Jul 19, 2008

His Hand is Open

Anxiety - a displacement of my daily confidence in the wrong things. (statement made by Father Stephen, Glory to God for All Things)

Anxiety has followed me throughout my life. I naturally gravitate toward those things I can touch and see that give me the illusion of security and confidence. I like to know that I have enough money in the bank. I like to have my pantry full. I like a choice of clothes that all fit. I like to have a house that is comfortable and affordable. All these things make me feel good and take away temporary anxiety. I know I have a backup plan or "extras" or "more than enough". I don't want to worry about shelter, clothing or food.

But what situation does God prefer for me? A life where I am continually, hour by hour, dependent on his hand for all things - food, shelter and clothing. It is not because he is selfish and wants me as a slave in his kingdom. He desires this for me because only then can I truly know his infinite love and care for me! He cannot truly reveal these things through just providing me with a monthly paycheck. He desires to restore to me the relationship for which I was created in the beginning - a relationship with him. He is my heavenly Father and desires to care for me as a Father does a daughter. He wants to show his love for me and reveal glorious and mighty things which I cannot fathom in the small and controlled world which I have created.

I do have a choice: 1) a controlled environment, created by me, where I will know what to expect and how I can survive day by day, or 2) an uncontrolled (in the respect that it is not controlled by me!) environment, sustained by God, where He delights in caring for me and showing his might and power to me and through me by providing for my every need. One is very predictable and inevitably boring. The other is completely unpredictable and a treasure chest of surprises. One requires very little of me. The other requires everything. One is dependent on my intellectual and material resources. The other is dependent on the riches and power and wealth of the God of the universe. One requires no one outside of myself. The other requires a relationship with the Creator and Redeemer of my soul.

When the options are put in words, the choice seems obvious. And yet...we are afraid. Afraid that God will not pull through for us. Afraid that he will take us where we don't want to go. Afraid that he will abandon us and then we will have nothing and no one. Afraid that he will require too much of us - more than we can bear. Afraid that we will fail - in our eyes and the eyes of others.

What assurance would convince us? He has done everything possible to prove his love for us - including becoming incarnate and dying a horrible death in order to conquer death and restore us and all creation to its original purpose. What more would we ask of him? He has gone more than the second mile. He has gone to hell and back for us. And we cannot trust him. What could we possibly possess that is of greater assurance and promise than what He has to offer?

We pride ourselves in our rationality and logic, but our behavior defies both. If we weigh the choices in the balance, there will be no doubt as to which is made of true gold.

Jul 3, 2008

You are not Alone

There was a boy, named Hyacinthus. He lived in Caesarea in Cappadocia (modern day Turkey) and was raised in a Christian family. The Roman emperor Trajan (ruled 98-117 AD) enlisted the young man as his "cubicularius" (chamberlain). This was an official charged with the management of the living quarters of a sovereign or member of the nobility. The emperor was unaware that Hyacinthus was secretly a Christian.

One day, while the emperor and his entourage were offering sacrifices to idols, young Hyacinthus remained at the palace, shut himself in a small room, and prayed fervently to the Lord Jesus Christ. One of the servants overheard him praying and reported to the emperor that, although Hyacinthus was entrusted with an imperial position, he did not honor the Roman gods and was secretly praying to Christ.

Hyacinthus was brought to trial before Trajan, who tried to persuade the young man to deny Christ and sacrifice to the Roman idols. But Hyacinthus remained steadfast and declared that he was a Christian. He was whipped and thrown into prison, where the only food given to him was what had already been offered to the idols. They hoped that he would be overcome with hunger and thirst and eventually eat. Hyacinthus did not eat the food, an
d he died after thirty-eight days. When they came to torture him again, they found his dead body. But when the jailer walked into the cell, he saw two angels in the cell. One covered the saint's body with his own garment, and the other placed a crown of glory on his head. The young Hyacinthus suffered for Christ in the year 108 AD in the city of Rome. Later, his bones were transferred to Caesarea in Cappadocia (modern day Turkey). He is remembered for his courage and faith on July 3.

This image of the angels, brings to mind a quote earlier in the week that gave me pause:

Do not be surprised that you fall every day; do not give up, but stand your ground courageously. And assuredly, the angel who guards you will honour your patience. - St. John Klimakos

What difference would it make in my life if I truly acknowledged the presence of a guardian angel in my life? How would I live differently?

First of all, having an angel - that amazing, powerful and incredibly beautiful creature - assigned to me is a thrilling thought. No gift of such splendor and quality has ever been given to me. This would be like being given a royal sword that had been crafted by the best bladesmith in the world, tried by fire, and known worldwide for its beauty and sharpness. I am not worthy of such a gift.

Secondly, knowing the power of angels, that they are servants of the Holy One and strictly organized and commissioned by God and the Prince of Angels, Michael, I am moved with tremendous gratitude that God would protect me with such force, power, and diligence. Scripture says that God will protect me as the "apple of His eye" and hide me under the "shadow of his wings" - Psalm 17:8. Our heavenly Father is intimately involved in my protection and care on a daily basis. His mighty angels are assigned to ensure that this happens.

Thirdly, I would never feel alone or vulnerable. Even physically removed from other people or in a dangerous situation, I would ever have the presence of my guardian angel to comfort and strengthen me. He will jealously guard and defend me. Yes, death may still come upon me, but not because my angel failed to protect me. Death or harm cannot come unless God allows it for his purpose and for his glory. Even in the Valley of the Shadows, my angel will not leave my side. As thousands of saints and martyrs will attest, these mighty warriors of the heavenly host remain with us and help us in the transition from this life to the next. We are never abandoned for one second.