Bridled Joy

I remember simple joys,

innocent and pure.

Different from the complicated joy,

forged in a crucible of losses.

 

So very grateful for today,

yet unlike the gratitude,

of my childhood;

before I learned what,

life and death can bring.

 

I love this moment deeply,

because I know,

the next moment,

might snatch it.

 

I love you intently,

knowing that tomorrow,

you may be gone—

my newest memory.

 

Love, without loss,

Joy, without sorrow,

Gratitude, without anxiety;

would it be better…

 

to never have known these things?

 

Better to have fallen?

Or never to have known,

such heights are possible?

 

I remember paradise;

now a flaming sword,

prevents my return.

 

So I look around me…

 

How wonderful is this moment!

How excellent is this day!

 

Yes, we are infused

with death and decay,

but it could be so much worse…

 

And it is so much better—

though bitter.

 

~FS

Stockholm Syndrome

I understand enough to get me into trouble, yet not quite enough to get me out of it.

I wish I understood more, but what stands for wisdom sometimes sounds like mere, empty platitudes—and it does me no good—in the face of death, and in the face of suffering.

I have seen friends die, and family, some confined to beds for years or decades, flesh wasting away from their bones, with few, if any, coming to visit them. Forgotten.

There is no escape from this place, this life, except through death, yet those who would help us are called murderers; and those who help themselves…are considered hopelessly lost. What and where is mercy?

Who, but God, can be responsible for allowing this misery? But I must love Him anyway, I see no other hope or choice. I must love my captor, and even apologize for Him, and take His side against all evidence. No other being has power to release me, but Him. Yet we are not released.

He tortures me, but I cannot resist Him. He tortures my loved ones, but I must find a way to smile and accept it.

I dream of another life, a next world where we will all live happily with our Captor; when we will be reconciled to Him, and our roles will change. All will be forgiven and forgotten: the agony, the misery, seeing children suffering with little hope, parents who have lost their children to death—this will all just be water under the bridge. Somehow.

Maybe I can forget and forgive here and now—paradise on earth.

I’m sorry. I don’t know anything. But I know what I see. I see into the eyes of the forgotten, the unloved, the desperate, those with chronic illnesses, those who have lost everything and everyone that they love, and this disturbs me, and it distresses me to my core.

The morning brings no relief; day after day my friends are still locked away in their beds unable to walk. Some even unable to think, as we watch helplessly, as their minds turn to jelly.

It makes me angry, and it makes me sad. And then it makes me weary, and I give up. I repent, and turn again to God.

Who else is there to help us, where else is there any shred of hope?

I take up my cross, try to bring a little joy and healing to the suffering souls that are all around me, and somehow this brings a little joy and healing to my own soul.

And then in time, perhaps a few days, weeks, or months, this cycle will repeat itself. I will once again be in a frenzy of sorrow for this world, and all the cruelty and indifference I experience here.

I will cry out yet again, against the omnipotent and omnipresent God, who loves us so much that he allows us to tear each other to shreds…and then I will find a way, somehow, to smile about this, and take His side once again, against all reason.

Yet, somehow, mysteriously, by doing so this aligns me with Love; and realigns me with what is good within me; and somehow this is the only way I can find, which brings any joy to my grieving heart.

~FS

Apathy at Milepost Seven

An arid wind appears to be blowing, insipidly, across the landscape here. I would hardly notice, and certainly not care to log it in my journal now, were it not for some sense of responsibility towards science. It hasn’t rained in weeks—maybe months—I’m sure I have the exact date entered here someplace, but…rain, wind…my interest in these things is entirely without passion now, rather from a sense of duty—I suppose—and perhaps out of habit, forged from earlier times, do I maintain these observations.

It was on the seventh day that God rested, so to speak, and though I’ve been here seven days, or has it been eight now, I’ve not yet seen my messiah. The eighth day comes so slowly it seems, and I wait, and watch, and grow tired as I watch, and then…nothing. Is this my fault? Perhaps, I started from a faulty hypothesis, or my methods have been wrong; maybe I took my eyes off the mark—all my efforts, wasted. Maybe I need rest.

They say these things take time, but believe me, I’ve given it. For instance, I’ve been here in this spot, watching, for years. Well, not all in a row, but I’ve returned here again, and again, so that if I were to add up all the time I’ve come back to this place, it would add up to years. I’m certain of this. And that’s not all, what about all the other places I’ve waited? There are many others. They’ve seen their share of me as well. Tired, they must be, of seeing me over and over again. I know I’m tired—they must be too.

It’s just past mid-day, closing in on one o’clock, and I’m feeling anxious. These are uncertain times. This is a silent road I’ve walked. Those who travel this way have left the hub-bub behind to follow this silence. But the clamoring of life is always just over our shoulders, to the left, and to the right, then flashing in our faces—catching our attention and cruelly captivating us. I smile, hoping to forget that this is a dusty road we travel, and we travel it constantly through dust; dust fills our nostrils, it gets in our eyes, we swallow it—we become the dust.

I close my eyes to take that rest I’d been thinking about earlier; there is some solace, some comfort in the darkness I find now. But restful? No, this darkness isn’t restful; it only promises rest, but instead, it exposes me to many subtle disturbances. Most of these remain unrecognized until they’ve overwhelmed me—when it becomes too late—then I fail science, and science fails religion. This is a darkness that causes us to leave our posts, as we retreat in haphazard fashion, unsettled and unable to remain standing.

I open my eyes again and perceive a gentler darkness, kinder, and one that reveals light. From where does this light come; what grace is it that shines on us in our darkest hours? What power enables us to return to our post, and stand again, whereas before we couldn’t find our way? As I ponder these things, a cool breeze picks up from the east; I feel it as if it blows through me—dividing the wheat from the chaff—carrying away the dry-husks of my apathy, and leaving seeds of hope within me.

I am here, in this remote place, keeping watch, observing, and discerning what I must do; each milepost along this road, has its unique character, and its specific requirements, but they all ask this same question of us—what must we do now? Here, my answer is to wait for the rain; and I wait for the dust to settle. Tears begin to flow from my eyes, and they bring me rest. There are many ways to shed tears, some tears come from futility and flow from despair, while others are harbingers of life itself; these tears soften the earth beneath our feet, and make of us fertile ground from which new life springs forth.

I have endured apathy, and fought against indifference—powers that lead me into vanity, distractions and selfish-wanderings. Yet with hope, grace empowers us to win the struggle against these forces, moment by moment, and to stay standing when we grow weary, and to remain, when we can see no means of remaining. And when we lose interest in the wind and the rain—these very things which would inspire and encourage us to continue along this lonely, silent track—grace comes to us, reigniting our faith, so that we may simply begin to care once again.

~FS

The Blah-blah Monster

Can you tell me, if you know,

Is there really such a creature,

as the Blah-blah monster?

 

My grandniece Zoey asserts,

with fifty percent certainty,

this monster is only imaginary.

 

Which leaves room for doubt,

and further inquiry;

Is Blah-blah perhaps a reality?

 

I must admit, I’d never heard of,

this monster named double-blah;

nope, never heard of him, and never saw.

 

But Zoey’s question is worrisome,

if Blah-blah is really real,

what’s he up to, and what’s his deal?

 

If Blah-blah is real, I’m guessing,

he’s not the type to hide under our beds,

he’s more likely to lurk inside our heads.

 

Perhaps he’s a specter of the air,

hiding in plain sight everywhere,

filling the space between mouth and ear.

 

From a family renowned for its tedium,

his father was Blah, and quite boring,

and blah-blah-blah are his offspring.

 

Blah-blah the monster, might be real,

the signs all show probability,

but take this with equanimity.

 

Blah-blah is not very scary,

if this monster exists among us,

I’m seventy-five percent sure that he’s harmless.

 

~FS

July 5

What gives Christian therapy its value and purpose is that it has as its standard the health and perfection of humanity such as Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word of God, has shown us in His Person. What gives it its strength is that is is founded entirely on the grace of salvation and the deification acquired for mankind, in accordance with the Father’s good-will, by the Incarnation and the whole salvific work of the Son: grace that each person, by being united to Him in the Church, which is His body, is able to receive from the Holy Spirit–if only he wishes, with all his being, to turn to God.

~Dr. Jean-Claude Larchet (Therapy of Spiritual Illnesses vol.3, p.261)

A New Declaration of Independence

When in the course of a human life one becomes aware of the bondage and servitude to which his or her inner nature has become ensnared, and it becomes necessary to dissolve these bonds and to reorient them from what is bad towards what is good, and to assume the natural use of the powers granted them by the God of nature, to which His image and likeness entitle them, then for the benefit of this person, and for that of all mankind, it shall be declared, the causes for which this reorientation is required, and for which this new independence is sought.

These truths remain self-evident—that all people are created free; endowed by God with powers of mind, desire and strength, for the purpose of growing in love, peace and joy.—That by using these powers in the way intended by nature and by God, every person can achieve these ends.—That by the misuse of these powers mankind falls into every kind of difficulty, suffering, pain, deception and entrapment. —That the ruler of this world has used deception, trickery, seduction and malice to corrupt these natural powers to turn humanity from what is good towards what is evil. —That because mankind has fallen into enslavement to this evil, by improper use of our freedom, so that we desire what we shouldn’t, and hate others whom we should love, it is clear that we have become self-destructive and it is our necessity, and our duty to abolish this rule of evil within us, and to lay a new foundation upon Christ, Who’s power will reorganize the powers within us, so as to attain liberty once again.

By a long train of abuses and temptations, the current ruler of this world has reduced mankind under an absolute Despotism, so that it is now our duty, by the right of our Creator, for each to throw off this tyranny, and shelter under God’ grace for his or her future security. The history of the present ruler is a history of diabolical malefactions and malicious deceptions, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over mankind. To prove this, let facts be submitted to an honest and straightforward world:

…he has rejected, and causes mankind to reject, the law and commandments given us for the public and private good.

…he has confused and confounded mankind into becoming lovers of ourselves, instead of lovers of one another; seeking self-gain first, and then what is good for others only to the degree it benefits us.

…he has manipulated our natural desires, causing us to turn them towards superficial, transient or forbidden things which don’t satisfy our needs and which, after fleeting pleasure, yield greater sorrow.

…he has caused murders, wars and every kind of violence, by turning our natural anger away from evil as its only proper object, and towards our brothers and sisters, and has deluded us into justifying our misdirected anger and our atrocities.

…he has caused us to lose our self-control, so that we are no longer masters of our appetites or our emotions; but have become slaves to the caprice and whim of our emotions, and easily manipulated by our desires.

…for entrapping us in despondency and hopelessness.

…for enticing us with money and fame, which never satisfy our inner longings.

…for mesmerizing us with possessions which we expect should give us joy, but only create a deepening emptiness within us.

…for isolating and dividing us from one another, under every pretext and justification, but yielding only more anger and misery.

…for causing us to see one another as objects, tools, or means for satisfying our own desires, rather than each as unique and precious images of God, with vast inherent worth.

…for using every kind of material deception to draw us out of ourselves, and away from God, so that we become lost and unable to perceive God any longer, so that we lose our relationship with the only One that can heal us and save us.

…he has bewildered us with entertainments, dulled our minds and hearts, and caused us to grow lazy and indifferent towards our spiritual realities.

…he has plundered us, ravaged us, burnt us, murdered us, raped us, and in every way destroyed the lives of mankind, all while hiding in the shadows so that mankind even doubts his very existence.

…he has made himself, thus, our perfect enemy, and turned each of us into unwitting accomplices to our own destruction.

We, therefore, each of us who desire to be truly free, appealing to the Lord of all, do, in His name, solemnly publish and declare, that we are by nature and by right afforded through His mercy and grace, independent and free from all allegiance to the ruler of this world, and that all spiritual connection between us and Satan, is and ought to be totally dissolved, and that as free and independent beings, we have full power, by God’s grace, to live virtuously and in accord with the commandments given for our peace, in control of ourselves, making proper use of all the faculties of our soul which have been given us for our fulfillment and blessing, and to do all things right and proper to those living in spiritual freedom.—And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm and total reliance on the protection of the Triune God, we pledge to God our complete and enduring love, issuing forth from our mind, our heart, our soul and our strength, and we pledge to one another, a love that equals the love we have for our very selves.

 

~FS

July 3

When Jesus says, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light,” I take this to refer to it being and exact fit for each of us–that He is making it possible for us to become our real and true selves. When I evade the mark toward which I am aimed, my ‘vocation’–and this includes my cross in life which is Passion-bearing with Christ–I am inevitably, as Jonah discovered, swallowed by the unconscious manifestation of that which I have avoided. Passion-evading leads to being overcome by what I have rejected, now in the form of a passion that has assumed the proportion of the great Leviathan which takes possession of me fueled by the power of the very untransformed energies that would otherwise have become part of my authentic aliveness in Christ.

By virtue of avoiding my cross, I forfeit the freedom to become myself. I miss the mark. My yoke does not ‘fit’.

As the Lord said to Saul when he was avoiding his own passion-bearing through presumptuous self-righteousness and the idolatry of religious ideology, “It hurts to kick against the goads.” I remain captive in the belly of the whale, as it were, until I am spit out, and hit bottom like the Prodigal in the pig sty where I am offered a chance to ‘come to my senses’, turn again, and set off in the direction of my Father’s house, carrying my cross and beginning to recover from the wounds inflicted by my avoidance.

~Rev. Dn. Stephen Muse (When Hearts Become Flame  pp. 66-67)