Friday, April 28, 2006

 

From Philosophy class . . .

Well, what can I say? The past few days in philosophy class were definitely interesting. We talked about the concept of sex. Yes, you read that right. Ouch! That is one of those subjects that I often find intriguing and embarrassing. I mean, God knows I've made my share of blunders in this area, and today I even talked about how I had misused the gift God gave me. Ah well, life is interesting, and I wanted to add some thoughts to my blog about class.

I realize that in whatever context we deal with the issue of sex, there will no doubt be controversy, condemnation, and embarrassment. We are all fallen people, after all, and who among us likes to admit our specific area of fallenness? Nonetheless, I think Peter Kreeft is correct that we in America haven't done the hard logical thinking required to explore this mystery and this monster. We have made this amazing gift into a merely selfish act, a mere recreational pursuit of personal pleasure. The secret to great marriage (and sex therein) is to unlearn this selfishness. It isn't about me! Just like Jesus' death and resurrection wasn't about him, but about loving us and giving his life in our place, so also this expression of our love within the commitment of marriage should be focused on what is best for the other person. We should seriously consider what is good for our spouse, and (even though I don't always do this) we should seek to do that thing, to love in that way, to lay down our own stuff for the benefit of another.

Isn't that in a sense the greatest good, the highest love in all areas? Putting the needs of another before your own? Isn't that the example of service that Jesus portrayed?

Ouch, that is difficult. Of course, we have made sex so common that (as the character says in Kreeft's book) we have made ourselves free from sex. We reduced it to merely human size. It is no longer a treasured possession, it is a recreational sport. Sad, isn't it? Yet even when we participate in it within this paradigm, something inside us screams "It isn't supposed to be like this! It isn't supposed to be common!" That is the voice of reason. We should listen to it on occasion.

I don't mean to sound like I am denigrating or belittling anyone out there who (like me) have found themselves behaving poorly in this area. God knows most of us don't need more guilt over the deal! What I am trying to say is that we need to return to a rational, godly mindset on the issue. We need to ask the tough questions, do the difficult thinking, pursue with gusto the truth in this matter. Sex is part of all of us. We ought to learn the truth about it so that we can live in truth and not perpetuate the lie.

Well, I've probably said enough. I will add in conclusion, I'm glad I found forgiveness. I'm glad I learned. I'm even glad that my Father is patient in his training and discipline in this area of my life. He loves me with all my sins and failures. He loves me when I succeed. He forgives me and applauds me as needed--and that's a good thing! Whew, this topic is heavy, I think I'll put it down now.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

 

And now, a song from Forty Days . . .

Here's a song I was listening to on the old CD player that I really enjoyed.

"Quiet" by Mark Warren, Joel Warren

Walk into a crowded room, into a faceless sea
I feel right at home
Remember not to look to close so they won't see through me
They can never know that there's a voice inside my head
Inside my mind
If I could find that secret place
A place to hide

Chorus:
It would be alright if I could stay there for awhile
It would be alright if I could steal the quiet
Deep down I have a need that I cannot deny
It would be alright

I sense you there across the room
A blinding light stills me where I stand
I didn't think you'd come this soon
If I may, if I might find out where I stand
I didn't plan to leave you out for all this time
I took for granted you were here
But if you don't mind

Chorus:
It would be alright if I could stay there for awhile
It would be alright if I could steal the quiet
Deep down I have a need that I cannot deny
It would be alright


I don't know why this song speaks so strongly to me. I think it is the whole idea of stealing quiet.

Finding a center.

Hunkering down for a moment of peace in a world of white noise.

Brother Lawrence said, "To be with God there is no need to be continually in church. Of our heart we may make an oratory, wherein to retire from time to time and with Him hold meek, humble loving converse." (The Practice of the Presence of God)

Sometimes we need to retire, to separate ourselves into a sort of solitude just to be in the presence of the One who really matters. Thomas Kelly in A Testament of Devotion calls this the process of centering on God. It is the discipline of finding a place to be, a place to just sit with Abba and simply to breathe.

If we make time for this practice, for this centering, for this laser like focus on what really matters, we may well find that God often appears in those times in ways we may not have expected. As Evelyn Underhill notes in Practical Mysticism:

"Because mystery is horrible to us, we have agreed for the most part to live in a world of labels; to make of them the current coin of experience, and ignore their merely symbolic character, the infinite gradation of values which they misrepresent. We simply do not attempt to unite with Reality. But now and then that symbolic character is suddenly brought home to us. Some great emotion, some devastating visitation of beauty, love or pain, lifts us to another level of consciousness; and we are aware for a moment of the difference between the neat collection of discrete objects and experiences which we call the world and the height, the depth, the breadth of the living, growing, changing Fact, of which thought, life, and energy are parts and in which we 'live and move and have our being.'"

I think that sums up the second verse of the song--sometimes we are just jolted out of our contemplation, out of our busy-ness, out of our mundane existence, and then we have a clarity we have not experienced and maybe cannot adequately express.

We see.

We see HIM.

We get IT.

I need the quiet. I need to get it. I need to crawl into my Father's lap and be shocked into an awareness of how interconnected my world is to His, how his grace overflows in every aspect of my existence, how completely all encompassing is this One called God.

Steal the quiet.

Get in God's presence.

Be jolted into the reality of this great grace which sustains us all.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

 

Time for some 70s music and comment!

Today I've been listening to a set of CDs containing the greatest hits of the 70s. A two disc set is given over to "one hit wonders." One of those "wonders" got my attention today. For those of you over 30, see if you remember this song:

Sometimes When We Touch - Dan Hill
You ask me if I love you
And I choke on my reply
I'd rather hurt you honestly
Than mislead you with a lie
And who am I to judge you
On what you say or do?
I'm only just beginning to see the real you

And sometimes when we touch
The honesty's too much
And I have to close my eyes and hide
I wanna hold you til I die
Til we both break down and cry
I wanna hold you till the fear in me subsides

Romance and all its strategy
Leaves me battling with my pride
But through the insecurity
Some tenderness survives
I'm just another writer
Still trapped within my truth
A hesitant prize fighter
Still trapped within my youth

And sometimes when we touch
The honesty's too much
And I have to close my eyes and hide
I wanna hold you til I die
Til we both break down and cry
I wanna hold you till the fear in me subsides

At times I'd like to break you
And drive you to your knees
At times I'd like to break through
And hold you endlessly

At times I understand you
And I know how hard you've tried
I've watched while love commands you
And I've watched love pass you by

At times I think we're drifters
Still searching for a friend
A brother or a sister
But then the passion flares again

And sometimes when we touch
The honesty's too much
And I have to close my eyes and hide
I wanna hold you til I die
Til we both break down and cry
I wanna hold you till the fear in me subsides

I was listening to this song today after having a conversation about small groups and relationships. How appropriate that Providence (or was it "sheer luck") established that this song would be keyed up on my car's CD player! Let me explain.

One of the things I have been learning as a disciple of Christ is the importance of authentic and reconciled relationships. In our fast-paced, computer based, and out of touch society, we tend to define "relationships" by the number of times we e-mail, page, or voice mail our friends. We get in the habit of having "contact" without coming into contact with anyone! We have "friends" that we never seem to encounter physically. How do we call that "relationship"?

What I love about this song is the honesty about relationships. Read the lyrics again. Go ahead, I'll wait right here.

Done? No, no hurry, I'm still here.

Okay, got it? Good. Here are the ideas that caught my attention today. Dan Hill reminds us that relationships work best when they are founded on honesty and presence.

Yes, presence.

Oh, many of us have honesty down (although in some cases our claims to "honesty" are just an excuse to be insulting--right?), but how many of us have the issue of "presence"? Do we even know what it is?

Look at the chorus--Dan Hill sings that he wants to hold on until his fear subsides, he wants to hold on until both he and his girl break down and cry. What's he saying?

He is there. . . he is with her . . . he is present.

How does it relate to being a Christ-follower? Let me illustrate by telling a story.

In Luke 24, a couple of guys have left Jerusalem to walk home after a disappointing series of events including the trial and wrongful death of Jesus. They are depressed, bummed, disappointed. They had thought that Jesus may be the One who would set things right. Now he is dead. Done in by one of his own disciples and killed by the religious leaders and political tyrants of the day. In this depressed state of mind they take a walk.

I picture them walking along silently--just being there with each other. As they continue their depressed journey, a stranger approaches. This guy doesn't seem to understand the significance of recent events. He is clueless. Even more importantly, he is Jesus, but the depressed walkers don't recognize him.

As they walk, they relate the series of happenings to the hidden Christ. They spill their guts about their disappointment, their sadness at the death of Jesus. They express their doubt regarding the report of a few women that Jesus' body was missing from the tomb. They are too busy with their disappointment to buy the idea of resurrection.

Then Jesus speaks.

He doesn't say, "Oh gee, you guys have had it rough. Man, I'm glad I missed all of that."

He doens't put a band-aid on their gaping chest wound.

He pulls out the scalpel of God's word (see Hebrews 4:12) and performs heart surgery.

Jesus takes their broken hearts into his surgeon's hands and works on them.

As Jesus talks to them, they approach home in Emmaus. The depressed fellows are feeling much better now, so they invite the still unknown Jesus into their home.

They sit down at the table to eat. Eating is an intimate act of sorts. They are expressing friendship to this stranger.

Then Jesus breaks the bread, offers a blessing, and the guys look up and see the resurrected Lord where a stranger had been (is that what the author of Hebrews meant about entertaining "angels unawares" in chapter 13 of that letter?).

Jesus was there.

He was present with them, but they did not "see" him until they ate with him, until they got honest, until they recognized his presence there.

What do you think tipped them off?

Was it the prayer? Or the way Jesus broke the bread?

Whatever it was, the presence of Christ was expressed in that honest moment. Here's the point:

When followers of Christ get together in honest relationships focused on reconciliation (see Matthew 18:12-20), the presence of God is practically guaranteed.

So, here's what attracted me to this song--the idea of being in relationships that help me see the real me and the real you. Relationships of such honesty and reconciliation that we just keep at them until the fear disappears.

We all have been hurt at one time or another in relationships. It may have been a dating situation, or at home, or at church, or at work.

We have all endured the brokenness and pain that comes from being human.

Why not look for authentic relationship that gives an invitation to the presence of Jesus?

Why not be there for each other?

It is a high standard, but if Jesus did it, how can we say no to an attempt?

Be there.

I'm going to try.

Thanks for reading!

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