Monthly Archives: March 2014

Of Your Fire

“What will fear drive you to do?”  A poem inspired by a random piece of Scripture and the burns I still bear…

Isaiah 50:11

Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow.

Loneliness and sorrow settle on me like the night;

no moon or stars to guide me in the darkness of my woe.

Deep in the woods of melancholy,

deep in the woods of fear – who will ever find me here?

I am alone in the pitch black of my mind, in the pitch black of my heart,

desperate in my need to see and be seen.

 

Here is tinder ready at hand, the shadows and phantoms that haunt me in the dark;

and here the flint rock of my hardened fear, upon which I strike, with terrored force,

my desire, my craving, my yearning of basest urge.

I must fight the darkness of this world and not let it consume me.

I must set fire to the dry and hollow of this place and have it burn.

 

Sparks fly up from my own flesh – see? I am not alone –

the heat of ash and burning embers are stars and moon of my own making,

I walk in the light of pride, guided by my own burning.

Mistaking the pain for love and the searing for union,

I dance in the flames of self-kindling, chopped up into little bits of fuel.

Conceit and distrust spread the fire all through me,

what doesn’t char and crumble is melting into the ground,

and yet, the monstrous spectres do not burn away – they are in the fire, they are in my hands,

they are in my eyes and ears and nose and mouth, choking me…

I am suffocating in smoke.

 

Had I only waited…

had I only made my home in the loneliness

instead of burning my way out;

had I only listened for the night sounds, not terrible and creeping,

but, deeper in the forest of my discontent, the voice

of living water running deep, the song of the Source

singing the night… singing the coming dawn…

singing me, who was never alone.

Christina Chase

 

To Every Man That Is among You

Get over yourself.

Romans 12:3

For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

The season of Lent (40 observation days leading up to Easter) is not wholly about ashes and sackcloth, mea culpa, mea culpa, in sorrowful repentance of our sins.  Lent is a time to focus deeply on the examination of conscience, to look deeply at our thoughts, fears, desires, as well as our words and deeds – scrutinizing our attitudes and every decision, big and small, that we make each day.  This is a time that we should devote to the Socratic maxim, “Know thyself.”  And when we take a really good look at ourselves, our conclusions should not be that we are stupid, useless or worthless – just as our conclusions should not be that we are superior to all other human beings, utterly magnificent in everything that we say and do.  We are utterly magnificent in one regard: God created us in Divine image and likeness and loves us enough to take on our humanity and die for us.  For this sacred reason, no human being is worthless.

For this sacred reason – and for this sacred reason alone – every human being is valuable, is precious.  We may think that God loves us because we have professed belief in His Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ and/or because we do good things that are helpful to others.  But, that’s not why God loves us.  God doesn’t love me because I smile despite being physically disabled and in a wheelchair.  God doesn’t love you because you praise His Holy Name from a pulpit or in a blog.  God doesn’t love them because they are poor and simple or them because they are successful and generous.  God loves each and every human being because God loves each and every human being.  God loves because that’s what God does, because that is exactly who God is.  We have done nothing, and can do nothing, to deserve or merit God’s love – because God has already done it for us.  We are lovable precisely because God independently chooses to bring us into being through His Own Creative Love, to sustain us through His Grace, and to heal, redeem, and sanctify us through His Only Begotten Son.

We should never think of ourselves as any more than this.  And we should never think of ourselves as any less than this.  Being able to grasp the reality of who we are is, well, beyond our grasp – but we come closest when we remember that God loves every human being.  You know that person who really hurt you and doesn’t even seem to realize how badly, even though you tried to explain it to her?  God loves that person intimately and infinitely.  You know that person who is always so arrogant and says such terribly cruel things about other people?  God loves that person intimately and infinitely.  God takes no joy in their sins – God takes no joy in our sins – but He eternally loves sinners.  That means that God eternally loves us, each and every human being no matter what we do, no matter how badly we screw up His Commandments or how well we keep them.  The question that God needs to have answered is the very question that we need to ask ourselves: will we allow God to love us?

Maybe you thought that I was going to write that the question is whether or not we will choose to love God.  I thought about it.  But, then I wordlessly remembered in my heart (or the wordless memory was pushed forward for me) that we love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19).  The only reason at all that I can love anyone or anything is because God loves me.  So, even if I want to love God, I must first let God love me.  What does that mean?  What does that mean…?  It means that I have to know who I am – who I truly, honestly, eternally am.

I am God’s beloved creation – as is every human being that has ever, and will ever, come into being.  Not me alone – all of us.  I do not need to think of myself any more highly than this to be completely and utterly fulfilled in joy and goodness, in the greatness of destiny.  And I do not need to think of myself any lower than this to please the One Who loved me into existence.  Yes, I have, independently according to freewill, chosen to be unloving at times, many times, through my fault, my fault, my most grievous fault – and by so doing I have sinned in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do.  These moments of self-centered decision, these sins, are when I did not allow God to love me – I did not allow God to lead me in my choices (for, all-loving God will always lead us to the best place for us) and I did not allow God to love my fellow human beings, to love all of His Creation, through me.  Somehow, in some way, I said “No” to Divine Will, which is Divine Love, and that is why I am sorrowing here, that is why I am dissatisfied, that is why I am longing for forgiveness and mercy and newness of life.  Forgiveness and Mercy and Newness of Life is precisely what God wants to give to me through His Love.  Will I choose to receive?

I am only human, and, as such, I can only do so much.  But, God can do everything.  Will I let Him?  Because the thing is… God loves me enough never to force me.

Christina Chase

For As the Body

Show me the money.

James 2:14, 26

What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

There’s a song from the movie musical My Fair Lady that I love, Audrey Hepburn singing to the man who would woo her, “Don’t speak of stars shining above, if you’re in love, show me.  Don’t say your heart’s filled with desire, if you’re on fire, show me.”  She didn’t want him to just tell her pleasing things.  She didn’t want mere words.  She wanted action.

In my relationship with God, who alone is worthy of all love, all honor, all glory, I extol praises and profess my belief in Christ Jesus, His Only Begotten Son, my Lord and the Lord of all.  I keep a blog (Divine Incarnate) full of postings in which I reflect upon the heart of God and man and try to layout some of the ways in which we can all live full lives, our hearts filled with truth and love.  I witness with my words.  But… What about my actions?  I write about my faith and the value of what I believe in – but what do I do in my daily life?  I write that we should do this or that – but do I?  Like in the movie Jerry Maguire, where the sports agent makes lots of promises to the athlete, but he, in turn, just keeps saying, “Show me the money!”  – Where is my money, where is my invested output, where are my expenditures of time and effort – where are my works?

As Jesus tells us through St. Luke’s Gospel account, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  And these were not mere words to Jesus.  He lived what he professed, he carried out that to which he bore witness – he did what he said he would do.  “Love one another as I have loved you,” sounds pretty.  And it could be just that: a pretty phrase.  But, Christ loved us bodily, with his actions, with the entirety of his being his very body and blood.  He put his money where his mouth is.  By his actions, there is no doubt where his heart is.

We love because God first loved us – and this love is not just a nice feeling or pretty sentiment, it is not merely a metaphysical kind of holding in one’s heart.  This is brilliantly clear in the Judeo-Christian faith, which testifies to God’s works, God’s direct action in space and time.  God loves us into existence – the act of Creation.  God unites Godself to us and sanctifies us – the act of God becoming Man, Christ Jesus.  And God saves us – the act of dying on the Cross and rising from the Dead.  Through Christ’s actions, God restores us to the fullness of life, life eternal.  To receive what is given graciously to us, we must follow Christ.  To follow him with our minds, our thoughts and intellects, is not enough.  To follow him with our affections and sentiments is not enough.  To fully follow Jesus Christ, and so be true Christians, we must follow with our bodies, too.  We must follow with our whole selves, mindful that love is not something esoteric – love is action.  So, to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, with all our souls, with all our minds, and with all our strength is to DO.  ACTION.  We love, not with our lips or sentiments, but with our works.  We love with our choices and our actions.

The jobs that people do every day to actively contribute to society are called professions.  The tenets of faith that people believe are also called professions.  I need to find a hearty, meaty, bodily way to bring these two concepts together in my daily life.  Writing about the faith is an action – but I do need to be careful and be sure that the faith about which I am writing is not dead.  This truly needs to be my faith, the faith that I profess by living it, my profession.  And, so, to facilitate this  – to bear better witness by being a better witness – I will try to post some of my personal acts of faith, the “works” that I do in everyday life.  (Hope I can find some….)   Mindful always, however, that I do nothing on my own.  If any of my actions are worthy of the faith that I profess, it is the Holy Spirit working through me.  All that I will have done is to accept, by the grace of God, the love that is given to me and to let that active love do what it must do as true love.

(If you wish to find out whether or not I put my money where my mouth is, I invite you to follow my blog Divine Incarnate and look for the category “works” or the tag “faith without works is dead”.)

Christina Chase

Careful and Troubled about Many Things

Martha, Martha, Martha… We cannot just go out and do and expect greatness – we must first have direction and meaningful purpose.  If we do not first listen to what God wants of us, then our actions are just busy-ness without holiness as our end.

Luke 10:39-42

39. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.

40. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.

41. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:

42. But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

It wasn’t Martha’s serving of others that was wrong – for Jesus said that he himself had come to serve and that, if others wished to follow him, then they, too, must serve.  However, in her serving, Martha was “careful and troubled about many things,” she was “cumbered about much serving” and complained about it.  Was there, then, true love in Martha’s heart that inspired her serving?  Or was she, on that day, being one of those people who takes pride in being seen as hospitable and laying out a sumptuous table?  Martha’s pride seems rather evident for she questions whether or not Jesus cares about her plight, about justice, and then proceeds to tell him what to do.  Compare that to Jesus’s mother at the wedding feast in Cana when she brought what she saw as a problem before her son – she did not tell him what to do, but, rather, told the nearby servants to listen to Jesus and do what he told them to do, whatever it would be.  There is deference here and trust in Jesus, something which Martha did not demonstrate in serving (but which she did demonstrate later when her brother Lazarus died).

Martha’s sister Mary, on the other hand, was purposefully sitting at Jesus’s feet to listen to him.  She left Martha with the details that the older sister had chosen to encumber them both with, choosing, rather, to hear the word of God.  Mary’s humility here is visually evident as she sits in a low place, at the feet of Christ.  Her eagerness for and attentiveness to what Jesus says is not lost on him.  She “heard his word” – it won’t be lost on her.

Jesus reminds Martha that there are only a very few things that human beings truly need.  This makes me think of how we need to eat in order to survive – but we don’t need to dine with elaborate meals that are difficult to prepare and serve.  We need shelter to keep us safe – but we don’t need spacious houses appointed with every convenient or luxurious amenity.  And as Christ tells the over-anxious server, “But one thing is needful”.  As he makes clear elsewhere in the Bible, “Man cannot live by bread alone, but by every word from the mouth of God.”  Martha seeks to attend to Jesus the man in the flesh, but Mary seeks to attend to the Word of God.  By her choice, Mary is truly serving the Word of God made flesh, who is Jesus Christ, because she is attending to what he says and seeking humbly to learn from him as his disciple.  Meanwhile, Martha is busy.  Yes, she is adopting the role of a servant, which should be a good thing – but she is adapting the role of a servant to suit her own self-centered needs, worrying and troubling about many things that are not necessary.  On the other hand, a God-centered servant listens to God’s word, attentive to what is truly necessary for every human being: divine love, mercy, redemption.

The fact that I’m writing this two days before the beginning of Lent is not lost on me.  Soon, Catholics around the world (and other Christians, too) will be “giving up” something for the season of Lent.  We humans, like Martha, can daily encumber ourselves with the care and trouble “of many things.”  How many of these things are needful?  Letting go of some of them for the 40 days of the Lenten discipline can help open our eyes to see how very few things we really need.  Some people think that they can’t function in the morning and start their days properly if they don’t begin with a cup of caffeinated coffee.  If they give up that coffee for Lent (and stick with the deprivation through the first week or so of difficulty) then they will see that they were able to live and function well without that supposedly needful thing.  Someone else may want to give up daytime television or staying up late playing video games or going onto Facebook every day – and the time that that person will gain every day can be spent being with family and friends, thus nurturing essential relationships, or reading to expand the mind and soul, or embarking on that creative project he or she has been dreaming about but has not yet started.  I often see Lent as a kind of spring cleaning – I get rid of the clutter of things in my life so that I can get back to basics and remember what is truly important: love.  The giving and receiving of love that is divinely sourced – this is what is truly needful.  So, I will try, with the grace of God, not to worry and busy myself about things that, in the end, don’t matter at all.  And, being thus freed, I will be more aware of who I truly am and of what – Who – I truly need to be ever joyful, to be fulfilled.  I sit at His feet…

Christina Chase