Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Parables from a Residential Monk #2

Kopp Disclosure

(John 3:19-21)


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Parables from a Residential Monk 

Parable of Brother Daniel

     Some people are like fireworks.

They burn brightly but briefly.

“Beware of baby Christians,” warned Paul, “because they are passionately puffed-up for Jesus at conversion yet burn out unless their roots grow deeply into Him.”

Deeply rooted Christians live the lyric, “Just like a tree that’s planted by the water, I shall not be moved.”

Brother Daniel had been at Assumption Abbey, a Trappist monastery in the Ozark Mountains near the Arkansas-Missouri border, for about 30 years.

Part of being a Trappist is taking the vow of stability; promising to remain in the monastery for life.

Among the vows supporting stability are silence (only speaking when it’s necessary and never casually, frivolously, incidentally or indiscriminately), celibacy (a lifetime without marital delights), chastity (total abstinence from any sexual activity), poverty (renouncing personal material ownership in favor of communal sharing), and obedience (compliance to the rules of the order).

It takes a lot of prayer and work to be a Trappist monk.

Everything a monk does is fueled by worship punctuated by Psalm-singing that begins with a compulsory liturgy at 3:00 a.m. and concludes with another compulsory liturgy at 6:00 p.m. with several mandatory services in between apart from mitigating circumstances.

Like a tree that’s planted by the water, that’s how Brother Daniel lived for 30 years.

A visitor noticed Brother Daniel’s Bible open to Psalm 91 while working.

“That’s my favorite Psalm,” the visitor said.

Brother Daniel smiled.

The visitor proceeded to tell Brother Daniel what he knew about it.

Brother Daniel smiled.

Noticing the monk appeared underwhelmed by the exposition, the visitor asked what it meant to him.

Because it was necessary, Brother Daniel spoke. 
He explained Psalm 91 in new and refreshing ways to the visitor.

The heavens seemed to open and rain revelation as Brother Daniel explained it to the visitor.

Surprised and humbled, the visitor asked, “How come you know so much more about Psalm 91 than me.  
You have lived in this monastery for most of your life.  You never went beyond 8th grade.  I studied this Psalm in college and seminary and in other graduate studies in Europe under some of the most renowned Biblical scholars that have ever lived; and I even read it in Hebrew at the western wall of the Temple’s remains in Jerusalem.  How did you ever learn so much more about it than me?”

With a smile betraying an intimacy cultivated by long periods of prayer and Bible reading couched in worship, he answered, “I asked God what it means.”

Years passed.

The visitor returned to the monastery.

Indebted to the monk who had taught him how to hear God above the dissonance, he was eager to see Brother Daniel.

Told the monk had left the monastery, he went to the abbot and asked what happened to Brother Daniel.

Father Theodore said, “Daniel went to the dentist, fell in love with the hygienist, left us, married, and has a beautiful family.”

“I don’t understand,” the visitor asked.

Father Theodore smiled; then he spoke because it was necessary.

“Oh,” said the abbot with a calming countenance that brought Brother Daniel even more to mind, “Daniel was only here for thirty years.  Clearly, he was never called to be a monk.”

Some people are like fireworks.

They burn brightly but briefly.

People come and go in monasteries and churches and communities and marriages and families and friendships and in and out of our lives.

Some people are never more than visitors.

Only the seriously committed are stable enough to stay home.


Blessings and Love!

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Thursday, January 9, 2020

Parables from a Residential Monk #1

Kopp Disclosure

(John 3:19-21)


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Parables from a Residential Monk 

Parable of the Thermostat

Jesus said, “Love each other just as much as I have loved you.”

I like how the KRSV paraphrases it: “How I have loved you is how you are supposed to love each other.”

When asked what is the greatest commandment or behavioral expectation for people that really love Him, Jesus said, “Love God with your head, heart, and gut – everything that you’ve got - and you prove that by loving everybody just as much as I have loved you.”

Back to the KRSV: “You can sum up following God like this.  If you love God, you love everybody with the kind of love that God has enfleshed in Me.  That’s agape love which is praying and laboring for the highest good for everybody regardless of who, what, where, when, or why without the need or expectation for response, regard, or reward.  That’s how you prove you belong to Me and not the evil one and his world.”

Getting really specific, Paul fleshed it out: “Here and now and forevermore, the only thing that counts is faith expressed in love; and love overflows into all of our relationships with grace, mercy, and forgiveness.  That’s what Jesus does for us and that’s how we love others to prove how much we love Jesus.”

The parable of the thermostat comes to mind.

On the very first Sunday that the new pastor led worship, people complained even before the call to worship.

“Turn down the heat!  It’s too hot in the sanctuary for me.”

That represented about a third of the worshipers.

“Turn up the heat!  It’s too cold in the sanctuary for me.”

That represented about a third of the worshipers.

“The temperature in the sanctuary is just right for me.”

That represented about a third of the worshipers.

The new pastor did not say a word.

He knew they hadn’t yet learned that love cares more about others than themselves.

Being a pastor can be very difficult.

While pastors want people to pay attention to God, too many people want their pastors to pay attention to them; and pastors know their tenure expires when the minority that hates them for trying to get people to pay attention to God becomes the majority that wants them to pay attention to them.

So the pastor didn’t say a word about the temperature in the sanctuary.

Then, one early Sunday morning before anyone arrived, the pastor discovered someone had broken the locked plastic cover over the thermostat to change the temperature setting in the sanctuary.

The pastor was angry…then sad…then angry…then sad…then…

He was angry and sad that no one had ever told that church that true Christian agape love cares more about others than themselves.

He said so that very Sunday.

The third of the church that thought it was too hot for them and the third of the church that thought it was too cold for them and the third of the church that thought it was just right for them were united at last in being mad at the pastor for saying people that love God love like God and care more about the needs of others than their own needs.

No one even asked who broke the locked plastic cover over the thermostat; though the Holy Spirit had revealed the man’s name to him in a dream.  

He was a sneaky man with a mean wife whose sister was even meaner.

Before and after he broke the locked plastic cover over the thermostat, he could never look the pastor in the eyes.

Some people are like that.

It goes back to the garden.

Sneaky.

Always complaining.

Breaking things – even relationships – when they don’t get their way.

The new pastor became the old pastor and the old pastor learned big lessons from the thermostat that helped him help others to pay more attention to God.

People have a hard time loving Jesus by loving like Jesus.

Everybody needs Jesus to save them – especially those that care more about themselves than others - and He does because He is the best at loving with grace, mercy, and forgiveness.

Even people that are told don’t always learn.


Thermostats can teach us a lot about what we still need to learn and what Jesus means to those that never learn.


Blessings and Love!

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Saturday, January 4, 2020

So What's Next for America After Suleimani's Assassination?





Kopp Disclosure

(John 3:19-21)



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It's sad and pathetic.

America has become so divided by ideological extremes fueled by the devolution of news media from journalism to ideological advocacy that it's pret' near impossible to hold rationale conversations on challenges to the republic.

For example, consider 45.

He's lionized or demonized.

Either people hate him more than they love America and what's best for the republic or adore him more than they love America and what's best for the republic.

For example, Islam.

We can't talk about Islam in public; because if we talk about what's bad about it according to their manuals of operation like, you know, the Koran, we're haters.  If we talk about what's good about it according to their manuals of operation like, you know, the Koran, we're idiots.

So I expect the assassination of one of the world's most notorious savages - the Islamofascistnutball Suleimaniac - will fuel the divide even more.

It only takes a spark to get a fire going...

What can we do?

Well, JP, AK, AOC, NP, FG or even KFC haven't called me.

Have any of 'em called you?

Oh, maybe we can write something at the next church meeting and send it to...

That'll make a difference.

Really.

Not.

Psst.

No one outside of parochial church groups pays attention to church declarations anymore because churches are as divided as everybody else.  

Helllllllooooooo!

I suggest something that no one seems to be considering in DC or down at ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, CNN, MSNBC or ESPN.

How about getting on our knees and surrendering it all to God in a Matthew 5:3 kinda way?

Before you laugh me off and jerk back to supporting who and what haven't worked like, uh, ever...

I recall a friend whose son was a heroin addict.

Understandably, he was distraught with a paralyzing impotence to make any difference in his son's life.

Finally, his wife said, "Don't you know God loves our son even more than we do?  Give him back to Jesus.  Trust God.  You have no other options left."

John 3:16-17 comes to mind.

There's never been a better declaration for life's interrogatives.


Blessings and Love


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