Monthly Archives: July 2014

Shall Prosper

Steeping in Spirit…

Psalms 1:1-3

  1. Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

  2. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

  3. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

We know that radio waves go through our bodies, television broadcast and cellular signals, invisible energy that is all around us and part of the workings of our world. We have crafted instruments with which to detect them, those waves and signals that are propelled by man and those that exist naturally. But, what of spirit? There is no man-made instrument, no technology, no mathematic formula that can detect or prove the existence of the spiritual realm. Although infinity is worked into mathematics and given a written symbol, no science-only person would equate personal beingness with infinity. Reason tells us of the Uncaused Cause and the Unmoved Mover and that the finite cannot be applied to the infinite. Yet, it is faith that tells us that our souls, the animating principles of our beingness, are not finite – they are of spirit.

Spirit is utterly whole and cannot be broken into parts – and is, therefore, undetectable by anything finite. Spirit is infinite – everywhere and all through. The Uncreated Creator created matter and, eventually, inevitably, human beings, creating our individual, finite bodies and choosing to animate them with Spirit – the Breath of God. We are created by, and of, and for, the Infinite One. This is the truth of who we are, the fullness of our identities. And the fulfillment of our destinies is in fully living in the infinite.

But, we don’t, do we? Rather than recognizing the finite as the precious flower of the Christ seed, we use and abuse it for our own finite ends. For, any self-indulgence, any dominance of the temporal over the eternal, will come to a definitive end. Their end is death. With and in the soul of spirit is the gift of intellect, imagination, and free will – if we direct our souls and their gifts toward finite self-centeredness, then they will lose their intrinsic recognition of the infinite and, ultimately, of the Infinite One who is the Source and the All in All. When the finite comes to its necessary end, what can the soul know but loss? What can the soul know but dying? And, because the soul is immortal, that loss, that dying, will be eternal, with no end.

To keep the soul healthy is the most important thing that a human being can do. A healthy soul, through the innate, God-given faculty of faith, recognizes the infinite through the finite and lives within Creation in order to delight in the ways immortal. Creatures of flesh and spirit are we, and the temporal and immortal dwell as one in the core of our beings, in our hearts. Therein, we – unique, beloved creatures of the Uncreated Creator – can come to recognize and experience the fullness of reality. Temporal and eternal, finite and infinite, mortal and immortal, come together in us. There is no escape from the temporal world – there is only redemption. To understand the body as some thing from which to escape is to not understand the body at all. We exist, we are who we are, because the soul of spirit is given a body in which to live – not merely in which to be contained, but to live. Living, body and soul as one, faith and reason in accord, is the reason and the meaning of our lives – is life.

Recognizing, acknowledging, and embracing the Infinite in the finite, the holy in the mundane, I walk in the ways of righteousness, which is what truly is. Truth is my path and fullness is my journey, as my destination is my destiny, willed before time and space. My eternal life, being eternal, has already begun and I am living life – bathed in the light of the Eternal One, submerged and steeping in the Immortal good, and the fullness of the fruit I am created to bear is my sweetness, which shall never perish, sheltered and sustained in the evergreen bower of my willing heart, with all that I have and all that I am consecrated to Holy Truth. And all that I do shall prosper unto Infinity…

May I be so blessed…

© 2014 Christina Chase

 

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Tell the Stars

Do I believe?

Genesis 15:3-6

  1. And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir.

  2. And, behold, the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir.

  3. And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.

  4. And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom… You who fear him, trust in the Lord… God’s ways are above man’s ways… The LORD is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?… Fear not, for I am with you always….

Great stuff. As one who holds the Bible as Sacred Scripture, what do I do with these words? Do I hold them as sacred, as the most powerful and significant meaning of and for my life? If so, then I surely would not be suffering from a paralyzing phobia. But, I do have a phobia – a very serious one.

My particular “persistent, irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation that leads to a compelling desire to avoid it”[1] is a fear of not being heard. I realize that this may seem to have some cosmic, mystic overtones, but I don’t mean it that way. I am literally afraid that nobody will hear me when I call out for assistance. Being completely physically disabled by a motor neuron disease, and, therefore, utterly dependent on others for every physical need – I cannot even scratch my own cheek – I have been told that my fear is reasonable. But, it isn’t. The phobic panic begins when my mother is simply vacuuming in the next room. Every time I hear an outside door open, my insides jump and I call out to make sure that someone is staying in the house with me. My parents know my phobia very well and they would never intentionally leave me alone to suffer. But, mistakes can happen, I know and I tell them – but I very much would like to trust them more. And, even if they are human and fallible – at least, I should trust God that nothing bad would happen to me even if no other human could hear me for 10 minutes or even an hour. God’s grace can surely even calm a panic attack. Right?

Is this a matter of a lack of faith? A priest, whom I greatly respect and admire, has told me that it is not. This is, obviously, a psychological problem. Maybe I need to go see a therapist. But, it does raise serious questions about human fears and how the faithful trust in the Lord.

“For I know well the plans I have in mind for you—oracle of the LORD—plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope. When you call me, and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me…”[2].

Abram believed God when he was told that God would change his lot. Abram believed in the power of God to work miracles and to make the impossible possible. And Abram put all of his trust, all of this faith – all of his heart – in the LORD. “I believe” or “credo” means to give one’s heart. Abram followed God with utter trust, even though it meant leaving everything that he knew behind him. His leap of faith was a life-changing experience – it was even a name changing experience. This man did not merely believe, in an intellectual kind of way, that the words spoken to him by God were true. He believed in God. He was willing to give over everything to the One in whom he believed, the one to whom he had given his heart. Even when he didn’t understand. Even when he sorrowed over it. And God counted it as righteousness in him – Abraham was exactly who he was supposed to be.

But, we humans crave certainty. We want to know for sure. We want proof. But… Where there is proof, where is trust? Because there is no dead certainty in the life of faith (no, there is nothing dead in God) people are often uncomfortable in it. They turn to concrete matters and science for answers and guidance. If something cannot be methodically tested and, therefore, scientifically verified, then it is dismissed. But, by doing this, we miss out on the fullness of life. For there is something beyond certainty that is precious and powerful. There is something more beautiful and profound in the leap of faith than there ever can be in sure knowledge.

Am I sure?…

I am a messy, mixed up human being. And I am in love… and I am believing…

 

© 2014 Christina Chase

 

[1] http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/phobia

[2] Jeremiah 29:11-14

Peace Himself Give

Careful what you wish for…

2 Thessalonians 3:16

Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all.

Peace by all means.

There are two groups of people fighting against each other, destroying property and killing. It looks as though they will never get along with each other and the fighting won’t end, the warring won’t stop, until one group has completely annihilated the other. We could say that there will be no peace until one side is dead. But, is that peace? Or is it merely the cessation of fighting?

A third group might get involved in the fight, before that terminally decisive end, and try to find a way to bring about a cease-fire without the annihilation of a people. That third group will come into the fight with their own weapons and tools, their own fighting, and beat the two groups into submission, forcing them to make peace with one another. But – is this really peace? Or is it merely the putting down of guns?

If peace is defined by the absence of war, then peace is only a mediocre, lukewarm kind of state, with nothing truly noble in it. It would be akin to defining the absence of hate as apathy. The absence of love can also be defined as apathy. Do we want an apathetic world?

I’ve often thought that the cooling down of violence in Ireland has not been brought about by wondrous peacemakers and and a true acceptance of each other’s differences, a true love of one another. No. I think that the growing “peace” in Ireland is a result of cultural and religious apathy. The economic situation in Ireland has improved, and, so, people are enjoying more jobs and more money. The focus is on the increased availability of wealth and the things that it can do – not on love of neighbor. If an Irishman doesn’t have to compete with his neighbor over a limited number of jobs or resources, then there’s no reason to fight. Because, really, the reason for the violence wasn’t so much cultural or religious – it was always about finances. The great cause for which the young willingly gave their lives, for which countless civilians were killed – this great cause was not of the heart, or of the soul, or even of the mind, it was always of the wallet.

And it is easy to think (rather cynically, I admit) the same about every war in every region, across the world, throughout history. If the belly is full and the senses are sufficiently entertained, then the people are at peace. It’s the “bread and circus” mentality of life. We can see the truth of it when we examine the unrest caused by the desperation of the poor or the reckless boredom of the rich – but it is much more difficult to see when we are in the midst of this bread and circus peace.

We, of the middle class, who can pay our budget-wise bills without worry and still have enough for big-screen TVs, take out, and twice yearly vacations, with the occasional bungee jump and impulse purchase thrown in – we have no cause to amass a militia and start a war. Hungry, desperately poor people who are that way because they are being seriously oppressed may have cause to start war – but no one else. The crazy people in civilized countries who do that sort of thing are, well, crazy. They’re either zealous nuts who believe in the rapture, or Armageddon, or seven virgins in Paradise, or some other superstitious drivel like that. Or, they are ruthless power mongers, monstrous villains, bent on world domination. Or they are seriously mentally ill. Perhaps they are combination of all three. If only someone could calm them down by enlightening them away from religion, getting them to talk to a trained therapist, or making sure that they are well medicated, then, maybe, we could have peace. Make sure everyone has enough to eat and that premium cable channels, antidepressants and cosmetic surgery are available to everyone and then we will live in a civilized and peaceful world. [Insert your sarcastic and cynical take here. Well, actually, at the bottom of this post.]

The problem is, of course, that human beings will always long for something more. Not just more food, more money, more pleasure, and more fun – but also more… How many humans have asked themselves, and anyone listening, the timeless question: “Is this all there is?” Not, “is this all the chicken there is?” or “is this all the bonus pay?” or “is this all the orgasm?” or “is this all the tequila?” or “is this all the comedy?” Well, yes, people ask those questions, too. But, these are finite things and, so, naturally, they are limited in supply. They are also limited in results. Chicken, bonuses, orgasms, tequila, and comedic acts can only do so much for the human person. The purpose of life is not to amass as much as possible so that there are no gaps or lapses. No, in fact, if one is able to live one’s life this way, then one will always be stuffed and entertained and, therefore, oblivious to want. And the absence of want is not joy. The absence of want is not plenty.

When I was little (and sometimes still, now) I would ask my father for something by saying that I wanted or would like it. To which he would respond with two alternate phrases: “Now you know what it’s like to want,” and, “It’s good to want.” I always thought he was just being annoying for the fun of pushing my buttons. And, yes, in a way, he was. But, he was also right. If I had everything that I ever wanted before I could even ask for it – before I even knew that I wanted it – then I wouldn’t be happy. I would be surviving very easily and perpetually entertained, but I wouldn’t know satisfaction and I wouldn’t know joy.

Now, I’m not saying that the poor are blessed because they wake up every morning with hungry stomachs and go to bed every night with their stomachs still wanting. No. But, when anyone wakes up with a hungry stomach, that first bite of food is extra delicious, isn’t it? In strictly financial terms, a good or service gains no appreciation in value if there is an overabundance of supply of that good or service. In fact, if supply is low and demand is high, then that is good or service has great value. Appreciation grows when there is want. So, yes, it was good for me, as a child, to want something to eat or to want a toy – for, then, my appreciation for that food and that toy grew.

What am I trying to say with all of this?… What am I trying to say with all of this…? The very fact that we can imagine the infinite opens up our longing for it. Finite goods and services – no matter how wanted or how plentifully received – can not give us the ultimate fullness of joy. It is good to feed the body. And it is good to feed the mind. And it is also very good to feed the heart and soul. Material things aren’t bad. In truth, material things are good. But… What do we do with them? If we use material things to numb us to the fullness of reality – to blind and deafen us to spiritual things – then we are making very bad choices. We’re getting it all wrong. Think of the arrogance, the patronizing condescension of those high and mighty rulers who planned bread and circus to keep their people “at peace.” Do we really think that God is like one of them? He hears us wishing and praying for material things, for material comforts and material pleasures, and He does not turn away in hoity-toity disgust. No, God understands our material needs – better than we even do ourselves. God does not want a child to starve to death. God sees the overfeeding of one child’s belly and the under feeding of another’s, and the solution to the problem should be obvious to us. But it’s not. Because we’re blinded by bread and circus. God wants to give us good things and for us to use those good things well in loving service to ourselves and to our neighbors, to all of our fellow human beings. And God also knows that the best thing is no thing. God did not make us solely for the material. God also made us for the spiritual, for the eternal and the infinite. God made us for… God.

God wants us to be fully satisfied and fully joyful – and God knows bread and circus won’t cut it. God hears us pray for peace and knows that true peace is not merely the absence of wanting. Sometimes, in order for us to know true peace we have to have our eyes and ears opened wide, opened wide with wanting, with sorrow and grief. It is in the stillness and the silence that we are able to be open and receive the infinite goodness that God is pouring down on to us. If we are too stuffed and occupied here and now on this earth, we will never know this earth for the fullness of what it is – we will never know ourselves or one another for the fullness that we are – we will never know what it truly is to be fully human and fully alive. God will grant us peace… peace by all means.

© 2014 Christina Chase

Good Stewards of the Manifold

The one thing of which you’ll never run out.

1 Peter 4:10                                                                   

As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

We are finite creatures living in the limits of space time. We can only eat so much, only move so much, and only own so much. No more. But… How much can we love?

It seems that even in our ability to love there is a limit. We can love our family and our friends – but not our enemies. And yet, Christians are told precisely to do that. We can love our loved ones with our whole selves, as we may say – but, yet, we do not give of ourselves completely, for we believe that we must keep something in reserve for ourselves. If we have nothing for ourselves, what do we have to give? And yet, Christians are told to give the entirety of their beings, the entirety of their lives, to God and so, also, to the loving service of our fellow human beings. To love the Lord, our God, with all of our hearts, with all of our minds, with all of our strength, and with all of our souls, is to hold absolutely nothing in reserve for ourselves. But, surely, if we do that, we won’t be able to survive, right?

The wonder and beauty of love is that it is unlimited. Though we are, most certainly, limited creatures with limited abilities, true love, real love, is purely of God – who is perfectly unlimited. Because of our flawed nature, we can only open ourselves up so much to the reception of God’s love, which is always and everywhere pouring relentlessly upon everyone. But, even just a little bit of perfection goes a long way. It depends upon whether or not we are truly allowing, with the best of our abilities, God’s love to love us. To move us. To shape us. To feed us. To heal us. To guide us and guard us. To revolutionize us. God’s love is not something that we can own or even hold onto. God’s love, like the Holy Spirit, flows without ceasing. You can take a cup of water out of a stream, but, if you do so, that water is no longer a stream. If we hold on too tightly to the feeling of lovingness, it ceases to be loving.

I would like to feel always the warmth and peace that floods me in the rare moments of deep and grace filled prayer. However, the moment that I recognize the “feeling” and desire to keep it, the warmth and peace changes into a mere sensation and not the actual goodness of deep prayer itself. I’ve stolen water from the stream, if you will, and am disappointed to look down into my cup and realize that the stream is not in there. So, too, with love. When I love someone – (no, wait, when I am loving someone, for love is not something passive with which I should identify my relationships with certain people, so let me make it clear that love is a verb). When I am loving someone, God’s love is being received by me and flowing through me to the other. Love is eternal, so there is no stopping. Love is infinite, so there is no damming up.

This is why forgiveness is key in Christianity – because Christianity is most fully and completely about the receiving and giving of God’s love. If someone hurts us, we become less willing to engage in loving that person – and that’s a dam in the flow of divine love. Only forgiveness can break down the dam and restore the stream. Perhaps, it’s almost as though the hurt caused by the other leads us to think that we need more of God’s love for ourselves in order to make up for that hurt. But, of course, we can never receive more of God’s love. There is only one quantity of God’s love that we are given: all of it. This is why Jesus Christ, God Incarnate, surrenders his life completely on the Cross. We are to understand through his sacrifice, and to be reminded by every image of a crucifix, how much God loves us. Completely. As I told my nephews when they were very little, Jesus on the Cross is God’s way of telling us, “I love you thiiiis much” – and his hands hold no limit, they are pointing out infinitely. Our hands, too, must hold no limit, for, if we are truly to be loving, then we must give without ceasing. It is the flow of love that heals us, that binds every wound, and that gives us the joy and peace that mere survival cannot give. It is only through the flow of loving that we are fully human, fully alive – that we are fulfilled as the beings that we eternally are: images of God.

May all of us open our minds and our hearts to receive the love of God and, by so receiving, let us all be good stewards and give fully, wholeheartedly, of what we are being given. Let us give fully to God and not let the fear of the unknown or the limits of mere practicality impede the gift. This is how it should be. If what we call love is to really be love, then there can be nothing partial or part-time about it – no stops, no dams. By allowing God’s love to flow, we become beings who are loving all of God’s Creation, loving every thing, tiny or gargantuan, and loving everyone – because God does.

 

© Christina Chase 2014

All Rights Reserved

Giveth of His Bread

Pureness of heart…

Proverbs 22:9, 11

He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his bread to the poor.

He that loveth pureness of heart, for the grace of his lips the king shall be his friend.

After 40 years of living, I finally feel like I’m starting to come into my own. What does that mean? It means that I have discovered my own particular passion, my own particular talent, and my own particular voice. Not my own because I have created it for myself or given it to myself, and not my own because I possess it as a kind of thing – but, rather, my own because this passion, talent, and voice has been given uniquely to me and I, recognizing the gift, am finally allowing myself to receive it. Perhaps, I have learned to be more humble and to accept the goodness of the gift – even if it doesn’t meet the height of my expectations.

For, of course, I want to be on fire, masterful, and highly desirable to others. I am burning – but with a deeper heat, like a coal glowing more intensely, slowly. I am honing my craft – though my blade be but flint, I am working its edge. And I am inspiring – perhaps this is the most difficult fact of my life to accept. Every writer wants, naturally, to have an influence on others with his or her words. I have already done that on a very small, individual scale, inspiring one person to one particular thought. This is not how I dreamed of changing the world… but, perhaps, this is exactly how the world does get changed. And what I need to remember, and am beginning to accept fully, is that my own heart is as inspirational as the way I use words. In fact… it is my heart that does the inspiring – my words merely express my heart.

And when my words truly express my heart, the deepest core of my being, then they are my true voice, the product of my true talent, the reason for my true passion. Excelling at this doesn’t mean that I will become a best-selling author. It’s great to aim high and shoot for the moon, but not at the expense of the pureness of my heart. Of course… I can see this as a way of copping out, my little exit clause that gets me out of serious and hard work. I could just say, “Oh, the world won’t understand my authenticity because I am too pure and too deep for it – but that’s okay, for it’s better to be a saint in obscurity than a sinner on the public stage, so I will remain unedited in the shadows” and blah blah blah, all la-ti-da like that. This is exactly the understanding that I am coming to: I need to seriously work on my craft, put in the hours, make hard decisions, and then brave the world’s opinions – and my focus needs to be, not only on the style of my words, but also, most essentially, on the truth of my words. If I am not clean of heart, then I will not glimpse the divine. And what, then, is my life? For “… the life of man is the vision of God.”[1]

My Maker, the Creator and Master of the universe, has envisioned my life in a particular and brilliant way and has given me the passion, talent, and voice to fulfill that vision. Will I? Or will I waste the time given to me looking for something else?

Most of the time, I feel like I have already wasted 25 years. In high school, I knew that I wanted to be a writer – I knew that I am supposed to be a writer – and I was offered tools to help me toward that end. But I did not use them as I should have. Was it laziness that held me back or sheer procrastination? I know that I have a tendency toward both. Or was it perfectionism (a grave type of pride from which I suffer) and subsequent fear that made me dither and drag my feet, afraid that I would not be as good as I wanted to be?

My hope is that I simply wasn’t ready back then. I wasn’t ready back then because my heart was unclean and I didn’t know the truth of who I am. Back then, my passion was to use beautiful words to share profitable stories and to create my own immortality that way. I wanted my voice to be famous and to receive the crowd’s praise as they valued my work as important. Now, I’m not going to lie and say that I don’t want that anymore. But, what I desire now is a singleness of purpose – a single-heartedness – an exquisitely deep gleaning of myself, to bring forth what is good and true and beautiful in me, God-given, and share it with my fellow human beings. I wish that I had used the time up until this point to, at least, fine-tune my vocabulary, grammar, and ability to hold an audience. That would’ve been helpful to me right now. But, I am here and I’m serious about getting all of it right – not perfect, not award-winning – but right, in that the person who my Maker envisioned is fulfilled.

Although I had always thought that I have a high self-esteem, I’m beginning to see my past self evaluation as vanity. Truly in vain. Now… now that I have opened up myself, my life, to see the fullness of who I am, the fullness of reality, and am devoted to being fully human, fully alive, now I understand how I am beautiful and why I am talented. Only the pureness of my heart yields forth a bountiful eye and grace of voice.

 

© Christina Chase 2014

All Rights Reserved

 

[1] St. Irenaeus