Archive for November, 2018

Looking Good

Monday, November 12th, 2018

Happiness suits us well. Whatever our condition, when we’re happy we function better both physically and spiritually. We’re more alert, productive, and helpful to others. Joy looks good on us because we’re made for it. Put misery in your tank and see how far you get. Then try a little joy — laugh with friends, play with children, “sing and make music in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19) — and feel the vigor of youth flow back into your bones.

— Mike Mason, Champagne for the Soul, p. 104

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, September 13, 2015.

A Bigger God

Saturday, November 10th, 2018

God leans into us so that we will let go of the image of God as unreasonable parent, exacting teacher, or ruthless coach. God is not who we think God is. Our search for God is not a scavenger hunt; God is everywhere and in everything. Our sense of God always beckons us to grow, to reimagine something wildly more breathtaking than where our imagination generally takes us. We are nudged toward an increasingly wider view and image of God from our child consciousness to an adult consciousness. God leans into us so that we can find our way to this inner absorption of God. With any luck and some attention, we will keep landing on a better God, finally having grown comfortable in God’s tenderness.

— Gregory Boyle, Barking to the Choir, p. 15-16

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, November 10, 2018

The Blessing of Blessing

Saturday, November 10th, 2018

Whenever we wish someone the best or give someone love, we feel good. Every blessing we give is a blessing that we give to ourselves. Every time we help someone, the help we give them and the healing they reach gets added to our life.

Chuck Spezzano, If It Hurts, It Isn’t Love, p. 345

Photo: Devil’s Den State Park, Arkansas, July 1996

The Power of Examples

Friday, November 9th, 2018

Finally, you have the opportunity to use your healed memories to offer compassion and support to those in need. When you forgive you become a model for those still struggling. They benefit from seeing people who have healed. You can serve as an example of what is possible. You show people through your example that forgiveness is possible.

— Fred Luskin, Forgive for Good, p. 74

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, October 30, 2018

Inexorable Love

Thursday, November 8th, 2018

A few words of earnest caution must be added here. I trust it has been made plain in these pages that in teaching universal salvation I have not for a moment made light of sin, or advocated the salvation of sinners while they continue such. I earnestly assert the certain punishment of sin (awful it may well be, in its duration and its nature for the hardened offender), but in all cases directed by love and justice to the final extirpation of evil. Nay, I have opposed the popular creed on this very ground, that it in fact teaches men to make light of sin, and that in two ways: first, because it sets forth a scheme of retribution so unjust as to make men secretly believe its penalties will never be inflicted; and second, because it in fact asserts that God either will not, or cannot, overcome and destroy evil and sin, but will bear with them for ever and ever.

I repeat that not one word has been written in these pages tending to represent God as a merely good-natured Being, who regards as a light matter the violation of his holy law. Such shallow theology, God forbid that I should teach. Infinite love is one thing; Infinite Good-nature a totally unlike thing. Love is never feeble, it is (while most tender) most inexorable. In the light of Calvary it is that we are bound to see the guilt of sin. But let us beware, lest, as we stand in thought by the cross, we virtually dishonour the atonement by limiting its power to save — by teaching men that Christ is after all vanquished; lest, while in words professing to honour Christ, we, in fact, make him a liar, for he has never said, “if I be lifted up, I will draw some men,” or even “most men,” but “I will draw all men to me.”

— Thomas Allin, Christ Triumphant, p. 268

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, November 7, 2018

Wait for It.

Monday, November 5th, 2018

Teilhard de Chardin wrote that we must “trust in the slow work of God.”

Ours is a God who waits. Who are we not to? It takes what it takes for the great turnaround. Wait for it.

— Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart, p. 113

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, November 4, 2018

Winning the Kingdom Without War

Sunday, November 4th, 2018

Finally, the last thing I know is this: If the God of the Bible is true, and if God became flesh and blood in the person of Jesus Christ, and if Jesus Christ is — as theologian Greg Boyd put it — “the revelation that culminates and supersedes all others,” then God would rather die by violence than commit it. The cross makes this plain. On the cross, Christ not only bore the brunt of human cruelty and bloodlust and fear, he remained faithful to the nonviolence he taught and modeled throughout his ministry. Boyd called it “the Crucifixion of the Warrior God,” and in a two-volume work by that name asserted that “on the cross, the diabolic violent warrior god we have all-too-frequently pledged allegiance to has been forever repudiated.” On the cross, Jesus chose to align himself with victims of suffering rather than the inflictors of it.

At the heart of the doctrine of the incarnation is the stunning claim that Jesus is what God is like. “No one has ever seen God,” declared John in his gospel, “but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known” (John 1:18, emphasis added). The New American Standard Bible says, “The only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” (emphasis added). So to whatever extent God owes us an explanation for the Bible’s war stories, Jesus is that explanation. And Christ the King won his kingdom without war.

— Rachel Held Evans, Inspired, p. 76-77

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, November 4, 2018

Approach Mode

Saturday, November 3rd, 2018

Fortunately, approach modes that include attempts to understand and appreciate are almost as contagious to our partners as avoid and attack modes. In other words, if you are interested in your partner, he or she is likely to become interested in you. But if you dismiss, avoid, or devalue, what do you think will be the likely response?

— Patricia Love and Steven Stosny, How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It, p. 173

Photo: Gundersweiler, Germany, October 2000

The Defiance of Gratitude

Friday, November 2nd, 2018

Gratitude is defiance of sorts, the defiance of kindness in the face of anger, of connection in the face of division, and of hope in the face of fear. Gratefulness does not acquiesce to evil — it resists evil. That resistance is not that of force or direct confrontation. Gratitude undoes evil by tunneling under its foundations of anger, resentment, and greed. Thus, gratitude strengthens our character and moral resolve, giving each of us the possibility of living peaceably and justly. It untwists knotted hearts, waking us to a new sense of who we are as individuals and in community. Being thankful is the very essence of what it means to be alive, and to know that life abundantly.

— Diana Butler Bass, Gratitude, p. 185-186

And I couldn’t stand doing just one photo. Both photos: South Riding, Virginia, November 2, 2018

Entirely Human

Thursday, November 1st, 2018

Among the many problems of Calvin’s theory of the cross is that it turns God into a petty tyrant and a moral monster. Punishing the innocent in order to forgive the guilty is monstrous logic, atrocious theology, and a gross distortion of the idea of justice. This debate, billed as “The Monster God Debate,” was recorded and eventually viewed tens of thousands of times online. Over the next year I received hundreds of correspondences from people around the world relieved to learn that Good Friday was not the day when God killed his Son. What Jesus did on the cross is far more mysterious and beautiful than simply offering himself as a primitive ritual sacrifice. Ritual sacrifice may appease the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, but it has nothing to do with the Father of Jesus. The cross is a cataclysmic collision of violence and forgiveness. The violence part of the cross is entirely human. The forgiveness part of the cross is entirely divine. God’s nature is revealed in love, not in violence. The Roman cross was an instrument of imperial violence that Jesus transformed into a symbol of divine love.

In our scriptures and creeds, we confess that Christ died for our sins, but this does not mean we should interpret the cross according to an economic model where God had to gain the necessary capital to forgive sins through the vicious murder of his Son. How would this “pay off God” theory of the cross work anyway? Did God have some scale of torture that once met would extinguish his wrath? If God required the death of Jesus in order to forgive, did it have to be a violent death? Did it have to be by crucifixion? Did it have to involve the torture of the Roman scourging? Did God require a minimum number of lashes that Jesus had to endure? Was the crown of thorns necessary? Did God require a specific number of thorns to expiate his anger? And if you say, “No, that’s absurd! Some of the abuse Jesus suffered was gratuitous torture by the hands of cruel men,” well, please explain just how this division of labor works. How much of the torture of Jesus was necessary to satisfy God’s wrath, and how much was just for the sport of it?

— Brian Zahnd, Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God, p. 101-102

Photo: Abbaye de Royaumont, France, November 7, 2005