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Archive for December, 2015

Part of being human is wanting more than one thing at the same time. Sometimes the two things we want conflict with one another. Take eating and sleeping, for instance, our most basic bodily needs. Have you ever been so tired that all you wanted to do was sleep? So tired you could hardly get out of bed? But you were hungry, too?

As a midwife, this happens to me after a very long labor and birth. As an international traveler, it happens to me when the journey is long, and the jet-lag is severe. I usually force myself to get up, eat something small, and then go back to bed. Sleep at that time feels so good, and food tastes so good, too, because I am really hungry. There is a proverb that says, “To the hungry, even what is bitter tastes sweet.”

The conflict between eating and sleeping is easily resolved, just a simple matter of doing one first and then the other. It’s a matter of timing. One thing waits on another, and the desire for both is fulfilled. Delay is minimal, thank God, because we need both sleep and nourishment to live.

It’s important to understand the role of Time in the fulfillment of our desires, especially our deepest desires — the ones that go beyond eating and sleeping — the ones that are in the heart.

When Jesus was going to the Cross, he stopped to pray in a garden. He knew he was going to suffer, and he didn’t want to suffer the agony of torture and death. So he prayed to God, the Father, and he said:

“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”

Jesus prayed, just as he had taught his disciples to pray, that God’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven. He wanted two things at the same time, two things that were in conflict with one another: to avoid suffering and pain and, at the same time, to go through it in order to accomplish God’s will — the atonement for sin, the redemption of humanity, so that the whole world would be reconciled to God and experience salvation.

For those who put their trust in Jesus, maturing in faith means surrendering our conflicting desires — our desire to have two opposing things at the same time — to God’s will and God’s timing.

To desire God’s will above all other desires is to become like Jesus.

wine-bread

Look into this cup:
what do you see?
It’s the image of suffering
that saved you and me.

The Light in this wine,
never ages or fades,
but lives as a sign,
beautiful in eternity.

jb

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Some people say that the Bible is a book of answers, but it is also a book of questions. The questions draw our hearts toward the Divine. All of the questions in the Bible are critical to spiritual formation. One of them stands out to me. In the synoptic gospels, I read that Jesus, the God-Man, asks a blind man, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Matt. 20:32, Mark 10:51, and Luke 18:41).

This is a powerful question. Why does Jesus ask it? If he knows everything already, does he need to ask? And isn’t it obvious what the blind man wants? Wouldn’t anyone want the same thing?

The blind man replies, “Teacher, I want to see.”

When Jesus asks the blind man what he wants him to do for him, the blind man only says what he wants, not what he wants Jesus to do for him. He could have said, “I want you to give me my sight,” but he leaves this implied. Was he afraid to ask Jesus to do for him what he really desired? How many of us are afraid? Do we think that Jesus cannot, or will not, do for us what we ask?

But Jesus understands the man’s desires. He doesn’t ask the man this hard question because he doesn’t know the answer, but because he does. He wants to have a conversation — a relationship — with the man that leads to true healing. Healing is never simply physical. It is spiritual, emotional, and relational. Jesus wants this man’s trust in God to grow.

In Psalm 37:4, it says, “Delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” God does give us what we want. He also creates the desires of our hearts:  he causes them to grow within our hearts as we grow in the joy and delight of relationship with him.

Jesus healed the blind man. The blind man received his sight from the Lord. Jesus did this not only so that the blind man would see, but so that we would.

“In his light, we see LIGHT” (Ps. 36:9).

seeing_the_light_by_afterdeath.jpg

Seeing in the Light

by After Death (Ari)

 

 

 

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God knows what we truly want.

Ironically, we don’t!

Our feelings can and do change from day to day, week to week, month to month, year to year. Part of this is internal chemistry shifts, some a response to external pressure. There are many factors that go into why our desires change.

But imagine this for a moment:  say you had never tasted a dark chocolate truffle. How would you even know you wanted it if you had never experienced it? But say you had tasted, I don’t know, red beans or apples or cheese. Let’s say there was a day when you couldn’t have one of your favorite foods. So you asked God for your favorite thing — your favorite thing so far — and he said no. Then he offered you chocolate.

You had never had chocolate before, remember, so you don’t know how good it can taste. Would you try it? Or would you reject it because God wasn’t giving you what you asked for, the thing you thought you wanted the most?

It sometimes takes looking back at years of walking by faith with the Lord to realize that God takes away, but he also gives. You are going in one direction, and you want to go that way, and God turns you in a new direction you think you don’t want to go. But when you arrive at the new destination (or come full circle or whatever it is), you are surprised to be happy.

I’ve noticed that God prunes things out of our lives — our lives are like trees — so we will grow in a different direction. We don’t have endless time and energy, like God does, so our growth has to be directed with a purpose. Sometimes that means cutting things out. But sometimes, God restores. He grafts back in something that was cut out — or he grafts into our lives something entirely new.

If we are living in relationship with God, we are always growing. He is always (metaphorically speaking, of course) offering us new kinds of chocolate! There is something so richly celebratory, extraordinary, and amazing about walking by faith.

The Lord gives, and he takes away, and he gives again.

God is the Great Gift-Giver.

spiritual_gift

Spiritual Gift

 

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It’s not a typical love affair,
but “love” and “tenderness,”
both are there.

Named after a daisy,
she lived amidst words
surrounded by adjectives
in green fields of verbs.

Some force you to yield,
but she with soft art
passed through my hard shield
and into my heart.

Not always are love stories
just made of love.
Sometimes love is not named
but it’s love just the same…

This is no typical love affair –
I met her on a bench in my local square.
She made a little stir, tiny like a bird,
with her gentle feathers.

She was surrounded by words,
some as common as myself.
She gave me books, two or three,
their pages have come alive for me.

Don’t die now,
you’ve still got time, just wait,
it’s not the hour, my little flower.
Give me some more of you,
more of the life in you.  

Wait…

Not always are love stories
just made of love.
Sometimes love is not named,
but it’s love just the same.

English translation given for a French poem
at the end of the film, “My Afternoons with Margueritte” (2011)

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Donne moi encore un peu de toi,
donne moi encore un peu de ta vie.

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Tolkien's Catholic Imagination

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Thank You

by Alanis Morissette

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The Way

(trailer)

You don’t choose a life —
you live one.

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Socrates: Her immortality is demonstrated by the previous argument, and there are many other proofs; but to see her as she really is, not as we now behold her, marred by communion with the body and other miseries, you must contemplate her with the eye of reason, in her original purity; and then her beauty will be revealed, and justice and injustice and all the things which we have described will be manifested more clearly. Thus far, we have spoken the truth concerning her as she appears at present, but we must remember also that we have seen her only in a condition which may be compared to that of the sea-god Glaucus, whose original image can hardly be discerned because his natural members are broken off and crushed and damaged by the waves in all sorts of ways, and incrustations have grown over them of seaweed and shells and stones, so that he is more like some monster than he is to his own natural form. And the soul which we behold is in a similar condition, disfigured by ten thousand ills. But not there, Glaucon, not there must we look. 

Glaucon: Where then?

Socrates: At her love of wisdom. Let us see whom she affects, and what society and converse she seeks in virtue of her near kindred with the immortal and eternal and divine; also how different she would become if wholly following this superior principle, and borne by a divine impulse out of the ocean in which she now is, and disengaged from the stones and shells and things of earth and rock which in wild variety spring up around her because she feeds upon earth, and is overgrown by the good things of this life as they are termed: then you would see her as she is, and know whether she has one shape only or many, or what her nature is. Of her affections and of the forms which she takes in this present life I think that we have now said enough. 

Glaucon: True, he replied.

Socrates: And thus, I said, we have fulfilled the conditions of the argument; we have not introduced the rewards and glories of justice, which, as you were saying, are to be found in Homer and Hesiod; but justice in her own nature has been shown to be best for the soul in her own nature. Let a man do what is just, whether he have the ring of Gyges or not, and even if in addition to the ring of Gyges he put on the helmet of Hades.

Plato’s Republic X

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