“Prayer in my later years has become simply letting myself be nakedly known, as I am, in all my ordinariness, face to face, without any masks or even religious makeup.”—Richard Rohr, A Lever and a Place to Stand
“But those of us who do think ethics play a role in coffee will agree with Vandana Shiva, a leading Indian ecofeminist who argues that “drinking coffee is a political act” and Rigoberta Menchu, Nobel Laureate from Guatemala, who says, “Coffee is more than just a drink. It is about politics, survival, the Earth, and the lives of indigenous peoples.” It would be hard to find a more value-laden commodity than coffee.”—Stephanie W. Aleman, “Green Coffee, Green Consumers—Green Philosophy?” in Coffee: Philosophy for Everyone
Because we must learn to live in the tension. We must learn to wisely hold it all. And if we can do this, we will find spaces in the tension—space for wisdom and peace and community.
We need to make our home in the tension, because all of life is happening in the middle of it. In the middle of our tension…
The urge to do violence to the ideas and beliefs of people with different political beliefs or faith traditions or worldviews will subside. Because we will have discovered the battle really isn’t between us and them. If we are willing to look closely, we will discover the battle is contained entirely within us.
We will experience each other as prisoners of our own internal wars, and with intimate knowledge of the experience, we will find ourselves eager to free each other, as well.
We will find a way to encounter conflict with strength…and with forgiveness.
We will walk into hatred and bring justice…as well as mercy.
We will stumble upon ignorance and shine knowledge there…with humility.
So, open yourself to the tension within, find a home there, find a deep and abiding love for yourself there, and then scatter that love everywhere you go.
Wake up fifteen minutes early, but not in order to get a jump on the day. Instead, spend five minutes opening your eyes slowly, opening the eyes of your mind and your heart to a new day pregnant with the opportunity to rest. Feel the warmth of the covers on a cold winter morning. Attend to the dance of light on the ceiling from a summer sunrise.
Do nothing to the moment. Simply allow your self to be in the moment.
But there is a third kind of marriage. The third kind of marriage is not perfect, not even close. But a decision has been made, and two people have decided to love each other to the limit, and to sacrifice the most important thing of all—themselves. In these marriages, losing becomes a way of life, a competition to see who can listen to, care for, serve, forgive, and accept the other the most. The marriage becomes a competition to see who can change in ways that are most healing to the other, to see who can give of themselves in ways that most increase the dignity and strength of the other. These marriages form people who can be small and humble and merciful and loving and peaceful.
And they are revolutionary, in the purest sense of the word.
In marriage, losing is letting go of the need to fix everything for your partner, listening to their darkest parts with a heart ache rather than a solution. It’s being even more present in the painful moments than in the good times. It’s finding ways to be humble and open, even when everything in you says that you’re right and they are wrong. It’s doing what is right and good for your spouse, even when big things need to be sacrificed, like a job, or a relationship, or an ego. It is forgiveness, quickly and voluntarily. It is eliminating anything from your life, even the things you love, if they are keeping you from attending, caring, and serving. It is seeking peace by accepting the healthy but crazy-making things about your partner because, you remember, those were the things you fell in love with in the first place. It is knowing that your spouse will never fully understand you, will never truly love you unconditionally—because they are a broken creature, too—and loving them to the end anyway.
We build our lives around comfort and safety and ease. We feel entitled to painless living. Both physically and emotionally. We will go to great lengths to avoid our interior pain—our sadness, grief, powerlessness, fear, despair, shame, and anger. As Carl Jung said, “People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own soul.”
But what is the psychological equivalent of a painkilling pill?
I think we numb our psychological pain with myth.
By myth, I mean the ever-so-slightly deceptive stories we tell ourselves. About ourselves. About other people. About the world we live in. Our personal myths are the beliefs that protect us from the pain of life.*
“Do evangelicals need to reexamine our doctrines of hell and damnation? Yes, I guess I do think they ought to reexamine. They ought to be a good bit more biblical, not taking things out of context. But the people who are against Rob Bell are not going to reexamine anything. They have a litmus test for who is a Christian and who is not. But that’s not what it means to live in community. Luther said that we should read the entire Bible in terms of what drives toward Christ. Everything has to be interpreted through Christ. Well, if you do that, you’re going to end up with this religion of grace and forgiveness. The only people Jesus threatens are the Pharisees. But everybody else gets pretty generous treatment. There’s very little Christ, very little Jesus, in these people who are fighting Rob Bell.”—Eugene Peterson
“I don’t like this expression ‘First World problems.’ It is false and it is condescending. Yes, Nigerians struggle with floods or infant mortality. But these same Nigerians also deal with mundane and seemingly luxurious hassles. Connectivity issues on your BlackBerry, cost of car repair, how to sync your iPad, what brand of noodles to buy: Third World problems. All the silly stuff of life doesn’t disappear just because you’re black and live in a poorer country. People in the richer nations need a more robust sense of the lives being lived in the darker nations. Here’s a First World problem: the inability to see that others are as fully complex and as keen on technology and pleasure as you are.”—Teju Cole
“To be human is to be involved, to act and to react, to wonder and to respond. For man, to be is to play a part in a cosmic drama, knowingly or unknowingly… Man’s most important problem is not being but living. To live means to be at the crossroads. There are many forces and drives within the self. What direction to take is a question we face again and again. Who am I? A mere chip from the block of being? Am I not both the chisel and the marble? Being and foreseeing? Being and bringing into being?”—Abraham Joshua Heschel
“Why be concerned with meaning?
Why not be content with satisfaction of desires and needs? The vital drives of food, sex, and power, as well as the mental functions aimed at satisfying them, are as characteristic of animals as they are of man. Being human is characteristic of a being who faces the question: After satisfaction, what?”—Abraham Joshua Heschel
“What is the meaning of my being?
My quest—man’s quest—is not for theoretical knowledge about myself…
What I look for is not how to gain a firm hold on myself and on life, but primarily how to live a life that would deserve and evoke an eternal Amen.”—Abraham Joshua Heschel
“As Christians we have a heritage of learning. For 4,000 years, our God has encouraged learning. Reading and writing have been important parts of our heritage. But, it was not just simply reading and writing. From Saint Paul, who studied philosophy and theology under Gamaliel, through Saint John Chrysostom, who exemplified the oratorical training of the ancient world, through Saint Gregory Palamas, shortly before the fall of Constantinople, learning has been an important part of Christianity. Yes, there have been periods when the ideal has not been upheld. But, by and large, both Jews and Christians have a heritage of schooling, learning, and deep thought.”—Learning is Spiritual
Then Judas, who was betraying Him, answered and said, “Rabbi, is it I?”
He said to him, “You have said it.”
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”
Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My father’s kingdom.
—Matthew 26:25-28, NKJV
I find it interesting that often we are asked to consider our hearts, in hopes of becoming pure, prior to the consumption of the communion elements, and we even encourage those who may be “in sin” not to partake, when Jesus himself served to Judas with no such instruction.
‘Sometimes people assume that preaching works this way: a preacher prepares a sermon during the week, finishes it at some point – maybe Friday afternoon or Saturday night – and then gets up and preaches the finished product in worship on Sunday. This may be the way it appears on the surface, but experienced preachers know better: sermons are never actually finished. There are always loose ends, questions that could have been pursued in more depth, stones left unturned, intriguing aspects of the biblical text unexamined, thoughts not quite fully baked, an untidiness at the heart of things. At some point, though, preachers have to take what they have, stand up, and speak. Preachers do not preach because the sermon is finished; they preach because it is Sunday. The time has come.
That sermons are never finished is actually a good thing. Sermons get presented in incomplete form not because of procrastination or negligence – not most of the time, anyway – but because preaching mirrors the character of faithful theology and of the Christian life itself. Karl Barth once described God’s revelation as “a bird in flight.” By the time we have paused to snap a photo, write a systematic theology, or craft a sermon, the bird has flown on. “All theology is provisional,” said theologian Arthur C. McGill. “It is the movement … from darkness toward the light, so that as movement no point along its way has permanent or final validity.”’