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