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Posts Tagged ‘saints’

listeningWhat does it mean to listen to God?

I will listen to what God the Lord says;
    he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants [saints]—
    but let them not [re]turn to folly. [Psalm 85:8, NIV, 2010 with words inserted from 1984 version]

When I was in acting school, we used to have a teacher who tried to teach us how to center down into ourselves, to experience “constructive rest,” to align our bodies, to know “neutral” in ourselves. Much of that time was spent on the floor and breathing. At the time, I was simply too immature to appreciate what she was trying to accomplish. One of her exercises required us to listen: to listen to the sounds outside the room, then inside the room, and then inside our bodies. In a way, this is technique that can also be used to settle the mind down in preparation to listen to God. It’s pretty hard to listen to God while being busy doing other things. [Unless anyone has cultivated the habits of Brother Lawrence, and his Practice of the Presence of God.]

But I believe, more than anything else, that the heart must be prepared to hear before listening will occur. It is up to me to establish that environment, like preparing garden soil to be sown. I can help this preparation of the heart along by reading or singing or breathing.

In this process, I should also know the subject matter. In other words, I believe the most productive listening is done when focused on a situation or topic or question. (And I don’t mean a yes or no question, but a more open-ended one, that allows room for God to expand the answer.) But here is the vital key: I must be at my wit’s end, so to speak. If I really want my heart to be open to the voice of God, then I must know that my resources have been expended, my “way” has not worked, my solutions have been exhausted.

surrenderOtherwise, I think my very human tendency, once I “hear” God’s response, is to compare it to all the other answers out there. It’s not the way God works. If I am truly coming to the God of the Universe for help and illumination, then I can’t treat the answer as though God is simply weighing in on the possibilities like another girlfriend at a kaffeeklatsch.

Do not, then, go to God lightly. For in the breadth of this one verse, Psalm 85:8, there is a warning about returning to our folly (our own way). To ask God, the Holy Spirit, to help and then to choose another way, is, indeed foolishness.

In the older 1984 NIV version, the translation reads that God promises peace to his saints. In later years, this term has been replaced with culture friendly phrases like “faithful servants” or “the holy people He loves.” We are adverse to calling ourselves saints and yet I know it’s not a word to be taken lightly, it is the one that speaks of total surrender to the Christ. A saint is totally sold out to God. A saint hears God and listens and then acts upon the information.

Clearly, the opposite of a saint is a fool.

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I don’t know. There are days I think I should be making an effort to engage angels; they are, after all, part of the other “realm,” the timeless place, the God environment. And I wonder, do they have a hierarchy in such a place? Can a timeless, spiritual entity be spatial?

Hebrews 1:4; 6b
So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs. . . . “Let all God’s angels worship him.”

The angels and the saints worship God. And when the Messiah completed the task laid out reuniting human with God, Christ was recognized as worthy of worship, and sat, as they say, at the right hand of God. (Surely this is figurative . . . or is it?)

Based on scriptures, angels act in a great many roles throughout the telling of the Messiah story and his people (in both Testaments). Angels are created beings who worship, yes, but they also carry verbal messages to humans (and nations), they intervene and do battle against evil, and they serve God in a variety of ways from carrying out judgments to manifesting answers to prayer. Are they still doing these tasks?

But my real question is whether there is, anywhere in scripture (or perhaps in experience), an indication that I can have a relationship with an angel?

There is even (academic and not so academic) disagreement as to whether or not there exist Guardian Angels, that is angels which are “assigned” to protect or guard individual souls, particularly children. I know there are personal stories of people sensing or seeing such an angel in times of trouble or sorrow. There are also a few mystics who described interactions with their personal angels and wrote about it.

Can I be like George in It’s a Wonderful Life and chat up my angel? Ask questions, argue, complain, thank? I don’t think so.

But, before anyone gets indignant with me; I’m not saying angels don’t exist. On the contrary, I actually believe they are still among us, still doing the work of God in a variety of ways, still protecting, and still singing love songs to God. But I don’t believe they have relationships with humans. They are too different, too outside our human realm of understanding and perception. It would be like trying to have a relationship with the wind, even though we can see its effects and even predict its behavior, we cannot “know” it.

It is for this very reason that God manifested Jesus in human form, so that we could “get it,” or at least observe and hopefully follow. It’s specifically because Jesus offers a relationship that our experience with God is transformed. He is not the wind but a baby in a manger, a boy in the temple, a teacher on a hill, and a martyr on a cross. And after all this 3-D work, Christ passes along to us the Holy Spirit who dwells within, to guide us some more, to teach us some more and to ultimately heal us.

The realm of God is undoubtedly more diverse and expansive than anything here on earth. And yet, just as humans were made in God’s image, I wonder, is Earth (natural Earth) created after an image as well? And who knows, maybe angels are the creative spark. Something to think about.

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That’s me still: acting like a mere mortal. Basic. Common. Plain. Simple. I’m working on the complicated stuff, but truth is truth and I’m still displaying mere mortal signs: jealousy and quarreling to name two.

I Corinthians 3:3
You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men [and women]?

Are there really people out there who don’t quarrel and behave jealously? Are they able to let go of what they want and allow the other person to have it? Are they able to let go of control? Are they able to state their opinion without an attitude, without demand, without guile? Can they trust unequivocally? Can they rejoice with those who have more, deserved or undeserved?

What is the opposite of a mere mortal? I assume it’s a saint? I’ve always had trouble with that label. Peppered throughout the New Testament, it’s a way of referring to the devoted and the believers. It’s more than just being “nice” or “kind” or “good.” A saint is a position of holiness. Some denominations set aside the “really” good ones and put their stories through all kinds of tests and research to qualify them, canonize them, and then broadcast them. And yet, Paul seems to use the word more blithely: believers as saints, followers as saints, beloved as saints, dead believers as saints.

It’s easier to find evidence that I’m a mere mortal than it is to find evidence that I’m a saint. Maybe today, eh? Maybe today I can declare it my “saint’s day.”

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