To Infinity and Beyond! (From Abstract to Absolute)

You must have felt, the air is chilly, when that craving for hot, steamy satisfying tea appears, where you crave that comfortable heat to fill your body, your hands, your head, your heart; you don’t want to freeze, so you want hot tea. Your favorite flavor may be zesty lemon, fresh mint, or spicy cinnamon. “Ahhh” would be a natural reaction your lungs have when steam fills yours nostrils, cheeks begin to rosy up, and your nose gets runny.

That’s how I feel when I get tea. You?

At least with the leading brands like Yogi, tearing back the paper and pulling out the stringed teabag lately brings the reading of a wise proverb. One tea stated,

“Love without trust is like a river without water”.

I like that one. Another tea stated,

“The gate to happiness is self-compassion”.

(What is happiness? …self-compassion?)

Wise sayings like these are usually harmless. Mostly they hold some truth, take them as they are. However, the second message (about self-compassion) can be interpreted both to harm and not to harm, due to its abstractness. For example:

A mother’s interpretation might be: “I should care about me this weekend. I’ll soak in a long bath while the hubby’s home.” Mostly harmless.

A painter’s interpretation: “Heed not the family business. Instead, do what makes me happy and go to art school.” Maybe harmful, maybe not.

But then a troubling interpretation from an angry teen: “To protect myself, I should get rid of the bullies. Tomorrow the gun goes in my backpack.” Mostly harmful!

Do you see where I’m going?

There’s no need to blame the teabags for sinister influence. These sayings are far too short and vague for the granting of ill intentions, and it’s entirely the responsibility of each person how he thinks, how he plots, or how he reacts. Right?

With that said, what concerns my writing today is the manner in which we consume abstract thoughts like these – even if each person is responsible for their own living and own behavior, it is the responsibility of a society, or a community, to provide the ambience needed for people to produce good thoughts each on their own.

It is a matter of how we habitually think and live. If we make a habit of consuming messages that are vague and abstract, our lives will be lived in the same abstractness. Our lives will be lived for the general purposes of “happiness”, “wellness”, or “productivity”; that is, the persons that we are will become bounded to the finite. The predictable. The limited. The temporary. Without the eventual consumption of that which is deep, unlimited, and endless, we will never find the absolute truth that sets us free.

As I have taught from week to week for more than a year now on my blog, I teach again: we can find that absolute truth by reading the entire Bible. It allows us to live a life boundless and free, unpredictable, unimaginable, and everlasting. Partly the purpose of my blog has always been to discuss again and again the Scriptures so you will come to know the Bible without having to read it alone and in cold, hard truth. I pray you come to see the burdens-lifting message of the gospel.

The inspiration of my writing today came from a teabag message I have not yet shared with you. I believe it is my favorite, because it brings to my mind the entirety of Christ. Quote:

“Love is an experience of infinity.”

What Yogi meant by putting it on its product I don’t know. Maybe,

God is love.

Love at its fullest mends all hurts.

Love shared by two people has an out of this world feeling.

Lovers are metaphorically stargazers who will never see every star no matter how long they gaze.

Love literally does not stop when completely unconditional.

Love has no ending of explanations.

Christ, however, reveals the quote much less abstractly, in fact, as Paul states it, there was a mystery and that mystery is now seen in Christ. All that was abstract is now absolute in our Lord and King who reigns on heaven and in earth. Read this passage in Ephesians 3:14-21 to get a true taste of infinity!

When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.

 

 

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The Great Eucatastrophe: The Christian Joy

“Jesus draws a circle around all the human family.”
-Jim McGuiggin in Drawing Circles, Part 3

 “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”  Isaiah 7:14

In an essay JRR Tolkien wrote called “On Fairy Stories” (written for the collaborated book Essays Presented to Charles Williams), he called the birth of Christ the “eucatastrophe” of human history. It’s a great eruption of goodness!  God’s own Son, the one who created the entire earth in just 7 days, the one who is “the Word” talked about in John 1:1, came to Earth as a lowly man, the son of a carpenter!  He gave up the riches and glory of heaven to live among men, to befriend them and to relate to them; to be judged by them, loved by them, reviled  by them, killed by them, and ultimately to save them.  To quote Tolkien, “This story begins and ends in joy.”  The famed author was comparing the Gospel to a beautiful fairytale, the perfect story, even more perfect than any other fantasy stories ever told because unlike all others, which have been created by the “corrupt making-creatures” which Tolkien has named mankind as, Christ’s story is truth, and has “entered History and the primary world; the desire and aspiration of sub-creation has been raised to the fulfillment of Creation”.

“For to us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever.  The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” Isaiah 9:6-7 (KJV)

As Tolkien wrote in his essay, “To reject it leads either to sadness or to wrath.  It is not difficult to imagine the peculiar excitement and joy that one would feel, if any specially beautiful fairy-story were found to be ‘primarily’ true…”

The truth is, the Righteous Judge was lowered to our position as human, so he could give us what we don’t deserve: forgiveness and salvation.  He chose a manger for his throne.  The precious hands that uniquely crafted every creature and plant on earth has entered this world as tiny hands of a baby.  The Son of God was made into the Son of man.

 

“And then the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.  And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus.  He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and his kingdom there shall be no end.”  Luke 1:30-33

Jesus came to earth so that we can go to Heaven.  Heaven: the land of eternity that transcends time and space.  Heaven is our promise, the triumph over death.  It’s the end of all things dark and sinister- the end of evil looming to bring fear to man.  It’s the end of all things alienating: it’s the end of sin.  With Jesus, we no longer have to fear God’s judgment.

“I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.  Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.  For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, an idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.  I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.”   Revelation 22:12-21

Jesus Christ was born as a baby wrapped in swaddling cloth and placed in a manger.  He was exalted by the angels and visited by shepherds and kings alike.  But when he comes again, He will be Lord and God.  King of all Kings.  I love the way that Tolkien expressed it in his essay: “God is the Lord, of angels, and of men—and of elves.  Legend and History have met and fused.  But in God’s kingdom the presence of the greatest does not depress the small. Redeemed Man is still man.”

“Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?” James 2:5

“Then Jesus said, “I am the bread that gives life.  He who comes to me will never be hungry. He who believes in me will never be thirsty…The Father gives me the people who are mine. Every one of them will come to me, and I will always accept them.  I came down from heaven to do what God wants me to do. I did not come to do what I want to do.  I must not lose even one of those that God has given me, but I must raise them up on the last day. This is what the One who sent me wants me to do. Everyone who sees the Son and believes in him has eternal life. I will raise him up on the last day. This is what my Father wants…The Father is the One who sent me. No one can come to me unless the Father draws him to me. And I will raise him up on the last day.  It is written in the prophets, ‘God will teach all the people.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. No one has seen the Father except the One who is from God. Only he has seen the Father. I tell you the truth. He who believes has eternal life. I am the bread that gives life…I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh.  I will give my flesh so that the people in the world may have life.”  John 6: 35, 37-40, 44-48, 51

 

Girls With Swords, Week 6

“Good men must not obey the laws too well.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

In this week’s study, we were given this quote and asked to explain what we thought it meant.  I really had no clue what to imagine the quote meant, but finally came up with this answer to the challenge:

“It needs context. I went and tried to read a little bit of the essay that the quote is from, and it’s generally about government.  In more entirety, the quote actually says ‘Every actual State is corrupt. Good men must not obey the laws too well.’ The essay also argues the ‘government’ between Laban and Jacob; how Laban and Isaac are the keepers of the land, [and are in charge of making decisions on matters concerning their land, and though Jacob lives there too, he must simply earn his keep.  He has no power over what happens to the land.]  So from the little that I read, maybe it means that there is no HUMAN state that is flawless.  Only God’s state is really Good.” 

Later, my dad shared a new thought with us, a sermon that he had heard spoken, and it cleared my understanding of Mr. Emerson’s quote. It dealt with the story in John 5:1-18. In the story, Jesus was healing a man who couldn’t walk.

When Jesus saw the man and knew that he had been sick for such a long time, Jesus asked him, “Do you want to be well?” The sick man answered, “Sir, there is no one to help me get into the pool when the water starts moving. While I am coming to the water, someone else always gets in before me.” Then Jesus said, “Stand up. Pick up your mat and walk.” And immediately the man was well; he picked up his mat and began to walk.” (verses 6-9, NCV)

According to the laws of love, Jesus did a wonderful thing.  He healed a man who had been trying to reach an angel’s healing touch for 38 years.  Who could have possibly been against such a good act of kindness?

“Because Jesus was doing this on the Sabbath day, some evil people began to persecute him.” (Verse 16, NCV)

As wonderful as was the kindness that Jesus showed to the cripple, the Jews weren’t happy with his work because it was on the Sabbath, which was their holy day of rest.  According to the Jewish laws, no one was allowed to work on the Sabbath.  Jesus, however, never allowed the laws of the Sabbath to stop Him from doing a good deed.

“But Jesus said to them, “My Father never stops working, and so I keep working, too.” This made them try still harder to kill him. They said, “First Jesus was breaking the law about the Sabbath day. Now he says that God is his own Father, making himself equal with God!” (verses 17-18, NCV)

There are many stories where Jesus healed people on the Sabbath (Mark 1:21-31, 3:1-6; Luke 13:10-17, 14:1-6; John 9:1-16).  Jesus was hated for His work.

“Every actual State is corrupt.  Good men must not obey the laws too well.”  Jesus matched the quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson perfectly in this story: He is a good man, the only good man on earth, but He didn’t follow the Jewish laws perfectly.  Instead He followed God’s flawless law: love and mercy.

 “Jesus answered, “Why do you call me good? Only God is good.” Mark 10:18 (NCV)

Amen, Lord Jesus!

“Our Warrior-King is beautiful. His very image is beyond compare. The wondrous span of creation captures a mere fragment of his beauty. The mighty ocean, soaring skies, and majestic mountains declare the powerful, immeasurable, enduring beauty of his strength.  Each and every living thing-from plants to animals- is an irresistible revelation of the fact that our God is gorgeous! He lovingly formed his sons and daughters to carry more of his majesty, glory, and beauty than any other creation.  We are his masterpiece.” –Quote from Lisa Bevere, Girls with Swords

“Being kind to people who see no kindness, or little of it anyway, [moves me].  Also being reliable. I am moved by quality, whether it’s quality of life, writing, behavior- perhaps I have high expectations, but…”    -quote from Lacy’s fencing manual

“Read the Psalms.  All over the place, [the scriptures can bring you perspective when you’re anxious or afraid], it calls God “a fortress”, “a shield”, “my strength”.  I never really understood the concept of the Psalms until we came up with Belaedria, and Escaping the Lair.  Taliesan [our fictional character] is always impressed by the Psalms.  He convinced me that God really is our shield!” -quote from Kat’s fencing manual  

Melania: To Design or Not to Design

Shakespeare’s famous quote “To be or not to be, that is the question” seems to be the motto of designers lately, when it comes to America’s next First Lady, Melania Trump: to design dresses or not design, that is the question.

Sophie Theallet, the fashion designer who asked her fellow designers to protest Melania as First Lady with her, has designed dresses for Michelle Obama, so I can only think she feels a sense of loyalty; when other designers decide whether they should join her, they can remember, it may not apply to their career the way it does Sophie’s. Unless a designer has endorsed Michelle Obama at some point, they need not follow the trend, just to suddenly “fit in”. Until Mrs. Obama makes a public statement protesting Mrs. Trump herself, telling loyalists to do the same, even designers who are Democrat can keep their integrity, continue forward with stride, and be willing to design for Melania Trump.

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