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Monthly Archives: February 2009

With inspiration from Michael, I’m going to begin a continuing segment entitled ‘Stuff God hates,’ where I will presume to speak on behalf of the Big Guy about what He hates. Capiche? Did I spell that right? At any rate, here is the first SGH.

Excess in the face of need.

“When a poor person dies of hunger, it has not happened because God did not take care of him or her. It has happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed.” (Mother Teresa).

I like laughing. If you don’t laugh at one or both of these videos then I question your salvation.

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On another note, my friend Ernie has some hilarious notes posted on his facebook. I will find a way to link them to this site…without his permission.

I recently finished reading Life of The Beloved by Henri Nouwen. If you don’t know who that is I highly suggest finding out and reading the Life of The Beloved for yourself. It is a small (119 pages) yet profound book.

The book is essentially divided into three parts: being the Beloved, becoming the Beloved and living as the Beloved. Becoming the beloved is then divided up into four subsequent parts: taken, blessed, broken and given. I found this interesting as Nouwen compared the body (read: Church) to the eucharist in that we are taken, blessed, broken and given away. Really great stuff.

There are a number of sound-bite type quotes I could list for your enjoyment but I shall refrain because I would like to talk (type?) specifically about the chapter titled ‘broken’. However, before we get to that I would like to tell you one thing Nouwen said on page 29 that may resonate with you: Beneath all my seemingly strong self-confidence there remained the question: “If all those who shower me with so much attention could see me and know me in my innermost self, would they still love me?” That agonizing question, rooted in my inner shadow, kept persecuting me and made me run away from the very place where that quiet voice calling me the Beloved could be heard (Nouwen 29). Isn’t this what we all truly desire? To be fully known and loved. I know I wrestle with this.

One more quote (before moving on to brokenness) that really struck me was when Nouwen touches on the importance of moving from being the beloved to becoming the beloved. In other words, all are beloved. Every human being, no matter what race or religion or sexuality, every human being bears the image of their Creator. This is an image that cannot be erased. That we are created is enough to make us Beloved by our Creator. It really is that simple. However, despite the fact that we are Beloved we must also move into becoming the Beloved. In other words, the reality of our Belovedness must concretely challenge and change the way we live and think. Another way of looking at this is that Christ’s death and resurrection is sufficient for all yet not all live under the Lordship of King Jesus. At any rate, it is during this thought that Nouwen says, “becoming the Beloved means letting the truth of our Belovedness become enfleshed in everything we think, say or do,” (Nouwen 39). Nouwen argues, and I would agree, that this forces us to let go of any romantic idea of faith and forces us to deal with the utter concreteness of our daily lives and how this is influenced by ones faith.

On to brokenness!

Everyone is broken. You and I are broken. Everyone you know or hear of is broken and this is something that is visible and tangible in our world. Brokenness is important because it reveals something about who we are: “Our sufferings and pains are not simply bothersome interruptions of our lives; rather, they touch us in our uniqueness and our most intimate individuality. They way I am broken tells you something unique about me,” (71). Our brokenness is always lived and experienced as highly personal, intimate and unique. This is why when we share our brokenness with one another we enter into an incredibly intimate relationship. Our brokenness is ours and no one else’s and we must claim it as our own. Brokenness in the Western world has much to do with relationships:

In the Western world, the suffering that seems to be the most painful is that of feeling rejected, ignored, despised and left alone. In my own community, with many severely handicapped men and women, the greatest source of suffering is not the handicap itself, but the accompanying feelings of being useless, worthless, unappreciated and unloved. It is much easier to accept the inability to speak, walk or feed oneself than it is to accept the inability to be of special value to another person. We human beings can suffer immense deprivations with great steadfastness, but when we sense that we no longer have anything to offer to anyone, we quickly lose our grip on life. Instinctively we know that the joy of life comes from the ways in which we live together and that the pain of life comes from the many ways we fail to do that well, (72-3; emphasis mine).

In our world this sort of brokenness often manifests itself as sexual brokenness. Our deep longing and desire for communion with others can lead to sexual brokenness. Nouwen points to the current AIDS crisis where, “young people, desperate to find intimacy and communion, risk their very lives for it. It seems that there is a cry reverberating through the large, empty spaces of our society: It is better to die than to live in constant loneliness,” (74).

How ought we act when confronted with the brokenness of ourselves and our world? Should we run from it and avoid it? Hide it? Nouwen suggests two ways we ought to interact with brokenness, 1) befriend it, and 2) put it under the blessing. This is something we must make a daily practice of.

Firstly, we must face our brokenness head on and befriend it. I understand this may seem/feel unnatural because our primary response to pain and suffering is often to avoid it and keep it at a distance: “Suffering…is almost always experienced as an unwelcome intrusion into our lives, something that should not be there,” (75), therefore, it is difficult to see anything positive in suffering. It must be avoided. Ironically, in order to be fully healed we must take a step towards pain as opposed to away from it. “When brokenness is, in fact, just as intimate a part of our being as our chosenness and our blessedness, we have to dare to overcome our fear and become familiar with it. Yes we have to find the courage to embrace our own brokenness…I am convinced that healing is often so difficult because we don’t want to know the pain,” (75-6; emphasis mine). This is certainly a challenge, however, not one that we ought to face alone. Facing and living through brokenness is the way to healing, “But I cannot do that on my own. I need someone to keep me standing in it, to assure me that there is peace beyond the anguish, life beyond death and love beyond fear. But I know now, at least, that attempting to avoid, repress or escape the pain is like cutting off a limb that could be healed with proper attention,” (77).

We all seek out joy in life and I suppose one of the reasons we try and avoid pain and suffering is that we see it as an obstacle to the joy and peace we so desire. However, this need not be the case. Rather than being an obstacle to peace and joy human suffering can be the means to it.

“The great secret of the spiritual life, the life of the Beloved Sons and Daughters of God, is that everything we live, be it gladness or sadness, joy or pain, health or illness, can all be part of the journey toward the full realization of our humanity. It is not hard to say to one another: ‘All that is good and beautiful leads us to the glory of the children of God.’ But it is very hard to say: ‘But didn’t you know that we all have to suffer and thus enter into our glory?’ Nonetheless, real care means the willingness to help each other in making our brokenness into the gateway to joy,” (77-8).

Our second response to brokenness should be to put it under the blessing, which may be a precursor to befriending it (for more on living as blessed/cursed read the chapter titled Blessed). Brokenness can be so frightening at times because we often live it under the curse: “Living our brokenness under the curse means that we experience our pain as a confirmation of our negative feelings about ourselves. It is like saying, ‘I always suspected that I was useless or worthless, and now I am sure of it because of what is happening to me,’” (78). We’re always searching for an explanation of what takes place in our lives aren’t we? If we have already reached a place where we yield to the temptation to self-rejection, then every form of misfortune that comes along will only serve to deepen our sense of self-rejection. When brokenness and pain strike we often find ourselves asking the question, “Why?” “Why me/now/here?” We so desire an answer to these sorts of questions that “we are easily seduced into connecting the events over which we have no control with our conscious or unconscious evaluation. When we have cursed ourselves or have allowed others to curse us, it is very tempting to explain all the brokenness we experience as an expression or confirmation of this curse,” (78-9).

What then are we to do? Nouwen states that, “the great spiritual call of the Beloved Children of God is to pull their brokenness away from the shadow of the curse and put it under the light of the blessing,” (79). This is most often difficult. While everything around us is telling us otherwise we must chose to listen rather attentively to the voice that calls us the Beloved. Only then can it become possible to live our brokenness “not as a confirmation of our fear that we are worthless, but as an opportunity to purify and deepen the blessing that rests upon us,” (79). All sorts of pain are experienced totally differently when they are lived under the blessing rather than the curse. A small burden, lived under the curse and perceived as a sign of our worthlessness, can lead to great depression and anxiety. However, heavy burdens become lighter when they are lived in the light of the blessing. What seemed intolerable becomes a challenge. What seemed a reason for depression becomes a source of purification. What seemed rejection becomes a way to a deeper communion. “And so the great task becomes that of allowing the blessing to touch us in our brokenness. Then our brokenness will gradually come to be seen as an opening toward the full acceptance of ourselves as the Beloved,” (79-80). Suffering helps to lead us to fullness, “just as athletes who experience great pain as they run the race can, at the same time, taste the joy of knowing that they are coming closer to their goal, so also can the Beloved experience suffering as a way to the deeper communion for which they yearn. Here joy and sorrow are no longer each other’s opposites, but have become the two sides of the same desire to grow to the fullness of the Beloved,” (80; emphasis mine).

May we embrace our brokenness and pain and the brokenness of the world around us. May we face this pain head on and make it our own so that we can grow to the fullness of the Beloved.

Have you ever experienced a moment in your life when you just knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that you were in the wrong? No matter how you tried to tidy the story up or rationalize and explain things away, you knew you were wrong.

And you could feel it. Deep in the pit of your stomach.

Maybe there were other people wrapped up in this story and it didn’t just involve you. Were others hurt? Knowing you’re in the wrong is one thing, but when this wrong hurts another person it adds to the feelings of ugliness and unworthiness.

I recall a number of years ago an incident I had with my father. He came into the kitchen where I was sitting with my mother and said something to me about doing the dishes (now I should point out that at this time I was already quite angry). When he said this to me I snapped some angry comment back at him and then one thing led to another and I just exploded. I was yelling. My mother was crying. Doors were being slammed. People were in each others faces. Drywall was being punched. Not good. Not beautiful. Ugly.

As I went for a walk I began to realize the weight of my words and actions. The ugliness that was there. I didn’t say anything to my dad for the rest of the day.

I remember lying on my bed and experiencing an overwhelming feeling of being in the wrong and needing to turn from those ways and seek my dads forgiveness.

The next day I walked into the family room where my dad was sitting and all I could manage to say was “I’m sorry.” Without saying anything he stood up and embraced me. Tightly. There was no need for him to even say anything because the silent embrace said it all.

Grace.

I love the following lyrics from a U2 tune:

Grace
She takes the blame
She covers the shame
Removes the stain
She travels outside of karma
What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings
Because grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things
Grace finds beauty
In everything

I love Fridays/Saturdays, but especially Fridays. Fridays are my day off which means I don’t set foot in the office and try not to do too much “work” related stuff (although I enjoy my “work” with students and would likely be doing it anyway even if not paid). Anyways, on to the point, last Friday I took a stroll down to the Aurora Public Library not far from our house. It was the first time I’d set foot in there and was quite impressed. They have somewhat of a decent sized theology/philosophy section which was neat and I picked up two books, Life of The Beloved by Henri Nouwen and Jesus of Nazareth by Joseph Ratzinger. You may know the latter as the Pope. I haven’t started either just yet because it’s taking me decades to finish A Community of Character by Hauerwas. Half the time I’m not quite certain what he is saying when he goes into great detail on certain issues so I just try to grasp the ‘big picture’ if you will. Seems to be working, but at any rate, it’s turning out to be somewhat of a challenging read for me. What drew me to the Library though was the free DVD rentals and I picked up a handful of gems on Friday. Two big name flicks Fargo and Malcolm X. I had always heard a lot about Fargo but had never watched it. The Coen bro’s directed it and Frances McDormand did a great job playing the pregnant detective that cracks the case. We plan to watch Malcolm X tonight and that looks quite promising (Spike Lee and Denzel anyone? Hello!). We also picked up a couple of solid documentaries. Maxed Out provided a scary/sad look into the extent of credit card debt in America, pretty eye opening. Why We Fight examined the lust for war and violence that holds up the American empire. The film makers did a good job of delving into the problems of the military-industrial complex (the movie opens with Eisenhower’s ’61 Farewell address) and looking at the ‘big business’ side of war in the US as well as attempting to answer the question of why we fight? Really made me think about the kingdom of God and how it is centered around a suffering King that was victorious over the authorities and powers through the cross. Finally, picked up the classic film Hoop Dreams which follows two inner-city Chicago kids as they try and journey the path to the NBA. Lot’s of up’s and down’s. The film makers did a good job of really connecting you with the characters and their families and at one particular time, brought me to tears. I found this particularly interesting as Christina and I are taking 7 students to the southside of Chicago at the end of July.

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I’m in the process of finishing up my long answer questions for my application to the University of Toronto. I’m hoping to pursue my master’s there in the fall @ Wycliffe College.

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Christina just got hired on as relief staff for Crosslinks/Loft and she’s loving it. She works in a home of sorts that houses people suffering with various mental issues. Sounds cool.

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Nathan ponders about the breadth of God’s grace. I really hear what he is saying here and my feeling is that if we could possibly conjure up how big grace could possibly be, that it would be surprisingly bigger still.

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This is surely a thought provoking post and I certainly find myself able to empathize with it. A bit of a change from the “bible” we hear about in many evangelical circles.

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Some college friends of mine are putting on a conference in March. I’ll be there fo’ sho! Check out the commercial below.

Whelp, I suppose that’s all for now. I’m gone, like the Raptor’s chances of making the playoffs (really! Who knew?!).

I haven’t posted much lately but here’s a video a friend showed me online. It’s a child shortly after he had dental surgery. Hilarious. On a different note, I’ve been thinking about a lot lately and will be posting some on that as well as some life updates and such.