For all those who have been hurt, neglected, abused, abandoned or otherwise damaged by their faulty earthly fathers, this is a beautiful reminder of where we will find what we yearn for.
Into a place of abundance
For You have put us to the test, God; You have refined us as silver is refined. You brought us into the net; You laid an oppressive burden upon us. You made men ride over our heads; We went through fire and through water. Yet You brought us out into a place of abundance. Psalm 66:10-12, NASB
The Kingdom remembers you, T.M.
Fifty three years ago today, Thomas Merton departed this earthly plane. We are fortunate that he left us so much. The imagined presence of the naughty monk with a twinkle in his eye has kept me company over the last couple of years – years that have been characterised by unquantifiable human stupidity, undisguised global authoritarianism and, at least for some, edifying solitude. Of the five books from his giant oeuvre of works that I have thus far read, two in particular stand out: ‘No Man Is An Island’ and ‘New Seeds of Contemplation’. A thousand searing challenges rise from the pages of these books, and a thousand pennies have dropped as a result.
"Do you imagine that you will discover God by winding yourself up in a cocoon of spiritual and aesthetic pleasures, instead of renouncing all your tastes and desires and ambitions and satisfactions for the love of Christ, Who will not even live within you if you cannot find Him in other men?" - New Seeds of Contemplation.
I dare not write in detail for fear of diluting the purity of his message. The depth and breadth he offers is beyond the scope of any summary that I could give. So I encourage you to read these books. Personally speaking, Merton has helped me to bring scripture into relationship with silence and pain into kinship with purpose. He has shown me how to infuse prayer with more faith and less desire. If you let his inspired words into your heart, they become a unifying force.
"God's will is not an abstraction, not a machine, not an esoteric system. It is a living concrete reality in the lives of men, and our souls are created to burn as flames within His flame. The will of the Lord is not a static centre drawing our souls blindly toward itself. It is a creative power, working everywhere, giving life and being and direction to all things, and above all forming and creating in the midst of an old creation, a whole new world which is called the Kingdom of God." - No Man Is An Island.
You are my servants, vassals to, the earthly feudal lords who revel in the power of their temporal rewards. With streams of sacrificial blood their meal time and their play, my bloodlines will persist in this deception and decay. You slaves cleave to your comfort and your shallow, sensual days - a somnambulant collective I make changeless in its ways. Dear fools you carved my fiefdom, smothered truth and so obscured the fact of God’s One Kingdom and your victory assured. You chose the perfect master for you do not wish to know the pain of transformation that must come to those who grow. I’ll keep you safe, bound as I am, and help you to evade the word of truth, the way, the light, the reason you were made. With thanks to Screwtape. 10th May 2021, Wiltshire, England.
An act of consent
“Let the command of His love be felt at the roots of my existence. Then let me understand that I do not consent to exist, but that I exist in order to consent. This is the living source of virtuous action: for all our good acts are acts of consent to the indications of His mercy and the movements of His grace.”Thomas Merton, No Man Is An Island
Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Our peace in this present life should not depend on absence of adversity but on humble acceptance. Those who accept suffering will enjoy peace. Such a person is a conqueror of the self, a ruler of the world, a friend of Christ and an inheritor of heaven.Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ
The truth from above – traditional English carol
Unabridged Lyrics: This is the truth sent from above, The truth of God, the God of love: Therefore don't turn me from your door, But hearken all, both rich and poor. The first thing which I do relate Is that God did man create, The next thing which to you I'll tell, Woman was made with man to dwell. Then, after this, 'twas God's own choice To place them both in Paradise, There to remain, from evil free, Except they ate of such a tree. And they did eat, which was a sin, And thus their ruin did begin. Ruined themselves, both you and me, And all of their posterity. Thus we were heirs to endless woes, Till God the Lord did interpose, And so a promise soon did run, That he would redeem us by his Son. And at this season of the year Our blest Redeemer did appear, And here did live, and here did preach, and many thousands he did teach. Thus he in love to us behaved, To show us how we must be saved; And if you want to know the way, Be pleased to hear what he did say: "Go preach the Gospel," now he said, "To all the nations that are made! And he that does believe on me, From all his sins I'll set him free." O seek! O seek of God above That saving faith that works by love! And, if he's pleased to grant thee this, Thou'rt sure to have eternal bliss. God grant to all within this place True saving faith, that special grace Which to his people doth belong: And thus I close my Christmas song.
Open to humility
The astonishing spectacle of accelerating polarisations continues to be rich with truthful pickings. There is so much to take in. Some individuals seem to have welded themselves interminably shut. Others are cracking open. There is too much time alone and too little contact with others. There is excessive self-reflection and extravagant distraction. So many opposites within and without. As I negotiate my own delicate balancing act, I have been considering carefully what it means to have an open mind.
Closed mindedness inclines itself towards two expressions:
I don’t want to know
In both of these dismissive variants, the mind serves to keep things safe by keeping things the same. It acts to defend itself from the possibility that real questions will lead to real answers, and that real change will then be required. It ensures that the transformational power of truth is kept at bay.
"Before destruction the heart of a man is haughty, And before honour is humility. He who answers a matter before he hears it, It is folly and shame to him." Prov 18: 12-13
The closed mind knows nothing but its own false boundaries. It chooses to defend the familiar confines of the fallen self. In doing this, it shuts the door to truth and becomes instead a ‘keeper of dogma’ (thank you NK). It cannot see, nor can it be receptive to reality.
"Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, And prudent in their own sight!" Isaiah 5:21
In contrast, the open mind takes the following stance:
I don’t know
I want to know
The open mind is willing to accept that it is wrong. This mind is not ‘made up’, and with grace and patience, it may observe itself. It will inevitably begin to uncover its own brokenness, ignorance and insufficiency. The more it knows, the more it becomes aware of what it doesn’t know. To keep seeking the truth, the mind has to open itself continually into the vulnerability of the unknown. It has to trust that it will be guided.
In choosing a posture of openness, we are led to our own fallibility. We are asked to identify where we really are and how far we have descended. We are asked to acknowledge how great our fall has been. From the lowliness of our true position, unreality empties out of us so that we can be filled with the reality of Spirit. This is the gift of cleansing humility. From here, we may know.
"Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up." James 4:10