How Many Hates?

How many hates do you getScreenShot081
before you are -ful?
Your number is yours today
Do you have room for 100?
Or do you start to feel hate-ful at around 50? or 30? or 10?

Littering sucks… I hate littering
This counts as one
I once broke up with a girl because she littered
I didn’t hate her… but I couldn’t see myself sharing time with someone who liked littering… so even though I liked her, I left

You might hate racism, or you might hate a particular race
I’ve never understood what there is to hate about race
but if you want to take up one of your allotment that way… go for it
You might hate the culture or character or just the cheese of another… fine… hate what you like… but realize that once you exceed the limit you have within you, you have become hate-ful

Count them… name them… all your hates
so that you know for sure when you are using them
and for when you consider adding another… or removing one when your limit shrinks with growth

If you don’t really have room for another hate
then you just don’t get to use it
and when you take one away
it is gone forever

Now…
How many joys do you get…

A talk on law

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It is 5:30 in the morning. I’m driving south-bound on I-5 on my way to work. To my right I see a black and white speed limit sign which reads 60 mph and I laugh mockingly at it. I glance down at my speedometer – it reads somewhere between 25 and 30 – and quickly I turn my attention back to road – at least what I can see of it through the blanket of snow which is falling.
Just then a 4 wheel drive SUV goes flying by me doing at least 60!
“What a JERK !” Have you ever responded this way to another driver because they were following the traffic laws? I was ticked off because I thought they were going way too fast for this much snow, but according to the black and white sign, they were not breaking the speed limit, a patrol officer probably could not have actually given them a speeding ticket.
There is a traffic ticket that is often given out for these situations– it’s called “Unsafe speed for road conditions” right?
Let me ask you this… how is a person supposed to know they are driving too fast for road conditions? Is there a sign anywhere on the freeway which states – if there is a ¼ inch of rain on the road, drive 45 mph. For 1/2 inch of snow, drive 35, for snow greater than 1 inch – drive 25?
No, you are just expected to know what is safe and what is unsafe. The law expects you to exercise some common sense about good driving in bad conditions – and they will ticket you for ignoring this common sense. I was angry at that SUV because I assumed they knew the full speed limit provided by the law was unsafe at that moment, and they were putting me and everyone else at risk by ignoring that fact! JERK!
I thought to myself… What else can you say about people like that? People who think -“Well, the sign says 60! So I’m going 60!”? Do they have the common sense expected of them but just refuse to use it? Or is it possible that they are just blind to the intent behind the law? Truth is, my response to them shows that I am no better.
What do you think about the people who wrote the traffic laws for Wa state? How many of you have thought – “Whoever wrote speed limit law was a vindictive politician who is just out spoil my fun!”? I only ask you to raise your hand so that I can be sure to drive the opposite direction as you when we leave the parking lot today!
The rest of you might well guess that those who wrote the traffic laws did so with a concern for the safety of those who drive on the roads and freeways right? They probably spent millions of dollars and hired hundreds of engineers, statisticians and other smart type people to ensure fatal accidents on our roads were kept to a minimum. You could therefore assume that they valued the safety Wa State drivers right?
Now what might you assume about people who drive under the traffic laws? They probably fall into two groups, one group which shares the concern of the law makers for the safety of their fellow travelers and drive accordingly. The second group may follow the traffic laws, but only because they don’t want to get a ticket. These are always upgrading their radar detectors and are always nervous when there is a police officer driving behind them. They obey the laws well enough as long as there is some one around to catch them.
If Jesus were to communicate the speed limit laws, he might say something like this…
“You have heard it was said, ‘Thou shalt not exceed 60 miles per hour on I-5’, but I say to you, you must share the heart and have the same intent as the traffic law. You must accurately judge a travel speed that is safe for yourself and your fellow drivers”.
If it’s not obvious at this point, we will be looking today at the section of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus is apparently redefining the law for his listeners.
What is actually happening is Jesus is reclaiming the original definitions and rejecting the relaxed versions of the law that we have written for ourselves. He goes down a list of rules that people would pride themselves in keeping and basically says, ‘You follow rules that tell you not to kill, not to sleep around, not to hate, not to lie or steal, but while you appear to keep these, you are lacking within yourself the intent behind them and so you continue to jeopardize yourselves and others.
There are two versions of God’s Law. The version we rewrite for ourselves is relaxed – it is a mere list of external expectations. You can always just look down at your speedometer and say pridefully “I am within the limit”.
The other is that of the intent or purpose of the law. Keeping God’s law as Jesus is defining it in the Sermon on the Mount requires something far more than a checklist of dos and do-nots, it requires a spiritual understanding and a spiritual response. This law is scribed into the hearts of citizens of the Kingdom.
This law is spiritual because it involves knowing and responding to, and even sharing in the heart of God himself.
A list of expectations requires only that I know the list of expectations, but the spiritual law requires that I have a growing relationship with God Himself, that I have His Spirit within me, that I have the mind of Christ. Our speedometer is our King Himself. Rather than looking to ourselves or each other to gauge our rightness, we look to Christ – focusing our attention on Him, allowing His values to define our values.
Allow me to paint a little analogy. Like all analogies, it falls somewhat short of the full truth, but it may help you see to the law in a new light.
Imagine a huge fancy living room, like one in a castle or a mansion. It is decorated with the most beautiful furniture and art you have ever seen. The coffee table and end tables are crafted from the finest woods and have these gorgeous inlays of gold and jewels. There is the grandest grand piano ever heard sitting almost in the middle of the room. The couches and chairs are upholstered with the most exquisite materials on the face of the earth. The floor itself steps down several levels and in the center is a huge mosaic that looks like it took the better portion of a lifetime to design.
Now, turn off the lights. Close the drapes so that not even the slightest amount of light can enter into the room. Try to walk around… what is the first thing that you learn? You can’t see! By now you have probably tripped down the steps and left a little blood on that mosaic from the minor head wound you suffered when you landed. Your shins are likely bruised from running into the end tables. All of the beauty of this extravagant room is lost on you – it is a mere obstacle course where you are trying desperately to avoid any more pain.
What can you do? You are quite obviously in darkness. What do you need more than anything at this particular moment? You need someone to turn on the lights don’t you.
In Col 1, Paul’s says this.
God has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.
In the domain of darkness, God’s law is merely a stumbling block – we cannot keep it perfectly, it can only condemn us. It serves to reveal our actual loyalties -to prove to us our citizenship in the domain of darkness. But people who are in darkness often try to convince themselves pridefully that they are not blind and they treat Gods law as a game – thinking the object is simply trying to make it from one side of the room to the other without getting stuck or tripping over things. But the law is impassable; it was not designed to merely provide the blind with easy navigation through life. It was designed to show them they are blind.
Imagine if getting into heaven were a jumping contest. You might have a huge group of contestants lined-up, some of which have strong legs and nimble ankles and others who might not even be able to jump up onto the curb. The bell rings and the jumping contest begins. Heads are bouncing up and down, some a little and some a lot. There are many there who look like they took lessons from Michael Jordan himself. Eventually though, they all start to get tired, and they start to whine and complain – “Hasn’t any one won yet?” The referee shakes his head No. “Well how high do we have to jump in order to win?” The ref points up. “Do you see that star up there? The brightest one in the sky? That is how high you must jump in order to win”.
“Impossible! Who then can be saved?”
And we hear Jesus answer, “With man, this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Matthew 5 closes with Jesus saying… You must be perfect… as perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect. Can we possibly even be perfect as citizens of darkness? If our lot is so bad, how can God expect us to ever jump so high?
Listen… Christ is able to reach down into our darkness and pull us over into Light. Having been transferred into the kingdom of light, God’s law is now seen for what it is. It is the furniture which beautifies the room. It reveals His finest art and craftsmanship and glorifies the skill in His hands.
The law is His desire, His pleasure, His compassionate will. Citizens of the kingdom of light cannot only see His will for what it is, but they share it. His heart is written on our hearts and we become light bearers. Living by a list sheds little light (Do not even the tax collectors do the same) but in living by the heart of God our righteousness will more than exceed that of the Pharisees.
I guess I had better get to the text before they chase me out of here.
Matt 5, verses 21-48. Jesus deals with several topics. Murder, adultery and marriage, taking oaths and speaking truth, retaliation and loving our enemies are all covered. In each case He starts with “You have heard it was said – But I tell you.” Now some of these traditions they were following were straight out the Ten Commandments, but the tradition had just shifted their meanings. Some of these rules we cannot find anywhere in what God has spoken and so they are obviously man-made rules.
Well, before we actually get to the specific verses, lets jump ahead 10 chapters and look at an example being played out.
Matt 15.
Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said,
“Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’
But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’
So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God.
You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:
“‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
Do you see what is happening here? God told them to honor their parents but they added a rule to what God said. Essentially they were allowed to cheat their parents as long they used a religious excuse for doing so. I want you to take special notice of Jesus’ respond. In quoting Isaiah, he was saying essentially that living in light of the law is about having our hearts stitched up tight with Gods, and it is about worship. As we read through these sections in the sermon, I want you to keep those two things in mind, a heart that is close to God and a spirit of worship.
v21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’
But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.
Great! So you’re saying that not only is it against the law to bash heads in when I feel like it, but I’m not even allowed to even be angry? This is a typical response from darkness. But let us look deeper, let’s dig under the restriction to find the intent. What do we see of Gods heart here? Isn’t God saying He values life? All life, both natural and spiritual, are His creation and are precious to him. God placed His image in us all, and that is very precious to Him.
Obviously, he doesn’t take kindly to you and me going around destroying it. It would be like taking a mallet into that living room and smashing the beautiful furniture to pieces. The citizens of the dark kingdom may take pride in the fact that they have never killed anyone, but the citizens of light realize that there are many ways of being destructive towards life without ever getting blood on your hands. Jesus points to anger and insult, then very clearly states that these fall into the same category as cold-blooded murder.
Let your light so shine before others, so that they may see how you value life and then give glory to the God who reigns over you.
v23 “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. “
You might recognize from this that our relationships with one another are valued by God. He makes it clear that we cannot destroy our relationships and then go offer any meaning worship to Him. You might even say that making things right when we are the offender in a relationship is a real part of worshiping God because it is recognizing who God is and what He considers valuable. Citizens of the Kingdom value what their King values – it is that simple.
Let your light so shine before others, so that they may see how you value relationships and then give glory to the God who reigns over you.
v27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. “
What is the value displayed here? Because the word adultery is used, we might jump to the topic of marriage, but Jesus is going to deal with that specifically in the next section so I think this one is a little broader. We may see may many ideas here, but lets look at the value of the person. When our sexual drive drives us out of control, we jeopardize not only life, but personality – on both sides of the lustful intent. Both the luster and the lustee are diminished to something less than a person.
Citizens of the dark domain will say “I did not sleep with that woman.” But the citizens of the kingdom of light will say, “I saw in that woman not a thing, but a person, and within that person, I recognized the art and the image of God.”
Can you see how the opposite of adultery is really and actually the worship of God?
Let your light so shine before others, so that they may see how you value every person and then give glory to the God who reigns over you.
v29 “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”
Jesus is not supporting self-mutilation here. He knows, and expects us to understand, that the offense comes from our hearts and that chopping off our hands is not going to touch the true problem. What he is saying, with very strong imagery, is that this is no game. It is not a philosophy for better living or a way to make a twisted man appear to stand straight. It is serious business.
v31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
This command is also played out later in Matthew
Chap 19 3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”
“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”
Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.“
Let me ask you this… towards who were their hearts so hard that Moses had to permit divorce? Was it only towards their spouse or was their heart hardened against the One who had joined them together?
From the beginning you were created to love and to be loved and marriage is one of the most profound ways this is demonstrated. God values marriage – it was His idea, it has deep meaning and purpose in our world. Yet we so often treat marriage like its sole purpose is just to make us happy –and as soon as it doesn’t, we write up our certificates and go looking for another. Intimate relationships can so easily become idols in our lives when our hearts are hard against God.
For those of you that are single, does God still expect you to value marriage the way He does?
For those who are married, in what ways can your marriage worship and glorify God? I encourage you to think this one through and then talk about it with your spouse, in your small groups this week, or even write about it in your blog.
Let your light so shine before others, so that they may see how you value what God has joined together and then give glory to the God who reigns over you.

Well, at this point I have to admit something to you all… I only got half-way through in my teaching preparation. It looks like it is going to be up to you to finish the rest of this message for me. This week, read through the rest of Matthew 5. Examine each command and identify through it what God is saying He values. Then examine your own values. How close is your heart to God’s heart in these areas? How might your response to God’s law resemble worship?
Before I exit however, I would like to ask you all to take a quick look down at yourselves. Are your shins bruised? Do you have any sore spots because you keep running into God’s law? Are you constantly stumbling over Christ’s demands that you must be 100% perfect? If so, I don’t want to just leave you bumbling around in darkness. And more importantly! I wouldn’t want you to miss out on the beauty revealed by the light. I want to hear your voice alongside mine, gasping at the wonder of what God has done in this world.
You need to know that it is not good enough to be good by your own standards – that way leads to death. You already know that you have not lived a perfect life, but the good news is that Christ fully met every requirement of the law in both thought and deed – He has lived a 100% perfect life, and He is willing to swap with you.
From your very first infraction of the law, however long ago that was, you became a law-breaker. Your perfect record was forever shattered into millions of pieces and there is not enough super-glue in the entire world that will restore it. You need to know that justice and fairness requires a penalty for law-breaking, it requires death. But Christ is willing to swap that with you too.
For the law of the Spirit of life can set you free through Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. God has done for us what we could not do for ourselves. By sending is own Son into our darkness, He shattered the darkness with light in order that we might live with His law fulfilled in us and walk this world in worship and in oneness with Christ.

I Like Your Body – You Should Too

Question for you…Interrupt-Mag-I-like-my-body

How many,
that is exactly how many,
people do you need
to imagine like your body
before you will?
If you want a thousand-thousand, be careful.
If you want only those who know you – you are probably closer than you think
And there is a trick to it
A loophole of sorts I suppose

The people you know
Like most the things you like most

-You’re a fool. -I know.

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Among one or two other minor things, it occurred to me recently that I need to be willing to allow the basic definitions of words to change. Merriam-Webster would love this idea wouldn’t they? … seeing how fresh new dictionaries would be in demand again. Surely some of the reason for the need of fresh definitions would come from cultural change – new words are applied to old circumstances and vice-versa, but there is more to my mini-revelation than social shifts and cultural change. There is also personal shifts in perception and personal change in how I grasp reality – at least there should be – and if there is not then I’m probably not learning anything, I am just being lazy and avoiding adventure and discovery.
It may be however, that even as I lock my front door on my way out to adventure, that stagnant or inept definitions of words in my thinking could be keeping me inside the same four walls forever.

Some words, like lasso or soup or kerfuffle, can easily find a new facelift simply by reading and/or writing some poetry (which I highly recommend – to myself often and to yourself here as well) but other words have been so heavily used in so many venues that they become like that time when your favorite song got used in a car commercial. At first you were excited about how many other people would now have a chance to favorite it – but before long you find it overused and cheapened, and you find yourself hating what you once loved.

And that brings me to the one specific word I have in mind: love.

You are going to find this odd, but the first thing that comes to mind at the word “love” (and has for many years) is not valentine’s day, or cheesy romcom’s or Barry White songs (although they all get in line). No, the first thing to my muddled mind is this:

Ahh.. There now, doesn’t your heart feel warmer?

It is clear from both Tevya and Golde that love is more than a four letter word, that love does what love does whether or not there is credit to be collected. Golde says… “Do I love you? For 25 years I’ve washed your clothes…” If that is not love, what is?

Can you imagine going to God with this question? “Do you love me?” and getting a response of … “Do I love you? For all these years I have brought sunshine and rain. For all these years I have pumped your heart and expanded your lungs. For all these years I have guided your footsteps even when you wanted no guidance from anyone. Do I love you? oy vey!”

I’m beginning to feel like Job… but anyway, that wasn’t my real point… back to Tevya and Golde…

Notice right there – that moment where she asks herself… “Do I love him? … I suppose I do” – and… queue the kleenex 🙂

Love takes on a fuller definition, a larger meaning and significance, and feeds a hunger that had been largely ignored = apparently for a whole 25 years. In reading Peter Kreeft in recent days I found this occurring for me. There have been connections around love that I have largely ignored (although for only 22 years). Early on in my exploration of reality and the gospel of Christ, I began to understand the concept of identity, and it’s importance.

I saw how sin changed the way our first parents saw both themselves and God. I saw how God responded by dressing them in garments of skin and I made the connection to the garment of Christ described by Paul in Colossians.

I read the shema! and I understood how love was integral to holiness and relationship. I connected some dots between my thinking, my feeling and my actions to suggest love could motivate each – and should.

I began seeing bumper stickers everywhere saying God is Love! and soon grew tired of the phrase just like the car commercials that ruined all of my favorite songs. But this week a connection was made that brought about a much fuller idea of the definition of love. When we say “God is love” I believe we may be making a statement of identity – that “love” is a part of how God sees Himself (if such a thought can be ventured…).

While sitting on the mount, I hear the following words – “that you may be the children of your Father in heaven” – another statement about identity that I have largely missed. Just as I need to learn how to see myself “In Christ”, valuable and beloved, I also need to learn how to see myself “as love” in a like manner (but certainly on a smaller scale) to how God sees Himself as love. Love is not just something I’m supposed to do… it is something I’m supposed to be.

I like how Kreeft combines the concept of love in with the “self” categories of heart, mind, will, etc. I am not just a “will” I am a “love”. I know it feels weird to say… fattening the definition of some words just works that way I suppose.

And then another connection came. I was reading about Brother Juniper – the Friend of Francis, Fool of God. It struck me as odd that he would strive to be a “jester of the Lord”, but then I remembered Tevya standing behind Golde, seeking confirmation of her love for him, more than willing to be a fool for it, and I understood.

Oh… you’re an atheist? So what

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Really, why should I care. What do you have to offer anyone that is at all useful? Oh? You and I are a random collection of mutative accidents with nothing but nothing to look forward to? What we experience as “thinking” and “knowledge” and “will” and “morality” are all imaginary constructs with no real significance – there are only “atoms inside my skull that happen to be happening”? Why do you bother to even think at all since you have no ultimate reason to trust thoughts to be actually real or true?

I know I know… blah blah blah science blah blah blah…
What is science?

On the surface, it is only 7 letters combined arbitrarily into 1 “word”.
Define word:
/wərd/
a single distinct conceptual unit of language

Define language:
/ˈlaNGgwij/
the method of human communication consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way.

Define communication:
/kəˌmyo͞onəˈkāSHən/
the conveying or sharing of ideas and feelings.

Science is first of all a conceptual unit or symbol which humans use to communicate an idea.

What is the idea?
sci·ence
ˈsīəns/
the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.
from Old French, from Latin scientia, from scire ‘know.’

Science is the idea that we can know stuff by observing and interacting with things we can see and touch. You will likely agree, but you have no reason to other than the fact that someone once told you it was so and you agreed to share the symbology. What does it really mean to “know” something? Ultimately it is just chemicals and bits of dust arranging themselves in a particular fashion inside our noggins. How do you trust the actuality of anything that happens inside or outside your own head? Everything you observe and interact with goes through some kind of translation into chemicals and bits of dust – how do you know the translation is accurate? Oh… you are going to compare with the translation process that is occurring in someone else and trust that theirs is accurate? I say the ball is blue, and you say the ball is blue, so the ball must be blue? Really? So knowledge is mere mutually agreed upon experience? What are you going to do if I say the ball is red? One or both of us are apparently mis-translating reality, and knowledge becomes only an arbitrary preference between competing ideas.

Yes, I am calling your atheism an arbitrary preference between competing ideas. If the interpretation of reality is being performed by humans as entailed by the naturalistic world-view, we can’t trust our own thinking, or anyone else’s for that matter. Of course… if I can’t trust human thinking to be accurate and based in reality I can’t trust any observation or argument leading to atheism or anything else. Any “knowledge”, or “purpose” or “meaning” are all ultimately mere fictions of a mutant translating and processing machine. Whimsy is all that remains. Now I like some whimsy now and then, but it is certainly nothing to take very seriously as you suggest I should – and so I say “so what”.

Allow me to suggest a more honest response for you…
“I don’t know”

Or how about: “If there is a creator god of some sort out there, my own experience has not compelled me into devotion towards it.” That is pretty honest for many. Or maybe even: “My experience has indeed compelled me into devotion, but competing values have caused me to prefer one devotion over another.”

But the atheist says “I deny the existence of a personal supreme being or beings with the power of creation ex nihilo”.
Perhaps I have mis-represented the atheist though… I will consult a reference:
http://atheists.org/activism/resources/what-is-atheism
“Atheism is usually defined incorrectly as a belief system. Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods.”

Clearly I was incorrect. Apparently an atheist merely lacks belief and does not actively deny. Yes, it is rather dumb to take a stance such as “Throughout the entire undiscovered universe and beyond, I know for an absolute certainified fact that there is no creator God anywhere to be found.” One cannot disprove God, so it is safer (and saner) to say one “lacks belief”. Ok fine. But wait, why is there also an Activism page… https://atheists.org/activism
The goal is stated as “raising the profile of atheism and normalizing atheism in the public discourse.”

I personally lack a belief in woodchucks with wings and I so passionately lack this belief that I am going to fight to normalize my lack of belief in the public discourse. Not only do I not want my kids to be taught that some rare and to-date-unobserved woodchucks have wings, I don’t want your kids being taught it either. This is not “lack”, this is arrogance.

As an atheist attempting to “normalize” atheism to me [read: proselytize], do you realize what you ask? You ask me to believe that “reason is simply the unforeseen and unintended by-product of mindless matter at one stage of its endless and aimless becoming.” And then you attempt to tell me that atheism is the only “rational” and “scientific” option for my trust when your basic world-view has already undermined the reliability of any such a thing.

If there truly is no god as you are attempting to propose, then truly it does not matter which philosophy you live under. Who cares about the “testimony” of mindless matter? Reality is nothing, truth is nothing, science is nothing and the whole thing slits its own throat in a self-stultifying grand hurrah. Ex nihilo nihil fit. Do you not see this yet?

Granted, the existence of a creator God does not necessarily establish the reliability of our thinking either, but it would establish that the idea of “mind” had a pure source and that a true perception of reality is possible – whether or not any of us have access to it.

was the maker lonely

lonely-benchwas the maker lonely
up to the time the maker made?
or merely curious
to discover what a fabricated will
would do or say

maybe the maker has always been making
universe after universe
each divided by plastic orange fences
each using a new ingredient or spice
in the recipe for free will
each seeing a different hue
when light reflects through sky
some perhaps with no light at all
no heat
no change
what will a will do when
there is nothing to break free of?

What do you think of at the word soul?
what is a waterline traced
by a child’s fingertip?
what do you see of a cloud
after it has spilled out over the hill?
what is that sound in your ears
a moment before thunder?
that sound of that moment of anticipation
of the wake of a cracked sky?
what is the name of the fear
that floods you when
your heart skips
or stops

What is the soul
is it that which says I and me?
or a silent witness
you occasionally think
to invite over for tea
once the
dusting
and the sweeping
is done

Fractal Mind

According to Wikipedia:
A fractal is a natural phenomenon or a mathematical set that exhibits a repeating pattern that displays at every scale.  Fractals can be nearly the same at different levels.  Fractals includes the idea of a detailed pattern that repeats itself. From <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fractal>

Romanesco broccoli.

The fractal shape form of a Romanesco broccoli.

Being philosophically curious, whenever I have the time, I began to wonder if this concept of a repeating pattern of ever larger scale could be found in other areas of life and being in the universe.

I used to believe that animals did not have any such thing as a “soul” and that whatever resemblance they showed to humans in terms of personality and emotion and intelligence was merely coincidental – that they were strictly running on instinct whereas we humans ran on free will and self-determination.

My view has changed.

I still believe there is a unique creation in humankind – the Imago Dei breathed into us as the clay of Adam became our flesh. However I am confident that there is far more to the rest of creation than I was previously willing to give it credit for. Whatever a “soul” or “mind” actually is, I now believe it is present in many other creatures. Our beloved and missed family canines demonstrated such a wide range of emotion and love and personality that I had to re-think my impressions of animal “instinct”. Watching the local murder of crows in the greenbelt across the street had me re-thinking even more…

What if…
What if there is a fractal pattern to consciousness and awareness – to “minds” or “souls”. If so, humans are certainly on the scale somewhere – but where. I think we tend to assume because we have largely reached the top of the food chain, that we would also be at the largest extent possible of the fractal mind scale – but is it true?

Before wondering further, lets remind ourselves of the common definition of “mind”.

Mind (mīnd/)
noun

  1. the element of a person that enables them to be aware of the world and their experiences, to think, and to feel; the faculty of consciousness and thought.
  2. a person’s intellect.

Insects demonstrate some fascinating aspects of intelligence and awareness, but on a much smaller scale than dogs or dolphins or Donald Duck. If we apply the concept of a fractal to the general philosophical idea of mind, we see patterns in behavior and in awareness at even the smallest scale and they develop and enlarge and repeat. I know that evolution is commonly credited with developing progressively larger brains and other biological advancements, and since I’m growing a bit tired of that conversation, I won’t protest if you insist it is true… but again – what if life is less of a growing progression and more of a weakening reflection? What if all of the minds found in creation represent just a portion of a much grander fractal design – one that continues repeating much smaller than our science has imagined, and much larger than our minds are really capable of grasping?

Romans 1:20
For His invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.

What does the bible mean when it refers to God’s eternal nature? Is it just how long He has been around? Of course the Eternal God is outside time (whatever that means) and has always existed and will continue to exist in the unimaginable distant future.  In Hebrew, El Olam – the Everlasting God. Olam means “forever, perpetual, old, ancient” – of infinite future and infinite past.

Psalm 90:2
“Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God”.

He was before all time and all worlds. But is this all that “eternal” means? Is it just a reference to how many birthday parties He gets to have? Is there more? What would it mean to call Him the Eternal Mind? Or could we even begin to ponder more than our current position on the mind-scale?

I like the idiom that says:
A stream cannot rise above its source
There is a very basic principle at work in our universe which any thinking Christian needs to have built into their intuition. The concept is best illustrated with the natural behavior of our earths system of rivers and streams.

One of the laws of nature is that the headwater (source) of a stream, river, brook, etc., will always flow downward. In other words, if a stream is coming out of the ground at 300 feet above sea level, it will never naturally flow uphill to 400 or 500 feet. With rivers and streams, it is obvious that gravity is the primary cause of this phenomenon, but the concept also applies to other areas.

For example, a creative being will never create something greater than itself. We humans, of course, have many fantastic creative impulses and we have made some pretty fantastic stuff as a result. But many might assume that making other humans is the most amazing creative achievement we are capable of. However because we are mortal, even with all of our wonderful creative, and procreative power, we will never (within our own power) give birth to a “greater” being such as an immortal angel.

In the same way as a stream will never rise above its source and we will never create something greater than ourselves, a complex mind system (one capable of understanding) will never fully comprehend a system which is more complex than itself. To us, the human mind represents the most complex thing we might ever understand – simply because it is that thing with which we do all of our understanding – it is the source of that stream so to speak. Should something of greater complexity and power than our brain exist, we will never be able to fully understand it.

Some religions, largely Eastern systems, are essentially pantheistic – which means they suspect that everything that is, is God. The ant, the rat, the cow and cousin Kate – along with all the stars and floating dust in the universe – all essentially equivalent and identical to God. I used to think this was crazy thinking… but now I wonder if their viewpoint has some hint of truth. Of course their concept of God, for as large as the universe is, is ultimately too small. It is attempting to understand God from an assumption of being on the same exact scale as God.  But maybe Pantheism is seeing some things accurately from it’s a particular location on a fractal scale.  In some sense, all that is seen, and all that is not, represents a much larger reality and perhaps even demonstrates some beautiful patterns. In some sense, the ant and the rat and the cow are special – perhaps even sacred – because they are a part of the whole of the creation God invented in order to reflect Himself on a smaller scale.

When Christians Get Schooled

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThoughts on What the Church Can Learn from Others …

I recall my third or fourth Hawaiian History course but only vaguely. Growing up on Hawaii, I learned only Hawaiian History every year and didn’t know much about the mysterious mainland until I planted there (mostly) at age 16. I remember the stories of James Cook and the Sandwich Isles (http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/cook-discovers-hawaii) and I’m surprised there hasn’t been a dozen or so movies retelling the tale of the “Discovery of Hawaii”.

What mostly sticks in my head are shadows of other stories, told by hula or the bamboo stick beat, about the way life was for the previous “Discoverers of Hawaii”. With the Westerners came the Western Church, or at least those who claimed to be members. I knew the Hawaiians to be smart and sensitive people, akin with their world, and they would not, it seemed to me, be likely to pass by the Gospel when it was offered. But along with the Gospel came Western Culture – which it seems was (is) not so fair a friend nor kindness.

Bottom line, it was always my impression that the missionaries enforced their culture long before upholding the Gospel and within a very short period of time the Hawaiian Way was largely crushed under strange-looking boots. It was sad to me.

You may be surprised to know at this point that I too would not allow the Gospel to pass me by – I did become a Christian in my mid-twenties. I did not trust myself to the Christians but to their Christ – with whom they seemed to share very little culture back in the 90s (and perhaps less today). That does not mean I did not struggle with modern Evangelical culture. Were I in Hawaii two hundred years ago, I probably would have rejected the Western Christ if it meant also no longer walking the Earth barefoot.

But I did learn about the mainland when trying to finish High School (which didn’t end up happening). I learned about the Native Americans who had discovered a continent long before the West “Discovered America”. From there the invading culture nearly wiped out the First American Way.

Granted, in both cases there were political and power-groping causes for the tragic results which I recount here, but in both cases, and in many others throughout history, the Church has failed to learn much from its unfortunate alliance with world-power. In fact, the Church has failed to learn much from the many many rich cultures and beliefs systems and perspectives as it carried the Gospel treasure around the world.

There is at least one instance I am aware of that the Gospel meet a people who seemed to be looking for it – as if to complete their own beliefs, and were not bullied out of their own culture in order to make a home for it. The Celtic traditions had some practices that were clearly out of line with their acceptance of the Christ Way – they would cease from sacrificing much like the Jews had to do, but they would see that the Trinity was the power above all they previously had known and worshiped. They largely blended their culture with their belief and ended up with a smart and sensitive way, upholding all things of value: the forest and the beast, the birds of the air and men and women.

So this got me thinking about how the Universal Christian Church (as in not strictly/nor/excluding Western Cultural Christianity) could connect with the world in a way that is both Kingdom Seeking and People Honoring. As an exercise I thought I would dig through some history – some written, some simply remembered, and then write a collection of thoughts on the things the Church might have learned  were it not that it seems that we fell asleep on our desks during class.

I think I will ask some questions, such as “What can the Church Learn from the Buddha?”, or “Just because a Pagan practiced it, is it Evil?”. I am even thinking about maybe asking the question, “What would God have us Learn from the Gay/Lesbian culture?”. Who knows what I might ask from there…

I may find out it is impossible to retain my faith (practice and dogma) intact alongside everything I learn – much in this world is indeed set against Christ… But the Celtics before me found the Way was always theirs and so lived by it, and I wonder whether the Gospel of Christ can be the same treasure in any culture it finds a home in.

 

sig·ni·fy

ScreenShot001I’m sure there is some scientific explanation behind it, but have you ever noticed a word or phrase or idea fall into a repeat pattern where it seems to start appearing to you from every corner, high and low? This happens to me often with songs and poems and odd quotes. In the past 2-3 weeks it has been Shakespeares lil’ bit of Macbeth:

Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing

Now I am not the most avid Shakespeare reader, and certainly I’m not about to delve into any meaningful analysis of why Macbeth delivers this soliloquy in this particular way. If I summarize it just a bit, and remove some of the flowery and inflaming language, I think he is saying life is short and meaningless. It perhaps feels like it should be significant, but alas it is an idiots story which signifies nothing.

sig·ni·fy
ˈsignəˌfī/
verb
Be an indication of

Middle English: from Old French signifier,
from Latin significare ‘indicate, portend,’
from signum ‘token.’

And, I suppose one level deeper may be useful:
to·ken
ˈtōkən/
noun
a thing serving as a visible or tangible representation of a fact, quality, feeling, etc

Now a representation of a thing is not the thing itself. If I ask you whether you have seen Jupiter, most of you will say yes but you have not – you have only seen representations of Jupiter in form of pictures. It seems obvious, but a picture of a thing is not the thing, but it is a fairly good representation unless it has been “photoshopped” with fictional details.

If I step back and look, I have to ask myself, does life (my life, your life, my cat’s life, the backyard weed’s life) serve as a representation of something? Is it a token of something other than itself? Macbeth says no. Many scientists say no.

Yet it is full of sound and fury. Full of the appearance of significance and import. It feels like it is more than a random clockwork – it hurts, and it orgasms. There is enough pleasure to push through the pain for most (yet not all). There is a sense of beauty (which is a thing void of laboratory proof) and goodness (also no “proof”) and truth (“what is truth?”). These can and often will overwhelm and carry us into bouts of soliloquy all our own.

Life is full of experiences which compel us to live as if it mattered, as if it signifies something more than itself. You can pour it into a test tube but you won’t adequately explain why – and may likely fail-over to a desperate explanation of “there is no why” just like Macbeth. Some in the past have even suggested we pretend – invent our own Noble Lie to give meaning to our experience and value to our hour upon the stage. That didn’t exactly work out so diversion was introduced in the next act. We shall see where that leads, but if my own heart is any judge of yours, it will be short-lived.

We are faced with saying to ourselves either “live as if it mattered” or “live because it matters”. Your life is either a token of nothing, or representation of something greater, fuller, realer.

a talk on beauty

It seems fitting to start a talk on beauty with a Psalm of David… so here is my paraphrase of Psalm 63

O God, you are my God; fiercely I desire to seek you;
my soul thirsts for you; as in a dry and wearied land.
So I have looked for you in all of your holy places,
and I delight to behold your power and beauty.
Because your eternal love is better than life,
my lips will move in praise
So I will bless you in every moment you give me;
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
for you have been my safest refuge,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
and you hold me through the beautiful day
and through the fearful night.

I spend a lot of time reading and listening to the Psalms because they are so poetic and just so… beautiful.
I’ve spent the last many years trying to lock in on the importance of our experience of beauty as it relates to our relationship with Christ and our enjoyment of God.

Beholding and Beauty belong together. You don’t just look at something beautiful… if you are really going to experience beauty you have to fully “Behold” it. I encountered the idea of beholding early on in my Christian walk while reading A.W. Tozer. In his book, The Pursuit of God, he talks about the “gaze of the soul” and suggests from Hebrews 12:2 that faith is not one time event, but a continual gazing into the heart of the Triune God. Hebrews 12:2 says that we should cast aside everything blocking our view and spend our entire lives “looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith”.

If you look up the word Behold in the dictionary, you’ll find something along the lines of “a really old word which means to look or see” but if you start in Genesis 1 and start counting every occurrence of the word Behold, you will reach nearly 1300 by the time you get to Revelation 22. Obviously God wants us to look and see with more than just our physical senses, in fact – you might easily assume that Faith itself is some kind of supernatural eyesight and its primary function is to “Behold” God.

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“We Become what we behold”
Marshall McLuhan, was a Canadian philosopher of communication theory – he’s the guy who said “The Medium IS the Message” and is often referred to as “The Media Prophet”. I quote him, not because he was famously Christian, but I quote him because he noticed something about the world and about humans that I want to notice as well. Marshall probably wasn’t talking directly about God, but he was noticing the power of this strange behavior we call attention and how devoted attention will begin to shape us until the thing we behold becomes our very identity.

What this quote might suggest to us is that we become more Godly by simply beholding God, that we actually become more Christ-like through this continual gaze, this looking unto the Author and Finisher of our faith. Obviously there is some requirement for our understanding to grow and mature in Truth, and for the work of our hands to model His works through Goodness, but at the core of our beings is this undeniable desire to seek out and behold that which is beautiful – and that our experience may actually drive the direction of our minds and the work of our hands.

 

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Audrey Hepburn said:
“Make-up can only make you look pretty on the outside but it doesn’t help if you are ugly on the inside. Unless you eat the make-up.”

I realize that the topic of Beauty may be a difficult one to grasp from a Christian perspective, and then even more difficult to try to apply. A large part of the problem is that our culture has re-defined the word on us – deplorably so. Chances are that the word Beauty sent most of your minds to the covers of Cosmopolitan or to commercial jingles – Maybe she’s born with it… maybe… it’s Maybelline. As the quote-unquote “Beauty Industry” has grown it has twisted our idea of beauty more and more to its own advantage. Now granted, they are only trying to make a buck like the rest of us – but the consequences to you have been insidious and even tragic.

Here is a small example – I found this in a health and fitness magazine:
“Most women would just as soon leave home without makeup as they would walk out the door without wearing pants. Makeup is an essential, which is why one of a woman’s most important accessories is her cosmetics bag”

Is this really true? Is not wearing makeup really considered a crime of Public Indecency? You can ask my wife Lori how I feel about makeup… it is not bad or wrong to wear makeup, but it should never be “essential”… There is something desperately wrong when women feel they have to wear makeup in order avoid public ridicule or especially to even see themselves as beautiful. If I were a woman, I would intensely resent being made to feel like my personal value was determined by how much product I had painted on my face – and you all know it goes much further than just makeup, there is a constant barrage of harsh unspoken value judgments from the Beauty Industry about your hair, your clothes, your weight, and so on…

And us men have not escaped either. Of course most of us know we are never going to look like Brad Pitt or George Clooney, but that’s not the real danger for us… our definition of beauty has been twisted and distorted in order to sell us all kinds of things, from power tools to crappy beer. Today the easiest way to manipulate men into useless purchases, or nearly any bad decision, is with sexually-charged “beauty”.

The truth is though, beauty does have a great deal of pleasure attached to it – even the sham-beauty being marketed to us a thousand times a day. But I would guess that even this word “pleasure” can be a challenge to you though. As Christians, many of us realize that sin, of course, is bad… and at the same time, we know sin may also feel very good and give us lots of pleasure. We therefore jump to the conclusion that pleasure is bad along with sin, and if beauty brings pleasure, well then it’s a small skip to silently assume beauty is also bad.

Desire and pleasure are part of how we were created. In the first days in the garden they were pronounced good by their Creator and so they were. Sin did not create desire and pleasure, it simply malformed them. I learned this from C.S. Lewis a long time ago… Christians do not accept a dualistic universe – that is, good and evil are not unique stand-alone entities battling for supremacy. Only good is able to create, evil does not have that power – it only has the power to twist and deform that which good has made.

Therefore, Beauty is good and ugliness is only a deformation of beauty. When we use beauty to our own advantage – to our own glory, it gets twisted out of shape and it becomes ugly, and then attraction and pleasure take the shape of sin.

But when beauty is a word from God, a love letter from the very greatest lover of your soul, your experience of attraction and pleasure has a holiness to it.

 

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Our next quote is from the ever-glamorous and ever-self-composed Miss Piggy.
“Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder but it may also be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye. ”

I feel the need to address the so-called subjective nature of beauty because it is, at least to some degree true that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. When we behold beauty, I believe that there is in that beholding, an experience of God Himself. As was previously mentioned, these three transcendentals of Truth, Goodness and Beauty are not just made up ideas, but are mighty representatives of the character and nature of The Transcendent One – God Himself.

God speaks to us in many ways. In the beginning of the book of Hebrews we see this:
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He (Jesus) is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.”

When Jesus was preparing to leave Earth before the day he was crucified, He said that the Counselor, the Holy Spirit will remain with us and He will guide us and speak to us in many ways. As we read the scriptures throughout our lives here, the Holy Spirit will mix our life experiences and our faith with the living and dynamic Word in order to continually reveal God’s will and ways to us. This does not make God’s word subjective, not at all, but there is a sense in which we all grow and mature in different degrees and directions, each receiving a unique and dynamic communication from God through it. We will likely even arrive at varying impressions of what is beautiful. This doesn’t make beauty completely subjective, it only means we each will have different sensitivities to it.

Jazz music can be really difficult to appreciate. It seems to defy the rules and the common forms of what I have typically considered music. And yet I know there are many people who find Jazz beautiful. The same thing is true with opera – honestly… some people really do like it! As many of you know, I enjoy listening to music – a lot, and I honestly strive to listen to all different kinds regardless of what my own personal tastes happen to be. See I know others are finding beauty in forms like jazz and opera, and so I have forced myself to listen – and let me tell you it was painful at times. Slowly but surely, I started to “get” jazz music, and then even started to enjoy it. Opera, on the other hand, I am still working on 🙂

I suspect what happens is that you can develop a certain sensitivity to various forms of beauty, and the greater the sensitivity, the greater the pleasure is you receive from it. Poetry and painting and story and song and woodcraft and sculpture and any other art you can imagine – along with all the beauty available to you by just looking out your window – all has potential to result in pleasure depending on how aware and sensitive you are to the forms of the art.

Ps 37 says this:
Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart

Could it be that as we delight in God, our sensitivity to His form, to His beauty will grow? And as our sensitivity grows, so will the pleasure we receive by beholding Him and worshiping Him. This ever-increasing and ever-transforming delight is ultimately the way God is glorified in our lives. It is for this reason that I will insist that beauty is important, and in fact may even save the world.

 

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I find beauty in unusual things, like hanging your head out the window or sitting on a fire escape.
~Scarlett Johansson

I don’t know whether Scarlett intended it, but this simple quote is highly poetic and beautiful. The first thing she says is “I find beauty”, and while subtle, it is a powerful statement. She tells me that she is actively looking for beauty and this inspires me to do the same. Next she comments that where she often finds it is in unusual things or places – but really, what could be more usual or common than hanging your head out your window? I am encouraged by this because it means that even though most people only expect to find beauty in particular places, like maybe the peak of Mt Rainer or a Hawaiian coastline, it actually can be found just about anywhere.

Good poetry very often does this. It quietly drags you into a common moment and then shows you some extravagant beauty that you have probably missed. And then that moment is no longer common, it has become magical – or perhaps even – mystical … filled with worship.

If you will allow me, I would like to drag you into a moment right here and now. I’m going to show you some things you likely already know but you will have to exercise your imagination to see them.

Close your eyes and take a deep breath.
Realize that you are sitting on a chair. With closed eyes, simply feel the chair against your backside.
Realize that you are also sitting inside a large metal box we call our church building – imagine you see it from the street, imagine the shape and color and size of it. You cannot see it at the moment, but you have memories of it to work with.

Now, realize that you, your chair and the big metal box are magically glued to land called North America. You have never seen all of this land with your own eyes, but you have seen representations of it. You have heard stories and seen pictures of it and sung songs about it, so you know it in a way.

Realize that this is just a small part of a larger land mass we have named Earth. And that is where you are sitting – in a chair, in a big box on a very large ball of land.

Realize now that Earth is spinning around on its own axis at just over a thousand miles an hour. We assume we don’t know what it’s like to spin at a thousand miles an hour, but really we do, because that is exactly what we are doing right now. So… what does it feel like?

Now let’s go faster… I hope nobody pukes… Not only are we spinning, but our ball of land is also circling around a giant ball of fire at 67,000 miles an hour. This may seem really difficult to imagine, but you have some representations. You might say we are spinning like a top and circling like swung-yoyo all at the same time. Your eyeballs are insufficient for the task, but your imagination can apply your knowledge to create a true experience for you right here and right now of what it really means to be sitting on a chair in a box on Earth.

Now I want you to realize the one who designed all of this and spoke it into existence, the Sun, the Earth, North America, metal for boxes and chairs and even your butt which is using them all in this moment, that One is intimately aware of you here in this moment – loving you. You have never seen this creator, but you have seen many representations of Him, so you know Him in a way.

What does it feel like to know him in this very moment? To be known by Him? Tell Him – you only really have this moment to do it, so do it. Sing Him a song about the sun and the earth, or write him a poem about a butt in a chair, draw him a picture of a child spinning in circles with their eyes closed tight.

Okay, open your eyes. I want you to realize that as long as you are here and awake, every moment you experience has a kind of super-potential. You have some true knowledge, and you have many representations, and so your imagination can lift you places you have never seen but know to exist. You can fly to the arms of God in any moment, just like we have done here, and beauty can be your spaceship.

 

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“Remember that the most beautiful things in the world are the most useless; peacocks and lilies for instance.”
― John Steinbeck

I don’t know if Steinbeck was completely correct here, but his comment provides me the opportunity to discuss something I’ve been actively discovering over the last several years. See I’ve been in this search throughout my 40’s to discover what it is that I want to do when I grow up. Perhaps it’s a typical mid-life experience, but there are several big questions haunting me, like “What do I really want to accomplish with my life?” and “If I don’t make a serious impact on the problems around me, how will my life have had any value?”

The more I’ve have pushed into these questions, the more I have sensed God pushing back on me – and honestly it has been quite confusing at times. Doesn’t God want me to devote myself to worthy causes? Aren’t things like helping the poor and fighting injustice really big on His list of things I should do with my life? Isn’t this how my life is going to have true value?

So what have I discovered? Well let me tell you a story.

There was this man named Jesus who came from Nazareth. He was widely respected as a spiritual teacher, and some even suspected he was “the One” that was promised by God to come and save his people. He wandered into a village one day and found some friends to hang out with for a little while. Since he took every opportunity to share his light, he spent time just talking and telling stories in the house of these two sisters. One of the sisters was Martha. While she was very pleased to have Jesus visiting, also had much to accomplish and so remained busy with her work while Jesus spoke. Before long she noticed her sister Mary was being lazy and not helping with the work at all. She just sat there, quiet and still and refused to pay attention to anything that needed to be done and only focused on Jesus. Martha grew so frustrated with her sister that she began to whine and complain out loud. She was utterly surprised, flabbergasted even, by the response from Jesus
– Mary had chosen a better way.

Of course I read that story in Luke 10 many years ago, but I still spent much of my life in the way of Martha. But there are two ways – two “modes of being” if I can suggest them:
Accomplishment Mode
Appreciation Mode

Somewhere along the way, someone suggested that if some thing or some being is not accomplishing something useful, it ultimately has no value. So Accomplishment Mode took center stage and some dangerous assumptions like Pragmatism and Utilitarianism were born. Today this mode largely rules the landscape of our culture – everyone is obsessed with improvement and performance and the “ten easy ways” and the “seven super habits” and the “three short steps”.

I might even go so far as to suggest that your Christian faith is likely centered on how you can “be better” and “improve your impact” and “grow your faith”. Now don’t get me wrong… these are not bad things. We should strive to grow in our faith and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus. And we need to butter our parsnips somehow – we need to work to support ourselves and our families and our church, and even share with our neighbors in need.

I am suggesting that you may have been tricked into spending way too much of your time and energy and ultimately into trying to find your identity and personal value in this accomplishment mode. We have perhaps been duped into thinking that the chief end of our lives is to be productive and useful and to continuously look and smell better.

In fact all who are in Christ Jesus are clothed with His perfection – what could be better? And, in fact, our chief end in life is not to improve on Christ’s perfection but to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. Accomplishment Mode is often necessary to this goal, but can I suggest that Appreciation Mode is also critical – and we tend to just ignore it today.

Personally, I feel like my primary mode of being should be one of appreciation
– of simply beholding the beauty of every moment and the wonder in every living thing around us
– of worship and adoration of the one who spoke us all into being.

You will probably think me lazy as I devote myself to just standing back and enjoying it all – to valuing life – not for what it can give me, not for what I can accomplish in it, but valuing it simply for the beauty of it.

Yes, I will continue to work and be productive – the cat needs to be fed after all… but I’ve decided that I am no longer going to seek my identity and value in the work of my own hands, but rather in simply being one of the many beautiful things He has done.

 

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Beauty is certainly a soft, smooth, slippery thing, and therefore of a nature which easily slips in and permeates our souls. -~Plato

What if – and I know I’m only spit-balling here, but what if Christian “witnessing” is not primarily about convincing someone to change what they believe or the way they behave? What if it is first of all about beauty, about fully experiencing it first-hand and then inspiring others to seek and find beauty as well? What if the greatest obstacle to faith is not so much stubborn will and sin, but simply blindness?

Could it be that it is an inability to see beauty and goodness and truth that keeps people away from God?
And could it be that salvation is less about making a decision and more about encountering and beholding the very most amazing Beauty for the very first time? These are just some of the things I’ve been wondering recently.

We live in a time where many are suspicious of truth claims and are often unconvinced by moral assertions – in these times it is beauty that has a surprising allure. And everything about Jesus Christ is beautiful!

Jesus said, “Let they who have ears to hear, hear and they who have eyes to see, see”.

But Paul says in 2 Cor 4: ”The enemy has blinded those who do not believe, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God”.

So to keep us from God, our enemy is trying to make us blind – unable to see the glory of Christ. I’m sure you have heard this word “glory” many – many times, but what does this actually mean? The dictionary says:

glo•ry
1 high renown or honor won by notable achievements.
2 magnificence; splendor; great beauty.

So the gospel has been given to show us the honor and beauty of Christ. Satan believes that if he can keep us from seeing from this great beauty, that he can keep us separated from God, and so his mission, as Paul describes it, is to blind us.

Remember I mentioned that the holy pleasure we receive from worshipping God is increased as our sensitivity to His beauty increases? Well there is also threat that we can become desensitized to beauty, so that we no longer detect it or respond to it at all when we encounter it. I would suggest that our enemy who knows very well that this is a danger to our souls, and is actively engaged in trying to destroy our sensitivity to beauty. The reason behind this tactic may be a hatred for the very glory of God.

So how do we wage war on this kind of battlefield? We will never give sight to the blind by protesting them into moral conformity, that is only kicking their cane – what is needed most is a compelling presence of grace and mercy, being beauty within the world – attracting the world to the saving beauty of Christ.

It is only in an encounter with the glory of God, with all Christ’s divine splendor, that we discover what it really means to be the Imago Dei – human beings made in the image of God. It is in this sense that we can say that beauty will indeed save the world.

 

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We are to love God with all our Heart, Mind and Strength. These might loosely map to Beauty, Truth and Goodness, and if so, loving God with all our heart would be all about Beholding Him – the gaze of awe and wonder, enraptured by beauty.

~Shea

Yes, that is a picture of me, and yes, I am quoting myself here… there a law against that?

Actually, I tried looking for someone else who communicated this thought clearly but didn’t turn anything up. I’m certain I’m not the first to draw this conclusion, but if I have to take the credit for it, so be it 🙂

In Luke 10, Jesus says “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind”. I realize Jesus actually gives four categories, heart soul strength and mind but I couldn’t find a clear-cut transcendental to represent how might love God with our soul – in fact I’m still a bit muddy as to what the soul actually is so how would you feel about just grouping it in with heart for the time being?

However confusing the category of a soul might be, the clear bottom line is that we are called to love God with all that we are and all that we got. This idea of Beauty is a truly powerful vehicle for loving God, and I don’t want to see us lose that, or leave it to rust in the backyard.

This is all I really wanted to say in this talk…
Love God.
Practice awe and wonder daily.
Allow music and poetry and story and art to drag you into His presence.
Behold His beauty, and become beautiful to our world.
Love God.