Archive for February, 2020

Stop Trying to Change People

Saturday, February 29th, 2020

The upset we feel when others do not change in the way we want them to is what forgiveness resolves. Forgiveness helps us stop wasting our time trying to change people who do not want to change. Forgiveness allows us to regain control of our lives as we try less to control the lives of others. Forgiveness allows us to manage the effect of other people’s hurtful actions in our lives….

We can never forgive something as vague as a person’s traits, temperament, or personality. At best, we can forgive specific behavior that we hypothesize reveals the person’s character. This is an important distinction, and one that can save us a lot of pain. We can see behavior, but we can only guess at character. Criticizing someone’s character is not the best way to spend our limited resources of energy and time. To forgive, we need to focus on the behaviors, such as harsh speech and unkind action, that were at variance with what we wanted.

— Fred Luskin, Forgive for Good, p. 160-161

Photo: Centreville, Virginia, February 6, 2010

Kinship

Saturday, February 29th, 2020

No daylight to separate us.

Only kinship. Inching ourselves closer to creating a community of kinship such that God might recognize it. Soon we imagine, with God, this circle of compassion. Then we imagine no one standing outside of that circle, moving ourselves closer to the margins so that the margins themselves will be erased. We stand there with those whose dignity has been denied. We locate ourselves with the poor and the powerless and the voiceless. At the edges, we join the easily despised and the readily left out. We stand with the demonized so that the demonizing will stop. We situate ourselves right next to the disposable so that the day will come when we stop throwing people away. The prophet Habakkuk writes, “The vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment and it will not disappoint . . . and if it delays, wait for it.”

Kinship is what God presses us on to, always hopeful that its time has come.

— Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart, p. 190

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, February 22, 2015

Victory Redefined

Saturday, February 22nd, 2020

Revelation carefully redefines the word “conquer” to make clear that the Lamb and his followers conquer only by their testimony and faithfulness — not by making war or killing. War is something done against God’s people by evil beasts and by Rome, not something that God’s saints or the Lamb practice in this book. Two verses of Revelation do indeed refer to Jesus as “making war” — Revelation 2:16 and 19:11 — but the way he makes war is crucial. Jesus makes war not with a sword of battle but “by the sword of his mouth.” The word is Jesus’ only weapon — this is a reversal as unexpected as the substitution of a lamb for a lion. These reversals undercut violence by emphasizing Jesus’ testimony and the word of God….

Thus, the message of the book of Revelation becomes a reframing of the whole concept of victory, giving victory first to the Lamb and then to us. Nowhere in Revelation do God’s people “wage war.” What they do is “conquer” or “become victors” (the same word in Greek) — and they do that by the Lamb’s own blood and by their courageous testimony, not through Armageddon or war. In contrast to Rome’s theology that defined Victory as military conquest, Revelation develops a counter-theology of the nonviolent victory (nike) of Jesus, God’s slain Lamb, in which “evil is overcome by suffering love,” not by superior power.

— Barbara R. Rossing, The Rapture Exposed, p. 121-122

Photo: South Riding, Virginia 2/22/2015

Never Giving Up

Saturday, February 22nd, 2020

Is it not the same with our own children, each their own yet fully out of us? When I think of the bond earthly parents have with our children, I know it is utterly impossible that God would ever ask us to lose a part of ourselves forever, any more than He would ever intend to give up a part of Himself. His answer is not damnation, but regeneration of all His children into purified sparks!

Jesus always esteemed children because He came to show the heart of the Father toward His children. A true father’s love cannot be earned, and it cannot be done away with. Just as we would never give up on our children, God will never give up on His children; His love will not fail them.

— Julie Ferwerda, Raising Hell, p. 82

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, February 24, 2015

Free Will

Sunday, 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

Thursday, 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

Monday, 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

Monday, 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

Saturday, 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

Friday, 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. 79-80

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, March 6, 2015