Thursday, May 31, 2007

To Make Much of Time...

John Keating, in Peter Weir’s “Dead Poets Society,” begins his fateful year at “Hellton” by asking one of his students to, “open your hymnal to page 542 and read the first stanza of the poem you find there.” The student, the unfortunately named Mr. Pitts, reads… “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time?” Keating replies, “Yes, that's the one. Somewhat appropriate, isn't it?” Pitts goes on with the opening stanza of the poem:

Gather ye Rose-buds while ye may,
Old Time is still a flying:
And this same flower that smiles to day,
To morrow will be dying.

Keating launches into his famous “Carpe Diem” speech… urging the students to “seize the day” — advice that ultimately is his undoing. But let’s go back to the rosebuds… Symbols of life, youth, and vitality – borne of seeds.

In literature, and in life, we often encounter metaphoric seeds. In the Parable of the Sower, the Lord Jesus used seed as a metaphor for the Word, falling upon various ears.

In a recent post, Matt Jordan expounded on poor Holden Caulfield, who wanted to be a Catcher in the Rye… Holden’s misquote of Robert Burns’ Comin’ thro the Rye. Rye too, is an interesting seed… Apparently it is more tolerant of variable weather than wheat, and thrives in eastern and northern Europe… hardy and with a distinctive taste. Interesting that Burns, and consequently Salinger/Caulfield would choose this particular grain as a setting for meeting and for rescuing children… or perhaps one’s youth.

Matt speaks eloquently of his thoughts at his esteemed grandfather’s passing, and chooses to come close to him in a field on his grandfather’s farm in Virginia… a place where seeds can grow, and a place where one might reclaim fond memories of youth.

This is a season of passings. Many who read this are affiliated with school in one form or another… students, teachers, parents, and May-June is always a time of transition…. coming home from college… leaving home (after the summer) for college, kids coming home, kids being home… a break, a respite, a vacation… the death of the academic year past, the birth of an ephemeral freedom. The rye seed must die and be buried to give new birth as next year’s crop: fields in which the children will grow and flourish. Old, beloved sages pass away, leaving something of themselves for the next generation. That cycle, almost as old as time, sustains us, and offers hope that we can be more.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Perspective

In the last few weeks, I've had several experiences I found... meaningful. They lent me a sense of competence, and thus, perhaps some security. My Heavenly Father, in conversation, suggested my attitude, rather than feeling competent, or self-satisfied, might be...
profound gratitude. And in humility, I am satisfied.
"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:5

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Love Will Keep Us Together (Concluded)


Love is… a relationship, a feeling, a disposition. Interesting nouns to be sure, yet somehow still… less than satisfying in connotation, in richness, in character. Though seeking an essential definition, simple, sterile concepts fail to do justice to this idea – perhaps a primal element of our existence.

I’m particularly drawn to the idea of a bond… not a note that earns interest (although there may indeed be some interesting parallels… hmmm), nor a “binding agreement” under which one agrees to perform a specified act (like showing up for a court appearance… again, though, the potential for some relevant parallels…. Hmmm again!).
No, I’m thinking of a bond like in chemistry, between atoms in a molecule… like a covalent bond… a bond that represents a force joining two entities…. not though, a physical connection, with a specific device or mechanism actually touching and connecting the elements, but some sort of attraction or force-like mechanism… a bond. The best analogy I can come up with is gravity… a force between two entities, proportional to their mass, and inversely proportional to the distance between them; gravity is a bond that, although we can express the force exerted on the two bodies, we really can’t describe the bond… other than to say that this attractive force exerted on the bodies can indeed be characterized as a bond. I propose that love is, in essence a kind of bond… a force, kind of like gravity, that draws two bodies, two personalities, two entities together.

From Oswald Chambers, the idea that love is elective is, I think, also essential. In earlier posts and discussions, we’ve talked about the idea that God gave us free will in order to choose to love Him. It would seem that a key part of love is the fact that it must be chosen.

Now here is where I depart from Oxford and the secular authorities. It’s an easy leap to make, after the post and discussion regarding “Mongo Theology” and the roll of emotion and intellect in our relationship with God. In the first post in this series, I concluded (to be redundant) that…

“we are continually and unceasingly to “love the Lord our God with all of our… 'heart, mind, strength, soul, passion, emotion… aggregated and interchangeable or not… in intimate partnership with Him, as the tapestries of our lives unfold.'”
Amongst the Christ-following community, there is consensus that we were indeed created to love God. God is a transcendent being, He exceeds, surpasses, and overflows the boundaries imposed by our finite minds. I believe, therefore, that since ”God is Love,” that love itself must have the transcendent nature of God.

The definition of love I would offer then is:
“Love is the elective bond that defines and characterizes our relationship with God and in God.”
Love, like gravity, binds us to God, and in the nature of that relationship, binds us to one another (in and through Him). An obvious conclusion here is that love cannot exist independent of God…. there may be affection, lust, desire… but love can only exist in a relationship founded in God.

Love Will Keep Us Together (Part 2)

In seeking definition, one often looks to others, or to an authoritative source. My favorite source for definition is the Oxford English Dictionary, a fine and weighty tome. Oxford’s first definition of love describes it as a “disposition or state of feeling,” based on, or arising from the “recognition of attractive qualities.” This is a worthwhile start, because the definition does not simply list characteristic behaviors or manifestations that are the result of love; we’re actually making a stab here at really saying what this thing called love IS. Oxford (remarkably enough!) falls short in that I believe love goes beyond simple attraction. As I intend to explore later, I believe there truly is a transcendence in love… but that’s later.

At my wife’s suggestion, I investigated a somewhat less secular, yet no less authoritative source, the Works of Oswald Chambers. In his discussion in “The Love of God,” (December 14, 1916), he offers this definition:
“Love is the sovereign preference of my person for another person, embracing everyone and everything in that preference.”
Mr. Chambers includes the concept of preference or choice as a component of love, and notes the completely inclusive, comprehensive nature of love as a relationship. So for him, love is a chosen and comprehensive relationship. It is an easy jump to 1 Corinthians 13 to examine the nature and characteristics of this relationship, however, my sense is that this serves to exemplify, rather than to describe the relationship itself. Splitting semantic hairs? Perhaps, but I can’t be comfortable with patience, kindness, gentleness as synonyms for love… they tel me about love, but not what it is.

To Be Continued…

Love Will Keep Us Together

I consider myself fortunate that I’ve found myself in this “Blog Circle” of folks who are thoughtful, critical in a positive sense, and willing to put their thoughts and ideas into a forum where we can all consider and grow in our understanding… hopefully.

The last post raised some really fascinating ideas, and brought me, at least, to a conclusion other (and, I hope better) than where I started. My conclusion was in my last comment:
“And now that I’ve had to walk around this block a few times, I guess my conclusion goes back to the post that really started this discussion… are we pawns in God’s cosmic chess game? Now the conclusion I’m compelled to draw from thought, prayer, and the loving commentary of my brothers and sisters is that as we’re moved around the board, as we live our lives in our squares, that we are continually and unceasingly to “love the Lord our God with all of our…” heart, mind, strength, soul, passion, emotion… aggregated and interchangeable or not… in intimate partnership with Him, as the tapestries of our lives unfold.”
So the whole thing comes down to loving the God who created us… in everything we do... actively, and in intimate partnership with Him. Danny might say that we can offer continual worship to Him… Paul the Apostle might consider that continuous prayer.

All of this, of course, raised a question for me… what IS love?

Well, the first and most obvious biblical response is from 1 John 4:16: “God is Love.” This forms an essential part of the premise, but for me, it is still somewhat undistilled. God IS indeed love… yes, a part of the essence of God is love, but He is so much more… And I have difficulty if we take this simple truth as an identity… God is love, but can we also say Love is God? Again, this just doesn’t seem complete. Love is a facet of God, but saying that Love is the same thing as God, and that provides a complete, working definition doesn’t, for me, satisfy. Now maybe this is my arrogant intellect, but I need more…

To be Continued…

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

A Confluence of the Spirit

I am truly indebted to Danny Bridgens… a master of supra-Socratic dialogue, who asked the simple question of my last post… “What are you saying here?” It is indeed always a worthwhile investment of my time to go back and figure out what I said, and even more important… what did I mean? Mean indeed…? Well, clearly I said more (or perhaps less) than I intended; Danny’s question forced more (and deeper) thought.

And it’s interesting… I mean have you ever fasted? When you do, it seems like in VERY short order, every billboard on the street is advertising food… and all the commercials on TV are suddenly about nothing but food! (And not diet food, or Weight Watchers, but about restaurants and steak, and pancakes, and sumptuous desserts!) And then there are the magazines, and the restaurants themselves that suddenly spring up on thoroughfares you’ve driven hundreds of times… and never saw the eateries…

Of late it’s been so with the Spirit, and with these questions. Every conversation I’ve had, each article I’ve “chanced” across, the movies I’ve watched, the discussions over coffee… intentional and otherwise… all have drawn me to these questions… and shown me additional facets, and begged more questions… Truly a “Confluence of the Spirit!”

The down side is that the Gordian knot just keeps getting larger and more complex, and I have more to say, and more questions… The challenge: “When do I ‘put down the paintbrush’ and post something?” I guess the answer is… today. At least get something out there and see what folks think… I’ll pick up the brush again, and just keep on “keepin’ on.”

So what of Mongo, pawn of life? And what of us, beloved children of the God who grants life? Upon (much) greater thought, prayer, and consideration, I find need of reassessing our relationship with our Creator, and much more, HIS relationship with us! I began with a consideration of what God has given us… welk, OK… pretty much everything… but specifically, I began with free-will: absolutely requisite to love. Previously, I discussed the need for love to be an elective choice, not original with me, but a concept to which I’m fully subscribed. But to go on… He also gave us intellect, emotion, passion even… and why? To what purpose? In my thinking, I don’t believe these are requisite to love… they enhance OUR experience of it perhaps, but I believe we could love our creator successfully without them. So why then are we “endowed by our Creator” with these gifts?

Several reasons come to mind… first of all, God chose to “make man in our image, in our likeness” (Genesis 1:26), and He certainly possesses both mind and passion. A reasonable assumption would be that we’re granted these gifts, reflective of Him, to be able to relate to Him on a more intimate plane… intellect and passion for a more intimate relationship, OK… in fact, it seems that’s God’s command to us…

“Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” –Deuteronomy 6:5

Thinking back to the Mongo-Pawn analogy, we could interpret that as God expecting (and equipping!) us to make a significant contribution when He “moves” us, and also that we’re expected, nay required, to glorify Him when we’re in our ‘little squares’ on the board. But I have a sense that there’s more…