Sunday, December 27, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Monday, December 7, 2009
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Friday, November 27, 2009
But on the street corners, along with the sound of saxophone and drum beats you’ll hear “Please, ma’am. Can you buy me a sandwich?” “Can you spare a dollar?” “Spare change, sir?” Cardboard signs read, “Lost my job. Lost my home. Lost my hope.” “Help the homeless this Christmas.” It wrenches at my heart. “Things I Hate About the City.” #1. Wishing I could help and not being able. Yes, I can give my tithe or my donation to the Salvation Army, and I do. But when you hear intermingling shouts of “look at that cute coat!” and “spare a dollar, sir?” it’s overwhelming.
I used to go downtown every week during the summer and hang out for a few hours in Millennium Park with a frappuccino and a copy of Chesterton or McCullough. As I walked from Van Buren to the Starbucks on Michigan, I passed so many people who asked this randomly tender-hearted then-19-year-old for a few dollars. I never carried cash in the city (and it’s probably unwise to hand out money anyway), but I always wished desperately that I were a man so I could take them to lunch and hear their stories. There was actually one time I when I delightedly gave away a leftover ¾ of a pizza to a homeless man as I ran to catch my train, but the pleasure I had in sharing that was quickly crushed at the sight of two more homeless people on the next corner. What could I give them?
Thursday, November 26, 2009
I won't stay if you don't play your part.
It's more than just me, it's more than you.
Falling in love needs two.
I'm gone--until you realize
I'm gone--if you can see it
I'm gone--but don't you fear.
I've left you in stronger hands.
If you look, you'll see me waiting
Hoping you'll take a second glance.
Because that light in your eyes?
I can see it from a mile off.
We talk lightly of love.
Some even call it a game.
I hope you win every time
But what if that means I lose?
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Okay, here's the confession part: I was tempted to skip over it. YES. Really. I very nearly skipped the whole chapter. I thought, "I've ready this SO many times, I memorized it when I was probably eight years old, and it's so generic and clichéd that I'm positive I won't get anything out of it." (Wow. I'm arrogant. What a bitch! *pardon my language*)
Fortunately, I stopped myself before that went any further. Love is one of the defining qualities of Christianity. If this passage is too overly read to make any difference for anyone, what can the rest of scripture possibly offer me?
If I compete in Ethics Bowl and have all the right answers but have no Love, I am like a noisy alarm clock.
If the girls on my wing come to me for advice and I provide great insight but do so with pride and with no Love in my heart, I am nothing.
If I'm diligent and disciplined and all my professors adore me,
if I admit when I'm wrong and accept the consequence,
if I do all these things, but have no compassion or understanding, merely doing the deeds without doing them for other people or even for God, I have no Love in my heart and it counts for NOTHING.
With Love, God makes me patient, giving others the benefit of the doubt, sacrificing my own interests, respecting the needs of others first. The Love God gives me does not celebrate my deceitful victories but even when it is bad for me, embraces what is right in His sight. This God-gift of Love can endure all hardships, trusts in God's people, longs for the revelation of truth in and through God's people, and will suffer anything the world throws its way.
Love continues and persists and endures. It lives past rough times. All these things you do in Jesus' name will become history and meet their end. After all, it is only human effort (though God works in it.) But when God's perfection works through us to show and give and do this LOVE that He calls us to, it will last forever in His books of Life.
We were like infants, babbling nonsense that means nothing; but God makes us real men and women and transforms our babble into words, and words of Love. Our understanding of God is so imperfect...but He will fix that through His Love, and we will know Him so well that we can't even dream of it now.
See? These all are good - Faith, Hope, Love. But one will out-do the others in glorifying the Father. Maybe you wouldn't guess - it's Love.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
What I Hate About Ethics Bowl
By: an Enthusiast
It’s that time of year again. There’s a chill outside, trees are turning orange, the smell of wood smoke permeates the air at night, and an invigorating sense of excitement accompanies these two words: “Ethics Bowl.”
So call me a geek for loving this, but Ethics Bowl is one of the best parts of the fall semester. Devoted preparation, eager debate participants, and that feeling of pride and utter superiority that no one quite vocalizes but everybody feels: “I am an ethical human being.”
Just kidding—I hope we’re not that vain. In fact, the one thing I hate about ethics bowl is that I’m afraid it gives us a less-than-complete perspective of what it means to be “ethical.” The content of our cases might indicate that “ethics” only involves end-of-life issues, discrimination, human rights, etc. Please—don’t be so fooled.
How do you talk about people when they’re not around? Does pride or your concern for what others think of you alter your behavior? How does respect (or lack thereof) for others affect your speech and actions? You may never make the decisions about whether to kick homeless Kenyans out of the national parks, but you will without a doubt face the day-to-day ethical responsibilities we have as Christians.
I want to challenge you, fellow ethics bowlers. I want to challenge you as those who will one day be held to a higher standard: the issues of an ethics competition are nothing compared to the issues of an ethical life. Ethics are not simple standards, they are how we must live. To quote Dallas Willard, we are faced with “the desperate human problem of knowing how to live, and…the law revealed by Jehovah, Israel’s covenant-making God, [is] the only real solution to this problem.” Love one another. The first shall indeed be last. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
And I wholeheartedly believe that by engaging in this competition, you set yourselves up to potentially become Pharisees of the worst kind. “Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19) Ethics bowl is not for the faint of heart; the ethical life to which Christ calls us is even less so.
This year, my prayer for you all, my teammates, is that the ethics you debate so well and so eloquently will pale in comparison to the ethical life you live.
“To what end, O Lord? To what purpose? For what reason? None, but Your Glory.”
Monday, September 21, 2009
Troubled soul, thou art not bound to feel, but thou art bound to arise. God loves thee whether thou feelest or not. Thou canst not love when thou wilt, but though art bound to fight the hatred in thee to the last...Will thou his will...Heed not thy feelings: do thy work. As God lives by his own will, and we live in him, so has he given to us power to will in ourselves. How much better should we fare if, finding that we are standing with our heads bowed away from the good, finding that we have too feeble inclination to seek the source of our life, we should yet will upwards toward God, rousing that essence of life in us, which he has given us from his own heart, to call again upon him who is our Life, who can fill the emptiest heart, rouse the deadest conscience, quicken the dullest feeling, and strengthen the feeblest will! (The Eloi)
Sunday, September 20, 2009
You know what kills me? what really eats up my heart? what gnaws at my compassion and tortures my soul?
That in the United States, women destroy their unseen babies to maintain a false image of independence that people like to call “sexual freedom.” That in India, women are fighting to get union protection for those in prostitution so they will have benefits and recognition as a legitimate profession.
That right-wing Christians feel the need to condemn Obama’s “socialism” and in the same sentence predict a “great American awakening.” That whenever conservatives oppose the current administration, liberals throw down the racism card. That people think a government-run universal healthcare system or welfare system or anything-system will solve the problem of American rejection of personal responsibility and the need for true community in our world.
That Christ came and answered all these problems two thousand years ago but people just don’t see it.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Monday, September 7, 2009
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Friday, September 4, 2009
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
It's taken me this long, right? But really, this might seem easy, seeing as I live at a university--a place created for studying. Yeah, right. There is NO place on this small campus where I can study without distraction. Let me explain my options:
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Whirlwind summer: wonderful, excellent, encouraging, invigorating. A change of major (media communications to philosophy) is also bright and sunny in my life right now. Everything is peachy - mostly.
I'm excited about classes (Metaphysics and Principles of Ethics, mostly). I'm excited to see the girls on the wing - my second family. I'm excited for my final year at TU and the good times that will come with it. But certain prospects are intimidating. I'm nervous about seeing some people again after awkward interactions not-so-long ago. I'm anxious about the work load that awaits me with the stimulating and challenging classes I'm taking.
Now's the time to put all the things I learned over the summer into action: trust in a faithful Father, commitment to the wellbeing of the brothers and sisters around me, and willingness to put my very raw and sinful self into their hands and prayers.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Back in April/May some friends were pretty aware of my *ahem* then-traumatic experience with figuring out summer plans. I remember telling some close friends that I had run out of options and if anything good came from this summer, it was all God's doing and none of mine. Well, seeing how everything has turned out, it would be shallow of me to not tell what came about. And so I shall.
After my Spring Break trip to Nicaragua, I got it into my head that I wanted to do some kind of ministry over the summer rather than just make money or just add to my resume. As it was going, I was getting more stoked about working with a camp for the summer. I checked out a couple jobs that didn't work out for one reason or another. Mostly the issue was either dates or money. As the all-knowing almost-20-year old, I knew full well that I need something that pays. I wanted to serve, but it had to be convenient. Then it looked like everything would work out with the camp in CO. Well, you know the end of that story. I talked with my parents about it and my dad (being the prudent man he is) kept telling me to apply to some local places just so I'd have something nailed down. You know, a backup. Security blanket.
But something--whether it was God or my own discontent--was telling me that there are better options than spending the summer around a bunch of angsty, gossipy, melancholy kids (as at my old lifeguarding job) where I only feel overwhelmed and burdened and the only motivation is the money. But what else do I have? The only option that seemed open was somethign Sarah Edmondson recommended back in March. It was a camp in Tennessee that wouldn't even pay me. When she had told me about it, I (arrogantly) brushed the idea aside, quite certain that I could find something that fit my own plans and needs more fully. But for all my rationalizing, God seemed to say, "Okay, if you think you know what you want from this summer, you have to trust that I'll provide." So I called up the camp director. Not only did we have a great interview, but we got to talking about politics...yeah, he majored in government and economics. It was a match made in heaven. He pretty much offered me the job on the spot. (And it did indeed turn out beautifully.)
And so I made plans to go to Sevierville, Tennessee for the month of July to work at Camp Arrowwood. It's a small program with about 30 total staff members, 12 of whom are high schoolers who would be under my authority. (How that all turned out is a story in itself.) Unknown, unusual, unfamiliar...and I knew completely that something really good would come from it.
Oh, and the money bit. Well, had I taken the job in CO, I probably would have come out with about a third of what I usually make over a summer, but I thought back in April, "I'll take the hit. It's ministry after all." Mmhmm. That was before I took the unpaid job. So even up to the very last day at TU, I didn't know where the cash would come from. But as I was driving home with my mom after commencement, she very randomly suggested that I contact Uncle Ray and Aunt Dorothy, my grandparents' age-old friends who live on a farm in Louisiana. Apparently they hire a couple college kids to work every summer. Actually, Mom was totally joking when she suggested it and didn't even think I'd be interested. Somehow though, when I called about it Ray and Dorothy were absolutely stoked to have me. Heck, they hardly had enough work to keep me busy (they usually hire boys because it's mostly manual labor), but they were willing to find tasks in order to make it worth my while. Honestly, I don't know more generous and godly people. So I got to move to Wisner, LA for a couple weeks in June. (That's the way to experience the South--become part of the community. It's a beautiful and unique thing, let me tell you.) And for all the worry I went through back in the Spring, because of Ray and Dorothy's generosity, in only a couple weeks I made just as much money as I might have if Colorado had worked out.
So I learned and experienced so much more than I ever planned. I lived in Louisiana and Tennessee, visited five new states, met a slew of great and godly people, and came to a new knowledge of trust in God's provision. The question floated in my head, "What if...what if I have to be willing to take big risks and embrace my finiteness and have no expectations or requirements of the people in my life? And what if I throw away my security-blanket conceptions and plans to live out my calling in a real way, trusting that my ultimate satisfaction as a human being and a Christian is not realized in mere personal comfort??" (This was so compelling that I'm actually changing my major to philosophy. That's another story once again.)
I can't believe the last seven months have gone by so quickly. Two weeks in Louisiana and five weeks in Tennessee were absolutely amazing. I've experienced so much, met so many wonderful people, and I've seen God in so much of it. A quick summary of the highlights:
There's no way to experience someplace new than by just throwing yourself into their culture and community. Wisner, LA was the perfect place to do that, too. I learned about farm life. No, really. Irrigating, checking cotton plants for bugs, bringing lunch and dinner to the guys in the field, praying for rain...it's simple, but satisfying. The community in Wisner reminded me of a big family. When there are fewer than 2000 people in your town and most of them also go to your church, you don't really get to choose your friends; they're kind of forced upon you. And you do everything with them and get over your differences and grow closer in your struggles. There's always someone to help when you're in trouble, always someone willing to lend a hand or share a meal or run an errand for you. Very different from the suburbs, unfortunately.
Aaaahh. Mountains. Oh, God, but mountains make the Creator so much more real in day-to-day life. And by mountains, I don't just mean rock and cloud and tree and stream. Mountains have become a metaphor to me--they mean the great men and women with whom God joins us together in order to teach us more about Himself. Jonathan, Claire, David, Will, Seth...those are the mountains of Tennessee that I miss the most. I stand on their shoulders, I share in their joys and struggles, I join them in prayer. And like when you summit a peak, you see everything so differently, so clearly.
Camp was so much greater than I could have anticipated. (Actually, I rather thought it would turn out that way. Everyone asked me the first week or so if the ranch and life at camp was what I was expecting...but I never had specific expectations because I knew God would give me something that was simply good.) The people I met and grew close to were beyond anything I could have hoped for.
So that's the long and short of it (more long than short.) But I knew that God would work something out--and the only thing I can do is share what He's given me because I know in perfect certainty that it was none of my doing.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
So over the last five hours, I've actually grown rather attached to the two chicks. At first we had them in a cardboard box on the back deck. Mom found the first worms and fed them to the scrawny little things, but then Mom had to leave. That's when I learned lesson #1 from the birds: there's nothing like having someone depend on you to motivate you past your fears.
Now, you have to understand something--I'm not afraid of much of anything. I throw caution to the wind (far too frequently). I pick up bugs, I squash spiders, I eat almost anything generally considered edible (no, not cockroaches, thanks) and not too much freaks me out. Snakes, mice, frogs, etc. are not much to call home about. Actually, I'm pretty fond of the little critters. But WORMS. No. I don't do little squishable things that squirm. Crawl, slither, squeak, and hop don't bother me. Squirm does. I can deal with worms on a hook, but I'd rather not. Nothing grosses me out like worms and larvae. Eww. Ew! Ew! Ew! No. Yuck.
But do you know what I did when my little chicks (later named Willy and Nilly) stretched their tiny, delicate necks and opened their oversized beaks as soon as they saw me?? I dug into the garden and collected a handful of red, squirming, repulsive earthworms. Then I handfed my babies. Because they needed me.
As the adoptive mommy, I started to analyze my new role in their lives. (Okay, we all know I think too much. Don't do the eyes-closed, slap-the-palm-on-the-forehead thing to me. Just get over it.) If I'm the new mommy, do they miss their old mommy? Do they feel abandoned? Betrayed? And what about the grown-up robin who suddenly finds a lot of free time on her...talons(?)? Does she feel guilt? I came to the conclusion--oh, come on! As if I actually had to think this through. Hell no! Birds don't feel. That's a human thing. With our rationality, we are also cursed with the consequences of our mistakes and cowardice. (I know these things. I'm a too-often mistake-making coward myself.) Your mistakes make me feel betrayed. Those feelings of betrayal and abandonment make me not trust you. And maybe you feel guilty because of your actions. Those are all uniquely human feelings. Obviously birds feel some things...hunger, the need to reproduce, sleepiness, etc. But there's not much beyond that for the animal kingdom. Pain is reserved for the humans.
Then as I was watching my birds flop around and climb all over each other in their sleep and every so often let out a "Squeak! Chirp!" and desperately strain their necks to reach out for a bit of worm or fruit from me, I had a new appreciation for the biblical imagery about birds in the Psalms and elsewhere. For example, Psalm 57 says, "in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge..." Caroline was teasing me that I should consider sitting on the chicks while they sleep. I said that I'd thought of that already...yeah, not really. But I did try putting my fist gently on top of them, to see if they reacted to the pressure and warmth of my hand. I guess there's nothing as comforting as the warmth and weight of someone bigger and stronger and softer who cares enough to embrace you. (Mmm. Embrace. One of my favorite words.)
I also considered one of my favorite verses of all time. In Matthew 23, just after the Triumphal Entry, Jesus looked over the city of Jerusalem. He cried, he wept. He looked at that old city of His fathers, the place of promise where every Jew under heaven held his hopes. He said, "Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem. You who stoned the prophets and kill the ones I sent to you. How I've longed to gather you as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings! But you were not willing." This verse has always meant a lot to me. The tenderness and true love for Israel is so moving. This is unrequited love. We're not talking about soft, fluffy, yellow farm chicks here. They're scrawny and don't quite have enough feathers to cover their head, much less fly off on their own. The people of Israel, like Willy and Nilly, are demanding and restless yet more dependent and vulnerable than they realize. They know of their hunger and their discomfort, but they know nothing of gratitude and indebtedness and surrender. They don't even deserve His love and they hardly even acknowledge it. Hm.
Newest favorite songs of the summer: "Such Great Heights" - Iron and Wine; "Fair" - Remy Zero; "On Your Front Porch" - The Format; "Blackout" - Muse; "My Love Goes Free" - Jon Foreman
Sunday, June 7, 2009
For one thing, I left my teenage years behind. ('Bout time, actually. I haven't felt 19 for quite some time now.) Festivities included an elegant night downtown at Roy's Hawaiian Fusion on State Street. Hot dresses go well with Ahi Tuna Sashimi and Filet Mignon. Then good times with Steve on the old catamaran. Not much wind, but it was good enough to be out on the water in the sunshine for a couple hours. Great birthday, for sure. (Oh yeah, then I lost my wallet and keys. But we won't think about that part.)
Also, summer plans are finally settled in their entirety. They will go as follows:
Train ride on Monday to Wisner, Louisiana for two weeks to work on Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Ray's farm. Bring on the hard labor and sweet tea, baby. I am leaving the computer behind, so blogging (if it happens) will be sporadic. That also means that e-mail and facebook are out so snail mail and cell phone are the way to go.
June 30 take the Greyhound from LA to Sevierville, Tennessee to work at Camp Arrowwood for five weeks as CIT Director and adventure ropes course instructor. I'll be chilling with Sarah Edmondson's old friends from last year. Good times all around.
Greyhound back to Chicago for a couple weeks (maybe hit up some Lollapalooza if I'm lucky? Yeah, right. "Lucky" would have to mean finding $200 on the side of the road. Ah, well. Someday I'll go.) Hopefully more sailing while I'm home... then off to a week in Mich with the fam--swim, sail, Cherry Republic. "Life, Liberty, Beaches, and Pie."
Mmm. And Lara got me a sweet and absurdly bright yellow bag for my b-day that fits ALL the books I need for the summer!! (Seven plus a notebook, to be precise.) It's perfect for traveling.
Oh, and I'm going to write a book. Two, actually. A novel and a Dallas Willard-style philosophy/theology stint. Based on previous experiences, I'm anticipating that it will take some 10 years to get much of anywhere on it. Maybe by then I'll actually be a good writer... A kid can dream, right??
Saturday, May 30, 2009
By JOHN HASNAS
While announcing Sonia Sotomayor as his nominee to the Supreme Court, President Barack Obama praised her as a judge who combined a mastery of the law with "a common touch, a sense of compassion, and an understanding of how the world works and how ordinary people live." This is in keeping with his earlier statement that he wanted to appoint a justice who possessed the "quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people's hopes and struggles." Without casting aspersions on Judge Sotomayor, we may ask whether these are really the characteristics we want in a judge.
Clearly, a good judge must have "an understanding of how the world works and how ordinary people live." Judicial decision-making involves the application of abstract rules to concrete facts; it is impossible to render a proper judicial decision without understanding its practical effect on both the litigants and the wider community.
But what about compassion and empathy? Compassion is defined as a feeling of deep sympathy for those stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering; empathy is the ability to share in another's emotions, thoughts and feelings. Hence, a compassionate judge would tend to base his or her decisions on sympathy for the unfortunate; an empathetic judge on how the people directly affected by the decision would think and feel. What could be wrong with that? Frederic Bastiat answered that question in his famous 1850 essay, "What is Seen and What is Not Seen."
There the economist and member of the French parliament pointed out that law "produces not only one effect, but a series of effects. Of these effects, the first alone is immediate; it appears simultaneousl with its cause; it is seen. The other effects emerge only subsequently; they are not seen; we are fortunate if we foresee them." Bastiat further noted that "[t]here is only one difference between a bad economist and a good one: The bad economist confines himself to the visible effect; the good economist takes into account both the effect that can be seen and those effects that must be foreseen." This observation is just as true for judges as it is for economists. As important as compassion and empathy are, one can have these feelings only for people that exist and that one knows about -- that is, for those who are "seen."
Friday, May 29, 2009
There is a time and place for government intervention in the actions of the people. But I'm more convinced than ever that the true role of government in economics is much smaller (and the importance of private business is much greater) than anyone in DC would have us believe based on their policies.
An excerpt from The Economist
The American economy is dynamic because Americans like it that way, even now. A Pew poll released on May 21st found that 76% of Americans agree that the country’s strength is “mostly based on the success of American business” and 90% admire people who “get rich by working hard”...
Yet Mr Obama—and, even more, his Democratic allies in Congress—could do lasting damage to this marvellous machine. That is not because the president is a socialist, as his detractors on talk radio claim. No true leftist would be as allergic as he has been to nationalising tottering banks, nor as coldly calculating in letting Chrysler, and probably General Motors, end up in bankruptcy court.
Moreover, even the most stalwart defenders of the free market, including this newspaper, admit it has shortcomings that only the government can address. The financial system requires close oversight, or crises will destabilise it. In recent years, such oversight has often been absent or fragmented...And the current crisis calls for aggressive and temporary fiscal and monetary intervention that is not justified in ordinary times.
But the Democrats’ present zeal for government activism often goes well beyond addressing market failures. The president and Congress seem to believe that they can surgically intervene in the economy but overlook the unintended consequences.
Fiscal and monetary policy are more powerful than an atomic bomb. Milton Friedman said that they should only be used to balance the natural growth of the economy, that there is no place for monetary activism in a stable economy. I wouldn't even go so far as to say that this is a "crisis" in the way that most Americans imagine it. Economists are the last ones to freak out in a recession because they have a long-term, "big picture," wholistic perspective of what's going on. (That's just one of the reasons economics is such an attractive subject to me. Everyone's just chill and levelheaded. It's beautifully unemotional.)
We talk about "what should be done" but fail to consider that things often sort themselves out with less intervention than we suppose when we're in the middle of it. Economics always seek equilibrium and rarely need government assistance to do so. Whether we're implementing a National Sales Tax or creating a Systemic Risk Council, if we think in terms of "There's no room for more delays!" as José Manuel Barroso said, we will run into more trouble than we can see from our shortsighted perspective.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
I've been all into Fear and Trembling these days and it's surprisingly consistent with my own experience. One thing that's particularly striking is how Kierkegaard writes that faith is not something we can easily communicate. We cannot express it in mere words. I've definitely faced this in the last few months. Words fail. Expression is impossible. Any noise I might let loose falls short of conveying the truth and conviction of what I know in my head and my heart. I've been driven into spells of silence. Not going mute, but succumbing to the feeling? passion? thoughts? (even now words are insufficient for me to say what I mean) that are overwhelming. I can hardly describe them to myself, much less another human being.
Kierkegaard also describes faith as something beyond mere resignation of what we cannot sustain on our own. Abraham did not merely sacrifice Isaac with no expectation that God would do something great through it all. He didn't just "let go" or "give up." The difference is that he expected--he had faith--that God would follow through with His promises even though the obvious means were gone. Perhaps true faith was even the very specific expectation that, though God was taking Isaac away, He would surely give him back somehow.
The question comes, though, regarding specificity and subjectivity. When we seek God in faith, can we come to Him with great expectations that very specific desires of our heart will be fulfilled (though, perhaps in His time)? Or do we give Him a ton of slack, acknowledging that He will in some way fulfill our happiness, whether in this life or the next.
The former option requires a lot of wisdom. In fact, it seems irrational to others (perhaps why we fail to communicate it well.) These are things we desire that couldn't easily be explained away. What we ask for--expect, even--are almost miracles. And yet, we can't go wishing things completely subjectively, arbitrarily even, and say that God will bring it about because we "have faith." Perhaps we go on with this "faith" through the rest of our lives, living in perfect "confidence" that God will give us our hopes and desires. But then we die and discover that, though good things have come and more good awaits, in this specific instance we have been deluding ourselves. We lived in illusion and to God's disgrace, we dubbed it "faith."
The latter option seems to be entirely irrelevant in its vagueness. If we hope in generalities, thinking "whatever comes, God will work it out," it will no doubt become true. But there is no test in that, no determination, nothing to try a person and test their trust and dependence on the Father. As the Cheshire Cat said to Alice, it doesn't matter what road you take if you don't know where you want to go. We almost make our God too little by giving Him little expectations. Ask for big things and see what He gives you.
So I suppose it comes down to discernment. We can't be arbitrary, but neither can we be limited. Pure reason falls short, but mere feeling or intuition is absurd. Faith is the grey area where we seek Him, give all for Him, and acknowledge that when it all works out, it's because He acted on our behalf. "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express... He who did not spare His own Son but gave him up for us all, how will He not also with him graciously give us all things?"
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
For example, my sister got a book called "The Life of the Mind" for my dad for Father's Day. I picked it up and started reading the back and a certain giddiness overcame me. There's a very pure pleasure in simply holding a book that is obviously a vessel of wisdom and knowledge. And it's not just me, either. Same aforementioned sister received a philosophy book after graduation from one of her profs and she showed it to Dad. He said, "Can I see it for a minute?" Sally replied, "No, I'll never get it back!!" So Dad asked, "Well...can I at least hold it?"
Ria and I were sitting on the screen porch (I was engrossed in Fear and Trembling) and she interrupted to ask, "Do you have a huge list of books to read this summer?" To which I excitedly and enthusiastically rattled off my (growing) list of Readables for the next three months. She smiled at me and said, "I thought so."
I love my family.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Saturday, May 16, 2009
1. Degenerate Moderns by E. Michael Jones
2. The End of Racism by Dinesh D'Souza
3. Roughing It by Mark Twain
4. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
5. Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky
6. God in Search of Man by Abraham Joshua Heschel
7. Fear and Trembling by Soren Kierkegaard
8. Democracy in America (to finish) by Tocqueville
9. The Everlasting Man (to finish) by G.K. Chesterton
10. The Divine Conspiracy (to finish) by Dallas Willard
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
What can I say but that this is the most peaceful book I've ever read. Once again, this man gives words to my soul's schizophrenic thoughts. He puts things in a layman's terms while describing things in such detail--sometimes even erotic detail--that it brings me further and deeper into the God-realm of things.
"Why does the image of God feel such passion for the cold salt water? Why do immortal spirits created only a little lower than the angels fall so desperately in love with a trillion tons of H2O laced with NaCl? Most books about the sea are full of external data. They tell you what causes storms, for instance. But they don't tell you what causes our fascination with storms: they don't tell you about the storm within. They tell you how the wind raises waves. But they don't tell you how the waves without raise waves of wonder within."(Confession: the first time I've really swam in the ocean was over spring break when I was in Nicaragua. Lake Mich and other freshwater paradises have been my home for the last 19 years. I never realized the real sea was so salty!)
"We know where we find what we want: at the sea. But we don't know what we want there. We know what we long for -- the sea -- but we don't know what it is that we long for when we long for the sea. Perhaps we never will. Perhaps the infinite sea can never fit into finite mental or physical cups. Perhaps all that can be clear is this: that all there is can never be clear."Best vacation ever: last summer when I spent hours -- straight up HOURS -- lying on a floating raft in the middle of a bay in Lake Mich. I slept on the dock at night and when the sun got warm, I swam out 200 yards to the little wooden raft with the sketchy ladder and probably Zebra mussels underneath and I slept in the sun, getting super hot and way tan (by August I usually have such a solid base tan that I don't even care about sunscreen anymore.) It was the most perfect week I can remember. And when I wasn't sleeping under the sun in the middle of the lake, I'd either read David McCullough in the hammock or the chicas and I would bike into town for ice cream or to read Howl's Moving Castle at the marina.
"The mind as well as the body can drown in the sea. If you have the habit of staring into it like a lover into the eyes of the beloved, its eye can hold you like Medusa. The spirit of the sea is far stronger than the human spirit, and captures it easily, especially in storms, the most exciting of all the sea’s charms and also the most destructive...When we were swimming in the Pacific over spring break I experienced the beach like never before. Waves twice as tall as me (or were they? Constantly moving, I could hardly even tell.) And I was so overwhelmed. It was exhausting just to keep breathing and no shit. I kept thinking, "It's sure as hell good that Mom isn't here -- she'd never let me swim in these conditions!!" (Love you, Mom!) But being overpowered like that?? Oh, was it good. Like apologizing or being humiliated or failing. Utter incomptetence. It could have killed me at any second.
Why do we find the most destructive things the most captivating and enrapturing things?...
But she gives the poet, and the poet is in all of us, a strange, deep pleasure that is a kind of pleasant terror; not just a contentment and satisfaction but a wonder and fear that we find more delightful than the contentment that calms fear. For the fear is not a fear for our personal safety but simply a fear at her size and majesty...
We feel this wonderful fear most when we are alone. The sea looks tame when seen from a crowded beach full of blankets and umbrellas and chairs; but the same sea looks very different at night when the beach is deserted and you are alone. The water seems to leap up and bow down. It rises and falls like a drunken sailor. It is unpredictable. Little waves seem big at night when you are alone. And this is when we love the sea in a peculiar way, when we fear it most.
Why do we love what we fear?"
I've mentioned this before, but one of the most excellent moments of my life was when I was on the beach at night (mostly by myself except for Dad who was praying at a picnic table nearby) and it was storming. Baby, was it ever. That wind picked up the most wonderful waves and I could hardly hear myself in the roar of it all. And I shouted at the very top of my lungs (though you probably couldn't hear me anyway) "WHAT THEN CAN WE SAY IN RESPONSE TO THIS?" I wonder how loud God's voice is...
"All waves speak, but they speak in tongues, and we can’t interpret their speech. That’s probably because it’s too simple, like God’s. Maybe all they’re saying is I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU until the end of time. Like God."