Remembrance of Wrongs

June 22, 2018

Do you carry grudges? Do you dwell on past hurts? The times someone metaphorically stabbed you in the back? When someone promised and didn’t fulfill or broke a contract?

We’ve heard forgive and forget. But can we really forget? More importantly, do we continually think of them?

John Climacus says, “Remembrance of wrongs comes as the final point of anger. It is a keeper of sins. It hates a just way of life. It is the ruin of virtues, the poison of the soul, a worm in the mind.”

Whom do you know with a ruined life because of the poison in the mind that just cannot get over the wrong done? I hope that isn’t you–or your spouse.

John also says, “The man who has put a stop to anger has also wiped out remembrance of wrongs, since offspring can come only from a living parent.”

Think on that sentence. There is deep meaning.

Such is the ninth step. Let him who has taken it have the courage henceforth to ask Jesus the Savior to free him from his sins.

Freedom From Anger Is A Step Toward Divine Ascent

June 21, 2018

Anger reveals itself everywhere these days. I just listened to a teaching on Zephaniah. She talked about handling the truth. Like the line from A Few Good Men when Jack Nicholson asks “What do you want” and Cruise replies “I want the truth” and Nicholson rebuts “You can’t handle the truth”.

If the prophets in Zephaniah’s time told the king the truth, the king killed them. Zephaniah was lucky. He only got life in prison.

Someone makes an assertion that is blatantly a lie, or maybe to be kind, a mistake. Someone else points out the facts. Wow! Just wait for the bombs to quit going off.

I have a policy on social media. If someone reposts those angry and usually inaccurate memes, I mute them. My emotional health is soooo much better.

But let’s look at ourselves. Do you remember the last time you were angry? Really angry?

I can. And I’m ashamed of the moment some 10 years or so later. Anger springs from many things. Often a sense of inadequacy.

John Climacus has an observation, of course. The first toward freedom from anger is to keep the lips silent when the heart if stirred; the next, to keep thoughts silent when the soul is upset; the last, to be totally calm when unclean winds are blowing. Anger is an indication of concealed hatred, of grievance nursed. Anger is the wish to harm someone who has provoked you.

As we climb the ladder of Divine Ascent, “On the eighth step the crown is freedom from anger. He who wears it by nature may never come to wear another. But he who has searched for it and won it has conquered all eight together.”

Ethics Always Transcend Legalism

June 20, 2018

The disciples were walking with Jesus on a Sabbath along a wheat field. They picked some grain, rubbed it between their hands, ate a snack. The Pharisees were aghast. They broke the Law. Jesus basically shrugged his shoulders.

Jesus consistently pointed out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees who slavishly followed their laws without a heart that loved God and others.

The Apostles Peter and John were thrown in jail for breaking the law by proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus.

The Apostle Paul was repeatedly physically abused–thrown out of cities, jailed, stoned, flogged–all because he broke Roman law by proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus (oh, and breaking some of the Jewish traditional laws).

(I’ve been studying the Acts of the Apostles. Useful reading.)

Throughout history, Christ followers have broken laws perpetrated by new Pharisees.

The Abolitionists broke laws of slavery (theologically justified by “Christians” such as John Calhoun a signer of the Declaration) in order for ethics to triumph over unjust laws.

The Civil Rights movement led by Christ followers of the early-mid 60s and beyond broke laws in the name of a greater ethic taught by Jesus and furthered by Paul.

Jesus said, I leave you with this commandment that you love one another. He had already explained the two great commandments that his disciples should follow above all–love God with your entire being and your neighbor as yourself. Who is your neighbor? Jesus used the example of a Samaritan–an outcast to his audience.

While meditating this morning, the spirit spoke so clearly–write Ethics trumps Law. It wouldn’t let me get out of bed until I agreed to walk over to my computer and do it.

Step Seven – Mourning

June 19, 2018

A man who is truly in mourning will never go back to high living, glory, anger, or irritability. Mourning is the kind of sorrow which belongs to the penitent soul whose pains multiply like those of a woman in childbirth. When we die, we will not be criticized for having failed to work miracles. but we will certainly have some explanation to offer to God for not having mourned unceasingly. – John Climacus, Step Seven of the Ladder of Divine Ascent

Do you think that John nailed the disease of our time 1,500 years ago? “High living, glory, anger, irritability.”

Actually, this is the human condition. Every generation seems to find the ways of its own.

Just as a good morning and evening practice is to check in with the good things that have come our way, we should also repent of these traits that cause strife and separation from God.

[Note: I’m on Pacific time this week. It’s early for me. 😉 ]

What Is Gained With Perception

June 18, 2018

[I took a short unintentional break last week. Traveling on both business and pleasure got me out of my routines. I suppose it’s a good thing.]

Meditation gives birth to perseverance, and perseverance ends in perception, and what is accomplished with perception cannot easily be rooted out.

I’m still climbing the ladder of divine ascent with John Climacus. Some classics need to be reviewed at times.

The seventh step is on Mourning. Introducing the topic, John includes the sentence quoted above.

The apostle Paul often spoke of perseverance using the metaphor of athletics. Training hard and persevering for the race. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews (which you’ll seldom see me quote from) also talks about running the race.

Jesus talked often of perceiving. As in “seeing they don’t perceive”.

As we sit (or stand or walk or lie) in stillness, persevering over days, months, years, decades, we perceive many truths. We deepen spiritually even though we may not realize it at the time.

John returns to the idea of calmness discussing other steps on the ladder.

As we begin a new week, developing this calmness by persevering in mediation will help us do this week what we should be doing.

As for me, I’m leaving shortly for Las Vegas and another technology conference. I’ll meet interesting people and learn new things. And if I persevere I won’t let the spirit of the “Strip” disturb the “force”.

Living With The Possibility of Dying

June 13, 2018

The Stoics called it memento mori. The practice of reflection on mortality. John Climacus said, “Someone has said that you cannot pass a day devoutly unless you think of it as your last. Even the Greeks have said some such thing, because they describe philosophy as meditation on death.”

John also says, “The man who has died to all things remembers death, but whoever holds some ties with the world will not cease plotting against himself.”

If today is to be your last, is what you are doing worth it? Did you say a kind word? Do a caring deed? Teach someone? Calm someone? Encourage someone?

This, then, is the sixth step. He who has climbed it will never sin. “Remember your last end, and you will never sin” (Ecclesiasticus 7:36).

Repentance Follows Obedience

June 12, 2018

Once John outran Peter, and now obedience is placed before repentance. — John Climacus

That’s an old-school word for you–repentance. If you haven’t figured it out, I shun those old religious words fearing either misinterpretation or that they’ve lost their power.

But having placed our former life behind us and decided to be obedient to God, then we need to decide on a new path.

Repentance is the renewal of baptism and is a contract with God for a fresh start in life. – John Climacus

So many people today, and maybe always, do not leave room for repentance in other people. And what follows–grace.

On the one hand I read too much from those who are today called evangelicals who seem to not possess the quality of allowing others to repent and receive grace.

On the other hand there are people I’ve met who are so filled with pride that it is beyond their understanding to change their lives and acknowledge their past.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, “Only the penitent man shall pass.” He works it out, “The penitent man kneels before God.” He kneels and the giant bread slicer goes harmlessly over his head.

The penitent man kneels before God. And goes forward to seek the Holy Grail.

Obedience As A Spiritual Discipline

June 11, 2018

Obedience is a term not heard often in America. Our politics are, and have been, a politics of rebelliousness.

We are told by people themselves in surveys and interviews that they see the parent’s role as that of friend, not one who guides and corrects their children.

Children mature physically but not emotionally lacking discipline and obedience.

John Climacus recognized 1,400 years ago a problem with men entering the spiritual life of the monastery. The next step after renunciation was obedience.

As spiritual seekers, obedience to God’s commands is crucial.

John includes an image. He discusses training for an athletic event. He paints a picture of an obedient seeker standing strong with one foot forward in service and the other foot anchored back in prayer.

The posture of an obedient disciple.

Going Into Exile

June 8, 2018

The second step on St. John of the Ladder’s (John Climacus) ladder of divine ascent is going into exile.

He was writing to monk who were leaving the city life and heading out to the desert. John was the abbot at the monastery at the base of Mount Sinai. I’ve been there. Climbed the mountain. Great experience. I was not in exile like the early Hebrews or the early monks were.

Going into exile means many things.

We can leave behind our status. Not dwell on accomplishments. Or job title. Or our wealth. If not physically, we can not dwell on them. Not brag. Just live one day at a time in the spirit.

We can take a periodic exile to a forest or beach or monastery or hotel. Get away for a day or several. I know a guy who flies to a place in Hawaii once or twice a year to just think.

We can clear our calendar periodically and take a Sabbath.

Just to spend time alone with God.

Our Mind Is an Imperfect Instrument

June 7, 2018

Why is it that we can be so intelligent and have gained so much knowledge with diplomas and degrees, and yet, we can believe the lies of politicians, preachers, and other people? We can believe with certainty things proven beyond a doubt to be wrong.

John Climacus writes concerning the dreams of novices beginning the spiritual journey, “Our mind is the instrument of knowledge, but it is very imperfect and filled with all sorts of ignorance.”

John was writing about dreams. But another John (Milton) said, “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell and a hell of heaven.”

Researchers using the scientific method have probed this idea and discovered that our minds will believe anything that we tell it to believe.

That is why on the spiritual journey, or even in everyday life, we must guard against the things that enter our minds. We must have a filter, the filter of discernment. We must be grounded in proven spiritual writing with a mentor to help us understand.