31 December 2011

New Years Eve-what if this were my last night on earth?

Lord, if this night my journey end,
I thank Thee first for many a friend,
The sturdy and unquestioned piers
That run beneath my bridge of years.

And next, for all the love I gave
To things and men this side the grave,
Wisely or not, since I can prove
There always is much good in love.

Next, for the power thou gavest me
To view the whole world mirthfully,
For laughter, paraclete of pain,
Like April suns across the rain.

Also that, being not too wise
To do things foolish in men's eyes,
I gained experience by this,
And saw life somewhat as it is.

Next, for the joy of labour done
And burdens shouldered in the sun;
Nor less, for shame of labour lost,
And meekness born of a barren boast.

For every fair and useless thing
That bids men pause from labouring
To look and find the larkspur blue
And marigolds of a different hue;

For eyes to see and ears to hear,
For tongue to speak and thews to bear,
For hands to handle, feet to go,
For life, I give Thee thanks also.

For all things merry, quaint and strange,
For sound and silence, strength, and change,
And last, for death, which only gives
Value to every thing that lives;

For these, good Lord that madest me,
I praise Thy name; since, verily,
I of my joy have had no dearth
Though this night were my last on earth.

- By Dorothy Sayers

29 December 2011

The Confession of a Lonesome Dove

A friend is fond of telling me how much we need people because they are representations of the love of Christ--in flesh. I wonder how much of a reality this is for us? Are we like the character on Lonesome Dove? forever wanting to be with the love of our life? This time not Clara but Christ. Then, again, there are times when we're just as happy not have to look into the very eyes of Jesus Christ--which is how I interpret this poem by James McAuley of Australia:

"Confession" by James McAuley

To know and feel are hard.
At times you are so much present
It seems I could touch your hand
And stand in your regard.
Mere fancies, but true enough;
And easy enough to lose,
As I abuse the moments,
And you accept the rebuff.

Small things do the hurt--
The lie vanity tells,
Malice or lust that die
Unacted in their dirt.

Bored in my self-prison,
I doubt uneasily;
But the times I get out,
I know you have risen.

[From the book Surprises of the sun]

28 December 2011

Winter is the Childhood of the Year

The winter is the childhood of the year.
Into this childhood of the year came the child Jesus; and into this childhood of the year must we all descend.
It is as if God spoke to each of us according to our need.
My son, my daughter, you are growing old and cunning; you must grow a child again, with my son, this blessed birth-time.
You are growing old and careful; you must become a child.
You are growing old and distrustful; you must become a child.
You are growing old and petty, and weak and foolish; you must become a child --- my child, like the baby there, that strong sunrise of faith and hope and love, lying in his mother's arms in the stable.

Adela Cathcart - by George MacDonald

24 December 2011

Is There a Reason to Believe?

"All our reasoning reduces itself to yielding to feeling....
The heart has its reasons, which reason does not know.  We feel it in a thousand things. I say that the heart naturally loves the Universal Being, and also itself naturally, according as it gives itself to them; and it hardens itself against one or the other at its will.  You have rejected the one and kept the other.  Is it by reason that you love yourself?   It is the heart which experiences God, and not the reason.  This, then, is faith: God felt by the heart, not by the reason. Faith is a gift of God; do not believe...it was a gift of reasoning." - Blaise Pascal

23 December 2011

Righting the Wrong the Right Way

We often doubt if God wants to and will intervene in earthly affairs for the good. We end up "fixing" things ourselves. But human efforts to perfect the imperfect prove to be little more than a short-lived fix. Our attempts to right the world bent wrong, go wrong. How can you level something when the level is off? Would you call in a cosmetic patcher-upper when you need to repair your roof? Of course not.
What did God the Father do by sending His son: He was injecting in this world a new dynamic in this situation, something never seen of or heard of. His incarnation became the first step on a journey towards full redemption of the fallen world: which is why He is called the Hope for humanity.
Imagine waiting your entire life for the commencement of the righting of all wrongs? A man named Simeon had been waiting for the Christ and was rewarded for his eager patience. The reaction of Mary and Joseph is remarkable because it's the only record of their marveling:
"... there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
...it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. So he came by the Spirit into the temple.
And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, he [Simeon] took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said:
“ Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, According to Your word;
For my eyes have seen Your salvation
Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples,
A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel.”
And Joseph and His mother marveled at those things which were spoken of Him.
Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother,
"Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” Luke 2:25-35

20 December 2011

The Light of Men

The things of God are best experienced firsthand. Wouldn’t you rather meet someone’s new spouse or baby? Likewise, there is no substitute for a firsthand encounter with Christ, who guarantees to meet us, whenever and wherever. What's that like? Hard to describe, for Christ is the light of men, whether in the equatorial suns and in the northern winter solstice–John 1 reflects this thought as it begins:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.
All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."
This shortened this poem by writer-rancher Maxwell Struthers Burt speaks to this:
Via Crucis
Out of the dark we come, nor know
Into what outer dark we go.
Wings sweep across the stars at night,
Sweep and are lost in flight,
And down the star-strewn windy lanes the sky
Is empty as before the wings went by.
We dare not lift our eyes, lest we should see
The utter quiet of eternity;
So, in the end, we come to this:
Christ-Mary’s kiss.

We cannot brook the wide sun’s might,
We are alone and chilled by night;
We stand, atremble and afraid,
Upon the small worlds we have made;
Fearful, lest all our poor control
Should turn and tear us to the soul;
A dread, lest we should be denied
The price we hold our raged pride;
So in the end we cast them by
For a gaunt cross against the sky.
The touch of shoulders, scent of new-turned soil,
Striving itself amid the thrusting throng,
And love that comes with white hands strong;
But on itself the long path turns again,
To find at length the hill of pain.
Such only do we know and see;
Starlight and evening mystery,
Young dawn and quiet night
And the earth’s might.
But all our wisdom and our wisdom’s plan
End in the lonely figure of a Man.
  • Maxwell Struthers Burt, In the High Hills, 1914

18 December 2011

Is Christmas really necessary?

With less than a week before Christmas, some people wonder about the need for this religious holiday.  It doesn't take much reflection to agree with our very basic necessity: HELP.  We cannot pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps; we've tried it—and failed.
“Carlyle said that men were mostly fools. Christianity, with a surer realism, says that they are all fools.  Sometimes called the doctrine of original sin, it may also be described as the doctrine of the equality of men.  [For] whatever primary and far-reaching moral dangers affect any man, affect all men.  All men can be criminals, if tempted; all men can be heroes, if inspired.” – GK Chesterton

16 December 2011

Passing On the Pride

At this time of year, magazines and organizations start giving out annual awards. Time Magazine has “Man/Woman/Superhero of the Year” on its cover.  There is one person who won’t see next year’s cover: a famous author and critic, also an antagonistic atheist, has just died from cancer.   Unfortunately, the adjective that came to mind when I saw the death announcement was “proud,” as in “a proud man.”   I hope his memorial service is kinder to his memory than my first thought was.   Surely he was loved, but his words were barbs, more like weapons than winning or even winsome. You need to be an accomplished trickster and author to cover up who you really are when you write. Since he was a writer, my reading of him made me think he was both intelligent and proud. Why was he antagonistic towards God and towards Christianity? Only he and God truly know, so I won’t speculate. More to the point, why is anyone so accomplished as he so antagonistic?  My guess: fear of being seen as weak and sentimental; many intellectuals are afraid of that kind of branding–like a 3 year-old is afraid of a monster.
Religion, at least the Christian religion, teaches us that vengeance should not come from us. (What a wonderful world this would be!) Because restraint from vengeance is seen, not as strength, but as weakness by most men, this makes Christians look weak and weak-willed.  Further, educated intellectuals (and Chuck Norris) wish to be perceived as stronger than all their competitors, the shoe of Christianity doesn’t fit their foot. (In a seeming paradox, Christianity also teaches that timidity should not come from us, either. And, meekness and boldness are both be evidenced in Christian adherents).
But, in the end, it is usually pride (whose root is fear) which freezes the fellow’s heart: when the heart’s frozen, he’s in the iceberg of aloneness. He’s isolated himself on an island of Me, Myself and My Great Ideas. He wants no great spiritual fire to light his insides: he might be misunderstood, or criticized, or not be in charge.  Pride (of the bad sort) is blinds you and it is your own killer, and this kind of pride has no known good side to it.
“Prostitutes are in no danger of finding their present life so satisfactory that they cannot turn to God: the proud, the avaricious, the self-righteous, are in that danger.” - CS Lewis
Lewis elaborates on this: “A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.”
A proud man or woman can give a reason, or a rationalization, for whatever deceit he or she chooses to tell himself or herself for the apathy, disinterest, and antagonism towards God.  In the end, Lewis puts it bluntly: “Oh, Adam’s sons, how cleverly you defend yourselves against all that might do you good!”

(Sorry, Chuck Norris, your name just slipped out of my fingers.)

14 December 2011

Shedding Light on God's Love: Something to Consider

Few English poets are as concise, precise and profound as John Donne. The language is a bit old, but the second reading might help you out, that is, hang on through the end.

Wilt thou love God, as he thee? Then digest,
My soul, this wholesome meditation,
How God the Spirit, by angels waited on
In heaven, doth make his Temple in thy breast.
The Father having begot a Son most blest,
And still begetting, (for he ne'er be gone)
Hath deigned to choose thee by adoption,
Co-heir t' his glory, and Sabbath' endless rest.
And as a robbed man, which by search doth find
His stol'n stuff sold, must lose or buy 't again:
The Son of glory came down, and was slain,
Us whom he'd made, and Satan stol'n, to unbind.
'Twas much that man was made like God before,
But, that God should be made like man, much more.

- John Donne

10 December 2011

Difficult Times and Hard Questions

"Where is God?" question can be asked anywhere, and any time, but it is most often asked in the midst of difficulties since when you are content that you have no pressing sense of a need for God, His presence, or He extracting you from the situation(s). In face, being complacent or placid may make the  claims of God on your soul as distraction-an interruption in your life. And, indeed, we often congratulation ourselves when we remind ourselves to be grateful and perhaps then dip into a self-congratulatory moment of warm, fuzzy feelings toward our Maker. 
But what about desperate situations,those crushingly dificult times, prolonged periods of overwhelming grief?  When all help comes up empty-handed, and desperation mounts? Don't you so often feel on the other side of Heaven's door--and it's all silent within?  Waiting seems to make no difference, but the longer the wait, the louder the silence seems.
You wonder, “Did Anyone really care—really?"  Maybe it had seemed so at one time (for some)-but then, how do you interpret that? That you believe God is leading you in good time, but doesn’t even a whisper to us in our trouble?
If you’re in deep grief, though, the danger will not be so much as to cease believing in God—but in believing some strange and twisted things about God
The term "I couldn't think straight" is an extremely accurate description of understanding how rattled and irrational our attempt to pray--and understand God's response--will be when we are at our lowest, when we are emotionally crushed. Truthfully, we cannot, in those times of great emotional stress, sort out our panic and desperation from our clearest thoughts. In my experience God does answer, but He allow for times of apparent deadness, for us to travel through the emotions of grief, etc.  In this "pocket" of time, however long it turns into, we can fill with our voice--God is listening, and our prayers become a cleansing, a way of emptying ourselves of the violence we feel the world has perpetrated on our souls.   It'sas if we need to bleach of the stains out of the garment before the we are dipped, immersed and dyed with the great hues of God's speech which will refill the newly cleansed backdrop of our souls.
Prayer, the primary language of the soul, is like saying our phonemic alphabet: though not deeply profound, it is most necessary for it is the foundation of all communication with God.
And this most necessary communication, prayer, is that which brings us into the mysteries still unexplored. - Charity Johnson
“Prayer, in the sense of asking for things, is a small part of it;
confession and penitence are its threshold,
adoration its sanctuary,
the presence and vision and enjoyment of God its bread and wine.
In it God shows Himself to us.
That he answers prayer is a corollary—not necessarily the most important one—from the revelation.
What He does is learned from what He is.”
  • CS Lewis

09 December 2011

Bonaventures's Reminders

Do not assume that mere
Reading will suffice without fervor,
Speculation without devotion,
Investigation without admiration,
Observation without exaltation,
Industry without piety,
Knowledge without love,
Understanding without humility,
Study without divine grace.

  • St. Bonaventure (1221–1274)  from The Journey of the Mind to God

03 December 2011

Sacred Stillness

…work is not always required of a man. There is such a thing as a sacred idleness—the cultivation of which is now fearfully neglected. – George MacDonald

The cultivation of sacred idleness. Do we know what that means? What use is it? We probably have a low view of the value silence and stillness (especially in December!).
I imagine that the strategic value of “fallow ground” not understood by many people. When you cultivate a garden and produce crops, you need to let the ground “rest.” The method adopted varies, depending on the location: whether you live where winter forces you to stop cultivation, or in the tropics (where a different method is adopted.)
With our brains, when we allow ourselves a long stretch of time not given over to problem-solving, information-gathering, working and producing, gaining new information and skills may seem like a waste. But, when you take time to be silent, and use the quiet time to listen, to ponder what one has already taken in, you may be surprised at the results. Besides deeper contentment, you may find strength, courage, new understandings, ideas, and alternative solutions to sticky problems. Artists and musicians have long known that stillness is the well from which robust production springs.
Try to take time…

The World is Too Much with Us

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
The Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not–

“The World is too Much with Us” partial – by William Wordsworth

02 December 2011

Christ is Liberal!

What of Christmas? What are we to make of it:
  •  A time of gratefulness
  • A time for celebration
  • A time for being extra generous
  • A time for merry-making, for parties
  • For shopping and giving gifts?
It's up to you. It seems once a season, I hear someone—Christian or non-Christian—(yes, some Christians don’t celebrate Christmas) grumble that making such a big deal on December 25 when we don't have certain knowledge of the date of the birth of the Messiah Christ.  Since we haven’t used the same calendar as the Jews of Jesus’ time (ever),it’s a moot point.
I have celebrated Christmas all over the place: near the Tropic of Cancer, at the Equator, in the frigid North where it was below zero degrees F, and at hot and coastal places;  in the city, in the suburbs and the country. Sun, frost, rain, sleet, snow have made an appearance in my decades of Christmas all over the world.  No matter where and no matter what weather, there is something cheerful, and a bit extravagant (festive?) about setting aside a special day for the long-awaited Messiah, the King of the Jews.
Some people add a special touch to the day by making a “birthday” cakes for Jesus (decorated) at Christmastime but that seems odd since most Easterners give gifts on their birthday.  The tradition of giving gifts is a Godlike thing to do: after all, remember that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
He gave, and gave, and keeps giving today. There is a generous liberality to God’s giving that will and can never be matched by anyone on earth.  Someone recently reminded me that Jesus in his earthly ministry, went around healing manynot limiting his healing to people who were his disciples, but healing the sick and the hopeless without a bar. No repayment needed, no bribes, no need for any of that when you are God—the fount of wholeness.
As we begin a quick slide to the shortest day of the year north of the equator, which will be followed by Christmas—a day of generosity and rejoicing—I think of the liberality of God--His care, tenderness, expansiveness, matched by His ability and resources to care, restore and give wholeness.  No one is so far from God that they are hopeless.  GK Chesterton pointed to the simple logic for simple men behind celebrating Christ's birth on this dark, short day (if you're in the north) in December, reiterating for us the liberality of God:
“… Christ is not merely a summer sun of the prosperous but a winter fire for the unfortunate.”

26 November 2011

Just because I am happy doesn't mean I don't have problems…or…being human.

When I was about 11, my parents brought me to the newly released film, A Man for All Seasons. The film was largely about the conflict between King Henry VIII of England and his right-hand man, Thomas Moore (who was beheaded for not agreeing with the King.)  At the time,  I knew quite a lot for a young American of Henry VIII, but little about the figures who surrounded him. I was continually perplexed by the film’s story--I wanted it to be simpler. It seemed as though Sir Thomas Moore’s biggest problem (Moore had gone from being the king’s opponent to a  friend to, well, being killed by his friend) was not Henry VIII but himself-- his own conscience. Till then most movies I sat through presented a difficulty (or several), solved problems, and presented triumph at the end in true Disney-esque style. But this bore no resemblance to those stories at all. It was an uncomfortable movie to view because it was  more like real life than like pure escape! (How dare they?)
Well, that was umpteen million years ago and since (in real life), I have seen the problem-and-solution played out over and over again in more settings than I could count.  I have been in churches and work environments and even friendships where we must find  the “culprit” in our quest to hunt down the source of our problems, and then an investigation is rolled out to determine what it is we need to avoid in order to cleanse ourselves and have a “happy” or peaceful setting. And, I have lived through the mid 1960s-1970s wherein Someone (the “Man”) must be blamed and society needs to be ‘taken back.”  Past and present, friends ask me to jump on band-wagons all the time to “restore” things, right society’s wrongs, and do good things to make the world ” a better place for our children.”
Yet my life tells me a different tale–I think it tells me the truth: I  was a middle child, I have been married for 35 plus years, raised children and dealt/deal  in-laws. My experiences have given me the thought that our typical approach to many life-issues, work, religion, family, money, friends, has been (frequently) one-dimensional and too often merely transactional. Granted, our objective is good, and one to be cherished: a desire for perfection, but the reality of a  fallen (AKA messed up) world, will never leave us. 
In my experiences I have not seen easy, simple solutions, but messy situations and half-resolved, partly messy results. I have had a lifetime of conflicts and messy problems, and the result has not been merely “growth” for me, but strangely but life-giving, as well. How do I account for that?  Dorothy Sayers suggests that it is in tight situations that we can enter into a creative process we have been endowed with by our Creator, somehow out of the labor pains of problems comes a new baby.
Dorothy Sayers says that the ordinary man is an “artist” (like a writer) in his own life, and that he needs to approach life more like an artist does: in this way–there is no final, predictable, complete solution nor might there be only one solution. Sayers asserts that we reflect our Creator by being creative people in the midst of tragedies, and in times of troubles by looking for a creative way to redeem the mess in which we will perpetually find ourselves living through.
She says: “If the common man asks the artist for help in producing moral judgments or practical solutions, the only answer he can get is something like this: You must learn to handle practical situations as I handle the material of my book: you must take them and use them to make a new thing. As A.D. Lindsay puts it:
….we say “Yes” or “No.” “I will” or “I will not” [At these times] we choose between obeying or disobeying a given command.
[In contrast, we may find ourselves] in the morality of challenge or grace, the situation says, “Here is a mess, a crying evil, a need! What can you do about it?” We are not asked to say “Yes” or “No” or “I will” or “I will not,” but to be inventive, to create, to discover something new.
->The difference between ordinary people and saints is not that saints fulfil the plain duties which ordinary men neglect. The things saints do have not usually occurred to ordinary people at all…
“Gracious” conduct is somehow the work of an artist.  It needs imagination and spontaneity. It is not a choice between presented alternatives but the creation of something new.”
[Sayers continues:]
The distinction between the artist and the man who is not an artist thus lies in the fact that the artist is living in the “way of grace,” so far as his vocation is concerned.
He is not necessarily an artist in handling his personal life, but (since life is the material of his work) has has at least got thus far, that he is using life to make something new.   Because of this, the pains and life of this troublesome world can never, for him, be wholly meaningless and useless, as they are to the man who [stoically] endures them…
If, therefore, we are to deal with our “problems” in “a creative way,” we must deal with them along the artist’s lines: not expecting to “solve” them by a detective trick, but to “make something of them,” even when they are, strictly speaking, insoluble.”
  • Dorothy Sayers, The Mind of the Maker
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

24 November 2011

Best Deal Of The Holiday

This is the Christmas/holiday kickoff weekend. As we go into the wormhole of celebrations and gift exchanges, let us remember that it is not that which surrounds us that makes us wealthy, but the times in communing with God and with encounters with those who He made in His image which supplies our real sense of satisfaction and inner wealth. “We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito.” ― C.S. Lewis "There is but one good; that is God. Everything else is good when it looks to Him and bad when it turns from Him.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce The Apostle Paul warns, some 2000 years ago, against being excessive in our acquisitiveness (greedy): "...godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content." 1 Timothy 6:6-8 "He who has God and everything else has no more than he who has God only.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

23 November 2011

Education of the Heart and the Mind?

I have an old book called "Poems Every Child Should Know."
The school teacher who compiled it includes teacher's notes before some of them. They were positively broadminded about what constitutes a proper education, as per the note here that precedes Shakespeare's poem.
Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou are not so unkind
   As man's ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen
Because thou are not seen,
   Although thy breath be rude.

Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,
Thou dost not bite so nigh
   As benefits forgot;
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
   As friend remembered not.

-- William Shakespeare

21 November 2011

Jesus, Lover and Friend

After Communion
Why should I call Thee Lord, Who art my God?
Why should I call Thee Friend, Who art my Love?
Or King, Who art my very Spouse above?
Or call Thy Sceptre on my heart Thy rod?
Lo, now Thy banner over me is love,
All heaven flies open to me at Thy nod:
For Thou hast lit Thy flame in me a clod,
Made me a nest for dwelling of Thy Dove.
What wilt Thou call me in our home above,
Who now hast called me friend? how will it be
When Thou for good wine settest forth the best?
Now Thou dost bid me come and sup with Thee,
Now Thou dost make me lean upon Thy breast:
How will it be with me in time of love?
  • .1830–1894)

14 November 2011


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

09 November 2011

You Have the Infinite Attention of God

God is not hurried along in the time stream of this universe any more than an author is hurried along in the imaginary time of his own novel.
He has infinite attention to spare for each one of us. He does not have to deal with us in the mass.
You are as much alone with Him as if you were the only being He had ever created.
When Christ died, He died for you individually just as much as if you had been the only man in the world.
The way my illustration breaks down is this. In it the author gets out of one times series (that of the novel) only by going into another times series (the real one).
But God, I believe, does not live in a time series at all.
His life is not dribbled out moment by moment like ours: with Him, it is still, so to speak [a decade ago] and [50 years from now]. For His life is Himself.
If you picture time as a straight line along which we have to travel, then...picture God as the whole page on which the line is drawn. We come to the parts of the line one by one;
we have to leave A behind before we get to B, and cannot reach C until we leave B behind.
God, from above or outside or all 'round, contains the whole line, and sees it all.

  • C.S. Lewis from Mere Christianity

31 August 2011

How To Be A Success

In the year 2011 I watched another Royal (British) wedding, saw photos of many Hollywood and Bollywood weddings, attended weddings of several young friends and relatives get married. The same year I spent many hours listening to single women discuss the problem of not being married.  This weekend I celebrate my 35th wedding anniversary and so feel free to reflect on what it takes to make it this far (sadly,  many friends have not), and to still be on friendly terms with your spouse (many more are not on friendly terms). So, what does it take? My husband's quote last year was "Just keep stickin' around." That might not be the most precise guidance. Of course I exaggerate when I say anyone can have a fairy-tale wedding because all it takes is money. Not everyone can have a fairy-tale marriage, which underscores the life truth number 1: life feels better with wealth, but wealth doesn't give you a life.
So what about marriage? Marriage is much like joining a church in that you join it voluntarily and willingly but you may be surprised at what you find beneath the lovely exterior of those people in the pew/chair/bench next to you. A friend likes to say that a church is simply a bunch of sinners in the same building (hypocrites, if you don't know what a sinner is). Likewise a marriage: two selfish scoundrels claiming undying love to each other.  Each one thinks his/her way is the best way (marriage is a battle to death someone said). Indeed, the picture that has been painted of two becoming one is often quite misleading. I sense it more a caricature or an ideal than a probable possible. I have witnessed marriages wherein one person seems devoid of   his (or her) personality, tastes, preferences, and strengths. They have seemingly vanished, being swallowed up in the other's. This is not two becoming one--it's a cruel joke when one in the couple evaporates while the other becomes a monstrous sort of thing as his or her will dominates.
How do two become one?  I don't know, I do believe there is a mystery involved that requires Divine help. And I don't think I will ever know fully. I do know that it is neither completely abandoning yourself nor is it reigning supreme. In this case, it really is more like being a Christian: Jesus Christ is completely available to His own, and His own are completely available to Him. (Read the Gospel of John). 
It  takes everything from each person in the marriage: 150% (or 100 % if you're literally minded). A 50-50 marriage cannot work out.
What else helps a marriage last and last well? Extending grace, a willing submission of my own desires (even to the remote), and strength, and perservance, wisdom. 
You need to be a listening friend with an open heart, setting your own notions aside for at least time, and by doing so you try to get inside the mind of the person you married. And hopefully, you will gain hints on who she (or he) is and what gets his (or her) attention.
Yes, you need to be you, but you also need to realize you can be wrong: so you need a daily willingness to be wrong, as well as willingness to be humble. And what is the point of knowing you're wrong and being humble if you refuse to actually changing habits or attitudes you need to change? Change will be necessary--and probably won't be comfortable.
So, far so good right? Some people will say, "Hey, I married my best friend, when I am down, they lift me up." so you're cool. But what happens when you're both stuck? When you're both depressed, or off the wall? What happens when you're both sick and sick of being sick? What happens when you're both so strained that neither of  you have the end of the proverbial rope to hang on to? What help is there? Sometimes, often, people do fall apart when the going gets rough--they are broken, and they do not become stronger. Yes, this is scary, but it is reality. The happiest married couples haven't been the richest, healthiest, most well-adjusted, successful people. Couples who can stay together in the roughest times--and often rough times continue for decades--are couples whose source of help, real help and comfort does not come from the spouse, in fact, that help transcends this small planet.  Couples, together and separately draaw strength directly from its source: from God. And, God is the supplier of all the mercy and compassion  you will need for 1000 lifetimes.  
How do you do this? Pray. I pray, and in prayer, the very act, requires that I submit to God's thoughts, His mind, His ways. A surprising result of prayer is that doing such we find that we are strengthened, not weakened, in our own characters. Why? Possibly because prayer, which is just a little act of the mind/heart, is also where we find our strongest defense against God.
In His  paradoxical way, prayer is the means by which we are brought to Him.
In  receiving His answers, we are imbued with some of His character--a character of understanding, compassion and fortitude.
If couples pray, they tend to stay together, and their marriages improve. If they do not pray, they tend to play the Game of Marriage...if they stay together.

19 August 2011

Billy Says it Best.... (Shakespeare)

“…store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
 – Jesus Christ (Matthew 6:20-21)

So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
  O death, where is thy sting?
  O grave, where is thy victory? (I Corinthians 15:54-55)


Poor soul, the centre of my sinful earth,
These rebel powers that thee array;
Why dost thou pine within and suffer dearth,
Painting thy outward walls so costly gay?
Why so large cost, having so short a lease,
Dost thou upon thy fading mansion spend?
Shall worms, inheritors of this excess,
Eat up thy charge? is this thy body’s end?
Then soul, live thou upon thy servant’s loss,
And let that pine to aggravate thy store;

Buy terms divine in selling hours of dross;
Within be fed, without be rich no more:
So shalt thou feed on Death, that feeds on men,
And Death once dead, there’s no more dying then.
  • William Shakespeare

07 August 2011

CS Lewis on the Great Eventuality

"When the author walks on the stage the play is over. [Eventually] God is going to invade, [and then it will be] something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left? ...this time it will be God without disguise...it will be too late then to choose your side. There is no use saying you choose to lie down when it has become impossible to stand up." "We are to be re-made. All the rabbit in us is to disappear---the worried, conscientious, ethical rabbit as well as the cowardly and sensual rabbit. We shall bleed and squeal as the handfuls of fur come out; and then, surprisingly, we shall find underneath it all a thing we have never yet imagined: a real Man... a son of God, strong, radiant, wise, beautiful, and drenched in joy."
  • CS Lewis
Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. I John 3: 1-3

    26 July 2011

    Spiritual Anorexia

    "Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward." was the advice given poor Job from one of his miserable comforters. Belief in God is not necessary to believe life is full of struggle, pain and woes. For many it is also full of work and achievemnt, pleaure, minor and major, and of variety.
    I will identify myself as one of those people. Still, as full as life can be, and as painful, as it is, I marvel at the vacuous nature of satisying the creature within while ignoring the spiritual needs.
    Like a muscle we naturally have, our disuse, our neglect of our spiritual needs turns us into spiritual anorexics. In some cases people live out their entire lives this way, calculating how to eat, sleep and live well. In reality, they are "running down the meter" and eventually, if they remain fortunate, simply peter out physically until the oblivion called death overtakes.
    I think often of the writer G K Chesterton, for he was a man of our time, not quite our contemporary, but certainly a man of considerable stature in his own circles at his time.
    He wrote a simple poem called "The Convert" which tells me that Chesterton had the fortitude and honesty to respond to Christ's simple injunction in Matthew 6:33: "Seek the Kingdom of God above all else..."
    The Convert

    After one moment when I bowed my head
    And the whole world turned over and came upright,
    And I came out where the old road shone white.
    I walked the ways and heard what all men said,
    Forests of tongues, like autumn leaves unshed,
    Being not unlovable but strange and light;
    Old riddles and new creeds, not in despite
    But softly, as men smile about the dead

    The sages have a hundred maps to give
    That trace their crawling cosmos like a tree,
    They rattle reason out through many a sieve
    That stores the sand and lets the gold go free:
    And all these things are less than dust to me
    Because my name is Lazarus and I live.

     G. K. Chesterton 

    21 July 2011

    Off the Startingblocks Or Still in the Locker Room?

    "Therefore, go and make _disciples_  of all the nations,baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
    Jesus Christ, Matthew 28:19,20
    If you're from a Christian background you have likely heard and or read these words. Have you looked closely at the command? 
    I underscored the word disciples to emphasize it, notice he never said make converts, nor be someone I can be proud of. Nothing as easy or feeble as that, no. Christ wanted his followers to follow, study, mimic Him in quality of heart and head. Being a mere adherent is not the same; a disciple adds and removes behaviors, stays focused and learns as he goes, just as any one competing in sports or any discipline does.
    Grasping for the right principles, keys, outcomes, or sensations does not bring you further along. Controversy over techniques which divide people into factions has no value at all in God's economy.
    There are three telltale signs (for me) that a Christian is not working at becoming a disciple: 1 he does not read the Bible, or if he does he does not read it well (it is not a recipe book) 2 he does not understand how the Holy Spirit would operate in his own life today 3 (sadly) there is little fruit such as patience, love, joy, etc.
    That is the analysis, what is answer? As the book's title puts it, there are no shortcuts to progress. I always recommend a three-pronged approach, the short version is to 1 remove obstructions and read and act on what the Bible says 2 ask God to teach you what you need to learn, and seek it out at the same time 3 love, love, love. Ask people, listen and give.
    I think Lewis nailed it here in referencing the ancients:

    "...for the wise men of old the cardinal problem had been how to conform the soul to reality, and the solution had been knowledge, self-discipline and virtue. 
    [while we try to discover] ...how to subdue reality to the wishes of men: the solution is technique...and in the practice of technique, [we] do the...impious." 

    CS Lewis, "The Abolition of Man"

    16 July 2011

    Sin and Skinning a Cat

    "...masters of science are much impressed with the need of beginning all inquiry with a fact. The ancient masters of religion were quite equally impressed with that necessity. They began with the fact of sin—a fact as practical as potatoes. Whether or no man could be washed in miraculous waters, there was no doubt at any rate that he [needed] washing. But ... [now we] not [only] deny the highly disputable water, but... the indisputable dirt. [Certain people dispute] original sin, which is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved. [And other people claim] sinlessness, which they cannot see even in their dreams...they essentially deny human sin, which they can see in the street.
    The strongest saints and the strongest sceptics alike took positive evil as the starting-point of their argument.
    If it be true (as it certainly is) that a man can feel exquisite happiness in skinning a cat, then the religious philosopher can only draw one of two deductions.
    He must either deny the existence of God, as all atheists do; or he must deny the present union between God and man, as all Christians do.
    The new theologians [who deny the sin] think it a highly rationalistic solution to deny the cat."

    G K Chesterton, "Orthodoxy"

    10 July 2011

    Consider the Motion of Your Soul

    The motion of your soul. "He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His names sake." (Ps. 23:2)

    In vain we lavish out our lives
    To gather empty wind,
    the choicest blessing earth can yield
    will starve a hungry mind.

    Come, and the Lord shall feed our souls 
    with more substantial meat,
    with such as saints in glory love,
    with such as angels eat.
    Come, and He'll cleanse our spotted souls,
    and wash away our stains,
    in the dear fountain that His Son
    poured from His dying veins.

    Our guilt shall vanish all away
    though black as hell before;
    our sins shall sink beneath the sea
    and shall be found no more.

    And, lest pollution should overspread
    our inward powers again,
    His Spirit shall bedew our souls
    like purifying rain.

    Our heart, that flinty stubborn thing,
    that terrors cannot move,
    that fears no threatenings of His wrath,
    shall be dissolved by love.

    Or He can take the flint away
    that would not be refined,
    and from the treasures of His grace
    bestow a softer mind.

    There shall His sacred Spirit dwell,
    and deep engrave His law,
    and every motion of our souls
    to swift obedience draw.

    Thus will He pour salvation down
    and we shall render praise,
    we, the dear people of His love,
    and He, the God of Grace.

    Issac Watts

    28 June 2011

    5 Quotes from C.S. Lewis for Summer

    You don't really want a big post to read now that the summer's begun, so I'm providing a "sampler" -- a light summer dish as food for thought. All of these ruminations are from someplace in C.S. Lewis' writing. Happy snacking, happy chewing!
    1. "Atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning..."
    2. "God is no fonder of intellectual slackers than He is of any other slacker."
    3. "All that we call human history--money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery--[is] the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy."
    4. "There is but one good; that is God. Everything else is good when it looks to Him and bad when it turns from Him."
    5. "Love may forgive all infirmities and love still in spite of them: but Love cannot cease to will their removal."

    27 May 2011

    How Can Hate And Love Co-exist?

    Hate and love never co-exist in equanimity, but they do co-exist. They co-exist in the sense that no one is perfected (and, in Christian doctrine, everyone is a sinner by nature), and so though we love ourselves enough to want the best, we also dislike, and try to improve the worst. This is the essence of Christian self-care (as distinct from selfishness and self-interest.)
    Does this mean we are supposed to accept what is wrong just as if it were not? No, we need not accept what is disjointed in this world. CS Lewis clarifies what we too often muddle when he states it difference in a personal vein:
    "I remember Christian teachers telling me long ago that I must hate a bad man's actions but not hate the bad man: or, as they would say, hate the sin but not the sinner.
    I used to think this a silly, straw-splitting distinction: how could you hate what a man did and not hate the man?
    But years later it occurred to me that there was one man to whom I had been doing this all my life -- namely myself.
    However much I might dislike my own cowardice or conceit or greed, I went on loving myself. There had never been the slightest difficulty about it. In fact the very reason why I hated the things was that I loved the man. Just because I loved myself, I was sorry to find that I was the sort of man who did those things."
    • CS Lewis

    15 May 2011

    Christ - close, closer & closest


    When thou turn’st away from ill,
    Christ is this side of thy hill.

    When thou turnest toward good,
    Christ is walking in thy wood.

    When thy heart says, ‘Father, pardon!’
    Then the Lord is in thy garden.

    When stern Duty wakes to watch,
    Then His hand is on the latch.

    But when Hope thy song doth rouse,
    Then the Lord is in the house.

    When to love is all thy wit,
    Christ doth at thy table sit.

    When God’s will is thy heart’s pole,
    Then is Christ thy very soul.
    • George Mac Donald

    12 May 2011

    Lost And Found

    I missed him when the sun began to bend;
    I found him not when I had lost his rim;
    With many tears I went in search of him,
    Climbing high mountains which did still ascend,
    And gave me echoes when I called my friend;
    Through cities vast and charnel-houses grim,
    And high cathedrals where the light was dim,
    Through books and arts and works without an end,

    But found him not—the friend whom I had lost.
    And yet I found him—as I found the lark,
    A sound in fields I heard but could not mark;
    I found him nearest when I missed him most;
    I found him in my heart, a life in frost,
    A light I knew not till my soul was dark.
    • George MacDonald

    04 May 2011

    Family: Not a A Character Flaw, An Opportunity for Adventure

    I am not writing about my mother or mothers even though Sunday is Mother’s Day, but I am writing about family—and how they form you. It’s likely not what you think. This week marks the end of two years of mentoring young (32-34 years old) professional women (more of a spiritual director). Over these two years I made a point of listening closely when they talked about their families: their parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, half-siblings, step-siblings, step-parents. I listened to both what they said and how they approached the topic because the mentee’s attitude towards her family is a pretty accurate sketch of her general attitude towards life.
    GK Chesterton has written a chapter on family in “Heretics” in which he suggests that the family–in its unvarnished, unsanitized version–is really the best thing for coming to grips with humanity in so many ways. Family is where we find real adventure. Chesterton asserts that the family is a ‘kingdom’ and, like real kingdoms, spend much of the time in ‘anarchy.’ He contends it’s a fantastic adventure, and I agree, but find many people think imperfect families is due to a character flaw. Chesterton’s analogy of family does not remotely resemble this one give by an American pastor: “It ought to be a place where love rules. [ok] It ought to be beautiful, bright, joyous…a place in which all are growing happier and better each day.” That sounds more like Disneyworld than Real World. Below are Chesterton’s assertions-I have liberally trimmed away the excess, and updated some of the language, but I think you’ll get his main point:
    “The institution of the family is to be commended for the same reasons that the institution of the nation, or the institution of the city, are to be commended: They all force him to realize that life is not a thing from outside, but a thing from inside. They all insist upon the fact that life, if it be a truly stimulating and fascinating life, is a thing which, of its nature, exists in spite of ourselves. The modern[s ]…have suggested… that the family is a bad institution, that perhaps the family is not always very congenial. [Yet]…the family is a good institution because it is uncongenial. It is wholesome precisely because it contains so many divergencies and varieties. It is…like a little kingdom, and, like most other little kingdoms, is generally in a state of something resembling anarchy.
    It is exactly because our brother George is not interested in our religious difficulties, but is interested in the Trocadero Restaurant that the family has some of the bracing qualities of the commonwealth. It is precisely because our uncle Henry does not approve of the theatrical ambitions of our sister Sarah that the family is like humanity. The men and women who, for good reasons and bad, revolt against the family, are, for good reasons and bad, simply revolting against mankind. Aunt Elizabeth is unreasonable, like mankind. Papa is excitable, like mankind. Our youngest brother is mischievous, like mankind. Grandpapa is stupid, like the world; he is old, like the world.
    Those who wish, rightly or wrongly, to step out of all this do wish to step into a narrower world. They are dismayed and terrified by the largeness and variety of the family. Sarah wishes to find a world wholly consisting of private theatricals; George wishes to think the Trocadero [Restaurant] a cosmos. …not that the flight to this narrower life may not be the right thing for the individual. But, [it] is bad and artificial which tends to make these people succumb to the strange delusion that they are stepping into a world which is actually larger and more varied than their own.
    The best way [to] test [ones] readiness to encounter the common variety of mankind would be to climb down a chimney into any house at random and get on as well as possible with the people inside. And that is essentially what each one of us did on the day that he was born. This is, indeed, the sublime and special romance of the family. It is romantic because it is a toss-up…it is arbitrary…because it is there. [Here] the element of adventure begins to exist; for an adventure is, by its nature, a thing that comes to us, a thing that chooses us, not a thing that we choose.
    Falling in love has been often regarded as the supreme adventure, the supreme romantic accident. [Although] love does take us and transfigure and torture us. But in so far as we have certainly something to do with the matter, [we are] prepared to fall in love and. in some sense, jump into it; in so far as we do, to some extent, choose and, to some extent, even judge—in all this, falling in love is not truly romantic, is not truly adventurous at all. In this degree, the supreme adventure is not falling in love. The supreme adventure is being born.
    There we do walk suddenly into a splendid and startling trap. There we do see something of which we have not dreamed before. Our father and mother do lie in wait for us and leap out on us, like brigands [bandits] from a bush. Our uncle is a surprise. Our aunt is a bolt from the blue. When we step into the family, by the act of being born, we do step into a world which is incalculable, into a world which has its own strange laws, into a world which could do without us, into a world that we have not made. In other words, when we step into the family we step into a fairy-tale. This colour, as a wonderful narrative, ought to cling to the family and to our relation[ship] with it throughout life. …These are circumstances over which we have no control [and so] remain god-like…
    People wonder why the novel is the most popular form of literature…The reason is very simple; it is merely that the novel is more true than they are. But life is always a novel. Our existence may cease to be a song; it may cease even to be a beautiful lament. Our existence may not be an intelligible justice, or even a recognizable wrong. But our existence is still a story. In the fiery alphabet of every sunset is written, “to be continued in our next.”
    If we have sufficient intellect, we can finish a philosophical deduction and be certain that we are finishing it right. With the adequate brain-power we could finish any scientific discovery and be certain that we were finishing it right.
    But not with the most gigantic intellect could we finish the simplest or silliest story, and be certain that we were finishing it right. A story has behind it, not merely intellect which is partly mechanical, but will, which is in its essence, divine.
    But in order that life should be a story it is necessary that a great part of it should be settled for us without our permission. A man has control over many things in his life; he has control over enough things to be the hero of a novel. But if he had control over everything, there would be so much [of the] hero that there would be no novel.
    The thing which keeps life full of fiery possibilities is the existence of great plain limitations which force all of us to meet the things we do not like or do not expect. Of all these great limitations and frameworks which fashion and create the poetry and variety of life, the family is the most definite and important.”

  • GK Chesterton, Heretics

    • 02 May 2011

      "The Tables Turned" Quit your books...

      The Tables Turned

      Up! up! my friend, and quit your books,
      Or surely you'll grow double.
      Up! up! my friend, and clear your looks;
      Why all this toil and trouble. . . .

      Books! 'tis a dull and endless trifle:
      Come, hear the woodland linnet,
      How sweet his music! on my life,
      There's more of wisdom in it. . . .

      One impulse from a vernal wood
      May teach you more of man,
      Of moral evil and of good,
      Than all the sages can.

      Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
      Our meddling intellect
      Misshapes the beauteous forms of things—
      We murder to dissect.

      Enough of Science and of Art,
      Close up those barren leaves;
      Come forth, and bring with you a heart
      That watches and receives.

      • William Wordsworth

      28 April 2011

      Got Guilt?

      I wish I had a dime for every person in the past 35 years who confided in me something like this: “I feel God is punishing me for….”
      Unfortunately, dragging around a conviction that you’re condemned and that God is directing wrath at you looks nearly legitimate complaint when I look at their lives, especially when they hit middle-age. By then their anger or self-pity has pretty much encased them in bad habits.
      C.S. Lewis has a good word on guilt and condemnation:
      “If God forgives us we must forgive ourselves. Otherwise, it is almost like setting up ourselves as a higher tribunal than Him.”
      When challenged no one can ever come up with a Christian scripture to support his feeling that God’s punishing him.   I suggest that your feelings regarding this don’t matter–take your feelings to the blackjack table. (We all know how that works out.)
      Not only is this toxic guilt not Christian doctrine at all but it also is contrary to God’s will for people: this mindset is a kind of cage. People quit growing as Christians when they spend their time looking over their shoulder, waiting for the boom to fall, or for God to boot up them to the ‘next level.’
      Christian maturity is something I can do only as I look forward, and walk forward. But people who nest in toxic guilt are too afraid to try new things for fear of failure. Not only has Christ has set them free from the law of sin and death, Christ has set free them from unreasonable fears. Not from the emotion of fear or even of reasonable fear, but from the quirky, guilt-laden fear.
      But why–why would Christ ask us to live in freedom? I think it should be enough to say that we’re not automatons and He knows that. Guilt hurts–it’s painful–it’s deadening. It’s because of His love for us that He would not want us to live this way.
      There might be a side benefit, too. I think it has something to do with living out His kingdom in this world. For with Christ’s freedom from guilt, we have freedom to do, and a kind of permission to fail-and learn from failure (though I find, it often takes more than one time to figure out why I fail at something!).
      Perhaps you wonder if this is really a Christian way to think (I know we don’t get this picture painted too often). I am sure it is. Biblically we’re freed to love-to love people, not our possessions. Loving requires all kinds of talents and all kinds of works. Paul calls it being “formed” as a Christian, in Christ’s image (Colossians).
      I’ll let Paul spell it out here, where he reminded the new churches about their freedom and its pertinence to Christian maturity:
      “Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand!…When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace. Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit. For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love. You were running superbly! Who cut in on you, deflecting you from the true course of obedience? This detour doesn’t come from the One who called you into the race in the first place. And please don’t toss this off as insignificant. It only takes a minute amount of yeast, you know, to permeate an entire loaf of bread. … It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom.”
      Galatians 5:1-15 The Message (paraphrase), portions

      27 April 2011


      Ephemeral: things come, and eventually, go. As I write it is spring and we're always excited about new buds and gentler weather now. Yet, spring's also arrival signals the end of winter. It is an ending as well as a beginning.  "Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you.
      For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever." I John 2:15-17
      Reminds me of a poem by Stephen Crane, which you may also know:

      A man saw a ball of gold in the sky;
      He climbed for it,
      And eventually he achieved it --
      It was clay.

      Now this is the strange part:
      When the man went to the earth
      And looked again,
      Lo, there was the ball of gold.
      Now this is the strange part:
      It was a ball of gold.
      Aye, by the heavens, it was a ball of gold.
      -Stephen Crane

      24 April 2011

      No Money, No Bunnies--A Big Payment for A Huge Return

      Easter Celebration-the day we remember Jesus Christ, after being death for 3 days and 3 nights, arose from the dead and still lives in heaven–is about the triumph of Christ over sin and death.
      This is why the Apostle Paul celebrates Christ as the “2nd Adam” who rectifies, sets aright, the problems initiated in the universe by the “1st Adam”–the woes of the created universe, of our flesh (sickness and death) and of our sin (think of emotional problems and hurts if you do not understand sin). No perfection can be attained by ourselves, no, we must have it done for us by a much bigger power–and one who cares for us–humans cannot hoist themselves up by their own bootstraps.
      Some scriptural thoughts about this:
      “Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood.
      For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death.
      Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying. ” The Bible: Hebrews 2:14-15 (NLT)

      “Is anyone thirsty?
      Come and drink—
      even if you have no money!
      Come, take your choice of wine or milk—
      it’s all free!
      Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength?
      Why pay for food that does you no good?
      Listen to me, and you will eat what is good.
      You will enjoy the finest food.
      “Come to me with your ears wide open.
      Listen, and you will find life.
      I will make an everlasting covenant with you.
      I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David.”
      The Bible: Isaiah 55:1-3 (NLT)


      20 April 2011

      My Way, Truth, Life, Light, Feast, Strength, Joy, Love, & My Heart

      Come, My Way
       Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life:
      Such a Way as gives us breath;
      Such a Truth as ends all strife,
      Such a Life as killeth death.

      Come, my Light, my Feast, my Strength:
      Such a Light as shows a feast,
      Such a Feast as mends in length,
      Such a Strength as makes His guest.

      Come, my Joy, my Love, my Heart:
      Such a Joy as none can move,
      Such a Love as none can part,
      Such a Heart as joys in love.

      • George Herbert

      31 March 2011

      Convenient Lie about Jesus Christ

      The best lie is a half-truth. To negate it, is to negate the truth it contains, while to affirm it, bolsters the lie. The greatest lie in our culture is: “Jesus was a simply a great teacher.” I wish I had a nickel for every polite (but wrong) agnostic or atheist who has ever said this to me.
      It’s wishful thinking because it’s not true. Read the gospel of Mark and select only the teachings of Jesus, you will find the gospel to be pitifully slim. Or read the gospel of John, which is known to be content-laden with conversation. If you read it wide awake, you will find a good deal of direct instruction to his followers--the apostles. You also find much of the conversation to be prayer to His Father. Yes, there is some teaching in the gospels--but there is a lot of simple exhortation. No one ever says, "Jesus was a great teacher, and he said the Son of God." Somehow the big points in his teachings go missing.

      In fact, in the gospels Jesus more noteworthy as
       1) a rabble-rouser who also created problems with most religious leaders
       2) a miracle-worker – of all kinds of miracles
       3) a living fulfillment of many Jewish prophecies
       4) the only man in history who got up from a brutal death and ascended into heaven, as witnessed by more than 500 people. (Why doesn’t this make the Guinness book?) C. S. Lewis adds: “...He was never regarded as a mere moral teacher. He did not produce that effect on any of the people who actually met him. He produced mainly three effects—Hatred—Terror—Adoration. There was no trace of people expressing mild approval.”

      24 March 2011

      Compassion Universal

      Christ Has No Body

      Christ has no body but yours,
      No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
      Yours are the eyes with which he looks
      Compassion on this world,
      Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
      Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
      Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
      Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
      Christ has no body now but yours,
      No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
      Yours are the eyes with which he looks
      compassion on this world.
      Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
      • Teresa of Avila (1515–1582)

      19 March 2011

      Wanted: passionate and intelligent lovers of God


      Wilt thou love God, as he thee? Then digest,
      My soul, this wholesome meditation,
      How God the Spirit, by angels waited on
      In heaven, doth make his Temple in thy breast.

      The Father having begot a Son most blest,
      And still begetting, (for he ne'er be gone)
      Hath deigned to choose thee by adoption,
      Co-heir t' his glory, and Sabbath' endless rest.

      And as a robbed man, which by search doth find
      His stol'n stuff sold, must lose or buy 't again:
      The Son of glory came down, and was slain,
      Us whom he'd made, and Satan stol'n, to unbind.

      'Twas much that man was made like God before,
      But, that God should be made like man, much more.

      - John Donne  (1572-1631)
      (I provided the spacing.)

      Jesus said, "'Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.' This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: 'Love others as well as you love yourself.' These two commands are pegs; everything in God's Law and the Prophets hangs from them." 
      Matthew 22:37, The Message

      10 March 2011

      Single Letters, Syllables Uncomposed

      Someone once said that knowledge can be threatening to people. If this conjecture has any truth, perhaps it explains why people are threatened by an omniscient God: His knowledge is unbiased truth about everything and everyone.
      But let's talk about what we humans can know,  for there is so much to know, learn and do in this great universe--and none of it is without its own value.
      Still, it seems every one has been given an additional personal task: that of theology--spiritual training of the mind and heart--seriously.  In this aspect, theology is not a specialized task of a priest, pastor or preacher. No, they are helpful, but they cannot live your life for you, any more than a doctor can give you suggestions on living healthily and diagnosis and prescribe for illnesses. Once you acknowlege what your job is, it's time to take it in hand. At this point sometimes a person will short circuit his learning by making a once-for-all decision. This is making a judgment about your spiritual condition  or state (whether or not it's correct) in a manner that resembles stashing something in a safety deposit box: once there, you don't need to think about it again.
      Life has a way of disobeying our desires. If you short circuit your spritual life, you'll find that as your soul-life gets lived out, and it gets expressed in the world around you, and because what you carry inside affects our attitudes, choices, judgments and opinions, it's not long before (if you're honest) that old question of what's your theology comes back, nagging at us. Over and over, life plunges us headlong into our thelogy and holds our heads under it until we either acknowledge it or extinguish it.
      Richard Baxter was so excerised about the importance of knowing God, that he bluntly states that we actually see things differently when we see things from God's point of view (rather than our own):
      "Nothing can be rightly known, if God be not known; nor is any study well-managed, nor to any great purpose, if God is not studied. We know little of the creature, till we know it as it stands related to the Creator: single letters, and syllables uncomposed, are no better than nonsense.
      He who overlooks Him who is the 'Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending,' and sees not Him in all who is the All of all, then does see nothing at all. All creatures, as such, are broken syllables; they signify nothing as separated from God.” - Richard Baxter

      07 March 2011

      Marked by Ashes

         Marked by Ashes

      Ruler of the Night, Guarantor of the day . . .
      This day — a gift from you.
      This day — like none other you have ever given, or we have ever received.
      This Wednesday dazzles us with gift and newness and possibility.
      This Wednesday burdens us with the tasks of the day, for we are already halfway home
         halfway back to committees and memos,
         halfway back to calls and appointments,
         halfway on to next Sunday,
         halfway back, half frazzled, half expectant,
         half turned toward you, half rather not.

      This Wednesday is a long way from Ash Wednesday,
       but all our Wednesdays are marked by ashes —
        we begin this day with that taste of ash in our mouth:
         of failed hope and broken promises,
         of forgotten children and frightened women,
        we ourselves are ashes to ashes, dust to dust;
        we can taste our mortality as we roll the ash around on our tongues.

      We are able to ponder our ashness with
        some confidence, only because our every Wednesday of ashes
        anticipates your Easter victory over that dry, flaky taste of death.

      On this Wednesday, we submit our ashen way to you —
        you Easter parade of newness.
        Before the sun sets, take our Wednesday and Easter us,
         Easter us to joy and energy and courage and freedom;
         Easter us that we may be fearless for your truth.
       Come here and Easter our Wednesday with
        mercy and justice and peace and generosity.

      We pray as we wait for the Risen One who comes soon.
      • Walter Brueggemann

      01 March 2011

      Trash or Treasure?

      What is true wealth? How is it defined?
      Real estate? If you’ve been alive in the past four years, you have some idea of how difficult it is to hold on to what is defined as wealth. Since economic uncertainty hit the world in 2008, gold has been looking more precious to a great many people. And, as a result, its “value” has increased.
      But, what is the real value of gold? It's only that which has been assigned to it--which begs the question, by whom or by what: there has to be an assigner--an agent who has the authority and ability to make that decison. 
      In this case I am speakng of worldly (and necessary) exchanges; but that does not address spiritual and eternal exchanges. What is important there?
      When we inventory that particular issue, we eventually realize we need to consider what value we assign to Christ. And, there are “real and objective” ways to do that, which we will do in another post. At the outset we need to address what obscures or clouds our thoughts regarding Christ. What does this are the norms: the social, the subjective ideas regarding the value of Christ to a society, to the world.
      GK Chesterton puts it this way:
       “…the Church from its beginnings, and perhaps especially in its beginnings, was not so much a principality as a revolution against the prince of the world…
      [At the time] Olympus still occupied the sky like a motionless cloud molded into many forms; philosophy still sat in the high places and even on the thrones of the kings,
      when Christ was born in the cave and Christianity in the catacombs.
      In both cases, [there is] the same paradox of revolution; …. of something despised; of something feared.
      The cave in one aspect is only a hole or corner into which the outcasts are swept like rubbish; yet in the other aspect it is a hiding-place of something valuable which the tyrants are seeking like treasure."

      • GK Chesterton (I recommend reading: “The Man Who Was Thursday” with this idea in mind)