Oh, Chosen One

Russian Icon of the Prophet Isaiah--Wikipedia Labeled for noncommercial reuse.

Russian Icon of the Prophet Isaiah–Wikipedia, labeled for noncommercial reuse.

This morning, my reading took me to the second book of Isaiah, known as The Book of Consolation in my translation. I never tire of reading this, the voice of God through his prophet reminding me over and over again that, in spite of myself, God continues to choose me.

I’m revisiting a book that I read years ago,

Prayer and Temperament: Different Prayer Forms for Different Personality Types by Chester Michael and Marie Norrisey

that helps us explore avenues of prayer suited to one’s personality type as defined by the Myers-Briggs. For people like me who can’t exist without time for prayer and quiet (Intuitive, Feeling) one prayer form that the authors recommend is Lectio Divino (Divine Reading), that is reading and entering into dialogue with God about what one has read. They suggest when reading Second Isaiah, to insert your own name whenever God is addressing Israel.

Check out these verses, for example. I will leave a blank, for you to substitute your name:

“But now, thus says the Lord,
who created you, ________, and formed you, _______:
do not fear for I have called you by name.
You are mine.” Is. 43: 1

“Hear then, ________, my servant,
_________, whom I have chosen.
Thus says the Lord, who made you,
your help, who formed you from the womb:
Do not fear, __________, my servant,
____________, whom I have chosen.” Is. 44: 1-2

This is what it is all about, isn’t it? Bringing home scripture, making it alive today in our own experience. Remembering that we are God’s chosen and he is speaking to us. Divine reading, indeed!

If you have never taken the Myers-Briggs Personality Assessment, may I suggest this book, a simple test and analysis of all 16 temperaments…helpful not only for prayer, but also in understanding personal relationships. My husband and I are the exact opposites on one another–complementary and challenging! (Click on the book titles to access these books on Amazon).

Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types Paperback by David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates

By the way, for the fiction writers among you, this is the book I use to help me to develop characters who are consistent, but who will also throw in an occasional surprise by acting out of character.

The Gospel According to John

Zagreb Gospel Book: John Wikipedia Commons Labeled for Reuse

Zagreb Gospel Book: John
Wikipedia Commons
Labeled for Reuse

The Gospel According to John

Time passed slowly that afternoon.
Blood flowed like lava into my cupped hand.

The man who hung upon a rough-hewn tree
should have reigned over lush gardens of creation.

The night before I’d struggled to remain awake,
but now I stood by the mother until he passed

into the boiler room of hell. We remained there
to receive his body, returned it to the earth,

sealed the tomb with the clunk of a massive boulder.
After the Sabbath, the Phoenix resurfaced from the ash-pit.

Now I write his story, dipping the nib of my pen
in the sanguine ink of eternal mysteries.

Copyright 2012 Victoria Slotto

Touch the Dawn

Photo: yala-lala via Deviant Art Labeled for Non-Commercial Reuse

Photo: yala-lala via Deviant Art
Labeled for Non-Commercial Reuse

In the tender compassion of our God,
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death
and to guide our feet into the day of peace.

Luke 1, 78-79

Photo: touch the flame Deviant Art Labeled for Non-Commercial Reuse

Photo: touch the flame
Deviant Art
Labeled for Non-Commercial Reuse

May the light and peace we need so much be with you, your loved ones and our troubled world. Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year.

Victoria

Playful God

I assure you, unless you change and become like little children, you will not enter the kingdom of God.Whoever makes himself lowly, becoming like this child, is of greatest importance in that heavenly reign. Mt. 18, 3-4 (NAB)

Photo: Crayola Crayons

Photo: Crayola Crayons

I remember a couple of lines from a poem I read a long time ago from a book published in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s. It was written and published by a teacher from St. Mary’s of the Lake, a sister college back then of Notre Dame University–the college my grandmother attended. I tried to recall the exact phrasing, but the book is not available to me right now, so I will just give you the gist, in my own words:

I have a very little song to sing,
I have a very little game to play,
I play alone, except for One who is with me always.
And they are beautiful.

Whenever I read or think of this poem, I think of the ever-loving presence of our God and the fact that God cares about the littlest things in our life.

Yesterday, I had a delightful morning with a dear friend, someone with whom I share faith-talk. We went Bible shopping, as my sight is not so good anymore (one of the non-perks of getting older). I would like one that is large print. Most of the ones we saw were enormous study Bibles. None was in the translation I am used to. But we saw a shelf of coloring books for kids and started talking about the meditative fad that’s popular now of adult coloring books. Kerry told me they have them at Costco, just across the street from where we were. So we went, and both found one…but no crayons.

Now, in my early years, my mom and I lived with my grandparents on a very meager widow’s pension. Mom was not able to give me most of what I asked for, so I still carry the pure delight of the times she would take me to get a new coloring book (or any kind of book, for that matter) and a box of crayons…eight of them, if I recall correctly. Even now, when I pass crayons in the grocery store, I can taste that joy, the scent and colors of a new box of crayons…and so in the afternoon, I took off to Wal-Mart and bought one with 120 colors! I colored two pictures last night.

Jesus asks us to become like little children and I believe that is an invitation to trust and unquestioned belief in His Word. But I also suspect that God delights in us when we find joy in the simple things of life (and in the beauty of His creation.) Perhaps you would enjoy it too–or maybe you will rediscover one of those little things that gave you happiness as a child.

Image: Pinterest

Image: Pinterest

The Prodigal Father

Yes, you’re reading it correctly: the PRODIGAL Father. Sure, the son was prodigal in his wasting of his inheritance on vanity, but check out this definition of prodigal:

adjective: marked by rash extravagance

And so it is with the Father’s extravagant love that could be judged by some as rash. His loving kindness is poured out on us, no matter how low we go. Isn’t it wonderful? Forgiveness abounds.

Image: Rembrandt The artist represented the abundance of parental love by painting one male hand and one female hand.

Image: Rembrandt
The artist represented the abundance of God’s parental love by painting one male hand and one female hand.

The “Perfect” Son

Image: Rembrandt's Prodigal Son Wikipedia Commons

Image: Rembrandt’s Prodigal Son
Wikipedia Commons

Let’s continue reflecting on the wonderful story Jesus told of the Father’s immense love for us. Trying to share the conferences I heard on the parable of the Prodigal Son became a daunting task that stalled me, so I’ll just take a few moments to share my own thoughts about the elder son–the son who stayed faithful, who stayed home with his father and did all he could to do what he believed  the father expected of him. I suspect that, if you are visiting this blog, you may be among those who still remain (or, like me, who have returned) home.

What Jesus is asking us to do is to stand back and take a look at ourselves…an objective look. The elder son remained with the father and worked hard–but look what happened when the younger brother returned home–that kid who had demanded his inheritance up front only to go and waste it on dissolute living. Big Bro was really ticked off. No, more than that, he allowed resentment to consume him.

Doesn’t this make you wonder why he bothered to hang around. I suspect it was because he wanted to get something from it. He expected a return on his investment and just couldn’t come to understand that the love of the Father is not based on what we do to earn it, but rather is a gratuitous gift, overflowing with love. Dipping into the Old Testament, I’ve encountered how the loving kindness of God shows up, again and again, in spite of the total infidelity of the Hebrew people, the people he chose for himself. So it is with us.

There are other sins, too, that those who are “good” sons, or “good” Christians may be guilty of–gossip, judgmentalism, pettiness, ignoring the needs of others, perfectionism…it’s darn hard to measure up to those demands of the Beatitudes. Yet, they too need the Father’s forgiveness.

Jesus doesn’t really tell us the rest of the story. Did the elder son catch on and come inside and join in the celebration? I wonder. He would surely be missing out on the Father’s abundant love if he stayed outside and moped.

Note: In Rembrandt’s portrayal of the parable, check out the elder son. He’s the one standing way in the back, in the shadows. The artist really had a deep understanding of Jesus’ story, didn’t he.

 

The Wayward Son–the Decision to Return Home

Photo: arthurandteresabeam.blogspot.com

Photo: arthurandteresabeam.blogspot.com

Many of us go through stages in our spiritual journey when we take leave of our spiritual home and go in search of something new and different, or perhaps easier.

Grounded as I had been in my religious practice, I also “left home” for a while. It’s hard for me to understand what I was looking for, because I never abandoned my spiritual seeking–I just wanted to look elsewhere. Perhaps for something easier, and I found myself unable to live up to the expectations I had set for myself–forgetting that salvation is not about what I do, but what God has already done for me.

The son’s leave-taking, as discussed in my last post, was about himself, but also about a search for his own pleasure and a defiance of his father’s love for him. What was it that brought him home–the total destitution that he encountered–his hunger for food.

He had no expectation of being received as a son, but figured that perhaps his father would accept him back as a servant. He thought that since he was feeding pigs for a stranger, perhaps his lot would be better with the Father, that at least he wouldn’t have to eat the slop he fed the swine.

When I decided to return home, I can’t explain why, exactly. I just knew it was time. I had to come face to face with my own delusions, my well-thought-out rationale for whatever it was I was seeking. It just happened that one day, I decided I missed my spiritual home. The loving Spirit of the Father drew me back. Perhaps you have read Francis Thompson’s poem, The Hound of Heaven, a poem about God’s relentless pursuit of us.

Have you had your own experience of leave-taking? Of home-coming? What drove you away? What/Who brought you home? Your sharing may help someone else.

Next week, I’d like to take a look at the older brother, the one who never left. We may find out that he needed to fall flat on his face, too–like some of us have.

Note: On September 12, 13, and 14th I will be offering a free Kindle Give-Away of my novel, “The Sin of His Father.” Click on the title to take advantage of this offer. If you are willing to do a review on Amazon.com or Goodreads.com, I would be so grateful. Print copies are also available for purchase. Ask me about signed copies–victoria@victoriacslotto.com 

BOOK DESCRIPTION

Words uttered by his mother on her deathbed, a mystery about his father that she had not confided to him, drove Matt Maxwell to fear that he could become like this man he never knew.

Abandoning the woman he loved, his closest friend, and a lifestyle that suited him well, Matt made choices that opened him to an unlikely friendship and a new relationship with the God of his youth. However, the terrible secret he harbored eventually took him down a path of self-destruction and alcoholism.

What would it take to embrace his truth, accept himself and his past, and discover peace in the power of forgiveness and love?

The Wayward Son–the Leave-Taking

Image: spcnorfolk.com

Image: spcnorfolk.com

I have a confession to make. After introducing (on August 3!)  what I promised would be the first of a series of articles about the parable of the Prodigal Son, I faltered. I developed a psychological and spiritual paralysis, and for that I apologize. I felt it was beyond my ability to express, and it is. What I forgot was, it’s not about me. It’s the Holy Spirit who taps my keyboard.

So here is the next consideration: the youngest son and his leave-taking–that kid who was so self-absorbed that all he thought about was his share of his loving father’s inheritance and all the pleasure, all the fun things he could enjoy with it.

His request of his father: “Give me what’s going to come to me now, I don’t want to wait for it any longer,” was the equivalent of saying, “You’re living too long, Dad. I wish you were dead. I want my money now.” Yikes!

That is what sin is, saying “I don’t want to belong to you anymore. I don’t want to have anything to do with you.” Just to prove his point, he went to a distant country–he got as far away as he could so that there would be no confusion in the mind of his father.

Isn’t it true that our culture bids us to always look for something better? The boy-man denied that he belonged to the father and lived out his own version of the sin of Adam and Eve: “I can do it myself. I can do it on my own.”

A lot of times when we read this gospel passage, we focus on the sins the son committed–wasting his fortune on prostitutes and debauchery! But the greater sin was this–that he left his father.

I don’t want this to be too long, so I’ll continue next post. In case you need to refresh your memory on this wonderful parable that Jesus shared, you will find it in its entirety in my previous post.

Thank you. Have a blessed week.

Based on notes I took during a Parish Mission offered by Father Patrick Mowrer.

Rev. Patrick Mowrer

Rev. Patrick Mowrer

Abba, Dear Father

Last month my faith community offered a Parish Mission–three evenings of “retreat” preached by Rev. Pat Mowrer of Flagstaff, Arizona.

The theme of his talks centered on the parable of the Prodigal Son–a gospel I’ve read and heard treated in sermons so many times, The saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears,” comes to mind. These three evenings gob-smacked my spirit–it was one of those moments when one can see something so familiar as though for the first time.

Using Rembrandt’s stunning oil of the Prodigal Son, Fr. Patrick divided his talks over the three days by person: the youngest (wayward) son, the older (faithful) son and the Father. My goal is to focus my next three posts on each of these. But for today, let’s just look at the underlying message of each sermon:

Image: Rembrandt's Prodigal Son Wikipedia Commons

Image: Rembrandt’s Prodigal Son
Wikipedia Commons

URLoved

 In case you’ve tucked the Luke’s account back in the recesses of your archives, let’s take a look at it. 

Luke 15:11-32New International Version (NIV)

The Parable of the Lost Son

11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

To prepare for the next few posts, I invite you to sit quietly with this gospel and adopt “beginner’s mind.” Read it as though you were there in the crowd when Jesus told the story for the first time.

In the next post, I’d like to share a few insights a la Father Pat…a new look at the wild child, the younger son.  I’ll venture a guess most of us will be able to identify with him to a degree–and yet we are loved!

“Catching Sight of God”

“Immediately, upon catching sight of Jesus, the whole crowd was overcome by awe.”
Mark, 9, 15 (NAB)

Photo: consecratetheday.com

Photo: consecratetheday.com

This verse from Mark caught my attention this morning. It occurs at the beginning of an account in which Jesus heals a boy possessed by a deaf and mute spirit that threw him into what we would describe as epilepsy. The disciples lacked faith to heal him themselves and Jesus got on their case for that before asking the lad’s father to believe. The entire story is full of lessons and points to ponder–but it’s that verse I quoted above that commanded my attention today.

Two points: the preceding account is that of the Transfiguration in which Jesus gave Peter, James and John a glimpse of his divine beauty–or perhaps it was the Father’s doing. I have to imagine that after that, Jesus still had a radiance about him that struck the crowd.

I’ve seen that among his followers, haven’t you? The knowledge of God, an experience of his presence in our lives, really does transform us and there is a certain joy, a radiance that shines through our physical person. In my work with death and dying, I’ve even seen it in the midst of pain and impending loss when there is an undercurrent of faith that supports both the patient and their loved ones.

Second point: we, too, can catch sight of Jesus in the unfolding of every single day…perhaps in another person, perhaps in moments of prayer, in those moments that we can cultivate when doing the most menial of tasks like laundry or dishes, during a commute, working in the garden where we can appreciate the wonder of creation and the need of the constant attention needed to pull out those darn weeds (guess what I did this morning).

Jesus shows up, sometimes when we least expect it…if we look for him. Would you share (in comments) how he took you by surprise today. Or is there an event from the past you would like to share. Maybe this will help a fellow follower to zoom in on the Presence.

Thank you.