Learning As We Go

Flannery O’Connor once described her understanding of God as seeing a crescent moon where she was the earth’s shadow blocking most of it. I’m with you Flannery. Worse, many times its my religion as well as my sin casting the shadow. I find, like C.S. Lewis, I must “steal past the watchful dragons” of religiosity and dogmatism. These dragons are not to be trifled with.

Lewis’s student Harry Blamires is a helpful coach. He wrote a book in 1963 called The Christian Mind I’ve been running back to more and more. He encourages me to keep trying and warns me not to settle into the comfortable chair of praise songs and thin devotionals. He tells me to do the hard work of engaging the great conversation that has been going on for millennia. He said

The bland assumption that the Church’s life will continue to be fruitful so long as we go on praying and cultivating our souls, irrespective of whether we trouble to think and talk Christianly, and therefore theologically, about anything we or others may do or say, may turn out to have dire results.

The dire results are all around us. Modern worship seems to drift to polar extremes of silly, endless worship-song choruses or teaching based on reductive theological compartmentalization masking as apologetics. The Jesus of the gospels thought on His feet. His eclectic disciples were screened on hearts which were singular in devotion, yet pliable in assimilation. When Peter struggled to repair his relationship with Jesus, the instructions were clear: Feed my sheep. In the end, our most intimate understanding of God comes not through songs or systematic theology but through joining Him on the front line.

 

This Is Our Moment

We are all generally doing our part in playing defense against COVID-19, but no one seems to be captain of the offense. This pandemic has changed us more profoundly than we yet appreciate, and the world will be marked by it.  We are more connected, yet more isolated. We are more global, yet more parochial. We are more humbled, yet more self-worshipful. We have never been in greater need of leadership. The challenge before us is multifaceted and will require genius in science, innovation, and technology, but we must not lose sight of the spiritual underpinnings that will be necessary for real accomplishments to advance mankind.

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Man of Sorrows

There are times in all our lives when our burdens seem too heavy to bear. Common fears and insecurities, though individually small, can become overwhelming when they pile upon our hearts. Some, like the death of a loved one, are large on their own, and though none of us are spared, we feel individually assaulted. In those dark days, when our clouds deny the sun, it’s easy to believe that God is far and inattentive.

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Death as Birth

Our leaders have prepared us for a grim month ahead. Though mitigation measures seem to be working, we’ve been braced for staggering numbers of fatalities to come. It has forced us to think of death in immediate terms, and those of us over 60 have been warned that we are most vulnerable. While none of us welcome death, neither does the Christian fear it.

To understand death, we need only to understand birth. We think of birth as a beginning, and indeed it is, but for the child, it is also an ending.  When a baby emerges from the safety of the womb, she finds her tears quickly.  The travails of her journey are soon erased by the new dimensions in which she experiences her mother. A moment ago she knew her in a darkened place, but now, in the light she is face to face in her loving embrace. We likewise cling to this womb of earthly life without appreciation or understanding of that which is to come.

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My Eyes Have Seen The Glory

Talent is what God gave you, but art is what you give back to God.  The process is one of fits and spurts in which we find our voice through both introspection and expression.  It is frequently born in hardship, and great art will emerge from our current circumstances. It will be expressed on canvas and in music, but it will also be expressed in human creativity through science.

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Admiring Jesus

Vincent van Gogh was born on this day, March 30th in 1853. He painted the work you see here called Still Life with Bible in October of 1885 when he was 32 years old. He would be dead in 5 years by his own hand. The Bible belonged to his father, a pastor with whom he had a turbulent relationship up until his death just months before. Vincent struggled with his father’s religion, but admired Jesus as “an artist greater than all the other artists.”

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Our Neighbor As Ourselves

Samuel Taylor Coleridge loved to take long nature walks with his friends the Wordsworths. In early July of 1797, he invited his friend Charles Lamb to take a break from his dull desk job in London and retreat to the country to join in on these walks. Lamb had experienced great sadness due to the tragic recent death of his mother at the hands of his sister, and Coleridge knew first-hand of the transformative and therapeutic value of long walks through the country with friends.

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