At the Table

Paradise Valley by Akiane Kramarik https://akiane.com/

At the Table by Josh Garrels

I went the ways of wayward winds
In a world of trouble and sin
Walked a long and crooked mile
Behind a million rank and file
Forgot where I came from
Somewhere back when I was young
I was a good man's child

'Cause I lost some nameless things
My innocence flew away from me
She had to hide her face from my desire
To embrace forbidden fire
But at night I dream
She's singing over me
Oh, oh, my child

Come on home, home to me
And I will hold you in my arms
And joyful be
There will always, always be
A place for you at my table
Return to me

Wondering where I might begin
Hear a voice upon the wind
She's singing faint but singing true
Son, there ain't nothing you can do
But listen close and follow me
I'll take you where you're meant to be
Just don't lose faith

So I put my hand upon the plow
Wipe the sweat up from my brow
Plant the good seed along the way
As I look forward to the day
When at last I see
My Father run to me
Singing oh, my child

Come on home, home to me
And I will hold you in my arms
And joyful be
There will always, always be
A place for you at my table
Return to me
My child

https://joshgarrels.com/

Zacchaeus! You Come Down!

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So if there is any encouragement in Christ, 
any incentive of love,
any participation in the Spirit,
any affection and sympathy,
complete my joy by being of the same mind,
having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 
Do nothing from selfishness or conceit,
but in humility count others better than yourselves. 
Let each of you look not only to his own interests,
but also to the interests of others.
Have this mind among yourselves,
which was in Christ Jesus, 
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 
but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant,
being born in the likeness of men.
Philippians 2: 1-7

It was just yesterday that I was asked to give a reason for my faith- the faith we Christians share. God’s Faith for humanity. I have to be honest, I felt I needed to somehow deliver God to that person. I felt inadequate for the job. It was because I was inadequate for the job I had in mind. I had forgotten that it is God Who comes down to each one’s heart to make a Heaven only known to that individual. He is Mercy, not I. It is our job as Christians to be a friend. To be humble. Truthful. Loving. To walk with each other. We are no better than others. We are all God’s children. We Christians are aware of the commandment to be below all, as Jesus emptied Himself for us. When asked, we are to simply repeat what the Church teaches. Everything we have is gift. What He has given, He can rightly take away, including knowledge, wisdom and strength. It is He who bade Zacchaeus to come down to dine with Him in his home and it is He who bids each soul to come down to dine with Him in one’s heart. How are we to imitate Christ when we continue to climb the tree of pride in order to reach those in the world? We will only come against their own pride. Rather, let us send out warm and loving invitations to our brightly lit homes here on the ground.

Zacchaeus  I have always thought of you as a rather pitiful man
Short, stingy and pushy 
But really,
Aren’t we all at times?
We portray an image to the world
That is really nothing
In the sight of Truth 
We are all
Small, poor and weak
And as much as we climb
To try to get to Him
It is He who comes down
Bidding us too, to come down
Down
Into our homes
Our living temples
To dine
With Him 
And with you

To exalt yourself is not to remember but to forget who you truly are.”

Unknown

Heaven in my soul

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Happy Feast day St. Elizabeth of the Trinity!

“O my God, Trinity whom I adore, 
help me to forget myself entirely
that I may be established in You
as still and as peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity.
May nothing trouble my peace or make me leave You,
O my Unchanging One,
but may each minute carry me further into the depths of Your Mystery.
Give peace to my soul; make it Your heaven,
Your beloved dwelling and Your resting place.
May I never leave You there alone but be wholly present,
my faith wholly vigilant, wholly adoring,
and wholly surrendered to Your creative Action."
~St. Elizabeth of the Trinity

I have found Heaven on Earth, since Heaven is God, and God is in my soul.”

St. Elizabeth of the Trinity

Indifference

Have you ever wondered why Jesus chose to come when He did? I have pondered what it might be like for Him if He came in our generation. Would His Gospel really spread like wildfire in this age of instant communication? Would His radical Wisdom be heard over the ridiculousness of our world? If it was, I imagine He would surely be given a ‘like’ by this nice culture where authenticity is encouraged.

However, what is niceness without Truth and Love? What is authenticity without the Author of this world and of ourselves? We covet temporal happiness without considering eternal joy. I think if Jesus came to our world now, we wouldn’t care. I think He would long for His donkey and dirt road. I think He would long for people who recognized they were spiritually poor. People with principles. The Pharisees used the law to their advantage, but they still remembered Him and His Law. We have become indifferent to all things pertaining to God. I think if He came in our times, we would have robbed Him of Calvary. I think this would have been far worse for Him than any of the torments of His Passion and Cross. This poem says it all:

Indifference

By Geoffrey Studdert-Kennedy
When Jesus came to Golgotha
They hanged Him on a tree,
They drave great nails through hands and feet,
And made a Calvary.
They crowned Him with a crown of thorns;
Red were His wounds and deep,
For those were crude and cruel days,
And human flesh was cheap.
When Jesus came to Birmingham,
They simply passed Him by;
They never hurt a hair of Him,
They only let Him die.
For men had grown more tender,
And they would not give Him pain;
They only just passed down the street,
And left Him in the rain.
Still Jesus cried, “Forgive them,
For they know not what they do.”
And still it rained the winter rain
That drenched Him through and through.
The crowds went home and left the streets
Without a soul to see;
And Jesus crouched against a wall
And cried for Calvary.

I’m Nobody! Who are you?

When pride comes, then comes disgrace; but with the humble is wisdom. (Proverbs 11:2)

Social Media.

Have you ever noticed some of the most ordinarily quiet people to be incessant chatterboxes when given a platform they can hide their faces behind? Automated courage. It seems they have forgotten the beauty and nobility in exercising humility. To keep one’s tongue is a wise thing. To remember your many faults is to guard yourself against humiliation. After all, who wants to be known as a frog- croaking in a bog? I hope this silly yet sagely little poem by Emily Dickinson refreshes you as much as it does me!

I'm Nobody! Who are you?
Are you - nobody - too?
Then there's a pair of us!
Dont tell! They'd advertise - you know!

How dreary - to be - somebody!
How public - like a frog
To tell one's name - the livelong June
To an admiring bog!

Mercy

“I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20)

Oh Full of Mercy, may we see that our problems would remain
If Your solutions were removed
 
If religion was removed,
Wars would remain
If the Church was removed,
Guilt would remain
If denominations were removed,
Disunity would remain
If leaders were removed,
Scandals would remain
If the Bible was removed,
Blasphemy would remain
If tradition was removed,
Burdens would remain
 
Oh Full of Mercy, may we see that it is only in doing things Your way
That we may clean up the mess we have made
In trying to do things our way.
 
You gave us religion,
So we may be re-legioned to Your Kingdom
You gave us the Church,
So we may find the Sacred
You allow denominations,
So we may see Your Truth
You gave us leaders,
So we may meet You
You gave us the Bible,
So we may know Your Word
You gave us tradition,
So we may remember

Oh Full of Mercy, thank-You, for giving us You
So that we may be saved from ourselves
Creator of Heaven and Earth,
May we see Your fingerprints
On Your work
That we have trampled with our feet.

How happy I am to see myself imperfect and in need of God’s mercy”

St. Thérèse of Lisieux

Silence

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Silence is a sword in the spiritual struggle. A talkative soul will never attain sanctity. The sword of silence will cut off everything that would like to cling to the soul. We are sensitive to words and quickly want to answer back, without taking any regard as to whether it is God’s will that we should speak. A silent soul is strong; no adversities will harm it if it perseveres in silence. The silent soul is capable of attaining the closest union with God. It lives almost always under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. God works in a silent soul without hindrance.

Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska

Do you find the Christian teachings on silence to be hard? I do. It’s not that I don’t understand them. It’s not that I don’t find them desiring. It is, however, that I find them hard to put into practice. It seems that no matter how much I try to remain in God, I find myself constantly distracted. Worries, imaginations, chores… honestly, there are times when I wonder who in the world this chatterbox inside of me is.

It is in times like this that I am reminded to look to Mary. When in doubt, look to Mary.

“Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary…” we echo in the Apostles’ Creed. It is here where I feel welcomed into the mystery of the Incarnation—- starting with the union of the Holy Spirit and His spouse, Mary.

Firstly, Mary prepared her womb. St. Elizabeth of the Trinity describes this as a special place inside ourselves. It is a place of detachment. It seems to me, this must be a detachment from things such as the worldly emotions, fears and thoughts that seem to control us. I’ve heard this defined as an ‘ego’, the ‘unconscious’ or even the ‘troll inside’, but I don’t think the label matters. What matters is that we distinguish the two, and that we know that the place of Silence is higher, stronger and has nothing in common with the noisy room beside. In some words, to be ‘in the Spirit’ is to take the high seat of Witness to that noisy roommate of ‘self’.

St. John tells us that the Holy Spirit- the Witness, gives testimony to the Truth. It is inside of ourselves that we must be so united to the Holy Spirit, as Mary was, as to be the Witness. To be the Witness is to attain true spiritual freedom. It is truly a place of ‘sacred darkness’, as St. Elizabeth calls it. She beautifully refers to the psalmist:

He made darkness his covering around him, 
his canopy thick clouds dark with water.
Out of the brightness before him
there broke through his clouds hailstones and coals of fire.
~Psalm 18:11-12

It is here in this shroud that the Light enters. “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). To do this, we must die to our selves. “Whosoever shall seek to save his life, shall lose it: and whosoever shall lose it, shall preserve it” (Matthew 16:25). He Himself was placed in an empty tomb to enter the glory of His resurrection.

It is here in this Holy Tomb where He invites us. This Holy Womb. A place of silence. Peace. Union with God. It is where one can find healing. Together with God, we look at the psyche and repair the broken soul. The Healer brings healing. Heaven begets Heaven. Here, in this sacred womb, we find, like Mary, that the “Word becomes flesh…” (John 1:14) and this is the is the goal of the Christian life—- to repeat daily, the very first Incarnation.

To look to Mary is to find God—- “my soul magnifies the Lord” (Luke 1:46), “from now on, all generations shall call me blessed” (Luke 1:48). To find God is to lose yourself. To lose yourself is to find yourself. This is a great mystery.

Just as I am

Art by Ladislav Záborský

I am not going to Heaven because I have preached to great crowds or read the bible many times. I’m going to Heaven just like the thief on the cross who said in that last moment- “Lord, remember me…”

Billy Graham

All is gift.

Our wills, our hearts, our services… our offerings to God— are these really pleasing to Him on their own?… from our own? What do we have that was not first given to us? For example, was it not Him Who first taught us how to pray “Your will be done”? Was it not Him Who replaced our hearts of stone with His that is most tender? And is it not His strength that we use to carry out all our good deeds?

I think I am like most others when it comes to attempting virtue- it is an intermingling of successes and failures. How many of our successes are really driven by selfish motives? I wonder- do our merits really ever increase the wealth of our spirit?

We are soberingly told in Isaiah 64:6:

And we are all become as one unclean, 
and all our justices as the rag of a menstruous woman

I don’t know about you, but just how poor in spirit we really are can feel rather weighty at times, like a sinking down into the ocean deeps. However, we are never left alone with our misery. Mercy is constant. Out of His unconditional love does He offer His sweet Blood and refreshing Water. This free gift flowed from His side on Calvary. With open arms, all that our Saviour asks, is that we come, just as we are—

Just As I Am by Charlotte Elliott:

Just as I am - without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am - and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am - though toss'd about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am - poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need, in Thee to find,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am - Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because Thy promise I believe,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am - Thy love unknown
Has broken every barrier down;
Now to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am - of that free love
The breadth, length, depth, and height to prove,
Here for a season, then above,
-O Lamb of God, I come!
Fernando Ortega – Just as I am

Bring me the Sunset in a Cup

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One of my favourite poems on humility. I love Emily’s discreet sense of humour and the genius way she describes nature. I agree with her- to be in awe is the beginning of freedom.

By Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

Bring me the sunset in a cup,
Reckon the morning's flagons up
And say how many dew,
Tell me how far the morning leaps —
Tell me what time the weaver sleeps
Who spun the breadth of blue!

Write me how many notes there be
In the new robin's ecstasy
Among astonished boughs —
How many trips the tortoise makes —
How many cups the bee partakes,
The debauchee of dews!

Also, who laid the rainbow's piers,
Also, who leads the docile spheres
By withes of supple blue?
Whose fingers string the stalactite —
Who counts the wampum of the night
To see that none is due?

Who built this little alban house
And shut the windows down so close
My spirit cannot see?
Who'll let me out some gala day
With implements to fly away,
Passing pomposity?

On Misery and Mercy

Sparkling River at Beaver’s Bend Photograph by Tamyra Ayles
https://pixels.com/featured/sparkling-river-at-beavers-bend-tamyra-ayles.html

It is in the hard times in my life that I am reminded of God’s great mercy amidst our misery, sufferings and even our sins. I find this beautifully spoken in the book of Daniel 3: 31, 29, 30, 43, 42:

All that you have done to us, O Lord,
you have done with true judgement,
for we have sinned against you
and not obeyed your commandments.
But give glory to your name
and deal with us according to the bounty of your mercy.
(Compilation credit to Word Among Us, Entrance Antiphon for September 30, 2019)

Sadly, this life was never promised to be an easy one. The reality of our state is evident in the life of our Saviour. He came, so Mercy can abound for the poor in spirit. May we never lose sight of the little mercies God showers on us from day to day. And when we must travel through the darkest valleys, may we always remember our Hope – so we can say with Emily Dickinson:

I should have been too glad, I see –
Too lifted – for the scant degree
Of life's penurious round –
My little circuit would have shamed
This new circumference – have blamed –
The homelier time behind –

I should have been too saved – I see –
Too rescued – fear too dim to me
That I could spell the prayer
I knew so perfect – yesterday –
That scalding one – Sabachthani –
Recited fluent – here –

Earth would have been too much – I see –
And Heaven – not enough for me –
I should have had the joy
Without the fear – to justify –
The Palm – without the Calvary –
So Saviour – Crucify –

Defeat whets victory – they say –
The reefs in old Gethsemane
Endear the Coast beyond –
'Tis beggars – Banquets best define –
'Tis parching – vitalizes Wine –
Faith bleats to understand