Tag Archives: love

Them That Hate Me

Cycles of violence … Who hates God?

Exodus 20:5

Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

Who hates God? The easy answer that comes to mind might be atheists. But, of course, a true atheist doesn’t believe in the existence of God – how can someone hate something that doesn’t exist? Satanists are another group of people that we could point to and say that they hate God. Certainly with their creed, their words and their rituals, they seek to align themselves with the mystical enemy of God and eschew all things upright and wholesome. But… I would wager that most Satanists in action, in the world and in their families, are no less destructive and unwholesome than some who profess to believe in God. Oh, there are certainly Satanists who choose evil deeds, who hate and curse and torture and kill. But, are there not God believing people who do the same, calling on a different name?

How many Muslims, how many Christians, how many peoples throughout history around the world have preached and practiced acts of violence and cruelty in the name of their gods? Enough to make a person think about wanting to be an atheist – indeed, some want-to-be influential people, like Bill Maher, for one example, blame all the wars that humans have fought on religion. However, in all truth and reason, we can clearly see that wars arise from ideologies – which often claim no god. Stalin’s communist regime was one of the most brutal in history and he did not systematically kill for the honor of any god, for he was an atheist. He was vicious and destructive for himself, for power and greed (maybe even for his own amusement) for the sake of his way of looking at things, his ideology. And is that not the true cause of every war? Is not the real reason humans are bent on cruelty and domination that they want to be? Wars are fought by individual soldiers in trenches and on front lines who may very well have loving reasons for being there – but wars are instigated and created by people who want what they want and will gladly have killed or destroyed anyone who they think gets in the way. Even smaller-scale acts of violence – the cold-blooded murder of a girlfriend, the rape of a stranger, the lethal shooting of a dozen kids in a school – are not caused by religion. Man’s cruelty to man has nothing to do with the love and worship of God.

The people who hate God are the people who hate other people. For every person is created in God’s image. If you hate anyone in the world – even if you hate the most horrible and vilest of persons – you hate God. We often think that it is right and good to hate evil doers. We laud all talk of destroying the enemies of freedom and justice. Although it is true that anyone who is an enemy of true freedom and true justice is choosing to go against the ways of God, if we choose to hate that hate-filled person, then we, too, are choosing to go against God’s ways. Christ said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” God does not close off divine mercy from anyone – and neither should we. For, if we are to live as we were created to live, we must strive to do as God does and struggle to walk in the ways of mercy and selflessness – of real love.

Yes, people do horrendous things and claim to do them for the love of God – but that’s not really love. Or, perhaps more accurately, that’s not really God. It’s very easy to think of God as meting out pain and vicious punishment on those who would seek to go against Him. The Bible has many, many verses that tell of God’s wrath and vengeance and the hurt He puts upon His enemies. In the verse from Exodus 20, about the Commandment against worshiping false idols God says, “I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand [generations] of those who love me and keep my commandments.” What we often think of as God’s willfully wrathful punishment, however, is, I believe, simply the natural consequences of our own willfully wrathful choices. Do we not know that violence begets violence and those who live by the sword die by the sword? Do we not see the rational truth of this in the world, even in our everyday lives? It doesn’t mean that the One and Almighty God will smite anyone who seeks to worship through a religion other than the one and only one prescribed by Him. If it did, God might welcome arguments that escalate into violence about which religion is the true religion – but, God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” God gives us freewill and allows us to freely choose, pouring His love and mercy upon each and every one of us, relentlessly. That loving mercy can feel like eternal pain to those who never want to receive it, not even in the last moments of their lives; or it can feel like eternal sunshine and grace to those who long for the forgiveness and love of God.

If a child is taught to hate by his parents, he will usually become a hater. If his child, then, is taught to destroy the hated ones, then he will usually become destructive. The person in the family who first chose, in freewill, to hate a human being or human beings, who first saw cruel domination as a good, set up a cycle of hate, a cycle of violence, that is, as we know, very difficult to break. But, then, there are those people who willfully choose to have mercy. Though, sometimes, they are punished by the hating people, their acts of kindness and selflessness do not go unseen. Their true love, that choice to walk in divine ways, inspires others for generations upon generations upon generations… as are the saints of old, and new, ever inspiring, ever celebrated even after 2000, 5000 years. And their individual lives do not end with the death of their limited bodies, their self-centered thinking, as do the lives of those who hate God by hating human beings – the lives of those who love God by selflessly loving human beings are as eternally beautiful as the Beautiful One, Who Is Eternal Love.

 

Christina Chase

All Rights Reserved

 

With Open Face Beholding

Lord, change me, make me new. Make me like you! – the plea of the sunflower.

2 Corinthians 3:17-18

Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the LORD.

Sunflower

There is a flower in my garden which is named for the sun. In appearance, much like the sun is she, golden arrayed, burning bright from the center with flaming colors outward spread. But there is more – much more meaning to her identity, because with the sun her whole existence is so lovingly aligned.

She does not mean to mimic or fool by merely sporting appearance – for what bird would dare to perch upon an orb of fire, and, so, what would she have to gain if she would scare away her own propagators, the midwives of her progeny with which she will be so heavy pregnant? She is humble and knows that she is merely a creature bound to the life-giving sun, and by no means desires to be a substitute. Yes, she stands tall and bold, but her height and breadth is but a measure of the depth of her humility, for her only wish, as far as a flower can wish, is to look up to that which she adores. It is the looking up that has raised her. It is the love of heavenly light that has opened wide her green-leafed arms. It is her submission to her Master that has given her flowery majesty.

For, all day long, while the sun shows forth his open face, shining full with glory, her rapturous gaze is all caught up in him. Every minute of every hour that passes, she faithfully follows his path with steadfast love. No matter what may come between them, whether mist or cloud or dark of night, it is him she always seeks, it is him that her hope will always find. Some dark days will fall, when a downpour may weigh her head too heavy to lift, but when the rays of the sun are visible again, the drops will slip from down her sunny cheeks and she will pay them no mind, not even to shake them away. She looks upon the sun again, never having lost him, for she has kept the thought and memory of him, the warmth of the gift that he has given, deep in her heart.

Yes, even when the sun slips over the edge of sight and pulls the veil of night down behind him, she is patient and trusting, and does not collapse in the darkness. Her head she bends down low – but not in despair, for one who loves as she loves can never hold despair – but in ever recognition of where her beloved lives. Though invisible to her petal eyes, her heart is not deceived and senses, with true love’s faith, his presence beneath the surface of the world. And so her vigilant gaze, ever fixed upon its deathless source, follows him as he shines on realms unknown and unseen, far from his touch get ever near to his soul. And when the night is opened slow, with tender, aching rush, the sun’s rays find her ready face, expectant in faith, and she receives anew the outpouring love of him whom she adores.

From this cause, then, is this flower called for the sun. He is her love, her reason, and her destiny. Her blossomy pledge of devotion is her very blossoming – and she is transformed by and into the one whom she loves.

© Christina Chase

The Faithful Witness

Revelation 1:5-7

  1. And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,

  2. And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

  3. Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.

Here upon our Earth, we see the Sun in all its radiance and feel the goodness of its heat. Above our bony skulls is sky of blue and white, through which clouds sail, breezes blow, and birds fly; from which rain, lightning strikes, and snowflakes fall. Gold and pink, purples and reds give our eyes delight with the Sun’s coming and going, and we are secure, here, in our green and blue home. But, with the sun’s setting, the veil of sky is pulled away. In the night, when the clouds are taken from our sight, we see the spaces of the universe, the cosmos revealed before us in the far-flung stars. So far above our bony skulls that we cannot comprehend the depths of space… Infinity.

Our minds filled with wonder and awe, our bodies sensing transcendence – though some of us may fear, tremble and cower in the night; some of us may revel in the darkness and name the stars as our own; and some of us may imagine the night sky as a poetic kind of ceiling for our Earth. The truth of existence, once revealed, cannot be ignored without willful ignorance. Is the Earth, our home, insignificant in the vast reaches of Space? Are we no more than a bacteria crusted rock hurling through space/time? Scientists will take out their telescopes and microscopes for the answer. Poets and philosophers will lyrically lament and laud with symbols and syllogisms. Spiritually minded people will find meaning in the gaps of their intellectual understanding. Pleasure seekers will take advantage of the night with probings and pursuits they would not undertake in the light of day. Most of us, however, will simply sleep.

The Faithful Witness is the one who does not cower and hide, who is awake and does not ignore. The Faithful Witness does not dissect or pretend or fear silence and limitations. The Faithful Witness does not close in upon himself and drown out life with too much noise. The Faithful Witness testifies. He comes with the clouds so that he may bring light to others, pours out his blood in death so that he may bring life to others, descends to brown soil so that he may wash others clean. The King of kings, the highest of high rulers, rules not with a bony skull, with sticks or stones, or the pink and gold and flaming silver of stardust. The solidity of Earth causes us to feel at home, secure in our blue and green sanctuary. But the true Sanctuary, with the infinite depths of the true holy of holies, is hidden from our earthly sight. No where in the far-flung universe can that to which the faithful witness testifies be seen. Nor can the truth be felt. Nor can the awesome, infinite truth even be known by us of bony skulls. The truth can only be loved. The rule of existence is love and the faithful witness is the one who loves without beginning and without end..

How do we, who are at home on Earth, receive the Faithful Witness? With telescopes and microscopes, with sentimentality and lucky charms, with sticks and stones and the self-centered limitations of our bony skulls. Him we pierce with our scalpels and switchblades and self-inflated ideas, with the lances of our arrogance and the swords of our desperate feelings. But, we do not truly see the Faithful Witness whom we pierce. We are blinded by the created light of sky and the light of our own making. One day…

One day that is not a day we will see without seeing… and then we will know without knowing even as we have always been known…

Christina Chase

To Every Man That Is among You

Get over yourself.

Romans 12:3

For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

The season of Lent (40 observation days leading up to Easter) is not wholly about ashes and sackcloth, mea culpa, mea culpa, in sorrowful repentance of our sins.  Lent is a time to focus deeply on the examination of conscience, to look deeply at our thoughts, fears, desires, as well as our words and deeds – scrutinizing our attitudes and every decision, big and small, that we make each day.  This is a time that we should devote to the Socratic maxim, “Know thyself.”  And when we take a really good look at ourselves, our conclusions should not be that we are stupid, useless or worthless – just as our conclusions should not be that we are superior to all other human beings, utterly magnificent in everything that we say and do.  We are utterly magnificent in one regard: God created us in Divine image and likeness and loves us enough to take on our humanity and die for us.  For this sacred reason, no human being is worthless.

For this sacred reason – and for this sacred reason alone – every human being is valuable, is precious.  We may think that God loves us because we have professed belief in His Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ and/or because we do good things that are helpful to others.  But, that’s not why God loves us.  God doesn’t love me because I smile despite being physically disabled and in a wheelchair.  God doesn’t love you because you praise His Holy Name from a pulpit or in a blog.  God doesn’t love them because they are poor and simple or them because they are successful and generous.  God loves each and every human being because God loves each and every human being.  God loves because that’s what God does, because that is exactly who God is.  We have done nothing, and can do nothing, to deserve or merit God’s love – because God has already done it for us.  We are lovable precisely because God independently chooses to bring us into being through His Own Creative Love, to sustain us through His Grace, and to heal, redeem, and sanctify us through His Only Begotten Son.

We should never think of ourselves as any more than this.  And we should never think of ourselves as any less than this.  Being able to grasp the reality of who we are is, well, beyond our grasp – but we come closest when we remember that God loves every human being.  You know that person who really hurt you and doesn’t even seem to realize how badly, even though you tried to explain it to her?  God loves that person intimately and infinitely.  You know that person who is always so arrogant and says such terribly cruel things about other people?  God loves that person intimately and infinitely.  God takes no joy in their sins – God takes no joy in our sins – but He eternally loves sinners.  That means that God eternally loves us, each and every human being no matter what we do, no matter how badly we screw up His Commandments or how well we keep them.  The question that God needs to have answered is the very question that we need to ask ourselves: will we allow God to love us?

Maybe you thought that I was going to write that the question is whether or not we will choose to love God.  I thought about it.  But, then I wordlessly remembered in my heart (or the wordless memory was pushed forward for me) that we love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19).  The only reason at all that I can love anyone or anything is because God loves me.  So, even if I want to love God, I must first let God love me.  What does that mean?  What does that mean…?  It means that I have to know who I am – who I truly, honestly, eternally am.

I am God’s beloved creation – as is every human being that has ever, and will ever, come into being.  Not me alone – all of us.  I do not need to think of myself any more highly than this to be completely and utterly fulfilled in joy and goodness, in the greatness of destiny.  And I do not need to think of myself any lower than this to please the One Who loved me into existence.  Yes, I have, independently according to freewill, chosen to be unloving at times, many times, through my fault, my fault, my most grievous fault – and by so doing I have sinned in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do.  These moments of self-centered decision, these sins, are when I did not allow God to love me – I did not allow God to lead me in my choices (for, all-loving God will always lead us to the best place for us) and I did not allow God to love my fellow human beings, to love all of His Creation, through me.  Somehow, in some way, I said “No” to Divine Will, which is Divine Love, and that is why I am sorrowing here, that is why I am dissatisfied, that is why I am longing for forgiveness and mercy and newness of life.  Forgiveness and Mercy and Newness of Life is precisely what God wants to give to me through His Love.  Will I choose to receive?

I am only human, and, as such, I can only do so much.  But, God can do everything.  Will I let Him?  Because the thing is… God loves me enough never to force me.

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

Careful and Troubled about Many Things

Martha, Martha, Martha… We cannot just go out and do and expect greatness – we must first have direction and meaningful purpose.  If we do not first listen to what God wants of us, then our actions are just busy-ness without holiness as our end.

Luke 10:39-42

39. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.

40. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.

41. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:

42. But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

It wasn’t Martha’s serving of others that was wrong – for Jesus said that he himself had come to serve and that, if others wished to follow him, then they, too, must serve.  However, in her serving, Martha was “careful and troubled about many things,” she was “cumbered about much serving” and complained about it.  Was there, then, true love in Martha’s heart that inspired her serving?  Or was she, on that day, being one of those people who takes pride in being seen as hospitable and laying out a sumptuous table?  Martha’s pride seems rather evident for she questions whether or not Jesus cares about her plight, about justice, and then proceeds to tell him what to do.  Compare that to Jesus’s mother at the wedding feast in Cana when she brought what she saw as a problem before her son – she did not tell him what to do, but, rather, told the nearby servants to listen to Jesus and do what he told them to do, whatever it would be.  There is deference here and trust in Jesus, something which Martha did not demonstrate in serving (but which she did demonstrate later when her brother Lazarus died).

Martha’s sister Mary, on the other hand, was purposefully sitting at Jesus’s feet to listen to him.  She left Martha with the details that the older sister had chosen to encumber them both with, choosing, rather, to hear the word of God.  Mary’s humility here is visually evident as she sits in a low place, at the feet of Christ.  Her eagerness for and attentiveness to what Jesus says is not lost on him.  She “heard his word” – it won’t be lost on her.

Jesus reminds Martha that there are only a very few things that human beings truly need.  This makes me think of how we need to eat in order to survive – but we don’t need to dine with elaborate meals that are difficult to prepare and serve.  We need shelter to keep us safe – but we don’t need spacious houses appointed with every convenient or luxurious amenity.  And as Christ tells the over-anxious server, “But one thing is needful”.  As he makes clear elsewhere in the Bible, “Man cannot live by bread alone, but by every word from the mouth of God.”  Martha seeks to attend to Jesus the man in the flesh, but Mary seeks to attend to the Word of God.  By her choice, Mary is truly serving the Word of God made flesh, who is Jesus Christ, because she is attending to what he says and seeking humbly to learn from him as his disciple.  Meanwhile, Martha is busy.  Yes, she is adopting the role of a servant, which should be a good thing – but she is adapting the role of a servant to suit her own self-centered needs, worrying and troubling about many things that are not necessary.  On the other hand, a God-centered servant listens to God’s word, attentive to what is truly necessary for every human being: divine love, mercy, redemption.

The fact that I’m writing this two days before the beginning of Lent is not lost on me.  Soon, Catholics around the world (and other Christians, too) will be “giving up” something for the season of Lent.  We humans, like Martha, can daily encumber ourselves with the care and trouble “of many things.”  How many of these things are needful?  Letting go of some of them for the 40 days of the Lenten discipline can help open our eyes to see how very few things we really need.  Some people think that they can’t function in the morning and start their days properly if they don’t begin with a cup of caffeinated coffee.  If they give up that coffee for Lent (and stick with the deprivation through the first week or so of difficulty) then they will see that they were able to live and function well without that supposedly needful thing.  Someone else may want to give up daytime television or staying up late playing video games or going onto Facebook every day – and the time that that person will gain every day can be spent being with family and friends, thus nurturing essential relationships, or reading to expand the mind and soul, or embarking on that creative project he or she has been dreaming about but has not yet started.  I often see Lent as a kind of spring cleaning – I get rid of the clutter of things in my life so that I can get back to basics and remember what is truly important: love.  The giving and receiving of love that is divinely sourced – this is what is truly needful.  So, I will try, with the grace of God, not to worry and busy myself about things that, in the end, don’t matter at all.  And, being thus freed, I will be more aware of who I truly am and of what – Who – I truly need to be ever joyful, to be fulfilled.  I sit at His feet…

Christina Chase

Cut to the Heart

Who likes to hear that they are wrong?

Acts 7:52-54

52. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers:

53. Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.

54. When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.

I like being right.  I like knowing the answer to a trivia question when no one else around me does, I like being able to explain something to someone who is confused, and I like being recognized and praised for a job well done.  Who doesn’t?  Now, I don’t like flattery or pretty lies, and I don’t like being patronized with compliments or winning a competition or game because someone let me.  I like being right – not being told that I am right.  But, of course, there are many, many times when I am wrong.  Most times, I don’t know the answer to a trivia question and am unable to explain something to someone who is confused.  I don’t do that many things well and I know it – I know it and own it freely.  I am flawed, as all human beings are, very far from perfect.  And, in my own human particularity, I have many, many faults and have made many, many mistakes.  I know this and I don’t hate myself for it at all.  But, still, I really hate being wrong – I hate that feeling that I get when my answer is incorrect or my understanding of something is totally off.  It does feel very much like being cut to the heart for a split second.

With years of maturing and becoming more fully myself (a human in need of grace) I’ve learned to get over this infuriating blow of being wrong and the feeling stabs much, much less – though I am no less often wrong.  But, I have to continually guard myself against anger at the person who shows me to be mistaken; I have to perpetually remind myself that I should be grateful to those who show me where my faults lie, how I need to improve so that I can become a better person.  Because life isn’t just about knowing trivial knowledge, facts and figures, but about living in relationship with others.

To be my true self, to be who I am created to be, I must always seek right and good and true relationship with my fellow human beings, with Creation, and with our Creator.  If my relationships are not right (which also means not good, which also means not true) then I myself am not right.  I can be the most ignorant person on the planet when it comes to knowledge of the world – but, if I have love, then I am enlightened in the ways of truth and goodness, far wiser than the smartest person in the world who has no love.  The smartest person might think that he is loved by the world for his knowledge and, being honored and praised, think that he has love.  But, love is not something that is possessed.  Love is given and the moment that love is received, it is given again – to the one from whom it was received and/or to others, without end.  For true love can never be stagnant.  And the only reason, the only way, that we human beings can love at all is because we are first loved by our Creator, by God.  Receiving God’s love and then giving that love is the first and most essential right relationship.  If I can do this, if I can let God love me and then love God and God’s creatures in return (for if I am to truly receive God’s love then I must give it away) then I am relating to Creation, to the universe and every being, every creature, within it in the fullness of truth.  The truth is that we are all loved into existence.  And so, without loving, we will always be out of order, out of step, out of touch – we will always be wrong.

Next time somebody points out any kind of error that I have made, whether it be in the knowledge of information, or in the loving of God and God’s Creation (which includes myself and my fellow human beings) I will try very hard to remember not to kill the messenger.  I may not like the feeling of being wrong, but if I try to defend myself against the feeling with anger and deflection and excuses that are lies, then I will be even more deeply and painfully wrong.

I am a human in need of grace, as each and every one of us is, and if that grace comes through the form of a rightfully correcting teacher, preacher, or loved one, let us not be afraid.  It is Christ, who knows all of our hungers and shares all of our sufferings, who is helping us.  We may feel hurt by the human style or tone, but we must not let that harden us to the truth of the message.  What is true is true.  And the truth will set us free.  So, let us not gnash our teeth at each other, but, rather, learn how to love.

Christina Chase

First

“Fools rush in where angels fear to tread”…

Matthew 19:30

But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.

Often, on the force of my emotions (especially anger or anxiety) I throw myself headlong into something – a loud argument, an inflicting pain competition, a grabby/bossy controlfest, or a full-blown panic attack.  I know that I am very self-centered in these moments and that my actions and reactions are all about me.  This can also happen when I’m overwhelmed with desire for pleasure, for then I will manipulate people and situations to get what I want, ignoring the small, still voice within that is telling me that I shouldn’t.  When the force of anger, anxiety, stress, greed, or lust are given full sway, our hearts get swamped, drowning the voice of our better angels.

There are moments in our lives when immediate action is necessary.  Moments when we should follow our natural instincts and do what comes naturally.  These are times when we see a loved one in immediate danger and we rush forward to assist, to save.  Or when we see a stranger being beaten mercilessly and we stand up and speak out against the injustice.  Or when someone falls and we reach out a hand, without even thinking, to catch him.  I’m thinking that there might be other moments, too… But I can’t think of any right now.  All that I can think of are these moments – these moments of love.

If the building we are in catches fire, our instinct is to get the heck out.  That’s a good natural instinct, all about self-preservation – self-preservation itself is not a bad thing, for we exist for good reason.  If we know that there are other people in the fire, people that may not know of the danger, or people who are trapped and unable to escape, then perhaps we will not run out of the building so quickly.  We may hesitate, wanting to help the others, but the inner call to flee will most often overwhelm us.  Perhaps, outside of the building, still thinking about the others inside, we will be overcome with a sense of responsibility and, yes, a sense of guilt.  Then, we might summon the courage and the bravery to overcome our instincts and walk back into the burning building.  Firefighters walk into burning buildings all the time.  But they need to receive training that will help them to overcome their natural instincts in order to fight the blaze and save people – they also have lots of protective gear and equipment, which is extremely helpful.  But, even with training, precautions, and fireproof materials, firefighters still continually die in the course of performing their duties.  Every person who joins a fire department knows the risk.  And people still join every day, still rush into blazes from which non-firefighters are fleeing.

The point is that human beings are able to do brave and beautiful things with love and responsibility.  We are not all perfect right out of the box.  We grow, learn and develop.  And, hopefully, we learn the importance of love and develop the willingness and the desire to give ourselves in true love and to receive the presence of others as priceless gift, and so, be responsible to and for each other.  We human beings have an amazing capacity for selflessness, generosity, and courage.  This is the humanity that Jesus Christ holds up when he is nailed on the Cross.  All goodness in us, all godliness in us, we too easily leave behind when we are rushing in to fulfill our selfish desires.  But Christ not only reminds us of who we were created to be, but he also sanctifies who we are: broken, weak, even scared, but willing to sacrifice ourselves to save others.  Christ did this in a singular act that is for all time – for Jesus is not only fully human, but also fully divine, and so all of his actions are initiated and infused with and by Infinite Eternity.  We can do it, too, though in smaller, less universally significant ways that are no less important because they are caught up with Christ’s sacrifice for all.

When a stranger jumps in front of a speeding truck to push a pedestrian out of its path to safety, or when you take the arm of an elderly person who is climbing steps in order to give assistance, or when I hold my tongue when my mother is annoying me greatly though she means only to help me – we are Christ.  We do not put ourselves first.  We don’t let the strength of our self-centered emotions or instincts overtake us.  We weaken our instincts for self-preservation or even for self gratification so that we may be strong in love.  Love is the greatest and most indomitable force out there.  And it’s in here, right in here, right inside of me.  Love is my strength, my goodness, my beauty, my courage, my salvation, my joy, my glory – precisely because it isn’t mine.  I do not possess love nor do I have a claim upon it that is exclusive of others.  Love is given to me from Love Itself.  Love is the reason that I exist.  Love is why I am formed.  Love is infused in me by grace.  Love flows out from me to others, to the other – but only if I will it.  If I listen first to worldliness, to the flesh, to self-centeredness, to me, myself, and I, then I put my true self last.  I put love – true love, love that is given and received, agape, divine love –  at the bottom of my list of priorities.  And then I fail as a human being.  For love is first and will always be first.  Though our self-centeredness may place love last as we rush in to be first, in the end, God makes all things right.

Note: this is not any kind of an exegesis or explanation of the scriptural verse.  This is just a Burst – biblically inspired reflections of the moment.

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

Thy Corn

Deuteronomy 7:12-13

Wherefore it shall come to pass, if ye hearken to these judgments, and keep, and do them, that the LORD thy God shall keep unto thee the covenant and the mercy which he sware unto thy fathers:

And he will love thee, and bless thee, and multiply thee: he will also bless the fruit of thy womb, and the fruit of thy land, thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep, in the land which he sware unto thy fathers to give thee.

Hmm… I’ve been writing these Bible bursts for over a year now and there have only been a handful of times when I disliked the verses randomly given to me.  Not that I “dislike” the content of the Bible – but some passages leave me shaking my head.  Like this one from Deuteronomy.

Is it the word of God that, if I listen to God’s judgments and keep them, keeping all of God’s commandments, then my family will be large and healthy and my possessions vast and increasing?  It sounds like God is saying, “If you do what I tell you, then you will be worldly wealthy.”  Sure, I could reinterpret this to mean that God will bless me with spiritual richness and abundance in Heaven – but I don’t think that’s how the people who kept this Scripture as sacred understood it.  For them, plagues and hardships were punishments from God for being bad, while healthy crops, livestock and children were rewards for being good.  And I know that there are people today who believe that this is true.  But I don’t.

When I was a child, crippled in my wheelchair, I remember picking up from other people this thought: “If I am a good girl, then God will make me be able to walk – but I really have to believe that it’s true or God won’t cure me.”  And I remember praying to God and believing and then pushing downward with my legs and upward with my torso, ready to be wowed by the miracle.  But nothing new happened.  The thing is, I don’t remember being devastated by the lack of miracle.  (Perhaps “authentic” faith would have been devastated?)  I do remember thinking something like, “Does this mean that I’m not good enough?”  And then my little mind began to work.  With a slight smirk and furrowed brow I tried to figure out the puzzle.

I knew that I felt my faith surging in me when I made the prayer and the attempt to rise.  But I also knew, when I didn’t rise, that I doubted that this was how God worked.  I would hear about miracle stories, like a contemporary one where a woman with MS, I think, was cured at Lourde’s, and I would think that maybe I had to go all the way to France for God to work a miracle – but this just didn’t make any sense.  I do mean logical sense, in that, if God is God then God is all-powerful and doesn’t need me to buy a plane ticket in order for His cure to work.  (But, then again, I knew that such a trip could be a sign of my faith, of my willingness to go the extra mile (literally) in order to receive God’s blessings.)  Having to go the extra mile also didn’t make sense to me in a personal way, though, based on my faith.  Because, and I think this is important, I didn’t believe that my disease was any kind of a curse or punishment.  My legs are not dysfunctional because of something bad that I did or my parents did – so they’re not going to become functional because of something good that I do or my parents do.  There is no curse to be undone.

I think, however, that this is not what the people of the Old Testament believed to be true.  Like many ancient peoples, they believed that God’s wrath was just and, so, God rightly inflicted punishments upon wicked people – and, therefore, they believed that God’s wrath could be appeased and punishments reversed through right behavior.  If one could follow the letter of the law – and with the spirit of the law, which is love – then one would be earning God’s esteem and receive happy rewards from God.  The afterlife was not a given to all ancient people and, so, these rewards would be received here and now.  Good people would get what good people want: healthy children, productive growing seasons, healthy livestock – comfort, plenty and ease.  This is a system that we humans can understand, because this is what we would do.  We reward good behavior and punish bad.  It’s part of conditioning children (and society) so that it may be shaped into something desirable for the parents (and the majority of people in society).  We expect God to act like us.  And God, who wants to reveal Himself to all of humankind, speaks to us in a way that we can understand, at every developing level, as individuals and as societies – just as a parent communicates with a growing child.  That’s why we have the promises in Deuteronomy.

As a Christian, I shouldn’t try to make the people of the Old Testament believe things that they didn’t believe.  As a Christian, I should try to understand the Old Testament writings in the light of Christ.  I heard somewhere that the Bible is a book of questions with the answers in the back.  In other words, the Hebrew testament contains the questions of life and the Christian testament contains the answers – not in black white, unmistakable, concrete terms.  It’s not a science book exploring material matters.  Rather, where God once communicated to us in words at our level, the Hebrew testament, God now communicates to us in the Divine Word (his level) made flesh – not just the pages of the Christian testament, but Christ himself.  Christ says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life…”.  And when you hear Christ’s message and you look upon Christ’s life, then you start to think of blessings in a new light.

Yes, Christ’s resurrection and ascension, as well as his promises, cause us to believe in the afterlife.  So, it can just be an easy matter of changing the whole punishments and rewards thing to being meted out “in the life of the world to come” instead of in this earthly life.  But… This still doesn’t do it for me.  That’s like saying, “If you suffer enough (like Christ) and keep faith that you will be rewarded in Heaven, then you will be rewarded in Heaven – and don’t worry, all those bad people are going to get their punishment after they die.”  This doesn’t seem like we really learned anything by God becoming Man, does it?  God will save us from the injustice of earthly life when we die and are freed from the earthly bonds – no, unh-uh, not divine enough.

God created the earth, earthly bonds, earthly bodies – and looked upon them and saw that they were good.  Now, I know that the free-willed choices of man to continually choose pride and turn away from God wrecks things.  I believe that this “fall” has inherently darkened our intellects and weakened our wills – and I believe that we need saving.  God made a deal with the ancient people of Israel and they broke their end of the bargain – an act that they agreed would warrant their deaths.  God becomes a human being and takes on that broken act and its justified punishment of death – Christ atones for sin on the cross of redemption.  And then Christ rises from the dead and ascends into Heaven in order to reestablish the covenant – indeed, to make a new covenant – with its fulfillment in the afterlife, which he opens up for us, instead of on temporal earth.  And it could all end there.  Nice and neat and orderly.  But the danger – and there is a real danger – lies in focusing upon what needs to be done in order to be rewarded.  If I am acting in a good way solely in order to get pleasure and riches in an unknown, but promised and very material sounding, other place, then I am totally self-centered.  How is that different than being like Adam and Eve?

I am supposed to be like Christ – “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,  who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,  but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form,  he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.”  (Philippians 2:5-8.)  And if this obedience is done solely for reward – then it is not done with love.  For we know that we can have the words of angels, but, if we have not love, then we sound like gongs.  Love makes the difference – and true love is given with no thought of reward.

I should love the Lord, my God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength BECAUSE He is the Lord, my God.  That’s it.  Pure and simple.  There are no material rewards here for doing that.  There might be some kind of reward hereafter for doing that – but this is not my focus.  My focus is knowing that God loves me, sinner that I am, for no other reason than that God loves.  I love God because God first loved me.  If I love God (if I’m a good girl) then God will reward me simply with His love that He was already giving (I will be happy because I am loving and open to loving).  Without this earth there is no me to love God.  Heaven is the clear and eternal understanding of this love.

Times up and I’ve rambled away another hour – did I write anything of worth?  I’m more confused than when I began.  I really want to hear what other people make of these verses from Deuteronomy… I am a pilgrim on a journey, I am a student in God’s classroom, I don’t know anything on my own – help teach me, fellow pilgrims!

Christina Chase