God Isn’t Conflicted.

August 6th, 2018

God’s essential unity is destroyed when we assign to him conflicting actions, as though his love demanded one course of action, and his justice another, as though God the Saviour were one person, and God the Judge a wholly different one. Or, again, when we blindly teach that, if his judgments now mean salvation, they at the great day mean endless damnation. God, I repeat, in his “judgments,” in his “fires,” in “death,” in “election,” God in time and in eternity is one and the same God (Heb 13:8), and has, and must have to all eternity, but one unchanging purpose — is and must be for ever God our Saviour.

— Thomas Allin, Christ Triumphant, p. 231

[Photo: Schloss Dhaun, Germany, July 2002]

Singing in the Midst of Evil

August 5th, 2018

Singing in the midst of evil is what it means to be disciples. Like Mary Magdalene, the reason we can stand and weep and listen for Jesus is because we, like Mary, are bearers of resurrection, we are made new. On the third day, Jesus rose again, and we do not need to be afraid. To sing to God amidst sorrow is to defiantly proclaim, like Mary Magdalene did to the apostles, and like my friend Don did at Dylan Klebold’s funeral, that death is not the final word. To defiantly say, once again, that a light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot, will not, shall not overcome it. And so, evil be damned, because even as we go to the grave, still we make our song alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.

— Nadia Bolz-Weber, Pastrix, p. 201

[Photo: Great Falls, Virginia, June 14, 2013]

Value in Relationships

August 4th, 2018

You cannot criticize, stonewall, nag, manipulate, coerce, or threaten someone into genuinely valuing you. More important, you cannot feel valuable while exerting power over loved ones.

The secret of Power Love lies not in exerting power but in creating value, through interest, compassion, and care.

The self-empowerment that comes from creating value through interest, compassion, and care is its own reward, yet it comes with a significant bonus. The more value we create, the more cooperation and mutuality of giving we are likely to experience in love relationships.

You’ve probably heard the saying: “Living well is the best revenge.” Living well actually means creating more value in your life. Creating more value in your life in general and in your love relationship in particular is the surest way to become the partner you most want to be.

— Steven Stosny, Empowered Love, p. 176

[Photo: Oregon Coast, August 6, 2014]

God’s Joy

August 3rd, 2018

I was brought up and educated to give assent to certain propositions. God is love, for example. You concede “God loves us,” and yet there is this lurking sense that perhaps you aren’t fully part of the “us.” The arms of God reach to embrace, and somehow you feel yourself just outside God’s fingertips.

Then you have no choice but to consider that “God loves me,” yet you spend much of your life unable to shake off what feels like God only embracing you begrudgingly and reluctantly. I suppose, if you insist, God has to love me too. Then who can explain this next moment, when the utter fullness of God rushes in on you — when you completely know the One in whom “you move and live and have your being,” as St. Paul writes. You see, then, that it has been God’s joy to love you all along. And this is completely new.

— Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart, p. 25

[Photo: Meadowlark Gardens, Virginia, April 3, 2012]

The Long Haul

August 3rd, 2018

We meet God in narrative too.

The origin stories of Scripture remind us we belong to a very large and very old family that has been walking with God from the beginning. Even when we falter and fall, this God is in it for the long haul. We will not be abandoned.

— Rachel Held Evans, Inspired, p. 20-21

Photo: Leithöfe, Germany, June 14, 1997

Gratitude as Habit

July 31st, 2018

Gratitude is not only the emotional response to random experiences, but even in the darkest times of life, gratitude waits to be seen, recognized, and acted upon more thoughtfully and with a sense of purpose. Gratitude is a feeling, but it is also more than that. And it is much more than a spiritual technique to achieve peace of mind or prosperity. Gratitude is a habit of awareness that reshapes our self-understanding and the moral choices we make in the world. In short, gratitude is an ethic, a coherent set of principles and practices related to grace, gifts, and giving that can guide our lives.

— Diana Butler Bass, Gratitude, p. 60

[Photo: Silver Falls, Oregon, October 7, 2017]

Path to Healing

July 30th, 2018

As you come to see how no one can define your inner world and that verbal abuse is irrational and ridiculous, you are on the path to healing. The verbal abuser tells you what your motives, thoughts, and feelings are, as if he or she were you. How crazy is that! You are self-defining. You are not too sensitive, nor do you want to start a fight, nor are you any other negative comment you’ve been told about yourself. But even if you know that what an abuser says is nonsense, it is still a blow to your mind and consciousness.

— Patricia Evans, Victory Over Verbal Abuse, p. 6

[Photo: Cliffs of Moher, Ireland, July 2001]

Self-definition

July 27th, 2018

If you were defined in any way, you heard nonsense, irrational comments, and pretend talk.

No one can take away your freedom to define yourself. Self-definition is the gift of consciousness. The moment you think of the abusive comment, focus on this affirmation because you truly are self-defining and so you will not entertain the comment for a moment longer.

If you happen to be in the presence of someone who negatively defines you, it is okay to laugh at his or her irrational behavior.

— Patricia Evans, Victory Over Verbal Abuse, p. 98

Photo: Ross Castle, Ireland, July 2001

Good from Bad Things

July 26th, 2018

This is a critical distinction, and one of the most important things to understand about how adversity can make you stronger. The science of post-traumatic growth doesn’t say that there is anything inherently good about suffering. Nor does it say that every traumatic event leads to growth. When any good comes from suffering, the source of that growth resides in you — your strengths, your values, and how you choose to respond to adversity. It does not belong to the trauma.

— Kelly McGonigal, The Upside of Stress, p. 201

Photo: Staffa Island, Scotland, July 13, 2003

Sacrifice to End Sacrificing

July 25th, 2018

So was the death of Jesus a sacrifice? yes, the death of Jesus was indeed a sacrifice. But it was a sacrifice to end sacrificing, not a sacrifice to appease an angry and retributive god. Jesus sacrificed himself to the love of God manifest in forgiveness, not to the wrath of God for the satisfaction of vengeance. It was not God who required the violent death of Jesus but human civilization. A system built upon violent power cannot tolerate the presence of one who owes it nothing. Jesus was nailed to the ultimate symbol of violent power. But Jesus’s act of forgiveness transformed the cross into a new symbol — the symbol of Christian faith, hope, and love. The sacrifice of Jesus was necessary to convince us to quit producing sacrificial victims, but it was not necessary to convince God to forgive. To forgive sinners is the nature of God. When Jesus prayed on the cross for the forgiveness of his executioners, he was not acting contrary to the nature of God; he was revealing the nature of God as forgiving love. The cross is not what God does; the cross is who God is!

— Brian Zahnd, Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God, p. 86-87

[Photo: Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness, Scotland, July 11, 2003]