Tag Archives: Religion and Spirituality

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

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

All Rights Reserved

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

Them That Love Me

Who loves God? (Hands shook up in the air amid choruses of “Oo, oo, I do! I do!”)

Exodus 20:6

And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

(Weird! I promise you, even though this verse is the one directly after the verse I received last week, it, like the other, WAS RANDOMLY GIVEN to me! Freaky weird. But, I guess that is true randomness… or perhaps divine providence…. Anyway…)

Who can we say really, truly loves God? Perhaps some may think of the Pope or a very pious nun, others of a peaceful and devout Imam or a deeply spiritual Rabbi or a wise and generous Lama – or an innocent, joyful child or that elderly person you know who has given so much of his or her life to taking care of other people and serving the local community of worship. The ones who love God, we can say, are the people of peace and charity, of forgiveness and goodwill, of compassion and joy, who are steadfast in their faith, unwavering in their hope, and self-giving in their love, people of deep prayer and spiritual belief. Of whom does the question make you think?

I don’t usually recommend thinking of other people when a question is asked or a teaching is given – usually, I try to apply the question or teaching to myself so that I won’t get caught up in pointing fingers. But, in this case, I believe that it is good if, when hearing the question “Who loves God?”, our minds instinctively go to other people whom we believe to be most worthy of a title such as “One Who Loves God”. Otherwise, we might be too full of pride. I do consider myself as one who loves God and would even gladly identify myself in this manner. But… I know that loving is not something that one merely feels or even chooses by assenting in a kind of intellectual way. Loving must be lived. We love, not only with our thoughts and words, but also with our actions, our souls – we love with the entirety of our beings. So, I ask myself, with my whole life, with my every living moment: do I love God?

In the Bible Burst that I wrote just previously to this one, I explored the question of who hates God. My ultimate answer, which I realize now is very startling and seemingly harsh, was that anyone who hates a human being hates God. I stand by that statement. Truly, because I believe that every human being is created in the image and likeness of God and loved by God, I believe that if I hate another person – or even hate myself – I am despising God, upon whose image and likeness I am directing my hatred. Yes, humans are capable of the most vile, willful cruelty and disgusting acts of evil – but no one, no human being is irredeemable to God so long as he or she has a functioning will. Any person, no matter how viciously minded, can choose at any moment to change. A mass murderer can want to do good and, in the course of exercising some small mercy, may come to see his murderous deeds as wrong and experience true remorse and repentance. This is the start of one who hated God journeying toward reconciliation with God and it is a gift that God gives to everyone.

We must want this journey of mercy for every mean hearted person if we are truly going to be people who love God. We must hope and pray for the conversion of all sinners – especially of the worst and certainly including ourselves. If we truly love God then we will want what God wants – and God wants every one of his beloved human beings to know mercy, to know love, to know faith and hope. And how can they know unless they are told, unless they are shown? And who will it be that shows them? Are we waiting for God to take care of it with lightning bolts or plagues or a visiting host of heavens angels? God wants us to love one another and sends us to the needy (those who suffer from the poverty of love and mercy and hope) and to the imprisoned (those who are captives to greed and vengeance and selfishness) to bring hope of salvation, which is the gift of God’s love. We, created in God’s image, are to minister to our fellow divine images, especially to those who may have lost the loving brilliance of their identities. It is a privilege, an honor, and a blessing to be able to show the Light of the World to those living in darkness – showing the radiance of the Light by reflecting it with our souls. For, Divine Love shines forth through us in our every act of true love – “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”[1]

So, again, I ask myself if I really, truly love God. Only God knows the truth of my heart. Only God can see with infinite clarity the brilliance of my soul – and know whether or not I have sullied it with hate.

 

Christina Chase

All Rights Reserved

 

 

[1] Romans 10:15

Them That Hate Me

Cycles of violence … Who hates God?

Exodus 20:5

Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

Who hates God? The easy answer that comes to mind might be atheists. But, of course, a true atheist doesn’t believe in the existence of God – how can someone hate something that doesn’t exist? Satanists are another group of people that we could point to and say that they hate God. Certainly with their creed, their words and their rituals, they seek to align themselves with the mystical enemy of God and eschew all things upright and wholesome. But… I would wager that most Satanists in action, in the world and in their families, are no less destructive and unwholesome than some who profess to believe in God. Oh, there are certainly Satanists who choose evil deeds, who hate and curse and torture and kill. But, are there not God believing people who do the same, calling on a different name?

How many Muslims, how many Christians, how many peoples throughout history around the world have preached and practiced acts of violence and cruelty in the name of their gods? Enough to make a person think about wanting to be an atheist – indeed, some want-to-be influential people, like Bill Maher, for one example, blame all the wars that humans have fought on religion. However, in all truth and reason, we can clearly see that wars arise from ideologies – which often claim no god. Stalin’s communist regime was one of the most brutal in history and he did not systematically kill for the honor of any god, for he was an atheist. He was vicious and destructive for himself, for power and greed (maybe even for his own amusement) for the sake of his way of looking at things, his ideology. And is that not the true cause of every war? Is not the real reason humans are bent on cruelty and domination that they want to be? Wars are fought by individual soldiers in trenches and on front lines who may very well have loving reasons for being there – but wars are instigated and created by people who want what they want and will gladly have killed or destroyed anyone who they think gets in the way. Even smaller-scale acts of violence – the cold-blooded murder of a girlfriend, the rape of a stranger, the lethal shooting of a dozen kids in a school – are not caused by religion. Man’s cruelty to man has nothing to do with the love and worship of God.

The people who hate God are the people who hate other people. For every person is created in God’s image. If you hate anyone in the world – even if you hate the most horrible and vilest of persons – you hate God. We often think that it is right and good to hate evil doers. We laud all talk of destroying the enemies of freedom and justice. Although it is true that anyone who is an enemy of true freedom and true justice is choosing to go against the ways of God, if we choose to hate that hate-filled person, then we, too, are choosing to go against God’s ways. Christ said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” God does not close off divine mercy from anyone – and neither should we. For, if we are to live as we were created to live, we must strive to do as God does and struggle to walk in the ways of mercy and selflessness – of real love.

Yes, people do horrendous things and claim to do them for the love of God – but that’s not really love. Or, perhaps more accurately, that’s not really God. It’s very easy to think of God as meting out pain and vicious punishment on those who would seek to go against Him. The Bible has many, many verses that tell of God’s wrath and vengeance and the hurt He puts upon His enemies. In the verse from Exodus 20, about the Commandment against worshiping false idols God says, “I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand [generations] of those who love me and keep my commandments.” What we often think of as God’s willfully wrathful punishment, however, is, I believe, simply the natural consequences of our own willfully wrathful choices. Do we not know that violence begets violence and those who live by the sword die by the sword? Do we not see the rational truth of this in the world, even in our everyday lives? It doesn’t mean that the One and Almighty God will smite anyone who seeks to worship through a religion other than the one and only one prescribed by Him. If it did, God might welcome arguments that escalate into violence about which religion is the true religion – but, God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” God gives us freewill and allows us to freely choose, pouring His love and mercy upon each and every one of us, relentlessly. That loving mercy can feel like eternal pain to those who never want to receive it, not even in the last moments of their lives; or it can feel like eternal sunshine and grace to those who long for the forgiveness and love of God.

If a child is taught to hate by his parents, he will usually become a hater. If his child, then, is taught to destroy the hated ones, then he will usually become destructive. The person in the family who first chose, in freewill, to hate a human being or human beings, who first saw cruel domination as a good, set up a cycle of hate, a cycle of violence, that is, as we know, very difficult to break. But, then, there are those people who willfully choose to have mercy. Though, sometimes, they are punished by the hating people, their acts of kindness and selflessness do not go unseen. Their true love, that choice to walk in divine ways, inspires others for generations upon generations upon generations… as are the saints of old, and new, ever inspiring, ever celebrated even after 2000, 5000 years. And their individual lives do not end with the death of their limited bodies, their self-centered thinking, as do the lives of those who hate God by hating human beings – the lives of those who love God by selflessly loving human beings are as eternally beautiful as the Beautiful One, Who Is Eternal Love.

 

Christina Chase

All Rights Reserved

 

Departed

I would like to say that I am innocent… But I am not.

Psalms 18:21

For I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God.

When I was nine years old, I was a thief. Not only did I steal gulps of wine with my friend from the kitchen (warm alcohol in a Mickey Mouse tumbler) and grams of chalk dust from the school gym supply (folding it up in some paper and sticking it inside my wheelchair while waiting for the short bus to come and take me home) and various small things – construction paper, carbon, broken chalk – that I wanted and I judged no one would miss… but I also stole knowledge. At the end of third grade, I was allowed to stay inside with my friend Beth for recess one day and we decided to open our teacher’s desk drawer and find that secret list. A secret list existed near the close of every school year with the names of the teachers that each student would receive the next year. We all wanted to know what classroom we would end up in – would we get our favorite teacher, would our friends be with us? But, that information, as I recall, was never shared until the summer. Beth and I didn’t want to wait. We wanted to know.

If memory serves, I was the one who instigated and told Beth to do it. Being physically limited, I was used to “bossing people around”. Not only did we find out who we would have for teachers, but also who our friends, and people with whom we would like to be friends, were going to have. Before the end of the school day, we whispered the secrets to everyone that we could. Eventually, other kids in other classrooms let it slip that they knew – and when asked where they had heard the news, directed authorities to Mrs. B’s class. Mrs. B made us all put our heads upon our desks until the guilty party, or parties, confessed the crime. I did not raise my head. I did not say a word. And neither did Beth. Mrs. B couldn’t keep us there forever, we had to go home. But, as we were lining up to leave, a boy in my class told Mrs. B that I was the one who had told him, that I was the one who had stolen the list. My teacher looked down at me and I looked up at her with my big brown eyes. I remember myself mumbling something about Beth, ready to throw her under the bus – we really weren’t that close anyway – but Mrs. B had poor hearing. She just regarded me through her glasses, her bright red lips extra thin and tight. But, then her face softened. She didn’t believe the boy. She didn’t believe that I could do something so wrong. To her, and to most everyone as I would find out in my life, I was an innocent.

Indeed, this may seem like a small and innocent offense – what real harm was done? But, the harm was to my classmates who were all under the shadow of suspicion, for that afternoon with their heads down in the dark and silence, and, for all I know, for the rest of Mrs. B’s life. And the harm was done to my relationship with Beth, for we never did get close. Perhaps she overheard my mumbled ratting or perhaps the guilt was just too much for me. And the greatest harm, I know, was to myself. For I showed myself, in this incident, my true colors. Thievery was easy to me and I honestly felt no guilt about that. I was even proud. Proud that me, who everyone thought was a little angel in a wheelchair, could commit such an act that got the whole third-grade buzzing. The fact that I so blatantly got away with it just added to my happiness over the whole event. But… what I was willing to do to Beth… how I was willing to hide behind the cloak of innocence with which my wheelchair draped me while pointing my finger at her…. this is not only a crime against someone whom I considered a friend, this was, and I say this most seriously, a crime against God. Sneaky, deceptive, smarmy, and proud of myself, I was bolstered up for many years by the memory of this robbed knowledge.

It was not merely the ignorant act of a child. For, was there not some innocence in Eve when she simply wanted to gain wisdom, as I simply wanted to know? And, was there not also pride and greed at grasping for something higher than herself, to put herself at the level of a superior? And was there not shameful finger-pointing, a desperate attempt to inflict any punishment that she deserved away from herself and onto a co-conspirator? Wasn’t Adam, too, guilty of this last crime, this greatest crime: willfully inflicting harm upon another in an attempt to hide from the consequences coming justly to oneself?

To escape justice, the first humans had to hide themselves from one another – to hide themselves from God. But… there is no hiding from God. And don’t I know that, too! Knowledge thief that I am, did I not dare to proclaim that there is no such thing as God and devote myself entirely to a godless life with myself as the center of a meaningless universe? No, I never committed murder in that life – although I did strangle my soul’s promptings and suffocate my own spiritual nature. I did not steal – but I had already hijacked my own reason. And I did not commit adultery or anything like that – although I did desecrate the temple of my body. I broke the ways of the Lord by departing from my God. From truth. From real love. From life itself. And though this willful act was not committed through wickedness, I was still far from the truth of my identity as a being lovingly Created in divine image; I had banished myself far from the tree of life and the reality of reality.

Forever east of Eden, we thieves of knowledge go –
and the innocent truth of who we really are, we can’t get to know.
There, but for the grace of God, would I, ever seeking, lie;
it’s grace that’s brought me home again… I cannot hide from I.

Christina Chase

 

With Open Face Beholding

Lord, change me, make me new. Make me like you! – the plea of the sunflower.

2 Corinthians 3:17-18

Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the LORD.

Sunflower

There is a flower in my garden which is named for the sun. In appearance, much like the sun is she, golden arrayed, burning bright from the center with flaming colors outward spread. But there is more – much more meaning to her identity, because with the sun her whole existence is so lovingly aligned.

She does not mean to mimic or fool by merely sporting appearance – for what bird would dare to perch upon an orb of fire, and, so, what would she have to gain if she would scare away her own propagators, the midwives of her progeny with which she will be so heavy pregnant? She is humble and knows that she is merely a creature bound to the life-giving sun, and by no means desires to be a substitute. Yes, she stands tall and bold, but her height and breadth is but a measure of the depth of her humility, for her only wish, as far as a flower can wish, is to look up to that which she adores. It is the looking up that has raised her. It is the love of heavenly light that has opened wide her green-leafed arms. It is her submission to her Master that has given her flowery majesty.

For, all day long, while the sun shows forth his open face, shining full with glory, her rapturous gaze is all caught up in him. Every minute of every hour that passes, she faithfully follows his path with steadfast love. No matter what may come between them, whether mist or cloud or dark of night, it is him she always seeks, it is him that her hope will always find. Some dark days will fall, when a downpour may weigh her head too heavy to lift, but when the rays of the sun are visible again, the drops will slip from down her sunny cheeks and she will pay them no mind, not even to shake them away. She looks upon the sun again, never having lost him, for she has kept the thought and memory of him, the warmth of the gift that he has given, deep in her heart.

Yes, even when the sun slips over the edge of sight and pulls the veil of night down behind him, she is patient and trusting, and does not collapse in the darkness. Her head she bends down low – but not in despair, for one who loves as she loves can never hold despair – but in ever recognition of where her beloved lives. Though invisible to her petal eyes, her heart is not deceived and senses, with true love’s faith, his presence beneath the surface of the world. And so her vigilant gaze, ever fixed upon its deathless source, follows him as he shines on realms unknown and unseen, far from his touch get ever near to his soul. And when the night is opened slow, with tender, aching rush, the sun’s rays find her ready face, expectant in faith, and she receives anew the outpouring love of him whom she adores.

From this cause, then, is this flower called for the sun. He is her love, her reason, and her destiny. Her blossomy pledge of devotion is her very blossoming – and she is transformed by and into the one whom she loves.

© Christina Chase

In His Integrity

 

What’s left?

Proverbs 19:1

Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity, than he that is perverse in his lips, and is a fool.

“Blessed are the poor…” yes, yes, I know, but I’d like to be rich – who wouldn’t? To live in a beautiful house surrounded by comfort and conveniences and beautiful things, to not have to worry about how I’m going to pay the bills that pile up in front of me, to have nice clothes and cars and delicious foods and to be able to travel wherever I would like or give financial assistance and material help to worthy people in need whenever I am moved to do so – who wouldn’t want to do that? When we think of all the things that money can buy, we think in our minds – and even in our hearts – “Blessed are the rich.”

The stories that we hear about lottery winners always fascinate me. They win huge sums of money by luck and buy all the things that they’ve always wanted to have – and they admit that they aren’t happier. Some spend and live richly while still wisely saving and investing enough money so that they will never have to worry about blowing it all – and they say they were happier before they became rich. Friends and family members become jealous and manipulative, trying to get some of that financial boon for themselves. People everywhere seek them out with tales of woe in hopes of getting charitable contributions. And some, in resentment and also in greed, will make the lottery winners feel guilty if not enough of the winnings are spent upon things that they, the non-winners, believe are important. And then there’s all the stuff – so many things to buy, experiences to purchase, and no extra time in which to enjoy them, no extra heart-space in which to appreciate them. And the stuff has to be taken care of – or the employees hired to take care of the stuff have to be taken care of – it’s a lot of work. Some lottery winners become depressed, some commit suicide. And even the rich who earn their money never seem to be able to get enough of it, are always wanting more. Rich celebrities live glamorous lives – lives of broken relationships, drug abuse, waywardness. But, still… Knowing all this, I would still like to be rich. I would be one of those few who can handle it, who can do wealthy well. Wouldn’t I?

I don’t know. How am I doing with not being wealthy? Am I doing middle-class well? Actually, my parents are middle-class – but they physically take care of me in their home because of my severe disability. I, financially speaking, am poor. In fact, it is rightly said that I am a beggar since I can do no labor, no work inside or outside of the home, to earn my bread. I depend completely upon others for all of my needs for survival. So, to go back to my question – am I doing that well? I think I could handle wealth – but that would only be true if I can handle poverty.

Jesus did not say “Blessed are the financially destitute.” He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” I imagine that “poor in spirit” has been interpreted to mean different things over the centuries through different schools of thought. But, the point I want to make here is that poverty itself – the deprivation of material resources, of those basic needs of survival – is not blessedness. Merely being poor is not going to make one blessed, is not going to make one happy. There are many, many people who do poverty badly. Broken relationships, drug abuse, and suicide affect the poor as well as the rich. (Perhaps, though, we may think it affects the poor more because there are more poor people than rich.) The truth is that selfishness, greed, and unhappiness abound in humanity, no matter how much, or how little, money is ready at hand. If, however, one is “poor in spirit” – well, then, one belongs to the kingdom of heaven. What does that mean?

To be poor in spirit is not to have some kind of solidarity with the poor, that is, feeling deep compassion for them in their plight and helping them however one can by donating time and/or resources. The blessedness, the happiness, comes in truly being poor – in being a beggar. For, what do we have that is truly our own? You can be robbed of possessions. Your house can burn down and your insurance company go bankrupt. You can lose your savings through disastrous investments. You can lose your job or lose your breadwinning spouse and get evicted or have your house foreclosed upon, watch your car get repossessed and sell off your jewelry, your collectibles, your furniture, until you have nothing left. Even that body which you use to earn money and go to the store and enjoy leisurely comfort – even that can lose its functionality through injury or disease. That mind that you use to make sure you have all that you need and with which you appreciate what you have – even that can lose its abilities of cognition and/or memory. And then what is left? All that is left is what has always been, what is eternally: your belongingness to the kingdom of heaven.

Whether rich or poor, if we live our lives separated from our true identities, we will never be truly happy. We were all created by the Uncreated Creator. We all belong to this Infinite/Eternal One. Your true identity, my true identity, is as a living image and likeness of God. But, is that how we live? Or, do we rather live as our own inventions for our own purposes? I’m not talking about altruism here. I’m talking about knowing who you are. You could be blessed by living your life “looking out for number one” and understanding that that most important one is yourself – but do you know who you are? If you think that you are your physical pleasures and enjoyments, then you are always going to miss the mark of blessedness. If you think that you are your accomplishments and achievements, then you will never be fulfilled. If you think that you are the praising people around you, then you will never know true love, true happiness. If you think that you are the weight of your possessions, monuments, and money enjoyed now and left behind as legacy when you are dead, then you are most sadly missing out on the fullness of your one, unique life.

The Uncaused Cause has given you an immortal soul to animate your being – and has given you Godself to restore you to true likeness so that you may know blessedness and know it eternally. Who you truly are is who you are eternally. When passing things pass away, what is left? What has always been and always will be: a beggar. May our begging bowls be open and outstretched toward the Source of Being, the Infinitely Generous One Who truly gives us our fill.

Whether rich or poor, I can be a fool. Better to have no material pleasures to distract me from knowing who I am, then to go about my life as a fool in perversity. May we not choose to live our lives perversely, obstinately desiring to do what is unreasonable – and what is unreasonable is all that is is contrary to who we truly are.

Christina Chase