Monthly Archives: September 2014

To Confound the Things Which Are Mighty

Nothing but a cripple.

1 Corinthians 1:25-27

Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:

But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a cripple. (I can use that word, because my body is crippled, too.)  The world was kept from knowing the extent of Roosevelt’s disability by the compensation tricks he developed to give the appearance of his walking — and also by the willingness of journalists to keep secret his difficulties in getting out of automobiles.  Why did he have to hide the fact of his weak legs from others?  Because Roosevelt wanted to lead the people as President of the United States, and he believed, as they believed — that a true leader cannot be perceived as weak in any way.

What is physical strength?

Because Ken Burns documentary film on the Roosevelts is on my mind, let’s continue for a moment with Franklin Roosevelt — a physically disabled man who used a wheelchair, and who not only became President, but also became the strongest and most influential president of the 20th century. He was a great world leader, a man of confidence, vitality, strength, and action.  He was not a weakling.  No one knew him to be a pushover — even though he could have easily been pushed over by the slightest jostle when he was ambulating on his braces and crutches.  The fact is that the paralyzing effects of polio did not diminish Franklin Roosevelt’s inner vitality and confident action.  In fact, because his paralysis made him physically weak and dependent on others for daily acts of survival, he developed a strong, intimate compassion for others who felt helpless.  Enduring his own sufferings made his heart and his resolve stronger.  Being fatigued more easily in the body, he grew more tireless in his mind.  Some experts believe that he might never have become president at all, if not for the timing delay that the polio caused for his candidacy.  Most experts agree that his muscle wasting illness made him, instead of just president, a great president.

So, again, I ask: what is physical strength?

I have often been told that I am an inspiration. And I have often wondered why.  Most of the people who have told me this have done so after knowing me for only a few minutes.  Usually, I don’t have to say much of anything at all except the usual casual pleasantries.  I know it’s because of the wheelchair.  They see me all crippled up and crumpled up and they, if they are normally functioning humans, feel a kind of pity, or sorrow, or even scared, nervous repulsion.  Exactly the kind of reactions that Franklin Roosevelt did not want to elicit.  But, then they see my smile.  They look into the intelligence of my eyes and witness my genuine joy, smiling across my whole expressive face, they hear the normalcy of my voice — and they are surprised.  No one expects joyful strength from someone who is physically weak.  Those who personally witnessed Franklin Roosevelt’s physical struggles, and knew something of the suffering and the fatigue that his disability caused him, admired him with a deeper intensity than those who only received the illusion of physical mobility.  They got to experience, as we do now, the fullness of who he was as a person and exactly how brave he was — how strong.

That’s something people have also told me: that I’m brave. But… I don’t really know what they expect me to do.  Should I dampen my natural tendency to joy because of the underlying sorrow of my disease?  I mean, I don’t like not being able to walk.  And I am frustrated, disappointed, and annoyed that other people have to take care me.  Hate is a strong word and I rarely use it — I will say that I hate to exaggerate — but, the way that I feel about my utter physical dependency on others… we could say that I hate it.  Do I let that take over my life and who I am?  No.  Mainly, because I am loved.  And being loved, being truly loved and knowing it, is a kind of freedom.  I, who I am as a person, body, mind, heart, and soul, does not need to be chained by my chains.  We all have limitations, all unique, some more obvious than others, some more minute-by-minute limiting than others.  But, there is no limit to love. Real love.

It may very well be impossible for you to do some particular thing. It was impossible for Franklin Roosevelt to walk unaided.  It’s impossible for me to walk at all — it’s also impossible for me to scratch my head, wipe my bottom, feed myself, etc..  However — and this is very big and important, way beyond wishful thinking, justifications, or petty comforts — I am not limited in becoming who I am created to be.  I may not get my way.  But, if I am willing and cooperative, then all of who I am (especially including my limitations) will result in the accomplishment of Divine Will.  God’s way is above my way.

No matter what your limitations, there are no limitations placed upon your ability to be fulfilled in who you are. A hero, a martyr, a warrior, a mystic, a sage, a saint — all are within the possibilities of every human person.  Should somebody not even be able to utter a word or express any kind of personal communication, he or she still has the ability to teach.  God, who created each and every one of us, has given each and every one of us the particular abilities needed to reach our full potentials and to become great in God’s sight.  We will not all become President of the United States or any other kind of a world recognized leader — but everybody has the ability to lead.  By following God’s love, we can not only become who we are destined to be, but we can also lead others to their destinies.  The very fact that we are simple, that we are small, the very fact that we are seen as foolish to many, the very fact that we are pitifully weak — that is how we become able.  It is how Jesus saved the world — just look at a crucifix.

It is through the human wounds that we can see the Divine.

Unpublished work © 2014 Christina Chase

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Of a Good Courage

Yes, what the world needs now is love. And also courage.

Joshua 1:8-9

This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.

Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.

We think of having courage as having no fear — but that’s not so. Bravery is not the absence of fear.  It is the willingness to face what one fears.  Often, we think of firefighters, police officers, and soldiers as being courageous, walking into burning buildings, chasing down bad guys, putting their lives on the line in horrific combat.  I say that the men and women who do these things out of real love — in order to save the helpless and protect the innocent, defending others with their own life’s blood if need be — they are, indeed, courageous.  Heroes.  But, those who, through a kind of arrogance, force themselves to walk into danger for their own vainglory — well, there’s no courage in that.  Only willfulness.

For where there is no real love, there is no real courage.

If you’re willing to face what is scary because you’re figuring that you will profit somehow by it, then you are simply gambling. You are taking a risk, a mighty huge risk that may give you some trepidation, but one that is calculated toward a particular reward.  I don’t mean that there is anything wrong with this boldness in and of itself (although, there may certainly be something wrong about the means and/or the end) I just mean to say that it isn’t the holy kind of courage akin to a life of divine virtue.  The holy kind of courage is the kind spoken of in the Bible.  It’s what Christ has.  It’s what the Holy Spirit can inspire in each and every one of us.

Let’s think for a moment about everyday courage, which is, quite possibly, the best kind of courage there is. Perhaps, you will never have the opportunity to run into or flee from a burning building with people trapped inside, perhaps you’ll never come face-to-face with a gunman.  Chances are, you probably won’t.  But, every so often, perhaps every day, you will have to spend time with someone that you don’t like.  Or you will come to a merger with a stranger in line or in traffic.  Or you’ll be disappointed by something that you tried and failed. Or you will be slighted by someone that you love.  Or you’ll get sick.  What then?  What will you do?

Will you be strong and of a good courage and listen to that person that you don’t like for his or her own sake, attentive to his or her needs?

Will you defer to that stranger in line or in traffic with no expectations of thanks or even acknowledgment, sacrificing your moment for the stranger’s?

Will you accept your own failures, setbacks, and disappointment and keep trying to do what you believe is right even though you know that you may never succeed?

Will you forgive the slight of your loved one and not hold it in grudge?

Will you patiently bear your sickness in a kind of loving solidarity with all people who suffer, without lashing out to make others near you feel pain?

Do you have the courage to face your fears, to face your dislikes, irritations, annoyances, and sufferings, out of real love and concern for someone other than yourself? If so, if you find yourself practicing some small, everyday sacrifice for love, then, my friend, you are courageous.  You are a hero.  A hero that will never receive an award or accolade, a hero that may never even be recognized, not even by himself or herself, as a hero — but who will be known as a hero in that moment through the eternal reaches beyond time and space.

Actions speak so much louder than words. And the smallest actions can resound the most greatly.  All teachings of goodness and justice, of mercy and compassion, of helpfulness and healing, are not taught in order to be taught.  All wise and loving teachings must be meditated upon, must be pondered in the heart and taken to heart, so that they may be lived.

If you ever find yourself in a situation where you know that if you do what is truly right and good you will probably suffer in doing it — and then you do it anyway… that, my friend, is real love.  Real courage.  Because real love requires a good courage.  Will you be eternally rewarded for it?  Some say that you will.  Some say that you will not. Do it anyway.

Unpublished work © 2014 Christina Chase

What We Shall Be

From Mystery to Mystery…

1 John 3:2-3

Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.

A mighty oak tree grows large in size and bulk, outstretching its massive arms to cast the life below it in shade. And, yet, it puts forth as its offspring the small and humble acorn.  Such a nut looks whole and sufficient unto itself.  It is pleasing to the eye, with its smooth, round, tapering body and its darker, textured cap as its head.  Its likeness is used for adornment in furniture and works of art, a motif that is readily recognizable.  And it is also useful just as it is.  An acorn is a delicate and delicious food, with a pleasing, soft crunch, that is sought after by squirrels, pigs, and humans alike.  And, yet, we humans don’t delight in the eating of an acorn as much as we do other nuts from other trees and plants — perhaps, because we know the full identity of an acorn.  From the mighty and noble oak does the acorn come — and to the future destiny of a mighty and noble oak shall the acorn go, given the right conditions.

Like acorns are we.

We are small, but seemingly whole and sufficient unto ourselves. There is harmony in the human shape and form.  Our looks are pleasing to ourselves, the most beautiful among us lauded for their beauty.  And we can be very useful, too — to ourselves and our fellow human beings, as well as to other life forms on our planet.  Imaginative and industrious, we seem to fulfill our purpose as a species by our individual and collective accomplishments.  Yes, we are different than other animals, but it seems as though we are just more highly evolved animals — more refined nuts.

And, yet… yet this is not the fullness of our identities.

In our present earthly forms, which are beautiful and strong, creative and productive, it is easy to think that this is all that there is of us. Difficult is it to think that we are the sons and daughters of God — for God is, surely, far too infinitely mighty and eternally noble to put forth such offspring as us.  Yes, we are wonderful — beautiful and strong — but, we are mere creatures, small, finite.  How can we possibly be children of God?  If God had a form, it would reasonably be so completely unlike ours that the kinship would not only be unrecognizable, but also dubiously unbelievable.

Yes. Much like the acorn’s kinship to the oak tree.

And, further, to think that, as children of God, our destinies are to become like God… well, who can reasonably believe it?  And, yet, we know that “Mighty oaks from little acorns grow.”

This is not about the science of seeds. Nor is it an encouragement to think big.  My meditation here is upon the wonder of “what we shall be…”.

We have a tendency to think of our individual destinies or legacies in terms of forms that we readily know and understand. It is not uncommon to think of immortality in this way.  We think in terms of children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, stretching on in generations of descendants after us.  Perhaps, we wish for fame — recognition of our names and/or images by people a hundred, hey, a thousand, years from now.  Or, perhaps, we wish to leave as a legacy some great work — a nation, a charitable foundation, a scientific breakthrough, a revolutionary invention, etc. — that will beneficially shape the future for countless generations.  For this is how we know the great people of the past and how we are grateful that they ever existed.  In our blue and green sphere, spinning in our Milky Way, in what is knowable to us of the universe, these futures are what we can logically aspire to while knowing that they are rare.

But… what if our earthly forms, through which we can rationally know and understand other forms, are not whole and complete unto themselves. What if they come from Mystery and are made to become like Mystery?  What if the fullness of our identities are orientated toward something greater than what can be known in the physical realm — toward Someone greater, toward The Mysterious One, who is God, our Source and our Ultimate End?  Should we then be content to be mere adornment and food for bodily forms?  Is the whole of human worth self-pleasure or usefulness to the knowable universe?  Or… is there Something More?  Are we Something More?

It would be easy to live one’s whole life as an acorn, and never recognizing the parent Oak, and never striving to become like such a tree ourselves. Thus never recognizing and never striving, we will never allow the right circumstances to take place that will open us up to the fullness of who we are.  We will remain ignorant.  And we will die in the shell.

When death comes to us, and the confines of the finite drop away, will we see God as God is — and in seeing God as God is, will we then recognize God’s love for us, our kinship? Or, will we think, in that glimpse, in that last moment of earthly forms in which we have staked all of our future, “Wow, what an amazingly resplendent Oak tree!  Too bad I’m just a nut” and never stretch out our arms to our Father?

Unpublished work © 2014 Christina Chase