People who are emotionally dependent often carry an unspoken feeling that life is passing them by, that they have missed their personal boat somewhere along the way. Life, which had promised to be so exciting, full of joy and surprises, has turned out to be as level and barren as the salt flats. The truth is, if life feels flat, it probably means we're letting others define what our life should be and haven't taken the risk to find out who we are and what we want.
Children are natural-born risk takers. They move out into the world and toward others with arms wide open. For children, life is full of mountains and valleys waiting to be explored. There's nothing level about the life of a healthy, spontaneous child. And when we do see a child acting level and flat, we take their temperature; thinking something must be wrong.
Often we fall into the habit of living blah lives so gradually that we are not aware of how flat and bland our lives have become. Eventually I realized that in order to live my life, I had to embrace life's whole package; the pain as well as the joy; the risks as well as the certainties; the entire gamut of emotions and possibilities. It wasn't a decision I made lightly or easily. I was helped immensely by the following passage from Khalil Gibran's, The Prophet:
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises
was often filled with your tears
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being,
the more joy you can contain.
~ Sue Patton Thoele
Hebrews 11:1-2 "Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for."
The two key words here are sure and certain. Faith is about being sure and certain of something. This raises the question at the heart of the confusion often surrounding the topic of faith: Sure and certain about what?
Fortunately, the author of Hebrews (whose identity is a mystery) answers that question in no uncertain terms. Interestingly enough, he introduces his explanation in this way: "This is what the ancients were commended for." This refers to faith. The people whose stories the author is about to recount were all men and women who had faith; they were sure and certain about something. They were sure and certain about the right things. As the author recites the experiences of some of our favorite Bible characters, along with some of the most spectacular events recorded in Scripture, it becomes evident why the ancient men and women were so sure and certain. Furthermore, the author gives us some unmistakable clues about the things we can be sure and certain about.
The author begins with the creation story and moves right on through the story of Abraham. The author takes us on a historical journey through the life of Moses including the parting of the Red Sea. The author speaks about Joshua, Gideon, David, and Samuel. Each person's life is associated with "by faith." But something else is associated with each of these characters in Hebrews chapter 11. In some cases it is stated outright. In others it is merely implied. That something else is a promise. The men and women were so certain and sure because each had received a promise from God. They were confident that God would do exactly what God promised. And that is the essence of faith. Faith and the promises of God go hand in hand. Where there is no promise, there can be no faith—only hope. The basis of Abraham and Sarah's faith, for example, was the promise of God. They believed they would have a child in their old age because God promised they would (Heb. 11:11). Their faith followed a promise. Every person mentioned in this chapter was given a promise of some kind.
Faith, then, is confidence in the promises of God; or to say it another way, faith is being confident God will do what God has promised. "Faith never knows where it is being led, but it loves and knows the One who is leading." - Oswald Chambers.
‘O DREARY life,’ we cry, ‘O dreary life!’
And still the generations of the birds
Sing through our sighing, and the flocks and herds
Serenely live while we are keeping strife
With Heaven's true purpose in us, as a knife
Against which we may struggle! ocean girds
Unslackened the dry land, savannah-swards
Unweary sweep,—hills watch, unworn; and rife
Meek leaves drop yearly from the forest-trees,
To show above the unwasted stars that pass
In their old glory. O thou God of old,
Grant me some smaller grace than comes to these!--
But so much patience as a blade of grass
Grows by, contented through the heat and cold.
~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning
When I play the piano, I sometimes finish a piece by holding my foot on the sustain pedal and listening intently as the sound fades and eventually merges with the surrounding silence. When the last note is barely audible, there is a moment when I am not certain if I am still hearing the note or imagining it, whether it is part of me or part of the world.
No matter how hard I struggle to discern where I leave off and others begin, ultimately I find that there is no decisive revelation. I cannot convince myself that there is such a place. I cannot find a solid boundary line, only watery expanses, and in the diminuendo I am always being carried out into the world. I grapple with a question once posed by the psychologist June Singer: "The space between us, is it a space that separates us or a space that unites us?"
~ Gregg Levoy
Moods are part of the human condition. When you're in a high mood, life looks good. You have perspective and common sense. In high moods, things don't feel so hard, problems seem less formidable and easier to solve. In a high mood, relationships flow easily and communication is easy and graceful.
In low moods, life looks unbearably serious and hard. You have little perspective; it seems as if people are out to get you. Life seems to be all about you and your feelings. You take things personally and often misinterpret the people around you.
Rather than staying stuck in a low mood, convinced you are seeing life realistically, you can learn to question your judgment when you're in this state. When you are in a low mood, learn to pass it off as simply that: an unavoidable human condition that will pass with time, if you leave it alone and avoid giving it too much attention.
With an understanding of moods, we can learn to be appreciative of our highs and graceful in our lows. When we understand the power that our moods have on our perspective, we will no longer need to react to them or be victims of them. Things will eventually appear to us very differently if we just let them be, for now.
~ Richard Carlson
Happiness, to some, elation;
Is, to others, mere stagnation.
Days of passive somnolence,
At its wildest, indolence.
Hours of empty quietness,
No delight, and no distress.
Happiness to me is wine,
Full of tang and fiery pleasure,
Far too hot to leave me leisure
For a single thought beyond it.
Drunk! Forgetful! This the bond: it
Means to give one's soul to gain
Life's quintessence. Even pain
Pricks to livelier living, then
Wakes the nerves to laugh again,
Rapture's self is three parts sorrow.
Although we must die to-morrow,
Losing every thought but this;
Torn, triumphant, drowned in bliss.
Happiness: We rarely feel it.
I would buy it, beg it, steal it,
Pay in coins of dripping blood
For this one transcendent good.
~ Amy Lowell
I suspect that the most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention. And especially if it's given from the heart. When people are talking, there's no need to do anything but receive them. Just take them in. Listen to what they are saying. Care about it. Caring is more important than understanding. It has taken me a long time to believe in the power of simply saying, "I'm so sorry," when someone is in pain. And meaning it.
This simple thing has not been easy to learn. It certainly went against everything I had been taught since I was very young. I thought people listened only because they were too timid to speak or did not know the answer.
A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well intentioned words.
~ Rachel Naomi Remen
Let us spend one day as deliberately as Nature, and not be thrown off the track by every nutshell and mosquito's wing that falls on the rails. Let us rise early and fast, or break fast, gently and without perturbation; let company come and let company go, let the bells ring and the children cry—determined to make a day of it.
Why should we knock under and go with the stream? Let us not be upset and overwhelmed in that terrible rapid and whirlpool called a dinner, situated in the meridian shallows. Weather this danger and you are safe, for the rest of the way is downhill. With un-relaxed nerves, with morning vigor, sail by it, looking another way, tied to the mast like Ulysses. If the engine whistles, let it whistle till it is hoarse for its pains. If the bell rings, why should we run? We will consider what kind of music they are like. Let us settle ourselves, and work and wedge our feet downward through the mud and slush of opinion, and prejudice, and tradition, and delusion, and appearance, that allusion which covers the globe. . . .
Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains. I would drink deeper; fish in the sky, whose bottom is pebbly with stars. I cannot count one. I know not the first letter of the alphabet. I have always been regretting that I was not as wise as the day I was born.
~ Henry David Thoreau from Walden
When Robert Morrison set out in 1807 as the first Protestant missionary to China he had to travel by way of America as the East India Company, which had the monopoly of the trade with India and the East, refused to allow missionaries to travel to India or China in any British vessel.
His American host records this incident when they visited the captain of the ship on which he was to sail…
‘We set out together to the counting house of the ship owner previous to his embarkation. I cannot forget the air of suppressed ridicule on the merchant’s face and in his speech and manner towards Morrison, whom he appeared to pity as a deluded enthusiast, while he could not but secretly respect his self-denial, devotion, courage and enterprise.
When all business matters were arranged, he turned about from his desk and with a sardonic grin addressing Morrison said, “And do, Mr. Morrison, you really expect that you will make an impression on the idolatry of the great Chinese Empire?” “No sir,” said Morrison, with more than his usual sternness, “I expect God will.”’
Compiled from Phyllis Garlick, Pioneers of the Kingdom
The story of how the Great Plague of London reached the village of Eyam in Derbyshire:
‘This is a lovely place between Buxton and Chatsworth, perched high on a hill-side, and shut in by another high mountain…At that time lead works were in operation in the mountains, and the village was thickly inhabited. Great was the dismay of the villagers when the family of a tailor, who had received some patterns of cloth from London, showed symptoms of the plague in its most virulent form, sickening and dying in one day.
The rector of the parish, the Rev. William Mompesson, was still a young man, and had been married for only a few years… (He) wrote to London for the most approved medicines and prescriptions; and he likewise sent a letter to the Earl of Devonshire, at Chatsworth, to engage that his parishioners should exclude themselves from the whole neighborhood, and thus confine the contagion within their own boundaries, provided the Earl would undertake that food, medicines, and other necessaries, should be placed at certain appointed spots, at regular times, upon the hills around, where the Eyamites might come, leave payment for them, and take them up, without holding any communication with the bringers, except by letters, which could be placed on a stone, and then fumigated, or passed through vinegar, before they were touched with the hand. To this the Earl consented, and for seven whole months the engagement was kept.
Mr. Mompesson represented to his people that, with the plague once among them, it would be so unlikely that they should not carry infection about with them, that it would be selfish cruelty to other places to try to escape amongst them, and thus spread the danger. So rocky and wild was the ground around them, that, had they striven to escape, a regiment of soldiers could not have prevented them. But of their own free will they attended to their rector’s remonstrance, and it was not known that one parishioner of Eyam passed the boundary all that time, nor was there a single case of plague in any of the villages around…
Day and night the rector and his wife were among the sick, nursing, feeding, and tending them with all that care and skill could do; but in spite of all their endeavors’…259 people, among them the Rector’s wife, died of the plague but the infection did not spread to any other parish.
Charlotte M. Yonge (1823-1901), from A Book of Golden Deeds
1 Peter 2:16 "Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves."
Paul tells the Galatians that they "were called to be free," but they must not use that freedom as an excuse for the flesh to do as it wills (see Galatians 5:13). In 2 Peter we read of those who promise others freedom but are themselves servants of corruption (2 Peter 2:19). Here, in First Peter, again we are reminded of the doctrine of Christian freedom (also translated 'liberty'); that of all the theological twisting and turning we Christians like to do, this one, the doctrine concerning freedom, is the one that must never be distorted, perverted, or misused.
Biblical scholar, David W. J. Gill, put it like this: "Christian freedom is always stipulated by Christian responsibility. Christian responsibility is always stipulated by Christian love. Christian love is always to be a reflection of God's love."
The Christian is free because he is the slave of God. Christian freedom means being free to do, not as we like, but as we ought. Christians are strangers in the world insofar as it is sinful. Yet citizens of the world recognize a basic goodness, and Christians should live by the 'good' standards of the world. In this way they may hope to lead others to recognize and submit to God's grace-saving, life-giving goodness.
"God's slaves" are slaves to doing good. The underlying Greek here (as well as in vs. 17) appears to be a unique command in the New Testament because it is not confined to honoring only fellow-Christians. Indeed the context makes it clear that Peter means people outside the church. They are not to be despised because they are not believers, nor hated because they are different, nor treated with contempt because they are of lower rank or status, but, as "God's slaves" we are commanded to honor and respect everyone (see 1 Peter 2:17).
Jason E. Royle
Welcome to my blog. I'm an open-minded theologian committed to Christ-like compassion & understanding.
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