Posts Tagged ‘christian’

Still through the cloven skies they come with peaceful wings unfurled;
And still their heavenly music floats o’er all the weary world.
-Edmund Hamilton Sears

I often think back upon the human angels in my life who took responsibility for me when they had no obligation to, and treated me with dignity and kindness when no one else did. I was just a confused wild street child, and I’m still just as crazy in many ways although I hide it better. But these people formed a human circle of kindness around me and tried to build me up. They simply loved me and accepted me, and patiently endured the madness that followed me wherever I went. I wouldn’t be comfortable today with someone like the youthful me around.

But they didn’t only minister to me. My angels tried to make the world a little bit better by sounding their trumpets against violence of any kind, watching for misuse of nature or its creatures, and whatever brand of injustice seemed to be sneaking into the lives of common people. Those hippie angels were the best kind, and they formed my view of the world in many ways, teaching me that it was impossible to love God and not love your neighbors, your planet, and all those beautiful creatures.

If there was an archangel among them all, it was surely Evelyn who introduced me to so many other angels during my journey. I remember Evelyn telling me that the root word of the word “violence” was akin to the root of the word “silence.” She said that if we remain silent in the face of evil, we are no different than the one who is committing the acts of violence.

I wonder why we Christians ignore so many things that ultimately will affect our children, knowing that they might not be able to enjoy the things that we have enjoyed. It’s disturbing to me that my sons might not be able to see the glaciers or have clean air or water, or even eat real corn or oats if we replace everything with genetically modified organisms (GMO’s). And it upsets me to see the economic inequity that is happening our society, knowing the misery that it could cause to ordinary people in future generations. Where is our Christian love towards our own children, and humanity at large?

I’ve heard Christians say that this is all just part of Biblical prophecy, and the world is going to be destroyed whenever God is ready. So many believers sit in comfort and pray and preach while the future of our children is being thrown out like trash. There is nothing spiritual about apathy. How can anyone expect to please God while displaying this kind of attitude? A Jewish friend of mine once told me that he thinks there might be more Marxists in heaven because Christians only think of themselves and their own souls. That is quite an indictment against the Western version of faith, and very troubling to me personally. Christ said that all the law and the prophets hang upon two commandments: to love God and our neighbor.

Sometimes I really miss those hippie angels who taught me to be an active part of the redemptive process in the world. One of them told me that it was our job to try to make the world as much like Eden as possible, even if all of our efforts fail. The way we serve people is equivalent to serving God, according to Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats.  Without human angels who strive to restrain evil, this world will only hasten to become more dark and terrible.

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A professor with silver locks and pecan brown eyes asked Iris a question as they strolled down a sidewalk together. “What is it like when the Holy Spirit comes?” he blurted out. “Can you describe what happens or how it feels?” His open hands were motioning earnestly towards Iris, and she was quite startled.

“That is a question that will take some time to answer” she replied, “so I will write to you about it.” 

As the days passed, she prayed and waited for the Spirit to break into her thoughts with words. She sat down at her cluttered desk one morning and wrote this letter. She slipped it into a long white envelope and mailed it to the gentle professor.

 

All Souls’ Day 2011

St. Augustine, Florida

Dear Seeker:

You asked me one day to describe what it feels like when the Holy Spirit comes. There is no short answer to such an inquiry, and I want to try to answer your question in the clearest manner possible. I can only recount my own personal experiences to you, and run the risk of being perceived as completely mad.

The Holy Ghost moves in many different ways depending on the time and place and circumstance. His works are so varied that it would take at least an entire book to describe them all. For now I will recount only a few “visitations.”

When I first met Him as a young child, the Spirit would come to me while I was in my bed, and it seemed as if I could feel His warm fatherly hand stroking my hair or rubbing my back until I fell asleep. He drove my childhood fears and tears away like leaves in the wind. When I was being beaten or mistreated in some way, He would remind me of how Christ was treated, and this gave me a sense that I was not alone in my suffering.

The Spirit has continued to be near me, throughout my life. At times, He is like a cloud covering me, sharing His thoughts with me when I need them. Sometimes His voice will break into my mind with a simple phrase like “Trust in Me” or “Forgive him”. On occasion, He might direct me to go here or there, do this, or say that to someone. Sometimes He warns not to do or say this or that.

On other occasions, He comes to me in dreams to teach me something important.  I remember one such dream about a cross so tall that it pierced through the clouds of heaven, and blood was spilling on my hands in great warm raindrops. It was the first time I began to grasp the bewildering rhetoric about Christ dying for my sins in particular, and realized that I partook in the blame for His death.

Sometimes His healing power has come to me through holy people who have touched me during prayers. There have been times when I have simply arrived at church sick and left with no symptoms.

Once I had been suffering with a digestive ailment, and a voice awoke me one night saying, “Get up and drink some water.”  I had been considering seeing a doctor, and it occurred to me that I hadn’t bothered to pray for my healing. So I decided not to question the voice. What did I have to lose by being obedient?  I got out of bed, poured some water in a glass, prayed for the Spirit to be in the water, and drank it. I could feel it working instantly, as if medicinal powers had gotten into the water. I fell asleep, and by morning I was well. I felt really foolish for not asking for help sooner.

I have been present when the Holy Ghost has visited and consoled other people in terrible misery. Once while I was talking with a downcast young man at a detention center, the Spirit came in and took charge of the situation. I saw something like white smoke or fog stirring in the room and I felt His presence. The young prisoner felt it too, and he cried out, “Oh my God, I’ve never felt anything like this before. I feel so comforted!  I feel like I can make it now!”  Both of us were in tears. I said, “See how the Holy Ghost has come in, just to ease your pain?”

I have found that the Spirit loves to manifest Himself in places of misery and isolation:  in care homes, hospitals, prisons and on the streets. It sounds crazy that the Spirit wants to hang out with us and help us, but it is true. He doesn’t want to be left out. He yearns to be invited, but will never force Himself on anyone.

The most powerful experiences of the presence of the Holy Ghost have come to me during the gatherings of holy people. I suppose He just enjoys being among His faithful friends who love Him. Just like we do.

Sometimes the Spirit will flow in softly at first like a gentle breeze or a refreshing misty rain, and suddenly a great thunderclap will awaken everyone. A sense of dread might become so intense that I feel as if I should hide.

One Sunday, an elder was speaking, and the Spirit flowed out of his mouth like smoke and filled up the whole room with a great cloud. People began to cry and quake and fall on their knees. The elder said, “I think there is enough of the Holy Ghost to fill this room all the way to the back, don’t you?”  He paused for a few moments, and said “I don’t believe in interfering with the Holy Ghost.”

He stopped speaking, and the Spirit began to flow around the room, spinning our souls into glowing threads and weaving them together on a great loom, until there was no more separation between us. We became one glorious tapestry of love.

Sometimes the Spirit will beckon people to come to Him and surrender their lives and problems. He can employ spiritual leaders at these times, or He can do the work without anyone’s help. One Sunday in church, a woman stood up and said, “The Spirit says He has been calling on someone here for a long time, and that it’s time to stop running and come home. He says this is your last chance.”  I counted nine people who sprung out of their seats and ran to the altar in desperation. One young man fell upon his face on the floor in front of the altar, weeping and writhing in terrible agony as the holy men gathered around him to pray and comfort him, until his tremors ceased and he had found rest for his soul.

Another day, when an elder was speaking about fountains of living water springing up from within, I felt great waves of the Spirit crashing over me and tears sprung out of my eyes without warning. The elder looked at me and said, “When the Spirit gets ahold of you, water’s gonna gush out of your eyes when you’re not even sad.”

He stopped speaking and I heard voices all around me and a churning like the sound of mountain rapids. I looked over my shoulder. I saw an ocean of people springing from their seats in waves, flowing in perfect rhythm up and down with cries and shouts, as if lifted and cast down by divine force. Some were soaring on top of the waves, and some were caught in the undertow and on the verge of drowning in their despair. I had never seen anything like it before, and it could never have been orchestrated by any human. The waves rolled and groaned and toiled, until the cleansing was complete. When the waters receded and became still as a pond, people’s faces were glowing with serenity and joy.

Needless to say, I could write much more on this matter, but I hope this is sufficient to give you some sense of how the Spirit works in the world of humans. There are so many things I still wonder about, such as how He can be in so many places, and yet dwells perpetually in the hearts of those that love Him, giving every one of them comfort and guidance at the same time. His works remain a great mystery to me.

I wish you the best in all of your endeavors and writings.

 

Peace and Grace, Iris

               ~♥~

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Devout LifeI have started reading this book as sort of a spiritual self-improvement course, and on the first page of the introduction, I found this lovely passage that I want to share with you… I feel already that this angelic fellow is speaking directly to my heart.  It’s a little spooky, especially when he keeps writing to someone that he refers to as “daughter”… I am very excited about what I will learn!

Almost all those who have written concerning the devout life have had chiefly in view persons who have altogether quitted the world; or at any rate they have taught a manner of devotion which would lead to such total retirement. But my object is to teach those who are living in towns, at court, in their own households, and whose calling obliges them to a social life, so far as externals are concerned. Such persons are apt to reject all attempt to lead a devout life under the plea of impossibility; imagining that like as no animal presumes to eat of the plant commonly called Palma Christi, so no one who is immersed in the tide of temporal affairs ought to presume to seek the palm of Christian piety.

And so I have shown them that, like as the mother-of-pearl lives in the sea without ever absorbing one drop of salt water; and as near the Chelidonian Isles springs of sweet water start forth in the midst of the ocean and as the firemoth hovers in the flames without burning her wings; even so a true stedfast soul may live in the world untainted by worldly breath, finding a well-spring of holy piety amid the bitter waves of society, and hovering amid the flames of earthly lusts without singeing the wings of its devout life. Of a truth this is not easy, and for that very reason I would have Christians bestow more care and energy than heretofore on the attempt, and thus it is that, while conscious of my own weakness, I endeavour by this book to afford some help to those who are undertaking this noble work with a generous heart.

~♥~

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But of that day or hour no man knoweth, neither the angels
in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father. 
(Mark 13:32)

I visited an Episcopal church recently, and I asked a lady the meaning of the last line of the Doxology that says “World without end.”  She was a bit embarrassed and said she wasn’t sure, because she wasn’t really “up” on theology.  Then she approached a Sunday school teacher who didn’t seem to know either, although he tried to wing it.

I guess I’m funny that way.  I like to know exactly what I’m singing and saying in my prayers.  Whose world are we referring to?  Surely it doesn’t mean our world will never end.  Or does it?  Everyone thought the world was going to end yesterday, but it didn’t! Big surprise…

Jesus said He doesn’t even know when the end of time will be, so it strikes me as funny that people keep trying to figure it out.  Why do we play these guessing games? If only Christians would read the Bible more. Christ said the end would be like a thief in the night, and that’s a pretty straightforward analogy.  He said if you knew when a thief was coming, you could bust ’em quick.  But it’s not like that…we don’t know, so we’ve got to always be prepared. It’s aggravating, I know, but that’s just how it is.

P.S.  If you know what “world without end” means, please tell me…okay? I love to learn new stuff.

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(Excerpt from “Divine Doorkeepers”)

Charles Haddon Spurgeon was a British Baptist preacher, but his style stirred the interest of Christians of all denominations.  He is referred to by many as the “Prince of Preachers”.  He was born in Kelvedon, Essex and was converted on January 6, 1850. His conversion occurred when a snow storm cut one of his journeys short and he stopped into a Primitive Methodist chapel in Colchester.

Spurgeon preached up to ten times per week in different locations during his years of ministry. He was the pastor of the New Park Street Chapel (later the Metropolitan Tabernacle) in London for thirty-eight years and was a prolific author of many types of works.  He wrote sermons, an autobiography, devotions, poetry,a hymnist, prayer books,and more. Many of his sermons were transcribed as he spoke and translated into many languages.

Charles Spurgeon has a graceful poetic style in his writing and speaking, and his voice is elevated and lyrical.  He has a remarkably sensitive and gentle voice by comparison to other evangelical authors and preachers, as he is full of comfort and encouragement.  His writing is melodious and flowing and almost angelic in its tone, and his metaphors evoke a sense of divine music.  One of his most “musical” transcribed sermons is his aptly titled “Songs in the Night” (Job 35:10, KJV).    He begins by exhorting the reader about how to maintain good cheer in the midst of distress:

Anyone can sing in the day. When the cup is full, one draws inspiration from it; when wealth rolls in abundance around them, anyone can sing to the praise of a God who gives an abundant harvest.  It is easy to sing when we can read the notes by daylight; but the skillful singer is the one who can sing when there is not a ray of light to read by—who sings from their heart, and not from a book that they can see. (Songs I-1)

This passage contains many of the poetic elements used by Fox in his epistles, such as the contrast of light and darkness, and the exhortation to sing in the thick night. The songs represent joy and the night represents times of adversity. The full cup and the harvest are images of abundance. He uses them to clarify that it takes no strength of character to be cheerful when one has wealth and comfort.

Then his images shift when he speaks of singing without any light to read the notes by, from an inward book which cannot be seen. The darkness is a symbol for the times when things appear bleak to us and we have to grope for happiness.  The “skillful singer” is a graceful metaphor for the one who can retain joy in times of tribulation, and memorizing the words as opposed to reading them re-emphasizes the skill of the vocalist. The passage is richly sensual, engaging both sight and hearing and also full of contrasts of light and darkness, joy and pain, music and silence.  Rather than merely telling the reader of joy in the midst of trials, he paints glorious pictures and makes lofty music to illustrate his message.

 Let all things go as I please—I will weave songs, weave them wherever I go, with the flowers that grow along my path; but put me in a desert, where there are no flowers, and how will I weave a chorus of praise to God? How will I make a crown for him? Let this voice be free, and this body be full of health, and I can sing God’s praise; but stop this tongue, lay me on the bed of suffering, and it is not so easy to sing from the bed, and chant high praises in the fires…confine me, chain my spirit, clip my wings, make me very sad, so that I become old like the eagle—ah! Then it is hard to sing. (Songs I-1)

His flowing musical style creates a tone of worship.  The coupling of the verb metaphor “weaving” with “songs” is aesthetically pleasing as weaving is rhythmic like musical notes.  “Chanting praises in the fire” is remarkably visual and conjures up an image of strong faith.  He writes that the desert has no flowers to weave a chorus and then asks how to make a crown of praise for God; these two sentences make the reader associate weaving with crowns, and this seems to imply the crown of thorns.  The old eagle is similar to T. S. Eliot’s verse from “Ash Wednesday” about the aged eagle that no longer stretches its wings, and both authors are speaking about mortality and loss of dreams.

While making melody can produce comfort in a troubled mind, Spurgeon is not referring to a real song, but to a supernatural state of mind which he asserts can be retained through the Spirit, which makes people resilient beyond the limits of human fortitude. The unfruitful fig tree is symbolic of the times of struggle, and the divine song represents an attitude of acceptance and peace.

He then speaks of not trying to create joy but to simply ask for it, and he uses a metaphor of an old well pump:

So, then, poor Christian, you needn’t go pumping up your poor heart to make it glad. Go to your Maker, and ask him to give you a song in the night. You are a poor dry well: you have heard it said, that when a pump is dry, you must pour water down it first of all, to prime the pump, and then you will get some up; and so, Christian, when you are dry, go to God, ask him to pour some joy down you, and then you will get some joy up from your own heart. (Songs I-2)

The water Spurgeon refers to is a metaphor for joy, and he tells readers that they are “poor dry wells.”  The old well pump was a familiar household appliance during the days in which he preached, and he uses it as a symbol for striving to find joy when the heart is troubled.  He tells his audience not to work at it on their own or “pump the well” because God can pour down the joy upon His people.

Spurgeon refers to God as the great composer of songs, meaning that God is the one who creates the joy that man cannot find inside of himself.

It may be darkness now; but I know the promises were sweet; I know I had blessed seasons in his church. I am quite sure of this; I used to enjoy myself in the ways of the Lord; and though now my paths are strewn with thorns, I know it is the King’s highway. It was a way of pleasantness once; it will be a way of pleasantness again… Christian, perhaps the best song you can sing, to cheer you in the night, is the song of yesterday morning. (Songs Part II-1)

Spurgeon suggests that people should encourage themselves by remembrance of better times, and he presents the notion of life having seasons.  Seasons illustrate that “pleasantness” will always circle around again after a time in which the path is covered in thorns. The thorns were used by Fox in his writings as well, and they are a symbol of piercing anguish and suffering in the human heart.  The King’s highway is another example of metaphor suggesting a pilgrimage. Spurgeon’s language and tone are effective, because rather than trying to appeal to the heart through abstractions, he creates imagery and music and moods through his flowing style and use of lyrical metaphors.

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(Excerpt from “Divine Doorkeepers”)

Søren Kierkegaard was a renowned Danish philosopher, theologian and religious author. He was born to an affluent family in Copenhagen, and his mother was employed as a maid in the household before marrying his father.

Kierkegaard was greatly influenced by Socrates and the Socratic method of thinking. His theological writings primarily focus on the flaws in the church institution and the crowd-driven mentality of believers. He was strongly opposed to the way that theology and organized religion had tarnished the Gospel message, and he believed that seminaries taught Christians to think and talk about God rather than to take any kind of action. His writings beg for soul-searching and an active response from the reader.

Dr. George Pattison writes of the author’s style in his introduction to Kierkegaard’s Spiritual Writings: “The discourses are not plodding expositions of ready-made dogmas, but have an almost conversational feel, sometimes serious, sometimes playful, but always seeking to open a dialogue with the reader, whose own response is anticipated and responded to” (57).

Kierkegaard tells stories about God humanizing Himself willingly out of His great love for people.  He depicts Christians as thieves and cheaters who twist the gospel to suit their own agenda. Here he portrays the struggle between worldly religion and true spirituality:  “…The Bible is very easy to understand.  But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers.  We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly…Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament” (Provocations 201). His representation of religious folks as “scheming swindlers” is a piercing metaphor that suggests deception and misuse of something valuable.

In one of his letters, Kierkegaard presents God as being a creator who fashioned humans in His own image, and loved them so deeply that He placed Himself into their lives. He asserts that the Incarnated God taught people about service to others by His own example.  In this passage he uses an analogy pertaining to artists and their productions to illustrate how even God lowered Himself out of compassion for humans:

If a poet or an artist puts himself into his Productions he is criticized. But that is exactly what God does, he does so in Christ. And precisely that is Christianity. The creation was really only completed when God included himself in it. Before the coming of Christ, God was certainly in the creation, but as an invisible sign, like the watermark in paper. But the creation was completed by the Incarnation because God thereby included himself in it. (Journals 324)

This statement bears resemblance to one of the parables of Jesus, in which God finally arrives on the scene Himself when his workers have rebelled against Him in the vineyard where he hired them to work (Mark 12:1-10, NKJV). These stories have power because they present the idea that God is one of our kind and that He loved us enough to get involved in our drama of sorrow and suffering and even our mortality.  Kierkegaard’s comparison to the creation without Christ as being as a watermark on paper adds a touch of mystery, because it portrays the idea that we don’t see everything that exists.

In the chapter from Provocations entitled “Behold the Birds of the Air,” Kierkegaard spins a fable about wood doves.  Using an opening like his fellow Danish author, Hans Christian Andersen, he writes of one wild dove that refuses to live in a dovecote under the care of a kind farmer: “Once upon a time there was a wood dove. It had its nest in the fearsome forest, where wonder and apprehension dwelt together, among the erect, lonely trees. But nearby, where the smoke rises up from the farmer’s house, lived some tame doves” (148). The wild dove is a metaphor for a person who chooses to live without divine authority.  The “fearsome forest” where “wonder and apprehension” live together is an aesthetic way of portraying the world and the conflicts that beset us each day.  The reader is hereby summoned into a sense of inner tension which Kierkegaard evokes to show the awful state of man without God. Through interactions between the wild dove and the tame ones, the writer portrays the inner friction between faith and the natural mind:

From now on, the wood dove began to worry. His feathers lost their glint of color, his flight lost buoyancy. He was no longer joyful; indeed, he was almost envious of the rich, tame doves… In worrying about his needs he had trapped himself in a snare in which no birdcatcher could have trapped him, trapped as only a free creature can trap himself. (Provocations 148)

The “tame doves” depict the faithful who don’t live unto themselves and need not worry about their livelihood or their future. Kierkegaard uses artful paradoxes and images to represent the anxiety that began to trouble the “free” dove, describing the loss of luster in his feathers and how he felt weighted down when he attempted to fly. The glossy feathers and lightness are symbols for joy and peace, and the lack of them implies strain and encumbrances.  The wild dove that “has trapped himself…as only a free creature can trap himself” is an apt representation for a man who cannot extricate himself from his ways because his ego is at stake. The author creates irony in that the tame birds are free and the wild bird is in bondage.

Kierkegaard was accomplished in the art of addressing controversial subjects with satire and paradox and allegorical tales, and by using graceful metaphors to illustrate his views in an evocative manner.

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(From EvangeLegends)

A nomadic tribe near Sudan reported a great miracle. They say they were traveling through the desert, and came upon a waterhole that was completely dry.  They always plan their journeys in such a way as to pass waterholes, because they don’t carry water with them.  They know the geographical locations of all of them very well, because they can die of thirst in the desert if they travel too long without water. So they knew that the nearest waterhole from that spot was too distant for them to make it alive. Many of the people in the tribe began to weep aloud, and some of them laid down to wait for death.

But one of the natives told the others that he had heard another tribe singing songs to a god named Jesus, whom they said could save people.  He asked if anyone had ever heard of Jesus before, and the others said no.  Then the man asked if they wanted to try singing to Jesus, to see if He could save them.  They all agreed, and they began to sing a song that the man had heard the other tribe singing.

They sang loudly and earnestly, and to their astonishment, a cloud began to form over them.  It got darker and heavier, and then it began to rain into the waterhole until it was filled up. After the people drank all the water they needed, they continued on their journey and told everyone they met about the amazing thing that had happened. They kept inquiring about Jesus, until they finally met some missionaries who told them all about Him and His teachings.  The entire tribe became Christians because they had called upon the name of Jesus and He had saved them from death.

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