16 December 2012

If Mary Had Known

If Mary had known

If Mary had known
When she held her
Babe's hands in her own­
Little hands that were tender and white as a rose,
All dented with dimples from finger to wrist,
Such as mothers have kissed­
That one day they must feel the fierce blows
Of a hatred insane,
Must redden with holiest stain,
And grasp as their guerdon the boon of the bitterest pain,
Oh, I think that her sweet, brooding face
Must have blanched with its anguish of knowledge above her embrace.

If Mary had known
As she sat with her baby alone,
And guided so gently his bare little feet
To take their first steps from the throne of her knee,
How weary must be
The path that for them should be meet;
And how it must lead
To the cross of humanity's need,
Giving hissing and shame, giving blame and reproach for its meed,
Oh, I think that her tears would have dewed
Those dear feet that must walk such a hard, starless way to the Rood!

But ­if Mary had known,
As she held him so closely, her own,
That over the darkness and pain he would be
The Conqueror hailed in all oncoming days,
The world's hope and praise,
And the garland of thorn,
The symbol of mocking and scorn
Would be a victorious diadem royally worn,
Oh, I think that ineffable joy
Must have flooded her soul as she bent o'er her wonderful Boy!

- By L M Montgomery (partial) L.M. Montgomery of Prince Edward Island, CA is most widely known for her book “Anne of Green Gables.” The poem in its entirety can be found below.


If Mary Had Known

If Mary had known
When she held her Babe's hands in her own­
Little hands that were tender and white as a rose,
All dented with dimples from finger to wrist,
Such as mothers have kissed­
That one day they must feel the fierce blows
Of a hatred insane, Must redden with holiest stain,
And grasp as their guerdon the boon of the bitterest pain,
Oh, I think that her sweet, brooding face
Must have blanched with its anguish of knowledge above her embrace.

But-­ if Mary had known,
As she held her Babe's hands in her own,
What a treasure of gifts to the world they would bring;
What healing and hope to the hearts that must ache,
And without him must break;
Had she known they would pluck forth death's sting
And set open the door
Of the close, jealous grave evermore,
Making free who were captives in sorrow and darkness before,
Oh, I think that a gracious sunrise
Of rapture had broken across the despair of her eyes!

If Mary had known
As she sat with her baby alone,
And guided so gently his bare little feet
To take their first steps from the throne of her knee,
How weary must be The path that for them should be meet;
And how it must lead To the cross of humanity's need,
Giving hissing and shame, giving blame and reproach for its meed,
Oh, I think that her tears would have dewed
Those dear feet that must walk such a hard, starless way to the Rood!

But­ if Mary had known,
As she sat with her Baby alone,
On what errands of mercy and peace they would go,
How those footsteps would ring through the years of all time
With an echo sublime,
Making holy the land of their woe,
That the pathway they trod
Would guide the world back to its God,
And lead ever upward away from the grasp of the clod,
She had surely forgot to be sad
And only remembered to be most immortally glad!

If Mary had known,
As she held him so closely, her own,
Cradling his shining, fair head on her breast,
Sunned over with ringlets as bright as the morn,
That a garland of thorn
On that tender brow would be pressed
Till the red drops would fall Into eyes that looked out upon all,
Abrim with a pity divine over clamor and brawl,
Oh, I think that her lullaby song
Would have died on her lips into wailing impassioned and long!

But ­if Mary had known,
As she held him so closely, her own,
That over the darkness and pain he would be
The Conqueror hailed in all oncoming days,
The world's hope and praise,
And the garland of thorn,
The symbol of mocking and scorn
Would be a victorious diadem royally worn,
Oh, I think that ineffable joy
Must have flooded her soul as she bent o'er her wonderful Boy!
- By L. M. Montgomery

29 November 2012

God & Activism

By insisting specially on the immanence of God we get introspection, self-isolation…social indifference.

By insisting specially on the transcendence of God we get wonder, curiosity, moral and political adventure, righteous

Insisting that God is inside man, man is always inside himself.

By insisting that God transcends man, man has transcended himself.

- G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

28 November 2012

The Final & Fulfilled Expression of Love

This Christmas choose your god:

one to:
- avoid or aspire to?
- dodge or desire?
- placate or a peace-giving?
- leaves you detached or accepted?
- wandering and dispossessed or at rest and at home?

Isaiah 9 strikes a chord of contrasts: that those who were humbled will be honored, that their darkness will be light, the yoke of slavery will be lifted to enter freedom.
He gives a promise that struggle, warring, defeat and danger will no longer exist, but only gentleness and peace.
Not all gods can do this. To be a god who can do this, he cannot be a god who can be appeased nor half-god.
He will use His strength to heal and to restore his loved ones, both human and nature. The Lord will create a planet of holiness where all former animosities and dangers are abolished, and the ripped Creation is restored.
It is an unfamiliar peace to mankind as this absence of strife is not due to special protection or chanced favor.

When evil is finally and forever gotten rid of—and where holiness reigns in truth and knowledge of the Lord, we will know the final and fulfilled expression of God’s love.

“…there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. … in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.
You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest,
as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
 The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
- Isaiah 9:1-9 ESV

23 November 2012

Day Most Precious

"If you were aware of how precious today is, you could hardly live through it. Unless you are aware of how precious it is, you can hardly be said to be living at all." - Frederick Buechner

God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love. (I John 4:17-18, The Message)
St. Paul's prayer:
[May the Father] strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you…And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God! (Ephesians 3:13-19, The Message)

16 November 2012

Aesop Tells It Straight

Love is said to be weak, but we all know how untrue that is.

We’ve all got loyalty stories we can tell of friends or family who have been there for us when we don’t deserve it.  Saying that God is love is sometimes misinterpreted. The most fearless people I know understand God’s love for them. Christ’s love for us allowed Him to choose to be crucified instead of us having to facing up to judgment with all our wrongs still unsettled.

And, unless we encounter the love of God, we’ve never really encountered the Spirit of Christ, for that is its essence.

This famous fable, and told to children for centuries tell you that even children understand the mighty power of love.

The Wind and the Sun - Aesop's Fables

The Wind and the Sun were disputing which was the stronger.
Suddenly they saw a traveler coming down the road, and the Sun said: “I see a way to decide our dispute. Whichever of us can cause that traveler to take off his cloak shall be regarded as the stronger You begin.”
So the Sun retired behind a cloud, and the Wind began to blow as hard as it could upon the traveler.
But the harder he blew the more closely did the traveler wrap his cloak round him, till at last the Wind had to give up in despair.
Then the Sun came out and shone in all his glory upon the traveler, who soon found it too hot to walk with his cloak on. 

- Joseph Jacobs, The Fables of Æsop (London and New York: Macmillan and Company, 1894), no. 60, pp. 142-43.

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” – Jesus Christ (Luke 6:27-28)

“God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love. We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first.  If anyone boasts, “I love God,” and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both.”  (I John 4:17-21)

You may be Unique but You’re Not Different. Quotes on Badness and Forgiveness

“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them.
But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?
- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago
“Forgiveness flounders when we exclude our enemies from the community of humans and when we exclude ourselves from the community of sinners.”
- Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrac

10 November 2012

Pluck A Summer's Flower - the ephemeral

The Vanities of Life (anon)

'Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.' - Solomon.

What are life's joys and gains?
What pleasures crowd its ways,
That man should take such pains
To seek them all his days?
Sift this untoward strife
On which thy mind is bent,
See if this chaff of life
Is worth the trouble spent.

Is pride thy heart's desire?
Is power thy climbing aim?
Is love thy folly's fire?
Is wealth thy restless game?
Pride, power, love, wealth and all,
Time's touchstone shall destroy,
And, like base coin, prove all
Vain substitutes for joy.

Dost think that pride exalts
Thyself in other's eyes,
And hides thy folly's faults,
Which reason will despise?
Dost strut, and turn, and stride,
Like walking weathercocks?
The shadow by thy side
Becomes thy ape, and mocks.

Dost think that power's disguise
Can make thee mighty seem?
It may in folly's eyes,
But not in worth's esteem:
When all that thou canst ask,
And all that she can give,
Is but a paltry mask
Which tyants wear and live.

Go, let thy fancies range
And ramble where they may;
View power in every change,
And what is the display?
- The country magistrate,
The lowest shade in power,
To rulers of the state,
The meteors of an hour: -
View all, and mark the end
Of every proud extreme,
Where flattery turns a friend,
And counterfeits esteem;
Where worth is aped in show,
That doth her name purloin,
Like toys of golden glow
That's sold for copper coin.

Ambition's haughty nod,
With fancies may deceive,
Nay, tell thee thou'rt a god, -
And wilt thou such believe?

Go, bid the seas be dry,
Go, hold earth like a ball,
Or throw her fancies by,
For God can do it all.

Dost thou possess the dower
Of laws to spare or kill?
Call it not heav'nly power
When but a tyrant's will;
Know what a God will do,
And know thyself a fool,
Nor tyrant-like pursue
Where He alone should rule.

Dost think, when wealth is won,
Thy heart has its desire?
Hold ice up to the sun,
And wax before the fire;
Nor triumph o'er the reign
Which they so soon resign;
In this world weigh the gain,
Insurance safe is thine.

Dost think life's peace secure
In houses and in land?
Go, read the fairy lure
To twist a cord of sand;
Lodge stones upon the sky,
Hold water in a sieve,
Nor give such tales the lie,
And still thine own believe.

Whoso with riches deals,
And thinks peace bought and sold,
Will find them slippery eels,
That slide the firmest hold:
Though sweet as sleep with health,
Thy lulling luck may be,
Pride may o'erstride thy wealth,
And check prosperity.

Dost think that beauty's power,
Life's sweetest pleasure gives?
Go, pluck the summer flower,
And see how long it lives:
Behold, the rays glide on,
Along the summer plain,
Ere thou canst say, they're gone, -
And measure beauty's reign.

Look on the brightest eye,
Nor teach it to be proud,
But view the clearest sky
And thou shalt find a cloud;
Nor call each face ye meet
An angel's, 'cause it's fair,
But look beneath your feet,
And think of what ye are.

Who thinks that love doth live
In beauty's tempting show,
Shall find his hopes ungive,
And melt in reason's thaw;
Who thinks that pleasure lies
In every fairy bower,
Shall oft, to his surprise,
Find poison in the flower.

Dost lawless pleasures grasp?
Judge not thou deal'st in joy;
Its flowers but hide the asp,
Thy revels to destroy:
Who trusts a harlot's smile,
And by her wiles is led,
Plays with a sword the while,
Hung dropping o'er his head.

Dost doubt my warning song?
Then doubt the sun gives light,
Doubt truth to teach thee wrong,
And wrong alone as right;
And live as lives the knave,
Intrigue's deceiving guest,
Be tyrant, or be slave,
As suits thy ends the best.
Or pause amid thy toils,
For visions won and lost,
And count the fancied spoils,
If e'er they quit the cost;
And if they still possess
Thy mind, as worthy things,
Pick straws with Bedlam Bess,
And call them diamond rings.

Thy folly's past advice,
Thy heart's already won,
Thy fall's above all price,
So go, and be undone;
For all who thus prefer
The seeming great for small,
Shall make wine vinegar,
And sweetest honey gall.

Wouldst heed the truths I sing,
To profit wherewithal,
Clip folly's wanton wing,
And keep her within call:
I've little else to give,
What thou canst easy try,
The lesson how to live,
Is but to learn to die.

07 November 2012

Christians Are Aborting....

Our Christian calling is for progress: for ourselves, and then progress for our neighbors. Christ’s redemption in this world does not end in me: no, it begins.  And each thing I do (or chose not to do), hidden or open, in private or in public, here and now, counts in eternity.
Many Roman Catholic and Christian woman are guilty of abortion. That’s right. Abortion.  They have been aborting some of the brightest intellects and some of the greatest artists, writers, musicians, some of the finest teachers, preachers and pray-ers.  

On the other hand, Christian women are excellent consumers. I have found the best hand-wringers in Christian circles. We're great accusers, get high scores in "circling the wagons" when necessary. I have been sickened by what I call the princess-syndrome. We shield our young girls from exercising their minds in difficult situations (do we expect their prince to spring to their side?).  

True, there are times we encourage their intellectual growth--but only to a point. After all, once they're grown they do they have  need for a brain?  How difficult is it to exchange recipes, sweet deals, and travel/mission experiences. Serious theology, preaching, and serious talk is frowned upon; if you are serious about prayer and deeper work within -- well, those are akin to "extra credit" and not a norm for every able-minded Christian. 
Women (and men)  tell me they don't have time for spiritual growth. But they find two hours to watch a feel-good movie that makes us feel-good about mediocrity.  

Women, the only thing we are to be baby-like in is in regard to evil (doing evil).  I admit I was in denial about the Barbie-like attitude towards life Christian women had. But, once the fog cleared from my brain, I stopped attending women's conferences and buying women's books at Christian book stores. Dumbing down a book or sermon might have broad appeal, but is it necessary, or more to the point: is it right to do?  A book is insulting when it's dumbed down to sell to women.

Here is a sample of something for “Christian women” "One of my favorite foods on earth is fresh, hot, homemade apple muffins. I make them occasionally when I have time and enjoy one with a fresh brewed pot of coffee. I take the muffin, the coffee, and the newspaper, and sit on my patio (sometimes with the neighborhood cats) relishing the beginning of a new day. All my senses are pleased. Complete satisfaction. " - Luci Swindoll, I Married Adventure
If this were merely the beginning of a great book I wouldn't include it, but it's not. My point: we do harm to ourselves by publishing, buying and recommending books. What's the harm? Christian books of this type don't sharpen my mind, they flatten and dull it. I have a spirit of inquiry, I desire discussion and exchange with the author.  Our interests ought to be piqued, not squelched nor distracted.

How does this connect with practical theology? Many Christian women go through the motions of missions, social justice, and fellowship. But, is it missing something? Do we do it with understanding?  Have we read, reflected, and grasped our piece in the global setting, historical landscape of time, and the spiritual Body of Christ?

Or, do we roll along, struggling, to be nice, hoping to please our neighbor most of the time now, and God in the end when our "good works" balance out our bad? If so, we don't understand what it is to be a Christian.

Discipleship is a call to growing up; a fully mature mind can and should think critically (in the positive sense). We're good at being cheerful or being worried, but we're not good at thinking about how we think.
I believe in, but also like the weightiness and succinctness of The Apostles Creed--and it ends this way: "I believe in the Holy Spirit; the holy catholic church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting."  

In our life the Holy Spirit at work now, and our life is in His Kingdom here and now; the church is universal. But, here's the big question, if you dare ask it: What do you think you will be doing in your resurrected body? Eating fresh, hot muffins on your front porch?

Our Christian calling is for progress: for ourselves, each other and the world. Christ's redemption in this world does not end in me, no, it begins.  Each thing I do, or chose not to do), hidden or open, in private or in public, here and now, counts in eternity. 

Women, men, let's raise the bar for ourselves.

On The Image of God:
"Those things which are said of God and other things are predicated neither univocally nor equivocally, but analogically... Accordingly, since we arrive at the knowledge of God from other things, the reality of the names predicated of God and other things is first in God according to His mode, but the meaning of the name is in Him afterwards. Wherefore He is said to be named from His effects."
 - Thomas Aquinas, Summa contra Gentiles

05 November 2012

Simplify: Live Consecrated

Most people are born into a religion (or not, depending on what your parents decide about God); but that is something that the Christian religion denies Christ-followers, its adherents. In God’s mind, and therefore to Christ’s followers, every day is precious, if only because every day we have the choice to consecrate each move, each decision, each thought.

How do you consecrate such a pedestrian life?   Christians are not exceptional in what life does to us and has us do: our lives consist largely of the dull and the boring, tragedy and happiness, of suffering and relief, of stress and anxiety, of customs and of the routine--oh--the never-ending routine. But it is here that Christian faith is active and flexes its muscle. Faith is not kept in a house, or a location: there is nothing holy or special in those. Christianity has us working our faith in the street, the marketplace, the cubicle, the bus, the car, the school, the kitchen, the store, the garage, the subway, the roadway, the path.   Our life is where Christianity is lived out -- in everything that could be defined as our existence. Christ says, “I am with you and in you, now go out and be in the world, in your life with Me.” When you do that, you have consecrated your living.

Why do I think daily consecration is central? because this day and this minute we are building who we will be.   Someday, in the great Eventuality which we all will be in, the scriptures hint we'll be glorious, but we'll also be "new."  And if we do indeed reap what we've sown, then right now we are building our new selves.  My Christian faith is about the now--and the dots do connect to what's next. In a way, as Frost put it “our house of life...” could be thought of as a “house of worship.” (see below)

It’s not the times of spiritual insight and wonder that I grow the most. But the times I consecrate the dullest, or my least favorite of my obligation, then I am being most “re-formed,” becoming more splendid in my inner person.

A Steeple On The House

What if it should turn out eternity
Was but the steeple on our house of life
That made our house of life a house of worship?
We do not go up there to sleep at night.
We do not go up there to live by day.
Nor need we ever go up there to live.
A spire and belfry coming on the roof
Means that a soul is coming on the flesh.
- Robert Frost

22 October 2012

Duty, Destiny, and Transformation

The best and happiest life is lived by duty-bound people. To learn most students require either a "carrot" or a "stick" to motivate them. In life, greed or a need to be safe is a mere negative motivation for carrying out duty. Love provides the only positive motivation for duty.
The better person will be formed whose life is molded by fulfilling his duty faithfully out of love.

This is why people see a contented, long-time married couple and say “I want what they have.” They know they are seeing the Unique. There had once been a time when two selfish and self-involved people made a commitment marriage. They didn’t realize it at the time but they were actually making a commitment to change. Two do not become one unless this happens. With time both were transformed.
But the transformation was not overnight but every day. It was ongoing. And every day that they got up and fulfilled their own duty, they were re-creating themselves. When this was happening, while they were carrying out their obligations and caring for the other, they were unknowingly building their destiny. They did this every day because they loved someone else better than they loved themselves.
And they believed that carrying out of duty, doing the hard work day after day was the best way to give voice to that love. It is. Because love is not a feeling. Love is giving.
- Charity Johnson

16 October 2012

The Now--and The Eternal

Nothing we do, consider, treasure or abandon on this earth is not also in some sense part of our “re-creation”of ourselves. As the body generates new cells we may re-form ourselves: for better or for worse.
What if it should turn out eternity
Was but the steeple on our house of life
Than made our house of life a house of worship?
 -From "A Steeple On The House" by Robert Frost

“Whatever you do, put your whole heart and soul into it, as into work done for God, and not merely for men—knowing that your real reward, a heavenly one, will come from God, since you are actually employed by Christ...”
– Colossians 3 (JB Phillips)

07 October 2012

Not A Dog's Life

A dog's faith lays in his master. When the master leaves on a trip, he somehow believes that the master will feed him. And, the benevolent master does.
Our faith lays in our unseen Master-yet just as real.

There are people who claim that because we cannot see God, He cannot exist. If that is true, then existence is pretty pointless.
"If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were  no light in the universe and therefore  no creatures with eyes, we should never  know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning."
"To what will you look for help if you will  not look to that which is stronger than yourself?"

Both quotes from CS Lewis



My debt to you,
Belovèd, Is one
I cannot pay
In any coin of any realm
On any reckoning day;

For where is he shall figure
The debt, when all is said,
To one who makes you dream again
When all the dreams were dead?

Or where is the appraiser
Who shall the claim compute
Of one who makes you sing again
When all the songs were mute?

By Jessie B. Rittenhouse

"We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen.
We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him.
He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body.
He was supreme in the beginning and—leading the resurrection parade—he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he’s there, towering far above everything, everyone.
So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross."
Colossians 1:15-20 The Message

30 September 2012

Love v. love

William Morris wrote a poem called 'Love Is Enough' and someone is said to have reviewed it briefly in the words 'It isn't'.... The natural loves are not self-sufficient. Something else, at first vaguely described as 'decency and common sense', but later revealed as goodness, and finally as the whole Christian life in one particular relation, must come to the help of the mere feeling if the feeling is to be kept sweet.

To say this is not to belittle the natural loves but to indicate where their real glory lies.

It is no disparagement to a garden to say that it will not fence and weed itself, nor prune its own fruit trees, nor roll and cut its own lawns. A garden is a good thing but that is not the sort of goodness it has. It will remain a garden, as distinct from a wilderness, only if someone does all these things to it. Its real glory is of quite a different kind. The very fact that it needs constant weeding and pruning bears witness to that glory.

It teems with life. It glows with colour and smells like heaven. and puts forward at every hour of a summer day beauties which man could never have created and could not even, on his own resources, have imagined. If you want to see the difference between its contribution and the gardener's, put the commonest weed it grows side by side with his hoes, rakes, shears, and packet of weed killer; you have put beauty, energy and fecundity beside dead, sterile things. [Likewise] our 'decency and common sense' show grey and deathlike beside the geniality of love.

- CS Lewis

19 September 2012

Welcome Home!

“I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me. 
Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you’ll remain intimately at home in my love.”
 – Jesus Christ (John 15:9-10, The Message)

Love, thou art best of human joys,
Our chiefest happiness below;
 All other pleasure are but toys,
 Music without Thee is but noise,
And beauty but an empty show.

Heaven, who knew best what man would move,
And raise his thoughts above the brute;
Said, Let him be and let him love;
 That must alone his soul improve,
Howe'er philosophers dispute.
  • Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea

17 September 2012

With You

The Holy Spirit is in office on earth now—and all spiritual presence and divine communion of the Trinity with men are through Him.
While the Father and the Son are visibly and personally in heaven, they are invisibly here in the Body of the Church by the indwelling of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit.
Clearly, for man to be in one place means not to be in another. 
But, while this is a fact of life for us mortals, it is not true of God the Father, nor of the Son.
How reassuring it is to know that Christ is on earth now, and yet also in glory?
Yet Christ is both here and there at the same time--just as a thought which we embody in speech and send forth from the mind, yet remains in the mind as really and distinctly as before it was expressed. [A. J. Gordon, paraphrased]
“For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’”
(Hebrews 13: 5 & 6)

02 September 2012


Every day is a day to consecrate yourself--and today is a new one.

29 August 2012

Forgiveness - Love's True Test 2

“I—yes, I alone—will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again.” (Isaiah 43:25) Recently my attention was riveted by the phrase, “for my own sake” How does forgiveness affect the forgiver? God made this statement in between listing Israel's sins. What's going on here? This isn't the nice little verse I thought it was.

 I am a bloody mess but I know Christ fulfilled the conditions for me to become a child of God — Christ was the one who actually met all the conditions of faith without sinning, even as he lived his life through all the commonest, timeless temptations. But here’s the fine print: even though I am forgiven because of Christ, it doesn’t mean I am unattached. Now, I've become part of something bigger and better than I can even dream of.

Part of being accepted in the family of God is the obligation, not to feed the dog or do the dishes, but to love. There was a relationship formed between God and me when I was born anew. Being a new creation in Christ is never clearly understood at the outset: it's only through struggles (believe it or not) we gain spiritual growth.

When a woman bears a child, she’s discharged her duty: she’s gone through the months of pregnancy, discomfort and pain of labor and delivery. This is only the beginning for the mother and the child: not the end. There is no terminus to this relationship (not a healthy one). Once the child is born, she may be no longer carrying her/him but is now invisibly tied to the child through the bond that love brings.

One of the biggest struggles anyone faces is hatred—and deep and bitter unforgiveness may be its worst form. Having been wronged is deeply hurtful and it is our instinct to react in anger immediately, without thought, and often without control. But taking on the nature of God by forgiving, through His strength, is divine. For a lover of God, forgiving in this manner produces not only the great growth, but it also creates in us a bigger heart.

“I can’t forgive.” is the most often repeated phrases in my decades of mentoring people. It may be a sincere, but it's sad because the person never can grow. It's also inaccurate as it’s more truly stated as, “I don’t want to forgive, and I don’t want to even think about forgiving.” Yet, one of the things that God will do for certain is to give you the power to begin to ask for help to pray for forgiveness.
It means you need to grow up for it is the Forgiver who always carries the Forgiven, as the mother always carries the child. In life, when the forgiver forgives completely (though that is the only true forgiveness) he, in a sense, carries the forgiven one. In the carrying of him or her, becomes the stronger of the two.

There is after all, only one path back from sin / bad choices and that path must be built by two people. One party offers genuine contrition for his behaviors and attitudes, and the other offers full-bodied forgiveness. After this, the bond between them is strengthened. If not, if one party fails or is insincere, then the bridge cannot be completed on one side, and love cannot grow (but it can diminish).

After all, we don’t love because someone he/she is perfect (if that were true, we’d never love). We love because someone loves us, and that someone loves us for that intangible, mysterious reason: for who we are.

“Does the God who lavishly provides you with his own presence, his Holy Spirit, working things in your lives you could never do for yourselves, does he do these things because of your strenuous moral striving or because you trust him to do them in you? ... Rule-keeping does not naturally evolve into living by faith, but only perpetuates itself in more and more rule-keeping, a fact observed in Scripture: "The one who does these things [rule-keeping] continues to live by them." Christ redeemed us from that self-defeating, cursed life by absorbing it completely into himself." (Galatians 3, portions, The Message)
"... 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, The Message)

26 August 2012

Dawn at Midnight

It’s been said Jesus loves you is the most profound theological thing to know. Yet knowing it and grasping it can be two separate things. To know His love experientially makes even the most profoundly disappointing times light. Yes, there can be dawn at midnight when the circle of His love shines directing down on you. That's the so-called courage of the Christian saints.

Sonnet XXIX
When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts my self almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
-William Shakespeare

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.
- GK Chesterton
(When) we shall know him, and it will be as clear to us as the light of the morning without clouds. - Joseph Kimchi

09 August 2012

Engaged Wonder in The Primary

I usually don’t use the word “wonder” – it’s come to have an empty-headed meaning for me. But I cannot avoid the truth that wonder is what we are to have–not dumb wonder, but engaged wonder.
A child who wonders is completely absorbed mentally and emotionally. And, this absorption is a mental transport to another world.

His fascination is just that: a temporary “fastening” of his attention on this new experience or object. Whether he’s seeing it for the first time, or seeing anew, it makes no difference. It seems children are designed by the very newness of their lives, to have “sticky” imaginations. They imagine and create in their minds new wonders behind the new wonder.  Children do this even though (we’re told) when they experience wonder they make only the roughest of links between the new and the familiar.

Still, there a lesson for the adult in the wonderment of children. We are children of the living God. And if God were “fully discoverable” by us, it would not merely mean He would be merely different from how we define Him. If (let’s imagine) we “knew” everything there was to know about God and the universe, then there would be untold sets of consequences us.

We would also lose all sorts of things to wonder about: our imaginations would die on the vine for lack of stimulation. Language would lose its richness. Of course, there would be no such thing as having faith--for we would have all the “facts” which had been reliably measured and tested—and which could be replicated.

Happily, God has shielded us this-we barely begin to understand it all even with centuries behind us—and as a result we have intact our childlike ability to wonder about Him and His universe.
GK Chesterton said, (in the Introduction to the Book of Job), “God says, in effect, that if there is one fine thing about the world, as far as men are concerned, it is that it cannot be explained. [God] insists on the inexplicableness of everything. … God will make man see things, if it is only against the black background of nonentity. …He unrolls before Job a long panorama of created things, the horse, the eagle, the raven, the wild ass, the peacock, the ostrich, the crocodile. He so describes each of them that it sounds like a monster walking in the sun. The whole is a sort of …rhapsody of the sense of wonder.”

Right he is about wonder: children, when faced with the facts, often find the objects of their wonderment even more fascinating. I was about 5 years old when on a moonlight night, I remarked on the brightness of the “moon-shine.” I recall my mother explaining that the light was merely reflected from the sun. This fact only stirred in me even greater wonder: “How could a sun, which is hidden from view at night, be so powerful as to bestow a sun-like radiance on an otherwise empty and dark sphere?” Wonder was boosted by the facts, facts did not diminish my awe of (what little I knew) of the galaxy.

Jesus Christ used the child’s occupation by a foreign wonder as a model to the disciples. In the presence of the Messiah, he desired them to absorb, to mull over the implications of His being with them.

 “They started arguing over which of them would be most famous. When Jesus realized how much this mattered to them, he brought a child to his side. “Whoever accepts this child as if the child were me, accepts me,” he said. “And whoever accepts me, accepts the One who sent me. You become great by accepting, not asserting. Your spirit, not your size, makes the difference.” Luke 9: 46-48 (The Message)

Indeed, when we are absorbed by the Almighty Illuminator, light is shed on so many things in our lives. Once we have the childlike absorption by what should be and is First, then the secondary things fade into the background. Paradoxically, as the secondary things diminish in importance, the pleasure we derive from them increases.

“When the sun is vertically above a man he casts no shadow: similarly when we have come to the Divine meridian our spiritual shadow (that is, our consciousness of self) will vanish.” – C S Lewis

30 July 2012

The Epic Demise of The Late Great Baked Potato

Humanity is facing a new challenge: the Baked Potato has appeared on the international food list of “Most in Danger of Becoming Extinct.” The timeframe for extinction is some time in the next twenty years (perhaps even sooner according to other sources). 

For decades, the Baked Potato was living large in North America, Europe and many other parts of the world.  As late as the 1990s it was thriving in fast-food restaurants, and in eastern Canada, where they slathered it with their own kind of “love” called poutine.  But now the Baked Potato, if not dead to the epicurean world, is experiencing one of the fastest declines since the gelatin molds of the 1950s.

Admittedly, the Baked Potato (like so many celebs) was responsible for its own present precarious condition, at least in part. Not very long ago, the Baked Potato was riding the crest its popularity wave basking in the warmth, not of the lowly oven, but of fame. It was being lauded for its versatility and basic tastiness as the popular “Stuffed Baked Potato Skin.” 

As far as I can tell, it was about this time that the Baked Potato began running with the late-night crowd. He started becoming closely associated with pubs, bars, and club dining.  Was the Baked Potato trying to put some distance between itself and the family dinner-table wholesomeness?  Was it feeling uncomfortable with its famously pedestrian chums at the dinner table: the Pillsbury Dough Boy and Bacon-Bits?  Both the Dough Boy and Bacon-Bits have remained firmly attached to their middle class meat-loaf roots—neither rising nor falling dramatically.  It makes me wonder, did the Baked Potato have higher aspirations all along--did he see his future stretching out in a great parochial shadow when he looked at The Boy and B-Bits?

The beginning of the end for the Baked Potato started when he began hanging around at Kmart looking for a frankfurter. I know it sounds like an odd match, but who are we to judge? Some speculate this was a sign of early onset dementia—perhaps the Baked Potato thought the Kmart window resembled an old Woolworths, which used to grill and serve hot dogs. But I think he just wanted to be hip, that he needed to get off the dinner table and out of the house, and he was looking for a bigger, cooler group to hang with.  Unfortunately, all the Baked Potato found at Kmart was bad company, cheap watches, and a broken Dr Pepper soda machine.

Around the time the Baked Potato was getting in with the wrong crowd, we saw the near simultaneous Rise of the French Fry (it’s been speculated that this is partly due a deal made with Coke).  The French Fry, once a humble little guy, threw off his greasy, home-grown roots with along his reputation of running with the hard-rocking, late-night party crowd. He calculated rightly that if Mick Jagger could be respectable, then it was the Fry’s time for his own makeover. The Fry went directly into Starch Rehab where he became acquainted with all the upmarket spices and twists. Unfortunately, the Baked Potato chose poorly: instead of putting himself out there, he retreated. By simply adopting a James Dean-style detachment, he seemed disengaged and uninteresting. As a result, the Baked Potato only lost ground.

Perhaps you noticed the French Fry popping up in some of the best restaurants in Leiden, Belgium, Sidney and in Buckingham Palace? Well, the French Fry didn’t exactly “pop up.”  No, the French Fry’s menu dominance is more strategy than serendipity.  Indeed, the French Fry was deliberate in carving out his turf.  Rather than seeking to unsettle the noodle or the pasta from their native territories or uproot the bulgurs, naans, nachos, tortillas, pitas and chapattis from their native zones, he left them alone.

But every other part of the food world was fair game and the French Fry conducted all-out “scorched earth” operation, battling for the palates of the globe from his rival and one-time friend, the Baked Potato. His campaign was so successful that former strongholds of the Baked Potato now favor the Fry (places like Ukraine and Russia, for example). The French Fry’s zero-tolerance survival campaign was so successful that Romanians of this generation have never even tried a Baked Potato (my Romanian daughter-in-law never had a Baked Potato until she had one at our dinner table.)  In Canada, a place which traditionally has welcomed potatoes of all sorts, poutine goes with French Fries, and never with potatoes. But if you order potatoes in a Montreal restaurant, they will come mashed. 

Very recently my husband and I were very nearly speechless when we thought we had a Baked Potato-sighting here in Jakarta. My husband pointed out “Baked Potato” on the menu at The Kitchenette in Plaza Indonesia, his eyes glistened with excitement, and his voice barely above a whisper, “Look!” 
“I’ll have a Baked Potato!” he loudly announced, joyously stabbing the menu. But, when his fish was served what was with it? the Hipster Cousin, the French Fry. My normally ebullient and easygoing husband glumly sent it back.  Since that first time, we have returned twice to The Kitchenette, and each time he has ordered the Baked Potato. He has yet to see one.  I think we may never return judging from his behavior the last time we were there.
This past time, he (once again, and against my pleadings) ordered a Baked Potato. And, once again he didn’t get a Baked Potato.  When he called the waiter back, he uncharacteristically pointed to the menu and said loudly: “Baked potato!” he then pointed to the potato-and-mystery-vegetable casserole masquerading as a Baked Potato and said flatly (and with some edge), “Not Baked Potato!” 
The poor waiter happened to be one of the many messengers bearing the sad news of the demise of the Baked Potato, and here was my husband (verbally) shooting him.  The waiter, on the edge of tears, fled to the kitchen.
I leaned forward and murmured gently to my husband:
“Dear, you have worked all over the world in the past 30 years. It’s hard to accept certain losses. Can you accept that we are witnessing the Epic Demise of the Late Great Baked Potato?”  He didn’t respond, but just put his head in his hands. 

The following evening, to console, I made him several baked potatoes. The restaurant experience brought the truth home like a hammer: the Baked Potato is not yet dead, but it can only survive through our individual efforts.
- Charity Johnson

17 July 2012

Trust-Love's True Test

Banks fail, government plans do not deliver, and even anti-aging products leave the hopefuls with dashed dreams. A promise is only as good as the trustworthiness and the ability of the promiser to keep and to be able to fulfill the promise.
The word “promise” has acquired the taint of the accumulated disappointments to our ears. Its meaning is diluted to resemble something stronger than a wish and a hope but not much. In our daily life this doesn’t give us any pause, but it is possible that our thoughts regarding God and His promises are made a bit softer round the edges, if not almost more cynical. We may have dragged our human problems into the domain of theology and then blame God rather than seeing clearly how it is we who have crossed the wires.
God is the Genius of Geniuses, and is stronger than the essence of strength itself. God has, in our language, a will of iron and His purpose is driven---there is nothing that can stop His ends coming to pass (which is very good news if God loves man). And--extraordinarily good news for us--is that He by quality and by character (which are the same) is the Fulfiller of all obligations He has ever made. So, how reliable is His signature, His imprinteur about His stated promise?
God has a way of relating Himself directly to the human heart-- He has infused our hearts are desire to be loved. When we say we just want someone who loves us, aren’t we saying a lot of things? Aren't we saying something which is imbedded in the meaning of love: that this is someone we want someone we can trust?
If it is true that God will have His way and if it is true that He is more trustworthy than Trust itself, then what does that mean for you and me?
It means that specific promises He made will be accomplished—and we will see it. In His time He will restore beauty, creation, truth and trust. Christ will be in charge—and we will be there....
“...whatever we may have to go through now is less than nothing compared with the magnificent future God has planned for us. The whole creation is on tiptoe to see the wonderful sight of the sons of God coming into their own. The world of creation cannot as yet see reality, not because it chooses to be blind, but because in God’s purpose it has been so limited—yet it has been given hope. And the hope is that in the end the whole of created life will be rescued from the tyranny of change and decay, and have its share in that magnificent liberty which can only belong to the children of God!”   Romans 8:18-21     J.B. Phillips New Testament
-Charity Johnson

11 July 2012

To Know Him is To Love Myself Better

Jesus said, "If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple." Luke 14:26 NLT. In another place He stated: "No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other." Luke 16:13 NKJV.

At first blush, it seems our Lord was calling for us to leave everyone and everything and be completely devoted to Him. Or is it not that simplistic? Jesus also said: ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:37-39 NKJV.

How can we understand these contradictory seeming commands? An ascetic can easily "hate" everyone...even himself and devote himself to God’s service alone. Yet, Jesus tempers our enthusiasm and inclination to a fanatical ego-centric selflessness and its polar extreme of self-centered feelings about our feelings.

Jesus in his simple statement drops the plumb line of loving God with your entire being, mind, and life as the first order of business.

Then, secondary, yet somehow inter-related, is to love yourself and to love others. Evidently there is no call to strict asceticism nor complete self-involvement.

Yet, if He made us, He surely understands how we function best, so this should be no surprise. This is not a contradiction or an enshrouded mystery. It is simply a divine command of "well-ordered loves" that brings us emotional—and spiritual—health. It’s the state we should daily seek to live in and it is also, by God’s design, the state in which the gifts of God’s grace grow and thrive best.

CS Lewis stated it succinctly:
"When the sun is vertically above a man he casts no shadow: similarly when we have come to the Divine meridian our spiritual shadow (that is, our consciousness of self) will vanish. " C. S. Lewis (on well-ordered loves)

08 July 2012

Love's Alternative

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will most certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your hear to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket--safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will be unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. ... The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.
- C S Lewis

30 June 2012

Fed Up And Leaving The Church!

The two common reasons people leave church is because
1) they have been angered and
2) they think the church is made of "hypocrites."
According to St. Paul in Ephesians 1-3, the very man pointing fingers at others has to include himself in the group that he's turning from. It might be better practice for the man to consider the state of his own soul, his own attitudes, to reflect on his personal desires to be in charge, to direct. If he does this in a balanced, considerate way, he may come to a different conclusion. He will likely become convinced he is at least partly at fault. He may, in this case, grow in Christ rather than simply grow in his external functions, as a result, he may become the greater person for the King's sake.
"The proud man has no god; the envious man has no neighbor; the angry man has not himself. It is not sin that kills the soul, but impenitence."
(Bishop Robert Hall 1700's)

27 June 2012

Being There...

Let no thought come to my heart,
Let no ruffle come to my spirit,
  that is hurtful to my poor body this night,
  nor ill for my soul at the hour of my death-

but may You Yourself, O God of life,
be at my breast, be at my back,
You to me as a star, You to me a guide,
from my life's beginning to my life's closing.
  • A Celtic prayer (partial)

26 June 2012

You Already Have Faith; Do You Want Goodness?

Morality is now defined largely by two standards: is it sincere (or authentic)?, and does it “hurt anyone else.” Skepticism about knowing has become the “faith.” Any belief which is out of step with this (sincere, do-no-harm harmless skeptism) is labeled an opinion or taste. I am informed that we have “evolved” to this point.
The ancients (who went through more than I ever have) believed that though the heart of man was corrupted (or twisted), yet there was something that remained good beyond us. That is, that goodness remained good.
Indeed, the Bible is the true telling of the story of a good God set in my place—a place where immoral people rise and fall, strive and breathe.
In a way, you could relate Christ’s coming to earth for us as the Father sending “pure goodness” incarnate, or pure goodness in one human.
Christ was and is the embodiment of the “avenging virtue” of goodness for us. He is the only Hope.
And, to Christ we rise proportion to our desire of embracing the Good in our very souls, or from Him we fall away, repelled by our own ignorance and stubbornness.
The other questions of God are pretty much academic.
- Charity Johnson, 2012

21 April 2012

Luck, Success and the Cowardly Lion (me)

It was awards day of my senior year, the final day of my final year in school. I had worked towards this time for years. I was called back to the stage repeatedly to return to pick up awards many times (classmates nicely ribbing me).

Some of the awards were pedestrian, but some were for academic achievement (the salutatorian, barely missing valedictorian by a decimal point).

A friend (a very intelligent one) finally burst out: “You are SO LUCKY!” Inside I chuckled, how wrong she was: if ever a case of “making luck” this was one.

For years, I was up till 2 AM every weeknight finishing homework after an afternoon of working clubs and sports. I knew she spent her evenings on the phone till before setting out her outfit for the morning, and turning in about the time I finished my first assignment of the night. It my first lesson in “luck” and “success.”

For me, “success” (despite the provocative signs announcing the opposite) is to overcome a lot of my natural inclinations. Success may be in the journey or it might be at the destination, but it almost always contains a mountain of perseverance—and often--getting up after failure. To achieve success demands a lot of humility.

You need humility to learn from failure, and to ask for help from the best, and to study and apply best practices.

It seems I never achieve success without working against two things: the first thing I work against is inertia. I always have to do things I don’t want to have to do.
For example: getting up early (!) and especially when sizable/difficult tasks face me that day. I work against inertia when I apologize for being wrong when I know I am still in the right. (Humility again)

The other thing I often have to work at - or against - is handling my emotions, and fear, in particular. It's demanding, and I often have to work through it to act like the person I don't feel I am, and to do things I am afraid to do, or things that are potentially humiliating if I fail.

All of this demands that I push myself to think about things differently, and some times to not going along with the crowd if it occurs to me the crowd is headed where I do not want to go. You may ask why do I bother?—why do I push back against the inertia? or take on the fears?

I do it because I don’t have any other choice: my opinions, if instituted, will prevent growth.

For me, the question is not, “What do I want?” (that’s easy enough), but “What next?”

Yeah, I hate to ask that question—it opens the door to the possibility of too much discomfort. But then, I’m not guaranteed comfort if I get what I want, either.

“Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die.” – Orthodoxy

“There is not really any courage at all in attacking hoary or antiquated things, any more than in offering to fight one’s grandmother. The really courageous man is he who defies tyrannies young as the morning and superstitions fresh as the first flowers. The only true free-thinker is he whose intellect is as much free from the future as from the past.” GK Chesterton

16 April 2012

The Truth About Weddings

What would you think  if you heard a wedding vow like this:
“To have and to hold—
only for better,
   but not for worse;
only for richer,
  but not when we’re broke;
when you’re healthy and fit,
   but not when you’re old, sick, or lose your looks;
to love and to cherish,
   but as long as my feelings exist for you” ?
Why do the traditional wedding vows bring up such desperately unappealing, miserable topics as bad times, poverty, illness, old age, bad change—in body and in attitude? Such depressing things to mention at such a happy moment! Likewise, why are the scriptures, including the gospels, are saturated with such topics? How in the world do we derive hope from this?
It’s because reality has little resemblance to Disney-esque picturescapes of life: we know deep in our heart of hearts that much of life, most of life, is out of our control. Life has  pain, poverty, injustice, ugliness, inequities, sickness, and should life last long enough, old age. Even the most wonderful moment of our life (the wedding) we voice that acknowledgement. Why? because it creates hope that tempers the reality of life. To have the comfort of hope, the accepting arms of a loved one in the midst of our want, we are less crushed—indeed, we are sustained and nourished at heart. In a marriage, the spouse cannot remove or fix the ills in our life, however he/she can be there for us: an act that puts heart into us (which is the root of the word “encourage”).
This is the root of love: a promise to be there for the other. It is an act of the will, and derived neither out of mere obligation nor mere inclination, but, bedded in a love and respect for you and carried out by the spouse's one-time, and yet repeated, decision to fulfill the words of my will spoken in that vow.
God knows we require persistence in persecution, persistence in boredom, bearing up in flat times, hard times, dark times, a loss of feeling of happiness. It is in the darkest of nights that we find the deepest of comforts. In the health and glow of a wealthy and healthy glorious morning of our soul, we require neither comfort nor strength.
John 15 wraps up the truth about love and supplies several promises or vows. In this chapter, Christ sandwiches this unglorious and unwelcomed truth of being persecuted between two blankets of love. He begins with the promise of love and friendship from Christ himself—and love and comfort from fellowship as well as a command to love one another (verses 1 through 17).
Following the promise of persecution from haters Christ promises to send the paraklete (verses 26-27):
“But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.”
παράκλητος or, in Roman script: paráklētos, is interpreted one who consoles or comforts, who encourages or uplifts; refreshes, who intercedes on my behalf as an advocate. English translates it in many ways: the Helper, the Comforter, the Advocate.
I think of the Holy Spirit having two types of overlapping roles. First, as a kind of a “patrón” —he who can graciously confer a worthy subservient person (me) with the authority I do not have. The patrón seeks my betterment and, as important, He has the means to see it come to pass.
Because of His high status He can and will advocate for me: I haven’t the leverage nor influence He has to persuade powers on my own behalf. In this respect advocacy surpasses, and is superior to, mere legal terminology (hence my preference for patrón).
Second, the Holy Spirit is family: the best analogy is that I am the adult who discovered I am not an orphan but I have a parent who has been trying to reach me for decades. Once we meet, I can for the first time-and for the rest of my life-enjoy the comfort of being able to “go home.” To go home to a place where I am accepted not challenged, not compromised, not burdened, where I can let my hair down, put on slippers, get in sweat pants, and sit down to specially prepared home-cooking. The paraklete gives me support, comfort and compassion: or, help, love, comfort, and warmth within.
All this love (like the wedding vows) hinge on asking, receiving, and deciding to be persistently intimate.

A Lasting Fire
Not the quick flare
of Duraflame's pine
chips and chemicals

roaring up the flue
until the sham fire
smothers and dies,

but the yellow whisper
of a single match
small as a pen nib,

palm-cupped and
yielding its secret
to splinters. Then heat

will follow a cedar
curl's rim to catch
a split stick, wishbone

oak and skinned
poplar. Who keeps
a careful vigil,

lending skill
and breath, will see
the pile of twigs

ignite, the heart's
every fiber shedding
the steady light

of splendid method
and calm conviction
slowly going wild.

by R. T. Smith