Sunday, January 31, 2010

Mending Broken Hearts

C.S. Lewis writes of grief feeling like fear in A Grief Observed. I have found this to be a very accurate description and there is the temptation to avoid it if possible. What I am learning is that once one accepts it, on the other side is a sadness, but it is a softened and almost sweet sadness.

I was thinking tonight that it is not just sorrows that break our hearts, but also being in the presence of great beauty or receiving an undeserved kindness. I think this must happen so that God can mend them back correctly.

How precious is your lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of your wings. Psalm 36:7

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Communication Problem

There are many articles circulating in newspapers, magazines and the blogosphere regarding President Obama's maiden State of the Union speech tonight.  Most are detailing what he should say to recover from his low approval ratings and gain back the independent and middle class voters that have recently repudiated the Democratic agenda by voting in two new Republican governors in Virginia and New Jersey and a Republican senator from Massachusetts.  In the wake of Scott Brown's election President Obama told George Stephanopoulis that he needs 'to speak directly to the American people', an amazing statement coming from the most communicative President in U.S. history.

But the President does have a communication problem, and it is that he is no longer believed.  Almost every campaign promise has been broken, whether it is his promise of transparency in writing laws, keeping lobbyists out of his administration, a modest healthcare proposal that would cover all children, no spending freezes, immediate removal of troops from Iraq, the end of earmarks, the posting of non emergency laws five days before they are signed and the closing of Gitmo.  These are just the ones I can come up with off the top of my head!

This is a problem, that if he wants fixed, (and all indications are that he doesn't), will take time.  Rebuilding credibility is a difficult task which takes real humility, and won't be mended by one more speech.  We live in a society built around marketing and smoke and mirrors.  Many want to be sold on something, and have been.  Right now many are suffering from buyer's remorse.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Boom and Bust

Are cycles of boom and bust really necessary?  Here's a video that begins to explain the phenomenon.  Check out this website for more economic information.  As for myself, I'm with Hayek.

H/T The Corner

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Ubi Caritas Et Amor

Most of us are familiar with the Greek terms for different kinds of love: storge or affection, philia or friendship, eros or ‘in love’ love, and agape or charity.  This post is about agape.

In I Corinthians 13 we are told that we can speak in tongues, prophecy, have all knowledge and all faith, move mountains and be martyred, and it is nothing if it is not motivated by love.

+Love is not tolerance. Tolerance is passive, often to the point of indifference and that is the opposite of love. We want what is best for those we love. If we simply tolerate others, we ignore their sins and suffering. God is not tolerant. Hebrews 12:6 says,
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.
Or as professor and author, Peter Kreeft says, God is a father, not an uncle.

+Love is not feeling based.  God has commanded us to love, both himself and each other.  Feelings are fickle.  It is with the will that we can obey this command.  Feeling can play a part, but they often follow an act of love.

+Love is action, an act of the will. In describing love, the apostle Paul uses words of action:  patience, bears all things, kindness, rejoices in truth.  It looks out for the good of others.  Jesus tells what love is in the parables of the lost sheep, the good Samaritan, the prodigal son. He shows what love is in his life and death.

+Love is specific.  We are to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and our neighbor as ourselves.  We are not called to love the church, a civilization, a society, that would be too easy and not real.  We are called to love one another, and to love one another deeply.  I Peter 4:8

+Love makes us vulnerable. Because love is self giving, putting others ahead of ourselves, and trusting, we lay ourselves open to being terribly wounded. C.S. Lewis says in The Four Loves,
Christ did not teach and suffer that we might become, even in the natural loves, more careful of our own happiness. If a man is not uncalculating towards the earthly beloveds whom he has seen, he is none the more likely to be so towards God whom he has not. We shall draw nearer to God , not by trying to avoid the sufferings inherent in all loves, but by accepting them and offering them to Him; throwing away all defensive armour. If our hearts need to be broken, and if He chooses this as the way in which they should break, so be it.
 Who, but God in Christ has shown themselves to be more vulnerable?

+Love is a witness.  
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:34&35

+Love is eternal.  
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.  When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
I Corinthians 13:8-13
Love is eternal because God is love.

This has been a tough season for many of us.  We have each had our burdens to bear; the downturn in the economy, professional difficulties, ill health and the loss of loved ones. 

The world presents us with two ways of dealing with suffering.  One is stoicism or the teaching of Budda, which is to deny desire and accept pain, to expect nothing and to therefore not be disappointed.  To hope only for an end of existence.  The other way is hedonism, to live for oneself.  To gain all the pleasure one can, no matter the cost to others or self.

God has another way of dealing with suffering, and it is love.  It is love that stoops to lift us up.  It is love that is compassion, to suffer with.  It is love to teach the truth, to let reality break into our self deceit.  And it is love to which we are called.

Below is a hymn, Ubi Caritas.  It has been sung by the church for centuries.  The first line is Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est, which translated means, Where charity and love are, God is there.  It is a lovely hymn with a real depth of meaning.  I wonder if it inspired Tolstoy's short story, Where Love Is, God Is.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Arise, Shine For Your Light Has Come

From the Gospel of John
 In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.
From the Gospel of Matthew
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men  from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose  and have come to worship him.”  When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him;  and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.  They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:
 “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared.  And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.”  After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was.  When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.  And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.  And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

On The Last Day Of Christmas My True Love Gave To Me.....

No, it isn't twelve lords a'leaping. It is the man of sorrows.

Here is Jesus, true God from true God, who tells us to take up our cross and follow him, that to gain our life we must lose it, that those who mourn are blessed because they will be comforted. This all just seems like theory until that cross becomes heavier than we can imagine, that the life we thought we were living gets turned upside down, that the comfort in grief is delayed and all we can do is hang on to the promise.

In all the messiness and sin and sorrow of this life, God didn't just wipe the slate clean. He didn't make us all automatons. He became one of us, to live, to suffer, to die and to rise again raising all of life and creation with him. It seems absurd, too much even, but that is love, isn't it? Love is absurd, self giving, lowering oneself to raise the other up, causing suffering to now have meaning, even becoming redemptive.

This is the mystery of the incarnation...the mystery of Christmas.