Gifts of Failure

November 28th, 2018

No, life is not about winning. It is about trying, about participating, about striving, about becoming the best we can be, not the best by someone else’s measure. That’s what failure does for us. It teaches us about ourselves: our energy level, our endurance level, what we’re naturally good at and what we’re not, what we like and what we don’t, what it means to do something just for the fun of it. Failure doesn’t mean that we cannot compete; it doesn’t mean not to give everything we have to doing what we do. It does mean that just because we play we don’t have to win. The playing is the thing.

Most of all, it gives us the permission to go through life without public certification. Failure enables us to take risks as we grow until we find where we really fit, where we can not only succeed, but also enjoy the challenges of life as well.

No, winning is not everything. But we will never really know that until we lose a few and discover that the world does not end when we lose. Now it is just a matter of trying again somewhere else, perhaps. Now we’re free to be unnoticed. We’re free to do what we like best, what is needed most, what will bring us to the most we can be: the most happy, the most competent, the most satisfied with who we are and what we do. That means, of course, that we have to make choices about what we want to do and why we want to do it.

— Joan Chittister, Between the Dark and the Daylight, p. 57-58

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, October 29, 2018

A Choice

November 28th, 2018

Reconciliation means you reestablish a relationship with the person who hurt you. Forgiveness means you make peace with a bitter part of your past and no longer blame your experiences on the offender. You can forgive and decide there is no reason to have any further relationship with the person who hurt you. In fact, every time we forgive someone who is dead you do this. Every time we forgive someone we only knew for a short painful moment (like the victim of a hit-and-run car accident), we do this. With forgiveness we have a choice. We can forgive and give the offender another chance, or we can forgive and move on to new relationships. The choice is ours.

— Fred Luskin, Forgive for Good, p. 75

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, January 26, 2016

Changing Course

November 26th, 2018

There is no force in the world better able to alter anything from its course than love. Ruskin’s comment that you can get someone to remove his coat more surely with a warm, gentle sun than with a cold, blistering wind is particularly apt. Meeting the world with a loving heart will determine what we find there. We mistakenly place our trust, too often, in the righteousness of our wind, though we rarely get evidence that this ever transforms anything.

— Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart, p. 124

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, September 21, 2014

Restoration Mightier Than the Fall

November 25th, 2018

I plead for the acceptance of the larger hope, as taught by so many in primitive days (a fact fully proved); a hope, that it has ever been the purpose of “our Father” to save all his human children. To believe or to hope for less than this would be, not alone to contradict Scripture, as I have tried to show, but to mistake its whole scope and purpose. For the Bible is the story of a restoration, wide; deep; mightier than the fall, and therefore bringing to every child of Adam salvation. It is not, as the popular creed teaches, the self-contradictory story of one almighty to save, and yet not, in fact, saving those for whom he died. It is the story of infinite love seeking “till it find”; a love that never fails, never, though heaven and earth pass away: a love that is, from its very nature, inextinguishable — being the love of a divine Father. It is the story of the unchanging purpose of the unchanging Lord God Omnipotent.

— Thomas Allin, Christ Triumphant, p. 334

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, September 21, 2014

The Path of Wisdom

November 24th, 2018

The aim of wisdom literature is to uncover something true about the nature of reality in a way that makes the reader or listener wiser. In the Bible, wisdom is rarely presented as a single decision, belief, or rule, but rather as a “way” or “path” that the sojourner must continually discern amid the twists and turns of life.

I had a college professor who assigned the book of Proverbs to his Psychology 101 class, instructing us to circle in our Bibles every appearance of the word way or path. The point, he said, is that wisdom isn’t about sticking to a set of rules or hitting some imaginary bull’s-eye representing “God’s will.” Wisdom is a way of life, a journey of humility and faithfulness we take together, one step at a time.

— Rachel Held Evans, Inspired, p. 96-97

Photo: Burg Lahneck, Germany, August 22, 2004

Liking Yourself More

November 23rd, 2018

As we have explained, you can feel connected whenever you want, simply by choosing to feel connected. You can even do it in your head, if your partner is unavailable. You can do it when you’re irritated with your partner just as easily as when you’re enraptured with him or her — if you truly want to. And why would you want to if he’s acting like a jerk or she’s being a nag? Well, for one thing, he’s less likely to act like a jerk if he feels connected to you, and she’s less likely to nag if she knows that you care about her feelings. But the more important reason is that you like yourself more when you feel connected to people you love than when you don’t. You like yourself more when you are nice to your partner than when you’re not. You like yourself more when you are true to the most important things about you than when you are not.

One of the most destructive phrases to emerge from modern therapy and self-help books is “getting your needs met” or its variation “What about me?” These little words, and the self-centered attitudes they represent, have done more to promote entitlement and resentment and less to nurture love, compassion, and connection than just about anything that has passed for relationship advice. They fly in the face of a known law of human interaction: You must give what you expect to get. If you want compassion, you have to be compassionate; if you want love, you have to be loving; if you want cooperation, you have to be cooperative; if you want appreciation, you have to be appreciative day by day.

— Patricia Love and Steven Stosny, How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It, p. 210-211

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, December 26, 2014

Siding With God

November 22nd, 2018

Joy instinctively sides with God in everything, against human circumstances, against transient feelings, against common sense. Common sense does not yield joy; joy is supernatural sense. To attain the supernatural I must adopt God’s point of view. Therefore I resolve to let God be right about everything. Instead of being sorry for myself, I let God be right for allowing my sickness or my difficulties to continue. Instead of worrying, I let God be right for not immediately intervening.

Joy comes from thinking God’s thoughts, doing His will, looking at everything through His eyes by the power of the indwelling Spirit. To embrace entirely God’s point of view, however briefly, is to be joyful. This is true even when God’s point of view involves sorrow over suffering. Joy is not proud, detached, or affected. It mixes well with suffering; it comprehends and effectively ministers to loss. Even in the midst of compassion for affliction, everyone who sides with God remains joyful.

— Mike Mason, Champagne for the Soul, p. 109-110

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, November 22, 2018

Better Lives

November 22nd, 2018

Practicing gratitude calls us to better lives, and a better world.

And begin before you are ready. Even when a million reasons to not feel grateful stand in your way. That is when gratitude is at its best. It took me one hundred days to understand this. My husband observed, “You know, gratitude saved your life in the midst of all the chaos.” He was right. Gratitude became both my refuge and my rallying cry. It made a huge difference. Trust me.

— Diana Butler Bass, Gratitude, p. 193

Photo: Assateague Island, October 24, 2016

Empowered by Gratitude

November 21st, 2018

Gratitude empowers us. It makes joy and love possible. It rearranges the way we see and experience what is all around us. Gratitude makes all things new. It transforms how we understand what is broken and gives us the ability to act more joyfully and with hope. That is why gratitude is central to all the world’s religions. As a practice, it embodies the wisdom of humanity’s greatest spiritual teachers: the love of neighbor. Gratitude takes us from abstract belief to living compassion in the world. Gratitude is strongest, clearest, most robust, and radical when things are really hard. Really hard. All-is-lost hard.

— Diana Butler Bass, Gratitude, p. 186-187

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, January 29, 2016

No Payment in Forgiveness

November 19th, 2018

God is not beholden to retributive justice. We are the ones who demand sacrificial victims, not God. We are the ones who insist upon a brutal logic that says God can’t just forgive. We are the ones who mindlessly say, “God can’t forgive; he has to satisfy justice.” But this is ridiculous. It’s a projection of our own pettiness upon the grandeur of God. Of course God can forgive! That’s what forgiveness is! Forgiveness is not receiving payment for a debt; forgiveness is the gracious cancellation of a debt. There is no payment in forgiveness. Forgiveness is grace. God’s justice is not reprisal. The justice of God is not an abstract concept where somehow sin can only be forgiven if an innocent victim suffers a severe enough penalty. In the final analysis punitive justice is not justice at all; it’s merely retribution. The only justice God will accept as justice is actually setting the world right! Justice is not the punishment of a surrogate whipping boy. That’s injustice!

In the parable of the prodigal son, the father doesn’t rush to the servants’ quarters to beat a whipping boy and vent his anger before he can forgive his son. Yet Calvin’s theory of the cross would require this ugly insertion into Jesus’s most beautiful parable. No, in the story of the prodigal son, the father bears the loss and forgives his son from his treasury of inexhaustible love. He just forgives. There is no payment. Justice as punishment is what the older brother called justice. The only wrath we find in the parable belongs to the Pharisee-like older brother, not the God-like father. Justice as the restoration of relationship is what the father called justice.

— Brian Zahnd, Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God, p. 102-103

Photo: SchloƟ Heidelberg, Germany, December 1996