Sunday, November 28, 2010

Nothing but Jesus

The image inset left is a calligraphic ikon of the Lord's Prayer in Arabic. The islamic prohibition of ikons resulted in a culture just as permeated with calligraphy ikons as the Christian East is permeated with graphic ikons, such as the Pantokrator above. To bridge the gap—and infuriate islamic clerics—Arab converts to modern Christian churches produce calligraphy ikons of bible verses like this one. It even mimics the general layout of the Orthodox ikon. But that's not my topic.

I started watching a music video of an Arab female vocalist singing Psalm 51 in Arabic, but I couldn't get past the instrumental introduction and her singing of the first few verses. Just as I do not attend concerts of Byzantine chant or other music associated with Orthodox worship, I don't attend or watch concerts of any kind of worship music, not even Christmas carols.

Worship is worship, and music as the expression of worship belongs only in the home and in the temple of God, nowhere else. If you carry the temple with you into the world, when you are evangelizing, reading the scriptures and singing the prayers publicly, that is still the temple. When you are teaching the chants and preparing people for worship, that is the home. Really, there is only one place where worship belongs, and it is in the home; the temple is the macro and the family ikon corner the micro, and everything else is in between.
So people were rejoicing that Arab people are finally turning from Islam and finding Jesus, and are now able to worship the true God and sing all those wonderful new pop Christian songs in Arabic, even Psalm 51 can be sung in Arabic by a beautiful female vocalist.

Psalm 51, and any other psalm, is meant for prayer and meditation. Yes, of course, they can be sung, but still, only for worship. The Christian pop worship style and the presentation of music for religious entertainment are both fundamentally opposed to Orthodoxy, which is just biblical Christianity. It's great that Arab people are becoming Christians, but are they exchanging one religion for another, or are they entering into the freedom of the gospel?

Modern pop Christianity, especially pentecostal, makes huge claims for bringing the world to Christ, but the work of evangelism is done by Christ in us, as we witness for Him one day and one person at a time, with attention, care and commitment.
Arab Orthodox Christianity exists in both Greek and Coptic forms, and I have heard Psalm 51 chanted in Arabic by priests and cantors in the Church. Yes, it's beautiful when chanted in the traditional style, but more than beautiful, it calls the heart to prayer, to pray the words as they are heard being chanted.
This is all there waiting for the Arab peoples to rediscover, but many will have to go through the pasteurization process of pop Christianity, and when they're ready, by the mercy of God may they find out who and what the Church of Christ really is. Until then, they're still on a shaky foundation, trusting in human beings and exulting in the flesh while saying they are in the Spirit, and not realizing how they have been misled.
The greatest lies come in the flashiest wrappers and are bought by the most self-centered customers. The choice is always still out there, though, waiting to be made, no matter how we start out in our belief in Christ. You can't be Christ's and the world's friend at the same time. You can't serve two masters. The stronger desire always wins.

Desire nothing but Jesus.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Α και Ω - Alpha and Omega

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,
the Beginning and the End.
Revelation 22:13

Jesus Christ is one Person fully human and fully divine, but as He enters and permeates time, we experience Him as He describes Himself to John the Revelator, as the Beginning and the End. Philosophers and theologians have written volumes about this, but I only want to say a few words about the Good News of Jesus Christ, which I believe also is experienced and works in us as the Beginning and the End.

The Good News “looks” different when it is the Beginning. It is a word that could be written down: The beginning of the Good News about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is written in the book of the prophet Isaiah… (Mark 1:1-2a)

The Good News is a word that could be spoken, that can be preached: Jesus went into Galilee. There He proclaimed the Good News from God. “The time has come,” He said, “and the Kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good News.”
(Mark 1:14b-15)

The Good News as the Beginning is what the Church through the ages and up till today has busied itself with, planting the seed of the Word, laying the foundations for the Kingdom, that which is the Good News as the End. It is just as necessary that the Good News should be the Beginning, as it should be the End. And though there is only one Good News, it “looks” different when it is the End.

The first Christians evangelized the world by bringing to it the Good News, the Beginning: Remember the Good News that I carry, “Jesus Christ risen from the dead, sprung from the race of David.”
(2 Timothy 2:8)

Yet even back then, the Good News, the End, was revealed: For I am not ashamed of the Good News: it is the power of God saving all who have faith. (Romans 1:16a)

The Beginning of the Good News was proclamation such as this:
“Yes, God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not be lost but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

The End of the Good News was demonstration such as this:
This has taught us love—that He gave up His life for us; and we, too, ought to give up our lives for our brothers. (1 John 3:16)

The Good News, the Beginning, consists of transmitting the teaching of Jesus and the story of His saving acts: “I was born for this, I came into the world for this: to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to My voice.” (John 18:37b)

The Good News, the End, consists of Christ living in us and gathering His lambs into the Kingdom: Jesus knew that the hour had come for Him to pass from this world to the Father. He had always loved those who were His in the world, and now He showed how perfect His love was. (John 13:1)

I’m not entirely sure that I have been able to express my meaning well. Let me try again.

The Good News, the Beginning, is doing all the explicit evangelizing, missionary work, church life, everything that lays foundations for the building up of the Kingdom in spirit and truth, which is itself the Good News, the End, of which it is said, it “is close at hand.”

The Good News, the End, is letting Christ in us do that which He alone is capable of doing: “You are the Light of the world. A city built on a hilltop cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp to put it under a tub; they put it on the lampstand where it shines for everyone in the house. In the same way your light must shine in the sight of men, so that, seeing your good works, they may give the praise to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

Our world, our culture, has been irradiated repeatedly and for a very long time with the Word of truth, and yet most people do not accept it, do not accept that Word which alone can save them—Jesus Christ. The same was true in the days of the Roman Empire. Yes, many were “added to their number,” through the preaching of the Good News, the Beginning. But back then, far more were added by their witnessing the holocaust of the martyrs, who went to their deaths without explicit preaching, who were transformed before the world by the love that they had, not only for their brothers, but for their enemies. That was the Good News, the End.

It is the demonstration of the Good News, the End, that is revealing Jesus to the world in this final age, effecting the true ‘end times harvest’ of saints.

Do not keep the prophecies in this Book a secret, because the Time is close. Meanwhile, let the sinner go on sinning, and the unclean to continue to be unclean; let those who do good go on doing good, and those who are holy continue to be holy. Very soon now I shall be with you again, bringing the reward to be given to every man according to what he deserves. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
(Revelation 22:10-13)

Friday, November 26, 2010


If I am truly poor, then I am dependent on others for everything, and I feel useless and worthless, and I realize deep within that everything is a gift from the Father. Then in this attitude of complete dependence, I become useful again, for then I am empty of selfishness and I am free to be God’s instrument instead of my own. In poverty I begin to value everything rightly again. I see how little really matters, and I see that only that which glorifies God is of value.

Ginepro, companion of Francesco of Assisi


For me, Thanksgiving is a time of Memory. Thanking God for where I've been brings memories, one after another, pouring over me till I can hardly see. The more I thank Him, the more I realise I have to thank Him for. I don't know what else Thanksgiving can possibly be, but the world has some use for it, even when it has no God. ‘Thank who?’ I've sometimes dared to ask, and have gotten back a few different answers, usually variations on the theme of ‘Just feel thankful and glad you have what you have, but no need to thank anyone in particular, unless maybe yourself.’ Blindness can be so stubborn.

Having just remembered my mother who reposed this week twenty-four years ago, I want to publish two song lyrics I wrote within a year of her sleeping. Neither one is very good, but both make reference to her and are dear to me. The second one has never been published; the first has been published in my book Living in Luxury. You can download a copy by clicking HERE.

You Knew Better

Oh Mama,
how you looked at us that one last time—
resignation welling up in your eyes like tears.
You sat so calmly at the door in your wheelchair.
You knew better than to cry, you could see so clear.
You followed us with your eyes,
you could feel where
the road was leading us,
and you would meet us there.

How can I forget it—that night.
Finally I remember, your eyes were so bright.
But I didn’t know then,
no, I didn’t know
what it was that shone in them
and through them so.
I didn’t know then, no, I didn’t know.

Oh Mama,
how without a word you put to shame
consolation well-meaning but unneeded now.
You held us tightly to you, then you made us go.
You knew better than us, a door would open somehow.
You sat us down beside you
‘cause you had to share
the treasure in the field
that had come to you.

How can I forget it—that light.
Finally I remember, who gave you sight.
But I didn’t know then,
no, I didn’t know
what it was that shone in them
and through them so.
I didn’t know then, no, I didn’t know.

Oh Mama,
how the memory can make me climb,
revelation well-hidden, wisdom undefined.
You stand in an open doorway in sharp outline.
You know better than to cry, you can see the design.
You follow us with your eyes,
you can fathom when
the road will return us
to our meeting again.

How can I forget it—that night.
Finally I remember, your eyes were so bright.
But I didn’t know then,
no, I didn’t know
what it was that shone in them
and through them so.
I didn’t know then, no, I didn’t know.

1987 August 12

Between the Anvil and the Hammer Blow

Between the anvil and the hammer blow,
oh God, where can this flesh and blood go?
You've held me in the fire and in the snow,
how much I feel, but how little I know.
Hey, Master soul smith, can You hear me crying?
Does this scream that You're beating reach up to You?
Hey Master, soul smith, can You hear me crying?
Can this be dreaming
or is it dying?

Into the mirror and the window pane,
oh Mama, I cast my face and got yours back again.
From the look in your dark eyes I can see the coming rain,
and the turning of the seasons, and the weather vane.
Dear Mama, from your cloud, can you hear me crying?
Can you see what this weathering is doing to me?
Oh Mama, from your cloud, can you hear me crying?
Can this be living
or is it lying?

Camping here a moment just to see you through,
oh brother, what kind of miracle can I do?
Count how many times I've tried to carry you.
In what way, on what day, will I be welcome to you?
And say, have you been listening so long to your crying
that you can't see through to where I'm standing right next to you?
Hey brother, would you please stop now, please stop your crying.
Look what you're missing
and start prophesying.

1987 February 19


It seems to me that I was still living in Edmonton, Alberta, just newly married, still following the ways of the world, and of worldly wisdom, evading the Lord's voice, which was daily becoming more and more recognizable to me, while still hoping for some "alternate Beauty" that gave birth to all being—anything and anybody but the God of Israel—groping for any truth that would still let me be Me.

My latest fascination was with popular Zen, with its entertaining stories of the Zen masters and their riddles to enlightenment, called 公案 kōans, questions they posed which defied rational answer and sought to find resolution in the human intuition. I thought things like this were really profound, "Two hands clap and there is a sound; what is the sound of one hand?" I can hardly believe I was enthralled by such things, even at the age of 22. At least they didn't keep me captivated for long.

A young man needs a mentor, and I still hadn't found one. My old college philosophy and religion prof, Doc Dana, was the closest I'd had so far in my young adult life. I'd loved the man, at least thirty years my senior, and hung on his words though not always understanding them. He wasn't an eloquent speaker, or a forceful speaker. He got his points across with a strange kind of gentleness and with such a twinkle in his eyes that I never even noticed till my third year at his lectures that he had a withered hand, right or left I can't remember. Since leaving college, emigrating to Canada to join a commune, and then having been ejected from it after hardly six months, I got married and tried to live "on the outside," as we used to call it, or "in the world." (New Age communes were and are especially dualistic, matter vs. spirit, like the ancient Gnostics.)

Anyway, I remember myself walking down a broad street and coming to an old used book shop at the corner. I had some time to kill, and in those days I was a fervent book-aholic, so I meandered inside. I always went straight for the "Philosophy / Religion" section, and that day, for some reason my eyes and hand went straight to a little paperback with The Desert Fathers on the spine. I pulled it out, and my eyes fell on the passage I am going to quote. Something told me, "This is the beginning and the end," and I quickly checked my pocket to see if I had the sixty cents it would cost me. I did, I bought the book, and then walked the rest of the way home, reading like there was no tomorrow.

The Desert Fathers became my teachers, easing me out of my New Age arrogance and getting me ready to meet their Lord, who would soon be mine. What I read in this passage and in the rest of the book never left me. Without me consciously choosing, I began to emulate what I read there, attitudes and practices. The authentic profound had discovered itself to me, and my conversion to Christ had begun. These my teachers succeeded Doc Dana, building on the foundation that he so gently and lovingly laid, that old Presbyterian minister.
May his memory be eternal.

Now, from The Desert Fathers, pp. 67-68…

So we came to Nitria; the place most famous among all the monasteries of Egypt, about thirty-seven miles distant from Alexandria, and named after the neighbouring town in which nitre is collected, as though in the providence of God it was foreseen that in these parts the sins of men would be washed and utterly effaced, even as stains by nitre are cleansed. In this place there are about fifty (or not many less) habitations, set near together and under one father, in some of which many brethren live together, in some a few, in some a brother lives alone: but though they be divided in their dwelling, yet do they abide bound and inseparable in spirit and faith and loving-kindness.

So then, as we were drawing near the place, as soon as they knew that strange brethren were coming, straightway they poured out like a swarm of bees, each from his cell, and ran to meet us, joyous and eager, the most part carrying pitchers of water and bread, because the Prophet rebuking certain folk had said, "Ye came not forth to meet the children of Israel with bread and water." And after they had welcomed us, they brought us first with psalms to the church and washed our feet, and one by one dried them with the linen that girded them, as if to disperse the weariness of the road, and in very act to purge the stains of mortal life in the traditional mystery.

But of their humanity, their courtesy, their loving-kindness, what am I to say, when each man of them would have brought us into his own cell, not only to fulfill the due of hospitality, but still more out of humbleness, wherein they are indeed masters, and from gentleness and its kindred qualities which are learned among them with diverse grace but one and the same doctrine, as if they had come apart from the world for this same end. Nowhere have I seen love so in flower, nowhere so quick compassion, or hospitality so eager. And nowhere have I seen such meditation upon Holy Writ or understanding of it, or such discipline of sacred learning: wellnigh might you judge each one of them a doctor in the wisdom of God.

These my teachers were, and are, in Christ. Their way of life is not far from us, if we would take hold of the same Word of God that they held on to, and simply understand it, and live it, as it is. My home and your home, our home, a monastery to God, where He alone is Lord, and where is welcome anyone who knocks.

Brethren, let us love one another.

Who is looking for who?

Lately, India has been on my mind a lot more than usual. I have a very long personal history with India going back to my teen years.

At about the age of 13, I picked up a book from my parents’ library, a novel about a girl my age growing up in India, that had a chapter entitled Krishna the Joyous. I also read H. G. Wells’ bulky 2-volume History of the World, which had lots of line drawings of pagan gods, among them Ganesh the elephant-headed god and, again, Krishna with his flute.
Later, in my college years and a little beyond, George Harrison brought to our attention the Hare Krishna movement through his music and then, suddenly, there they were, chanting and playing their weird instruments, finger cymbals, mridangas (my favorite, a type of drum), and jumping up and down with ecstatic fury all around town. In Edmonton, Alberta, where I lived after college, I used to visit the Hare Krishna temple, chant in Sanskrit, partake of bhagavad-prasadam (consecrated food), and read their books, but I never took the plunge. Why? Well, because of Jesus. He is real, Krishna is only a beautiful story.
Back to my interest in India, and even in one Indian religion, the Hare Krishnas, what attracted me to them was the beauty and joy evident in their worship. When I read their beliefs, though I could see instantly that it was all based on classical mythology, I was impressed by two things: They believe that there is only one God, whom they identify with the Krishna of the myths; and their scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita, seemed to have verses that were borrowed from the gospel according to Saint John. That made me think that somehow their form of Hinduism had been influenced by Christian ideas and was better than the others.
Mind you, all this was before I had accepted Jesus Christ at the age of 24. I was, of course, still dealing in what C. S. Lewis called “boys’ philosophy,” and hadn’t yet come to realize the objective reality of our situation—born into a sinful world, and headed for Gehenna. Once that fact is grasped, one doesn’t care a fig anymore for myths, beautiful or otherwise, but only for Him who alone can deliver us from eternal death, Him who tramples death by death and gives life to those in the tombs.
The whispers of the Truth arrive even in the ears of peoples who walk in darkness, begetting in them the beginnings of faith, but in Whom they do not know, and so teachers and prophets arise among them, taking the best they can find from their human speculations, from myths, from ancient tales handed down, and religions are created that approach the Truth yet still fall short. It’s the universal, world-wide story of man looking for God. But this is, simply put, not how it works. Man’s search for God is nothing compared to God’s search for man.

Starting with Eden, it was not Adam and Eve who went looking for God, “but Yahweh God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’ He asked.” God was looking for man. Later, though Noah could see that the world was full of wickedness, he had no plan, no work to do to fix this problem, but then, “God said to Noah, The end has come for all things of flesh…” and gave him the instructions as to what he was to do. Not Noah’s search for God, but God’s search for a man who would obey Him. Our first father Abraham, though he lived among an idolatrous people and was offended, he would have remained there, had not “Yahweh said to Abram, Leave your country, your family and your father’s house, for the land I will show you…” Again, not man’s search for God, but a living and caring God looking for man. Throughout the Bible, this story, this true story, is repeated over and over again. It’s true that in Psalms, we read things like, “I have sought You with my whole heart, do not let me stray from Your commandments,” but these words are the prayers of one whom God has already found. God looked for him, found him, and now he seeks God. It’s not that we don’t look for God, but that’s not how we find Him: He looks for us, He finds us, we accept Him and what He has done for us, and now we look for the God whom we know, to please Him who is our Saviour and Lord.
In all the myths, you never hear of a god looking for man, only men looking for gods. When they don’t find them, since they know that there must be a “divine something,” they comfort themselves with man-made gods and religions. Planting these seeds, they obtain trees which bear fruit after their own kind, from ancient times down to the present, fruit that may give wisdom and knowledge, but can never give eternal life.
But here we have a God, the God, who is looking for man, and when He finds him, there is no such thing as religion anymore. “I saw that there was no temple in the city since the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb were themselves the temple.” When He finds us, He plants in us His own seed, that grows in us and bears fruit after its own kind, fruit that will last, the fruit of eternal life. He is always looking for man. He is looking for me. He is looking for you.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Αιωνία η μνήμη - Memory Eternal

My beloved mother reposed on this day twenty-four years ago. It seems a lifetime and a world away. The proof of the resurrection of Christ in me is her faith, in which she now is safely harbored in life eternal, waiting for the rest of us to arrive, her whole life in God now poured out for others as she always wanted, but could not achieve, on this earth. Out of the sound of her accuser's cries, she rests in the paradise of God. Αιωνια σου η μνημη, αξιομακαριστος και αειμνηστος αδελφη ημων. May your memory be eternal, dear sister, for you are worthy of blessedness and everlasting memory.
I post this at the clock time of my mother's repose, just as I marked it in my Jerusalem Bible, after parsing off the psalms for the twenty-fifth day, the day of her birth (on Christmas) and her death (Tuesday of Thanksgiving Week).

Though these wretches have almost done for me,
I have never abandoned Your precepts.
Lovingly intervene, give me life,
and I will observe your decrees.
Lasting to eternity, Your Word,
Yahweh, unchanging in the heavens.
Psalm 119:87-89
corresponding to 7:30 p.m., November 25, 1986


My mom was the second child of her parents, Pawel Milewski and Maria Kozinska, the eldest of three sisters, and she grew up in inner city Chicago in the 1920's and 30's. The family was Roman Catholic from Warsaw, Poland. Their house was in a Mafia infested neighborhood, and my uncle, her brother, married a Sicilian. The household was very cultural in a Central European bourgeois sort of way, and it didn't change after the war.

As a child staying there in the 1950's, everything was just as it was in the 20's. I always felt it to be a magical place, another world filled with wonderful things I never saw anywhere else… persian rugs in profusion, rare tropical birds uncaged on their perches and other birds, just as rare, in their cages with the little doors often open, so they could exercise their wings at will, plastic covered overstuffed couches, my grandmother's collections of rare dolls, her little family of rare dogs… pekingese, pomeranian, spits, chihuahua… the half-lot garden which I remember now as being a veritable paradise to explore but which was only a strip of ground two and half yards wide that flanked the house on one side, where the lawn swing was.

There too was grandpa's basement hide-out, his workshop, and the little bedroom in the back porch that had a secret connexion back to the kitchen through a high windowlike opening where a large cookie jar was placed on the ledge, reachable from the kitchen or the bedroom. One always hoped to be invited to stay the night, because of those cookies that could be had without asking.
This is where my mother grew up.
I love this old photo from her first holy communion. Mom is the girl on the right. It would have been taken around 1928. The clothes the kids are wearing, and their non-chalant poses, are so cute. It's nice to know that Mom’s crowd was a lot like ‘the Little Rascals

My mother did not have a happy life, but rather one with a lot of personal tragedy, and as a result she fell away from Christian community from about age 40, and became even more isolated. She and her siblings were a violent bunch, and what could have been a virtue in her, a vibrant and athletic personal energy, gradually decayed into a life of unending vendetta, and a kind of mental illness set in. She made her marriage unendurable, and it ended. Eventually her devotion to her children drove all of them off except me, except that I moved away, first to Canada, then to Oregon, and never to return. So she wrote me often.

From a letter dated January 4, 1974…

I’m always and forever thinking about God, and never—not once—have I blamed God for my unlucky life. Just knowing that God and I know this to be true is what’s keeping me on till God wants me. Even if everyone on the face of the earth ignores me or is angry at me, I don’t care. I have God if no one else, and I’m happy. I can pray and talk to God and I know He hears me. I’m always praying for everyone, but I don’t go telling them, and I ask God to forgive them, because they don’t know any better.

I do not demand from God. I only feel I got what I had coming, and I will get what I deserve. There is only One God, and He only knows. I even thank God for all the bad luck I’ve had. Hard to believe, but it’s the honest truth. And again I say, God and I only know this. I expect to be punished by God, if I need it, but also forgiven, if I deserve it.

I really wish I could be a nun, even at this late age. By God’s standards I am a sinner, but God understands and forgives me, I know. All I ask God is to help me do the right things, to be with me always, there to help me in this way, and to forgive me and give me another chance. All I can do in return is live a life like God wants us to. I never ask God to give me something, only to help me and show me the way to do my best, and never to give up.

You see, I’m not without sin, but I don’t blame God. I ask Him to stand by me and never lose faith in me. I can’t help myself, and maybe I’m taking longer [than I should], but I’ll always keep on trying, because I know God is with me.

I could say more, but I’ll close on this note. We’re all sinners. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

And from another letter, written September 2, 1974, these words about her repentance…

I sit and think all the time, how we only have one life, and how people can really waste it, like I did. The only time I feel so good is when I’m trying to go to sleep. I talk to God, and I just can’t explain how I feel and what I see, how it will be when I’m gone. You know, I feel so very happy, and I’m not afraid. God will remember me and forgive me, because I never blamed God for my bad life. I only remember what was good, and how happy I was. The rest that happened was only when I went off [on] the side road, and it took me longer to get back. Remember, it was [when we lived] on Ross Street, you were telling and showing us about that road, and how one can stray. It took me longer [to get back] because the devil was stronger than me. I feel I could have done something sooner and will never forgive myself for straying that long, but I know God will forgive me. So now, all there is for me is the straight ahead road, and I’m sure not turning either way. It’s too close to the end to let the devil win again.

If you’ve read this far, I thank you, brethren, for helping me stop and remember the soul of this dear sister, my mother.

For Your Word I thank You

At the beginning of my life in Christ, my teachers were drawn mostly from the Church fathers of West and East up to and including the Reformation. My daily Companion was, then as now, my Jerusalem Bible. The copy pictured in the sidebar of my blog is the one I have had the longest. It's my ‘work book’ bible, the one I wrote in as I was being taught, and the margins are dense with notes in places.
Taught by whom? Well, taught first by those fathers, but after they could trust me by verifying that my hearing had been corrected, they turned me over to the Word Himself, and the anointing He gave me teaches me everything.

To offer thanks and praise to Jesus Christ the Son of God and the Divine Word of the Father, I want to share these ten keys which became the principles of how I study and apply the bible, from age 24 to today, 35 years later. They are precious to me. All but one were hand printed on the front pages of my ‘work book’ bible. The tenth one was typewritten on a square of paper and pasted on the facing page of the beginning of the New Testament in that bible.

Those who know me best can tell you whether I have stayed true to these ten keys. I have listed them here in historical order.

He who despises the Word will destroy himself.
Proverbs 13:13

If you make My Word your home, you will indeed be My disciples.
And My Father will love you, and We shall come to you
and make our home with you.
John 8:31, 14:23

“Turn it this way; turn it that way; everything is in it; keep your eye on it; grow old and aged over it; and from it do not stir—for you have no better portion than it.”
Talmud, Pirkei Avot (Sayings of the Fathers), Chapter 5, Saying 29

“Study first of all the Divine scriptures. Study them, I say, for we require to study the Divine writings deeply, lest we should speak of them faster than we think.

“And while you study these Divine works with a believing and God-fearing intention, knock at what is closed in them, and it shall be opened to you by the Porter, of whom Jesus says, To him the Porter opens.”
“Read God’s Book continually: Nay, never let the Sacred Volume be out of your hand. Learn, so that you may teach. Hold fast to the words of faith according to sound doctrine, so that you may be able thereby to exhort and refute the gainsayers.”
Jerome, On the Duties of the Clergy

“The way in to the Holy Scriptures is low and humble, but inside the vault is high and veiled in mysteries.”
Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, Book 3, Chapter 5

“Happy the man who is instructed by Truth itself, not by signs and passing words, but as It is in Itself. Those to whom the Eternal Word speaks are delivered from uncertainty. From one Word proceed all things, and all things tell of Him; it is He, the Author of all things, who speaks to us. Without Him no one can understand or judge aright. But the man to whom all things are One, who refers everything to One, and who sees everything as in One, is enabled to remain steadfast in heart, and abide at peace with God.

“O God! Living Truth! Unite me to Yourself in everlasting love! Often I am wearied by all I read and hear. In You alone is all that I desire and long for. Therefore, let all teachers keep silence, and let all creation be still before You; do You, O Lord, speak alone!”
Thomas à Kempis, Imitatio Christi, Book 1, Chapter 3

“In the Holy Scriptures, truth is to be looked for rather than fair phrases. All Sacred Scriptures should be read in the spirit in which they were written. In them, therefore, we should seek food for our souls rather than subtleties of speech, and we should as readily read simple and devout books as those that are lofty and profound. Do not be influenced by the importance of the writer, and whether his learning be great or small, but let the love of pure truth draw you to read. Do not inquire, ‘Who said this?’ but pay attention to what is said.

“Men pass away, but the Word of the Lord endures forever.

“God speaks to us in different ways, and is no respecter of persons. But curiosity often hinders us in the reading of the Scriptures, for we try to examine and dispute over matters that we should pass over and accept in simplicity.

“If you desire to profit, read with humility, simplicity, and faith, and have no concern to appear learned. Ask questions freely, and listen in silence to the words of the saints;
hear with patience the parables of the fathers, for they are not told without good cause.”
Thomas à Kempis, Imitatio Christi, Book 1, Chapter 5

“Anyone who is not ceaselessly busy with the Word of God must become corrupt.”
Martin Luther, Open Letter to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation

“Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”
The Book of Common Prayer, Proper 28

Blessèd thanks

He has given me all, everything I have, all I am. There is nothing I have that He has not given, nothing of my being that He has not created. All is from Him, nothing real from myself. Nothing.

And what do I give Him in return? What can I give Him who has given me all and who Himself has all and is all? We are not separated from each other as a rich man is from a poor man. No, the contrast is much greater. We are separated from each other as being is separated from non-being. I only am because He wills it. I cannot even say ‘I am’ as He can say ‘I am.’ When I say it, it is only a confession that He is. When He says it, it is His very Name.

I try at least to thank Him, as dust thanks the light for revealing it to itself. But even in the open mouth of my thanksgiving “He fills the hungry with good things” (Luke 1:53), or as the psalmist declares of the Lord Yahweh, “you have only to open your mouth for Me to fill it” (Psalm 81:10). As Francesco di Bernardone says, “We are all poor in the eyes of our Lord,” and it is our poverty, our very nothingness, that attracts His grace and draws down His unbounded mercy. As General Lowenhielm asserted in his testimony at Babette’s feast, “we come to realize that mercy is infinite. We need only await it with confidence and receive it with gratitude.” God is good. What else can we say of Him? Nothing is enough, yet He accepts all.

As one having authority

A Christian brother in seminary with whom I sometimes engage in dialog, finally said one day, ‘but you speak as one having authority’ and he felt that since that is the case I should have to reveal my source of authority. He often asks questions which I do not respond to, and he does the same to me.

This immediately brought to mind the Gospel in which the Pharisees ask Jesus a similar question.

One day as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple courts and proclaiming the good news, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him. “Tell us by what authority you are doing these things,” they said. “Who gave you this authority?” He replied, “I will also ask you a question. Tell me: John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin?” They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ all the people will stone us, because they are persuaded that John was a prophet.” So they answered, “We don’t know where it was from.” Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”
Luke 20:1-8 NIV

Now, believe me, I am not comparing myself to Jesus, but if any of you want to, go ahead. You’ll find me a hopelessly poor copy. Yet, I know I irk not only my friend, but many others, because here I am, not ordained, not seminary-trained, without even a college degree, having read who knows what, living God knows what lifestyle, and writing publicly ‘as one having authority.’ That’s even worse than ‘teaching the people in the Temple courts’!

There are two authentic sources of authority, but really only One. Jesus Christ spoke, speaks and will always speak with authority because He is the Source of all authority in heaven and earth, He is the Word of God. He speaks as One having authority yet He never changes anything of the Torah, only deepens it, reveals it—root, branch and leaves—yet His enemies say He sets the Law aside and changes it. He does have the authority to do that, but He doesn’t do it, and yet they accuse Him, and ask, “Who gave you this authority?” Such a question seems silly to us, because we know the answer. It didn’t seem silly to those who asked it at the time. No one knew for sure, not even His Mother, who He was, even as He hung on the Cross to die. Only by His Resurrection, Ascension and the bestowal of the Holy Spirit was the full mystery (or at least as much as we can know on earth) revealed.

The other source of authority is the holy and divine scripture, the Bible, the written ikon of the Word of God.

Already you can guess why I just wrote there is really only one Source of authority. Practically speaking, the Bible has authority because it is the True Ikon of Christ. It encloses and discloses what He speaks. Now, an ordinary man can speak or write ‘as one having authority’ when he keeps as close to the Bible as possible, without adding his comments and interpretations, but merely speaking it into situations, which are then revealed in their true perspective by its light. Its light, mind you, not his light. An ordinary man who speaks ‘as one having authority’ cannot change anything in the Bible, and because he doesn’t, he’s accused of teaching ‘without a license.’ On the other hand, if he has a degree, a title, a pastorship, letters after his names, or wears special clothing, the question doesn’t even come up. Why not? Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it? He’s qualified.

My seminary friend is an evangelical, dedicated to their concept of sola scriptura. Why then does it make him so uneasy when I reason using only that authority? I’ve learned how to let the Bible texts speak for themselves by placing them where what they are saying simply can’t be missed. This should offend no one. Who cares who I am? Truly, I am no one, and thankfully, I don’t have followers. If I did, I’d have to keep them happy with my words of wisdom.

Instead, I just want to follow Jesus. There’s a lot of ways to do that, and I just thought of one of those ways right now. Time to go back and look at His road map. Mine has a white leather cover and each page is trimmed with gold. What about yours?

New Managers

They’re trained in such a way
that they march in lock step with each other
across levels and planes.

They’re ready for that moment
when the world blows the whistle and shouts,

‘Now! It’s all mine!’

At that time they’ll close ranks.
No one but themselves fill each battle line,
but there will be no battle.

It ended before the war was ever declared.
They fought it and conquered
for their master.

Their first forays were played
like silly games not to alarm,
yet we knew, and we played.

Dividing us or eliminating us who would not cleave,
their first vanguard itself fell, crushed under its own weight,
hideously unaware of how it had been used.

Now they ride above our heads
on airborne litters of their own conceit,
foreign masters of a primitive people.

Demand their objects,
command us how to achieve them,
little know what these objects really are,
little care what they command us does not produce them.

They force our meeting with them
like a bandit rapes a woman,
or a kidnapper a child.

Colonial peoples are no more than possessions.
They see us without acknowledging us,
they instruct us as if we were dumb beasts,
we can have no knowledge or idea greater than theirs.

‘Let the primitives have their mumbo jumbo,
their weird customs and styles,
we’ll pretend we don’t see them,
we’ll not let them know how much they scare us.’

White skins shine like polished shields under a glaring sun.
They blind our oncoming horses
that plummet riderless to the dust.

White is not a color of the skin but an attitude of right,
that knows it is born to rule and be sovereign over many heads,
preferably still on necks, but if need be, at their feet.

Astounded was I how this phalanx of men
made Amazons, but breastless, so easily slices in two
by tethered thorns it never prepares for,

leaving its myriads of shaven armpits
and smooth, athletic bodies with beardless faces
prey to its own terrified eyes,
revealing to them now what they must deny seeing.

Until the shout comes, ‘Now!’ and,
as it closes ranks as it was trained to do,
it won’t have heard the
‘It’s all mine!’
because it was never meant to.

Now back to the jungle, to pound roots
into something that can be eaten, without knowing how.
Colonial peoples are no more than possessions,
it never learned our language.

Use those white skins,
once used to blind the conquered,
now blind themselves as best they can.

The sun grows brighter and hotter than they thought possible,
and their eyelids shrink.
Before they would rather close them,
but now they can’t.

The last of us sank
below their commanding, all-seeing eyes,
just as their master shouted, and they saw us no more.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Everyone who is a follower of Jesus has something they take refuge in, or where they run in times of danger, or where they know they will feel safe during times of peace when they think of adverse possibilities. Though we are not to worry about the future, all of us still do.

Though we have put our faith in Jesus, and though He is our only refuge, yet, on the practical level taking refuge can take different forms. I know of many ‘refuges’ that people around me take, and I hear many persons called ‘refuges’ in the writings of the Church and in the prayers.

Though they seem to be making two incompatible statements, ‘My only refuge is the Lord,’ and then follow it up with (as I have noticed in some services) ‘My only refuge is [fill in the blank]’—I can relate that to my own ‘double confession,’ and it doesn’t bother me.

I don’t understand them, they may not understand me, but I understand myself.

I say with the psalmist, ‘my refuge is only with the Lord’ a hundred different ways. On a practical level, that refuge is expressed and entered into by ‘My refuge is always saying Yes to God.’ That seems to be not only the most reasonable thing to do, but certainly the safest.

That is Romanós at his simplest.
That’s where I run whenever I fall back into being a frightened child in need of the Father.

If I am tempted to be afraid of some event in the future, I become quiet and talk to the Lord and to my heart, ‘Let it be done to me according to Your Word. Though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for You are with me. There is no loss with Jesus. Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also. Take what He gives and praise Him still, through good or ill. Just as I am without one plea. Your heavenly Father knows what you need before you ask Him. Don’t live by man proposes, God disposes, but by God disposes, man reposes. Just say Yes to the Eternal on earth, though it can mean No even to earthly life. Undo your will for Heaven, and Heaven will undo His will for you.’

What better
refuge can be found? I take refuge in Yes, so that I can enter into the only true refuge, Christ who was alive and became dead and who now lives forever, walking directly in front of me, shielding me from more dangers and harms than I could ever imagine. ‘Every hair of your head has been counted. You are worth more than hundreds of sparrows.’

I cry out for myself, for my family and my beloved friends, ‘Lord, save us!’ and my ‘let it be done unto me as You have decreed’ has cleared my path, kept my heart awake even when I sleep, and let Him pour me out as a drink offering when He wishes.

‘All that I long for is known to You, my sighing is no secret from You.’
And He who alone loves mankind before we even existed and who died for us, He carries me in His will so that I have nothing to fear in letting my will be His. I run for refuge in answering Yes to Him who always answers us with Yes before we ever knew to ask.

Yes, I found the hidden Refuge.
And He is faithful.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Impossibly real

The image above (click to zoom large enough to read it) is a letter from a convert to Christianity (from Islam) in Afghanistan who was able to smuggle this handwritten letter with someone’s help. He is being tried on charges of apostasy. Because of who he is and what he’s done, no lawyer is willing to take up his case. Thought about posting it here to see if anyone is able at all to help the guy in any way possible. Some names have been concealed for legal and security reasons, except that of our august and compassionate president. Here is what the letter says…

"To the international church of world and to the President Brother Barak Obama President of the United States and to the head of ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] in Afghanistan!

"My name is Said Musa 45 years old. I have been working since 15 years as a Physiotherapist in I-C-R-C [International Committee of the Red Cross] orthopaedic centre in Kabul, Afghanistan. About four and a half months before by security force of Afghanistan I [was] captured, due to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, Saviour of the world. One person ____ he is spy of ____ [a] leader in Afghanistan. He told about me [to] the Government's officials, 'He's believer, He's head of church in ____'. He showed my house to the security force. Since that time I am in jail. The authority and prisoners in jail did many bad behaviour with me about my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. For example, they did sexual things with me, beat me by wood, by hands, by legs, put some things on my head, mocked me ‘He's Jesus Christ', spat on me, nobody let me for sleep night and day. Every person spat on me and beat me. Also the prosecutor wrote something wrong against me. He told from himself something wrong against me on my file.

"He is stimulating every day the prisoners against me, ‘He is also in jail due to spy for Iran country', to reveal the church in Kabul. I'm in a very and very bad condition in the jail.

"I agree with long imprisonment about my faith even for long life. Because I'm the sinnest person in the world. Because sometimes they treated for died I refuse my faith due to died. Sometimes I tolerate the persecution but immediately I acknowledge my sin before Lord Jesus Christ: ‘Don't refuse me before your holy angels and before your Father.' Because I am very very weak and sinful man.

"Nobody could accept my defender before the court. If I say I am a Christian man he immediately spat on me and abuse me and mock me! I am alone between 400 handlers of terrible values in the jail like a sheep. Please, please, for the sake of Lord Jesus Christ help me. Please send a person who should supervise my document and my file, what I said in it. My prosecutor has told something wrong to the judge because he asked [for] money but I refused his request. Please, please you should transfer me from this jail to a jail that supervises the believers. I also agree with died on cross of my pride. I also agree with the sacrifice [of] my life in public, I will tell the faith in Lord Jesus Christ son of God and other believers will take courage and be strong in their faith. Hundred percent I am stable to my word. I have family of seven - one wife, three daughters and three sons. My big son [is] about eight years old. One of my daughters can't speak, she has some mental problems.

"This is a request from me to all over the world, people please help me. I could not have any person to help. For [the] sake [of] Lord Jesus Christ please pray and immediately help me and rescue me from this jail. Otherwise, they will kill me, because I know they're very very very cruel and hard hearted!

"Your destitute brother in the world.

"Please my English writing is not enough good. If I did some mistake please forgive me! From Kabul Provincial jail."


Nothing more beautiful than a woman weeping.
Nothing more humbling than a man weeping.

These thoughts kept me awake nearly all night.

Nothing more beautiful than a woman weeping. How can this be? Why aren’t images of weeping women on the covers of magazines to grab our attention? Why aren’t there “Miss Weeping America” pageants? People think a woman beautiful if she is well-dressed, cosmetically enhanced, has a trim figure, and is always smiling, always positive and outgoing, someone who it’s a pleasure to be with.

A woman weeping, she has given up for lost whatever made her think she could ever be happy. She weeps because of the death of her husband or her only son. She weeps because even what little she had has been taken from her. She weeps because she no longer cares who is looking on, or what anyone thinks of her. She weeps because she has returned everything that she relied on to keep her safe, knowing now that there was no salvation in it. Not her public image, her reputation, matters anymore. She has laid down her rebellion and given up her insistence on having her own way. She has died before her death. That’s why she weeps. That’s why nothing is more beautiful than a woman weeping. She is now herself as God made her, and empty so that she can be filled, and filled so that her cup runs over.

A man weeping, he has come to the end of trying to be what he could never be. He weeps because his self-image, what he was taught he must be, has been broken. He weeps too because he has wasted his life pursuing a deceit, believing as true what could never have been true, without even having checked its credentials. He weeps because he now knows that all he took for his manly strengths were weaknesses. He weeps because he now understands that all he took for weaknesses were really his manly strengths, and there is so little time. Not his appearance, not his prowess, not his wealth, not his education, not his accomplishments, matter anymore. He is ready to die, and he weeps because he now knows that he can never die. That’s why he weeps. That’s why nothing is more humbling than a man weeping. He is now himself as God made him, and empty so that he can be filled, and filled so that his cup runs over.

A girl, a young woman weeps, because she knows that this weeping will continue for many more years, but for how long?

A boy, a young man weeps, because he doesn’t know if he will make it through to the end. His father tells him, ‘Son, I was once as you are now, and I am still the same, and yet, here I stand. I carried you on my shoulders when you were small, and you are tall in my eyes, always tall, as you stand on my shoulders now.’

Nothing more beautiful than a woman weeping.
Nothing more humbling than a man weeping.

They went away, went away weeping, carrying the seed;
They come back, come back singing, carrying their sheaves.
Psalm 126:6 Jerusalem Bible

This image of Jesus weeping, by Tissot, is from the official website of St. Takla Haymanout Coptic Orthodox Church, Alexandria, Egypt.