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When Love is Not

I’ve had occasion recently to ponder, not the concept, but the word “Love”, and how truly troublesome it can be especially if it is divorced from the objective standard given us by God and seen in His character throughout scripture.

thefourloves-cslewisLewis penned an entire book titled, “The Four Loves” to try to add some clarity to this carelessly used word by examining the Greek Language’s use of four different words to differentiate between unconditional unmerited love such as God pours out upon us, familial love; an almost obligatory and instinctual love we have little say in unless we are damaged or seek to suppress or corrupt it, brotherly love and affection, and erotic desire (born from some mixture of the other three, one hopes.)

fourloves

It is to be hoped, nay expected, that when two people vow to inextricably tie their lives together that it is based strongly on the first three with delicious anticipation of the fourth, and that at the time of giving oneself to another that the concept, the definition, is one shared and understood by both. If this a priori is not true than all my following ponderings are so much rubbish, or at best only true a posteriori in select cases.

How is it if one or both come to alter their definition/conception away from that originating point, even into something they both might have assigned the term ‘hatred’ to if asked back at that genesis.

The problem arises from the same word being used to describe very different things with both members believing their description to be the true definition of ‘love’. How can two such people ever hope to communicate and understand one another? If one is stuck with their original conception of ‘love’ and ‘hatred’, how can any accord ever be reached with another whose concepts have altered?

What one sees as love, the other sees as the most egregious hatred. There can be no accord between them. The plea, “tell me that you believed I always loved you” is in reality a plea to, “please join me in acceptance of my new foreign definition and then realize that I have ‘believed, within that definition’ that I have always loved you.” I don’t think that can ever happen, even if one desires to love the wayward as God loves His waywards.

It’s like asking the person (or indeed, God) to please change the fundamental makeup of their nature without understanding that, even were that possible, that to make such a change would render them no longer the person they were and are, and therein lies the rub. There is the unresolvable paradox. If that person were to change thus, the wayward would come to feel towards them contempt and derision. Whatever remnants they still possessed of the original genesis of love would be turned to vapor, a noxious poisonous vapor.

The cliché is “Apples and Oranges” and though cliché, no less true. If one asks the other to give them an apple expecting to receive a eccentrically-shaped red-coloured fruit and they are instead given an orange-coloured nearly perfectly spherically-shaped fruit. The receiver will not believe they have received the requested apple, but something different and not desired. The giver however will believe that they have fulfilled the request for an apple and never understand why the receiver can not, will not appreciate their gifting. They will contest the definition of ‘Apple’ and in hurt and desperation will escalate their rhetoric to even greater levels of hurt given. One will lament that this simple expected thing cannot be given and the other lament that nothing they give the asker will satisfy unless it meets the asker’s (long since discarded by the giver) qualifications of ‘red-coloured’, ‘eccentrically shaped’, ‘core in the middle’. Both will experience great hurt.

tristandormouseI wanted to tie in a quote from the movie rendering of Neil Gaiman’s “Stardust”, in which the fallen star Yvaine pours out her heart to her beloved which a witch has bespelled to be a tiny adorable dormouse, thinking and believing that he can in no way understand her. It’s so well said and is simple and amusing honesty when she says that love is, “unpredictable, unexpected, uncontrollable, unbearable and strangely easy to mistake for loathing”. Her final, “Nothing but knowing you loved me too. Just your heart, in exchange for mine.”, I think highlights best why “When Love is Not”, both are miserable beyond all reckoning.

You know when I said I knew little about love? That wasn’t true. I know a lot about love. I’ve seen it, centuries and centuries of it, and it was the only thing that made watching your world bearable. All those wars. Pain, lies, hate… It made me want to turn away and never look down again. But when I see the way that mankind loves… You could search to the furthest reaches of the universe and never find anything more beautiful. So yes, I know that love is unconditional. But I also know that it can be unpredictable, unexpected, uncontrollable, unbearable and strangely easy to mistake for loathing, and… What I’m trying to say, Tristan is… I think I love you. Is this love, Tristan? I never imagined I’d know it for myself. My heart… It feels like my chest can barely contain it. Like it’s trying to escape because it doesn’t belong to me any more. It belongs to you. And if you wanted it, I’d wish for nothing in exchange – no gifts. No goods. No demonstrations of devotion. Nothing but knowing you loved me too. Just your heart, in exchange for mine.

this is equally true of the concept and definition of Marriage.

I do not agree with Yvaine on a few crucial points. She seems to be echoing romantic Platoistic nonsense that suggests that there is a true love, a destiny, a thing for which one’s own choices and actions are largely meaningless. Love is -always- a choice in all its guises, even στοργή which may, by choice, be amplified or depressed.

Tom’s going home again water-lilies bringing. Hey! Come derry dol! Can you hear me singing?

tom_bombadilListening to an old favorite while getting showered this morning and was struck with a realization. In considering marriage and relationships, old Tom sets an example in his regard and consideration for his lady Goldberry which should be the no-excuses, no-exceptions standard we men must hold ourselves to with our own lady Goldberrys.

I can count on two hands examples I’ve seen in my own life. They are what I aspire to for myself. Almost without exception, they are men (and women) who have made God the head of their marriage.

This, of course, flies in the face of feminist claptrap, and I make no apologies. Any nonsense that makes less of a Daughter of Eve in silly pursuit of making her ‘equal’ is to be laughably discarded. I hope that they themselves find someone who considers them of far more worth than ever he does himself, and who likewise makes no apologies.

Most men may never reach this standard, but may be content if like a standard in battle, it goes ever before him displaying his colours and character, as much reminder to himself as caution to those ahead.

For some reason, beyond my ken, this KHOD comic was listed in the marshwiggle.org site statistics for yesterday. I adore KHOD. How very apropos. Here, Spencer’s father is showing his standard to his son and teaching him to yearn for a similar standard of his own.

KHOD, July 11, 2013, "It gets worse"

KHOD, July 11, 2013, “It gets worse”

God ain’t got no taste

RichMullinsHeadshot

“One of the reasons I love the bible is because the humans in the bible are not very refined. They’re pretty goofy if you want to know the whole truth about it. And I remember when I was a kid and people would always say, you know… ’cause I was always one of those typical depressed adolescent types, I wrote poetry and stuff. It’s how morose I was as a kid and people would go around saying, “Cheer up man, because God loves you.” And I would always say, “Big deal. God loves everybody. That don’t make me special. That just proves that God ain’t got no taste.” And I don’t think He does. Thank God! Cause God takes the junk of our lives and He makes the greatest art out of it and if He was cultured; if He was as civilized as most Christian people wish He was, He would be useless to Christianity… but God is a wild man. And I hope that in the course of your life you encounter him. But let me warn you, you gotta ‘hang on for dear life’… or ‘let go for dear life’, maybe is better.”
— Rich Mullins, in a live performance of Sometimes by Step

And he lifts up his arms in a blessing; For being born again

I walked out the door this morning and was checked hard by a moist cold wind that smelled so fresh and clean that I had little choice but to stand still, feel, smell, and then praise God for His blessings. Praise Him for seasons that turn and turn again and days so in-your-face awesome that even should you be consumed with internalized doldrums or busy thinking those work-a-day thoughts, they will gobsmack you with beauty and pleasure.
RichMullinsHeadshot
And the wrens have returned, and are nesting;
In the hollow of that oak, where his heart once had been.
And he lifts up his arms in a blessing, for being born again.

— Rich Mullins, The Color Green, A Liturgy
a Legacy, & a Ragamuffin Band

Can Goofiness and Manliness Coexist?

I realized that while I have many Quotational Ponderings entries, the Personal Ponderings category has regrettably not seen much use. I attribute this to my internal conflict with the belief that other people have things of significance to relate and I have not. To remedy, here’s a ponder that I have been considering lately:

“In seeing the goofy things I share and like on social media, I begin to wonder if a sensible woman could love such a man. Yes, I’m certain that it is possible, but is it improbable?”

I think the answer is a solid “it may be so”.

So, is that goofiness “who one is as a person”, or is it “how one chooses to be as a person”, and if the latter, should not one make the choice to be otherwise at some point? Is there some mysterious balance one needs must strike, and how can one possibly know that there is and what that balance looks like? Can one mature from being a man-child yet somehow remain a unabashed fan of animated movies like How to Train Your Dragon and Monsters Inc., Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, and goofy goofy Doctor Who?

Further, when does eccentric cross the line into oddity; say, if one has possibly knitted a 16′ long scarf in emulation of Tom Brown’s fourth iteration of The Doctor, has a barrier been irretrievably breached?

C.S. Lewis warns against filling to our lives with habits, hobbies, interests, and luxuries as a way to guard one’s life and heart against risking love and so to try to fill the void. Are we choosing those things over the possible joy and fulfillment of sharing one’s life, heart, and being with another? Are we men choosing to be a child and in so choosing to forgo the dream of ever raising a child (children)?

Moreover, are we making the same awful mistake in our relationship with our Savior Jesus Christ; with our loving Heavenly Father? What awesome and important thing is it that we are choosing to give up if such is so?

I have married friends who appear to have found and struck that balance and I look up to them as exemplars. They however, figured out that balance much earlier in life. Is there an age at which it becomes too late and one must live with the consequences of one’s ill-considered choices.

Ponder, ponder ponder.

Zen Pencils has crafted a wonderful comic to illustrate what C.S. Lewis says on this subject of hearts, hobbies and luxuries. [Original here]

zenpencils-toloveanything-hearthobbies-cslewis

Clive Staples Lewis

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to 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 become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”
— Clive Staples Lewis, The Four Loves

If you want someone to know the truth, you tell them. If you want someone to love the truth, tell them a story.

andrewpeterson
“So it’s a good question, and I’m not sure I know how to answer it, but today I think He did it that way in the arena of history and time and place because our hearts can only grasp His love if we’re told it in a story. Someone said, ‘If you want someone to know the truth, you tell them. If you want someone to love the truth, tell them a story.’ Since God is after our hearts… since He knows the only way for those hearts to work properly is to exist in the knowledge and experience of His love. He laid down his life to tell us a story.”
— Andrew Peterson in answer his wife’s wondering
why the horror of the Crucifixion had to happen.
“He Gave Us Stories”, Reformation Bible College,
2013 Fall Conference, Creation & Re-Creation.


Go back to timecode 34:45 to hear his guiding idea behind writing The Wingfeather Saga. He had a vision of who the main character Janner Igiby was and who he was to become and that it could only be accomplished through conflict. “The only way for Janner Igiby to become that person was for me to ruin his life. To send him on an adventure that would cause him pain. To strip him of everything that was familiar. To bring him to a point where he could not see the light at the end of the tunnel. And now, at the end of my story I keep thinking about how my whole point, my whole goal at the end of this epic tale I’m trying to tell is to make the darkness seem so great that it’s insurmountable. To make it so that the main characters in my story are on the brink of giving up hope, so that at the very last moment, I can lift the veil, and blow their minds and they can see that there was something stronger than all the darkness.”

Reading Narnia to Your Children

Andrew Peterson - On reading the Chronicles of Narnia to his boys
“I read the Narnia books to my sons when they were little boys and I cried the whole way through. I don’t know how many of you guys have read those books to your kids. It’s one thing to read the Chronicles of Narnia as a boy. It’s another thing to read them as a man to your children and I just wept my way through those books.”
I too tear up throughout reading the Chronicles of Narnia. I struggle not to weep upon listening to him say these things as he describes my own dream for fatherhood. I rejoice that there are other men out there doing exactly that and fulfilling that selfsame dream. This only serves to revive all the same feelings I had upon first becoming acquainted with Andrew Peterson through the below video, Family Man. Not everyone has their dreams fulfilled. I am glad that some do. I am grateful that God gives comfort and contentment even to those who do not.

Dragons Can Be Beaten

GKChesterton
“Fairytales don’t tell children that dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairytales tell children that dragons can be killed.”
— Paraphrased of G. K. Chesterton.
“Fairy tales, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear; fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon. Exactly what the fairy tale does is this: it accustoms him for a series of clear pictures to the idea that these limitless terrors had a limit, that these shapeless enemies have enemies in the knights of God, that there is something in the universe more mystical than darkness, and stronger than strong fear.”
— G. K. Chesterton, Tremendous Trifles (1909), XVII: “The Red Angel”


Quote discovered in listening to an interview with artist, author, and musician Andrew Peterson.

A Very Irish Day

A friend sent me a photo today, of a bunch of redheaded girls in school uniforms and woolen pullovers and their ponies on a sparse beach under an overcast day with the chill ocean wind blowing hair, manes and fetlocks and breakers rolling up on the sandy shore. ***

It has every amiable quality of what I and my Lost Beloved would call a Very Irish Day… of our favorite days in Ireland that combined what we called Snuggle Weather with crisp clean scent, the smell of the ocean, the cool moisture of the air (but never damp), the overcast sky, and so much beauty that gave the feeling of a very High Dynamic Range photo.

2016-08-22 13.34.35

Such was our first day in Ireland when we pulled into the car park of the Rocky View Farmhouse B&B in Fanore, Co Clare. We were greeted by a little short-haired cat that despite the cool wind was almost painfully warm to the touch who insisted on being thoroughly pet with a little pepper-box grinder churning away in its throat.

We get a couple of Very Irish Days with the changing of the seasons here in Missouri. They always leave me yearning and nostalgic. Until a few years ago I was still able to greet them in my scratchy Aran wool cardigan and wool driving cap. Years before that we would tell one another that it was a Very Irish Day and hold one another and just smell and feel for a brief while. I confess, I always smelled the day through the scent of her hair in my face.

I’m very grateful to have these little occurrences every so often, though in truth they now feel like something that happened to someone else. It feels like I experience them at second-hand, vicariously through some other. I think maybe that is for the best. I think that in this way God gives me a way to re-experience the joy while buffering any sorrow that might still be lingering in closets I thought well swept out.

*** Not so very different from the precocious school children on the Aran Islands who wanted to play tinwhistle with me and pet our Whin and exclaim, “Oh, and isn’t he gorgeous! Has he had his nuuuts?”. Fortunately by this time we had heard this exact statement made dozens of times across both the Republic and Northern Ireland, and I was able to answer, “Thank you. He’s a she and yes, she’s had her kibble this morning.”

DCP_2799[1]

Paralyzed with Awe at the Power of Prayer

Peter Kreeft

“I strongly suspect that if we saw all the difference even the tiniest of our prayers make, and all the people those little prayers were destined to affect, and all the consequences of those prayers down through the centuries, we would be so paralyzed with awe at the power of prayer that we would be unable to get up off our knees for the rest of our lives.”
— Peter Kreeft, Professor of Philosophy, Boston College

Ukraine on Indefinite Hold

We’ve gotten news that after two years of ceasefire, hostilities and shelling have resumed in the region we were going to work to rebuild and that it’s a flack-jacket only area.

I’ve been up and down in weight with illness, daily full-body hives allergic reactions and trying to get trips in with Uber. Last weigh in was 288 which is twelve wonderfully absent burdens. Oh to be Bunyan’s Christian and to lay -that- burden down at the cross along with my pack, my heavy-load.

This will be the last post unless the situation changes. I’m still working on my health and weight with the hope that the opportunity will again present. It’s one of those easy times to say with complete confidence, that if God wants it to happen, He’ll do what needs doing.

Now to turn my attention to the upcoming 5th Annual Men’s retreat. Last year’s was fantastic in every way, but the stress and worry completely did me in. I resolved to start planning this year’s before even leaving the site. This year I have marketing handled. Instead of mailing each of 7 churches a PDF, we printed 1/4 pg professional fliers to send to each pastor. Because Staples made a mistake we ended up getting -both- sides in colour and they look absolutely fantastic (thank you Staples. You moved mountains.) I still have half my marketing budget remaining and firm confirmation that the regional head will chivy the individual churches into sending their men (He’s the guest speaker after all *chuckle*). I feel relaxed and optimistic. It’s great working with Pastors Ed & Adam to put something together that I trust will bless -hard-.

VVCC-2016-Men'sRetreatFlyerQuarterPg-Front
VVCC-2016-Men'sRetreatFlyerQuarterPg-Back

Progress, Mar 29, 2016, 287lbs.

60ForUkraineMaking slow progress towards the goal with only 8lbs since my last post. I had some setbacks for two weeks with health (requiring steroids) that have thankfully been remedied and I’m back on track following those two weeks. I don’t know if it’s actually possible to reach the goal in time for the trip which is now tentatively scheduled to begin in mid June.

The original cost estimate of $1,500 had risen to $2,000 and that caused concern because I don’t want to use the scholarships the church is providing. I decided to trust instead of worry and soon after started driving for Uber and am already more than ¼ of the way to that goal and I hope to be able to contribute -to- the scholarship fund. I can drive as little or as much as I want so it’s all a matter of pushing to make it happen.

This hoop has been jumped through and arrived last week:
CepelPassport2016Sm

Still praying to know if this is the right thing to do.

Progress, Mar 1, 2016, 295lbs.

60ForUkraineMany steps forward, a few steps back, but still making progress. I was down to 292 as of last Friday but the weekend was difficult. Back on track as of yesterday (well, Sunday afternoon really) and 5 lbs down. It hasn’t been too difficult. Protein in the a.m., Oatmeal for lunch, leaving only the evening hours to battle with.

Energy has been sapped for exercise but I still managed to reach goals most days. The Fitbit food tracking is both great and frustrating, but for the first time I have a intake tracker that I can make work for me for most things and I anticipate that I’ll remain diligent in using it for that reason.

It looked for a while like the chances of my being able to go to on the Ukraine mission trip might be nil and a lot of my ‘goal’ motivation was depressed. What was once a 6-person trip with -maybe- 1 or 2 open slots has now expanded to accommodate all who would like to go and serve. Finances seemed like another limiting factor but I received an estimate last evening that was about a third of what I expected and there will be some scholarships available. I am strengthened in my resolve to press on towards the goal!

I have been using Duo Lingo to try to bring back a nearly completely lost two semesters (10 hours) of College Russian. I had forgotten how much I loved, and how difficult I found this language.

Still praying for answers and a heart to hear if my desire to go meshes with His desire.

Begin, Feb 20, 2016, 300lbs.

60ForUkraine
So begins a journey that I hope ends in the Ukraine. I cannot join my church’s mission team and be an asset at 300.bs and a BMI of 43 with bouts of Chronic Fatigue pulling me down unexpectedly. I’m hopeful that with prayer and a goal and accountability, that I can achieve returning to a weight I last saw in 2000 when I joined Tiger Christian Life on a mission trip to Honduras.

Higher Tribunal Than Him

I think that if God forgives us we must forgive ourselves. Otherwise, it is almost like setting up ourselves as a higher tribunal than Him.

— Clive Staples Lewis – Letters of C.S. Lewis (1951)

Clive Staples Lewis

Lost Beloved

This morning, as I prayed asking God to bless Raina, fulfill her, give her happiness, heal if healing is needed, and seek her if seeking is needed, I realized that I referred to to her as my Lost Beloved. It got me thinking and I realized that I have been using this epithet for a couple of months now as God has granted much healing of heart.

I realized that I haven’t given up on God’s ability to restore my marriage, I’ve just turned the whole thing over to Him, and whatever He decides to do will be the best and most fulfilling outcome, whether that means a restored marriage, a new marriage, or living out a remaining lifetime of singleness.

I believe I’ve finally decided to stop being crippled and broken. I’ve come to the point of casting off the crushing burden I’ve carried for so long.

Three years ago, nearly to the day, I composed a poem as part of the healing and dealing process:

Boxed it All Up and Put it Away for Good
BoxOnTheShelf-CleanedUp-130x130

No longer strewn across my life, mental dross to trip and fall.
Reminders of the long ago, hang not upon each wall.

Gathered in a cardboard box, packed and ordered well.
Flaps folded in and interlocked, form corrugated shell.

Place upon a storage shelf, away from thought and mind.
Discarded not, disturbing not, from now till end of time.

That was a necessary step then to cope and function because I -was- crippled and broken and I was tripping and falling and injuring myself over and over.

I’ve had the box open once since then and I think that too was necessary to bring me to the point where I am now, at Peace. The re-opening was recent and I didn’t beat myself up because I gave myself the grace to grieve again as part of the healing process. Now I realize that I wasn’t grieving as I had in the past, and I wasn’t tripping; I was saying farewell.

Farewell not just to my Lost Beloved, but to all of my hopes, broken promises (the ones I broke as well), lost happiness and broken dreams, all tied to her in connection, and around my neck as a millstone.

I’ve said farewell and I’ve found desperately sought after peace which I had never hoped to find. I didn’t believe it possible. I think I’m ready to close that box and this time, seal it shut with tape. I may one day throw the box away, but I don’t by any means wish to forget what had been up until 7+ years ago the best and most rewarding portion of my life.

I’m open now to new best and most rewarding portions.

My finger is now unadorned.

She is lost, to me. I have found myself, and only by God’s loving grace. I don’t know what’s next, if anything, and for now, I’m not fussed. I like it here. It’s so much better than where I have been previously.

Ugly Moral Portrait

Charles SpurgeonBrother, if any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him; for you are worse than he thinks you to be. If he charges you falsely on some point, yet be satisfied, for if he knew you better he might change the accusation, and you would be no gainer by the correction. If you have your moral portrait painted, and it is ugly, be satisfied; for it only needs a few blacker touches, and it would be still nearer the truth.

— Charles Haddon Spurgeon, sermon, “David Dancing before the Ark because of His Election” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 35.

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Peace

The Jordan is waiting for me to cross through
My heart is aging I can tell
So Lord, I’m begging
For one last favor from You
Here’s my heart take it where You will
— Rich Mullins, Elijah

I’ve been working hard since before Faithwalkers, during and after, to turn my desire for a beloved (specifically my lost beloved) over to God and be able to know I’m not just speaking empty words when I pray, “Lord, please build in me a desire to sincerely say, It’s yours. Do with it what you will. Do with me what you will.” I’ve been feeling at peace now for a couple of weeks but as an article I’ve yet to publish will show, I have great faith in God on behalf of others, but a great problem with having demonstrably little faith when it comes to myself. I’ve been having difficulty trusting in the peace to be what I asked for and to be real and lasting. I think that unconscious attitude may be changing as this seems twice on this issue God has answered my prayers with mercy and grace.

I was tested in this all too soon when a shared-friend shared with me a photo my lost beloved posted to her social media. A photo of her holding a sweet precious little baby. She speculated that it might be my lost beloved’s own child. She knew I would like to know as I’ve been denied pretty much all knowledge for five years, but thought it might be unfortunate if true, especially if conceived out of wedlock.

I was entirely surprised to be able to honestly respond that if the little one is my lost beloved’s, then it’s reason for joy. My lost beloved looked so much happier, healthier, and more at peace than I’ve seen her in 7 years. From the earliest days of our marriage, she wanted desperately to have children and to be a mother, but it seemed that PCOS and some autoimmune difficulties would deny her the deepest wishes of her heart. If she’s remarried; If she has a family; yes, there is an ache, but I cannot help but be grateful to God. I prayed for this for 7 years while she was my wife. After a period of learning to see past my own broken heart and what I thought unendurable pain, I’ve prayed nearly every day since that wherever she is, that God blesses her, brings her peace, happiness, fulfillment, and most of all close relationship with Him in all things. I wanted, and still want, truth be told, these things to be with me, but I want even more for her not to be denied the deepest desires of her heart. Gone is a portion of the selfishness that ruled my heart, selah.

So, yes. Right now I am feeling at peace and feeling as though prayers have been answered and requests fulfilled. There’s nothing on the horizon, but, for now, that’s OK. My want for my lost beloved to return and reconcile is in no way diminished. My want to have a beloved and be a beloved and to raise a family in love is in no way diminished. These deeply held desires have not been diminished, they’ve been surrendered to a new keeper… one who is far better than I with such things. There is peace. Unless I once again try to wrest back control, there will be peace, and possibly through peace, fulfillment, or fulfillment of a sort not yet known or longed for.

Christianity Cannot be Moderately Important

Clive Staples Lewis“Only thus will you be able to undermine their belief that a certain amount of ‘religion’ is desirable but one mustn’t carry it too far. One must point out that Christianity is a statement which, if false, is of -no- importance, and, if true, of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important.”

— C. S. Lewis, Christian Apologetics, God in the Dock and other Essays, page 102, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, Sep 15, 2014

Postmarital Singleness

I ran across this excellent article, and while there is much to take away, it’s clear that it was written to the Rebeution youth. For those of us who have once been married, the temptation is to seize on it all, most especially the optimism and hope Paul gives for those who are single, and while some of that is there to be seized, I do not think all, and care and consideration should be taken.


Singleness is a Gift and That’s Biblical in Case You Forgot

“Singleness is not a form of embarrassed earthly purgatory. It is not a sign of God’s displeasure. It does not make you a different kind of Christian or require you to start your own separate Bible study with the other spiritual lepers.”

Perhaps Keeley, but that’s exactly what divorced singleness is. You’ve bet the farm on what you knew was not a gamble and you’ve lost. You’ve given away your best; innocence, youth, energy, optimism, all your ‘firsts’, hopes and dreams, and your entire heart and you come away with a pitiful remnant.

I keep returning to the nightmare at the beginning of Josh Harris’ I Kissed Dating Goodbye; “I thought I had your heart.” “You do. All that’s left is yours.” Marriage is the first marriage. Remarriage, while it can be wonderful and can be many of the things the marriage was supposed to be but wasn’t is still something different.

Once you understand that you’re almost forced by good conscious to limit your remarriage yearning to only those who are also the remnant that you are. You become convinced that you have no right to take from another what you yourself lost, even if freely given. You recognize and defend in that other person the potential and the ethereal “right” to have a marriage, not a remarriage, with a fully intact compliment of God’s gifts; innocence, youth, energy, lifespan, etc.

It therefore becomes difficult to see post-martial singleness as a gift, because 1 Cor 7 singleness is a completely different animal. Your gift of singleness has been spent. Your gift of marriedness has been spent. “Yes God, I’m ready to serve……….All that’s left, is Yours.”

All Good Proclaims God

“There is not a flower that opens, not a seed that falls into the ground, and not an ear of wheat that nods on the end of its stalk in the wind that does not preach and proclaim the greatness and the mercy of God to the whole world. There is not an act of kindness or generosity, not an act of sacrifice done, or a word of peace and gentleness spoken, not a child’s prayer uttered, that does not sing hymns to God before his throne, and in the eyes of men, and before their faces.” — Thomas Merton (1915 – 1968), Seven Story Mountain (1948)

Grateful for Friends

Philemon 1:7

For I have come to have much joy and comfort in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.

David, Sarah, Dwight, Tony, Bill… To name a few. Thanking God.

Titus 1:15-16

To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.

I wonder if Lewis was not considering this passage when he wrote Book 3: Chapter 8 of A Pilgrim’s Regress, “Parrot Disease”. ‘Are you a liar or only a fool, that you see no difference between that which Nature casts out as refuse and that which she stores up as food?’

Every day a jailor brought the prisoners their food, and as he laid down the dishes he would say a word to them. If their meal was flesh he would remind them that they were eating corpses, or give them some account of the slaughtering: or, if it was the inwards of some beast, he would read them a lecture in anatomy and show the likeness of the mess to the same parts in themselves—which was the more easily done because the giant’s eyes were always staring into the dungeon at dinner time. Or if the meal were eggs he would recall to them that they were eating the enstruum of a verminous fowl, and crack a few jokes with the female prisoners. So he went on day by day. Then I dreamed that one day there was nothing but milk for them, and the jailor said as he put down the pipkin:

‘Our relations with the cow are not delicate—as you can easily see if you imagine eating any of her other secretions.’ Now John had been in the pit a shorter time than any of the others: and at these words something seemed to snap in his head and he gave a great sigh and suddenly spoke out in a loud, clear voice:

‘Thank heaven! Now at last I know that you are talking nonsense.’

‘What do you mean?’ said the jailor, wheeling round upon him.

‘You are trying to pretend that unlike things are like. You are trying to make us think that milk is the same sort of thing as sweat or dung.’

‘And pray, what difference is there except by custom?’

‘Are you a liar or only a fool, that you see no difference between that which Nature casts out as refuse and that which she stores up as food?’

‘So Nature is a person, then, with purposes and consciousness,’ said the jailor with a sneer. ‘In fact, a Landlady. No doubt it comforts you to imagine you can believe that sort of thing;’ and he turned to leave the prison with his nose in the air.

‘I know nothing about that,’ shouted John after him. ‘I am talking of what happens. Milk does feed calves and dung does not.’

‘Look here,’ cried the jailor, coming back, ‘we have had enough of this. It is high treason and I shall bring you before the Master.’ Then he jerked John up by his chain and began to drag him towards the door; but John as he was being dragged, cried out to the others, ‘Can’t you see it’s all a cheat?’ Then the jailor struck him in the teeth so hard that his mouth was filled with blood and he became unable to speak: and while he was silent the jailor addressed the prisoners and said:

‘You see he is trying to argue. Now tell me, someone, what is argument?’

There was a confused murmur.

‘Come, come,’ said the jailor. ‘You must know your catechisms by now. You, there’ (and he pointed to a prisoner little older than a boy whose name was Master Parrot), ‘what is argument?’

‘Argument,’ said Master Parrot, ‘is the attempted rationalization of the arguer’s desires.’

‘Very good,’ replied the jailor, ‘but you should turn out your toes and put your hands behind your back. That is better. Now: what is the proper answer to an argument proving the existence of the Landlord?’

‘The proper answer is, “You say that because you are a Steward.”’

‘Good boy. But hold your head up. That’s right. And what is the answer to an argument proving that Mr. Phally’s songs are just as brown as Mr. Halfways’?’

‘There are two only generally necessary to damnation,’ said Master Parrot. ‘The first is, “You say that because you are a Puritanian,” and the second is, “You say that because you are a
sensualist.”’

‘Good. Now just one more. What is the answer to an argument turning on the belief that two and two make four?’

‘The answer is, “You say that because you are a mathematician.”’

‘You are a very good boy,’ said the jailor. ‘And when I come back I shall bring you something nice. And now for you,’ he added, giving John a kick and opening the grating.

2 Timothy 4:18

The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Frost said, “…but I have promises to keep; and miles to go before I sleep; and miles to go before I sleep.”

Miles and miles seem little difficulty in light of the promise we know awaits.

The Grace & Truth Paradox – Randy Alcorn

The Grace & Truth Paradox
This marvelous little book by Randy Alcorn fell into my metaphoric hands just at the right time when I and my roommate were asked to start a small-group bible study and the topic asked for was “How to debate with love.”

Below are quotes that I found especially meaningful. (More to follow as I continue my exploration.)

What Gives Us Away?

A friend sat down in a small London restaurant and picked up a menu.

“What will it be?” the waiter asked.

Studying the puzzling selections, my friend said, “Uhh…”

The waiter smiled. “Oh, a Yank. What part of the States are you from?”

He hadn’t said a word. But he’d already given himself away.

In the first century, Christ’s followers were also recognized immediately. What gave them away?

It wasn’t their buildings. They had none.

It wasn’t their programs. They had none.

It wasn’t their political power. They had none.

It wasn’t their slick publications, TV networks, bumperstickers, or celebrities. They had none. What was it?

With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. ~ Acts 4:33

They testified to the truth about Christ and lived by His grace. Truth was the food they ate and the message they spoke. Grace was the air they breathed and the life they lived.

The world around them had never seen anything like it. It still hasn’t.

— Randy Alcorn, The Grace & Truth Paradox, Ch 1

“We should never approach truth except in a spirit of grace, or grace except in the spirit of truth. Jesus wasn’t 50 percent grace, 50 percent truth, but 100 percent grace and 100 percent truth.

Truth-oriented Christians love studying Scripture and theology. But sometimes they’re quick to judge and slow to forgive. They’re strong on truth, weak on grace.

Grace-oriented Christians love forgiveness and freedom. But sometimes they neglect Bible study and see moral standards as “legalism.” They’re strong on grace, weak on truth.

Countless mistakes in marriage, parenting, ministry, and other relationships are failures to balance grace and truth. Sometimes we neglect both. Often we choose one over the other.”

“A paradox is an apparent contradiction. Grace and truth aren’t really contradictory. Jesus didn’t switch on truth and then turn it off so He could switch on grace. Both are permanently switched on in Jesus. Both should be switched on in us.”

“Some church services are permeated with Christian clichés that mystify unbelievers. Nobody’s drawn to what’s incomprehensible. Grace compels us to put the cookies on the lower shelf where the uninitiated can reach them. Jesus warmly welcomed the nonreligious and spoke words they understood. So should we.

Other churches try to make sinners feel comfortable. How? They never talk about sin. Never offend anyone. They replace truth with tolerance, lowering the bar so everyone can jump over it and we can all feel good about ourselves.

But Jesus said, ‘ ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also’ (John 15:20).

Something’s wrong if all unbelievers hate us.

Something’s wrong if all unbelievers like us.

If we accurately demonstrate grace -and- truth, some will be drawn to us and other will be offended by us—just as they were by Jesus.

When we offend everybody, it’s because we’ve taken on the truth mantle without the grace. When we offend nobody, it’s because we’ve watered down truth in the name of grace.”

— Randy Alcorn, The Grace and Truth Paradox, Chapter 2.

“Grace never ignores the awful truth of our depravity. In fact, it emphasizes it. The worse we realize we are, the greater we realize God’s grace is.”

— Randy Alcorn, The Grace and Truth Paradox, Chapter 3.

“God has written His truth on human hearts (Romans 2:15). Shame and twinges of conscience come from recognizing that truth has been violated. When people hear truth spoken graciously, many are drawn to it because of the moral vacuum they feel. Hearts long for truth—even hearts that reject it.”

— Randy Alcorn, The Grace and Truth Paradox, Chapter 4.

This next one is very similar to Ray Comfort’s analogy in his talk Hell’s Best Kept Secret in which he talks of Jesus being offered not as salvation from the transgressions of the law, but as “Life Enhancement”. People are enticed to ‘try on Christ’ with promises that their difficulties in life will be resolved (using a parachute as metaphor for Christ), but without any true understanding of the jump out of the airplane that is to come. They put it on. It is uncomfortable and bulky and gives no benefit and so they tear it off, are angry at the parachute (and the stewardess who gave it to them), and resolves never to be fooled by that nonsense again. This as opposed to the one who is told at the outset that there will be a jump to come and the only thing that will save them is wearing the parachute. Then when the difficulties of life befall him, say for instance, a new stewardess who trips and spills boiling hot coffee on him, he doesn’t cast off the parachute and say “You stupid parachute!” No, holds it all the tighter, and may ever Look Forward to the jump to come.

If a teacher is guilty of preaching life enhancement instead of the truth, then there is nothing at all redemptive in his ministry. Indeed, it is less than redemptive. It is damning.

The opposite is nearly as bad. That is, preaching truth in absence of all grace. Ray Comfort clarifies, “I’m not talk­ing about Hell­fire Preach­ing. Hell­fire Preach­ing will pro­duce Fear-Filled con­verts. Using God’s law will pro­duce Tear-Filled converts.”

The world’s low standards, its disregard for truth, are not grace. The illusory freedom, however, -feels- like grace to someone who’s been pounded by graceless truth—beaten over the head with a piece of the guardrail. In fact, people who grow up in joyless religion learn that there’s no hope of living up to such daunting standards. “Why even try? It’s -impossible!-.”

But properly understood, biblical truths are guardrails that protect us from plunging off the cliff. A smart traveler doesn’t curse the guardrails. He doesn’t whine, “That guardrail dented my fender!” He looks over the cliff, and sees demolished autos below, and is -grateful- for guardrails.

The guardrails of truth are there not to punish, but to protect us.

— Randy Alcorn, The Grace and Truth Paradox, Chapter 4.

Godly living centers not on what we avoid, but on whom we embrace. Anytime we talk more about dos and don’ts than about Jesus, something’s wrong.

—Randy Alcorn, The Grace and Truth Paradox, Chapter 4

Fit Though Misfit

For all of you who wonder how my heart can still yearn for my former wife (as well as the girl I thought to make my wife), I can finally explain it for you (and for myself).

I realized… I don’t fit in… -anywhere-. I am oddly and eccentrically shaped. Every single venture outside my door (and even those inside) are plagued with the pain and tension of never fitting in even despite much effort.

That’s ok. I have friends who extend grace and love and make a place I can fit in despite my odd shape.

So why do I not close off my heart to (and the hurt from) those few I have truly loved? It’s simple now to explain. With them, I fit. They loved me (I believed) and none of my irregularities and rough areas stuck out in inconvenient places… and in that context, I could relax.

Never, ever, ever am I able to have that comfort and relaxation out of that context. Every day is an arduous intimidating task to do the same thing I did yesterday. Hated it then. Hate it today.

I have had two, all too brief, periods in my life when that wasn’t true.

I think therein lies even some of my desire to have a family… Families fit, because they grow around one another. Love is the flexibility that not only molds one shape to the next, but also changes some of the difficult things about each one so that they fit naturally in that context and then outside of that context.


Of course, I’ve also learned that I apparently relaxed too much… the lesson there would be that I can never truly relax, but that’s a lesson, despite learned, that I will -not- embrace, because to do so would be to reject life and all hope of whatever joy God may grant in this lifetime.


When did Religion become a ‘bad’ word?

I’m hearing the word religion being used as though it’s a bad thing and it’s started bothering me greatly. I understand why people have turned it into a negative word, but I think it’s very important that we fight the urge to go along with talking about religion as though it’s something bad… or even something good… because “religion” is not inherently bad or good, and any goodness or badness is added by what I myself make it.

No matter how we might strive to emphasize the difference between our orthopraxy and the orthopraxy of someone else… i.e., stressing that our Christianity is about “relationship” while distancing yourself from, say, the strict liturgical practice of one denomination or church or other, we are still committing religion and always will be.

It’s ok to self-identify as a Christian of a particular mindset/practice, but I’m thinking we’re doing everyone and the English language a great disservice if we aid in the demonization of a functional decent word that is free from the burden of the additional baggage people are trying to incorrectly (foolishly) hang on it.

Herein I find irony… I myself have been doing this and doing it for years. My profile settings on Facebook have read: “Religious Views: Christian – Relationship not Religion” since I created my account lo these many eons past. That changes today.

My religion is Christianity, and by that I mean what was meant the two times the word appeared in scripture, “One who is following Christ.” I’m going to strive to fight the compulsion to hang more baggage on my answer.

Disappearance of Theology from the Church

David F. Wells

“The disappearance of theology from the life of the Church, and the orchestration of that disappearance by some of its leaders, is hard to miss today, but oddly enough, not easy to prove. It is hard to miss in the evangelical world–in the vacuous worship that is so prevalent, for example, in the shift form God to the self as the central focus of faith, in the psychologized preaching that follows this shift, in the erosion of its conviction, in its strident pragmatism, in its inability to think incisively about the culture, in its reveling in the irrational.”
― David F. Wells, No Place for Truth: Or, Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology

Lower the Law and you dim the light

Charles Spurgeon
“Lower the Law and you dim the light by which man perceives his guilt. This is a very serious loss to the sinner rather than a gain, for it lessens the likelihood of his conviction and conversion. I say you have deprived the gospel of its ablest auxiliary [most powerful weapon] when you have taken away the schoolmaster that is to bring men to Christ. They will never accept grace until they tremble before a just and holy Law. Therefore the Law serves most necessary and blessed purpose and must not be moved from its place.”
— Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Six years in… and trusting God

LovelyRainaSix years and a bit ago, my beloved, beautiful, sweet, and precious Raina Janel left.

Six years ago I read an article written by a couple, who, against all reason and overcoming insurmountable barriers, had their marriage miraculously restored from scattered ashes after six years.

Six years seemed impossible, but even so, it always was a fixed quantity in my mind.

« Six years »

5750790729_e7723ee282_xlargeAs it loomed ever closer, I realized that I had unconsciously begun to view six years as a cut-off… a limit on God’s sovereign power to enact any miracle He might desire to perform. A countdown clock ticked ever nearer towards that day when all hope would be gone.

This I realized a year and a half ago…. four and a half years into my great and all-encompassing sorrow… and I realized I had been a fool.

TogetherWeddingGod is not limited by the calendar. He may, by His own rules be limited only by the death of one or the other of us, but I don’t know His rules and so it would be foolish to expect that even death is any barrier or hobble.

I press onward, with no hope in the restoration of our marriage but infinitely increased hope and trust in Him. What a testimony He may give us. Six paltry years… pshaw. Childsplay! Imagine the testimony to His Awesomeness of a marriage restored after 20 or 30 years; if only a couple places their hope and their hearts in Him, and if not us, I pray others.

God is Great! He patiently and gracefully continues to work on me… my heart, my all. I hope I’m an improved man for 6 years; more humble, less certain that I’ve got anything figured out, less full of false pride, and a more loving heart. I remain an abominably slow and stubborn, but still dedicated student.

This paragraph sounds contradictory. I really have absolutely no hope in this any more and a over a year and a half ago I put all things Raina away in a box on a shelf, both metaphorically and literally, and for the most part, there she has stayed for the sake of my sanity and so that my mind was clear to focus upward instead of backward. I speak of the gift of a testimony not in the sense that I harbor hope for one, but in the sense that I know that nothing is beyond Him and so I don’t rule it out. For all I know, He has either nothing, or something different in store for me. Whatever it is, or isn’t, I trust in Him that it will be best.

YOU have no ene­mies, you say?

Charles Mackay (1812-1889)
YOU have no enemies, you say?
Alas! my friend, the boast is poor;

He who has mingled in the fray
Of duty, that the brave endure,

Must have made foes! If you have none,
Small is the work that you have done.

You’ve hit no traitor on the hip,
You’ve dashed no cup from perjured lip,

You’ve never turned the wrong to right,
You’ve been a coward in the fight.

Charles Mackay, (English Chartist poet, 1814–1889)

The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest, 1915 The Writings of Philosophers, Poets, Novelists, Social Reformers, and Others Who Have Voiced the Struggle Against Social Injustice, Selected from Twenty-Five Languages, Covering a Period of Five Thousand Years, Upton Sinclair, ed. (1878–1968)

Are you having a secret sordid affair… with money?

Hiding MoneyThink about it. In recent years it’s become very front-of-mind to have accountability in the area of our lives generally described as sexual integrity. We encourage men and women alike to find like-minded folks to support them as they try to align this area of their life with God’s standard. We invite these trusted people to have unfettered access (if we’re being honest) into our lives to make certain that we cannot keep sexual sin hidden… sin such as porn, affairs, sex outside of marriage, visits to strip clubs, prostitutes, chatrooms, hookup apps, dating sites, etc., even mentally lusting after those who are not our spouse.

That kind of accountability seems almost insane to one who has not gone through the experience of a self-motivated “dying to self” and deciding that we desire God more than we love our sin and pride, or alternatively, of being caught out by a loved one or leader and given a choice between being accountable or facing consequences we cannot bear to face.

Yet, even to those of us who are striving for accountability in this area, many of us would balk far more strongly if someone were to suggest that we asked ourselves if we needed to be Financially Accountable. We’d be willing to let others in to our sanctum sanctorum of deepest inner secrets of our sexual thought-lives, computer usage, and dating activities, but the very idea of letting another like-minded brother or sister see what choices we have been making with our money would be almost cripplingly unthinkable. We’d take up arms and fight; Yes,fight to the point of destroying friendship and fellowship if anyone were to dare suggest that we might be hiding a dirty-little-financial-secret; a little expenditure here, a ‘just for emergencies’ maxed-out credit card there…

Why? I don’t know why for each person, but there is one reason I think would be fairly common, that reason being that it’s not just that we don’t want others judging our financial honesty, but that financial honesty would shine a revealing light on a whole host of things in our lives that we are dishonest about, things that we are ashamed of and want kept secret.

In some ways it might be even harder for those of us who have sought accountability in the area of sexual integrity because we have, in our hearts, incorrectly begun to feel that we’re really upstanding folks. We’ve exposed the dirtiest, darkest, most shameful, most hidden parts of ourselves and let the light of honesty shine into the darkest corners and most hidden niches. We might think ourselves justified in keeping this other area of our life in shadow behind locked doors. We might be loathe to admit, even to ourselves that we might find ourselves far and away more greatly ashamed of our little financial dalliances than ever we were about an occasional look at a skin mag, viewing an imagination-inspiring Hollywood movie, hanging out on dating sites where the conversation can become… stimulating, a Google image search with Safe-Search features disabled, or that lingering look we take each time we pass the desk of the secretary at work who is completely unaware of just what we can see when standing while she’s sitting.

The bible tells us that even our best is as filthy rags, I would think most especially if our best is helping us give ourselves a pass somewhere else. Isaiah 64:5-8 NASB

5 You meet him who rejoices in doing righteousness,
  Who remembers You in Your ways.
  Behold, You were angry, for we sinned,
  We continued in them a long time;
  And shall we be saved?

6 For all of us have become like one who is unclean,
  And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment;
  And all of us wither like a leaf,
  And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

7 There is no one who calls on Your name,
  Who arouses himself to take hold of You;
  For You have hidden Your face from us
  And have delivered us into the power of our iniquities.

8 But now, O Lord, You are our Father,
  We are the clay, and You our potter;
  And all of us are the work of Your hand.

Some final thoughts:

Has something very helpful to the Christian walk perhaps been misused and caused great harm for some in this area? How many of us Christians would be inclined to wave our Financial Peace University graduation certificates (metaphorically speaking) to quell any questions others who care about us might have for us. We’d never wave our actual budget. I know I’ve waved my certificate a time or two when uncomfortable scrutiny has fallen upon me. Heaven forbid that we wave our “I Tithed” sticker around like we’ve just left the voting polls to rebuff inquiry into this area, because, “If I’ve tithed, I must have my financial house and heart in order.” I’ve been amused at the social meme lately of completely replacing rhetoric with the antithesis of rhetoric; the “Because Science!” or “Because Racist!” argument [air quotes], however, it’s not so amusing when I realize that I might have myself used the “Because FPU!” or “Because Tithe!” arguments to stomp on honest inquiry.

I think in a lot of ways, our hearts and priorities may far more clearly be reflected in our bank statements than our CovenantEyes or X3Watch accountability reports.

I guess this area for some of us may be one more example of Col. Jimmie Coy’s ABoBs (A Bowl of Beans one is willing to purchase in exchange for their eternal spiritual birthright).

Originally posted to Facebook November 1, 2014, as a follow-up to thoughts posted October 17, 2014 and republished here as An Invitation to Self-Reflection

An Invitation to Self-Reflection

Dark Corner
Originally posted to Facebook October 17, 2014.
Lately I’ve been pondering some questions I would ask myself and invite others to ask them of themselves.
If I would answer ‘yes’ to the following question, “Am I in a relationship with other believers that involves some form of accountability?”, then these follow-up questions to myself would follow:
  1. In all the aspects of my life in which I am ostensibly transparent, is there any activity or aspect which I have compartmentalized away and either consciously or unconsciously in order to make certain that it never gets exposed, discussed or explored, by not bringing it up or by steering the conversation in a different direction when someone else brings it up? Might I even go so far as to confess other areas of weakness both to show a sincere desire for accountability and to direct attention away from my secret activity? Do I have a dark hidden corner?
  2. If the answer to #1 was yes, why do I do it? Am I:
    1. Ashamed or embarrassed?
    2. Fairly certain that I know what their response would be and that they might question whether it was wise, or Godly, or somehow at odds with the kind of relationship with God that I want and profess to want to have?
    3. Completely certain that I know what their response would be because it’s come up before and perhaps I even agreed at the time (Do I not now?) that it was unwise or unGodly or somehow at odds with who I claim to (want to) be in God?
  3. Finally, if the answer to #2 matched any of the possible reasons, or even reasons that weren’t suggested, how important really, is that activity or aspect, and do I really want to keep possession of that activity or aspect?
I say finally, but it leads me to ponder something Col. Jimmie Coy asked us about at the Valley View Community Church 2014 Men’s Retreat; Does that ‘thing’ qualify as an ABOB, A Bowl of Beans, a bowl of lentil stew which I desire so very strongly that I am willing to trade away my entire birthright, as did Esau, in exchange for gaining or keeping. Further, when I’ve reached the bottom dregs of that bowl, will I still agree with the logic and reasoning that led to my decision? Will I find lasting satisfaction that replaces the value of my birthright, or will I find lasting remorse over that which I forsook?
From Jimmie Coy: “ABOB, A Bowl Of Beans…is anything that will separate you from your Spiritual eternal birthright. ABOB calls to each of us but ultimately it is what separates us from our greatest treasure. As Desmond Doss would say, ‘If we miss heaven, we have missed everything.’ IC, jdc”

Divine punishments are also mercies and particular good is worked out of particular evil

SurprisedByJoy1“If the Northerness seemed then a bigger thing than my religion, that may partly have been because my attitude toward it contained elements which my religion ought to have contained and did not. It was not itself a new religion for it contained no trace of belief and imposed no duties. Yet unless I am greatly mistaken, there was in it something very like adoration; some kind of quite disinterested self-abandonment to an object which securely claimed this by simply being the object it was. We are taught in the Prayer Book to ‘give thanks to God for His great glory’ as if we owed Him more thanks for being what He necessarily is than for any particular benefit he confers upon us; and so indeed we do, and to know God is to know this, but I had been far from any such experience. I came far nearer to feeling this about the Norse gods whom I disbelieved in than I had ever done about the true God while I believed. Sometimes I can almost think that I was sent back to the false gods, there to acquire some capacity for worship against the day when the true God should recall me to Himself. Not that I might not have learned this sooner and more safely in ways I shall now never know without apostasy, but that divine punishments are also mercies and particular good is worked out of particular evil and the penal blindness made sanitive. “ ~ C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy

Relational Relationship

Matthew Henry“Eve was not taken out of Adam’s head to top him, neither out of his feet to be trampled on by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected by him, and near his heart to be loved by him.” — Matthew Henry

Stories tell of a 17 year old Abraham Lincoln singing a poeticised (Created by himself?) version of this put to music for a sister’s wedding.

Jesus Loved the Broken

Rich Mullins“Jesus said whatever you do to the least of these my brothers you’ve done it to me. And this is what I’ve come to think. That if I want to identify fully with Jesus Christ, who I claim to be my Savior and Lord, the best way that I can do that is to identify with the poor. This I know will go against the teachings of all the popular evangelical preachers. But they’re just wrong. They’re not bad, they’re just wrong. Christianity is not about building an absolutely secure little niche in the world where you can live with your perfect little wife and your perfect little children in a beautiful little house where you have no gays or minority groups anywhere near you. Christianity is about learning to love like Jesus loved and Jesus loved the poor and Jesus loved the broken….” — Rich Mullins

Ran across some unrelated quotes that I don’t want to lose track of:

“I think that’s where the church is doubly damned; when they use Jesus as a vehicle for achieving all of that [worshiping, pleasure, leisure and affluence]. Like, if you give a tithe, He ll make you rich. Why? … If you give a tithe, you get rid of ten percent of the root of all evil. You should be giving ninety percent, ‘cause God can handle money better than we can.” — Rich Mullins

The secret of rock music: “If you can’t be good, be loud.” — Rich Mullins

The current trends in worship: “Shallow, mindless, stupid, and perfectly harmless, at best.” — Rich Mullins

“I don’t want to be tolerated. Argue with me, and I will respect you. — Rich Mullins

“It never fails. God will put people in your path that irritate you, especially if you’re prone to be irritated.” — Rich Mullins

“I hope I would leave a legacy of joy -a legacy of real compassion,” — Rich Mullins

The Hound of Heaven

Francis ThompsonI fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
  I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
  I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
    Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
  I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
        Up vistaed hopes, I sped;
        And shot, precipitated,
  Adown Titanic glooms of chasmed fears,
    From those strong Feet that followed,
          followed after.
        But with unhurrying chase,
        And unperturbed pace,
      Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
        They beat--and a Voice beat
        More instant than the Feet--
      "All things betray thee, who betrayest Me."

        I pleaded, out law-wise,
  By many a hearted casement, curtained red,
    Trellised with intertwining charities
  (For, though I knew His love Who followed,
        Yet was I sore adread
  Lest, having Him, I must have naught beside);
  But, if one little casement parted wide,
    The gust of His approach would clash it to.
    Fear wist not to evade as Love wist to pursue.
  Across the margent of the world I fled,
    And troubled the gold gateways of the stars,
    Smiting for shelter on their clanged bars;
        Fretted to dulcet jars
  And silvern chatter the pale ports o' the moon.
  I said to dawn: Be sudden; to eve: Be soon--
    With thy young skyey blossoms heap me over
        From this tremendous Lover!
  Float thy vague veil about me, lest He see!
    I tempted all His servitors, but to find
  My own betrayal in their constancy,
  In faith to Him their fickleness to me,
    Their traitorous trueness, and their loyal deceit.
  To all swift things for swiftness did I sue;
    Clung to the whistling mane of every wind.
        But whether they swept, smoothly fleet,
      The long savannahs of the blue;
          Or whether, Thunder-driven,
      They clanged His chariot 'thwart a heaven
  Plashy with flying lightnings round the spurn o' their feet:--
    Fear wist not to evade as Love wist to pursue.
          Still with unhurrying chase,
          And unperturbed pace,
  Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
          Came on the following Feet,
          And a Voice above their beat--
  "Naught shelters thee, who wilt not shelter Me."

I sought no more that after which I strayed
      In face of man or maid;
      But still within the little children's eyes
    Seems something, something that replies,
  _They_ at least are for me, surely for me!
  I turned me to them very wistfully;
  But just as their young eyes grew sudden fair
      With dawning answers there,
  Their angel plucked them from me by the hair.

  Come then, ye other children,
    Nature's--share
    With me" (said I) "your delicate fellowship;
    Let me greet you lip to lip,
    Let me twine with you caresses,
        Wantoning
    With our Lady-Mother's vagrant tresses,
        Banqueting
    With her in her wind-walled palace,
    Underneath her azured dais,
    Quaffing, as your taintless way is,
        From a chalice
  Lucent-weeping out of the dayspring."
        So it was done;
  _I_ in their delicate fellowship was one--
  Drew the bolt of Nature's secrecies.
        _I_ knew all the swift importings
        On the wilful face of skies;
        I knew how the clouds arise,
        Spumed of the wild sea-snortings;
          All that's born or dies
      Rose and drooped with; made them shapers
  Of mine own moods, or wailful or divine--
        With them joyed and was bereaven.
        I was heavy with the even,
    When she lit her glimmering tapers
      Round the day's dead sanctities.
      I laughed in the morning's eyes.
  I triumphed and I saddened with all weather,
      Heaven and I wept together,
  And its sweet tears were salt with mortal mine;
  Against the red throb of its sunset-heart
          I laid my own to beat,
          And share commingling heat;
  But not by that, by that, was eased my human smart.
  In vain my tears were wet on Heaven's grey cheek.
  For ah! we know not what each other says,
        These things and I; in sound _I_ speak--
  _Their_ sound is but their stir, they speak by silences.
  Nature, poor stepdame, cannot slake by drouth;
        Let her, if she would owe me,
  Drop yon blue bosom-veil of sky, and show me
        The breasts o' her tenderness:
  Never did any milk of hers once bless
          My thirsting mouth.
        Nigh and nigh draws the chase,
          With unperturbed pace,
        Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
          And past those noised Feet
          A Voice comes yet more fleet--
        "Lo! naught contents thee, who content'st not Me."
 Naked I wait Thy love's uplifted stroke!
  My harness piece by piece Thou hast hewn from me,
          And smitten me to my knee;
          I am defenceless utterly.
          I slept, methinks, and woke,
  And, slowly gazing, find me stripped in sleep.
  In the rash lustihead of my young powers,
          I shook the pillaring hours
  And pulled my life upon me; grimed with smears,
  I stand amid the dust o' the mounded years--
  My mangled youth lies dead beneath the heap.
  My days have crackled and gone up in smoke,
  Have puffed and burst as sun-starts on a stream.
      Yea, faileth now even dream
  The dreamer, and the lute the lutanist;
  Even the linked fantasies, in whose blossomy twist
  I swung the earth a trinket at my wrist,
  Are yielding; cords of all too weak account
  For earth, with heavy griefs so overplussed.
        Ah! is Thy love indeed
  A weed, albeit an amaranthine weed,
  Suffering no flowers except its own to mount?
          Ah! must--
          Designer infinite!--
  Ah! must Thou char the wood ere Thou canst limn with it?
  My freshness spent its wavering shower i' the dust;
  And now my heart is as a broken fount,
  Wherein tear-drippings stagnate, spilt down ever
          From the dank thoughts that shiver
  Upon the sighful branches of my mind.
          Such is; what is to be?
  The pulp so bitter, how shall taste the rind?
  I dimly guess what Time in mists confounds;
  Yet ever and anon a trumpet sounds
  From the hid battlements of Eternity:
  Those shaken mists a space unsettle, then
  Round the half-glimpsed turrets slowly wash again;
          But not ere Him who summoneth
          I first have seen, enwound
  And now my heart is as a broken fount,
  Wherein tear-drippings stagnate, spilt down ever
  From the dank thoughts that shiver
  With glooming robes purpureal, cypress-crowned;
  His name I know, and what his trumpet saith.
  Whether man's heart or life it be which yields
          Thee harvest, must Thy harvest fields
          Be dunged with rotten death?

 Now of that long pursuit
  Comes on at hand the bruit;
  That Voice is round me like a bursting sea:
          "And is thy earth so marred,
          Shattered in shard on shard?
    Lo, all things fly thee, for thou fliest Me!
        Strange, piteous, futile thing,
  Wherefore should any set thee love apart?
  Seeing none but I makes much of naught" (He said),
  "And human love needs human meriting:
        How hast thou merited--
  Of all man's clotted clay the dingiest clot?
        Alack, thou knowest not
  How little worthy of any love thou art!
  Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee,
        Save Me, save only Me?
  All which I took from thee I did but take,
        Not for thy harms,
  But just that thou might'st seek it in My arms.
        All which thy child's mistake
  Fancies as lost, I have stored for thee at home:
        Rise, clasp My hand, and come."
          Halts by me that footfall:
          Is my gloom, after all,
    Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly?
          "Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,
          I am He Whom thou seekest!
  Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me."

Francis Thompson (16 December 1859 – 13 November 1907) was an English poet and ascetic. After attending college, he moved to London to become a writer, but in menial work, became addicted to opium, and was a street vagrant for years. A married couple read his poetry and rescued him, publishing his first book Poems in 1893. Thompson lived as an unbalanced invalid in Wales and at Storrington, but wrote three books of poetry, with other works and essays, before dying of tuberculosis in 1907.

Awesome God

Rich Mullins - here in americaThe legendary song “Awesome God” was not crafted in a comfy-cozy songwriting room, with fresh legal pads and flavored coffee. It was picked up somewhere between Tennessee and Missouri, in the cab of a sweaty little pickup truck, on the way to a concert. Rich told me that while he was driving, he envisioned an imaginary “hellfire and brimstone” preacher, waving his finger in the air, making proclamations about God to his congregation. Line by line the man shouted out the phrases of “Awesome God.” Rich committed those lines to memory until he got to the venue and found a piano to figure out what key to play it in. After he’d played it for me, Rich said in a small voice “I think it’s going to be big.” Rich then asked me if I would sing the verses and he assembled a small choir for the choruses. We rehearsed and performed “Awesome God” for the first time that night. It amazes me how good Rich’s intuition was about that song, as it continues to impact so many people.

— Steve Cudworth

…the moods which arise from a physical condition, never submit to them for a second.

OswaldChambers“There are certain things we must not pray about – moods, for instance. Moods never go by praying, moods go by kicking. A mood nearly always has its seat in the physical condition, not in the moral. It is a continual effort not to listen to the moods which arise from a physical condition, never submit to them for a second. We have to take ourselves by the scruff of the neck and shake ourselves, and we will find that we can do what we said we could not. The curse with most of us is that we won’t. The Christian life is one of incarnate spiritual pluck.”

— Oswald Chambers (24 July 1874 – 15 November 1917)

My Utmost for His Highest

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