The Book of Isaiah

“Listen! Your watchman lift up their voices; together they shout for joy. When the Lord returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes.” ( Isaiah 52:8)

“Israel’s watchman are blind, they all lack knowledge; they are all mute dogs; they can not bark; they lie around and dream, they love to sleep.” ( Isaiah 56:10)

Basically the book of Isaiah can be summed up by these two contrasting images of the watchman. In one half of his book he prophecies hope & redemption and the other half he prophecies realty of the future based on what he sees in Judah and Israel. It is a warning to them. To not let the watchman sleep, as they were getting a little lazy in their devotion to God.

We all have a watchman inside of us, do not let the seeker in you sleep, keep an eye out for Truth and Love, watch with the eyes of your heart and listen with the ears of your heart. “Watch and pray….The Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14: 38)

I think I wrote more notes from the book of Isaiah than any other. It is long for one thing, but it is also filled with wisdom and beautiful words.

The books of John

“…God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)

 Anyone out there afraid of the dark? When I was going through a tough time my grief manifested itself in anxiety. As soon as the sun went down the wolf, as I called it, began to hunt me, and I was terrified almost every night. I could not see clearly; all my thoughts were too muddled to see my way out of it. 

There is a phrase soldiers use called ‘the fog of war’. Popularized by Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage, it’s a term which refers to the clarity of vision that disappears when we must fight for our lives. It’s often used in recollections of warfare and battlegrounds, but the fog of war can begin its seeping journey into our homes and minds if ignited by fear or anger. It is the reason we cannot see our way out of “attacks” of the mind. So how do we remedy this and possibly cure ourselves of this affliction?

I experienced this in another form last week when they tore yet another perfect old home down in my neighborhood. I Facebook vented (something I never do) with pictures and words and received many comments from people who agreed with me. I then sent the whole correspondence and post to the City (names blacked out). In this moment I was fueled by anger and though I felt I was fighting for a certain justice, I found it hard to navigate with the compass of truth and love, and I know this because I began to think dualistically, them vs me, good guy vs bad guy. I think this is because I did not bring God/Christ into the fight with me, I sort of left God behind and went on my own fuel and thought I was alone in it or needed to do it alone. We must bring God/Christ into these fights with us, every fight, and by Him we will be guided and the fog, the darkness which blinds us will dissipate and we’ll see our way out. 

 

The book Song of Songs

“Let him kiss me with kisses of his mouth—for your love is more delightful than wine.” (Song of Songs 1:2)

Said to be an allegory if God’s love for his people, Song of Songs or Song of Solomon is a love poem of a Jewish woman and her lover King Solomon. It is written as dialogue between them. With ‘friends’ intermingling their words of inquiry to the mystery of their love. It is a beautiful read either with allegory in mind or just with human love in mind, but God is in all love, so one can’t help thinking of him as these two go back and forth.

I placed a little work in progress in this shot, a whittle project not yet finished of Thomas Merton. My whittle projects are my love letters to the saints and writers with whom I spend time and who have assisted my spiritual journal in some way. It is a meditation and my love letter of thanks. What do your “love letters” look like?

Memoir and Remains of Robert Murray M’Cheyne

Needed me a little Robert Murray M’Cheyne this morning (19th century Presbyterian Minister—Edinburgh, Scotland). His pastoral letters supply a thirsty soul with living water. He knew the Bible so well and never failed to tie a small sermon into his letters.

To comfort a parishioner after the death of her brother:

“Are there any need to be brought off from the love of the world? Let them hear the voice of God from your brother’s grave, saying “What shall it profit a man though he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” Your brother, though dead, still speaketh. To you he says, Lean on the Beloved as you come out of the wilderness. The Lord is at hand.” -Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Dundee February 28th, 1841

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The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis

Another treasure I bought lately from Thriftbooks.com. I was surprised it came with a dustcover! This was another book recommended by Thomas Merton. This and the Confessions of St. Augustine were both recommended to him by a Hindu Monk, which, as I’ve mentioned before, led in part to his conversion to Catholicism. This copy translated by Ronald Knox is considered the best translation and recommended by scholars and priests alike.

The book of Philemon

What do you miss?? These are my own contemplative thoughts. You might disagree and that’s ok! .

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The book of Philemon is a brief letter from Paul to Philemon begging for the freedom of Philemon’s runaway slave, Onesimus. He asks Philemon to think of Onesimus instead as a brother in Christ. Onesimus knows he must return to his owner because it is the honest thing to do, but this time he comes with a letter, an appeal for his freedom, to be seen and treated as a brother and friend. .

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For a moment we are still. Ask yourself, what do you really miss? It is the question I’ve been asking myself lately as I remember old projects and ambitions I had my heart set on before quarantine. As this time allows for stillness I can self-examine without the usual distractions asking myself—What was holding me captive? Or do I now feel like a prisoner?

I can tell you with all honesty that I don’t miss anything except the freedom to hang out and be close to my family and friends. Host little bbqs, make food for them, talk at a short distance, and even though I’m not much of a hugger, I even miss those. That’s it. My old projects took me to Detroit a lot, but when I think of it, I’ve never been a city girl and lately all I can think about is owning a sheep farm (for milk) and possibly making it a spiritual retreat. I wanted to work with animals when I was a child, where did that inclination go? I have found that I don’t think my purpose is protesting injustice and speaking out aggressively against anything, that is not my nature. God made me for a reason, so what is the honest thing for myself & God’s call for me? It is instead feeding people, whether spiritually or with actual food, beauty, color, light—probably why I loved working the soup kitchen so much. I think if we all asked this question (what do I really miss?) and went back to the places from which we began, I think we would find new things of ourselves.

The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross

I like to follow the breadcrumbs of authors I admire. If an author quotes another or happens to really like a certain book or person then I investigate whomever they suggest. St. John of the Cross is one of those breadcrumbs. I’m so excited to read his work. This book is 800 pages, not exactly something I can take to bed with me, however the task of reading it at my desk will feel very much like a joyful study. His writing is often quoted by some of the most inspiring theologians of all time including Thomas Merton and Saint Therese of Lisieux, so I’ve been looking forward to reading his work for a while now. Can’t wait to dive in!

Tears Today

For months I did my own personal study on tears, because I was crying everyday for various reasons, mostly for other people. Not really knowing what would come of it, I began journaling my experience and realized that my tears for others and tears for my family were a form of contemplative prayer for them. I confided in a priest, telling her that I was crying a lot and, for example, I wept over the story of Jesus learning that his beloved friend, John the Baptist, was beheaded. I wept for John and I wept for Jesus. The priest just blinked at me and she said, “but weeping for someone is not doing anything to help them.” I said “surely my weeping is felt in heaven and my tears are cast upwards as a prayer and shed back down to earth as a blessing of love for whom I am weeping.” I said this in so many words, and as I spoke I realized for the first time that my weeping was prayer. These days when all we CAN do is pray and weep, surely our tears are blessed. It is OK to cry. Tears heal us in so many ways. They are a prayer for your people and a blessing for you. .

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Memoir & Remains of Robert Murray M’Cheyne

Said to be the calming pastoral voice for Robert Louis Stevenson, The Rev. Robert Murray M’Cheyne was a Presbyterian minister in Edinburgh, Scotland in the early 1800s. Although very passionate in his vocation to ‘Save’ individuals and bring them to Christ, almost obnoxiously so, M’Cheyne’s writing is beautiful and his love & passion for his “flock” is felt throughout his work. One thing he writes that stuck out to me was that we should not just read scripture but try to FEEL the words we are reading. I thought this was very good advice. This work is edited by his good friend Andrew Bonar.

The entire work is a compilation of letters, full sermons, his memoir and his ‘Daily Bread’ calendar, which gives a bit of scripture to read everyday. Some quotes of his I have collected are below…

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“One gem from that ocean [the gospel] is worth all the pebbles of earthly streams.”

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“You know that a lighted lamp is a very small thing, and it burns calmly and without noise; yet “it giveth light to all that are within the house.”

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“Pray that you may pray to God, and not for the ears of man. Feel His presence more than man’s.”

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The book of Deuteronomy

I have no authority to teach you about the books in the Bible. You might disagree with me and that’s OK. 👇👇👇

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“Observe therefore all the commands I am giving you today, so that you may have the strength to go in and take over the land that you are crossing the Jordon to posses.” -Deuteronomy 11:8

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In Deuteronomy we hear from Moses himself about the journey into the promise land. But if we take this from a symbolic viewpoint, we see that he is telling that the journey is hard even for the ‘chosen’. Hardships and sacrifices will surely come when we decide to truly follow a holy path—not perfect, but living in the Holy Spirit, recognizing God’s presence in our own being. People will try to make ‘war’ against you when you live this way, because naturally you will become a more gentle and tender person. They might not think you’re fun anymore. They may try to make you feel like you’re lame or boring because you won’t join in with the gossip or masochistic recreation (whatever that may be; little acts of hate can damage the soul). We might have to kill many relationships that are damaging in order to truly follow a new clean path and live in the Spirit—“the land that we are trying to possess”. We may have to cut ties with relationships that may be unheathly and fight against what we’re trying to obtain in a clean mind, body, and spirit. We may have to cut ties with those who fight against a new ‘us’ even if it means cutting ties with parts of ourselves.

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