Yet, though it is difficult for us to understand what having a “perfect” parent might be like, thankfully God understands us, for he sees into the very core of our being and has lived with us. If we permanently lose the love of this Father, our spiritual Father, then we are truly lost, for this Father really is the beginning and end of everything that is, was, and ever will be, and he will ever remain our Father, as we will ever remain his young children.
Just as many of us were rebellious children, perhaps with some cause, many of us grow up to be rebellious people, for this is the pattern we followed in dealing with the imperfections of the only family and community we can remember. So, as before, we turn to other things and other people for solace and security, ever yearning for something we hope is there, but not quite sure what it is and never quite finding it. So we continue looking, but in the places we are looking, what we are looking for is not to be found.
Jesus questioned whether any father, good or bad, would give their son a serpent when asked for a fish or a scorpion when asked for an egg. Yet, there are many who, though seeking after something that is truly spiritual, sadly do not even think to ask their spiritual Father for it. Oh dear Lord, surely it is one thing to have something, another to realize we have it. And how often this is true with your blessings and loving kindness, whether freely given and perceived or given by you and perceived in response to our prayers.
Solomon, in his dream, asked for knowledge, for the wisdom to lead his people and truly discern good from evil. Scripture tells us that God was pleased and answered this prayer. Yet without your wisdom, dear God, who could have asked this? Surely this is an illustration of what Jesus meant when he said “For to him who has will more be given, and he will have abundance.” Was not this wisdom also Peter’s wisdom, when Jesus called him “Blessed…For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven”? For what was before hidden, was it not already there, just waiting to be seen? Oh, dear Lord, what was hidden then even to this day remains hidden to many. But the time is coming when “nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known,” for though we now “see in a mirror dimly,” then we will see “face to face.”
What would it hurt, after all, if we were to try asking our holy Father for blessings like these, for blessings of the sort that Solomon and Peter received? What would it hurt if we were to pray to God for knowledge, so that we could truly discern what is good from what is not, and for a small taste, less than even a crumb, of his grace and loving kindness, and for a teacher who can show us, by good example, what it means to say and do and keep God’s Word, to walk and be with God, and to become as one of God’s children, full of God’s truth and grace? What would it hurt to try?
How must it feel to God to dearly want the love of a child, to want to bless that child with good things, when the child is like one with amnesia, like one who simply does not remember anymore who their true spiritual Father is. Instead, thinking about other parents, and other families, and perhaps other gods, this child forgets they have a true Father, and so ignores God, or perhaps is encouraged by others to deny God even exists. Or, because they have become displeased with life, or bitter about what has happened to them, and because their eyes and ears and heart then harden and become closed to God’s Spirit, they no longer even perceive all the blessings they freely receive, without asking, even apart from where these blessings come from. Oh dear God, may our hearts never become so hard, and our strength and resolve too weak, to pull out those who have fallen into the dark abyss of utter despair!
There are some, I think, who deny God not primarily because they care only for themselves, like the fig of the parable, but because they fear being shamed by other men. Yet they do not judge rightly, for which is worse, being shamed in this life, which is brief and temporary, or being shamed in the next life, which is eternal and everlasting. If we enter damnation, surely we will not be able to please anyone, and the scorn and contempt of men now will then seem as nothing compared to the ceaseless cruelty and implacable hatred of the minions of the bottomless pit.
I know that some will accuse me, here, of playing the “fear” card, but to me this seems unavoidable, for rather than glossing over what is distressing, I wish to paint a full picture of the potential risks involved, which are not merely physical, as so often assumed. Doubtless it may seem unfortunate (though I doubt fortune has anything to do with it), but the fear stems from the unknown (as coupled with inadequate faith), the unknown is necessary to free will, and free will is necessary to genuine love. In this list, I believe those items that come last in sequence come first in importance in determining the closeness of our relationship with God (for “unknown,” we can substitute “mystery” or “holy providence” or “endless possibility,” if we prefer). This, indeed, is why the approach of trying to eliminate the fear by making the faith entirely rational and rock-solid, and therefore completely inflexible and finite and loveless and graceless, is misguided.
Yet whether we love God, as a young child does their father, or fear God, as a servant does who serves a mighty and all-powerful King (or perhaps feel love mingled with a little fear as many young children do), I believe God will not reject us. But if we continue to openly reject God, or worse, if we mock God and try to discourage others from continuing on a course that is taking them closer to God, we will have little cause to complain if God then rejects us.
Those who reject God often do so thinking they have good cause to deny the existence of God. “Where is the evidence for God?” they ask. “Show me a miracle,” they say. In fact, they have no better cause to deny God then did the people of Israel who Moses led out of Egypt. Even after parting the Red Sea so that the people of Israel, and only the people of Israel, could pass, God did many other miracles besides. He spread a cloud for a covering by day; provided a fire to give light by night; released quails in the evening; and blanketed the ground with edible manna from heaven in the morning. “If we could see miracles like this from God, we would believe too,” those who deny God say, “but we do not believe these miracles ever really happened, for these stories are just made up, they are just fable and fiction, stories only suitable for the hopelessly gullible and young children.”
Do you really believe this? God still does miracles all the time, yet who has the eyes to see them? The pillar or cover of cloud by day and fire by night “did not depart from before the people.” The quail regularly arrived at twilight and the manna in the morning, except each week skipping a day. These were all regular and ordinary occurrences, just like the rising of the sun, the shining of the moon (which, like the manna, periodically disappears), the coming of the seasons, and many other phenomena, are regular occurrences for us. The first time we saw the sunrise, the first time we saw the moon, the first time we saw the ocean or a cascading waterfall or a field of golden flowers waving in the breeze, they were lovely and wondrous to us, works that seemed as if they might have come directly from the hand of an almighty and glorious God.
But now most of us have seen many sunrises, we have seen many moons, we have seen the ocean high and low, seen many cascading waters, and seen many fields of gracefully waving flowers. We have become accustomed to these. They now seem ordinary to us, and the “set point” of our internal miracle detector has shifted ever so slowly upward so that now these “ordinary” miracles are hidden from our eyes.
Do you not see that ordinary miracles are no less miracles just because they are ordinary? Indeed, how is it possible for the miracles that God does, the ones that we need to stay alive and vigorous and healthy, to be graciously given for the benefit of all God’s people, unless they are regularly and widely accessible, and thus subject to being labeled “ordinary” and “common” and “natural” phenomena, which by its very definition excludes divinely inspired origin.
What miracle exactly would you have God do to convince you? Do you want him to strew bread in the shape of crosses in the desert? If he did, and given the special and nourishing qualities likely to reside in such a bread, what do you thing would happen? Isn’t it likely that this bread, once discovered, would quickly end up in some wealthy merchant’s possession, to be rationed out and sold to the highest bidder? Might there be a reason why God might want to “hide” those blessings and miracles most important to man from sight by “cloaking” them in plain and modest dress, in ordinary and common garb? God did not create automobiles, but do you think that if he had, mankind would be fighting so many wars over the “limited reserves” of oil, the black and smoky-burning type of oil, that lies beneath the desert sands?
Do you really want God to prove himself by responding immediately to whatever you pray for? What if someone else is praying for something different? If the construction crew doesn’t want it to rain so they can work on a building, but the farmer wants it rain to water his crops, who wins? What if you could ask God for something seemingly harmless, yet patently obvious, like maybe painting the sky with rainbow crosses? Let’s put aside, for the moment, the possible concerns and anxiety of all those people not privy to your request, who might be startled by this “unusual” event, this seemingly “inexplicable” and “unsettling” change to their world. Would you be convinced then?
Perhaps you might. But do you really want God to hit you over the head like this with a miracle? When it begins to dawn on you that God really does exist, and you begin to realize just how much God is capable of doing, aren’t you going to be just a little bit concerned, just a little bit worried, about whether you’re “right” with God? No doubt God could do miracles that would startle and amaze us, miracles that would compel us to drop to the ground, with awe and fear and trembling, miracles that would prompt us to hastily begin worshiping him and begging him for mercy and forgiveness. Is this the God you want? True, you will not be straying far, you will not veering to the right or left, indeed, you will not be moving at all, for fear you might offend this fearsome God. You will then be no longer a man, but only a puppet, waiting passively to respond to the slightest command or pull, fearful, even when you do, that you might be doing it wrong.
Do you really think this is what you want? Do you think that this is what your true heavenly Father wants? God does not want us to be puppets but people. Has he not given man enormous blessings of mind: of intellect, ingenuity, and imagination? Of heart: of tenderness, kindness, compassion, and affection? Of strength: of muscle, flexibility, adaptability, and self-restoration? Of soul: of the capacity to be afire with hope and faith, steadfast resolve and devotion, and, most importantly of all, God’s love? God made us “very good,” and being loved so much by God, being made in God’s image, we indeed have something in each of us that is very “special” (though to none, “superior”). It is not God’s will that we become just a calculating machine, just a fearful puppet, just a horribly overgrown ogre, just a bitter and hardened soul locked inside its own webs of deception, conniving, and maliciousness. God wants only our love, and wants to shower us with good gifts and blessings, and what true father wants anything different for their child? This is why he gave us the great blessing of free will, for he wanted us to freely choose God, not out of fear, but out of love, love for mercy, for kindness and gentleness, for true wisdom and strength, for true devotion and faithfulness, for the most holy spirit of true victory, true peace, and true glory, all of which is God, all of which is in God, all of which is of God.
Let us speak, more softly and gently now, about “modest” miracles, the little and humble miracles, the ones not so widespread they seem ordinary yet not so earth-shattering they instill fear and shake and disturb our senses that are accustomed to orderliness and normality. Indeed, God does miracles like this all the time. Some people go on pilgrimages to see them. But we like to call the ones that happen to us personally “coincidences.” Those more mathematically inclined tend to view them as “random” events of the sort “statistically” possible, but as a “practical” matter essentially “useless,” insofar as they represent only “outlier” data. So much for blessings and miracles such as miraculous findings and sudden healings.
Nor do we readily accept “implausible” or “improbable” events which are not “repeatable” by man (by which we mean controllable) using an “objective and rational” scientific method. This overwhelming need to hold onto something that seems “rational” and “explainable” is so ingrained in us, that when we see something “strange” occur with our own eyes , we begin to doubt whether we actually saw anything at all, or if we are sure we saw it, we begin to doubt if we saw it correctly. The rationalizations that we use for denying miracles, the ways that we use for hiding from ourselves the abundant and incredible harvest of blessings that we receive from God, are nearly endless.
Please do not be so hard on God, for truly you do have a merciful and most kind and loving Father. If you are but willing to soften your stance a bit, to let yourself be just a little bit more open to the possibility of miracles and divine mystery, to God’s mercy and love, then you will find that the glass for you will never again be half empty. Nor will it ever again be half full. Rather the glass will be for you always full and brimming over with blessings, blessings that were lovingly poured out for you by your beloved and heavenly Father.
Oh dear Lord, after telling Solomon that you would give him a wise and discerning mind, did you not add “so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you.” Oh what a glorious blessing this is! And is not this blessing, this honorable and gracious blessing, one that you have freely given to all of us, if only we had the eyes to see it? For is it not true that you gave each of us this special blessing by making each of truly unique, and none like us has been before and none like us shall arise after? Oh dear God, dear most kind and merciful Father, praise be your name forever and ever!
Oh dear Lord, who alone but you can take the most “ordinary” thing and attire it in robes of nobility and golden grandeur, seal it with your blessing, and rightly raise it up in the eyes of even the most wise? But most often, oh Lord, is it not your wisdom to do the very opposite? Is this not so? Is it not often your purpose to cloak what is most favored and high, most fine and noble, most virtuous and truly precious, in the coarse sacking of the stout laborer, in the threadbare garments of the poor peasant, in the lowly and neglected and reeking weeds of the field, pasture, and shore? Was not David a simple and untutored shepherd boy? Was not Daniel left to die in a muddy pit and thereafter sold into slavery? Did not Hosea join himself in marriage with an adulteress and prostitute? Did not John the Baptist begin as a lone hermit in the wilderness? Was not the family of Mary and Joseph involved in carpentry, toolmaking, and construction? Was not Peter a common fisherman? Is it not your pleasure, oh Lord, as your handmaiden Mary so lovingly and rightly said, to regard and bless those of “low estate,” to show mercy to “those who fear him,” to “put down the mighty from their thrones” and exalt those “of low degree”?
Are not your most holy graces, your blessings most precious to man, your greatest gifts of love and tender affection, are they not hidden from our eyes because they stand before us, in plain view, covered in dress of the most “ordinary” sort. I speak here about the shining and vibrant Sun, the precious and life-giving Water, the sweet and tangy fruits of vine and tree, the healing herbs and nourishing gourds, the flocks of singing birds in field and tree, the shimmering sea and crumbly soil, all swimming and teeming with fish and all kinds of creatures and life. We do not see your grandeur, oh Lord, because we install ourselves on a pedestal so that we can look down on the “commonplace” and “ordinary,” or we dig a pit where we can throw in the defenseless and lowly and inferior, thus positioning ourselves, once again, above those we deign to neglect or scorn or despise. We paper ourselves all about with certificates, and titles, and honors, and positions, and fine-sounding words, yet the deeds that are truly glorious and grand are not written on paper and bought and sold but are inscribed deep in the heart with the golden pen of your loving grace and are freely given away to others, often after overcoming great trials and troubles, struggles and sacrifice, pain and privation. Oh Father, unless you give us a measure of your wisdom and holy truth, unless we see as with your eyes and hear as with your ears and love as with your most divine heart, how can we ever know what is truly “precious” and “noble” and “good” and full of “grace” and what is only “ordinary” and “common” and “hurtful” and steeped in “despair.” There is so much more to say, oh dear Lord, and some has already been said and will be said presently, as you permit, in accordance with your holy truth and grace.
Oh dear Lord
When I was a child
Alphabet soup I’d eat
And every word
Drifted about in my bowl
Every string of letters, a treat
But oh dear Lord
In my heart
Your Word is written deep
And this Word also has a taste
Like honey pure and sweet
Oh dear Lord, my daughter’s hair
Shines brightly in the sun
And this is also so, my Lord
Of her lovely mom
And my son, oh Lord
A strong and cheerful lad is he
With your wondrous love, oh Lord
Please watch over my family
May you or your servants guide their steps
In the paths of goodness and light
Until we are all together again
In your glorious kingdom bright
Oh dear Lord
I am as you made me
For you, I write poetry
In your mercy please save me
You have showed me such grace
Day after day
The world for me brightens
When to you I pray
As I make this life’s journey
Let me not go astray
But let me enter your kingdom
So I may join in your praise
Oh Lord I hear voices
Oh most merciful Lord
Please have mercy
If I must hear voices, let them be praising you
Then I may be at peace and join in too
(Written July 22, 2009)
Oh dear Lord
One and all
The sheep know the sound
Of your merciful call
You lead with light step
To the meadows green
Awash in light
By refreshing stream
How beautiful are the feet of those
Who bring tidings of good news
Burdened not with extra sack, staff, cloak, or sandals
But lovingly bearing one God-filled sack they will never lose
The fine and lustrous pearl
Of plain yet precious design
Like the dew of morning glistens
And however turned, gently shines
In witness to a true and gracious line
It lies well hidden and preserved
Beneath the tossing brine
Hard pressed in poor lit waters deep
The white stone takes its shape
Though resting now upon a bed
It will rise up and awake
Its moist and sturdy eye will shine
With ardor for the good Lord’s sake
For this, the Sun most high will break
And send dazzling streams of golden light
Cross each corner of the sky
And deepest depths of briny lake
Then will come the gentle rain of peace and honeyed leaven
And each salty halo will be adorned with gold-tinged flakes
True pearls of saintliness
Are loving and kind
And reflect the Sun
With kingly shine
More precious than title
Land, gold, or estate
Some give all they own
To pass through their gates