December 2008


In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.

–  Thomas Jefferson

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Ever find yourself in a situation where all you can think is if you could somehow tell how things were going to turn out, then somehow everything would be ok? (Even though you know that finding out would only cause more worry and stress.) We all wish to secretly peek around the corner; the endless curiosity about what’s coming around the corner can’t be helped.

Then at one point or another we come across the verse, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about its own things; sufficient for the day is its own trouble” and we realize this worrying and speculating and wondering thing won’t do. So life goes on. There are liturgies and Bible studies and prayers and there’s lots of asking God to lead us and show us His will.

But there’s also little patience. If the answer doesn’t come soon then we start taping on the metaphorical prayer microphone and bellowing into it, “Hello!? Is this thing working? Can you hear me, God?”

Revelation # 2 comes: Of course God’s listening and He’s answering.. I’m just missing the signs… I have to pay attention.

And so the search for the signs and symbols begins and more “revelations” and “conclusions” follow. This search can best be illustrated in none other than a Simpsons episode. In this one particular episode, Mr. Burns, under pressure from government officials for running a power plant with no female workers, hires a woman named Mindy. Mindy and Homer hit it off, get sent on a business trip together, and win a dinner at a Chinese restaurant. This whole time Homer thinks that he’s doomed to cheat on his beloved wife Marge with Mindy, and his fear is confirmed at dinner when his fortune cookie tells him that he will find happiness with a new love. Homer takes this to be the biggest sign that he’s meant to be with Mindy. Then we pan to the kitchen of the restaurant where two workers are standing over barrels of fortune cookies. One tells the other that they’re out of the “You’ll find happiness with a new love” cookies to which the other replies, “Eh, open up the ‘Stick with your wife” barrel.” Homer’s biggest sign was also his most arbitrary (in the end he doesn’t cheat on Marge and all is well.)

Whether we like to admit it or not, we’re all a lot like Homer in this case. Our search for answers often leads us down convuluted path. We’re quick to fill in the blanks, make presumptions, draw conclusions and attribute it all to “signs from God” when we’re too busy making noise to actually hear His voice.

It has often been said that He speaks to us in a whisper and we hear Him best in silence.

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
wich is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday;this is the birth
day of life and love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any-lifted from the no
of all nothing-human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

- e.e. cummings
*******

This is one of my favorite poems written by one of my favorite poets. No one does the topic of gratitude justice quite like he does. I have nothing more to add.

After taking a monster of an exam, 5 grueling hours, a few of my friends and I went to local diner near school just to relax and share good company after a long day (2 came from work and 2 were also taking exams.) We ate, we laughed, we sang along with the Christmas carols playing in the background. After dinner we split up outside the diner to go to our cars and I went in one direction with two of them. What followed can most likely only be explained by entropy or perhaps even chaos theory. One minute we’re walking to our cars and the next we’re in this ridiculous tangled mess of violence. One friend put the other in a headlock, so to retaliate, the one in the headlock grabbed my arm and started twisting it, in which case I started kicking (and missing) in order to get my arm out of his death grip.  So there we were, three young adults, all soon to be attorneys, pummeling each other in a diner’s parking lot.

It was all over within a minute, and we laughed about it as we walked the few feet left to reach our cars. It made no sense at the time (ok, so maybe I instigated the headlock, so it did make sense) but oddly enough, it was a perfect ending to a nice outing. And even more importantly, it shed some light on a verse I’d been thinking about lately: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Proverbs 27:6).

I’d rather get pummeled with love by a true friend any day, than hear words of praise or advice from an “enemy,” which would do nothing but breed grief and sorrow in the end.

When I was younger I often struggled with one particular question endlessly. I asked everyone I could for an answer, parents, friends, Sunday school teachers, priests, bishops, anyone and everyone I could reach. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how one could go about living Christian love, a love that endures and gives and gives even to those who hate us, without getting hurt. All my attempts at living this love ended up with me sorely hurt and terribly afraid to try again (although through His grace, I always did try again.)

“Where do you draw the line?” I would ask over and over again. And every time I would never really get an answer. I grew even more upset and frustrated. All I could think was, so basically, if I live a life of love then I am guaranteed to get hurt endlessly for the rest of my life. Where do you draw the line? It didn’t seem right. Christ didn’t say come to me all you weary and feel even worse. After all, joy and peace are just two of the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

My answer came one day some time ago in a lightening bolt-like moment when I was reading over this part of the Sermon on the Mount:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

The answer plainly looked me in the face. He says nothing at all about drawing any lines, therefore one cannot be drawn if one intends to live His words and commandments. I could not love and give and serve to a certain point and then stop once I hit my line in the sand. No, in fact, He tells us to go two miles when we are asked only to go one, give to those who ask, and never turn away one who wants to borrow.

So if one can’t draw a line, then it’s a lifetime of hurt and tears?

No, not quite… You see, I was having what I have now come to refer to as an application confusion problem. This can be better explained by giving another experience of mine where I asked about the now-false proverbial line between love and pain. During a rough patch in life, I ended up going through what at the time seemed like a gross betrayal of trust (things are always so big in the moment and so much smaller in hindsight.) I went back and forth with my father of confession about it, me declaring that I couldn’t trust this person any longer and falling into the depths of my line-drawing despair, when he promptly stopped me and said, “You don’t have to trust her to treat her with love and respect.”

And so my lightening-bolt moment was really when what he had said to me and the excerpt from the Sermon on the Mount collided to create understanding. Since then, I have learned to put my heart in the hands of few, in the hands of those who reflect the Godliness I want in my life. To live a life of Christian love, one does not need to hand one’s heart away to every person along the path, more often than not people will be callous and careless with it. Instead, I learned that it meant to open up my heart to every person along the path. And the only way the heart can remain open to everyone and yet remain protected is when it is placed in the hands of God. He simultaneously shields it and multiplies its love and strengthens it. So ultimately the heart is made of extraordinary mettle, strong yet gentle like its Creator and Perfecter.

it will not be simple, it will not be long
it will take little time, it will take all your thought
it will take all your heart, it will take all your breath
it will be short, it will not be simple

it will touch through your ribs, it will take all your heart
it will not be long, it will occupy your thought
as a city is occupied, as a bed is occupied
it will take all your flesh, it will not be simple

You are coming into us who cannot withstand you
you are coming into us who never wanted to withstand you
you are taking parts of us into places never planned
you are going far away with pieces of our lives

it will be short, it will take all your breath
it will not be simple, it will become your will

– “Final Notations” by Adrienne Rich

*******

Life is nothing more than the blink of an eye. Therefore it must be lived in constant action and not in reaction. It is too short to be reactionary in nature. Just make sure your actions are guided by the principles that ring true. The Truth is what has set us free, and it shall keep us free. What we live is what we will reap in this life and the next.

With finals bearing down upon, I can safely say this time of year is fairly gloomy so I’ve been compiling play lists of songs that make me smile, and I thought I’d share one of the songs with you. This one’s called “You owe me Nothing in Return.” I highly suggest giving it a listen. Yes, it is by Alanis, but I guarantee it will surprise you. Lyrics are below for the curious.

I’ll give you countless amounts of outright acceptance if you want it
I will give you encouragement to choose the path that you want if you need it
You can speak of anger and doubts your fears and freak outs and I’ll hold it
You can share your so-called shame filled accounts of times in your life and I won’t judge it
(and there are no strings attached to it)

You owe me nothing for giving the love that I give
You owe me nothing for caring the way that I have
I give you thanks for receiving it’s my privilege
And you owe me nothing in return

You can ask for space for yourself and only yourself and I’ll grant it
You can ask for freedom as well or time to travel and you’ll have it
You can ask to live by yourself or love someone else and I’ll support it
You can ask for anything you want anything at all and I’ll understand it
(and there are no strings attached to it)

You owe me nothing for giving the love that I give
You owe me nothing for caring the way that I have
I give you thanks for receiving it’s my privilege
And you owe me nothing in return

I bet you’re wondering when the next payback shoe will eventually drop
I bet you’re wondering when my conditional police will force you to cough up
I bet wonder how far you have now danced you way back into debt
This is the only kind of love as I understand it that there really is

You can express your deepest of truths even if it means I’ll lose you and I’ll hear it
You can fall into the abyss on your way to your bliss I’ll empathize with
You can say that you have to skip town to chase your passion I’ll hear it
You can even hit rock bottom have a mid-life crisis and I’ll hold it
(and there are no strings attached)

You owe me nothing for giving the love that I give
You owe me nothing for caring the way that I have
I give you thanks for receiving it’s my privilege
And you owe me nothing in return

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