08 December 2010

What Will Never Be Found Under The Christmas Tree...

Whoso with riches deals,
And thinks peace bought and sold,
Will find them slippery eels,
That slide the firmest hold...
'Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.' - Solomon.

27 November 2010

Is Scripture Too Pointed For Us?

George Orwell on writing:
"The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns, as it were instinctively, to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink....
(He provides an example) In modern English:
" Objective consideration of contemporary phenomena compels the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account."
(It is) a well-known verse from the Bible, found in ECCLESIASTES:
" I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth."

25 November 2010


Here dies another day
During which I have had eyes, ears, hands,
And the great world around me;
And with tomorrow begins another.
Why am I allowed two?

  • Chesterton, on gratefulness

17 November 2010

The Triumph Of Christ

God met man in a narrow place,
And they scanned each other face to face.

God spoke first: "What ails you, man,
That you should look so pale and wan?"

"You bade me conquer harm
With no strength but this weak right arm.

"I would ride to war with a glad consent
Were I, as You, omnipotent."

"You show but little sense;
What triumph is there for omnipotence?"

"If You think it well to be
Such a thing as I, make trial and see."

God answered him: "And if I do,
I'll prove Me a better Man than you."

God conquered man with His naked hands,
And bound him fast in iron bands.

  • Dorothy L Sayers

    • 13 November 2010

      Worth the Wait

      To wait an hour is long
      if love be just beyond—
      To wait eternity is short
      if love reward the end.

      • Emily Dickinson (c. 1863)

      31 October 2010

      Untangling Kindness and Love

      It's much easier, much less complicated to be kind than to be loving. To be loving is to be thoughtful and feeling; it demands long-term persistence and short-term gratitude. Love binds us and constrains us to localities, duties, and demands rather than mere self-fulfillment. 
      Merely being kind has immediate mutual gratification in mind. CS Lewis has some thoughts on both:
      “Kindness, as such, cares not whether its object becomes good or bad, provided only that it escapes suffering…”(CS Lewis)
      Contrast kindness with Lewis' reflection on love:
      “Love may forgive all infirmities [weaknesses] and love still in spite of them: but Love cannot cease to will [to desire] their removal. Love is more sensitive than hatred itself to every blemish in the beloved…Of all powers [love] forgives most, but [love] condones least: love is pleased with [a] little, but demands all."
      • C.S. Lewis The Problem of Pain

      29 October 2010

      Happiness--Why Not Always?

      "the settled happiness and security which we all desire, God withholds from us by the very nature of the world: but joy, pleasure, and merriment, He has scattered broadcast. We are never safe, but we have plenty of fun, and some ecstacy. It is not our hard to see why.
      The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and oppose an obstacle to our return to God: a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with our friends, a bath or a football match, have no such tendency. Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them
      for home."
      • C.S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain

      27 October 2010


      Man finds it hard to get what he wants, because he does not want the best; God finds it hard to give because He would give the best, and man will not take it.
      • George MacDonald

      26 October 2010

      "Loving the Unlovable"

      I live in a city of “perfect people” and they’re crazy lonely. Why? I suspect it’s because they don’t understand that most people don’t cozy up to perfect people. I’ve noticed that ‘perfect’ people are about the most difficult people be comfortable with. And the Perfect people, living on the hamster wheel of perfectionism, think they’re just not perfect enough to be loved.
      Truth: most people would rather be around silly and slightly sloppy - as long as they’re kind.
      **So, go kiss a puppy, then have a cigarrette.**

      25 October 2010

      Motivation Enough for Mercy

      Pity the human who believes himself to be an island--dispensing little or no real kindness and mercy. Even in the here and now, that person is bound to shrink-the incredible shrinking of his soul happens without him perceiving it.
      "The demand for mercy is far from being for the sake only of the man who needs his neighbour's mercy; it is greatly more for the sake of the man who must show the mercy. It is a small thing to a man whether or not his neighbour be merciful to him; it is life or death to him whether or not he be merciful to his neighbour. . .
      The reward of the merciful is, that by their mercy they are rendered capable of receiving the mercy of God -- yea, God himself, who is Mercy."
      • George MacDonald

      23 October 2010

      A Mystic's Poem on Prayer

      That prayer has great power which a person makes with all his might.
      It makes a sour heart sweet, a sad heart merry, a poor heart rich,
      a foolish heart wise, a timid heart brave, a sick heart well,
      a blind heart full of sight, a cold heart ardent.
      It draws down the great God into the little heart;
      it drives the hungry soul up into the fullness of God;
      it brings together two lovers, God and the soul, in a wondrous place
      where they speak much of love.

      • Mechthild of Magheburg  (a Catholic mystic from the 1200’s)

      21 October 2010

      Imagination vs. Electronics? An Art of Poetry

      Fertility, whether in gardening, artistry or writing, has several requirements; two of the needs for being productive are fallow times (for rest) and fertilizer. Now, I use nature walks to assist me with the latter, but found the fallow times were becoming increasingly harder to experience. Then I discovered that my love for gadgetry was getting in the way of productive rest.  I read several studies on the use of “wired” gadgets (computers, smartphones) and movie viewing which inconclusively showed not only a shorter attention span, but also a large drop in “artistic production.” In other words, subjects’ imaginations were stagnating.
      What did I do and what was my experience? I quit using my laptop for any creative writing and used the more laborious pen and paper (good paper and my special pens, of course). Not only that, I also forswore social media for several days, and found that that made a significant difference. I think this may work for me.
      End of news report. Here's today's reflection--yes, it relates to my little report (somewhat obliquely):

      An Art of Poetry

      Since all our keys are lost or broken,
      Shall it be thought absurd
      If for an art of words I turn
      Discreetly to the Word?

      Drawn inward by his love, we trace
      Art to its secret springs:
      What, are we masters in Israel
      And do not know these things?

      Lord Christ from out his treasury
      Brings forth things new and old:
      We have those treasures in earthen vessels,
      In parables he told,

      And in single images
      Of see, and fish, and stone,
      Or, shaped in deed and miracle,
      To living poems grown.

      Scorn then to darken and contract
      The landscape of the heart
      By individual, arbitrary
      And self-expressive art.

      Let your speech be ordered wholly
      By an intellectual love;
      Elucidate the carnal maze
      With clear light from above.

      Give every image space and air
      To grow, or as a bird to fly;
      So shall one grain of mustard-seed
      Quite overspread the sky.

      Let your literal figures shine
      With pure transparency:
      Not in opaque but limpid wells
      Lie truth and mystery.

      And universal meanings spring
      From what the proud pass by:
      Only the simplest forms can hold
      A vast complexity.

      We know, where Christ has set his hand
      Only the real remains:
      I am impatient for that loss
      By which the spirit gains.
      • by James McAuley

      16 October 2010

      Choice Air of Truth--Love's Habitat

      The Truth is stirless
      Other force may be presumed to move
      This then is best for confidence
      When oldest cedars swerve

      And oaks untwist their fists
      And mountains feeble lean
      How excellent a body that
      stands without a bone

      How vigorous a force
      that holds without a prop
      Truth stays herself-and every man
      that trusts Her-boldy up-

      • Emily Dickinson (c.1863)
      Dickinson wrote poems peppered with dashes, which gives her poetry an odd (and differing) interpretation. I tend to remove most of them and let the reader make the interpretation. (She also tended to capitalize without regard for rules.)

      08 October 2010

      Turning the Tide in Human Tragedy

      It's been said that bad theology results in bad practices, that orthodoxy ought to be  worked out in orthopraxy (that is, right beliefs need to be in concert with right behaviors). And, it's not news that the blight in US history was slavery. With this in mind, we have to admire the four Quaker men in Germantown, Pennsylvania who committed to paper their desire for slavery to be abandoned. Their desire was based partly in the inhumanity of slavery - and this inhumanity is not Christian behavior. These Quakers made this statement in 1688, nearly 100 years before the American Declaration of Independence.
      More on the history from "Germantown Quaker Protests Slavery 1688" found:
      The Germantown Quaker Protest Against Slavery of 1688 is best known as the first organized protest against slavery to have been penned in North America. Written by four Germantown Quakers, this extraordinary document raises objections to slavery on both moral and practical grounds at a time that Pennsylvania Quakers were nearly unanimous in their acceptance of the institution of slavery.
      It took another 88 years of activism among a growing number of Quakers before the Society of Friends would completely denounce slavery among its membership, and by this time the Germantown Quaker Protest had been completely forgotten. The document came to light again in 1844 and served as an important tool to the Quaker abolition movement of the 19th century.
      It was misplaced in the 20th century and was only re-discovered in 2005 in the vault of the Arch Street Meeting House. This document is but one famous example of the extensive records of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, which are divided between Haverford’s Quaker Collection and Swarthmore’s Friends Historical Library. A larger image and transcript of the protest can be found in Triptych: the Tri-College Digital Library.

      ==========HERE IS THE TEXT: =============
      "These are the reasons why we are against the traffik of men-body, as follows: Is there any that would be done or handled at this manner? viz., to be sold or made a slave for all the time of his life?
      How fearful & fainthearted are many on sea when they see a strange vessel. being afraid it should be a Turck, and they should be taken, and sold for slaves into Turckey. Now what is this better done, as Turcks do? yea, rather is it worse for them which say they are Christians, for we hear that ye most part of such negroes are brought hither against their will & consent and that many of them are stolen.
      Now they are black, we cannot conceive there is more liberty to have them slaves, as it is to have other white ones. There is a saying that we shall doe to all men like as we will be done ourselves; making no difference of what generation, descent or colour they are. and those who steal or rob men, and those who buy or purchase them, are they not all alick?
      Here is liberty of conscience which is right and reasonable; here ought to be likewise liberty of the body, except of evildoers, whicch is another case. But to bring men hither, or to rob and sell them against their will, we stand against.
      In Europe there are many oppressed for Conscience sake; and here there are those oppressed which are of a Black colour. We who know that men must not commit adultery, some do commit adultery in others, separating wives from their husbands, and giving them to others. and some sell the children of those poor Creatures to other men.
      Ah! do consider well this things, you who do it, if you would be done at this manner? and is done according Christianity? You surpass Holland and Germany in this thing. This makes an ill report in all those Countries of Europe, where they hear off, that ye Quakers do here handle men like they handle their Cattle. and for that reason some have no mind or inclination to come hither. And who shall maintain this your cause, or plead for it? Truly we cannot do so...
      Pray, what thing in the world can be done worse towards us, then if men should rob or steal us away, & sell us for slaves to strange Countries, separating husband from their wife and children?
      Being now this is not done at that manner we will be done at, therefore we contradict & are against this traffic of men body. And we who profess that it is unlawful to steal, must likewise avoid to purchase such things as are stolen, but rather help to stop this robbing and stealing if possible. And such men ought to be delivered out of the hands of Robbers & made free, as well as in Europe.
      Then [will]... Pensilvania have a good report, instead it has now a bad one for this sake in other Countries. Especially whereas Europeans are desirous to know in what manner Quakers do rule in their Province, & most of them do look upon us with an envious eye.
      But if this is done well, what shall we say is done evil? If once these slaves (which they say are so wicked and stubborn men) should joint themselves, fight for their freedom and handle their masters & mistresses, as they did it, handle them before; will these masters & mistresses take the sword at hand and war against these poor slaves, like we are able to believe, some will not refuse to do? or have these negroes not as much right to fight for their freedom, as you have to keep them slaves?
      Now consider well this thing, if it is good or bad? and in case you find it to be good to handle these blacks at that manner, we desire & require you hereby lovingly that you may informe us herein, which at this time never was done, viz. that Christians have such a liberty to do so. To the end we shall be satisfied in this point, & satisfied lickwise our good friends and acquaintances in our native Country, to whose it is a terrour, or fearful thing that men should be handled so in Pensilvania.
      This is from our meeting at Germantown, hold ye 18 of the 2 month, 1688, to be delivered to the Monthly Meeting at Richard Warrels. Gerret Hendericks, Derick Up de Graeff, Francis Daniell, Pastorius Abraham Up den Graef at our monthly meeting at Dublin, ye 30 - 2 mo: 1688, we having inspected ye matter above mentioned & considered of it we find it so weighty that we think it not Expedient for us to meddle with it here, but do Rather commit it to ye consideration of ye Quarterly meeting ye tenor of it being nearly Related to the truth.
      On behalf of ye monthly meeting,
      Signed, P. Jo. Hart. This, above mentioned, was read in our quarterly meeting at Philadelphia, the 4 of ye 4th mo. 1688, and was from thence recommended to the Yearly Meeting, and the above said Derick, and the other two mentioned therein, to present the same to ye above said meeting, it being a thing of too great a weight for this meeting to determine."

      01 October 2010

      Celtic Poem--or Prayer?

      A Celtic Poem
      God's will would I do,
      My own will bridle;

      God's due would I give,
      My own due yield;

      God's path would I travel,
      My own path refuse;

      Christ's death would I ponder,
      My own death remember;

      Christ's agony would I meditate,
      My love to God make warmer;

      Christ's cross would I carry,
      My own cross forget;

      Repentance of sin would I make,
      Early repentance choose;

      A bridle to my tongue I would put,
      A bridle on my thoughts I would keep

      God's judgment would I judge,
      My own judgment guard;

      Christ's redemption would I seize,
      My own ransom work;

      The love of Christ would I feel,
      My own love know.

      • Unknown

      30 September 2010

      Church Might Bore But Heaven Won't

      Our notion of Heaven involves perpetual negations:
      no food, no drink, no sex, no movement, no mirth, no events, no time, no art.
      Against these…we set one positive:

      the visions and enjoyment of God. Since this is an infinite good, we hold (rightly) that it outweighs them all...that is, the reality of the Beatific Vision would or will outweigh... the reality of the negations.
      But can our present notion of it outweigh our present notion of them? That is quite a different question. For most of us at most times the answer is No...[For] the Vision is a difficult, precarious, and fugitive extrapolation from a very few and ambiguous moments in our earthly experience.
      While our idea of the negated natural goods is vivid and persistent, loaded with memories of a lifetime, built into our nerves and muscles and therefore into our imaginations.
      [And so,] the negatives have an unfair advantage in every competition with the positive. What is worse, their presence...vitiates even such a faint and ghostlike notion of the positive as we might have had.
      The exclusion of the lower goods begins to seem the essential characteristic of the higher good. We feel... that the vision of God will come not to fulfill but to destroy our nature...[and] this bleak fantasy often underlies our ...use of such words as “holy” or “pure” or “spiritual.”
      We must believe – and therefore in some degree imagine--that every negation will be only the reverse side of a fulfilling. And we must mean by that the fulfilling, precisely, of our humanity, not our transformation into angels or our absorption into Deity.
      For though we shall be [in certain ways] “like angels” and made “like unto” our Master, I think “like with the likeness proper to men:” as different instruments that play the same air [song] but each in its own fashion.
      How far the life of the risen man will be sensory, we do not know. But I surmise that it will differ from the sensory life we know here, not as emptiness differs from water or water from wine but as a flower differs from a flower bulb or a cathedral from an architect’s drawing.

      • C.S. Lewis in “Transposition” -- bolding and italics added

      29 September 2010

      What Lies Ahead?

      Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him... (The Bible, I John 3:2)
      Let us picture a woman thrown into a dungeon. There she bears and rears a son. He grows ups seeing nothing but dungeon walls, the straw on the floor, and a little patch of sky seen through the grating, which is too high up to show anything except sky. This unfortunate woman was an artist, and when they imprisoned her she managed to bring with her a drawing pad and a box of pencils. As she never loses hope of deliverance she is constantly teaching her son about that outer world which he has never seen. She does it very largely by drawing him pictures. With her pencil she attempts to show him what fields, rivers, mountains, cities and waves on the beach are like. He is a dutiful boy and he does his best to believe her when she tells him that that outer world is far more interesting and glorious than anything in the dungeon. At times he succeeds. On the whole, he gets on tolerably well until, one day, he says something that gives his mother pause. For a minute or two they are at cross-purposes. Finally it dawns on her that he has, all these years, lived under a misconception. “But,” she gasps, “you didn’t think that the real world was full of lines drawn in lead pencil?” “What?” says the boy. “No pencil marks there?” And instantly his whole notion of the outer world becomes a blank. For the lines, by which alone he was imagining it, have now been denied of it. He has no idea of that which will exclude and dispense with the lines, that of which the lines were merely a transposition-the waving treetops, the light dancing on the weir, the coloured three-dimensional realities which are not enclosed in lines but define their own shapes at every moment with a delicacy and multiplicity which no drawing could ever achieve.
      The child will get the idea that the real world is somehow less visible than his mother’s pictures. In reality it lacks lines because it is incomparably more visible.
      So with us. “We know now what we shall be’” but we may be sure we shall be more, not less, than we were on earth. Our natural experiences (sensory, emotional, imaginative) are only like the drawing, like penciled lines on flat paper. If they vanish in the risen life, they will vanish only as pencil lines vanish from the real landscape; not as a candle flame which becomes invisible because someone has pulled up the blind, thrown open the shutters, and let in the blaze of the risen sun.
      • C.S. Lewis in “Transposition”

      27 September 2010

      It's Another Season and We're Still God's BeLoved

      My beloved is mine and I am His;
      He feedeth among the Lillies…

      If all those monarchs that command
      the servile quarters of this earthly ball,
      should tender, in exchange, their land--
      I would not change my fortunes for them all.
      Their wealth is but a counter to my coin:
      The world's but theirs,
      but my Beloved's mine.

      ...`Tis not the sacred wealth of all the Nine
      can buy my heart from Him,
      or His, from being mine.

      Nor Time, nor Place, nor Chance, nor Death can bow
      my least desires unto the least remove;
      He’s firmly mine by oath;
      I, His, by vow;
      He’s mine by faith;
      and I am His by love;
      He’s mine by water;
      I am His by wine;
      Thus I my Best-beloved’s am,
      thus He is mine.

      He is my Altar;
      I, his Holy Place;
      I am His guest;
      and He, my living food;
      I’m his by penitance;
      He, mine by Grace;
      I’m his, by purchase;
      He is mine, by blood;
      He’s my supporting elme,
      and I, His vine:
      Thus I am my Best-beloved’s am,
      thus He is mine.

      • Emblemes, 1635, by Francis Quarles

      25 September 2010

      Three Monumental and Pernicious Lies about God

      There are three monumental and pernicious lies about God: 1) God Cannot… 2) God Will Not… and worst 3) God Does Not Care. These lies are old as man. But they are stubborn, to the point that they resist all sound thought, reason and doctrine.
      The only way to subvert the strength of these lies is to allow power of the love of Christ in to our hearts, and further, into our wills, lifting, loosening the glue that keeps the lies sticking to our hearts.
      You see, we truly cannot begin to know God until we are enraptured and enfolded in His loving care. Conveying in mere words God's deep and relational love for you in words is like carrying water in my ten fingers, you'll get a few drops but it won't be enough to sate the thirst. You will have to settle for imagining God's care for you exceeding, by universes, a loving parent's care for a child. So, am posting these two poems about parental love. I hope they will stir up a sense of God’s love for you. God can, God may – and mostly because God cares.

      Those Winter Sundays

      Sundays too my father got up early
      and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
      then with cracked hands that ached
      from labor in the weekday weather
      made banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.
      Speaking indifferently to him,
      who had driven out the cold
      and polished my good shoes as well.
      What did I know, what did I know
      of love’s austere and lonely offices?

      -by Robert Hayden [partial]

      To My Mother
      I was your rebellious son,
      do you remember? Sometimes
      I wonder if you do remember,
      so complete has your forgiveness been.

      So complete has your forgiveness been
      I wonder sometimes if it did not
      precede my wrong, and I erred,
      safe found, within your love,

      prepared ahead of me, the way home,
      or my bed at night, so that almost
      I should forgive you, who perhaps
      foresaw the worst that I might do,

      and forgave before I could act,
      causing me to smile now, looking back,
      to see how paltry was my worst,
      compared to your forgiveness of it

      already given. And this, then,
      is the vision of that Heaven of which
      we have heard, where those who love
      each other have forgiven each other,

      where, for that, the leaves are green,
      the light a music in the air,
      and all is unentangled,
      and all is undismayed.

      -by Wendell Berry

      18 September 2010

      Valuable--! but not traded

      "God, who is Love, has freely bestowed on all men those things which are necessary for both the spiritual and temporal life, but since He offers salvation and His Holy Spirit to all as freely, they are lightly esteemed. [Yet] prayer teaches us to value them, because they are as necessary as air and water, heat and light, without which life is impossible. The things for our spiritual life God has freely provided…but men so lightly regard them that they offer no thanks to their Creator.

      …On the other hand, His gifts of gold, silver, and precious jewels, which are scarce and obtained with great difficulty, they highly esteem, [yet] though with such things the hunger and thirst of the body cannot be assuaged, nor the longings of the heart be satisfied.

      With such folly do men of the world act with regard to spiritual things, but to the man of prayer are given true wisdom and eternal life."
      • Sadhu Sundar Singh from At the Master’s Feet

      05 September 2010

      Nothing Gold Can Stay

      Nature's first green is gold
      Her hardest hue to hold.
      Her early leaf's a flower;
      But only so an hour.
      Then leaf subsides to leaf.
      So Eden sank to grief,
      So dawn goes down to day.
      Nothing gold can stay

      • by Robert Frost

      03 September 2010

      Not Feeling Spiritual? Take Heart!

      “The emotions of the interior life have been the focus of much counsel…the Abbe de Tourville (1842-1903) is confident of the presence and transcendence of God and also that self-giving is the essence of spiritual life. ‘The best thing is not to see your Lord do away our difficulties,’ he writes, ‘as to see Him sustain us through them…[and] do not be distressed by lack of fervor [on your part] and consolations [from others]. These will come in their own way...
      Our Lord wants you to become mature, and maturity needs these periods of obscurity, of disillusionment and boredom. Maturity comes when we have at last realized that we must love our Lord simply and freely in spite of our horrible unworthiness and of the unworthiness of nearly everything around us. Then a new and lasting Incarnation of our Lord takes place in our souls as it were. He begins to live a new life within us in the very midst of the misery of the world. That is why the greatest saints have always shown the perfect combination of nearness to our Lord on the one hand, and a deep sense of their own unworthiness and weakness on the other.’”
      • From: The Disciple: Following The True Mentor by James M Houston
        davidcook.com, publisher

      21 August 2010

      Fitting it together: Faith, Freedom and Failure

      Every family has its "inside" jokes. We quote a foreign-born convenience store manager who told my husband in disgust, "They do not know the meaning of freedom!" We have a mental image of my husband whipping out his pocket dictionary to look its meaning up. Of course, we only remember it because there is an element of truth in the statement.
      Chesterton said once that people fear not the limitations that Christianity would bring so much as the responsibilities. I would guess they fear both. The a-relgious and the anti-religious crowds both tend to create their own limitations because man is pre-disposed to please someone. If he has no god, he drifts towards pleasing a crowd, a habit (usually a vice), or fixing on a superstition, and so on.
      But, for a Christian, freedom is pretty carefully outlined in the scriptures. In fact, Luther has been quoted as saying love God, love your neighbor and then do as you please. Sounds easy, doesn't it? But, if you understand the scriptures (as Luther did), you realize he is talking about adult-sized living.
      Contrary to popular belief, Christian freedom is not flopping around, being groovy. And, contrary to American thought, freedom is not a virtue.
      Freedom itself has no content, it is inert, and it can be amorphous. But, when a conscience is informed and guided by the love of God, it does good to others. It is then we can see freedom exhibited as God would have it expressed—and at its highest form.
      For the Christian, faith is the frame, life is the picture we paint within it. God has given each of us a mission: to paint the best picture for our worldwide—and our heavenly—audience. But we must remember that no masterpiece was ever finished without some errors. And this is how we can understand the preciousness of liberty in Christ—we have the liberty to fail in our efforts.


      Chained By Love

      Few people have read Martin Luther's treatises (more on Luther below). Luther was a proflic writer. This excerpt is from Fortress Press fortresspress.com from Luther's book "On Christian Liberty."
      "…from faith... flows love and joy in the Lord, and from love a joyful, willing, and free mind that serves one’s neighbor willingly and takes no account of gratitude or ingratitude, of praise or blame, or gain or loss. For a man does not serve that he may put men under obligations. He does not distinguish between friends and enemies or anticipate their thankfulness or unthankfulness, but he most freely and most willingly spends himself and all that he has, whether he wastes all on the thankless or whether he gains a reward. As his Father does, distributing all things to all men…[Matthew 5:45], so also the [child]…
      …if we [therefore] recognize the precious things given to us, our hearts will be filled by the Holy Spirit with the love which makes us free…servants of our neighbours, yet lords of all.
      Our faith in Christ does not free us from works but from false opinions concerning works, from the foolish presumption that justification is acquired by works.
      Faith redeems, corrects and preserves our consciences so that we know that righteousness does not consist [of] works, although works can not nor ought not to be wanting… "


      Who was Martin Luther and what did he do?
      Martin Luther (Nov 10, 1483 - Feb 18, 1546) was a German theologian, an Augustinian monk, and an ecclesiastical reformer whose teachings inspired the Reformation and deeply influenced the doctrines and culture of the Lutheran and Protestant traditions. Luther's call to the Church to return to the teachings of the Bible led to the formation of new traditions within Christianity and to the Counter-Reformation, the Roman Catholic reaction to these movements.
      Luther's contributions to Western civilization went beyond the life of the Christian Church. Luther's translations of the Bible helped to develop a standard version of the German language and added several principles to the art of translation. Luther's hymns inspired the development of congregational singing in Christianity. His marriage on June 13, 1525, to Katharina von Bora began a movement of clerical marriage within many Christian traditions.
      [Citation from: http://www.theopedia.com/Martin_Luther 24 Aug 2010]

      20 July 2010

      Yes, I Am Sure It Is A Sign (Three Signs, Actually)

      I own three old wall-signs. None of them is particularly beautiful (they are ugly) but each of them has a message that speaks to me as a kind of “spiritual flashcard.”
      I got the first one from my mother-in-law. I asked if I could have the sign that had hung in their dining room for decades and chripped out its blunt but truthful reminder to me at every Sunday dinner. It is just a small piece of pine board with a decoupage flower, about 45 years old. Why did I ask for it? It reminds me of God's continual goodness to me and my inattention to this truth. It says (not very delicately):
      “Home is where you’re treated the best and grumble the most.”
      The second sign I begged off my grandmother, and it is even humbler--it is probably close to 65 years old. This is also a small piece of wood, but is blackened by grease, cigarette smoke and age. On it is a painting of a man in a fancy top hat and a woman in a fur stole and pearl necklace. Behind them is the old skyline of New York City. Its message to me is a reminder of the difference between money and wealth. It reads:
      “We don’t want to be rich. Just live like them.”
      We think that rich people are happy but it's not true. What you see is the fleeting smile of self-satisfaction (and comfortable new shoes). People who can give away are the happy ones; to be wealthy is to be able to give. It is possible to be rich, or middle-class, or poor and also to be poor-at-heart and greedy, and tightfisted (which translates into their relationships). Only the wealthy can afford give, and give. I know I am wealthy because I can give—if only of my time and attention. Life can be one continual Grand Give-Away because I have a Benefactor who is a Provider. Not only that, this Provider cares for me and always has my best interests at heart. Oh, of course, He is also only the Keeper and Owner of the Universe. My well-being is bound up in His wealth. It’s as simple as that.

      The third sign I bought 34 years ago as a newlywed. It is the only thing that I own that has lasted though 22 house moves, including three moves overseas and back again. It is a white piece of fiberboard and has a bible verse on it. This scripture is for me key to spiritual soundness in a distracting, dizzying and always confusing world:
      “Love the Lord your God with all your heart
      and with all your soul and with all your mind.
      This is the first and greatest commandment.
      And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.
      All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.”
      - Jesus Christ
      Matthew 22:37-40
      God does not call to me as someone in a collective. No, He calls me by name. And this little sign, I take as His word to me today--not as a piece of information to pass along, or to pass by as if for someone else.
       Indeed, if this little sign is all I pay attention to in one day, then I have accomplished much. And all for His Glory.

      14 July 2010

      Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

      Is there any word more misunderstood, or behavior more powerful than that which is motivated by the biblical New Testament word “love” – which is translated “charity?” C. S. Lewis (in The Four Loves) described charity [Greek word agape] as the love Jesus Christ lived and spoke of...  in contrast to other “loves” 
      In the Bible, the Apostle Paul declares over and over that this kind of love,charity (agape) is so unique that it is not merely superior to all the other loves, but also it is so desirable that it is to be sought for more than anything-->more desirable than anything you would or could ask God for, including any kind of spiritual gift.
      That’s a big claim: if you are experiencing agape love, this “spiritual experience” exceeds that of working a miracle, seeing a vision, or any other kind of wonder that would qualify as a “WOW!” moment.
      If you know the Bible you realize that this makes sense. At its root, agape is love which originates in the Father God, through Christ’s perfect sacrifice, and comes to a Christian via the Holy Spirit. Love is from God, and yes, the other kinds of love originate in God (since all good things ultimately come from God), but this love comes specifically and directly from God. This kind of love is not faked, and it’s not a feeling, yet it is real.
      The works that Jesus Christ did found their source in this love. All Christ's miracles were done to show people the heart of God, who is love.
      Eventually, Jesus Christ called on and empowered His followers to do His works--I'm pretty certain He meant do the work of God through loving (agape).
      And when Jesus said of his followers that the world would recognize the by their love, he was actually pointing back towards his own life and the evidence of God’s hand all over his own words and works.
      This year I met a man, a foreigner, who has found asylum in the USA from an Islamic country. Although he has seen several heads of state in his home country in his lifetime, for the past few decades they’ve become increasingly strict about their religion. Prior to coming to the USA this man was a Muslim, but while here at some point, he became a Christian.
      He shared with me that from his youth he recalls looking for love. As the sect which runs his country increasingly harsh towards people, yet his hunger for love did not diminish but his heart grew sadder and he began to despair. However, since becoming a Christian he has been walking on air because he now knows agape, and he is empowered and also freed to love people.
      Although he is poor and unknown here (quite the opposite of his life in his home country), he’s happier than he’s ever been. His heart is full, which makes him a wealthy man. His story moves me as it reminds me how special and absolutely priceless is the gift that the love of God, agape, is to people who have experienced it.
      When I think of it, I feel like a millionaire.

      04 July 2010

      But It Doesn't Seem Like Good News....

      And all the time it was God near her that was making her unhappy. For as the Son of Man came not to send peace on earth but a sword, so the first visit of God to the human soul is generally in a cloud of fear and doubt, rising from the soul itself at His approach.
      The sun is the cloud dispeller, yet often he must look through a fog if he would visit the earth at all.
      • George MacDonald, "365 Readings of George MacDonald" by CS Lewis

      Real Wealth

      "Did you ever think the origin of the word avarice?" "No." "It comes, at least it seems to me to come, from the same root as the verb have. It is the desire to call things ours. We call the holding in the hand, or the house, or the pocket, or the power, [as] having:
      but things so held cannot really be had; having is but an illusion in regard to things.
      It is only what we can be with that we really possess--what is of our kind, from God to the lowest animal partaking of humanity.
      • George MacDonald, "365 Readings of George MacDonald" by CS Lewis.

      The Potency of a Good Story: True to its Character and to the Boundaries

      “God will be chary of indulging in irrelevant miracle(s)...
      He will not…convert without preparing the way for conversion, and His interferences with space-time will be conditioned by some kind of relationship of power between will and matter.
      Faith is the condition for the removal of mountains; Lear is converted but not Iago.
      Consequences cannot be separated from their causes without a loss of power;
      how much power would be left in the story of the crucifixion, as a story, if Christ had come down from the cross[?]
      That would have been an irrelevant miracle, whereas the story of the resurrection is relevant, leaving the consequences of action and character still in logical connection with their causes.
      [The willing sacrifice, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ] is, in fact, an outstanding example of the development [of the proper story].
      [It illustrates] the leading of the story back, by the new and more powerful way of grace, to the issue demanded by the way of judgment, so that the law of nature is not destroyed, but fulfilled.”
      • Dorothy Sayers, The Mind of the Maker, “Free Will and Miracle”

      Freedom and the Creator's Secret Will

      “God created man in his own image and likeness, i.e. made him a creator too, calling him to free spontaneous activity and not to formal obedience to His power. Free creativeness is the creature’s answer to the great call of its creator. Man’s creative work is the fulfillment of the Creator’s secret will.
      • Berdyaev, The Destiny of Man

      26 June 2010

      Coming to the Light When You are Wrong

      We have (I include myself) done and said and thought many things wrong in our lives. That is what it means to live another day: successes, maybe; mistakes, sins, and errors are guaranteed--we are still earthbound. And while some doubters might think from the previous post that they got a "Get-Out-of-Jail-Free" Pass from George MacDonald, that is not at all correct: they overlooked the critically important qualifier “honest” before the word "doubter."
      MacDonald deals with our laziness and tendency towards self-deceit:

      “No man is condemned for anything he has done: he is condemned for continuing to do wrong once he knows better-and has an avenue; out of his wrongdoing. But [if he chooses differently], he is condemned for not coming out of the darkness; for not coming to the light.”

      • George MacDonald

      Meanwhile....Back to the Honest Doubters

      I spent a couple days browsing the web looking for good Christian websites or blogs--I haven’t found too many. I know I am picky: my standards are strict for both the appearance and the content. As I read the blogs/websites, I tried put myself in the shoes of an agnostic, if there really is such as thing. I was looking for a broad view on the spiritual landscape. Eventually, I returned to hard copies for the best, most probing pieces. I agree with C S Lewis that George MacDonald is one of the best original Christian thinkers of the past 200 years. MacDonald pointedly deals with covert doubts that people harbor, and even leans towards celebrating honest doubters but without sacrificing the Truth of Christ. True to Christ whom he loves, MacDonald has a penchant for condemning false religion (going through the motions). No wonder he was an ostracized minister in his lifetime.
      (I have updated his language) –
      Honesty Before God, Honest Ignorance vs Going Along to Get Along
      “Don’t let your cowardice agree that a word is ‘light’ because another calls it ‘light,’ [if] it looks to you [like] darkness. Either say the thing is not what is seems, or that God never said or did it.
      But it is wrong to misinterpret what God does and then say the thing, as [someone has represented it to you], must be right because God did it. No, that is of the devil. But, on the other hand, do not try to believe anything that affects you as darkness.
      Still, even if you [make] a mistake and refuse to believe something is true, you will have done less wrong to Christ by your refusal than if you had initially accepted [believed] something to be of Him while it really seemed to be darkness to you. 
       [It is better in practice to ] Let your words be few, so as to prevent yourself from saying anything which later you’ll regret in your heart.”
       - George MacDonald

      25 June 2010

      Cornering the Market?

      “Poets have… often communicated in their own mode of expression truths identical with the theologians’ truths; but just because of the difference in the modes of expression, we often fail to see the identity of the statements.”
      • Dorothy Sayers, The Mind of the Maker

      23 June 2010

      What Makes Community?

      God is love.
      How often have you heard that?
      Prior to time, God was--and God was always the same: love. God loved before angels or man was created for love the "essence of God." Love is a relational term-requires both a subject and an object.
      Remember the old question: if you were stranded on a desert island, what one thing would you want there? I think I would want at least one other person there (which would disqualify me from "stranded"). In exploring cross-cultural circumstances, invariably the biggest difficulties come out of the loneliness of person without someone to love and understand them, then when that person has connected, the cultural problems fade away.
      The Trinitarian nature of God the Father, the Holy Spirit, and the Son, Jesus Christ, provides the answer to how it is that God could be the Creator, yet also the Lover.
      The Father loves the Son; the Son reciprocates that love and this love between the Father and the Son is the Holy Spirit. In short, through all eternity, God is the social Trinity, the community of love.

      22 June 2010

      Existing is not Enough

      "Redemption is participatory, not imitative. It is grounded on grace appropriated through faith, not merely on obedience. Spiritual life flows out of union with Christ not merely imitation of Christ."
      (Richard F Lovelace in Dynamics of Spiritual Life)

      If Lovelace is correct God provided no "shortcuts" in our Christian growth, has He? My Christian well-being and growth is both emotional and volitional (deliberative self-will). I think he's saying it's not enough to believe that you can grow by being good, by showing up, or by thinking "good thoughts."  All that is lip-service, eye-service, and everything else, coming just short of being fully engaged. In addition, whilst a worshipper is enraptured in worshipping Christ, he's got to understand that the awe of "flying" comes with some perils--not every element in the atmosphere around him is sympathetic to his engagement to Christ. He needs to heed the winds and the gathering clouds, to pay attention. 
      Within the world--and the church--since the church is peopled with mortals fresh off the street-- there is not a lot of understanding about Christ and what He means.
      The apostle Paul was a kind of a trainer, a co-pilot, to the young man Timothy. He gave him lots of encouragement and plenty of warnings: specifically, encouragement about growth and warnings about obstacles to growth:
      A devout life does bring wealth, but it's the rich simplicity of being yourself before God...
      Run for your life from all this.
      Pursue a righteous life—a life of wonder, faith, love, steadiness, courtesy .
      Run hard and fast in the faith.
      Seize the eternal life,
      the life you were called to,
      the life you so fervently embraced..

      (from 1 Timothy 6, The Message)

      The entire chapter is here:
      "These are the things I want you to teach and preach. If you have leaders there who teach otherwise, who refuse the solid words of our Master Jesus and this godly instruction, tag them for what they are: ignorant windbags who infect the air with germs of envy, controversy, bad-mouthing, suspicious rumors. Eventually there's an epidemic of backstabbing, and truth is but a distant memory. They think religion is a way to make a fast buck.
      A devout life does bring wealth, but it's the rich simplicity of being yourself before God. Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that's enough.
      But if it's only money these leaders are after, they'll self-destruct in no time. Lust for money brings trouble and nothing but trouble. Going down that path, some lose their footing in the faith completely and live to regret it bitterly ever after.
      But you, Timothy, man of God: Run for your life from all this.
      Pursue a righteous life—a life of wonder, faith, love, steadiness, courtesy. Run hard and fast in the faith. Seize the eternal life, the life you were called to, the life you so fervently embraced in the presence of so many witnesses.
      I'm charging you before the life-giving God and before Christ, who took his stand before Pontius Pilate and didn't give an inch: Keep this command to the letter, and don't slack off. Our Master, Jesus Christ, is on his way. He'll show up right on time, his arrival guaranteed by the Blessed and Undisputed Ruler, High King, High God. He's the only one death can't touch, His light so bright no one can get close. He's never been seen by human eyes—human eyes can't take him in! Honor to him, and eternal rule! Oh, yes!
      Tell those rich in this world's wealth to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow. Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage—to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous. If they do that, they'll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life.
      And oh, my dear Timothy, guard the treasure you were given! Guard it with your life.
      Avoid the talk-show religion and the practiced confusion of the so-called experts.
      People caught up in a lot of talk can miss the whole point of faith.
      Overwhelming grace keep you!

      1 Timothy 6, The Message

      17 June 2010

      The Importance of Being Well-loved

      Father’s Day is around the corner. I don’t often write myself but make the exception this time because of the topic. As nature would have it, two things conspired to make me prize Mother’s Day above Father’s Day.
      First, as often happens in the natural course of things, I bonded more closely to my mother than to my father. If you have children, you know how this works.
      Secondly, I was born a little more than a decade after World War 2, in an era when fathers were authoritarians first. In my father’s case, he was also the eldest of many children. His eldest sister said he was born “old.” I think until his parents ironed out their marital life, he acted as the grown up. He knew how to set a good example and to work hard. In the family he was not remote, for he was in touch with what was going on in the house. However, as a child, he was scary to me. He’s now 81 (though some people tell me he’s still scary) and has mellowed greatly. 
      Even though he may have seemed scary to me as a child, I knew I was secure and well-loved. Perfect parents do not exist but some parents are worse than others. I know many people who had bad fathers. A bad father belongs to one or more of these categories: the Unknown, the Unknowable, the Undeserving of respect or love, or the Uncaring (so remote he could have been living on another planet). In happy contrast to this are those people, normally younger than myself, who have bonded very closely to their fathers. And, sadly, many of them have lost the good father to death.
      Which brings me to my question: would you rather be the person who was close to your father, but lost him before you were 35 or the one whose father belonged to the “unknown / unknowable / undeserving” category? I ask not to frustrate, but to consider what kind of Father you really perceive God to be.
      One needn’t be particularly astute to know that people who have great difficulty with issues of faith are often people who have not been well-loved by their father—or mother. People who were well-loved understand how the freedom we have in Christ is not at odds with “following Christ,” but, in fact, they are parallel lines in the same direction.
      More to the point: it is important that the professing Christian follow Christ because he’s compelled or drawn, and not out of duty, guilt or obligation (often called “eye-service”). Indeed, unless following Christ flows out of your free-will, I wonder if is really “following” Christ since the motive is twisted then its roots are not well-nourished.

      Happy Father's Day, Dad!
      Thanks for helping me believe in love!
      A Charity Johnson

      “He does not merely stand still, open His arms and say, 'Come hither'; no, he stands there and waits
      as the father of the lost son waited, 
      rather He does not stand and wait,
      he goes forth to seek,
      as the shepherd sought the lost sheep, as the woman sought the lost coin.
      He goes--yet no,
      he has gone,
      but infinitely farther than any shepherd or any woman,
      He went, in sooth, the infinitely long way from being God to becoming man,
      and that way He went in search of sinners.”
      • Soren Kierkegaard, Training in Christianity

      09 June 2010

      God Would Bring Us To His Knee

      What is it about prayer? It is a Life Question that we can’t shake. From the time a child first learns about it (whether formally taught or not) until to his final years, prayer is a recycled Life Theme. Granted, some seek to be rid of it but typically it rears its head again, usually unbidden.
      Why do we pray?- I am not speaking of the “transactional” prayers in which types of prayers and sacrifices function as part of the economy of “bargaining” for a divine favor or good fortune from some spirit-god, as shamans, witchdoctors and other “spirit-guides” do.
      I am speaking of the appeal that we, finite, mortal and flawed people make to all-powerful and all-knowing, creator and sustainer God.
      Back to the question: what is our unspoken or assumed expectation of prayer? I believe it is not only our petition we seek but also by means of the prayer interaction, we wish to experience His immanence in our (little) lives. Yes, we may pray because we seek help, but we also wish for contact with the transcendent—
      I have found that the thing most people least understand about prayer is the part about RESULTS. Prayer is efficacious (having the desired result), but beware, in every other pursuit we have a way to measure the desired result. The problem with the efficaciousness of prayer is that God has the measuring stick. If we're using ours (my will, my desired outcome), then the results will appear to be flawed. That should be more than okay with us if God is who He is and we are who we are.
      I have had many former church-goers and “universalists” tell me they do not pray because they do not need to. They have a reason: "God is both beneficent and all-knowing, I do not need to pray-without me breathing a prayer, God has read my thoughts and desires and answered them." Theologically this is belief has no legs. But, at its root it’s a problem of pride and laziness (I suspect some people cringe at the humility of prayer). A simple analogy will do to illustrate: both my teenager (and I) know that he needs and wants breakfast before school. Shouldn’t he come to the kitchen for it? If the parent has provided but the child is too lazy to make a move, he’s cutting himself off from the source and will be famihed by lunchtime.
      George MacDonald addresses it further in: "Why Should It Be Necessary?”
      “But if God is so good as you represent Him [to be], and if He knows all that we need, and far better than we do ourselves, why [is] it necessary to ask Him for anything?”
      I answer,
      “What if He knows prayer to be the thing we need first and most? What if the main object in God’s idea of prayer [is] the supplying of our great, our endless need—the need of Himself?
      Hunger may drive the runaway child [back] home, and he may or may not be fed at once, but he needs his mother more than his dinner.
      Communion with God is the one need of the soul beyond all other need:
      prayer is the beginning of that communion, [there is] some need that is the motive of that prayer.
      So begins a communion, a taking up with God, a coming-to-one with Him. [This] is the sole end of prayer, [even] of existence itself in its infinite phases.
      We must ask that we may receive:[however] it is not God’s end in having us pray to receive with respect to our lower needs [since] He could give us everything without that. [God would] bring us to His knee… [He] withholds [so] that we may ask."

      • from George MacDonald, 365 Readings, edited by CS Lewis (language updated) Collier Books, Macmillan Publishing Company, New York.

      04 June 2010

      A Thought, Re-thought

      I used to think that man's basic problem with God was that mankind preferred to be loosed from all moorings of morality and responsibility that God might ask of him.
      But I now suspect that that is more like a symptom of an underlying fear that mankind struggles with instead. 
      An atheist or an agnostic (a procrastinating atheist) who has been exposed to the truth about God, has a problem with fear.
      So, what does he/she fear? He fears most the freedom that being loved by God and by loving God will bring.
      People do fear freedom.

      30 May 2010

      What Has God Got To Do With Creative Acts?

      On the Creator & the Creative Act:
      "...the image of the Trinity was made in man,
      [so] that in this way man should be the image of the one true God."
      - Augustine: On The Trinity
      "...God, as Godhead [Trinitarian], appertain neither will, nor knowledge, nor manifestation, nor anything we can name,
      or say, or conceive.
      But to God,as [He is] God, ...express[es] Himself; 
       without any creature...And without the creature, this would lie in His own Self
      as a Substance or well-spring,
      but [it] would not be manifested or wrought out into deeds.
      ***[But if] God will have it to be exercised and clothed in a form......it cannot come to pass...without a creature."
      - Theologia Germanica  
      In an analogical fashion, any creative act of the human mind has this characteristic:
      "In thought, the sense of the setting and ones knowledge of the characters are  all present simultaneously. In [the act of] writing, something of these elements has to be conveyed in sequence."
      - J. D. Beresford: Writing Aloud

      Brackets [ ] inserted to help clarify.

      20 May 2010

      Just How Much Do You Think God Loves You? More than Mom

      To My Mother

      I was your rebellious son,
      do you remember? Sometimes
      I wonder if you do remember,
      so complete has your forgiveness been.

      So complete has your forgiveness been
      I wonder sometimes if it did not
      precede my wrong, and I erred,
      safe found, within your love,

      prepared ahead of me, the way home,
      or my bed at night, so that almost
      I should forgive you, who perhaps
      foresaw the worst that I might do,

      and forgave before I could act,
      causing me to smile now, looking back,
      to see how paltry was my worst,
      compared to your forgiveness of it

      already given. And this, then,
      is the vision of that Heaven of which
      we have heard, where those who love
      each other have forgiven each other,

      where, for that, the leaves are green,
      the light a music in the air,
      and all is unentangled,
      and all is undismayed.

      by Wendell Berry

      25 April 2010

      You Cannot Find God in This Box

      If God does exist, He is related to the universe more as an author is related to a play than as one object in the universe is related to another.
      If God created the universe, He created space-time, which is to the universe as the metre is to a poem or the key is to music.
      To look for Him as one item within the framework which He Himself invented is nonsensical.
      • CS Lewis,  from "The Seeing Eye”

      13 April 2010

      A Thought - мысль - un pensamiento - wazo - ein Gedanke

      What if this present were the world's last night
      Mark in my heart, O soul, where thou dost dwell...

      Что если сегодня было вчера мира?
      имейте внимание к моему сердцу, душу, чему вы ...

      ¿Qué si el hoy era el ayer por la noche del mundo?
      tenga atención a mi corazón, alma, qué usted cree...

      Nini kama sasa huyu wa mwisho wa dunia usiku?
      Katika moyo wangu, Ee nafsi, ambapo wewe makao
      Picha ya Kristo aliyesulubiwa…

      Was, wenn heutiger Tag das gestern Abend der Welt waren?
      haben Sie Aufmerksamkeit zu meinem Herzen, Seele, was Sie glauben...
      • John Donne, from Holy Sonnet XIII

      Money is merely an object.

      "Among the rich you will never find a really generous man even by accident. They may give their money away, but they will never give themselves away; they are egotistic, secretive, dry as old bones. To be smart enough to get all that money you must be dull enough to want it."
      (G.K. Chesterton)

      20 March 2010

      What Is Untamed, Unregulated, and Unchanged?

      On Time

      Fly envious Time,
      till thou run out thy race,
      Call on the lazy leaden-stepping hours,
      Whose speed is but the heavy Plummets pace;
      And glut thy self with what thy womb devours,
      Which is no more then what is false and vain,
      And merely mortal dross;
      So little is our loss,
      So little is thy gain.

      For when as each thing bad thou hast entomb'd,
      And last of all, thy greedy self consum'd,
      Then long Eternity shall greet our bliss
      With an individual kiss;
      And Joy shall overtake us as a flood,
      When every thing that is sincerely good
      And perfectly divine,
      With Truth, and Peace, and Love shall ever shine
      About the supreme Throne
      Of him, to whose happy-making sight alone,
      When once our heav'nly-guided soul shall clime,
      Then all this Earthy grossness quit,
      Attir'd with Stars,* we shall for ever sit,
      Triumphing over Death, and Chance,
      and thee, O Time.
      • John Milton (some spelling is up-dated)
      * Revelation 12:1

      15 March 2010

      It Might Be True For You But It's Killing You

      On Resentments and Grudges

        Unfortunately (for me), I am well-acquainted with this topic: partly because I am human, and partly because I have chosen paths as an adult which often alienate me from being part of the larger, more popular paths. I have chosen those paths carefully, after long examination and not on impulse, with knowledge that my choices would not make me popular nor always welcome in the best circles. I chose my paths with two things in view: sound-minded living and eternity.
        C. S. Lewis writes on resentment: “[resentment] is only pleasurable as a relief from humiliation [or, I would add, embarrassment]—or an alternative to humiliation [or embarrassment]. It is an itch “that requests to be scratched.” But it is a momentary and deceptive relief. “But it is only a pleasure-not by itself-but only by comparison to its context.” [That of impending humiliation/embarrassment.] And so, Lewis calls it a “horrible pleasure.”
        Resentments and grudges are of many forms, and they arise on many sides and from sources (some are surprising). Grudges are not typically based entirely on sense, or logic, for they stem from emotions, however, they utilize reason and factual information to create the “personal reality” called opinion. Typically that which was originally sourced in feelings of dislike, hate, jealousy or anger undergoes a hardening process. Attitudes such as dislike, hate, jealousy, bitterness or anger slowly or rapidly harden into a grudge.
        It's important to make the grudge respectable—in the right circles, exposing our grudges as such is unpalatable. We don't really think about it but it a reactive, unintentional pattern. By our thought-life we organize our resentments/ grudges so it takes on the shape of an opinion. The organizational process which produced it is one of sorting and selecting facts that will support such an opinion. Not only is an opinion respectable, but it is unchallengeable. Our carefully selected supporting facts which bolster our grudge/opinion, serve as a kind of cape, for they shroud the true nature of what lies beneath.
      Indeed, we must be careful not to expose our carefully nursed grudges to the clear light of day. To do this we must be circumspect, cynical or both. We need to make our lives such that we can live blissfully, grudges intact, with people who share the same grudges. For to preserve resentments and grudges best, they are best left unexamined. As life goes, it is not normally possible to live this way, so we have a our offensive position: to be cynical with people who hold opposing opinions. Ridicule drowns out the strongest reason.
        Only the all-powerful, limitless, and loving Christ offers us freedom from resentment and grudges of all kinds, justified and unjustified. Of course, the problem lies with us, not with Christ. We prefer the coddling comfort of old grudges, which like old shoes, are most comfortable since they are perfectly molded to our cockeyed way of walking and stance. It is only when the dissonance gets too great between our desire to be loving and kind and the inner reality of our own thoughts/attitudes that pulls us up short. It is at the moment of recognition that we find ourselves simultaneously at a crossroads, or rather, where the roads split; we cannot travel both roads at the same time. We cannot be a Christ-follower and Christ-lover and simultaneously (and with full knowledge) harbor the weeds of grudges and resentments. The Spirit of Christ burns up chaff such as these. He does not force us down His road, but He beckons us and leads with sweet aroma following Him.
      It's not emotionally deadening to hold incomplete knowledge, but it is killing you if your arrogances are strangling you. Examine your deepest resentments-you have much to gain, and nothing to lose but your bad attitude. And, ask Christ, “How shall I proceed now?” You may be surprised at the emotional Spring-cleaning.
      “…I tell you,
      ask, and it will be given to you;
      seek, and you will find;
      knock, and it will be opened to you.
      For everyone who asks receives,
      and the one who seeks finds,
      and to the one who knocks it will be opened.
      What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent;
      or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?
      If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children,
      how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11: 9-13 ESV
      “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” Rev 3:20 ESV