For those of you coming into the middle of a conversation, it is my custom to take the first three days of December each year to meet with the King so as to get a score card regarding my performance during the previous year and marching orders for the next year.
In July of this year, I knew that I would need much more time, so I planned to take the last four days of November just to let my body and soul recover so I would be in premium condition for my spirit to engage with Him. And I booked a whole week in December to just listen. Monastic escapes are rare enough for me that they are extremely special.
Little did I know that the last three months before December would be frenetic and I would need every one of those four days to dial down. Obviously my spirit was dialed into THE Spirit in an admirable way when building this schedule with no soul data at hand.
I arrived on location with no drama, eager to see what my digs would be like.
I had spent an inordinate amount of time picking my landing pad for this adventure. Road warrior that I am, I have developed a deeply rooted cynicism about the whole (non)-hospitality industry.
After waffling for months, I finally made my choice and reserved a room at an independent family owned hotel that seemed well located for the kind of mischief and meditation I had in mind. I put in place a specific strike force months in advance, praying for that room. I didn’t want to spend my time in a land cleansing exercise, if you know what I mean. (Kudos to you all. Ya done good!)
I was beyond pleased with my choice when I finally saw it. (The only thing more untrustworthy than a campaign promise is a hotel website). It turned out to be a Prophet hotel. There was none of the usual useless frippery that seems to infect the non-Prophet hotels (like wash cloths whose legitimacy comes from having graduated at the top of their class in origami school).
AND the things that do matter were there. I love having an electrical outlet at desk level so I don’t have to do obeisance to octogenarian dust puppies every time I want to plug in my computer. And wonder of wonders — they actually use light bulbs in this hotel, instead of the dissipated, depleted, demotivated glow worms that seem to be de rigueur in the modern, world.
Light matters to me.
I settled in with great expectations.
Being a thoughtful son, I had given God a careful overview of how I envisioned the time apart playing out, including some notes about resources He could contribute to make it a successful event. Being a wise Father, He glanced at my notes, ran them through the shredder and consigned them to the compost pile — along with a couple thousand of your prayers.
It was a great week for compost.
When my four days of physical detox were up, Body announced that it needed forty days recuperation, not four.
Teacher portion of my spirit popped up with a howl of outrage (and detailed documentation, of course) to inform Body in no uncertain terms that he, Teacher, had requested 40 days for his needs FIRST and he had gone through proper channels in filing the request and getting it prayed into by you all. Therefore, justice REQUIRED that Teacher get his 40 days of refreshment first.
Body’s reply was succinct and unambiguous. “Tough.”
Thereafter, Body proceeded to make like a playground bully and help himself to viands and somnolence at will, with no regard to clock, culture or convenience.
Teacher must have been immersed in studying the diacritical points of Hebrew orthography during the week he was supposed to be in his Overcoming the Victim Spirit class because he became the poster boy for a victim.
He backed down meekly,sought forgiveness from God for his inappropriate anger toward Body, and then stood alertly on the sidelines, ready to quickly (and discretely) appropriate any scraps of time Body happened to not abscond with.
There were enough of those for Teacher to find great joy, reacquainting himself extravagantly with Kittel’s and Colin Brown while having both my favorite Bible study apps open simultaneously, joyously filling spread sheets and brain mapping software with an abundance of tightly organized data waiting to be digested at some indeterminate future time.
He was exultant when he found what he considers to be an atrocious mistranslation of 2 Chronicles 20:7. Teacher positively glowed when Prophet gave him an atta boy for that one when it answered a huge question Prophet had been carrying for years (but had never taken the time to explore).
While Body was trying to digest his latest round of gastronomic intemperance and Teacher was basking in the affirmation of his having utilitarian value in the eyes of Prophet (since Teacher apparently skipped the True Legitimacy class as well), Prophet grabbed the available bandwidth to do some word smithing about Oholibah’s sofa. This treasure had surfaced somewhere during the recent whirlwind, but had never been reduced to “Monday morning” clarity.
Prophet got a good initial swipe at the problem. The word picture is clear enough to be somewhat actionable, but not satisfactory yet.
And that sums up the first day of my week of monastic bliss with the King.
Subsequently, things got very messy. Physically I was hammered in a variety of uncommon ways. As soon as I fought out of one situation another popped up.
Emotionally I got yanked pretty thoroughly by some things you will see below.
Spiritually I was forced to shift directions more often than a roller coaster at Cedar Point. There is no question that I moved the ball significantly during the week, but it was maddening to watch “the” ball morph from a lacrosse ball, to a ping pong ball, to a billiard ball to a pinball. Each has its own trajectory and rules of play and I got dizzy shifting gears, lanes and strategies!
I returned from the trip substantially more depleted than I left, which is a disappointment indeed.
In the midst of that utterly-non-monastically-still-and-reverent climate, God managed to get past the petulance and conflicting agendas and make Himself heard. Fortunately, He has a few billion lives of experience in dealing with his intemperate, distracted, wanna-be sons.
Some of the outcomes:
-I have been reading the journey of a Mercy with a victim spirit who discovered Rogerian psychology, (a classic Servant ideology) and worked out her own redemption in the context of organizational psychology.
It was a hard read since she was mostly concerned with delegitimizing everyone else’s methodology. When she finally got around to sharing a stick figure version of what she actually DOES do, I found it somewhat useful.
Meaning I needed to deconstruct it, take the bricks and build my own vintage Prophet version of the technique. This I did during the night watches while Body could not sleep and Teacher could not research.
Out of that came a portable tool I will experiment with, using some of my remarkably resilient and patient guinea pigs.
-I desperately wanted an explanation of what went wrong in 2014. I knew going into the weekend that I had abysmally failed to execute what I thought were the objectives for the last year. That meant either I heard wrong, or I abysmally failed to execute.
It was the latter.
God used the illustration of making bread — one with which I am intimately familiar. Six cups of flour gets you nowhere without the two tablespoons of yeast and one of sugar for the yeast to feed on. I had focused on the flour since it was the big nut to crack. I dabbled with the yeast and skipped the sugar.
In the midst of my grief, (while doing a web search for the nearest outlet selling sackcloth and ashes) He pointed out that He had been very busy this last year positioning me for success, even though I wasn’t pulling my weight. The things He put in place this year will benefit me significantly in 2015 as I lean into this task again, with intense attention to the small things.
-Quite unexpected, was a discussion of my strengths. It began with an inventory of my internal, intangible assets. Next, sorting which ones were in play and which not. Third, which ones were currently high impact.
Then came the question with a bite. Which of my assets would I LIKE to have be high impact?
The residual spirit-of-slavery-neurological-patterns in my brain kicked in with concern about the “like” word, but I wrestled them into something more nearly resembling mumbling than shouting and proceeded to do the exercise.
At the end of the day, there was a 100% disconnect between the areas where I would like to be high impact and those where I actually am. I didn’t need the Holy Spirit to tell me there is something wrong with this picture.
So I took my top six most loved assets and built out six new story lines for my life with each one of them as primary. I will be chewing on those for some months, trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up, and how on earth to make the transition. This was certainly an emotional seismic jolt that is still reverberating through my soul.
-A more concise data point had to do with a potential business venture. I suspected a trap but had no data. While most incoming e-mails were handled by Megan during my absence, one came through with some hard data that absolutely confirmed my suspicion about the deal being a bad deal.
I was grateful for an interaction with Father that produced a positive emotion of relief. A fellow needs a little of that once in a while.
-Unexpectedly, a particular organization came up on the screen. I had NO INTENTION of taking any one else’s problems with me to MY tryst with the King, but since my script was being savored by earthworms in the compost pile, I had to run with His.
He scrolled back through the problems of the year which gave me nothing new, since I had already heard of those problems as each one occurred. Then He highlighted one particular personnel change and just held the light there for a while.
I don’t know what the problem is, but I do know which rock to look under when I get back to civilization!
-God reminded me of my dad’s mantra. “Most people stop doing what made them successful when they become successful.” Father assured me I was guilty as charged. I used to study the Word to see what was there, now I study it to find specific solutions. In the process of being pre-focused, I miss a lot of jewels along the way.
So, the assignment is to immerse myself in the book of Colossians for six months, applying all my tools to it, looking to see what is actually there, not trying to answer any questions or solve any problems.
I find that quite interesting. The book is one of the premier statements about the nature of Christ, with chapters 1 and 2 discussing Christ’s essence in Himself, and the second half looking at Christ in us.
My perception of myself is that my passion for Christ is immense and central. Yet my most frequent accusation is that I am some sort of cult because “there is no mention of Jesus on your website.”
So I think one thing. Others think something else. I am left wondering what Father thinks. Is He giving me this assignment to strengthen my strongest point or because I am deficient in this area? No clue. I will do the assignment with vigor, regardless.
Whether this is graduate work for a scholar or remedial work for a sluggard, it will be hugely enjoyable work.
-Unexpectedly, God dropped into my spirit an understanding of the suicide project debacle. We had thought going in that the suicides defiled the land. We figured out after the fact that the land was defiled by something first that drew the suicides to that spot. We didn’t know what “it” was, nor what we needed to do about it.
God gave me a starting point in developing a theological strategy for that. Needs lots of work going forward.
-In the process of wrestling with the incoming rounds against my body, I learned some new things about the 3rd and 4th heads of Leviathan and how they tag team. Unpleasant, important information.
There is lots more that came into focus during the week, but I was chasing balls too frenetically to keep notes on everything that happened.
I just know that the earth worms got fat, I got tired, the kingdom of darkness took some hits and I moved the ball.
In unexpected ways.
Copyright December 2014 by Arthur Burk
From home, gratefully.