Saturday, July 26, 2008


I was recently made aware of a weakness in my spiritual cast.

Truth is, unfortunately for you, often revealed to me as the conclusion of some abstract line of thought, the real-world conclusion to some hypothetical, sometimes downright nonsensical, syllogism.

As such, it remains difficult to present to you the circuitous route my mind undertook to arrive at a very basic destination. It must suffice to say that I was at work, which is to say I was mobile, due to the nature of my work. It was mid-morning, which means I was in a haze of grim resignation, attempting to rid myself of the last of the day's packages bearing a 10:30 commit time. Some anonymous driver had committed an egregious sin against me, an automotive faux pas so traumatic that I have since blocked it from my mind and cannot remember what the particular offense was, or whether or not it was something as minor as being on the same road as I. Some deep-seated knee-jerk persecution complex constantly feeds data, no matter how minuscule or inconsequential, into a misery meter. (The earlier my little meter pegs out in the morning, the better the day, as it awakens a sense of proportion and perspective. A side note, I recently attempted to readjust my attitude only to discover that I did not wish to not be irritated.)

I soothed the irritation, as I have many times, with a platitude; a variation of, It could be worse. I do this quite often. Exemplary is an instance where I was working much later than I felt just, and delivered a package of medicine to a very grateful paraplegic who was immensely proud of being able to sign his name legibly for the package. I left him sobered and comforted.

Me, not him.

When tempted to everyday frustration, my invariable response is to compare my lot favorably with those more unfortunate than myself.

And that's helpful, but not very biblical.

The logical trouble with proportioning every distasteful thing in your life by saying, yes, but look at him, is that somewhere down the line, waaayyy down the line, somebody far more unfortunate than I looks to his left in search of comfort and finds no one lower than he to use as an emotional stepstone out of the funk. ( I say logical trouble because I recognize that each soul bears his own troubles with more grace than he supposes he would bear anothers.) But it is still logical to adduce that if we are only comforted by looking downhill, when the music stops, some poor sucker is going to be left without a seat.

Moreover, it is a pitiful excuse for comfort. It is slaking your thirst by rolling a pebble around in your mouth to generate saliva when there's a frosted Mason jar of iced tea at your elbow.

Incidentally, that poor, destitute individual you look to for comfort may be happier than you are, indeed, what an epiphany it would prove to discover that you were his comfort!

The upshot: I reckon that the sufferings of this present life (including, but not limited to slow-pokes, financial worries, health problems, stoning, beating, imprisonment, cancer, paralysis, burning at a stake, piece-mealed to lions, upside down crucifixion) are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed to us.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Hoarding Grace

Well I know the frustration of many a pro-active Isrealite upon discovering that their industry in stockpiling manna had proved worthless.

The initial miracle of the bread of heaven must have felt breathtakingly tender. Looking upward as they gathered the mystery carbohydrate, I know their hearts overflowed with gratitude. And common sense dictates thusly: What a wondrous gift to our starving nomadic (misleading term, don't you think? after all, they were headed somewhere) hearts. I must take advantage of this grace and not waste it. Thank you Lord, I'll take it from here.

And so brought out the baskets and laid up a store like any responsible financial planner must do.

And so forth did the parabolic venture capitalist of the New Testament earn the epithet "fool" from Jesus.

This applies not only materially to us, but spiritually, at first a tragedy, then a relief, to our mortal perspective. Were grace awarded on a meritorious earnings basis, we could, as we are wont, plan for our future, taking a little (or a lot, depending on your Scroogeness) out each week for the days ahead.

Thankfully, grace is not awarded meritoriously, hence the term, grace, I guess.

But the sustenance of grace is what I refer to. The strength to go on is given as needed, morning by morning, hour by hour; a frightfully effective way of gaining our peaceful trust.

The Zarapheth widow . . .do you suppose she ever looked into the barrel in the morning, and wondered ungratefully, Why does He not fill it up all the way to the top?

Saturday, July 05, 2008


The trees defer to the wind, and the wind brings them to life. The sighing and breathing are the only sounds I hear, until a fallen maple leaf skates purposefully up the ramp like the planchette of an ouija board, viciously raking the concrete with curled, withered edges, causing me to look over the top of my philosophy text, from my perch on the stone wall.

A Saturday afternoon on guard duty, high atop Mt. Auburn.

The only people on campus today are the ones that have to be here.

I guard, in between short bursts of Kant and Locke, and grow ever more comforted by what I read. By Kant, not Locke. Locke leads a pack of uninspired empiricists who find no meaning in life aside from finding no meaning in life.Kant, on the other hand, and Descartes. . .whisper words of comfort forged by mental anguish and tempered by time, a lullaby of rationalism to soothe my troubled dreams. They see beyond the veil of empirical data, to something at once more abstract and more concrete, a giant premise with mind-blowing implications.

Ockhams's Razor . . . .a fearsome double-edged danger to some, but to me a security, a formidable weapon against the forces of doubt and uncertainty."All other things being equal, the simplest solution is the best." or, "Entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity."

Hence, God exists. Furthermore, God created.

Stockpiling rationale like it were canned goods and tomorrow Y3K.

Being prepared to give an answer for my faith.(Discreetly laying the cold steel of Ockham's blade against my cheek for comfort.)

Not having the option of trust, having cast away my confidence, I picked up apologetics and brandished it at doubt. Remembering my past draws with the devil, I vowed never to go unarmed again. Had Daniel an AR-15 or Gideon a nuke surely they would've used it and saved God all that trouble.And speaking of nuclear options, that is exactly what faith had become for me.

Samson's last gasp.

I was terrified of trust. Such intimacy with my Maker had burned me, pulling me into a Sisyphan perpetuity of pathetic whimsy, an unbroken string of compulsive contortions to prove my love for God. Having left myself open, the enemy of my soul moved in with a blitzkrieg of scorched-earth maneuvers. Before long, the lush Eden of my salvation was gone and I cowered in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, never having moved, but unsure of where I was anymore. I re-built my spiritual sanity slowly and clinically, brick by brick, never asking for help from above. I knew He was there, but was afraid to look, afraid to ask. What if I heard no reply?

My conscience, once a love language for God and I, had been compromised and I used it no longer. It couldn't be trusted. I fumbled my way through several years, protecting the wounds.They healed, but there is a stiffness left in the joints.

All this may sound extremely melodramatic, but I assure you that no such comforting thought entered my mind at the time. I spent a year or more scared absolutely to death. My mind was twisted and wrung out. I wasted to a pale ghost, looked like death and felt like death. Could I have died with assurance of passage into Heaven I would have gladly done so.

I look at it now in shades of grace. God allowed it, after all, so I belatedly embrace it all, knowing there was a reason. It left a mark on me; a reserve and an awkwardness.I alternate between feeling that it strengthened me and suspecting that it stunted me.I feel a little tougher but a little wizened. Trust is still that nuclear power that is reserved for defense and not tapped for an energy source. I try not to think about whether my Christianity is based on love for God or fear of Him.

The distance is what sends me seeking for reassurance in philosophy and apologetics. Mind you, it is a superfluous pursuit. I don't dream that I would lapse in my faith were I not to find the justification I seek in philosophy and apologetics.

But it's like having the munchies. You just can't stop because it's available.

And palatable. And it spoils your dinner and weakens your immune system.

Would you rather arm yourself with Kant or that which pierces to the marrow?