All For Good

All Things For Good.  The book by Thomas Watson has been sitting in my bookcase for a year.  It was given to me by a dear friend at our old church who enjoyed keeping tabs on my spiritual life, and who frequently just gave me books that he thought would inspire me and challenge me.  I read some of them, but I hadn’t read All Things For Good.  Now, we’ve moved away from dear old Ohio, and away from my quiet, uneventful life.  Things are beginning to occur, and as I have finally begun to settle into my busy schedule I have learned to make time to be quiet and to reflect and study the character of God and to nurture my soul with his word.

I wake up sweating in the night, sometimes, because I worry myself over application work, visa issues, financial matters. I stay awake at night thinking about all the things that could go wrong, how some things seem just too good to be true, that I certainly didn’t do anything to deserve it and all it will be in the end is an empty dream. [More details on this in a later post.]  But then, a few nights ago, I started Thomas Watson’s book.  The old language of the Puritans was like cold water on a hot and dusty day, just poured right over my head.  I could feel the essence sinking into every part of my mind.  And I was convicted.  If things go “wrong”, it’s still for our good.  I am still a child, because I must remind myself over and over again that God does not leave us to ourselves but is constantly proactive.  All things for good.  Not, all for naught, but all for good.  For our ultimate good.  Of course, I can’t always see how it will be good or why—sometimes I’ll never see, but I have to trust in his promises.  He has promised.  Unlike me, he keeps his promises.  And in trusting him I find rest.  I can sleep thinking, “He knows what he wants for me, and he’s working towards that end, and he’ll work in me.”

Here are just a few practical excerpts from the book.

“The Word preached works for good.  It is a savour of life, it is a soul-transforming Word, it assimilates the heart into Christ’s likeness; it produces assurance.  ‘Our gospel came to you not in word only, but in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance’ (1 Thess. 1:5). It is the chariot of salvation.

Prayer works for good. Prayer is the bellows of the affections; it blows up holy desires and ardours of soul. Prayer has power with God.  ‘Command ye me’ (Isa. 45:11). It is a key that unlocks the treasury of God’s mercy. Prayer keeps the heart open to God, and shut to sin; it assuages the intemperate heart and the swellings of lust.  It was Luther’s counsel to a friend, when he perceived a temptation begin to arise, to betake himself to prayer.  Prayer is the Christian’s gun, which he discharges against his enemies. Prayer is the sovereign medicine of the soul. Prayer sanctifies every mercy (1 Tim. 4:5). It is the dispeller of sorrow: by venting the grief it eases the heart. When Hannah had prayed, ‘she went away, and was no more sad’ (1 Sam. 1:18). And if it has these rare effects, then it works for good.”

One thing I love about the Puritans is that as antiquated and unapproachable as they seem, the essence of their words transcend time.  Just because they’re four hundred years old doesn’t mean that what they say is not practical.  No: far from it.  They speak straight to the heart of the matter, with understand and wisdom that is hard to find in this day and age.   I find myself renewed, comforted, and invigorated to continue in my spiritual journey, to continue trusting Christ and putting him before everything that I do.

Just as a closing, one of my favourite Westminster Catechism Q&A’s, which I think can be applicable.

Q: “What are the benefits that in this life accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification?”

A: “The benefits, which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification, are assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end.”

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I Wonder

When people say they wonder about things, they usually mean they are puzzling over something.   And puzzling can be a form of wonder, I suppose.  But in this case, I am standing in awe of something.  I wonder at it, I adore it, it terrifies me yet it saves me.

This thing that seems so contradictory in and of itself is love.  I’m not going to try to explain it, because I have finally accepted the fact that it is unexplainable.  I did not used to think it was so; a few months ago I thought I would go crazy trying to figure it out.  I paid close attention to newly married Christian couples.  I knew that their love for each other mirrored Christ’s love for us. It seemed like they held a deep mystery.  As soon as they were married, there was something new about them; something that could not be explained.  I looked and saw it in my parents.  I saw it in every married person around me, and I couldn’t place my finger on it.

Awhile ago I had a revelation.  In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul says that “love keeps no record of wrong.”  This bit puzzled me, but it gave me a realization about love.  You cannot blame a brother for something he has done in the past, you cannot hold it against him.  Love blots out that wrong, it forgives.  My love for my brother or sister must not hold blame, because I must see that I am a sinner myself.  Yet, at the same time, such a person may have changed for the better.  The Holy Spirit is constantly molding and changing and honing the hearts of men: how can we say that a man is what he was years ago, based on something he had done?  A man is not what he was, and will not be what he is.  The principle allows one to love freely, but not blindly.

But there is another paradox, and one of Shakespeare’s sonnets solved it for me.  The puzzle that was even if love kept no record of wrong, the thing that it loved at first changes in character.  A woman might love a man for his strength, or a man might love a woman for her beauty.  They each might love little quirks or characteristics in the other.  They might find they cannot live without each other, and they might marry.  Yet in 40 years, I can almost guarantee that those things that formed the basis for their love are gone.  Do we expect to see an absence of love here? No! If anything they are more firmly attached to each other than before.  They may not love with the same passion as when they were young, but they are something else… they have mellowed out together.  Their love has not died, but it has deepened.  They have grown to respect each other.  The only explanation I could find was this.  Though the beauty may have faded and the quirks were replaced with other characteristics, their mutual affection and respect was deepened because of the union of their souls.  And it is in that union, it is in that mystery of the soul that I lose the explanation of love: it is there that it cannot be explained.

It is here that Chesterton comes into play.  Optimism and Pessimism can be found in marriage.  Say that two young persons got married.  Say that the husband was so optimistic about his wife: he loved her so much that he did not want her to change in any way.  Say the wife was so pessimistic about her husband: she hated him to such a degree because of all his faults, and felt that the extent of them was so hopeless, that she did not attempt to help him change.  Each one of them are wrong: they are both sinners in a fallen world.  The husband must love his wife, yet he must be enough of a pessimist to realize her faults and enough of an optimist to want to change them.  There must be a perfect balance.

So Chesterton states it thus:

“No one doubts that an ordinary man can get on with this world: but we demand not strength enough to get on with it, but strength enough to get it on.  Can he hate it enough to change it, and yet love it enough to think it worth changing ? Can he look up at its colossal good without once feeling acquiescence? Can he look up at its colossal evil without once feeling despair? Can he, in short, be at once not only a pessimist and an optimist, but a fanatical pessimist and a fanatical optimist? Is he enough of a pagan to die for the world, and enough of a Christian to die to it? In this combination, I maintain, it is the rational optimist who fails, the irrational optimist who succeeds.  He is ready to smash the whole universe for the sake of itself.”

I’m not saying that husbands and wives should go about smashing each other for their own good.  But there is something about them… they love each other for who they are, yet they help each other change.

Like I said, Shakespeare explained it to me in a sonnet:

Sonnet CXVI

Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments; love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove.

O no, it is an ever-fixed mark

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wand’ring bark,

Whose worth’s unknown although his highth be taken.

Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks

Within his bending sickle’s compass come,

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

But bears it out, even to the edge of doom.

If this be error and upon me proved,

Then I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove.  This statement would be a contradiction in and of itself.  Love does not change when its object is altered in some way, yet neither does it seek to remove its object.  It remains fixed in its purpose, change what may.

I am enthusiastic about this love, yet I am terrified of it.  God’s love must be terrible.  I read once that His love has the strength of man, and yet the tenderness of a woman.  It is not wimpish, yet it is not unfeeling.  He loves me in spite of my faults, and it is he who is constantly molding me and making me.  Why am I afraid of this love?  There is a line in a Mumford and Sons song that says:

“Can you kneel before the King

And say I’m clean, I’m clean?”

And if that King loves me so deeply, so steadfastly, can I kneel before him, can I look him in the eye, can I pretend to be worthy of his love?  No, I can’t.   He is the epitome of holiness, and who am I? I am the dirt and scum of the earth.  Even in spite of his love, I see his justice;  I see that I have offended his holiness, that divine justice must be satisfied in some way.

Yet he loves me.

Chesterton said:

“…sham love ends in compromise and common philosophy, but real love has always ended in bloodshed.”

And that’s exactly what has been done for me.  There is a beauty in Christ’s blood, and I am drenched in it.  He loved me, he gave himself up for me.  His sacrifice satisfied divine justice for me.  This love is terrifying because of what it will do.  If I sin against my heavenly Father, I am terrified to face him.  Yet in love he will discipline me, and with true repentance will come his mercy to me.

Even when I think that I can understand the love between a man and a woman, my entire theory is bashed to pieces when I think of what that love mirrors.   The love that is exchanged on this earth is not as perfect as Christ’s, but it aims to be that way.  It climbs higher and higher, and it is sanctified.  One day we will be able to love fully, even has we have been fully loved.

Do not think that love is a fraud, that it will betray you.  If it does, it is not real love.  Pursue holy love, covenant love, real love.  If you think love does not hurt—well it does.  Until we are able to love perfectly.  But while we are still sinful, we need discipline, and quite often that discipline or correction will come from someone who loves us, or whom we love.

So I’ll end with a line from another Mumford and Sons song:

“Love it will not betray you, dismay or enslave you,
It will set you free
Be more like the man you were made to be.
There is a design,
An alignment to cry,
Of my heart to see,
The beauty of love as it was made to be.”

Look higher than the precepts of the world.  Search further into your soul.  In the dead of night, or the quiet of morning, seek the Lord: you will find love.  In a torrent of pain and feeling you will find a completion to your soul.  The yearning that you have that nothing ever satisfies will be given.  You will feel Him say: “I am.”  And the moment of revelation will come: He is everything, and he can give everything. And a peace will envelope you.  You will lie on your face, and you will not even want to get up.  You will want to stay and feel his love surround you.  You will feel the grace, the mercy, and you will know that this love is deeper than any you have received or given.  You will lay there in awe and shame, but he will “raise you up and set you in His presence” (Psalm 41.)  This is not a one-time experience.  There are times when we must be constantly reminded of Christ’s everlasting and unfathomable love.  Let us stand in wonder of it, and let us seek to display this Christ-like love towards our brothers and sisters.

Wise Words of the Church Fathers

I Am
by Chrysostom c. 349-407 AD

“For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power.” – Colossians 2:9-10

Isn’t He right in turning from us and punishing us, when He gives Himself up for us entirely and yet we resist him? Surely, it is plain to everyone. For whether you desire to adorn yourself, “Let it, He saith, be with My ornaments” ; or to equip yourself, “with My arms”; or to clothe yourself, “with My raiment”; or to feed yourself, “at My table”; or to travel, “on My way”; or to inherit, “My inheritance”; or to enter a country, “the city of which I am Builder and Maker”; or to build a house “amongst My tabernacles.” … What can equal this generosity: that, “I am Father, I am Brother, I am Bridegroom, I am dwelling place, I am food, I am raiment, I am Root, I am foundation, all whatsoever thou willest, I am”?—and “Be thou in need of nothing, I will be even a servant, for I cam to minister, not to be ministered to; I am Friend, member, Head, Brother, sister, and mother; I am all; only cling closely to Me. I was poor for you, and a wanderer for you, on the cross for you, in the tomb for you; above I intercede for you to the Father, on earth I have come for your sake as an Ambassador from My Father. You are all things to Me, brother, joint heir, friend, and member.” What more could you ask for?

The Demonic Obsession

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Memento Mori – William Michael Harnett, 1897.

This painting intrigues me. A few weeks ago we were at the art museum and were asked to pick out a painting we loved.  Well, I picked out this painting – but not because I loved it.  It’s not the sort of painting that belongs in a heart, or a soul.  It belongs in the mind.  It’s title… the whole aspect of the painting seems to send shooting messages everywhere: “You’re only human… so little time… sieze the day!”  I also am drawn to it by the many correlations to Hamlet, by Shakespeare.  I won’t go into detail, but you can look up the painting and study it somewhere.

It makes me think morbidly of everything – of graveyards, and skeletons… death…

Or the scariest holiday of the year.

But really, think about it.  What sensible… what spiritually alive person puts a graveyard in their front yard? Is it a warning? “If you come to my house for dinner, I’m going to feed you arsenic and bury you there.”  “Hey look everybody! My front yard is filled with DEAD people! Isn’t that cute?”

Really….

Halloween is a mix of a bunch of different things.  Probably it’s most relative to the ancient Irish tradition of Samhain, later called “All Hollows Even (Evening)”.  Samhain celebrated the end of the lighter season and the beginning of the darker season.  They believed that during this time, the walls between this world and the Other world grew thin and spirits were allowed to pass through, being honoured guests at their descendants homes.  However, evil spirits also came through, and so, in order to protect themselves against the harmful spirits, people would dress up in costumes.  There would be bonfires… odd sorts of rituals.. etc.  In the late eighteenth century, children would dress up and, going from door to door, perform acts of entertainment in exchange for food or coins.  These traditions have been carried down into different cultures—Poland and Mexico celebrate a similar holiday called Day of the Dead.  All Saint’s Day was celebrated in England, but was called “All Hallows Even” Hallows meaning Saints.  They celebrated the saints, known and unknown, and honored them.  But anyways… that’s just a historical background.  I wanted to talk about Halloween, and what it is today.

Just a fun day to dress up and get candy, huh? Well that’s fine… just fine.  I mean, what sensible child doesn’t want to dress up and get candy?  The fact in and of itself doesn’t bother me.  It’s what they choose to dress up as that irks me.

Goblins… witches… ghosts… Frankenstein… the devil… to name a few.  I’m aware that not everybody dresses up in these costumes – but the majority seem to.  A lot of houses don’t have tons of decorations – but some do have the purple spider webs on the bushes, or a skeleton on their door, or something of the sort.  I’ve seen houses that almost look scary.  A mechanical coffin with a man popping out of it every five seconds.  I’ve seen yards littered with this kind of stuff.

What makes people want to do this?  What is it that’s so appealing about witchcraft, skeletons, ghosts, blood?  It’s in a sickly sense, too.  I think Halloween is an appeal to the dark side of humanity.

Halloween is a dark holiday.  Everything about it is associated with darkness.  It’s rooted in superstition and untruth.

And here’s the real thing:

Why would you celebrate a dark holiday, when you can celebrate one that represents light?

Post Tenebras Spero Lucem (After Darkness, I Hope For Light)


On October 31st, 1517, Martin Luther nailed the ninety five theses to the door of the Wittenburg Church in Germany.

 

The church, up to this point, had been living in darkness.  People couldn’t even read their Bibles, and so superstitious were they that they believed the fact that salvation could be bought.  They knew literally nothing about their God.  And the church didn’t even help matters – worsened them, actually.  The people’s disadvantage was taken advantage of.  They were falsely preached to – the church itself was corrupt with all manner of sins.  Martin Luther revolted against this.  He… along with John Calvin, John Knox, Jan Hus and other reformers in different countries, instigated a insurrection against the distorted church.  It was the beginning of a Reformation that would spread through many, many countries and bring the light of truth to people who had been living under darkness.

 

Funny how Reformation Day is on the same day as Halloween.

If someone put a choice before you, which would you celebrate?

Tea With Lewis and Chesterton… and Alice

I can just picture it.  Lewis and Chesterton are having tea, talking about the impossibility of the reality the world is talking about, and the probability of greater morals existing in other worlds.  They both turn, Chesterton has a marmelade roll Lewis has brought with him halfway to his mouth.  Lewis’s teacup is suspended three inches above the saucer.  Both of them smile at the little blonde-haired girl next to them.  “What do you think, Alice? Do you think everything in Wonderland is impossible?”  And Alice probably said no, she didn’t.

And Chesterton would smile approvingly and continue complimenting Lewis on the “excellent marmelade,” and Lewis would nod and smile and begin observing how the world would be much better off if all little children were like Alice.

Reality.  The word used to hit me in the face.  I used to think of something covering up or tinting my passion for beauty.  When I thought of the stars, or flowers, or mountains, or love I got excited… My imagination felt alive.  I felt alive.  But then the word came—reality—and I felt guilty for thinking of those things.  It seemed as though reality was something that covered up the stars… something that made love seem “idealistic”… unreal…  Impossible—something people only dreamed of.  To me, reality seemed like finishing highschool at seventeen or eighteen. Going to college for 4+ years. Pursuing a career.  Maybe getting married between 27 and 35.  Maybe have a kid.  Maybe two.

Then I had a realization.  I suppose that means I came to terms with reality.  Reality is now my friend.  Facts and reality coincide… to an extent.  I see the flowers.  I can touch them, feel them, smell them.  There are flowers—that, in fact, is reality.  Reality isn’t something blurring the stars… it is the stars.  As for love, it’s the most realistic thing I can think of.  I was quite wrong in thinking there is no beauty in reality.  You could say that reality is beautiful, or that Beauty is reality, for there is a God.  Or it might be better to say that God is.  That is reality, because that is a fact. I was reading C.S. Lewis’s book Mere Christianity and I was struck by something he said towards the beginning.  Before now, I had never really thought about the existence of God being a fact. I thought that because not everyone believes in God, it couldn’t be a fact.  If I had thought seriously about this, I would have slapped myself very hard for that philosophy.  If I didn’t believe in God—why, my life would be the unrealistic one.

“If the universe was really without meaning, we should have never found that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe, and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should have never known it was dark. Darkwould be a word without meaning.” Further back he says: “My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got the idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be a part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it?” [Mere Christianity, book 2 chapter 1.]

It is so interesting to read how Lewis himself sees and describes how, when he was an Atheist, in the very act of proving that there is no God, he was proving that there is a God.  (I love reading Lewis—Mere Christianity is brilliant, and he’s really a fantastic writer.  When I read his fiction, I feel like I’m sitting right next to him, and he’s telling the story.  When I read his apologetics, I feel as though I am standing right there, arguing in a friendly way with him.)

Is reality, in fact, something cold and hard that you land on when you’re head is in the clouds?  Is the logician right when he says Wonderland is irrational and senseless?  It’s not just wonderland.  When I use this word, I am referring to any fantasie. (As opposed to fantasy—spelled with a y.)

Fantasie means more than Twilight or Harry Potter. (Sorry to any fans out there.)  It refers the beauty of mind and soul… the world in our subconscious, all things beautiful and imagined.  Things are only impossible when they cannot be imagined.  All possibility is contained within imagination.

If a child actually wondered if the moon were made of cheese, is it really impossible?  Perhaps the logician would say: “Yes, it is; cheese is made from curds.  It goes through a certain process, and it is impossible that there could be enough cows even in the world to make enough cheese to fill a moon.”  But the child has already had the idea.  The idea has become a possibility.  There is a certain amount of logic that must be combined in the imagination.  For instance, as soon as the possibility has been birthed with the idea, one must find out if the possibility is real.  For all we know, God might have made the moon out of cheese.  And he still could.  And once you admit that, you denounce the word “impossible.”

I have never seen a blue talking and smoking caterpillar.  I have never seen the Jabberwocky.  But because I have never seen them I can’t say that they don’t exist.  It simply hasn’t been proved to me that they don’t.

If there is a law that pick-pockets shall go to prison, it implies that there is an imaginable mental connection between the idea of prison and the idea of picking pockets. And we know what the idea is. We can say why we take liberty from a man who takes liberties. But we cannot say why an egg can turn into a chicken any more than we can say why a bear could turn into a fairy prince.  As ideas, the egg and the chicken are further off from each other than the bear and the prince; for no egg in itself suggests a chicken, whereas some princes do suggest bears.  Granted, then, that certain transformations do happen, it is essential that we should regard them in the philosophic manner of fairy tales, not in the unphilosophic manner of science and the “Laws of Nature.” When we are asked why eggs turn to birds or fruits fall in autumn, we must answer exactly as the fairy godmother would answer if Cinderella asked her why mice turned to horses or her clothes fell from her at twelve o’clock. We must answer that it is magic. It is not a “law,” for we do not understand its general formula.  It is not a necessity, for though we can count on it happening practically, we have no right to say that it must always happen… We risk the remote possibility of a miracle as we do that of a poisoned pancake or a world-destroying comet.  We leave it out of account, not because it is a miracle, and therefore an impossibility, but because it is a miracle, and therefore an exception. All the terms used in the science books, “law,” “necessity,” “order,” “tendency,” and so on, are really untinellectual, because they assume an inner synthesis, which we do not possess. The only words that ever satisfied me as describing Nature are the terms used in the fairy books, “charm,” “spell,” “enchantment.” They express the arbitrariness of the fact and its mystery. A tree grows fruit because it is a magic tree. Water runs downhill because it is bewitched.  The sun shines because it is bewitched. – G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, Chapter IV

I had to try very hard not to type out the whole book just now. I think he has a point.  In his book Orthodoxy, Chesterton cleverly combines logic and fantasie in a wonderful way.  He makes fantasie a reality, and reality a fantasie.  Is there anything blasphemous about saying a tree grows because it is magic?  No, there is not.  Because a tree does not grow by any law or power of our own.  It grows by a supernatural power, something altogether outside of our understanding.

So why should the world of dreams and imagination and idealism be praised?

There is a flow to history and culture. This flow is rooted and has its wellspring in the thoughts of people. People are unique in the inner life of the mind —what they are in their thought world determines how they act.  This is true of their value systems and it is true of their creativity. It is true of their corporate actions, such as political decisions, and it is true of their personal lives. The results of their thought world flow through their fingers or from their tongues into the external world. This is true of Michelangelo’s chisel, and it is true of a dictator’s sword. – Francis A. Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live? Chapter I.

Because it determines how we live.  It is not only the imaginative person who has a thought world.  Even the mathematician (I am very unjust towards mathematicians) has a thought world.  Even in his logical mind there are thoughts that determine his actions.  I’m sure even he has had dreams at night about yellow rabbits eating chinese takeouts. (Sorry – bit tired here.) But at any rate, think of what the world would be like if everybody was a logician.  We would all be the same.  Where’s the fun in that?  What if everybody was an idealist? Everybody would be the same – still no fun.  And note – idealist here does not mean Sir-Thomas-More-Utopia-Idealism.  Or Avatar, for that matter.

Napoleon Bonaparte had dreams.  Most people would have called him idealistic, but he almost succeeded in becoming the emperor of the world. He almost made his dream a reality.  The world was thrown into chaos because of one man.  His dreams, his thoughts, his idealism helped shape the world.

Fairy tales might be the most realistic thing on earth. Why? Because a true fairy tale always has a knight-in-shining-armor, always a damsel in distress, always a dragon or evil witch or king of some sort.  Why is this realistic?  Because Christ is the knight-in-shining armor, the Church is the damsel in distress, and the dragon is the devil.  The consequence of the dragon is the judgement that’s inevitable unless a savior comes to save her from the thing she cannot save herself from.  That is why fairy tales are realistic. And if they are, reality is no longer a stone wall you walk into when you think you’re walking on clouds.

Makes me think of love.  Is love idealistic? Yes, because it ought to be.  Idealistic because true love is perfect.  The love on this earth that is exchanged between people is warped and shadowed by sin.  Yet, in marriage vows you will hear the phrase: “Love her as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”  Perhaps our view on love is a bit irrational.  Love itself is not a fraud; it is the idea that depraved humans came up with and accompany love with that is a fraud.   If you read Ezekiel 16 you will see that love is not about obsessing over someone, or even saying: “I love you.”  It’s a sacrifice.  It’s a sacrifice of life, on the part of a perfect person, for a person who’s wronged again and again.  Love is a covenant.  And a covenant is more holy and sacred and beautiful than any kiss in the moonlight.

Lots of rabbit trails here.  Where were we?

If J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were such great thinkers, then why did they write fantasie?  If G.K. Chesterton was such a great writer and thinker, why did he uphold fairy tales?  Because fantasie reflects the world we live in today.  There might not be a Jabberwocky, but there is a president Obama. (Okay, sorry.)  You might not find someone by the name of Sauron here but you will find someone very, very similar.  That great Being who created middle-earth and spun melodies out of the stars, Iluvatar, might not be found by that name here, but you will find Him, certainly, if you search for him.

Idealism is not something to be scorned.  It is something to be admired.  The pursuit of perfection exists, though perhaps that pursuit ends in heaven, when we are fully sanctified.  Reality is beautiful, and idealism is beautiful.  But you cannot have one without the other in order for them to be beautiful. Idealism, as we understand it, becomes foppish and empty.  Realism, the logician’s world, without idealism, because hard and empty.  There must be a perfect blend.

To accept everything is an exercise, to understand everything a strain. The poet only desires exaltation and expansion, a world to stretch himself in. The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits. – Orthodoxy, chapter II.

Belief must come without explanation.  If Christianity could be understood, there would be no reason to believe.  The whole point of belief is that you must put your faith in something you are absolutely certain of, but that is not fully explained.  Because Christianity isn’t.  There is a degree of mystery, a depth of understanding that is beyond our human comprehension.  If I understood that, they would have to add a fourth person to the Trinity.

That is why it is a hundred times easier for a child—who still maintains the child-like imagination and simple faith— to believe that God created the earth out of nothing than for the scientist.  Yet how beautiful it is when the scientist, logician, and mathematician all lay aside their stuff about laws and impossibilities and believe with the same child-like faith this truth.

So why do I like Alice in Wonderland? Book and movie? Because the idea of something different – of oversized mushrooms and flowers with faces, of smoking caterpillars and mad March hares and a mad hatter – appeals to me.

Even in the physical appearance of the story, the colors and shapes provide such an artistic picture that’s different from things you see in this earth.  It astonishes me, yet it’s not surprising.  I love it, and who can say it’s impossible? I saw it – just the other night.  And I’ve read about it numerous times.  I can’t really get in my car and go there, but I can draw up mental images.  In my thought world I have already made friends with the March Hare (who is one of my favorite characters.) And our relationship is one of the quirkiest, oddest things you’ve ever seen.

I also maintain that dead people are the most interesting ones to talk to.  I would also say that while people alive on this earth are walking around and doing things, dead people understand everything and have a greater level of brilliance because they are dead.  I am jealous of them, because they have seen, as soon as they are dead, the whole value of living.  They know where they are right, and where they are wrong.

I wonder – would Chesterton, now that he is dead, still hold to everything he said in Orthodoxy?  Would Lewis wish The Chronicles of Narnia unpublished?  Would J.R.R. Tolkien still think about Lord of the Rings as though that world actually existed in some form?  Well, I would hope that they would, because I think that they’re absolutely right.

“Forget, but not forgive…”

I know I’ve heard the saying many times—”Forgive and forget.”  But recently I’ve had reason to think about it.  In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul talks about love, and in one of the verses he mention that “love keeps no record of wrong.”  As Christians we’re called to be discerning, yet not judgmental.  It gets hard – really hard, especially with best friends or new friends, or younger siblings.

Imagine someone who has done you a wrong.  It takes humbleness to forgive that person.  Sometimes we forget the wrong, but we’ve never really forgiven the person.  Or we might’ve said: “Aw, it’s okay” when really it hurt us deeply, and only passed it by with that because we did not want to acknowledge the hurt, and forgive the person. It’s a pride on our part.  We want to think of ourselves as being Spartan-like.  Nothing much affects us.

But what good is that?

“Oh what good is it to live, with nothing left to give

Forget but not forgive?”

(Swallowed in the Sea – Coldplay)

It requires humility and humbleness to forgive, just as much as it takes to ask for forgiveness.  Why is it sometimes harder to forgive than to ask for forgiveness?  Having to forgive means a full recognition of the wrong done to you, but it’s also a promise to regard that wrong as something never done, and to go on being good friends with that person as though nothing had happened, and viewing them as a better friend in spite of it all.  That’s hard, because it requires a breaking down of pride, and a continual treading on pride.  And pride has feelings, so it’s not like it won’t hurt for awhile.

In the Church particularly I think it is a temptation to carry grudges, and of all places that should be the one where no grudges should be borne!  Consider – these, your brothers and sisters in Christ, will be with you in eternity.  How then can you not wish to be the best of friends with them on earth? We should be seeking, no matter what, to have the best friendships possible with these.  But how can you justify this the fact that many people in the church don’t know each other – and are hardly friends, and that still others that are good friends, yet perhaps one makes a mistake and suddenly a friendship is severed.  Must we, as we grow older, be so unlike children as to be slow to make friends?  Little children often jump at the chance to make a friendship, and retaining that child-like innocence, most times retain their friends.  Why can’t we be like this with our brothers and sisters in the church?  No matter personality differences – we have one thing in common which should bind us together… which is that we have been saved in Christ, and that we are all sinners redeemed by his blood, and that we have one eternal home where we are all bound.

How many happy, healthy friendships might have been birthed and nurtured if we hadn’t been proud, I wonder?  I too am guilty of this – pride is a huge issue for me.  Pride seems to represent everything that we are – when really it represents everything we are not.  It is an illusion of what we think we are.  How truly humbled we would be if we could see ourselves as we really are – deprived of any respectability in and of ourselves, as low as the ground and lower.  Then we would look at those towards whom we bore grudges and we would be ashamed.  We would be ashamed because we would realize we had no right to bear a grudge..

Be quick to forgive whole-heartedly. And then be ready to forget the affair.  Only be careful to forget after forgiveness and not before.

What good is it to forget but not forgive?

Well I’ll be blest if I know! No good at all, none whatsoever.  Does more harm than good.

Just a few random thoughts I had.  Not very well pieced together – sorry about that – I couldn’t think of a good ending.  Any thoughts?