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