"So," they say, "nobody's perfect!"
But the Vinedresser won't buy that.
Given the opportunity, He will trim the unproductive suckers and shape the branches so each one will bask in Sonlight.

Monday, May 01, 2006

More from Brother Lawrence

      God first spoke to Nicholas Herman--later to become Brother Lawrence, when he was eighteen years-of-age. The boy noticed a fruit tree bared by the winter's blast. He knew what appeared to be dead would, in God's time, bud, sprout leaves, then flowers, and finally fruit. Meditating on such high thoughts about God gave the boy a new and lasting appreciation of God's sovereign power. He received a love for God that, if anything, had only increased in the intervening forty years.
      The "high notions" about God with which he continually filled his mind seem to be the key to Brother Lawrence's intimate fellowship with his Master, and in turn, his constant, simple joy of life. Such "high notions" cultivate a lofty view of God, appreciation for His infinite grace, humility for our fallen state, and gratitude for the profound sacrifice He made in restoring us to intimate fellowship with Himself. How could he not joyfully exploit that God-given opportunity to "pray without ceasing," as God commanded in His word?
      In M. de Beaufort's second interview, Brother Lawrence revealed the satisfaction he received from unselfishly loving God; simply harvesting a straw from the field for God's love, seeking not even His reward for faithful service, gratified the lay-brother more than he felt he deserved.
      During one four-year period, Brother Lawrence had suffered from a belief that despite all his efforts to serve God, he should be deemed unworthy of heaven. He finally found peace in his resolve to live for God regardless of the eternal outcome. In serving God without compromise he joyfully satisfied not only his temporal need for purpose, but his desire for assurance of salvation as well.
      He referred to prayer as "conversing with God," a revolutionary idea in a culture of litergy and prayer books. He said continually conversing with God and referring all we do to Him required that we first "apply to Him with some diligence." Exactly what that means depends upon the individual seeker, but after a little initial care, His exciting love will motivate us to continual devotion without difficulty.
      Even so, Brother Lawrence occasionally stumbled, but dealt with each misstep with prayer: "I shall never do otherwise, if You leave me to myself. It is You who must hinder my falling and mend what is amiss." Once so committed, "he gave himself no further uneasiness about it." God never failed to honor such plain and frank interactions. What a contrast to our own brand of self-fladulation!
      Contemplating difficult tasks often daunted Brother Lawrence, but once he realized they were God's work, and not his own, he did them well. All he did was ask God for His grace to do His work well, and he found it easy to accomplish.
      God's love motivated him in every task, so he had little need for a human supervisor. When he did fail, he simply confessed it to God with no excuses, and continued loving Him with renewed adoration. Then he let the lots fall where they would without worrying about it.
      Useless thoughts had no place in his life, but they plagued him repeatedly. He found the usual monastic disciplines usless, unless they focussed him on God's love. Only by consciously doing all things for God's sake could he keep his mind elevated beyond the natural, carnal level.
      He differentiated between "acts of the intellect and those of the will," assigning the former relatively little value, while the latter were all important. Such an idea offends today's esteem of the human mind as being divine in scope. But deep thoughts have no value if they produce no lasting change within the thinker. Willing to follow God's Way, loving and delighting ourselves in Him, however, requires little intellectual prowess, and absolutely no self-thrashing. Only through Jesus' blood can we expect pardon for our sins, and only by loving Him for his blood can we please Him.
      The extreems of this world's pain and pleasure can't compare to either, experienced in a spiritual state. So he feared nothing, save offending God.
      Finally, he said, "When I fail in my duty, I readily acknowledge it, saying, I am used to do so. I shall never do otherwise if I am left to myself. If I fail not, then I give God thanks acknowledging that it comes from Him."

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