I didn’t sign up for this . . .

You’ve been up all night and day. Not a wink of sleep. Whenever you have a moment to sleep, you are torn between cleaning and tidying up your messed up dwelling or trying to catch some zzz’s. Whenever you choose the latter, the second you hit the pillow, the cries of your newborn wakes you just seconds after you close your eyes.

Through your tears you hold your baby, bouncing, soothing, whispering to them that it’s ok and they can stop crying. Why won’t you stop crying? Are you dirty? I’ll change your diaper. Are you still hungry? I’ll feed you one more time. I’ve done all that, why won’t you stop crying? Do you have gas? I’ve been trying to make you burp for an hour. I heard a couple of small burps, even a big one, but you still won’t stop crying.

Please Lord, I just want to sleep.

I didn’t sign up for this.

Parenting is hard. Especially your first. Especially the first three months.

While I believe there is lots we can say about the awesome responsibility and privilege that is raising a child, it drives me beyond insane when I see people overly romanticize parenting; especially those initial three months. You can be told over and over again that parenting is hard, but until you endure it, you can’t truly be shown to an adequate level of understanding what that means. Unless you’ve been through painful, prolonged sleep deprivation, you can’t know what it’s like. You certainly don’t know what it’s like when the reason you can’t sleep is the cries of your child. The cries of this child who has only one way to communicate with the world and it’s through their tears and their silence.

What do those tears mean? That is for you to detect and figure out. Sometimes there is no answer.

May the Lord have mercy on you if your child has colic.

Our first child (we have two) had colic. Hours long, virtually non-stop crying episodes in the middle of the night. How many times I saw my wife, after trying for hours to calm him, would walk out of his room in desperation. Tears spilling out, wondering how she’s possibly going to deal with this one more minute. There was little I could do to support her, other than listen and comfort. I had to work after all, and that requires driving, so I needed my sleep too. At least a modicum of sleep.

That’s not being supportive, some say. You should have taken turns, swapped out and given her a break.

Maybe. Maybe, you’re right. This is the reality of parenthood. Someone does the lions share of child care and one does the lions share of making money so the roof stays over our head, the food stay in the fridge and the oven and lights turn on. Sometimes, this means an unequal distribution of the hard stuff. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of early morning drives where I would take our son on a drive, which would settle him. I would take him 15 mins south to the lake. The sun would dawn and we would both sleep. It was exhausting, but I also knew it was giving my wife at least a couple of hours of sleep she desperately needed to get through the day. Then I would go home and sleep. Missing a day of work. I used half my yearly allotment of sick leave in one month.

The first days of your first child can be extremely difficult. Or they could be easy. But, if you tell me they were easy, I’m not going to believe you. If for no other reason than I don’t want to think it could have been easier. The 100 days of hell were just that. We became the living, walking dead. Able to function on an almost primal level, but not much beyond that. Work, when I was able to go to work, because I had had enough sleep and could safely drive, became almost like respite care. A time to get away from the terror of the screamer.

I love my son. And my other son. I learned that you can love someone even though they cause you so much grief and hardship. Intended or not. Love is a choice you make. Every. Single. Day. In those 100 days however, it seemed that the spectrum of time was sharply reduced and it became an hour by hour decision, if not minute by minute.

The reality is that holding a screaming baby close to your chest, puts their mouth right next to your ear, making the screams that much louder and visceral. They cut you to the core. You want to simultaneously fling the baby away from you and at the same time hold them closer. Holding them closer: hoping that you can make them stop if they just feel your breath, your heartbeat, your love a bit more. It doesn’t help. Sometimes love isn’t enough to make someone else’s pain stop.

This is the beginning of compassion.

Compassion is a desire to end someone’s pain, yes. But it is more than that. It is the willingness to sit with them through the pain. To take on some of that burden for yourself. To let them know they are not alone.

Love demands compassion.

In those 100 days, we learned about compassion and devotion. I learned by watching my wife consistently recommit to our son. Bounce. Tears. Bounce. Tears. Repeat. I think that must be God’s cycle sometimes. He teaches, he prods, he pokes. We disobey. God cries. Repeat. Never giving up, never stopping, never imposing.

You can’t impose on a newborn. They don’t know what they’re doing themselves, let along what you want them to do.

I suppose in a way, I was her Aaron to her Moses. I played a supporting role. That doesn’t denigrate fatherhood or manhood. It recognizes the supreme sacrifice that mothers make and the resultant sacrifice fathers must make. Food needs to be made. Bills need to be paid. You know, the necessities of adult life. Just help her get through the next hour. The next day. Eventually those days add up to a week and a month. Then finally, 100 days hits and a switch is flipped.

You start sleeping again. You feel human again. The tears subside. You take a deep breath of relief and start thinking long term again. You’ve made it through survivor without being voted off and now you can get on with the job of raising a family.

Parenting is hard. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not. You can’t know how hard it is if you don’t have a child, and that’s a good thing. If you knew would you really do it. Parenting is a reflective exercise. Yes, there is planning. Sort of. (Can you hear God laughing?), but it’s ultimately a reflective exercise. So is much of life, I suppose.

If you are not a parent yet, are pregnant or thinking about being pregnant, I want to encourage you. You’re on the rollercoaster as it slowly rises to the top of the first curve. You’re about to drop super fast down that first mountain and you’ll feel like everything is out of control. You will get through it though. Almost every has. Spouses, remember each other. Have each other’s backs. Husbands, remember to “love your wife, just as Christ loved the church”. Support her. Love her. Cry with her. Make sure she knows you’re there for her.

If you have just become a parent and are saying “I didn’t sign up for this”, I say with love “yes you did”. There’s just no way to tell you that in advance. It gets better. It really does. Screw the fairy tales you were told. This is hard stuff. But you will learn so much about yourself, your spouse and God, if you only keep your eyes open and pay attention.

In the end, this is so worth it. Seeing your child grow and develop and learn, is one of the most awe-inspiring things I have ever witnessed or been a part of. My love for my children and my wife, continues to grow and deepen. But, there are the hard bits.

Parenting is amazing, earth shattering, terrible, horrible, and wonderful. All at the same time. Enjoy the ride.

Our Common Responsibility

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I’ve recently begun reading through Pope Francis’ recent encyclical Laudato Si (Praised Be To You) with a friend at work. It’s 184 pages, so not a quick read, though the language isn’t very technical (so far), so most of me readers should be able to get through it pretty quick if you want to.

It’s broken up into 9 separate chapters, each covering a different angle. I’m partway through chapter 2, and so far I’m enjoying it immensely. There is much that is challenging in it, comforting, and several things that make me grateful for the Catholic perspective on the issue of creation.

I don’t intend to provide a commentary on the entire letter, but only to highlight some of what my friend and I found of interest. I will post more as it appeals to me.

FOR ALL THE CHURCH
For all the talk that this is the “climate change” encyclical (and it is that), it is much more than that. I would submit that even if you don’t believe humans are contributing to global warming and negative climate change, what he presents should be taken on board by all Christians, as a call to the church universal’s responsibility to the creation, of which it is a part. There is a way in which we are to relate to the rest of creation which is proper and ordered, and the all too common way today, which is disordered.

Quoting Patriarch Bartholomew, who wrote “inasmuch as we all generate small ecological damage”, we are called to acknowledge “our contribution, smaller or greater, to the disfigurement and destruction of creation”. (page 8) Using strong language, which will continue through the document, the Patriarch states that “to commit a crime against the natural world is a sin against ourselves and a sin against God”.

Drawing on the life of his name sake, Pope Francis draws on the life of St. Francis of Assisi, who is describes as a “mystic and a pilgrim”, who was particularly concerned with “God’s creation and for the poor and outcast. He loved, and was deeply loved for his joy, his generous self-giving, his openheartedness. ” (page 9).

Deriding our current mechanistic hermeneutic to reading the book of nature, (Pope) Francis, further recounts that (Saint) Francis’ “…response to the world around him was so much more than intellectual appreciation or economic calculus, for to him each and every creature was a sister united to him by bonds of affection. That is why he felt called to care for all that exists. (page 10).

There is much talk of “calling” today. What do I feel called to? To what is God calling me to devote my life? Do we feel called to live in harmony with the rest of the created world, of which we are an integral part? Pope Francis believes our duty is clear: “Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another.”

ULTIMATE RESPONSIBILITY NOT AUTHORITY
We all come from God. Yes, we have been given a unique place in the hierarchy of creation, but that position comes with ultimate responsibility, not ultimate power. It also restricts our power over our fellow creation. Francis connects our humanity with the necessity to fall in plan with God’s plan.

“Authentic human development has a moral character. It presumes full respect for the human person, but it must also be concerned for the world around us and “take into account the nature of each being and of its mutual connection in an ordered system”.8 Accordingly, our human ability to transform reality must proceed in line with God’s original gift of all that is.” (Page 6)

He further quotes Pope Benedict XVI who wrote “the book of nature is one and indivisible” and that “the deterioration of nature is closely connected to the culture which shapes human coexistence”. We can’t go on living our lives assuming we can do whatever we want, just because we’re human, and think that the impact of those actions, are amoral, or worse, condoned by God.

Our responsibility to the rest of creation, is perhaps first a responsibility to recognize and affirm that all of creation brings glory to God, not just us. We must therefore tread carefully when we impact the ability of the rest of creation to bring glory to the God that created all us. Francis uses quite forceful language when he emphasizes this point: “Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us. We have no such right.” (page 25).

We, rightfully I think, applaud our artisans who create beautiful art and music, but what homage do we pay to the one who created the forests and the sky, the sunrise and sunset? Do we honour the artist by defiling their painting? Do we scrawl our own initials on it, and claim it to be our own? Never. So, why do we do the same with the paintings of God? Do we seek to replace the beauty of God with that which we create? Believing we can best the Creator-God?

Francis observes “We seem to think that we can substitute an irreplaceable and irretrievable beauty with something which we have created ourselves.” (page 26).

We are all part of creation. Our unique and special relationship to God and His creation, is an authority in as much as we have ultimate responsibility, not ultimate authority. As our Lord Christ Jesus teaches us, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20:16 NIV).

Becoming too familiar with holy things.

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I just finished reading a wonderful spiritual reflection by an Episcopal priest, Marcus Halley, on why he has started wearing his cassock again. It’s beautifully written and although it is mainly of interest to his fellow Priests, he asks a question that’s important to all of us: Are we becoming too familiar with holy things?

Halley writes:

The Eucharist became another “task,” something else “to do” on a Sunday morning as we priests, the “professionally religious,” engage the hundreds of people who come to Church looking for something – peace, joy, community, love, fulfillment, coffee.  It became a ritual in the worst sense – a habit that I was too familiar with. That Sunday morning when I stood before God’s altar, holding the bread and wine that still seemed to me to be just bread and just wine, I had a moment when I wanted to cry because despite my best effort, I had become too familiar with holy things.

As a former pastor and now, sometimes small group leader, there’s nothing I enjoy more than leading communion. I think it’s one of the most amazing gifts the church has been given. It’s a mystery, it’s wonder, it’s basic, it’s deep, it’s… Something only God could construct.

Even if you don’t subscribe to a sacramental understand and prefer the term ordinance, the question is still valid. Do you take your Bible for granted, do you take the Church and other Christians for granted? How about your baptismal call? How about the death on the cross and resurrection of our Lord? How about your salvation and the leading of The Spirit, working in and through your life? Do you take the very existence of your faith for granted? Is it so well worn that it is no longer new?

Like Fr. Halley’s professor said, we must “always … be on our guard against becoming “too familiar” with holy things.

Fr. Halley found renewal in taking his eucharistic preparation more seriously.  It helped him renew his call as a Priest. How can you renew your baptismal call to live out the resurrection everyday, to be a witness to the Gospel and to seek the leadership of the Holy Spirit daily. Are there aspects of belief that are a little dried up and needs the living water of our Lord to renew them? 

Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his face continually.
Psalm 105:4
 

Race and Privilege Resources

Violence top copacabana

I’ve created this post to try and curate the best articles, podcasts, etc, that I come across that address the concepts of race, white privilege, etc. As my time is extremely limited, I don’t pretend that this is an exhaustive list. It is sadly limited by my network. Thankfully, my network includes some pretty smart folks. If you have any suggestions for recourses to add, let me know and I’ll consider them.

Podcasts

  • Drew GI Hart: On Race, the Church, Anabaptism, and Black Theology, Seminary Dropout podcast
    (recorded long before Ferguson, etc, but still a good listen about undercover racism. Plus, Drew’s just cool to listen too).
  • Kyle Canty: On Privilege, Ferguson, and History, Seminary Dropout podcast

Videocast

Blogs

  • What my bike has taught me about white privilege by A little more sauce
    A good analogy helping to explain why “privileged” doesn’t mean you’re (necessarily) racist. The analogy isn’t perfect, but it’s a good start.
  • Mennonerds on Ferguson
    I have not read most of these articles, but they are a good collection from some honest folks (both black and white) trying to do their best to wrestle with the issues
  • Thoughts on Ferguson by Voddie Baucham
    This article has become both popular and controversial. I post some posts that respond below

That’s it for now. Let me know if you know of any others.

It’s so freaking obvious (or, it’s not)!

Baptism

Anabaptists are fond of saying that they read the plain meaning of scripture first, before we try to do any gymnastics to explain what a verse means or doesn’t mean. Oh, and we don’t start with our theological teleology and back the truck up into our reading of scripture either; no never. This sounds well and good and noble, but sometimes I really wonder how much this holds up.

Take this verse for instance: 1 Peter 3:21

ESV
Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

NIV
and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also–not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

KJV
The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

The thing it corresponds to, is Noah and his ark safely conveying people and animals through the flood waters to safety. It is, of course, historical anabaptist doctrine that baptism is only for those who profess faith in Christ and that it is an outward sign of something that God has already done on the inside. In other words, it has no actual metaphysical effect on the believer.

In that context, I’ve always struggled with 1 Peter 3:21. On plain reading, it clearly seems to be saying that baptism is salvific (having a direct metaphysical connection to salvation). “Baptism, which now saves you”. It’s really hard for me to see how we didn’t read our theology back into this verse. The explanation of how why this IS NOT actually making a connection between water baptism and salvation seem to me, at times, to be gymnastics worthy of the Olympics.

First, a selection of perspectives, found in various commentaries and the Church Fathers (sorry, some of these selections are quite lengthy).

First:Baptism has no real efficacy:

From the New American Commentary:
The typological thrust of the text is now specifically stated, expressed in the NIV by the verb “symbolizes,” though in the Greek the word is a noun that could be translated as “type” or “pattern” (antitypon; cf. Heb 9:24). The water that deluged the world in Noah’s day and through which Noah was saved functions as a model or pattern for Christian believers.324 But to what is the water related in the new covenant? The answer is baptism.

From the Holman New Testament Commentary
Verse 21 has also generated great debate. This writer believes that Peter used the historical account of Noah and his family as an analogy for the triumphant salvation provided through Christ. His reference to baptism, however, is not water baptism. The flood waters did not save Noah—quite the opposite. The waters of the flood destroyed everyone in judgment. Noah passed through those waters safely because he and his family were placed securely in the ark. Water baptism does not fit the picture and is not the point.

The point of the analogy becomes clear when we recall that when a person accepts Jesus Christ as personal Savior, he or she is placed into “the body of Christ.” At that moment the Holy Spirit enters that person’s life as a permanent resident. This action is described in the New Testament as “the baptism of the Holy Spirit” (see 1 Cor. 12:13). This is Peter’s emphasis. When you accept Christ, you are placed spiritually in Christ. As this occurs, you stand before God with a “good conscience” (v. 21) because your sins have been forgiven. Water baptism does not provide a person with a clear conscience before God; baptism by the Holy Spirit does.

Second: An attempt at a middle ground

From the Crossway Classic Commentary on 1, 2 Peter
That baptism has power is expressly stated: baptism that now saves you. What kind of power this is, is equally clear from the way it is here expressed. It is not by a natural force of the element. Even when it is used sacramentally it can only wash away the dirt of the body, as its physical power reaches no further. But since it is in the hand of the Spirit of God, as other sacraments are and as the Word itself is, it can purify the conscience and convey grace and salvation to the soul through its reference to and union with what it represents. It saves by the pledge of a good conscience toward God, and that by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Thus, we have a true account of this power, and so of other sacraments, and we find the error of two extremes. First, that of those who ascribe too much to them, as if they worked through a natural, inherent value and carried grace in them inseparably. Second, the error of those who ascribe too little to them, making them only signs and badges of our profession. Signs they are, but more than signs that merely represent something. They are the means exhibiting and seals confirming grace to the faithful. But the working of faith and the conveying of Christ into the soul are not put into them to accomplish in themselves but are still in the supreme hand that appointed them. God causes the souls of his own to receive these seals of his with faith and makes them effectual to confirm the faith that receives them in this way. They are then, in a word, neither empty signs to those who believe, nor effectual causes of grace to those who do not believe.

Third: Baptism is efficacious

According to: Ambrose of Milan. “On the Mysteries” and the Treatise “On the Sacraments.”
Therefore, when the Lord saw that the transgressions of mankind were multiplied, he saved the righteous one alone with his offspring, but he bade the water rise even above the mountains. And therefore, in that flood all corruption of the flesh perished, only the family and pattern of the righteous survived. Is not the flood the same thing as baptism, whereby all sins are washed away, only the mind and grace of the righteous is revived?

According to: St. Cyprian, The Epistles of Cyprian, Epistle LXXV
2. But that the Church is one, the Holy Spirit declares in the Song of Songs, saying, in the person of Christ, “My dove, my undefiled, is one; she is the only one of her mother, she is the choice one of her that bare her.” Concerning which also He says again, “A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring sealed up, a well of living water.”9 But if the spouse of Christ, which is the Church, is a garden enclosed; a thing that is closed up cannot lie open to strangers and profane persons. And if it is a fountain sealed, he who, being placed without has no access to the spring, can neither drink thence nor be sealed. And the well also of living water, if it is one and the same within, he who is placed without cannot be quickened and sanctified from that water of which it is only granted to those who are within to make any use, or to drink. Peter also, showing this, set forth that the Church is one, and that only they who are in the Church can be baptized; and said, “In the ark of Noah, few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water; the like figure where-unto even baptism shall save you;” proving and attesting that the one ark of Noah was a type of the one Church. If, then, in that baptism of the world thus expiated and purified, he who was not in the ark of Noah could be saved by water, he who is not in the Church to which alone baptism is granted, can also now be quickened by baptism. Moreover, too, the Apostle Paul, more openly and clearly still manifesting this same thing, writes to the Ephesians, and says, “Christ loved the Church, and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water.”2 But if the Church is one which is loved by Christ, and is alone cleansed by His washing, how can he who is not in the Church be either loved by Christ, or washed and cleansed by His washing?

Next, from First and Second Peter, Jude: Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture
21–22 Stepping aside from his narrative of Christ’s journey, Peter now applies the waters of the flood to us: This prefigured baptism, which saves you now. This is the only explicit reference to baptism in 1 Peter, though baptismal imagery and themes are found throughout the letter (1:3, 22–23; 2:1–3). The syntax of this verse is extremely complicated, and scholars continue to debate how to render it appropriately in English. Yet all agree that the meaning is fairly clear. “Prefigured” translates a rare word in the Bible that indicates here a divinely ordained correspondence between the waters of the flood and the waters of baptism. What happened to Noah is similar to what happens to us, and we can learn about our baptism by understanding Noah’s passage through the waters of the flood. What then is Peter saying? Just as Noah and his family were saved from death by passing through the waters of the flood, so we are saved from sin by passing through the waters of baptism. In both Noah’s case and ours God himself is the true cause of salvation, but the waters are the instrument through which salvation comes.

Peter goes on to clarify that baptism is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience. It is not perfectly clear what Peter means by this contrast. He seems to be saying that baptism does not consist in cleansing the body from dirt (literally, “filth”) but in our appeal to God to give us a “clear conscience.”
A “clear conscience” (literally, a “good conscience,” the same as in 3:16) is similar in meaning to a pure heart; that is, those who have a clear conscience are morally upright and pure. By submitting to the waters of baptism we purify our souls (1:22) by asking God to cleanse us within. It is God’s power that brings about a “clear conscience,” but by actively submitting to baptism we make an appeal to God to accomplish this in our hearts. Some scholars believe that “appeal” is better translated as “pledge,” such that baptism is “the pledge of a good conscience toward God” (NIV). In this interpretation, we are not making an appeal to God to give us a clear conscience but are pledging ourselves to live with a clear conscience in an upright way. Both senses are true: baptism includes our appeal to God and our commitment to him.

In a final phrase Peter shows that the true power for salvation comes through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is not the water itself that saves, and even less our appeal or commitment to God; it is God who saves us through the resurrection of Christ

Finally, we can’t conclude such a brief outline of views, without quoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1094:
It is on this harmony of the two Testaments that the Paschal catechesis of the Lord is built, and then, that of the Apostles and the Fathers of the Church. This catechesis unveils what lay hidden under the letter of the Old Testament: the mystery of Christ. It is called “typological” because it reveals the newness of Christ on the basis of the “figures” (types) which announce him in the deeds, words, and symbols of the first covenant. By this re-reading in the Spirit of Truth, starting from Christ, the figures are unveiled.16 Thus the flood and Noah’s ark prefigured salvation by Baptism, as did the cloud and the crossing of the Red Sea. Water from the rock was the figure of the spiritual gifts of Christ, and manna in the desert prefigured the Eucharist, “the true bread from heaven.”

Now, back to Sacred Scripture: There is this particularly odd verse from Ephesians: “25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,”

So, now baptism is connected to preaching?

Ok, I’m tired just thinking about it now. Truthfully, I’m less concerned about “what” baptism does, as I am the clear necessity for it. I am often distressed at the length of time it seems to take professing Christians to be baptized (if they have not already been as infants and therefore they may legitimately be struggling with the decision to be re-baptized).

… But, that’s for another post.

Essentially, the point of this post was to point out that there is valid diversity of opinion, and that the “plain” reading of Scripture is maybe not os plain after all. Let’s give each other some grace as we work through these things.

Increase Your Saltiness

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

In the passage before the one we heard today, Jesus was teaching his disciples the beatitudes: Blessed are the poor, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness. He tells us to Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven...

Those who do the blessings are his people, his church. If we stop being salty, that is, if we stop being and acting like His people who spread and teach the Gospel of Love, then we are like salt mixed with other impure substances. We will, as the Gospel of Luke tells us, become “of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away”.

A world class chef works hard to put just the right mix of spices on his food, so it tastes exactly right. Then when the food comes out to the guest, someone who doesn’t know better, may immediately pick up the salt or pepper and throw it on the food, completely destroying what the Chef intended the food to taste like.

God wants his people to taste a certain way. He keeps it simple to understand, but in a way that will take a lifetime to comprehend: which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” … . You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

As Jesus says he didn’t come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. The law properly understood is Love. Love the Lord your God with everything you are, and love your neighbour as you would love yourself. The more you love, the more salty you become. The more you study the words of God, the more time you spend with him in prayer, the more you come to know him and the more you will radiate his light to a dark and hurting world.

Jesus is the light of the world and just as one flame lit all these candles behind me, the flame of the holy sprit lives in each of us and reflects the love of Christ to the world around us. Do not hide this love from anyone, not a single person. It is easy to love someone who loves you, or at least doesn’t annoy you. To love one who appears undeserving of your love is an act that is only possible through divine intervention. Allow the love of Christ to flow through you to each other. While you are here in this place, recovering, I encourage you to do things that will increase your saltiness. Comfort each other, pray with and for each other, and study God’s words if you can get a Bible. Jesus says we ARE the salt and we ARE light. We are to be salt and light where we are right now today, not just some day one day.

You are all here for different reasons, but you can all show the love of Christ while you’re here. Show each other what it means to love and to be loved by Jesus.

Amen.

We’re moving

Hello everyone:

As I’ve mentioned several times, this blog is ceasing to exist. Instead, I’m merging this blog with my other blog and creating a whole new experience. Come over and visit me at Discipling the Body. This blog will continue to exist for posterity’s sake, but I will no longer update it.

Thanks for your patronage and I hope you’ll follow me over at the new space.

Blessings,

Andrew

The Hidden Temptation

Temptation

I am working on a personal project which is leading me in all sorts of directions. Last night it led me to the following quote, which I really liked it, so I now pass it on to you. I’ve bolded certain terms that I found particularly poignant.

The most common yet most hidden temptation is our lack of faith. It expresses itself less by declared incredulity than by our actual preferences. When we begin to pray, a thousand labors or cares thought to be urgent vie for priority; once again, it is the moment of truth for the heart: what is its real love? Sometimes we turn to the Lord as a last resort, but do we really believe he is? Sometimes we enlist the Lord as an ally, but our heart remains presumptuous. In each case, our lack of faith reveals that we do not yet share in the disposition of a humble heart: “Apart from me, you can do nothing”. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2732)

In the morning when I get up, I have almost unlimited options of what I can do or focus on. What does my heart seek in the morning? Does it seek the Lord, or seek television. And if I seek the Lord do I only do so when I feel I need help, presuming that God will help me?

The CCC further points out that presumption can flow both ways:

There are two kinds of presumption. Either man presumes upon his own capacities, (hoping to be able to save himself without help from on high), or he presumes upon God’s almighty power or his mercy (hoping to obtain his forgiveness without conversion and glory without merit) (2092)

Somewhere between those two is a proper approach to the Lord. 

Who is Marriage For? A Commentary

Quote Fulton J Sheen love is a mutual self giving which ends 39750

This article has been making the rounds lately, telling the tale of husband who finally realized that marriage isn’t about him, it’s about his wife; that marriage is about the other. A friend of mine asked me to comment on it privately, but I thought I’d post my thoughts her for interests sake. It’s always flattering when someone asks you for your opinion in a genuine way. She asked me because I am married and “deep thinker” (she doesn’t know me that well).

In general I like the theme of the article which is to say that, in a healthy marriage, it’s not about us, but about the other person; what we call “Mutual Self Giving (or gifting)”.

If you’ve ever been to a Christian wedding you’ve very likely heard 1 Corinthian 13 :4-7 read out:

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Put all those things together and you have what the author sums up as being unselfish. I am in my marriage to offer myself to my wife. To contribute my energy, passions, and talents to our marriage so we can be as strong and united as possible, so that together we can give to the world around us. As a unit we help each other improve, move towards our unified and separate goals, and just plain get through the day.

If, however, someone understands what is written as “door mat”, then that is missing what he is trying to communicate. I do not give myself to my wife to my detriment. I give myself to her, knowing that she would never knowingly allow me to cause myself harm through serving her. I do however acknowledge that there is sacrifice. As an example, I no longer have the freedom to randomly have dinner with a women she doesn’t know or assent to.

Again, the assumption of self-giving is that you are operating in a healthy marriage where both people are self-giving.

One of my closest friends is a women who is in an bad situation with her marriage. Her husband is a good guy overall, but he has major issues for which is requires counselling or they will likely not make it to their second anniversary. She is being incredibly brave by showing love to her husband and serving him as best she can, while receiving much less then she should from him. But, she only goes so far because there is an imbalance in their marriage. He is not serving her as he should because he won’t get the help he needs. The longer it goes on, the more she will withdraw to protect herself. But, this is a byproduct of a marriage that is not functioning properly.

The problem is that many people today, thinking they need to protect themselves from the get go, “just in case”, end up causing the demise of their marriage because they build up so many walls from the beginning that they crumble at the thought of being too exposed or vulnerable.

As an example: My wife and I have joint bank accounts and all our income goes into those accounts, there is no way for us to hide that money. We, together, make decisions on how to spend, save and give “our” money. We have to take each others views into account and come up with a budget we can both agree on. As opposed to one women I used to work with who was convinced that a married women should steadily hide money for 10 years “just in case”. Then if she’s still married (unlikely) she should surprise her husband with a really nice anniversary gift. Ultimately, this self protection, is exposed for selfishness born out of fear and the women who does that can never completely give herself to her marriage because she’s hiding part of herself from it out of fear.

One other misunderstand that could arise from the article is that someone could think he’s saying that the husband is completely responsible for the happiness of the wife and vice-versa. This is incorrect and I don’t think it’s what the author had in mind.

I want my wife to be happy, more then anything and it hurts when she’s not. The goes for close friends. None of us want to see people hurt, but there’s not always anything we can do about it. When my wife’s mother was dying of cancer last year, she certainly wasn’t happy and there was nothing I could do about it. But, I could comfort her, do extra chores, etc, to make it easier for her. I wanted her to be happy more than anything, to smile again, to laugh again, but it wasn’t going to happen for a while. But, I could sacrifice my time, my energy, my emotions, for her, to make things a bit easier.

As much as my wife seeks to make me happy, she isn’t responsible for my happiness. God help her if she was. Not with my mood swings, lol.

See, if I give myself to my wife and she reciprocates and if we know we can trust each others reputations with each other, then I don’t have to worry about whether I’ll be taken advantage of. Other women don’t have to wonder if I’m happily married, because I talk about my wife all the freaking time (in positive ways) and this makes me either a challenge or not a target for those who may wish to seduce me into an affair (I’m not arrogant enough to think anyone wants to seduce me, but I’m not taking chances with my marriage). It’s about trust. That’s why something like an affair (whether it be purely sexual or not) is so damaging to the fabric of a marriage; trust has been broken in a most profound way.

Now, without becoming too personal, think about the marital act (ahem, sexual intercourse). It’s the very definition of self giving. If a husband has sex with his wife solely for his own pleasure then that’s wrong. They are there to offer themselves to each other, to yes, make each other feel good – to offer that to their spouse. But, of course, it’s not just the physical pleasure and its certainly not just about the orgasm. It’s about the ultimate expression of vulnerability and trust, the desire to create new life, the deep emotional connection and bond that is created.

Just to be clear sexual desire and sexual pleasure are in themselves good and there is nothing wrong with them. It’s when they become lust that we see problems. Lust is selfish, it is the plagiarisation of desire. “Desire” in a negative sense arises when a man or women fails to see the full attractiveness of the other person and reduces it to the attractiveness of sexual pleasure alone. [1]

“In lustful desire, one seeks the other person in a reductive way as a mere means for sexual pleasure. There are just an instrument. This is contrary to the full dignity and beauty of the person.” [2]

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[1] Man and Women he Created Them: A Theology of the Body, John Paul II. p. 225

[2] ibid. footnote