Monday, February 25, 2008

A roadway to the throne

And so, irony and symbolism blend: is it the roadway of sand... or the roadway of sky... or both? Blessings to you today, and enjoy this pic from Saturday! :-)

There, there, on eagles' wings we soar!

From every stormy wind that blows

Words: Hugh Stowell, 1828
Tune: Retreat

From every stormy wind that blows,
from every swelling tide of woes,
there is a calm, a sure retreat;
'tis found beneath the mercy seat.

There is a scene where spirits blend,
where friend holds fellowship with friend;
though sundered far, by faith they meet
around one common mercy seat.

Ah, whither could we flee for aid,
when tempted, desolate, dismayed?
Or how the hosts of hell defeat,
had suffering saints no mercy-seat?

There, there, on eagles' wings we soar,
and time and sense seem all no more;
and heaven comes down, our souls to greet,
and glory crowns the mercy-seat.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Arrows of God

Here is a symmetry of clouds and birds, pointed majestically into the setting sun! I caught this shot at a nature observatory several miles down the lake. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Kierkegaard on repentance

True repentance is not momentary sorrow

True repentance does not belong to a certain period of life, as fun and games belong to childhood, or as the excitement of romantic love belongs to youth. It does not come and disappear as a whim or as a surprise. No, no. There is a sense of reverence, a holy fear, a humility, a pure sincerity which insures that repentance does not become vain and overhasty.

From the point of view of the eternal, repentance must come “all at once,” where in one’s grief there is not even time to utter words. But the grieving of repentance and the heartfelt anxiety that floods the soul must not be confused with impatience or the momentary feeling of contrition. Experience teaches us that the right moment to repent is not always the one that is immediately present. Repentance can too easily be confused with a tormenting agonizing or with a worldly sorrow; with a desperate feeling of grief in itself. But by itself, sorrow never becomes repentance, no matter how long it continues to rage. However clouded the mind becomes, the sobs of contrition, no matter how violent they are, never become tears of repentance. They are like empty clouds that bear no water, or like convulsive puffs of wind. This kind of repentance is selfish. It is sensually powerful for the moment, excited in expression – and, for this very reason, is no real repentance at all. Sudden, quick repentance wants only to drink down the bitterness of sorrow in a single draught and then hurry on. It wants to get away from guilt, away from every reminder of it, and fortify itself by imagining that it does not want to be held back in the pursuit of the Good.

What a delusion!

True repentance is not self-improvement

There is a story about a man who by his misdeeds deserved to be punished according to the law. After he had served his sentence he went back into ordinary society, reformed. He went to a foreign country, where he was unknown and where he became known for his upright conduct. All was forgotten. Then one day a fugitive appeared who recognized him from the past. The reformed man was terrified. A deathlike fear shook him each time the fugitive passed. Though silent, his fear shouted with a loud voice, until it became vocal in that dastardly fugitive’s voice. Despair suddenly seized him and it seized him just because he had forgotten his repentance. His self-improvement had never led him to surrender to God so that in the humility of repentance he might remember what he had once been.

True repentance: temporal and eternal

Yes, in the temporal and social sense, repentance may come and go. But in the eternal sense, it is a quiet daily commitment before God. In the light of eternity, one’s guilt is never changed, even if a century passes by. To think anything of this sort is to confuse the eternal with what it is least like – human forgetfulness.

One can tell the age of a tree by looking at its bark. One can also tell a person’s age in the Good by the intensity and inwardness of his repentance. It may be said of a dancer that her time is past when her youth is gone, but not so with a penitent. Repentance, if it is forgotten, is nothing but immaturity. The longer and the more deeply one treasures it, however, the better it becomes.

Repentance must not only have its time, but also its time of preparation. And herein lies the need of confession, the holy act that ought to be preceded by preparation. Just as a person changes his clothes for a celebration, so a person preparing for confession is inwardly changed. But if in the hour of confession one has not truly made up his mind he is still only distracted. He sees his sin with only half an eye. When he speaks, it is just talk – not true confession.

We mustn’t forget that the One who is present in confession is omniscient. God knows everything, remembers everything, all that we have ever confided to him, or what we have ever kept from his confidence. He is the One “who sees in secret,” with whom we speak even in silence. No one can venture to deceive him either by talk or by silence.

True repentance: Divine self-awareness

When we confess to God, therefore, we are not like a servant that gives account to his master for the administration entrusted to him because his master could not manage everything or be everywhere at once. Nor when we confess are we like one who confides in a friend to whom sooner or later he reveals things that his friend did not previously know. No, much of what you are able to keep hidden in darkness you only first get to know by revealing it to the all-knowing One. The all-knowing One does not get to know something about those who confess, rather those who confess find out something about themselves.


Dear Abba, this Lenten season, may I discover and enter true repentance through the grace of Jesus Christ, my Lord. Grant me this in His name, and through the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth who leads us into all truth. Amen.

Kierkegaard on repentance II

The fire of repentance

The fire of repentance and of the accusing conscience is like that Grecian fire which could not be put out with water – so, too, this one can be extinguished only with tears.

Repentance means to lament the sins one has committed and not to commit any more the sins one has lamented.

There is a Savior, not merely so that we can resort to him when we have sinned, receiving forgiveness, but precisely for the purpose of saving us from sinning.

That a person wants to sit and brood and stare at his sin and is unwilling to have faith that it is forgiven is itself a further guilt. It simply ignores what Christ has done.

Repentance: First nothing, then everything

That Christ makes something big out of something small, as at the feeding of the five thousand, is usually referred to as a miracle. But Christ also works a miracle inversely – makes something big (everything that wants to be something) into something little. He makes it infinitely nothing in humility.

God creates everything out of nothing – and all God is to use He first turns to nothing.

God in heaven, let me rightly feel my nothingness, not to despair over it, but all the more intensely to feel the greatness of your goodness.

God chooses and is closest to the despised, the castoffs of the race, the one single sorry abandoned wretch. He hates this business of the pyramid.

Attending to repentance in deeds and words

Our hearts often pay far greater toll to sin than do our words or deeds. They invite us to self-excusing. Thoughts invite us, more than words and deeds, to continue in sin; for thought can be concealed, while words and deeds cannot.

It is precisely our consciousness of sin that can lead us nearer to God. For there is hope of conquering the evil, if only, every time sin attacks us, it leads us nearer to God.

How shall God be able in heaven to dry up your tears when you have not yet wept?

To grumble about the world and its unhappiness is always easier than to beat one’s breast and groan over oneself.

Repentance as the path to true self-knowledge

The all-knowing One does not get to know something about the one who needs confession, rather the one who confesses gets to know something about himself.

Be not afraid of the penitential preacher, who perhaps has terror in his appearance and wrath in his voice, who chides and rebukes and thunders. No, in the inmost depths of every man’s heart there dwells his own preacher of repentance. When he has a chance to speak, he does not preach to others. He preaches before you alone. He does not preach in any church before an assembled multitude, he preaches in the secret chamber of the heart. He has nothing else whatever to attend to but to attend to you, and he takes good care to be heard when all around you is silence, when the stillness makes you lonely.

Repentance: A terrible, singular cure

The remedy seems infinitely worse than the sickness. “But if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off.”

Whoever is intent upon confession is as solitary as one who is dying.

Teach me, oh God, not to torture myself and not to make a martyr of myself in suffocating introspection, but to take deep and wholesome breaths of faith!

Oh infinite love, I do desire to be involved with you! If I make a mistake, oh, you who are love, strike me so that I get on the right path again.


Father in heaven, open the fountains of our eyes, let a torrent of tears like a flood obliterate all that which has not found favor in your eyes. But also give us a sign as of old, when you set the rainbow as a gateway of grace in the heavens, that you will no more wipe us out with a flood.

Father in heaven, let your face shine upon me, that I may walk in your ways and not stray more distantly from you, where your voice can no longer reach me. Oh, let your voice inspire faith and let me hear it, even if it overtakes me with its terrors upon my erring paths, where I live as one sick and tainted in spirit, apart and lonely, far from fellowship with you and with neighbor!
Lord Jesus Christ, you who came into the world to save the lost – you who left the ninety and nine sheep to seek that one which was lost – seek me, lost as I am upon my erring paths.
Good Shepherd, let me hear your voice, let me know it, let me follow it! Holy Spirit, come to me with groanings that cannot be uttered. Pray for me as Abraham did for Sodom, that if there be but one pure thought, one better feeling in me, the time of probation may be prolonged for the barren fig tree. And Holy Spirit, you who give birth to the dead and youth to the aged, renew me also; create in me a new heart.

I seek you alone, you the Omniscient. If I am guilty, enlighten my understanding that I may see my error and my depravity. I do not wish to escape suffering – that is not my prayer – but let me learn never to argue with you. I must conquer, even though the manner of it is infinitely different from what I can imagine.


Soren Kierkegaard,
P r o v o c a t i o n s: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard, Compiled and Edited by Charles E. Moore. Reprinted from Copyright 2002 by The Bruderhof Foundation, Inc. Used with permission.

Only let me hear thy call

Jesus, Master, whom I serve

Words: Frances Ridley Havergal, 1869
Tune: Jesu, meine Zuversicht (Ratisbon)

Jesus, Master, whom I serve,
though so feebly and so ill,
strengthen hand and heart and nerve
all thy bidding to fulfill;
open thou mine eyes to see
all the work thou hast done for me.

Lord, thou needest not, I know,
service such as I can bring;
yet I long to prove and show
full allegiance to my King.
Thou Redeemer art to me;
let me be a praise to thee.

Jesus, Master, wilt thou use
one who owes thee more than all?
As thou wilt! I would not choose;
only let me hear thy call.
Jesus! let me always be
in thy service glad and free.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

A rain-soaked seat by the sea

I really like how the skift of water on the wood reflects the light, and augments the interplay of light and darkness, open space and sheltered wood. Here, the rain turns the always-beautiful sea into a pensive study: the ocean has many moods! Enjoy!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Repentance: The only way out of the hole

Our most alive times: Escaping the hells we create

Johann Christoph Arnold

We must change, or die. That is not only a biological fact, but a truth that holds the key to solving the great riddle of heaven and hell in our personal lives. Circumstances can't always be changed; other people, even if we may try to influence them, are still other people; the future is impossible to predict – even tomorrow is a mystery. In short, our best efforts cannot make heaven out of hell. But there is one thing we can do, and that is choose - to be selfish or selfless; to burn with lust or with love; to defend our power, or dismantle it. And that is why, instead of taking on the futile task of trying to change the whole world, we must, as Gandhi once advised, be the change we wish to see in it.

Real transformation is the opposite of self-improvement. It is one thing, for example, to spruce up an old wall by covering it with a new coat of paint; quite another to check for dry rot or termites and replace every damaged board. The cosmetic solution costs less, at least upfront, whereas the structural one, which requires far greater changes, also requires far more labor and time. But if that is what is needed, that is what must be done. Even if the new paint is shiny, the surface will soon prove itself insufficient to save the wall, and in the end, more will be lost than was temporarily saved.

As with the house, so with each of us. We can – as today's advertisers seem to have successfully seduced our generation into doing – spend the greater part of our lives repainting ourselves: Upgrading our computer, replacing the old car, shedding those extra pounds, going to the hairstylist to try the newest look. Deep down, however, we all know that none of these changes can bring lasting happiness. Deep down, all of us sense that to some extent, the hells of our lives are related to the brokenness of our own hearts and minds, and that this brokenness is the most vital thing we must examine and fix.

How we go about doing this is another story, for knowing that a problem exists does not mean knowing how to solve it. We are by nature divided; our souls are fissured, and we cannot bind or heal them any more than the victim of heart disease can carry out surgery on himself. And thus our transformation depends not only on us, but on another power, and on our willingness to submit to it, just as the patient submits to the surgeon's knife.

Because we fear pain [who looks forward to surgery?] most of us do everything we can to avoid it. And not only literally. To be inwardly cut to the quick – to have one's false fronts torn away and the lies behind them exposed, to have one's rough edges chipped away and one's ego cut down to size, to be "pruned," as the Gospels put it – simply is a painful thing.

That's why we often settle for more convenient, more comfortable ways to change. We aim to fine-tune our marriages, improve relationships at work. We work at being a better team player, a better listener, parent, or friend. We choose something we don't like about ourselves and resolve to do away with it, or at very least change it. But no matter how many such timid efforts we make, they will not help us any more than painkillers, which suppress symptoms but do nothing to truly combat disease. They simply cannot bring us the much greater relief that comes from having signed up for surgery, and from being able to emerge after it with a clean bill of health.

How different transformation looks to someone who grits his teeth and opts for the full treatment! Such a person knows the exhilaration of undergoing a thorough upheaval, and even if he later reverts to his old self – to weariness, boredom, sickness, or sin – he never forgets the experience so completely that he won't long for it again.

To use a familiar image from the natural world, we must undergo the same full-fledged metamorphosis as that of a caterpillar before it becomes a butterfly. Inside its chrysalis or cocoon, a caterpillar loses all of its defining characteristics: its skin color, shape, mouth, and legs. Even its internal organs and systems are altered during the pupal stage, and its appetites and habits as well. It loses everything that once made up its identity. It ceases to exist as a caterpillar. But that is not all. In submitting to the destruction of its old body, it is no longer confined to crawling on the underside of a leaf, but captures the eye with its beauty and its ability to flutter and float and soar. Whereas previously it could not reproduce, it can now mate and lay eggs: its [transformation] allows it to bear fruit.

What does it mean to "die," be transformed, and experience rebirth? First and foremost, I believe it means letting ourselves be dismantled – not partially, but completely. That, to me, is the crucial first step – giving up our dreams and ambitions, our worries and fears; yielding control over our social, political, and economic agendas; surrendering our most personal plans; even revealing our darkest secrets.

Equally vital is letting go of our goodness. Not surprisingly, that is difficult. In fact, having talked with countless people at critical moments in their lives, I've found that this is often the biggest sticking point. All of us want to change, to become better people, to get rid of the negative baggage we drag after ourselves. But when it comes down to the brass tacks, most of us are just as eager to preserve every inch of our old selves, or at least our good parts. Having gladly dropped everything we didn't like about ourselves, we still cling desperately to the rest, refusing to believe that it might be tainted, and hoping that it can still be rescued. Yet the fact is that even the most sincerely held virtue can be a great obstacle to transformation. That is because a subjective view of our own goodness is rarely in line with reality; that is to say, few of us are really as pure as we might imagine ourselves.

Simply put, rebirth is impossible for those who are in love with themselves in any way, and that goes for a "religious" person as much as anyone else. Confidence is one thing, of course, and no one can truly live or blossom without it. But the self-love of complacency – the sort that leads people to talk about how they are "saved" because they were "born again" (or how they are "enlightened" because they have "seen the light") – is quite another. In fact, it seems to me that those who claim such things are among the worst enemies of rebirth, if only because their smugness is often coupled with the assurance that the rest of the world is damned. Maybe that is why Jesus reserved His harshest words for His most pious countrymen – rebuking them as a "brood of vipers" and comparing them to "whitewashed tombs. It is surely why He also warned them – and us – that “whoever saves his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life will save it.”

There is another ingredient to finding new life, other than merely “letting go,” and that is repenting. Unfortunately, to many, the word implies hellfire and brimstone. In fact, repentance is just another word for remorse, or, to paraphrase C. S. Lewis, for laying down our arms and surrendering, saying we're sorry, realizing we're on the wrong track, and moving full speed astern. Repentance, he says, is "the only way out of a hole.”


This is excerpted from Johann Christoph Arnold’s article, ‘Our Most Alive Times: Escaping the Hells We Create,’ from Bruderhof Community.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A picture worth a thousand words...

An exquisite, unplanned truth-telling, no?

A campaign touting Che and B. Hussein Obama, without contradiction... framed by the broken-cross peace symbol.

Picture via Powerline.

Note: If ever America needed to read C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man and "Men Without Chests," it is now, imo...


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Friday, February 08, 2008

Archbishop of Anglican Communion seeks adoption of Islamic Law

Ok, my mind is blown now.

The leader of Anglicanism is advocating for a future adoption of Islamic Law in England. Read his transcript here, and check out the positive nuance with which he spins the acceptance of sharia. Read these comments, and if you've read That Hideous Strength, you'll shiver at the chill: it's like hearing the character Withers talk -- except this time as leader of the "One True ChurchTM ."

Looks like the faithful persons in the Anglican Communion will have to discover another One True ChurchTM or somehow discover the New Testament definition of the Church [the truth uncovered in the Reformation]! Or, be left serving Allah and Muhammad by proxy, with the One True ChurchTM...

Another article here: Canterbury Tales of Dhimmitude.

Hmm... do we need Lent this year or what? Repentance, confession, humility... to our prayers!


Glen Reynolds adds incisive commentary:

It's interesting, however, that Rowan Williams need have no fear for his personal safety after saying that Sharia is inevitable in England, while had he said bad things about Sharia the reverse would have been true. Under such circumstances, is behavior like his surprising?

Plus this: "I've just been speaking with a Muslim friend who has always opposed sharia law. 'Where does it leave me', he asks, 'when the Archbishop of Canterbury is calling for sharia?' The beautifully hostile press reaction to Rowan Williams' disgusting views is the only aspect of this story that could provide any hope. But the story is running big across the Middle East, and people there are seeing Britain's surrender to sharia played out on a news-loop. Do we think that Islamic extremists in the Middle East and beyond will be be more demoralised or more emboldened by this news?"


Monday, February 04, 2008

A really big hole!

A story from back in the day: Jed and Ira Clampett were out hunting… they struck out across the hills, discovering new territory, and sure enough, they came up to a big ravine, a huge hole in the ground.

They carefully approach it, in amazement.

Jed says, “Wow, thet thar’s some big hoal, Ira! I cain’t evern sah the bottum… wand’er how deep ‘tis?”

Ira says, “Beets me, Jed! Leyt’s thraw sumethin’ down thar an’ leesten and sea how lang h’it taykes ter hit bottum.”

Jed says, “Thayt’s a raht fin’ idear, Ira! Bayck thar awhays is an ohld transmissin’ – giyve me a hand and weel thraw h’it in an’ jest sea…”

So they pick it up and carry it over, and count one, and two and three, and throw it in the hole. They’re standing there listening and looking over the edge and they hear a rustling in the brush behind them. They turn around to see a goat come crashing through the brush, run up to the hole with no hesitation, and jump in headfirst.

Well, they just stand there looking at each other, befuddled: they look at one another, look in the hole, look at one another, look in the hole, trying to figure out what it was all about… soon an old farmer walks up. “Say thar,” says the farmer, “you fellers didn't happen to see my goat ‘round here anywhere, did ya?”

Jed answers, “Wal now, hain’t that the funneyest thang you should ast. We was jest stannin’ hyar a minnit ago an’ a goat comes runnin’ h’out theese hyar bushes goin’ ‘bout a hunert miyles an hower… and dangdest thang… h’it jumped haid first h’into theese hyar hole!”

And the old farmer said, “Now boys, that's just impossible! I had him a’chained to an old transmission!”

grin. :-)

Friday, February 01, 2008

A bluescale slough: beauty in a moment

Florida, thou art a worthy woman, with a soul as wide as the sky and eyes like the grey of the sea on a windswept morning...!

Sorry, the romantic, poetic side just emerged, lol. :-) And for good reason: there is beauty aplenty at every turn... and there are classic Florida adventures [and people] awaiting every day! Here is a picturesque moment at an everyday scene. Enjoy!

So a guy calls a depression hotline...

...only to find the call center had been outsourced -- along with so many other U.S. jobs!

So he calls the depression hotline, and finds it answered in a tribal Pakistani accent:

Hello, is this the depression hotline?

Helooo! Yas, it tis.

Hi. This is Sam and I'm trying to find someone to talk to...

Ah, yas! And vhat seemms to bee th' preblam?

Um, I don't know how to put this, but I'm feeling suicidal...

[Long pause... ...]

Ah! Suiweecidal! Good, verra good! Cann yew drihve a truck??

drums and cymbals, please, lol!

Sorry about the borderline crass humor, but a friend sent that and I laughed too hard not to pass it along... and it really does serve a very serious point: see what the terrorists stoop to now.

So if you think you've had a bad day, think of this poor guy and smile awhile -- and consider our world that needs your prayers [and laughter!].

God bless all, especially our friends in other countries. :-) And, please forgive me, those who've ever struggled with depression... but sometimes a smile helps! God bless you!