Monks, Saints, and Birds Falling from the Sky

As a little Baptist girl, I did not associate with monks, nuns or saints.

“Jesus, only Jesus” was my creed (still is!) and I looked with nervous suspicion on icons, religious statues and stories about humans performing miracles.

So fearful were we Protestants that we might accidentally worship Mary that we barely acknowledged her at all.

I never prayed to St. Jude to help me find what I had lost nor to St. Joseph to help me locate a job or a home. I enjoyed a direct line to the Almighty and any stained-glass saint only seemed like extraneous clutter that might distract me from hearing the voice of God or worse, tempt me to worship that which is not God.

My Puritan ancestors weighed heavily on my young conscience.

Being a good Baptist girl also meant that I didn’t knock on wood, fear the number thirteen, or tremble around black cats. In fact, I sought out ladders under which to walk just so I could bear witness to the fact that God alone controls my fate, not two metal stilts with rungs.

Anything that smacked of “high church” fell into some parallel category to secular superstitions so I avoided it all the way I avoided supermarket tabloids, Rocky Horror Picture Show and vans with painted windows.

So, color me surprised when in the past few years, I developed an appreciation for the writing of Celtic Christians and monastics who came before me and tried, as I do, to take this Jesus show on the road of my everyday life.

I think what I love most is the direct honesty many of them practiced as they pulled on faith like a pair of wading boots and wandered out into the deep water of life.

They spoke with God like Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof – carrying on a conversation that didn’t end when they closed their morning devotional but continued in the cow barn, on the street corner and in the midst of community life. Like Tevye, they weren’t shy about letting God know how hard His ways can be on the back, the knees, the ego and the heart.

In my morning devotions Wednesday (which I read just as Jay Leno was starting his monologue) was this verse from Paul:

Philippians 4:12-13 “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

Funny how scripture can be comforting and annoying at the same time.

Surrounded by boxes, the guts of my house scattered around me like kelp at low tide, and no new residence nailed down, I feel about as close to knowing Paul’s secret as I am to knowing Victoria’s secret.

I am packing for an unknown destination so, while I have flashes of contentment, I must confess it’s not my overriding mood.
The daily meditation in the devotions was infinitely more relatable to me. It is one of my favorite passages by the Franciscan author, Murray Bodo and is inspired by St. Francis of Assisi (one of the few crossover saints – adored and respected by Catholics and Protestants in equal measure – especially since the Franco Zefferelli film).

“If I am truly poor, then I am dependent on others for everything, and I feel useless and worthless, and I realize deep within that everything is a gift from the Father. Then in this attitude of complete dependence, I become useful again, for then I am empty of selfishness and I am free to be God’s instrument instead of my own. In poverty I begin to value everything rightly again. I see how little really matters, and I see that only that which glorifies God is of value.
I write these words in pain, Lady Poverty, for I have wept bitter tears because I was poor and had to beg from others, and I felt like a burden to people and to God … And I have grown weary of Christ’s words not to worry about tomorrow. But in His grace I have surrendered to God’s sovereignty and providence, and it has made me free .. .” Murray Bodo
The writer also says, “Perhaps, my Lady, that is why I keep submitting, surrendering my desire to control my life, my need to provide for the future.”

Here is a fellow adventurer, one who aimed, as I aim, for the bulls-eye of God’s heart in Jesus Christ, and yet was transparent and vulnerable in the process.

It made me marvel, again, at the Body of Christ, the Church. We are truly One. We can speak with one another across borders, time zones, centuries, and cultures and find our hearts beating with the singular rhythm of Jesus Christ.

Today I am grateful that I am not an only child in Jesus Christ. I have a legacy of fellow travelers who came before and I am in good present company on the narrow road.

The prayers and encouragement of the saints, both living and dead, fortify me so that I can pack one more box in faith, even on the day I disassemble my writing nook,

even on days when thousands of birds fall from the sky.

(Which brings us back to not worrying about tomorrow right? Because His eye is on the sparrow and “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Matthew 10: 29-31

Monks, saints, sparrows and me – all in God’s view. I want to live out the verse from Philippians. An old Franciscan monk helps me rest in that, along with a first century apostle and the prayers of twenty-first century saints.

Hug another Christian today and thank God you’re not alone in this long walk of faith!

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5 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. KB Cook says:

    Amen Sister – We, the people of God, are all in this together, past, present & future. Same unchanging God with plans & purposes that He has no compunction to share with us ahead of time. Joy in the Journey!

  2. Karin says:

    Trust you will find the new residence you need and that the Lord will lead you every step of the way. HE just provided for our son and his family who were moving back up here from PA just in time for Christmas. Now they are waiting patiently for a job for both of them.

  3. Thank you for this, Lori. Your words bless me today and I am grateful for faithful souls like yourself. I have you and your family in my prayers–so thankful that our Lord provides and confident that He will provide for you. God bless.

  4. “If I am truly poor, then I am dependent on others for everything, and I feel useless and worthless, and I realize deep within that everything is a gift from the Father.”

    That really spoke to me, because, well, that describes where my family is! I can relate to your uncertainty! We’ve been living with my mom for 18 months now, all our stuff in storage with NO sense of direction, no “real” jobs, no car, literally nothing. It’s a very awkward place to be, not just for us but for others too. And I have definitely felt useless for it! But He has been faithful to provide, and I am able to see the many gifts He has given in this season. He really does provide, and He provides well. My mom has been awesome, my daughter gets unlimited access to her grandma and goes to a great school thanks to the school district my mom lives in, and my husband and I have been able to retool our dreams and desires. We have no idea where God will take us, but we’re better positioned to receive it now than we would have been if we were not where we are now.

  5. Maurie says:

    Lori, A year ago, many poor, many middle class, and many upper class Haitians lost everything they had. Many are still sleeping in tents…It has been years now since my husband and I served in Haiti “dependent on others for everything.” But, I do remember that I never felt poor. The Lord abundantly took care of us and our hospital ministry. Today, he has me dependent on him for something else–one of our children. Again, I am completely useless. But it is reassuring to know the God who “places His children in houses” (Acts 17:24-28) and cares about the falling sparrows. Thank you for your always creative and well-written reminders!