Free Will

February 16th, 2020

Free will is a good thing, but sometimes obedience is more convenient.

Cog, by Greg van Eekhout, p. 180

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, February 15, 2020

Lavishing a Lavish Love

February 13th, 2020

When we lavish love, we offer it freely and generously, the same way that God loves us and offers us grace and forgiveness when we ask for it. When we offer a lavish love, we offer love in abundance. Jesus asks us to lavish a lavish love. The more we love others, the more love changes our actions, our words, our character, and our lives. Before we knew Jesus, we really didn’t have that much motivation to love others “lavishly.” We were not beings void of love. We loved, but we exchanged units of love with those who repaid us in kind, as though it could be stored in a love bank account and withdrawn at will. We did not consider love to be a full-time job, a “constant” call on our lives. Our love was more like a side hustle. Some days we didn’t even show up to work. It was catch as catch can.

— Tom Berlin, Reckless Love, p. 60

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, March 14, 2017

Christ in Everything

February 10th, 2020

Christ is the light that allows people to see things in their fullness. The precise and intended effect of such a light is to see Christ everywhere else. In fact, that is my only definition of a true Christian. A mature Christian sees Christ in everything and everyone else. That is a definition that will never fail you, always demand more of you, and give you no reasons to fight, exclude, or reject anyone.

— Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p. 33

Photo: Leithöfe, Germany, January 1997

Make Your Art

February 10th, 2020

The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you.

Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.

The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself, that’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.

— Neil Gaiman, Art Matters, “Make Good Art”

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, December 25, 2019

Labels

February 8th, 2020

Real diversity demands that we hold loosely our preconceived ideas of what God looks like. Jesus didn’t dine with the sinners so that he could convert them all to Pharisees, but to remind the Pharisees that God speaks as loudly through prostitutes as he does through them. He was validating every story, always elevating the other. He was destroying the myth that spirituality needs to be dressed in the trappings of religion, that it has to be proper or conventional or uniform. We still struggle with this work because we are naturally a people of labels, always looking for neat and tidy ways of summarizing those who cross our paths, of easily categorizing them for quick understanding. Our labels help reinforce the ideas of who’s in and who’s out and make us feel safely sequestered in what we believe comprises our tribe. The problem is that people are far too expansive for any category we might place them in, and because of this all our efforts of relational shorthand fail. Whether our labels reference race, gender, sexual orientation, theology, or any other designation, they place in front of us a caricature of what we imagine that label represents — and they always fall short.

— John Pavlovitz, A Bigger Table, p. 90-91

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, March 12, 2015

Freedom

February 7th, 2020

The most civilized apologists from the “infernalist” orthodoxies these days, as I have noted elsewhere in these pages, tend to prefer to defend their position by an appeal to creaturely freedom and to God’s respect for its dignity. And, as I have also noted, there could scarcely be a poorer argument; whether made crudely or elegantly, it invariably fails, because it depends upon an incoherent model of freedom. If one could plausibly explain how an absolutely libertarian act, obedient to no prior rationale whatsoever, would be distinguishable from sheer chance, or a mindless organic or mechanical impulse, and so any more “free” than an earthquake or embolism, then the argument might carry some weight. But to me it seems impossible to speak of freedom in any meaningful sense at all unless one begins from the assumption that, for a rational spirit, to see the good and know it truly is to desire it insatiably and to obey it unconditionally, while not to desire it is not to have known it truly, and so never to have been free to choose it…. Here I can at least point out that scripture seems to support my view. “And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:32): for freedom and truth are one, and not to know the truth is to be enslaved. “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34): not seeing the Good, says God to God, they did not freely choose evil, and must be pardoned. “Everyone committing sin is a slave to sin” (John 8:34): and a slave, needless to say, is not free. Moreover, it is simply obvious that, under normal conditions, we recognize any self-destructive impulse in any person as a form of madness. It makes no more sense, then, to say that God allows creatures to damn themselves out of his love for them or out of his respect for their freedom than to say a father might reasonably allow his deranged child to thrust her face into a fire out of a tender regard for her moral autonomy.

— David Bentley Hart, That All Shall Be Saved, p. 79-30

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, March 6, 2015

A Substitute

February 6th, 2020

While it is true, according to the New Testament, that Jesus is our substitute, the important point in the New Testament is that Jesus did not die “in our place to appease God,” but rather died “in the place of all the sacrificial victims we have killed in the name of God.” Jesus did not die because God needed or demanded a human sacrifice. God did not substitute Jesus in our place. No, Jesus died because we humans demanded a human sacrifice, and God allowed us to kill His own Son so that we might finally see what we were doing when we killed others in God’s name. Jesus did die as a substitute, but He was a substitute for all sacrificial victims of the world. He died to reveal the truth about sacrifice. What truth? The truth that God does not desire sacrifice; we humans do. Jesus died to reveal how we kill others in God’s name and to reveal that the sacrificial inclination comes from within our own hearts, not from the heart of God. Jesus died to reveal these truths to us so that we will put an end to the making and killing of all sacrificial victims.

— J. D. Myers, Nothing But the Blood of Jesus, p. 144-145

Photo: Gundersweiler, Germany, December 1999

Stories

February 3rd, 2020

In my current less-young age, I’ve learned that almost more than anything, stories hold us together. Stories teach us what is important about life, why we are here and how it is best to behave, and that inside us we have access to treasure, in memories and observations, in imagination.

— Anne Lamott, Almost Everything, p. 179

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, February 20, 2019

A Happy Life

February 2nd, 2020

No one has a greater impact on our joy than we do. While all the factors affecting joy are not within our reach, it’s helpful to act as if they are. Until we start reaching for joy in all circumstances, we’ll have no idea how happy we can be. Much more of our happiness rests with us than we tend to believe. Taking full responsibility for our emotional state is itself a powerful step toward joy.

With all of life’s various moods and seasons, a happy day may not always be attainable. But a happy life is. By acting as if happiness is always within our grasp, we put ourselves in the best position to live happily.

— Mike Mason, Champagne for the Soul, p. 156

Wage Peace by Listening.

January 29th, 2020

Fortunately for everyone, the solution has nothing to do with talking. Often enough we ask ourselves: How do we bridge the distance between “direct service” and “structural change”? I have learned that it’s never about “saying” very much at all but, rather, receiving, listening, and valuing people until they come out with their hands up — feeling, for perhaps the first time, valuable. Receiving them and allowing yourself to be reached by them is all that’s asked of us. And anyone who is the proud owner of a pulse can do this. Wage peace by listening.

— Gregory Boyle, Barking to the Choir, p. 178

Photo: Twin Peaks, California, January 1, 2020