Tag Archives: Bible

In the Midst of Wolves

The world can be scary.

Matthew 10:16

Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.

 

Someone who is healthy, fit and strong can take care of herself. She is self-sufficient, working a job to earn money for food, clothing, shelter – and fun, too. She can get herself to and from work and wherever else she might like to go, she can feed herself, dress herself, and keep her body maintained, as well as her housing. She does not need to depend on anyone particular, as she is a fully functioning part of society.

But, someone who is not healthy, fit or strong cannot take care of herself. She is completely and directly dependent upon others for food, clothing, shelter – for survival. She has no money with which to buy the things that she needs and, even if she did, she cannot physically put the food in her mouth, put the clothes on her body, or even move from one point to another. If she were to be alone without another human being for more than two days, she would die. I know because this is a description of me.

And it’s scary.

The only reason that I am not scared every day is that the little world of my family is a loving and gentle place. My loved ones are not wolves. They do not prey upon me in my vulnerability, but, rather, pray for me. They are not heartless and careless, but, rather, thoughtful and attentive. They are not selfish and stingy, but, rather, kind and generous. My parents are living examples of sacrificial love – willing to give up their own time, energy, resources, and even physical comfort for my sake, so that I may survive and even thrive. I am grateful every moment of every day for them, without end.

But…. They are getting older.

After 30 years of taking care of my physical needs all by themselves, we began getting assistance from home health aides a few hours a day, 2 to 5 days a week. Right now, it’s four days a week for a total of 11 hours – assuming no one calls out. I won’t say that it’s easy having strangers come and give me personal care. It’s a lot like, “Hi, I’m Christina. Would you like to see my bum?” But, although the women who come start off as complete unknowns, after getting to know each other we usually like each other and get along very well. In fact, although I have had many aides for only one day, those that last longer have been good people, genuine caregivers, no wolves among them. Although, sometimes one might be a little rough or another a little sloppy, they generally give adequate care and sometimes even more than adequate.

The problem is that they are not my loved ones. I cannot completely depend upon them because they have their own lives. If my parents suddenly can’t take care of me because of their own health issues, none of them will jump into the 24/7 care. Right now, my mother is unable to take care of me because of her severely injured back. It’s all upon my dad… who woke up from back pain himself this morning. And with one of my home health aides unavailable for much of the summer, the other one has had to fill in – even though she herself has back problems and I know that I am breaking her, too.

And that’s when I think about the world in which I live, my own helplessness, and how scary it all is.

I don’t want to go into a nursing home. What fully cognitive person of 40 would? Yet I know that this is my ultimate fallback. And, truly, I am grateful to live in a society where someone like me will always be taken care of physically, one way or another. We are not such a cruel and heartless people that we will allow the most vulnerable citizens of our country to perish because of disability. Well, so far we aren’t. So far, so good. I know that I might very well end up in a nursing home one day, and I know that it will scare me. Yes, physically, I would be in fatal trouble if I were without another human being for more than a day (dehydration is very serious for such a small, fragile body as mine) but, mentally, I would not make it more than an hour without another human being within earshot. I have a terrible, paralyzing phobia of not being able to be heard. Even a few minutes without someone responding to me makes me realize how utterly and completely helpless I am and I just freak out. The wolfish fears of my mind have the power to devour me.

You know how believers always profess to love and trust in God? I do that. I profess to love God and to want to give my whole self to God, and to let Divine Will, not my will, be done. But do I really mean it? My test is this: if something horrible happened to my parents and sister and I had to live in a nursing home with nurses and aides who begrudgingly looked after my survival needs but who were not kind, who were mean – if this was my life, would I still love God? Would I still thank God every day that I am alive? Would I still be the accepting, joyful and loving person that I am? Sometimes, I let the full terror of this scenario fall upon me, the dark misery of it, and my deep, deep answer is: Yes. That’s what commitment is. That’s what faith is. I will love and serve God no matter what, no matter how painful, no matter how horrifyingly difficult it may be to live up to my beliefs. I will not betray my love!

But I pray that I will not be put to the test!

The truth is that everyone everywhere is vulnerable. We, as human beings, are all dependent in some way. First of all, of course, we are dependent upon God for existence itself. Then, we are dependent upon the created order, upon the earth and the resources of earth, for our survival. And let’s not forget our absolute dependency in the womb, as well as our dependency upon adults in our infancy and early childhood. Our dependency continues – even if we are physically healthy, fit and strong, for it is rare to find a hermit who does not receive something from someone or a self-sufficient survivalist who has not hoarded up a collection derived from others’ work. And we know that the world can be a rough place. Getting employment and housing can be difficult, living in a safe neighborhood is never a guarantee. There are thieves and liars and murderers everywhere that humans live. And even the kindest, gentlest people can be victims of horrendous crimes. We are often sheep among wolves.

So, what are we to do? We are to remain gentle. We are to be loving and kind, selfless and generous. But, we don’t want to be mindless. To be thoughtful is to think of others as they are – beloved children of God who do not always live up to the divine image in which they are created. Sometimes, people turn away from their humanity and become ravenous in their self-centeredness, using up others and tossing them away. We must be mindful of that. But we must not harden our hearts against them. We must never seek to give them a taste of their own medicine – for then we would become vicious ourselves. No, rather, we must be smart and use reason to work around people’s tendencies toward evil acts. If I end up in a nursing home, I will know to use my sweetness, my patience and understanding in a very obvious and outward way, so as to disarm people in their brisk harshness and unthinking. I will use my wits to discover their vulnerabilities – and I will have true sympathy. I will do my best to become a friend to them – and then they will be more willing to be a friend to me. And if this doesn’t work? I will never turn mean myself. I will try my best not to be vicious toward them. Rather, I will accept the fullness of my vulnerability. I will be as harmless as a dove. And perhaps, someday, in some way, this will be for someone a sign of the Holy Spirit.

© 2014 Christina Chase

 

 

 

Arise, O LORD

Psalms 10:12

Arise, O LORD; O God, lift up thine hand: forget not the humble.

We who are weary here, crushed

beneath the burden of our existence in the world,

who cannot lift our heads for the weight of sorrow…

Some of us mutter to ourselves of our own misery,

defeated by the darkness to spurn any talk of light,

so drenched in wallowing are we that only the sharp

cutting of our tongues (and other weapons) upon the happiness of others brings

us any unpained recognition of being alive – and we curse that, too.

And some of us, bowed down with sadness and fatigue,

still cast our sight, like fishing lures, for any bite of hope,

bobbing along the surface, waiting for the nibble of a small comfort, or,

if brave enough, diving into the deep, submerging

the whole breadth of our brokenness into the ocean of divine mercy,

to be swallowed up by a greater being than ourselves,

one that is quick and liquid ready and eternally alive…

 

Rise up, O Lord, and bring with thee from the depth of the waters

all who have given themselves over to faith in the gulf of hope,

all who have sunk down in their littleness and plunged into their wounds

so they may seek and discover the love that abides there –

not their own miseries, but thy joy and thy triumph!

Lift thy hand, oh God, and with it, the multitudes

who, in their weeping and wretched afflictions,

did not spurn thy name, nor destroy thy images,

nor deny the gift of hope though the world made a mockery,

but who, rather, cast into the deep and trusted thee in the swim.

 

The One who lit the stars and set them in motion,

who pulls the tides with light-reflecting orbs,

and teems the earth and every body with the rush of life,

this is the One from whom I draw my living

and in whom I will pour all my tears and laughter and blood –

though the world forsake me and taunt me with their miseries,

I shall not be overcome… for I am already drowning in love.

 

© 2014 Christina Chase

 

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

 

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

And Every Tree Therein

By the one who has created me, am I fulfilled.

Isaiah 44:23-24

Sing, O ye heavens; for the LORD hath done it: shout, ye lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel.

Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself;

I did not make this beautiful Maple tree that stands amid the grasses, its secret roots buried in the earth, its winsome branches flourishing toward the sky. Nor do I make my home among its limbs, nor take my sustenance from its bark, nor slake my heated body within its shade. I gaze upon the loveliness of the tree, delighting in its shape and form and the myriad intricacies of its lush and verdant leafing, its dark and curving limbs sublime.

Perhaps I am the one who first caught it, as a seed, as it flew downward upon its single wing from the parent tree. Round and round it whirled, spinning like a dervish, mindless of its surroundings, its beauty embryonic, waiting to unfold. Perhaps I am the one who split open the earth with my fingers and tucked in the Maple seed, hoping for and envisioning the great unfurling growth to come. Perhaps, then, I feel a relationship, sense an ownership of this tree that has taken root in the spot that I chose. But, the tree is not owned, regardless of whatever documents or boundaries humans may draw up. The tree does not relate to me as owner, friend, or kin and owes me absolutely nothing. The parent tree itself has no further relationship, no more than any growing thing has with another. For neither the parent nor I brought the Maple into being.

This tree was first envisioned, its growth first optimistically planned, its beauty first enjoyed, by none other than the one who set the sun to shine and every star in the heavens. With a silent word and a motionless movement, this tree, those grasses, that cloud, these birds, this sky, this earth, and I were created from nothing; a spatial matter allowed to exist because it was willed to be, unfolding from density to diversity through the eons of newly recognized time, stopping for nothing and nobody. Until the day that I can see this tree is here. And as I gaze upon its loveliness and delight in the wonder of its dark and curving, its green and fluttering, its strong and delicate, its deep and reaching shape and form, time is not recognized nor are the boundaries and definitions that we humans draw up. There is beauty here, and life. A past, a present, and a future, here in this now that is eternal in this clear moment of seeing, this moment of awe.

I did not make you, beautiful tree. You were created by the one who is uncreated and your fulfillment is in your being just as you were created to be. Nothing less and nothing more will bring you greater worth. Your flesh may or may not be used for building shelter or burning heat; your flowing blood may or may not be sucked up, or drawn out and boiled down, for sweet eating. Yet, you will be you. Whether symmetrical or crooked by the situation of your growing, you were chosen to exist – you were loved into being by Being and, so, you are always beautiful in the very truth of your existence. Should I never have seen you, should no human eyes ever have rested upon your living form, your life would have been beheld by the Ever Living One, the one who delights most in you, and, therefore, you will always be fulfilled. For trees have not the legs with which to run away from the truth, nor the lips with which to deny reality… you are your endless song of praise and thanksgiving.

Not like me. With mind to wander and will to obscure, I wrench my roots from out of love and pull down my branches lest they reach for the unreachable. I claim that I am a realist, my feet firmly on the ground without my head in the clouds – but I am a fool. The truth is given me, ultimate reality is here – yet I too often refuse to receive, refuse to see, what is eternal, what is unseeable, what is the beauty of this tree.

 

© Christina Chase

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The LORD Hath

Psalms 6:9

The LORD hath heard my supplication; the LORD will receive my prayer.

We send a thought into the universe

and believe the higher power receives the transmission

and gives us back what we send out.

Am I then a frequency?

Bouncing off of poles and satellites,

a ricochet of myriad messages in waves of pulse

are we, creatures with minds?

Creatures of minds… but the mind a series of synaptic flashes

that are no flashes of brilliance, really, but, rather,

biological secretions of fluids and chemicals in the brain;

mechanical transfers of the parts of life, life to life being merely multiplication: the universe?

Energy is the movement of matter? Or is matter no matter, but actually energy?

And where does the moving begin? Like a billiard ball struck by a cue that

strikes another ball and another, atomic particles divide and scatter because…

Because…?

There is an unmoved mover that is not the universe.

There is an uncaused cause that is not matter-ial, yet is the opposite of immaterial.

Do I set the things of my life in motion?

Do a butterfly’s wings cause a monsoon?

Yet where did it all begin?

Infinite universes of infinite matter with infinite possibilities in parallel?

Am I the butterfly? Or am I the petal borne on the wind?

Or… beyond my thoughts and imaginings… beyond myself…

beyond my flesh and blood, beyond all matter and detectable energy…

am I being loved…

 

Every thought and imagining,

every person, every particle,

every body of mind and heart and strength is

being loved….

It is we who receive.

And every hope, every fear, every prayer, every moment,

is being loved….

Does an element cease to be an element when it is compounded?

Does the sky cease to be the sky on a mountaintop

or in a cave? Is the universe no less the universe in a grave?

What is in and throughout, what is above and below and all through is

being loved….

How can a thought be lost when it is being loved?

How can a supplication be unheard when it is being loved?

How can an offering not be accepted when it is being loved?

How can a spurning not be forgiven when it is being loved?

How can the feet run away from the feet, how can the lips kiss the lips,

how – unless we shut off love?

The bowl in the pouring rain is overflowing full –

unless it is turned upside down.

Before the uncreated creator I stand, I kneel, I lay me down,

with the begging bowl of my heart open and upright, ready to be full,

for I am being loved….

 

I am not a beacon or a signal and the universe is not my maker,

for I am not crafted parts manipulated into a sum to immaterially transmit into

the hum of the universe for the sake of matter-ial return. I am

being loved….

 

The question is – am I allowing myself to be loved?

have I shut off love or am I open? have I turned upside down in this matter-ial world?

I am being loved – am I being loving?

Love is the Absolute Truth and only error denies Love.

Only willfully relentless error chops off the feet and burns off the lips

and deludes the mind with immaterial singing and dancing.

© 2014 Christina Chase

All Rights Reserved

Every Man That Hath This Hope

Does hope purify?

1 John 3:3

And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.

Dozens of people have been murdered in the United States, in the last 18 months, by young men on killing rampages. When teenage boys killed their fellow students at a high school in Colorado in 1999, our country was shocked and appalled. But, this wasn’t the first mass killing in a school. And it wouldn’t be the last. About a year and a half ago, the murders of little children at Sandy Hook Elementary terrified and enraged us again. Just this week, a killer shot and murdered a student and shot a teacher at a school in Oregon, and then ended up dead himself. There seems to be an epidemic. It’s even worse than you might remember – take a look at this timeline starting from 1984: http://timelines.latimes.com/deadliest-shooting-rampages/ Men from the ages of 55 to 11, most of them under 30, have made the decision to seek out human beings and kill them, arming themselves for the rampage, wanting to destroy their lives. Sometimes they commit suicide directly. Sometimes it’s almost a matter of suicide by police. None of them get away. Why do they want to do this?

Why?

Why???

The President of the United States has said, in light of the most recent killing, “this is not normal.” But isn’t “normal” a relative word? Certainly we would agree with the president’s assessment, I mean, it’s kind of a no-brainer to call this “not normal” – but isn’t it becoming normal? For some people in our country, perhaps for some young men who live just down the street, these killing sprees look like the exact right thing to do – they look perfectly and brilliantly normal to them. For me, the most chilling murder by young men is one that hits close to home, literally. And, I think, it points to a reason why the abnormal is becoming normal.

In 2009, in the small town of Mont Vernon, four seemingly normal young men, ages 17-20, took a drive, armed with knives and a machete, looking specifically for someone to kill. Anyone. They broke into a home in the woods and found a woman and her 11-year-old daughter sleeping there. They brutally and viciously stabbed, slashed, and hacked the woman to death, hacking away at the little girl as well, so violently that they not only smashed bones but also hacked bones into pieces. The little girl only survived by playing dead. Why did these four boys do such a thing?

No, they were not mentally ill. They wanted to know what it was like to kill people. One of these boys, even after the fact, thought that this was cool. The four of them had called themselves the “Disciples of Destruction” and enjoyed violent music and images. In an article on CrimeLibrary.com, Michael A. Washburn writes, “Like many suburban kids with too much time on their hands, the “Disciples of Destruction” were drawn together by a shared fascination with the cultures of death and mayhem.” When Judge Abramson sentenced one of the killers to life in prison with no parole (the harshest penalty allowable) +76 consecutive years, she said to him that she wanted “to ensure that you stay in that cage for the rest of your pointless life.”

His pointless life. Indeed. I think that’s exactly the point.

Many of these serial killers who do all their murdering in one rampage were, I’m quite sure, mentally ill. But, people who think that other people are not worth anything, people who want to feel the thrill of killing, are not necessarily mentally ill. We, as a nation of people, absolutely have to get together and truly help people among us who are suffering from mental illness. We need effective ways to find them and treat their illnesses. But this won’t be enough. Just as banning or regulating guns won’t be enough (as the Mont Vernon attack shows). As these killings more and more become the new normal, we have to be aware that there are young men among us whose lives are pointless, who have no positive direction, who are drawn to darkness and destruction – who have no hope.

What are we, as a society, offering them? Meeting beautiful women in bars, drinking alcohol, getting laid, playing video games, and putting up with a crappy job with a jerk for a boss so that they can afford the beer, the games, and maybe a hot set of wheels? Isn’t this the ideal life of a twentysomething? And, no, the answer isn’t to provide better jobs – Please! Is no one listening? Is no one watching what young men are watching, hearing what young men are hearing? Frankly, I can see why some are rejecting “normal” behavior. I can see why young men might want to neither become couch-sitting gamers with five kids from three nagging baby mamas nor workaholics with professional prestige and empty, materialistic lives. I also see why some would not want to be neatly dressed, mild-mannered fathers-of-two, whose biggest excitement is an enthusiastic “Amen!” on a Sunday or the thrill of an amusement park ride once a year. Is this really all we’ve got? Have we nothing of real value to offer?

Meaningful relationships. Yes, that’s a start. But… what do relationships mean? Working with their hands to create something solid that actually helps real people. Yes, that’s good, too. Are you making your sons do that? If you are, are you making them do it so that they can be “nice”? If so, it’s not going to work. Nice ain’t gonna cut it. Real love is the only thing that makes a relationship meaningful. Real love is the only reason to build improvements for other people’s lives. And real love is the only thing, the only thing, that keeps our lives from being pointless.

No, I’m not going to blame the parents. Unless, that is, we, as a society, are the parents. It does take a village to raise a child, because often the parents can’t do it by themselves, either because they are too busy, too ignorant, or too wounded themselves to know what real love is. So… What is real love?

Let’s take the qualities that the young killers at Mont Vernon were attracted to: courage, bravery, honor in brotherhood, something different than ho-hum-get-through-the-day, the newness of discovery, the experience of something hands-on, pushing themselves beyond where they had ever been before. Yes, I know, even I’m feeling kind of disgusting writing down those words in light of what they did with their desires. But, now, take those qualities to the classroom. Now they don’t seem so chilling, but, rather, exhilarating and exactly right. Take those natural desires of young people to the home and give them a direction in which to go. A path to take that is beyond ordinary. Help them to love something, really love something. I don’t mean a particular someone – how many murders have been committed because a young boy put all of his energies into one girl? I mean a love of nature, a love of construction, a love of science, a love of arts – poetry, music, performance arts, literature, painting, sculpture, photography, film, etc. – a love of travel, a love of commerce, a love of sports (maybe, at least they won’t have “time on their hands”) a love of community. Teach them not to look down on other people. Teach them that we are all interconnected. Teach them that every human being has – that they have – inherent value that no one and nothing can take away. Teach them about the human soul! Every human longs for something more! Don’t misinterpret, and therefore stifle, that longing to mean more money, more clothes, more accolades, more excitement, more thrills. The something more for which we all long is Something More. Something more infinite than the outer reaches of space-time… Something more intimate than the inner depths of feelings. Infinite and intimate love that calls for courage in making new discoveries and bravery in giving of ourselves completely; infinite and intimate love that doesn’t merely help us get through the day but pushes us beyond ourselves to the sharing of that infinite and intimate love – real love.

I know that I can’t change the world. And I certainly know that these words are too abstract to be translated into any concrete action. But, we seriously need to take a look at hope in our country. (Not the kind of hope that’s marketed and branded by politicians, who are too narrow-minded in their understanding of hope, and who invariably disappoint anyway by getting bogged down in politics, selfishness, or even just the practical, and lose sight of the big picture – lose sight of Something More.) Every person is unique and has unique gifts for the building up and the giving of life. Every person is loved into being – hope in that. There’s the point. No person is worthless. No matter how bored, how small, or how voiceless. A culture of life would understand this. A culture of life would make decisions out of real love and not out of fear or hopelessness. But… ours isn’t a culture of life, is it.

Christina Chase ©2014

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