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