Friday, December 31, 2004

Reflect glory

On Christmas day, my wife and I were driving back home after a visit to her sister's house in a town south of us. The moon had risen and the sun had not yet set. The moon was full but appeared pale. As we drove on, the moon got brighter and brighter. By the time we reached home it illuminated the sky. Well, it didn't really illuminate the sky--the sky was very dark. And actually, the moon had not increased in brightness. It just looked brighter since the sun was not visible.

Whatever brightness I have is really not my own, but a reflection of God's glory. When I am around others who are aware of God's glory, I don't really stand out all that much, because they are illuminated, too. But when I go where people do not see God, the sun is invisible and they see only the moon. That's me. That is why it is very important for me not to obscure the reflection of God's light. They need to see the brightness of God, not some artificial light I might produce.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Learn to Love

When you get to be my age (55 at the time of this writing), you have a lot of friends who have been collecting things for a while. Or your parents die and you find out how much stuff they collected. And you begin to wonder, "What is all this stuff for?" I am sitting in a room with bookshelves and a rough estimate indicates that they contain around 750 books. That's on one set of shelves. There are more in the bedroom and in my office. What am I doing with so many books? I don't even pay attention to more than a dozen or so of them in a year. It makes me wonder why I collected all those books.

In fact, I wonder, "What am I doing here?" Is life all about collecting stuff or trying to impress people with all the stuff you collected? Because, you're not taking it with you, you know. And even if what you have been doing is not trying to amass stuff, you have to ask that question, "What am I doing here? Is there a purpose to my life?"

Of course, there is a reason I am asking this question now with more intensity than I might have asked it thirty years ago. I'm at that stage of life that is concerned with generativity. The boys are grown and married. They have their own lives. I have poured everything into them that I will get a chance to do. My wife and I have a better relationship now than ever, so I am not struggling to make that relationship work. I can actually see some progress at work and at church. But what is it for? Why not just die and be with Jesus?

Apparently I still have some lessons to learn. Upon considerable reflection, it appears to me that they have to do with learning to love. How do I receive love; how do I give love? I have been far too interested in myself to pay attention to that quest. Love entails commitment and sacrifice. It is a matter of will, not emotion. Learning how to receive love entails releasing your pride so that you can actually enjoy being loved. It is humbling to be loved. You can't be proud and receive love.

And as near as I can figure, being able to love is the prime skill used in the afterlife. So I had better get good at it here, or at least, as good as possible. Because I will die. You, too. And you don't want to be hindered by an undernourished aptitude for love.

No wonder the angels are curious about us humans. You think that the angels doubt the love of God? Not on your life. But people, yeah, we can certainly doubt the love of God. That is the gift of being human--we can doubt God's love. That also means that we can discover God's love and have some inkling of its value. We can know from what hell we are rescued. The angels don't get to do that.

So, I want to keep learning how to love--giving and receiving. It makes this life make sense.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Sitting on my Grandad's tractor half a century ago Posted by Hello

Friday, August 27, 2004

Overcome Inertia

The other day, while listening to a sermon, it dawned on me that my life is all about overcoming inertia. I have had a pretty easy life. I have not faced crisis after crisis; my nights are not plagued by fears of what might happen tomorrow. Instead, I have had a happy life. But when life is placid there is little movement. Gravity pulls me down; I must resist it to go forward. Traditions lead to an unexamined status quo; I must question them and discard them when they impede progress. Personal habits become more comfortable than doing what is right; I must develop new habits which lead me towards righteousness. This is all work, of course.

Then again, no one becomes stronger without work. We have watched the Olympic Games, cheering on our favorites, then turning to a peanut butter sandwich and a crossword puzzle. We are willing for others to entertain us, others who have worked. When I stopped to look up at the tallest door in my house and realized that the high jumpers jump over that, I am astonished and I realize that they were willing to work in order to grow strong. What work do I do to grow strong?

Proverbs 6:6-11 (from the Hebrew Bible) commends the ant for working hard without a taskmaster and concludes "A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest--and poverty will come upon you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man."

Do what you can do to the best of your ability; learn to do new things by paying the price of exercise; overcome inertia and live.