Tag Archives: Christianity

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

 

 

In the Midst of Wolves

The world can be scary.

Matthew 10:16

Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.

 

Someone who is healthy, fit and strong can take care of herself. She is self-sufficient, working a job to earn money for food, clothing, shelter – and fun, too. She can get herself to and from work and wherever else she might like to go, she can feed herself, dress herself, and keep her body maintained, as well as her housing. She does not need to depend on anyone particular, as she is a fully functioning part of society.

But, someone who is not healthy, fit or strong cannot take care of herself. She is completely and directly dependent upon others for food, clothing, shelter – for survival. She has no money with which to buy the things that she needs and, even if she did, she cannot physically put the food in her mouth, put the clothes on her body, or even move from one point to another. If she were to be alone without another human being for more than two days, she would die. I know because this is a description of me.

And it’s scary.

The only reason that I am not scared every day is that the little world of my family is a loving and gentle place. My loved ones are not wolves. They do not prey upon me in my vulnerability, but, rather, pray for me. They are not heartless and careless, but, rather, thoughtful and attentive. They are not selfish and stingy, but, rather, kind and generous. My parents are living examples of sacrificial love – willing to give up their own time, energy, resources, and even physical comfort for my sake, so that I may survive and even thrive. I am grateful every moment of every day for them, without end.

But…. They are getting older.

After 30 years of taking care of my physical needs all by themselves, we began getting assistance from home health aides a few hours a day, 2 to 5 days a week. Right now, it’s four days a week for a total of 11 hours – assuming no one calls out. I won’t say that it’s easy having strangers come and give me personal care. It’s a lot like, “Hi, I’m Christina. Would you like to see my bum?” But, although the women who come start off as complete unknowns, after getting to know each other we usually like each other and get along very well. In fact, although I have had many aides for only one day, those that last longer have been good people, genuine caregivers, no wolves among them. Although, sometimes one might be a little rough or another a little sloppy, they generally give adequate care and sometimes even more than adequate.

The problem is that they are not my loved ones. I cannot completely depend upon them because they have their own lives. If my parents suddenly can’t take care of me because of their own health issues, none of them will jump into the 24/7 care. Right now, my mother is unable to take care of me because of her severely injured back. It’s all upon my dad… who woke up from back pain himself this morning. And with one of my home health aides unavailable for much of the summer, the other one has had to fill in – even though she herself has back problems and I know that I am breaking her, too.

And that’s when I think about the world in which I live, my own helplessness, and how scary it all is.

I don’t want to go into a nursing home. What fully cognitive person of 40 would? Yet I know that this is my ultimate fallback. And, truly, I am grateful to live in a society where someone like me will always be taken care of physically, one way or another. We are not such a cruel and heartless people that we will allow the most vulnerable citizens of our country to perish because of disability. Well, so far we aren’t. So far, so good. I know that I might very well end up in a nursing home one day, and I know that it will scare me. Yes, physically, I would be in fatal trouble if I were without another human being for more than a day (dehydration is very serious for such a small, fragile body as mine) but, mentally, I would not make it more than an hour without another human being within earshot. I have a terrible, paralyzing phobia of not being able to be heard. Even a few minutes without someone responding to me makes me realize how utterly and completely helpless I am and I just freak out. The wolfish fears of my mind have the power to devour me.

You know how believers always profess to love and trust in God? I do that. I profess to love God and to want to give my whole self to God, and to let Divine Will, not my will, be done. But do I really mean it? My test is this: if something horrible happened to my parents and sister and I had to live in a nursing home with nurses and aides who begrudgingly looked after my survival needs but who were not kind, who were mean – if this was my life, would I still love God? Would I still thank God every day that I am alive? Would I still be the accepting, joyful and loving person that I am? Sometimes, I let the full terror of this scenario fall upon me, the dark misery of it, and my deep, deep answer is: Yes. That’s what commitment is. That’s what faith is. I will love and serve God no matter what, no matter how painful, no matter how horrifyingly difficult it may be to live up to my beliefs. I will not betray my love!

But I pray that I will not be put to the test!

The truth is that everyone everywhere is vulnerable. We, as human beings, are all dependent in some way. First of all, of course, we are dependent upon God for existence itself. Then, we are dependent upon the created order, upon the earth and the resources of earth, for our survival. And let’s not forget our absolute dependency in the womb, as well as our dependency upon adults in our infancy and early childhood. Our dependency continues – even if we are physically healthy, fit and strong, for it is rare to find a hermit who does not receive something from someone or a self-sufficient survivalist who has not hoarded up a collection derived from others’ work. And we know that the world can be a rough place. Getting employment and housing can be difficult, living in a safe neighborhood is never a guarantee. There are thieves and liars and murderers everywhere that humans live. And even the kindest, gentlest people can be victims of horrendous crimes. We are often sheep among wolves.

So, what are we to do? We are to remain gentle. We are to be loving and kind, selfless and generous. But, we don’t want to be mindless. To be thoughtful is to think of others as they are – beloved children of God who do not always live up to the divine image in which they are created. Sometimes, people turn away from their humanity and become ravenous in their self-centeredness, using up others and tossing them away. We must be mindful of that. But we must not harden our hearts against them. We must never seek to give them a taste of their own medicine – for then we would become vicious ourselves. No, rather, we must be smart and use reason to work around people’s tendencies toward evil acts. If I end up in a nursing home, I will know to use my sweetness, my patience and understanding in a very obvious and outward way, so as to disarm people in their brisk harshness and unthinking. I will use my wits to discover their vulnerabilities – and I will have true sympathy. I will do my best to become a friend to them – and then they will be more willing to be a friend to me. And if this doesn’t work? I will never turn mean myself. I will try my best not to be vicious toward them. Rather, I will accept the fullness of my vulnerability. I will be as harmless as a dove. And perhaps, someday, in some way, this will be for someone a sign of the Holy Spirit.

© 2014 Christina Chase

 

 

 

Arise, O LORD

Psalms 10:12

Arise, O LORD; O God, lift up thine hand: forget not the humble.

We who are weary here, crushed

beneath the burden of our existence in the world,

who cannot lift our heads for the weight of sorrow…

Some of us mutter to ourselves of our own misery,

defeated by the darkness to spurn any talk of light,

so drenched in wallowing are we that only the sharp

cutting of our tongues (and other weapons) upon the happiness of others brings

us any unpained recognition of being alive – and we curse that, too.

And some of us, bowed down with sadness and fatigue,

still cast our sight, like fishing lures, for any bite of hope,

bobbing along the surface, waiting for the nibble of a small comfort, or,

if brave enough, diving into the deep, submerging

the whole breadth of our brokenness into the ocean of divine mercy,

to be swallowed up by a greater being than ourselves,

one that is quick and liquid ready and eternally alive…

 

Rise up, O Lord, and bring with thee from the depth of the waters

all who have given themselves over to faith in the gulf of hope,

all who have sunk down in their littleness and plunged into their wounds

so they may seek and discover the love that abides there –

not their own miseries, but thy joy and thy triumph!

Lift thy hand, oh God, and with it, the multitudes

who, in their weeping and wretched afflictions,

did not spurn thy name, nor destroy thy images,

nor deny the gift of hope though the world made a mockery,

but who, rather, cast into the deep and trusted thee in the swim.

 

The One who lit the stars and set them in motion,

who pulls the tides with light-reflecting orbs,

and teems the earth and every body with the rush of life,

this is the One from whom I draw my living

and in whom I will pour all my tears and laughter and blood –

though the world forsake me and taunt me with their miseries,

I shall not be overcome… for I am already drowning in love.

 

© 2014 Christina Chase

 

Good Stewards of the Manifold

The one thing of which you’ll never run out.

1 Peter 4:10                                                                   

As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

We are finite creatures living in the limits of space time. We can only eat so much, only move so much, and only own so much. No more. But… How much can we love?

It seems that even in our ability to love there is a limit. We can love our family and our friends – but not our enemies. And yet, Christians are told precisely to do that. We can love our loved ones with our whole selves, as we may say – but, yet, we do not give of ourselves completely, for we believe that we must keep something in reserve for ourselves. If we have nothing for ourselves, what do we have to give? And yet, Christians are told to give the entirety of their beings, the entirety of their lives, to God and so, also, to the loving service of our fellow human beings. To love the Lord, our God, with all of our hearts, with all of our minds, with all of our strength, and with all of our souls, is to hold absolutely nothing in reserve for ourselves. But, surely, if we do that, we won’t be able to survive, right?

The wonder and beauty of love is that it is unlimited. Though we are, most certainly, limited creatures with limited abilities, true love, real love, is purely of God – who is perfectly unlimited. Because of our flawed nature, we can only open ourselves up so much to the reception of God’s love, which is always and everywhere pouring relentlessly upon everyone. But, even just a little bit of perfection goes a long way. It depends upon whether or not we are truly allowing, with the best of our abilities, God’s love to love us. To move us. To shape us. To feed us. To heal us. To guide us and guard us. To revolutionize us. God’s love is not something that we can own or even hold onto. God’s love, like the Holy Spirit, flows without ceasing. You can take a cup of water out of a stream, but, if you do so, that water is no longer a stream. If we hold on too tightly to the feeling of lovingness, it ceases to be loving.

I would like to feel always the warmth and peace that floods me in the rare moments of deep and grace filled prayer. However, the moment that I recognize the “feeling” and desire to keep it, the warmth and peace changes into a mere sensation and not the actual goodness of deep prayer itself. I’ve stolen water from the stream, if you will, and am disappointed to look down into my cup and realize that the stream is not in there. So, too, with love. When I love someone – (no, wait, when I am loving someone, for love is not something passive with which I should identify my relationships with certain people, so let me make it clear that love is a verb). When I am loving someone, God’s love is being received by me and flowing through me to the other. Love is eternal, so there is no stopping. Love is infinite, so there is no damming up.

This is why forgiveness is key in Christianity – because Christianity is most fully and completely about the receiving and giving of God’s love. If someone hurts us, we become less willing to engage in loving that person – and that’s a dam in the flow of divine love. Only forgiveness can break down the dam and restore the stream. Perhaps, it’s almost as though the hurt caused by the other leads us to think that we need more of God’s love for ourselves in order to make up for that hurt. But, of course, we can never receive more of God’s love. There is only one quantity of God’s love that we are given: all of it. This is why Jesus Christ, God Incarnate, surrenders his life completely on the Cross. We are to understand through his sacrifice, and to be reminded by every image of a crucifix, how much God loves us. Completely. As I told my nephews when they were very little, Jesus on the Cross is God’s way of telling us, “I love you thiiiis much” – and his hands hold no limit, they are pointing out infinitely. Our hands, too, must hold no limit, for, if we are truly to be loving, then we must give without ceasing. It is the flow of love that heals us, that binds every wound, and that gives us the joy and peace that mere survival cannot give. It is only through the flow of loving that we are fully human, fully alive – that we are fulfilled as the beings that we eternally are: images of God.

May all of us open our minds and our hearts to receive the love of God and, by so receiving, let us all be good stewards and give fully, wholeheartedly, of what we are being given. Let us give fully to God and not let the fear of the unknown or the limits of mere practicality impede the gift. This is how it should be. If what we call love is to really be love, then there can be nothing partial or part-time about it – no stops, no dams. By allowing God’s love to flow, we become beings who are loving all of God’s Creation, loving every thing, tiny or gargantuan, and loving everyone – because God does.

 

© Christina Chase 2014

All Rights Reserved

Them That Love Me

Who loves God? (Hands shook up in the air amid choruses of “Oo, oo, I do! I do!”)

Exodus 20:6

And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

(Weird! I promise you, even though this verse is the one directly after the verse I received last week, it, like the other, WAS RANDOMLY GIVEN to me! Freaky weird. But, I guess that is true randomness… or perhaps divine providence…. Anyway…)

Who can we say really, truly loves God? Perhaps some may think of the Pope or a very pious nun, others of a peaceful and devout Imam or a deeply spiritual Rabbi or a wise and generous Lama – or an innocent, joyful child or that elderly person you know who has given so much of his or her life to taking care of other people and serving the local community of worship. The ones who love God, we can say, are the people of peace and charity, of forgiveness and goodwill, of compassion and joy, who are steadfast in their faith, unwavering in their hope, and self-giving in their love, people of deep prayer and spiritual belief. Of whom does the question make you think?

I don’t usually recommend thinking of other people when a question is asked or a teaching is given – usually, I try to apply the question or teaching to myself so that I won’t get caught up in pointing fingers. But, in this case, I believe that it is good if, when hearing the question “Who loves God?”, our minds instinctively go to other people whom we believe to be most worthy of a title such as “One Who Loves God”. Otherwise, we might be too full of pride. I do consider myself as one who loves God and would even gladly identify myself in this manner. But… I know that loving is not something that one merely feels or even chooses by assenting in a kind of intellectual way. Loving must be lived. We love, not only with our thoughts and words, but also with our actions, our souls – we love with the entirety of our beings. So, I ask myself, with my whole life, with my every living moment: do I love God?

In the Bible Burst that I wrote just previously to this one, I explored the question of who hates God. My ultimate answer, which I realize now is very startling and seemingly harsh, was that anyone who hates a human being hates God. I stand by that statement. Truly, because I believe that every human being is created in the image and likeness of God and loved by God, I believe that if I hate another person – or even hate myself – I am despising God, upon whose image and likeness I am directing my hatred. Yes, humans are capable of the most vile, willful cruelty and disgusting acts of evil – but no one, no human being is irredeemable to God so long as he or she has a functioning will. Any person, no matter how viciously minded, can choose at any moment to change. A mass murderer can want to do good and, in the course of exercising some small mercy, may come to see his murderous deeds as wrong and experience true remorse and repentance. This is the start of one who hated God journeying toward reconciliation with God and it is a gift that God gives to everyone.

We must want this journey of mercy for every mean hearted person if we are truly going to be people who love God. We must hope and pray for the conversion of all sinners – especially of the worst and certainly including ourselves. If we truly love God then we will want what God wants – and God wants every one of his beloved human beings to know mercy, to know love, to know faith and hope. And how can they know unless they are told, unless they are shown? And who will it be that shows them? Are we waiting for God to take care of it with lightning bolts or plagues or a visiting host of heavens angels? God wants us to love one another and sends us to the needy (those who suffer from the poverty of love and mercy and hope) and to the imprisoned (those who are captives to greed and vengeance and selfishness) to bring hope of salvation, which is the gift of God’s love. We, created in God’s image, are to minister to our fellow divine images, especially to those who may have lost the loving brilliance of their identities. It is a privilege, an honor, and a blessing to be able to show the Light of the World to those living in darkness – showing the radiance of the Light by reflecting it with our souls. For, Divine Love shines forth through us in our every act of true love – “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”[1]

So, again, I ask myself if I really, truly love God. Only God knows the truth of my heart. Only God can see with infinite clarity the brilliance of my soul – and know whether or not I have sullied it with hate.

 

Christina Chase

All Rights Reserved

 

 

[1] Romans 10:15

In His Integrity

 

What’s left?

Proverbs 19:1

Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity, than he that is perverse in his lips, and is a fool.

“Blessed are the poor…” yes, yes, I know, but I’d like to be rich – who wouldn’t? To live in a beautiful house surrounded by comfort and conveniences and beautiful things, to not have to worry about how I’m going to pay the bills that pile up in front of me, to have nice clothes and cars and delicious foods and to be able to travel wherever I would like or give financial assistance and material help to worthy people in need whenever I am moved to do so – who wouldn’t want to do that? When we think of all the things that money can buy, we think in our minds – and even in our hearts – “Blessed are the rich.”

The stories that we hear about lottery winners always fascinate me. They win huge sums of money by luck and buy all the things that they’ve always wanted to have – and they admit that they aren’t happier. Some spend and live richly while still wisely saving and investing enough money so that they will never have to worry about blowing it all – and they say they were happier before they became rich. Friends and family members become jealous and manipulative, trying to get some of that financial boon for themselves. People everywhere seek them out with tales of woe in hopes of getting charitable contributions. And some, in resentment and also in greed, will make the lottery winners feel guilty if not enough of the winnings are spent upon things that they, the non-winners, believe are important. And then there’s all the stuff – so many things to buy, experiences to purchase, and no extra time in which to enjoy them, no extra heart-space in which to appreciate them. And the stuff has to be taken care of – or the employees hired to take care of the stuff have to be taken care of – it’s a lot of work. Some lottery winners become depressed, some commit suicide. And even the rich who earn their money never seem to be able to get enough of it, are always wanting more. Rich celebrities live glamorous lives – lives of broken relationships, drug abuse, waywardness. But, still… Knowing all this, I would still like to be rich. I would be one of those few who can handle it, who can do wealthy well. Wouldn’t I?

I don’t know. How am I doing with not being wealthy? Am I doing middle-class well? Actually, my parents are middle-class – but they physically take care of me in their home because of my severe disability. I, financially speaking, am poor. In fact, it is rightly said that I am a beggar since I can do no labor, no work inside or outside of the home, to earn my bread. I depend completely upon others for all of my needs for survival. So, to go back to my question – am I doing that well? I think I could handle wealth – but that would only be true if I can handle poverty.

Jesus did not say “Blessed are the financially destitute.” He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” I imagine that “poor in spirit” has been interpreted to mean different things over the centuries through different schools of thought. But, the point I want to make here is that poverty itself – the deprivation of material resources, of those basic needs of survival – is not blessedness. Merely being poor is not going to make one blessed, is not going to make one happy. There are many, many people who do poverty badly. Broken relationships, drug abuse, and suicide affect the poor as well as the rich. (Perhaps, though, we may think it affects the poor more because there are more poor people than rich.) The truth is that selfishness, greed, and unhappiness abound in humanity, no matter how much, or how little, money is ready at hand. If, however, one is “poor in spirit” – well, then, one belongs to the kingdom of heaven. What does that mean?

To be poor in spirit is not to have some kind of solidarity with the poor, that is, feeling deep compassion for them in their plight and helping them however one can by donating time and/or resources. The blessedness, the happiness, comes in truly being poor – in being a beggar. For, what do we have that is truly our own? You can be robbed of possessions. Your house can burn down and your insurance company go bankrupt. You can lose your savings through disastrous investments. You can lose your job or lose your breadwinning spouse and get evicted or have your house foreclosed upon, watch your car get repossessed and sell off your jewelry, your collectibles, your furniture, until you have nothing left. Even that body which you use to earn money and go to the store and enjoy leisurely comfort – even that can lose its functionality through injury or disease. That mind that you use to make sure you have all that you need and with which you appreciate what you have – even that can lose its abilities of cognition and/or memory. And then what is left? All that is left is what has always been, what is eternally: your belongingness to the kingdom of heaven.

Whether rich or poor, if we live our lives separated from our true identities, we will never be truly happy. We were all created by the Uncreated Creator. We all belong to this Infinite/Eternal One. Your true identity, my true identity, is as a living image and likeness of God. But, is that how we live? Or, do we rather live as our own inventions for our own purposes? I’m not talking about altruism here. I’m talking about knowing who you are. You could be blessed by living your life “looking out for number one” and understanding that that most important one is yourself – but do you know who you are? If you think that you are your physical pleasures and enjoyments, then you are always going to miss the mark of blessedness. If you think that you are your accomplishments and achievements, then you will never be fulfilled. If you think that you are the praising people around you, then you will never know true love, true happiness. If you think that you are the weight of your possessions, monuments, and money enjoyed now and left behind as legacy when you are dead, then you are most sadly missing out on the fullness of your one, unique life.

The Uncaused Cause has given you an immortal soul to animate your being – and has given you Godself to restore you to true likeness so that you may know blessedness and know it eternally. Who you truly are is who you are eternally. When passing things pass away, what is left? What has always been and always will be: a beggar. May our begging bowls be open and outstretched toward the Source of Being, the Infinitely Generous One Who truly gives us our fill.

Whether rich or poor, I can be a fool. Better to have no material pleasures to distract me from knowing who I am, then to go about my life as a fool in perversity. May we not choose to live our lives perversely, obstinately desiring to do what is unreasonable – and what is unreasonable is all that is is contrary to who we truly are.

Christina Chase

Nigh Unto Me

What do I want?

Matthew 15:8

This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.

What is your goal in life? What do you spend most of your time, energy, and talents toward? I seem to answer the first question one way but then the second one in another. For, I say that my goal in life is to be the person that God created me to be. But, then, if I look at where I spend most of my time, energy, and talents, it seems as though I want something else. It seems as though what I truly want is material comfort/security and the pleasure of aesthetics – and, when I’m really ambitious, the praise of others. Did God create me to be comfortablNighe? Did God create me to be lulled in contentment? Did God create me to win compliments?

I am created in order to know, love, and serve… To know, love, and serve what? Myself? My pleasure sensors? My ego? Oh, what a limited life I would live then, blind and deaf to the fullness of reality, crippled in my existence. Such was my endeavor once. As a committed atheist, I saw no meaning to life, to existence, and so did whatever I wanted, thought whatever I wanted, making up my own meaning for my own purposes. I lived for myself. I humorously (but seriously) saw myself as the center of the universe – everything that existed before me was mere prologue; everything that exists after me, mere epilogue; everything that exists with me, mere background. And why not, since, at that time, I thought that there was no center to the universe anyway, no center to anything? Looking back at myself then, I see that I was a very selfish person. Self-centeredness is something that I always have to deal with in my personality but, then, as an atheist, I could let it run rampant and become a kind of religion. The doctrines of Looking out for Number One, What’s in It for Me, and If It Feels Good Do It were all I needed to live the life that I wanted, to be happy.

Or so I thought. However, I could not be a rational and serious person and shut out the Source of Life forever. If I had stopped thinking altogether and just go on feeling without thoughts beyond my own comfort and pleasure, I may have remained an atheist. If I hadn’t wanted the truth, if I hadn’t wanted to know what really is, then I could have kept my ignorance. But, the whole reason that I became an atheist was in order to find the truth, was in order to know reality as it really is. I thought that there was no such thing as God. And I was right – in a way. God is no thing. Rather, that which we call God… IS. One day, sitting beneath the grape arbor, I let my thoughts, my focus, go deeply into the reality around me – green leaves golden in the sun, long grasses in the breeze, birdsong up in the trees, and, pealing back the layers of sound, the silence of nothing behind reality. And it was in that silence that I became aware… that I knew. Without words or images or sensations or emotions, I knew. Infinite… Eternal… Present Presence… Being Itself…. I wanted to be an atheist again for the lack of complications and (as I see more clearly now) for the centering of the universe in me. But, I could never be self-centered again without knowing that I was in error. I did not invent myself. I did not create myself. Everything that I can see and hear and taste and smell and touch did not come from me or from my parents or from bacteria. There is Silence beyond silence… the Uncaused Cause, the Uncreated Creator, the Unmoved Mover… and, much to my surprise, I came to understand the truth of “the ultimate reality that everyone calls God.”

What did I want then, after that epiphany? To know. And to know Truth really is to love. And to really love is to serve – that is, to be who I was created to be. To believe in God is not to merely profess with our lips a set of tenets that we think are true, nor to assent with our intellects to those tenets. To believe in God is to accept the reality of my existence, who I am. I – with my self-centered pleasures and pride – am not the end-all and be-all. I come from somewhere. I come from someone. From Pembroke and from my parents – but, if I open my eyes and my ears fully, if I dare to look up from my life and step out of my own way, then I understand that everything in life comes from the same Infinite/Eternal Source, born forth in the creative power of loving. Something out of nothing – by the sheer will of Being Itself.

To say all this is one thing. To live all this is quite another. I can say that I believe in God and explain how one can “prove” God’s existence until the cows come home. But, to know is to love. God, who is all-knowing, is all-loving. The Fullness of Being whom we speak of as God cannot be grasped, cannot be avoided, cannot be controlled – cannot be denied without denying reality itself. What I want, then, is to be where God is… And where is God? God is nowhere… now here… everywhere… God cannot be pinned down… or flattered, or appeased, or manipulated in any way. For God is love, pure love, pure loving. Perhaps the better question is Where am I?

Where is my heart? Where is the center of my living life, the core of my principles, the aim of my pursuits? The question is not only on whom do I depend for life itself – but also, to whom do I turn whenever there is any question? What is the pulse of my life, with what beat am I keeping time? The life that flows through me is the love that flows through me and I am not its source. The source of the universe(s), the source of existence, flows life, sustenance, love through all – and what do we do? Where do we go? There is no escape from the Infinite/Eternal One, and yet we would keep our hearts for ourselves so that we may satisfy our own self-centered pleasures and pride; and yet we would try to hide our vulnerability from the One who loves us into existence and hoard up things to fill the void left from turning away from our Source.

So that the One who loves us into existence might not seem to be far from us in our sensory-dependent blindness, God became one of us. Christ Jesus lived in humility, unknown by most of those who passed him by. His beloved disciple leaned his head against Christ’s heart one day and asked, “Who is it, Lord?” The young man wanted to know which of the disciples was going to be the one to betray Jesus by selling him out to those who wanted to get rid of him. Shall I banish Him as well so that I may seek my own self-centered pursuits?… I bow my head this day and rest upon the heart of love, the heart of reality, the heart of life, and I ask my Lord and my God, “Is it I?”

May my heart always burn with love for Him who is the Lord and seek shelter in His ever-generous, all-consuming love. Lord, may I seek only You, want only You… let my heart not be far from yours…

Christina Chase

For As the Body

Show me the money.

James 2:14, 26

What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

There’s a song from the movie musical My Fair Lady that I love, Audrey Hepburn singing to the man who would woo her, “Don’t speak of stars shining above, if you’re in love, show me.  Don’t say your heart’s filled with desire, if you’re on fire, show me.”  She didn’t want him to just tell her pleasing things.  She didn’t want mere words.  She wanted action.

In my relationship with God, who alone is worthy of all love, all honor, all glory, I extol praises and profess my belief in Christ Jesus, His Only Begotten Son, my Lord and the Lord of all.  I keep a blog (Divine Incarnate) full of postings in which I reflect upon the heart of God and man and try to layout some of the ways in which we can all live full lives, our hearts filled with truth and love.  I witness with my words.  But… What about my actions?  I write about my faith and the value of what I believe in – but what do I do in my daily life?  I write that we should do this or that – but do I?  Like in the movie Jerry Maguire, where the sports agent makes lots of promises to the athlete, but he, in turn, just keeps saying, “Show me the money!”  – Where is my money, where is my invested output, where are my expenditures of time and effort – where are my works?

As Jesus tells us through St. Luke’s Gospel account, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  And these were not mere words to Jesus.  He lived what he professed, he carried out that to which he bore witness – he did what he said he would do.  “Love one another as I have loved you,” sounds pretty.  And it could be just that: a pretty phrase.  But, Christ loved us bodily, with his actions, with the entirety of his being his very body and blood.  He put his money where his mouth is.  By his actions, there is no doubt where his heart is.

We love because God first loved us – and this love is not just a nice feeling or pretty sentiment, it is not merely a metaphysical kind of holding in one’s heart.  This is brilliantly clear in the Judeo-Christian faith, which testifies to God’s works, God’s direct action in space and time.  God loves us into existence – the act of Creation.  God unites Godself to us and sanctifies us – the act of God becoming Man, Christ Jesus.  And God saves us – the act of dying on the Cross and rising from the Dead.  Through Christ’s actions, God restores us to the fullness of life, life eternal.  To receive what is given graciously to us, we must follow Christ.  To follow him with our minds, our thoughts and intellects, is not enough.  To follow him with our affections and sentiments is not enough.  To fully follow Jesus Christ, and so be true Christians, we must follow with our bodies, too.  We must follow with our whole selves, mindful that love is not something esoteric – love is action.  So, to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, with all our souls, with all our minds, and with all our strength is to DO.  ACTION.  We love, not with our lips or sentiments, but with our works.  We love with our choices and our actions.

The jobs that people do every day to actively contribute to society are called professions.  The tenets of faith that people believe are also called professions.  I need to find a hearty, meaty, bodily way to bring these two concepts together in my daily life.  Writing about the faith is an action – but I do need to be careful and be sure that the faith about which I am writing is not dead.  This truly needs to be my faith, the faith that I profess by living it, my profession.  And, so, to facilitate this  – to bear better witness by being a better witness – I will try to post some of my personal acts of faith, the “works” that I do in everyday life.  (Hope I can find some….)   Mindful always, however, that I do nothing on my own.  If any of my actions are worthy of the faith that I profess, it is the Holy Spirit working through me.  All that I will have done is to accept, by the grace of God, the love that is given to me and to let that active love do what it must do as true love.

(If you wish to find out whether or not I put my money where my mouth is, I invite you to follow my blog Divine Incarnate and look for the category “works” or the tag “faith without works is dead”.)

Christina Chase

And Have Not Charity

Charity is love and love is charity… But, when we give to charities are we acting in love?

1 Corinthians 13:1-8

  1. Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
  2. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
  3. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
  4. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
  5. Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
  6. Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
  7. Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
  8. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

St. Paul says that I could give everything that I own in order to feed the poor but, if this act of charity is not an act of love, then it is not what God wants for me.  St. Paul also says that I could be a brilliant preacher and the most knowledgeable of all theologians, possessing the most undaunted faith – but if I am not a loving person then my words are just sounds like tin cans clanking and I myself am less than dirt.  Love is the transforming difference.  Love is all.

So, let me measure my “acts of charity”, my “words of wisdom”, and my “understanding of God” by the only measure that is worthwhile: love.  Prestige among people, earthly power, and even my own feelings are mere things that are fickle and fleeting – only love endures all things.  Only love stands the test of time and space – only love is eternal.  When I want to do good, when I want to be good, I should think deeply about my motives and ponder these questions in my heart:

Do I want to be good so that other people will like me?  If so, then I do not act in love.

Do I want to be good so that God will reward me with eternal paradise?  If so, then I do not act in love.

Do I want to do good and be good so that I will impress others, become known (maybe even famously recognized) as a good person, having people seek me out for my wisdom?  If so, then they do not act in love.

Do I want to be good so that I will be remembered by people for my goodness and good deeds after I am dead?  If so, then I do not act in love.

Do I want to be good because I want to be truthful?  Now we’re getting somewhere…

Do I want to do good because I seek the truth?…  And closer still.  For love rejoices in the truth.  And truth is the opposite of error, of inequity.  So, if I am a loving person, I will seek to put right what is wrong, I will seek to heal what is broken, I will seek to fill what is truly lacking and satisfy what is wrongfully unsatisfied – not because I want, in turn, to receive thanks, recognition, or reward, but because I LOVE.  Pure and simple love flowing from my heart to heal and fill and satisfy those who are in need.  And I will do this in the best way that I am able.  Love may be given in the forms of food and drink, shelter and clothing, sanitation and medicine.  Or love may be given in the forms of an attentive ear and a shoulder to cry on, counseling and advice, clarifying thoughts and direction.  Love is always given in true concern for the true welfare of the other.  We are created so that we will – we exist in order to – love God with all our hearts and all our souls and all our strength and all our minds.  This is the truth of who we are.  We are to love God and, as all of us human beings are images of God, we are to love our neighbor as ourselves – as God loves us so we are to love God and one another.

You may be wondering, as I do often think, how can we continually give ourselves in loving kindness?  People are often ungrateful and undeserving, being cruel and crass – but we are not to give in order to get gratitude nor are we to forget that every person is created in the image of God and therefore always deserving of love.  Love suffers long and bears all things.  And when we truly love we don’t get puffed up when we get the recognition that we think we deserve, nor do we envy other people for the praise and rewards that they may be getting, nor do we delight when others get the punishment that we think they deserve – we don’t think about ourselves at all.  We are like Christ in this – look at a crucifix.  We LOVE.

Do you not believe that this is possible?  I doubt it sometimes.  But… Love believes all things.  “Nothing is impossible for God…” and “God is LOVE”.  This is the gospel truth.

Christina Chase