Let’s Play Pretend

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In my previous post I encouraged my readers to take part in a meditation practice. The practice allowed us to create a vivid image of a perfected world. To imagine and visualize as concretely as possible a newly painted canvas of the world. To recall this image and continuously reform, reshape, and renew it.To begin to hope that the existence of such a world is truly possible. However for this practice to begin to take form beyond our imaginations and out into the world, unity is required. For humanities hope to slowly begin to transform all that we see around us there must be agreement about the object and aim of our future. Our hope must be directed towards and centered around a universal objective to become realized on earth today.

I want to suggest that our vehicle and object of hope is love. Love is the thing we must be directed towards and centered upon. The kind of love we see perfectly displayed in Christ. In Christ we find a concrete, vivid image of true love. Jesus is the exact representation and image of God. And God is love. The person, teachings, actions, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is the thing that displays for us a love capable of transforming our world. The cross becomes the center of all our hope. It was on the cross that an entire new reality was inaugurated upon the earth. Through the cross humanity was given the potential to become the hope of the better world we envisioned. The resurrection made way for the Kingdom of God to be made manifest today–on the very soil in which you are standing. On the cross, all those things we removed in our imaginations from the dark and broken world have already been overcome. Our job is to see such a world. Our job is to live it out as if it was real right now.

Problems arise because this new and perfected Kingdom isn’t always obvious. In fact, more often than not it is completely hidden. (This topic is discussed in a sermon by Greg Boyd that I would recommend). Our image of a world centered around perfect love must be the hope we hold on with all our might. Without hope–without possessing a faith aimed towards perfect love–transformation will be impossible. If we lose hope, if we give up on the possibility of perfect love, and rather become convinced that the ugliness we see in the world today is the best we can do this side of death, we are screwed. In the book Courage to Be, Paul Tillich talks about such hopelessness; “Despair is an ultimate or “boundary-line” situation. One cannot go beyond it. Its nature is indicated in the etymology of the word despair: without hope. No way out into the future appears.” If we do not imagine ourselves becoming something better, by uniting in a common hope, we are essentially condemning humanity to an end defined by fear. Lucky for us, our hope, our direction, our objective is perfect love–the only thing capable of eradicating fear.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” 1 John 4:18

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In His Own Words: Teilhard on Hope Matters

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In a previous post I spoke about how too often Christians live a life of hope that tags on a “but” at the end of it. Here are some excerpts on this topic written by Teilhard in a book titled, Hymn of the Universe–an amazing compilation of some of his more poetic writings.

“‘“O ye of little faith,’ why fear the onward march of the world or become distant to it? Why foolishly multiply your prophecies of woe and your prohibitions: “Don’t venture there; don’t attempt that; everything is already known that can be known; the earth is grown old and stale and empty; there is nothing more for us to find. . .On the contrary, we must try everything for Christ; we must hope everything for Christ. Nihil intentatum (to leave nothing un-attempted) that is the true Christian attitude. Divinization means not destruction but super-creation. We can never know all that the Incarnation still asks of the world’s potentialities. We can never hope for too much from the growing unity of mankind.”

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Hope is a necessity if our joy is to be complete. … I want [hope] because I cannot help loving all that your constant help enables me each day to bring into being. A thought, a harmony, the achievement of a perfection in material things, some special nuance in human love, the exquisite complexity of a smile or a glance, every new embodiment of beauty appearing in me or around me on the human face of the earth: I cherish them all like children whose flesh I cannot believe destined to complete extinction. If I believed that these things were to perish forever, would I have given them life? The deeper I look into myself the more clearly I become aware of this psychological truth: that no mm would lift his little finger to attempt the smallest task unless he were spurred on by a more or less obscure conviction that in some infinitesimally tiny way he is contributing, at least indirectly, to the building up of something permanent—in other words, to your own work, Lord.

Teilhard, . C. P. (1965). Hymn of the universe. New York: Harper & Row. p. 114-115, 134-135

A Response to Jim Inhofe: Does God give us power to create change?

Pin_InhofeI have this terrible habit of becoming too accustomed to my own beliefs—I suppose we all do. We too often surround ourselves with like minded people, watch the news channel we deem as the most fair and balanced, and its rare that we willingly challenge our worldviews. The reason we do this is because having your worldview challenged isn’t easy. Changing our worldview is to change our whole of reality. It is scary, emotional, time-consuming, and requires intentionality. And why would anyone want to intentionally seek out new information so they can find out that which they thought was truth wasn’t such a black and white issue after all? I have found that most often people undergo a worldview shift during a traumatic life event (this was me after my late husband’s death), an environmental change (attending college or traveling the world), or by experiencing a revelation (be it religious or not). As difficult a task as it may seem, challenging what we have always believed to be true is what causes us to grow as people. To open our minds and hearts to the ideas and beliefs of those around us, we are in essence creating for ourselves a bigger world to take part in. Too many times in my life, I have been guilty of the same thing. We seek comfort, convenience, and the path of least resistance.

As I have begun to write over the last couple weeks about Pierre Teilhard de Chardin with my hopes set on challenging some views about our world to those reading, at times I begin to panic. I am so immersed in my own worldview—in what I believe, how I regard the world, and where I think that is taking humanity—I begin to think everyone is on the same wavelength as me. Things that have become natural to me start to transform into the things I believe are obvious to everyone. This is a dangerous place to put yourself. Not only will you inevitably end up hurting someone at some point with your assumptions, but you will also hold back from helping others to expand their worldviews and potentially see a new possibility (or vice versa). So it is a fine line … don’t assume others believe what you believe, but don’t hold back from engaging others because you think they already see the world the same way you do.

I have feared this is what I’ve been doing in this series. That those things I am desiring to write about are obsolete or obvious. There is no question in my heart that God is leading and directing me in this work, but my fears of stating the obvious are trying to silence me. Then I read about Senator James Inhofe. So much could be said. The environmental issues the world is facing will be a topic I intend to cover in this series, so I want to avoid it until I am able to lay some groundwork for my opinions. Even though I won’t be discussing Inhofe and the environment in particular, I do want to examine the most publicized of his noteworthy quotes from over the last few years that has recently resurfaced as he prepares for his new role in office. It was this quote that reminded me God does have a bigger world for all of us to open our eyes to and my fears of bringing forth a wealth of obsolete ideas couldn’t be further from the truth (and I feel assured that regardless, it is not my concern if I am following a call to do so).

While we all know Inhofe is clearly an extremist when it comes to his views on climate change, I’m afraid his biblical conclusions regarding God and humanities role in creation aren’t quite as uncommon among Christians. The following was taken from an interview Inhofe did in March 2012, he said;

My point is, God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.”

The underlying message Inhofe is conveying is sadly one I believe many Christians would agree with if they were to lay all their cards on the table. As Christians, we do that which we feel called or conditioned to do … for some this means to live as righteously as possible, follow laws, go to church, tithe; for others it means loving your neighbor, ushering in the Kingdom, feeding the poor; for others it means both …. BUT … regardless of what we are called to do, the message we give to the world is Christians do not—in fact, cannot—truly bring change to the kingdom of darkness now enveloping this earth. In my opinion this viewpoint opposes the message Jesus came to bring. The good news is better than do good, love lots, give generously … but don’t expect heaven to come crashing down when you do.

Believing this leads to the way you lead your life, convey the gospel to others, and worse puts the Incarnate Christ in a box! I think we have forgotten the power of the Holy Spirit left behind to help us. I think we have failed to recognize free will is more than just choosing to do one thing or another, it is choosing to create with God, bring about the Kingdom of God, and participate in His gift of giving us the opportunity to cause change! Pray for this, set your hope on it, and ask God to reveal the ways you see the world and your faith in too small of a way.

(Quote taken from: Tashman, Brian (8 March 2012), “James Inhofe Says the Bible Refutes Climate Change“, Right Wing Watch, retrieved on 2012-03-13)

You Can’t Handle the Fruit

The creation story was opened up to me in a new way this week.  In particular, the very source of original sin; the fruit … the tree.  In my life, I’ve pondered how Adam and Eve were suddenly shamed by their naked bodies.  I’ve tried to imagine the fear they felt as they hid from God.  I’ve lived through the curse of painful childbirth … twice.  But up until this week I hadn’t given the name of the tree as much weight as I should have.  I don’t know how I could have missed this, or how in the 32 years of my life (on and off) in the church this has never been exposed in a more deliberate manner.

The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

This fruit gave them wisdom to [believe they could] know between light and dark.  The incite to [think they could] see what was right and wrong.  The [in]ability to lean on their own understanding of sinful nature.  Adam and Eve literally ate the obsession to bring justice.  They tasted shame, fear, and judgment.  It wasn’t just Adam and Eve though; we are still eating the fruit.  We are ignoring the origination of sin … taking it upon ourselves to play God, to determine, to decide another’s fate.  We have pridefully had the audacity to pretend to know another’s heart condition.

The first thing our gentle, loving creator asked of us was to leave this in His hands.  He knew – as He still knows – that when we feebly attempt to pass judgment, the result will always be the same …. our own further separation from Him.  And worse still, the separation of God from others.  Those people that we should be directing towards Him, not leading away.

Who have I steered away from God?  Who have I led astray because I felt complied to determine their shortcomings?  Upon understanding the depths of this truth, what must it feel like to be a priest in a confession booth … determining the weight of each and every sin, then handing out the answer for forgiveness?  How could a Christian resist repentance in the light of this? What actions have I taken part in that may have drove others away? All due to selfish fear, pride, and this fruit; this fruit which leads to the [mis]understanding that we know what only God can fully know?

Lord, help me to avoid ignoring your first request of us.  A request made out of Truth, out of love, and out of sympathy for our weak minds.  Open my eyes to see when I fall into the sin of desiring to judge another’s life.  Allow the Holy Spirit to refine the sin in my own life.  And give us all the faith to let the Spirit refine sin in the hearts of others as You see fit.

Holidays are Hard

I bawled in church today like a little girl who just got her pigtails pulled.  Jesus is risen.  Happy Easter.  Holidays are hard.  It’s hard to set out Easter eggs, watch the kid’s excitement in the morning, and not feel overwhelmed that Matt isn’t here to experience it with us.  It doesn’t help that I’m wading through my own messy depression, but reflecting on the mourning of Christ’s death just seems so much more understandable after grieving my own loved one.

Since posting last night, four things have happened that have made me decide to change directions in my writing.  These occurrences have given me a glimpse of the clarity I have been praying for.  The first thing that happened was I listened to a Rob Bell sermon from the 2011 Lent season.  I had started on the sermon series about a week ago.  When I came to this particular sermon I decided to wait before listening; somehow knowing it was going to have an impact on me.  The sermon contents, which did impact me greatly, brought me to the next thing.  I realized I wasn’t putting my trust in God as I have before, and I wasn’t doing this because I was being discouraged by lies from something ugly.  As far as I know, these are new lies, with a new message, that are being whispered to me … which I suppose is why I had so much trouble identifying them as such.  They twisted the truth so that it appeared … well, true.  The third thing?  Illumination Church this morning.  The worship, the resurrection, the sermon, my church family … the whole experience gave me the opportunity to open the flood gates I had been holding back for far too long.  And finally, a conversation with my ever gentle and loving Brad that helped me to more clearly state the feelings I was having, and some ideas on where to go from here.

I think where I am headed is to define who I am in Christ.  I want descriptive, colorful, and hopeful words on which to look to when the lies are whispered.  I’m going to the Bible, and I’m going to find and dig deep into these words.  There is solid ground on which to defeat these lies, and by the grace of God, I’m off to find it.  I want to lean on my risen Savior this Easter and remember His reply to Satan, when he quoted Deuteronomy out in the desert.  Jesus said to him “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  I am trying to live on bread alone.  I love God, I worship God, I look to God for answers, and pray to Him everyday.  But when the sunsets on another day I – far too often – think the results will need to come from me.  Nothing comes forth from me that isn’t of Christ, and I am making myself available to the Holy Spirit to write this truth on my heart.

I wish you all grace and peace on this beautiful Easter!