Apr 23, 2008

Living in the Kingdom

Love Christ and put nothing before his love. Christ is everything. He is the source of life, the ultimate desire, he is everything. Everything beautiful is in Christ. - Father Porphyrios

Do I believe this? I want to. Scripture affirms the statement. But the world I live in each day mocks and dismisses such thinking. Key words: love, everything, life, desire, everything, beauty. He promises me love, life, beauty, and fulfillment of my deepest desires in Him. The world promises the same things, but insists on being able to define those things for us.

  • The love the world gives us is artificial, sadly dependent on circumstances and the sincerity of the people who give it.

  • The life the world gives us is limited and eventually runs out, leaving us with discomfort, loneliness and physical deterioration.

  • Our desires for the things of the world are fleeting, unpredictable, often thwarted, and characterized by the law of diminishing returns.

  • The beauty that the world offers is showy, skin deep, fickle, subjective, misleading, and constantly changing.

The world promises that we can have it all. In reality, we each get only a little bit of the pie, and even that does not satisfy our deepest longings.

We truly spend a lot of our waking hours pursuing love, life, desires and fulfillment in this world. Why do we do it? What reward are we looking for? We are such earthbound creatures. We can't imagine what we cannot see, and yet Christ came to us and taught us to look toward that which is unseen to fulfill all our human desires - the kingdom of God. Our comprehension of love, life and beauty are so limited by what this world has to offer. And Satan would love to keep us in the dark in such matters of the heart. We carry the kingdom of God in our hearts, but our senses continue to search for it in the world around us. Call me a mystic, but I am thinking that the reason we struggle so much in this area is that we spend an inordinate amount of time trying to fill ourselves with the world around us and too little time in the kingdom inside of us. I Cor. 3:16 - "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" We don't have to sit in a church to spend time in the kingdom of God. We just need a chair, a quiet spot, and the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. How marvelous, how incredible, how incomprehensible it is that God has given us all that we need to be transported into his very presence at any moment. We just need to practice carrying our heart before him, asking for his mercy and cleansing, and then humbly receiving his love, his life, his eternal beauty. He will fill our hearts to overflowing. He is generous, loving and kind. He longs to pour his blessings upon us and gather us in his arms. Oh, my soul, why do you stray from the Good Shepherd every day? Lord, train us to hear your voice more clearly in the midst of the roar of the world.

Apr 17, 2008


The night was not made to be spent entirely in sleep. Why did Jesus pass so many nights amid the mountains, if not to instruct us by His example? It is during the night that all the plants respire, and it is then also that the soul of man is more penetrated with the dews falling from Heaven; and everything that has been scorched and burned during the day by the sun's fierce heat is refreshed and renewed during the night; and the tears we shed at night extinguish the fires of passion and quieten our guilty desires. Night heals the wounds of our soul and calms our griefs.

[John Chrysostom, Hom. in Psalm VI]

Talk about a radical concept. From infancy we have been conditioned to believe that we need 8 hours of sleep in order to function properly and to be emotionally and physically healthy. When we wake up in the middle of the night, we assume that something is wrong with us. Type "insomnia" into Google and you get 24 million sites. Americans spend millions of dollars each year on medications to help get to sleep and stay asleep all night. Almost everyone I talk to is on one of the familiar brands advertised on TV. Sleep clinics are big business.

This quote from John Chrysostom [347-407 AD] led me to rethink my views on sleep. I was always a bit uncomfortable reading passages in the gospel that described Jesus' nighttime journeys to the mountains or remote areas in order to pray. Surely, he didn't mean for us to follow his example. I mean, he was the Son of God - one would expect him to do that! The disciples didn't seem to accompany him in these wee hours of the morning. Perhaps this was just a Father and Son thing. But it still bothered me. There was something there that whispered, "If it was important to Him, why wouldn't it be important for you?" I can't think of any other place in the gospels where Christ said, "I'm doing this but don't think you have to."

We tend to think of nighttime as God changing the sign in the door from "Open" to "Closed" and ceasing from all activities. But God continues to work even during the night hours. Invisible things occur which have tremendous impact. The earth "breathes" and cleanses itself (in spite of our continually making it more and more difficult for that transformation to happen daily with our pollutants and destruction of forests and oceans). Some animals find food at night. Dew descends from the cooler air and blankets the ground with welcome nourishment and water to replenish that which was lost during the day. We are a part of the great Creation. Why wouldn't we be included in this marvelous, daily cycle of healing and renewal also? Yes, God restores us by giving our bodies rest and our muscles relief from use. But nighttime can also be an amazing time for spiritual awareness, insight and dialogue with our Father. Next time you wake up in the middle of the night, make sure it's not your heavenly Father requesting a midnight moment with you. You might find healing for your hurting soul, encouragement in the midst of your trial, or the cleansing of tears shed over sins or sorrows. There were some pretty amazing events that occurred in scripture during those early hours of the morning! You'll be amazed when you start thinking of them.