Going Through Hell for Healing

We have a term for this process. When people pursue a destructive course of action and they can’t be convinced to change course, we say they’re “hell-bent” on it. Fixed, obsessed, unshakable in their pursuit, unwavering in their commitment to a destructive direction. The stunning twist in all of this is that when God lets the Israelites go the way they’re insisting on heading and when Paul “turns people over,” it’s all for good. The point of this turning loose, this letting go, this punishment, is to allow them to live with the full consequences of their choices, confident that the misery they find themselves in will have a way of getting their attention.

As God says time and time again in the Prophets, “I’ve tried everything else, and they won’t listen.” The result, Paul is convinced, is that wrongdoers will become right doers.

— Rob Bell, Love Wins, p. 90-91

Books Change Lives.

Books change our lives. I believe that with my whole heart. I like to ask people what was the greatest period of transformation in their life. They tell me it was five years ago or seven years ago, they tell me it was when they got cancer or lost their job, they tell me it was in the town they grew up in or in a city where they didn’t know anyone. “What were you reading at that time of great transformation?” I like to ask them next. Nine out of ten times, their eyes will light up, and they’ll say, “I was reading ———– and that book changed my life.”

— Matthew Kelly, The Rhythm of Life, p. 62

Releasing Other People

When we release people to God’s will for them and stop forcing agendas of our own, people feel it. They are often surprised. Our coercion had often been subtle but palpable. Now we truly are giving more than lip service to the notion of free will. “You are free to behave exactly as you choose” — our new attitude permeates the air. Where before we sought to wrest happiness and satisfaction from people by their doing as we saw fit, now we are coming to them open and vulnerable. We are dependent on God for our happiness and satisfaction. People can do as they please.

Freed from our agendas for them, people often surprise us by behaving with great generosity. No longer resentful of the subtle and not so subtle forms of coercion that we indulged in, people approach us with a new candor. We are able to meet them with a new openness as well. God is doing for us what we were unable to do for ourselves. God is forging relationships that are based on equality and respect, on dignity and autonomy. In our hearts, these are the bonds that we always hungered for but that always seemed to elude us. As we move toward God in good faith, good faith extends into the realm of our relationships. We begin to experience the heady excitement of seeing people as they truly are and not as we “need” them to be to fulfill our agendas. No longer merely ingredients in our self-willed recipe for happiness, people are exuberantly, magnificently, themselves. Seeing them in all their glory, freed from the cloak of our projections, we experience other people as far more genuinely lovable. They experience us that way as well.

— Julia Cameron, Faith and Will, p. 132

Truth in Fiction

Good fiction is about what is true. It takes the true stuff of life and helps us look at it. If the story compels a good reading, it probably raises questions. It brings life to life, as it were; it helps us see what is true and what is good and what is not so good. Everything we do has meaning; fiction helps us find meaning. Because fiction is about human beings and their lives, it cannot help having an ethical dimension.

— Gladys Hunt, Honey for a Woman’s Heart, p. 44

Not About Beliefs

But in reading all of the passages in which Jesus uses the word “hell,” what is so striking is that people believing the right or wrong things isn’t his point. He’s often not talking about “beliefs” as we think of them — he’s talking about anger and lust and indifference. He’s talking about the state of his listeners’ hearts, about how they conduct themselves, how they interact with their neighbors, about the kind of effect they have on the world.

Jesus did not use hell to try and compel “heathens” and “pagans” to believe in God, so they wouldn’t burn when they die. He talked about hell to very religious people to warn them about the consequences of straying from their God-given calling and identity to show the world God’s love.

This is not to say that hell is not a pointed, urgent warning or that it isn’t intimately connected with what we actually do believe, but simply to point out that Jesus talked about hell to the people who considered themselves “in,” warning them that their hard hearts were putting their “in-ness” at risk, reminding them that whatever “chosen-ness” or “election” meant, whatever special standing they believed they had with God was always, only, ever about their being the kind of transformed, generous, loving people through whom God could show the world what God’s love looks like in flesh and blood.

— Rob Bell, Love Wins, p. 82-83

No Better Travel Plan

Why do we read novels? What draws us to browse bookstores, to bring home a book, to open its cover and start in on a several-hundred-page trip? Humans read literature in order to live more, to live differently, to have a precious vicarious experience that is available in no other way. In the stories to come you may encounter a form of drastic dislocation, an opening of self like none other. Reading literature puts you there. No other travel plan comes even close.

— Arnold Weinstein, Morning, Noon, and Night, p. 9

Fighting Scarcity with Gratitude

These are anxious and fearful times, both of which breed scarcity. We’re afraid to lose what we love the most, and we hate that there are no guarantees. We think not being grateful and not feeling joy will make it hurt less. We think if we can beat vulnerability to the punch by imaging loss, we’ll suffer less. We’re wrong. There is one guarantee: If we’re not practicing gratitude and allowing ourselves to know joy, we are missing out on the two things that will actually sustain us during the inevitable hard times.

— Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection, p. 82

Why Jesus Came

The Lord cared for no speculation in morals or religion. It was good people he cared about, not notions of good things, or even good actions except as the outcome of life, except as the bodies in which the primary live actions of love and will in the soul took shape and came forth.

Could he by one word have set to rest all the questionings of all the world’s philosophies as to the supreme good and the absolute truth, I venture to say that he would not have uttered that word. He would make no attempt to convince men mentally concerning the truth.

But he would die to make men good and true.

— George MacDonald, Knowing the Heart of God, p. 225