Wednesday, January 25, 2006

questions: imitation

So the question on the table is:

What does it mean to follow Jesus Christ?

I have read or been told, or it has been suggested several times over the past few weeks that attempting to be just like Jesus in every way is being presumptuous. Details follow.

I say, "Pretend you're Jesus. What exactly do you say to...? What exactly do you do to...?"

One reply: I am not Jesus; I am a repented sinner, I have His Holy Spirit and His Word, and I practice Christianity.

Another reply: Pretending to be Jesus is presumptuous; ascribing motive to people is bad enough, but ascribing motive to God is worse.

I was still kind of into the whole WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) thing, and maybe I took it too far? If so, what am I to do with such suggestive statements as these?

Be a mimic of me, even as I also am of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1)

Who has known the mind of the Lord, and who shall instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16)

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5)

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. (1 John 3:16)

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2-3)

Come, follow me (Matthew 4:19)

It sure sounds like "As goes Jesus so go I" to me.

life of the way and henri nouwen

I was referred last week to a weekly email devotional by Henri Nouwen. This was a Godsend. I could not have imagined how piercing the messages would be. Maybe they’re just what I needed to hear, or maybe they are good for everyone. I’ll leave that to whoever reads this. In any case, this struck me as vital to the life of the Way. I don’t see any copy restrictions anywhere in the email or on the website, and since they freely distribute them, I feel free to reproduce a few of them. If you’re interested in receiving the daily, you can go to www.HenriNouwen.org and sign up. Here are the first four I received:


January 20, Yearning for Perfect Love

When we act out of loneliness our actions easily become violent. The tragedy is that much violence comes from a demand for love. When loneliness drives our search for love, kissing easily leads to biting, caressing to hitting, looking tenderly to looking suspiciously, listening to overhearing, and surrender to rape. The human heart yearns for love: love without conditions, limitations, or restrictions. But no human being is capable of offering such love, and each time we demand it we set ourselves on the road to violence.How then can we live nonviolent lives? We must start by realizing that our restless hearts, yearning for perfect love, can only find that love through communion with the One who created them.

January 21, The Voice in the Garden of Solitude

Solitude is the garden for our hearts, which yearn for love. It is the place where our aloneness can bear fruit. It is the home for our restless bodies and anxious minds. Solitude, whether it is connected with a physical space or not, is essential for our spiritual lives. It is not an easy place to be, since we are so insecure and fearful that we are easily distracted by whatever promises immediate satisfaction. Solitude is not immediately satisfying, because in solitude we meet our demons, our addictions, our feelings of lust and anger, and our immense need for recognition and approval. But if we do not run away, we will meet there also the One who says, "Do not be afraid. I am with you, and I will guide you through the valley of darkness." Let's keep returning to our solitude.

January 22, Community Supported by Solitude

Solitude greeting solitude, that's what community is all about. Community is not the place where we are no longer alone but the place where we respect, protect, and reverently greet one another's aloneness. When we allow our aloneness to lead us into solitude, our solitude will enable us to rejoice in the solitude of others. Our solitude roots us in our own hearts. Instead of making us yearn for company that will offer us immediate satisfaction, solitude makes us claim our center and empowers us to call others to claim theirs. Our various solitudes are like strong, straight pillars that hold up the roof of our communal house. Thus, solitude always strengthens community.

January 23, Community, a Quality of the Heart

The word community has many connotations, some positive, some negative. Community can make us think of a safe togetherness, shared meals, common goals, and joyful celebrations. It also can call forth images of sectarian exclusivity, in-group language, self-satisfied isolation, and romantic naiveté. However, community is first of all a quality of the heart. It grows from the spiritual knowledge that we are alive not for ourselves but for one another. Community is the fruit of our capacity to make the interests of others more important than our own (see Philippians 2:4). The question, therefore, is not "How can we make community?" but "How can we develop and nurture giving hearts?"

January 24, Forgiveness, the Cement of Community Life

Community is not possible without the willingness to forgive one another "seventy-seven times" (see Matthew 18:22). Forgiveness is the cement of community life. Forgiveness holds us together through good and bad times, and it allows us to grow in mutual love.But what is there to forgive or to ask forgiveness for? As people who have hearts that long for perfect love, we have to forgive one another for not being able to give or receive that perfect love in our everyday lives. Our many needs constantly interfere with our desire to be there for the other unconditionally. Our love is always limited by spoken or unspoken conditions. What needs to be forgiven? We need to forgive one another for not being God!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

let us whisper

Have you noticed that the most powerful ideas are the most fragile? In Gladiator, Caesar Marcus Aurelius, calls General Maximus in to his inner chamber to be all alone and talk about ideas. The two most powerful men of the world at the time. Whispering.

MAXIMUS
You sent for me Caesar? [No response. Maximus turns to look at the weak and old Marcus.] Caesar?

MARCUS
[Straightening up from the desk,] Tell me again Maximus, why are we here?

MAXIMUS
For the glory of the empire, Sire.

MARCUS
Ah yes, ah yes. I remember. You see that map, Maximus? That is the world which I created. For 25 years, I have conquered, spilt blood, expanded the empire. Since I became Caesar I have known 4 years without war - 4 years of peace in 20. And for what? [He rises.] I brought the sword, nothing more.

MAXIMUS
Caesar, your life...

MARCUS
Please, please don't call me that. Come, please, come sit. Let us talk now, together now. Very simply, as men. Well, Maximus, talk.

MAXIMUS
5,000 of my men are out there in the freezing mud. 3,000 of them are bloodied and cleaved. 2,000 will never leave this place. I will not believe they fought and died for nothing.

MARCUS
And what would you believe?

MAXIMUS
They fought for YOU and for Rome.

MARCUS
And what is Rome, Maximus?

MAXIMUS
[Thoughtful pause] I have seen much of the rest of the world. It is brutal and cruel and dark. Rome is the light!

MARCUS
Yet you have never been there. You have not seen what it has become. I am dying, Maximus. When a man sees his end he wants to know that there was some purpose to his life. How will the world speak my name in years to come? Will I be known as the philosopher, the warrior, the tyrant? Or will I be the Emperor who gave Rome back her true self? There was once a dream that was Rome, you could only…whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish. It was so fragile. And I fear that it will not survive the winter.

Even the king of the world becomes just a man in the presence of an idea that is truly great. The greatest men bow to something so fragile that it must be whispered.

“Give me a lever big enough,” says Archimedes, “and I can move the world.” It’s a well-known maxim in the college of physics. But ideas are the true fulcrums for moving the world. Ideas whispered in basements, not public squares, in inner chambers, not courtyards.

In The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard talks about the “incredible power of ‘mere ideas’” He cites John Maynard Keynes, economist and social observer, who observes that it is ideas, incubating and distilling in the minds of powerful people as well as crowds, that change the world.

Indeed, the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back…Soon or late, it is ideas, not vested interests, which are dangerous for good or evil.

How true.

But I am not concerned so much with observing the power of ideas as I am their fragility. Powerful ideas, if they are to survive, must be carefully handled before they are ready to put their coats and galoshes on for a splash in the big world.

Powerful ideas do become incarnate when their time comes. And if they have been handled well, their power can be enough to move the world, even to overturn it. By that time it is forgotten how unlikely and how frail the idea was when it was conceived. But the truth is that all powerful ideas begin in fragility, in obscurity, as secrets.

Shrewd men and women know that if their adversaries have ideas that may very well take root, that they must call them out early, while still fragile. They must draw them from their incubators before they are ready to hatch. Witness gay marriage.

From Nazism to the Jesus Movement, from “God is Dead” to Civil Rights, you can bet by the time you hear it on the evening news it is anything but new. By the time an idea goes public it either does or does not have enough leverage to move the world. By the time a world changing idea comes to light, it has already been conceived, crafted, and fortified by cunning men and women. The true contenders in the world of ideas do not have podiums and megaphones—they have secret handshakes. And so it is not the pundits or the power brokers who truly change the world, but the idealists, whispering together.

The public forum always favors the hypnosis of the “ity” and the “ism”. Anything loud and fast and recycled will always play well with crowds. We are “smothered in slogans,” says Willard.

Commercials, catch words, political slogans, and high-flying intellectual rumors clutter our mental and spiritual space…We willingly emblazon messages on our shirts, caps—even the seat of our pants…Sometime back we had a national campaign against highway billboards. But the billboards were nothing compared to what we post all over our bodies. We are immersed in birth-to-death and wall-to-wall ‘noise’.

I would add “high-flying religious rumors” to the list of clutter. Rumors that play well, whether they find their origin in the bosom of God or not.

The stampede of the world and her cultures crushes the best ideas. And so Jesus tells us not to cast our pearls before pigs. Sows are not sowers; pigs don’t reap. They have neither the patience nor the shrewdness for it. They eat the leftovers cast to them by those who control the food supply, and trample whatever is left.

And so whatever is easily digested or even pre-digested rules the open meeting. Whoever has the best sound bytes and zingers and verses will command the crowds. That is, until he or she decides to be an agent of change. And then the crowd she thought she carried turns out rather to be carrying her. Or the parade he was leading keeps going straight when he turns.

The public never changes. Little knots in back rooms and back fields do. And if they can multiply fast enough, they have a chance of infecting the public and starting their revolution.

“You say you want a revolution? Well you know, we all want to change the world”, sang John Lennon. But it’s only those able to contain themselves to a whisper who really have a chance at it.

The best moment in any revolution is when the one enthroned says, “How could it come to this?” like Cornwallis in The Patriot when his defeat at the hands of scrappers was imminent.

Imagine the shock of the Caesar who realized that the most fragile thing imaginable had cost him his kingdom. God whispered, and a Baby was born somewhere in Palestine. At night. Among farm animals. His parents fled to Egypt to hide him. He grew up in obscurity until his time had come. He began to teach, but he spoke in riddles and stories, except he whispered the secrets of his revolution to the few he trusted. By the time he came to “his hour” (as he called it), there was so much force with him that even being tortured and killed could not stop him. Jesus and His followers “turned the world upside down” and shook it. The idea “Caesar is Lord” was history, which is the ultimate destiny of every other idea that sets itself up against this One.

Whispering is not for everyone. The world needs the public to push the buttons and turn the wheels, to keep everything going as fast and efficiently in the same direction it is currently headed. And even to argue about which direction it is currently headed. That is the business of the public square.

But somewhere, hidden away, right now, there are some ideas that are truly dangerous for good or evil. Some are in the hands of the most delicate incubators saying something like, “Come, let us whisper now. Let us speak of an idea in our still, small, voices. Very simply. Anything more and it will vanish. Let us whisper about our God, his Son, their home, and the way of its coming.”

MARCUS
Maximus, let us whisper now. Together, you and I. You have a son? [Maximus nods.] Tell me about your home.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

graveyard shift philosophy

I must have been philosophizing in my sleep last night, for I woke up with these words, or something very like them, rolling around in my head this morning:

I think therefore I know I need I AM

I still haven't figured out what I think about it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

concentric red circles

Two people I know were having this conversation on-line. This first guy is in Bible college and really wants to make a difference in life, but life seems to be coming at him in slow motion. So much learning and so little doing, and he's feeling the subduing effects of this protracted process of education. Here's how he imaged his dilemma:

There's a line from Return of the King that hit me this morning, one that may explain why i'm so impatient sometimes. When Aragorn and Eowyn are talking in Edoras, he asks her what she fears. Her response resonated so deep within me. "A cage, to grow old until all chance of valour has gone beyond desire or ability." That's my fear. To never have the chance to stand in battle, with comrades all around. To never have the chance to stand, really stand and live. Can anybody relate? Has anybody dealt with this before?

-T-


And here's my friend's advice, that was too good not to post here:

The most important parts of the battle look initially to be the most mundane. The enemy does not paint concentric red circles on his weak spots.

-V-

sexy on the inside

The single best sermon I have ever heard—on any topic—is called Sexy on the inside by Rob Bell. It's a much grander image of sexuality than anyone in our culture is talking about. But would you expect less from Jesus? What does it mean to be single and sexual? How is it that there are highly sexually charged people who are perfectly celibate? How is it possible to be sleeping with a spouse and in some ways sleeping alone? What was really lost in the fall, and what is God's plan for restoring it back to us? Is our culture oversexed?

We lost vital connections with God, each other, and our environment when all mankind fell. "And so we have more cell phones than ever, and we're more lonely and isolated than ever. And we have more chat rooms than ever, and we have people hurting more than ever, because they don't have somebody they can lean on. Our culture is not oversexed. We have no idea what sex really means..." Sex is better than I imagined, and it's more vital than I dreamed. It affects everything and is central to the restoration of the universe.

If you've heard it you know what I mean. I just checked, and it's no longer available (they only keep 12 weeks worth on their server here: http://www.mhbcmi.org/listen/index.php). I must look into a way to get it back.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

questions: worship

So the question on the table is:

What does it mean to be a worshipper?

Jesus said over in John 4 that God is seeking worshippers. I've heard people bandy with the phrase "in spirit and in truth". But what does it mean to worship?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

my confession

I have a confession to make to the world, or the world wide web anyway. I have completely blown my New Year's resolutions. Actually, I'm terrible at keeping New Year's resolutions. This year I blew my list the moment I made it. Argh. Anyway, for the record, here's my list:

Steve's New Year's Resolutions for 2006
1. Make no resolutions

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

patent of peerage

A young man with great stuff comes up to Jesus and asks what he has to do to "possess" eternal life. Jesus first tells him, "You know the commands of God. Just keep them." But the guy knows that there is something missing, something more, something just out of his reach, so he tells Jesus in what must have been some desperation, "I have kept all of these since I was a boy." Without missing a beat, Jesus answers him that if he really wants to be perfect (that is, if he really wants to grow up) he needs to sell all his "stuff" and then he will "possess" treasure in heaven. But then it says the young man went away uneasy because he "possessed" great stuff.

Don't you despise this guy? Don't you imagine yourself watching him walk off and thinking "Sheesh. What a waste." Haven't you justified your own indoor plumbing, air conditioning, car(s), Internet service, phone line(s), credit card(s), sturdy home, life insurance, health insurance, auto insurance, fire insurance, meal plan, cable plan, book club, coffee allowance, Christmas spree, (must I go on?) by saying something like, "Well, see, this guy had a problem with money in his heart. And Jesus knew it. Jesus doesn't ask everyone to give up all their stuff, but this guy must have had a real hang up." I mean, don't you imagine Jesus kind of bowing his chest with a "You think that's something, huh? Keeping all those laws?" and then Jesus kind of turns to Peter and James and John and mumbles, "Get a load of this guy. What a poser." And then thing about trading all his stuff is not so much a real challenge as just a revealing question, like "If you were really serious then me asking you to give everything up wouldn't bother you." And then it's easy to assume this guy is spoiled rotten (unlike us). I used to imagine this guy walking off and the disciples all giving high fives. Either that or maybe two of them giving high fives and the other ten staring at the dirt wondering what just happened. Either way I had Jesus kind of gloating.

Or maybe you're in the "blessed" crowd rather than the "righteous" crowd. Like the first thing they have you chant in all these "Christian Financial Principles" rallies is "Jesus owns it all!" and then they tell you "...and you (not others) get to spend it for Him..." or something like that. It's really comforting to know that the reason I'm so rich is because I have been so prudent and wise in following God's principles, when others have been foolish and selfish and wasteful and (that's why they're poor in the first place and) not pleasing God.

If any this is you, you have totally missed what just happened.

Jesus was serious.

"For the young man to have sold all and followed Him would have been to accept his patent of peerage" says MacDonald.

I love that phrase. Patent of peerage. He offered him the chance to get in on His life, to bear His authentic mark, to live a life of privilege divine.

To follow Him.

To do like He did, and be included in His life. Regardless of how his life started, his life could've ended like Jesus' life.

The bible says this of Jesus: "You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich." This guy could have done the exact same thing. In fact, Paul and his companions believed they were doing just that. In a long list of ways they had poured their life out for others, they ended with saying they were "poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything." They were following Jesus. Same life story.

If I follow Him I will wind up where He is. I'll end up living like He lives, dying like He died, and being glorious like He is glorious. And we, too, like the young man in this encounter have the actual chance to follow Jesus. Later in the bible we are given this same offer:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who...made himself nothing...and he humbled himself...
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name

It's not a command. We can walk away sad because of our great stuff. Jesus will not chase us down, mug us, and take our stuff away. It's an offer. Naw, it's a great offer.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

a tale of two snacks

My friends all know that I am a fan of fritos. After years maligning them because of their fat content, I have come back. One thing I love about fritos is their simplicity. What follows is a comparison of the ingredients of two frito-lay products: fritos and cheetos.


FritosCheetos
INGREDIENTS: WHOLE CORN, CORN OIL, SALTIngredients: Enriched Corn Meal (Corn Meal, Ferrous Sulfate, Niacin, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, and Folic Acid), Vegetable Oil (Contains One or More of the Following: Corn, Soybean, or Sunflower Oil), Whey, Salt, Cheddar Cheese (Cultured Milk, Salt, Enzymes), Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Maltodextrin, Disodium Phosphate, Sour Cream (Cultured Cream, Nonfat Milk), Artificial Flavor, Monosodium Glutamate, Lactic Acid, Artificial Colors (Including Yellow 6), and Citric Acid

 

Two snacks, one maker.

Which is better?

Which is simpler, and which more complex?

Which is more reliant on the goodness of God, and which on man's wisdom?

Cheetos has a a commercial, a slogan ("Dangerously Cheesy" ®), and even a mascot. I don't think I have ever seen Fritos commercial. People continue to hunger for them because they are good. They continue to be a household name throughout generations. Yes, I am a Fritos fan.

And yet, I wonder. You read the Cheetos ingredients and see all those B vitamins (Niacin, Thiamin, Folic Acid) they've added in the "enriching" process (any time you see enriched, beware—that mostly means that they ruined the natural grain during some process so they have to enrich it to get it back to something somewhat nutritious), and you see that it even has Vitamin C (citric acid). And they were considerate enough to take the natural fat out of the milk before they added it. Maybe a lot of folks actually think that Cheetos are better after all that people have done to "enrich" it.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

dying to live

I intend to write a book about death. I will call it dying to live I think, unless I can't for copyright reasons. The thing is that the Christian life (which is another way of saying the True life) is full of death. Most people avoid death. But the Christian life is inseperable from it. Every soul that has found the Path (the Way) has found that it leads through death. Avoiding death is avoiding life. If you are miserable, it is because you are refusing to go ahead and die. Dead people are not miserable. But that's only half the story. When a person dies, their life is over. When a person dies for Jesus, God raises him from the dead three days later. How's that for a mind blower? It's true. That's what the bible means when it says that Christ was the firstborn or the firstfruits.

Firstborn or firstfruits is an incredibly rich concept in the bible. It's God's way of saying "Because you offered me your first and best, I will get involved with the rest of the harvest, and will ensure that it follows exactly like the first." We offered Jesus up to God as a firstfruits or firstborn offering, waved before God. We crucified Him. The word the bible uses for this idea is devoted or dedicated or accursed. He became our our devoted thing, our offering. All these words are related, and they all have to do with Christ, the firstborn, becoming a curse for us, and by doing that, redeeming every one of us who follow so that God accepts us just like the firstborn. Too much to talk about on this for now.

When the bible talks about "receiving" Christ, it's not some religious code word for walking down to the front of a church and repeating some preselected words after someone, or for being baptized. What it means is that I literally receive the life of Christ. The story of Christ is overlaid onto my life. When I say to God, "I accept Jesus" I am saying, "I accept the person of Jesus Christ—His Life, His version of the Story, the reality that is written into His life alone." If you do that, then God is faithful to get involved in your life and make sure it follows exactly like Jesus' life. You get to participate in the death and resurrection of the Christ-Life. Over and over. One of the bible writers said of this process, "I die daily." What an awesome deal! That means that all the things that really stink in my life are going to die. I'm not stuck with them. But more than that—they come back to life in a new and better way.

The reason they come back to life better than how they died is because Jesus did. After he came back from the dead he was teleporting around and flying and all kinds of cool stuff. And his appearance was different. Even his closest friends didn't recognize him at first.

Jesus talked about the amazing change this way:

For sure, I tell you, unless a seed falls into the ground and dies, it will only be a seed. If it dies, it will give much grain. Anyone who loves his life will lose it. Anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it forever. If anyone wants to serve Me, he must follow Me. So where I am, the one who wants to serve Me will be there also. If anyone serves Me, My Father will honor him.

The remarkable thing is that if we love our life like it is, we will be miserable and stay just a regular seed. But if we die, we are changed—we grow roots and stalks and heads and make many seeds which I'm told can reproduce at an alarming rate if left to nature. When he says to hate your life in this world, he's not talking about how we complain, "I hate my life." What he means is to hate it, to turn your back on it, to watch it die, and trust God to raise something new in three days (ah, three days is a magical phrase in the bible, too...maybe later). Remember, Christ is the firstfruits, and we follow, like He said. It's cool. We get to be these creatures that die—maybe many times in the course of a year, maybe even every day—and come back to life new.

I wonder if it's confusing to God. First, a person receives Christ, accepts the Story. And then when he comes to the dying part, he clutches and claws with everything in him to save his own life. What's that about? Hey, you signed up for the course...now enjoy the membership benefits! It's so easy if you let it go the way it's supposed to go.

Is this making any sense? It might help to think of a child falling asleep. Ask any parent of an infant or toddler and they'll tell you what I mean. He fights it. He doesn't want to sleep. He wants his milk, he wants his juice, he wants his bottle, he wants his pacifier. And then he starts getting sleepy. He starts dozing off. But then he catches himself and wakes up. He wants his blankie, he wants his special pillow, he wants his special music. And then he starts to doze off again. But then someone creeping into the room missteps and makes a sound. He's awake again. He wants his book, he wants his mommy, he wants his daddy. And then sleep comes for him again. This time he drifts, deeper and deeper and deeper, until finally he falls. His breathing gets long and slow, his body goes limp, and he lets go. In the bible, the phrase fell asleep is another way to say died.

George MacDonald explained how we enjoy the death of Christ like this:

Christ died to save us, not from suffering, but from ourselves; not from injustice, far less from justice, but from being unjust. He died that we might live—but live as He lives, by dying as He died who died to Himself.

Jesus never intended to save us from suffering or to prevent us from dying. I think someone's out there peddling the wrong version of the Story. What he offers is precisely death. He wants us to die and come back to life, just like Him. So many times a Christian suffers needlessly. It is because he still loves his life. He hasn't hated it. He hasn't died to himself, which is another way of saying: he hasn't let go of his self-made version of his story. And because the true life of Jesus only goes one Way (life-death-resurrection), that means they have not found the Way yet.

Jesus said this:

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the Way that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the Way that leads to life, and only a few find it.

It's really not surprising that only a few find the Way. After all, no one wants to end up dead. After Jesus predicted his own death, he told his followers, "You know the Way to the place where I am going." But they hadn't accepted that Life Way ran through Death Valley. Thomas said, "Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" Jesus answered, "I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well." In other words, Guys, you can't accept the truth of this because you are still trying to save your own life, trying to find your own way. All you need to do is to know me, which is another way of saying, all you really need to do is receive me, to come to me and accept my Life as your life, my Truth as your truth, my Way as your way. And that means dying to live.

There is a Way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.

It's a narrow Way. It's a good Way. If you really find the Way, death is not in the end, but in the middle.

empty

I was talking to a friend about burdens. We talked about how sometimes you can have these heavy burdens—emotional burdens, financial burdens, spiritual burdens—and you can shift them around, but you can't get rid of them. I said what about if you're made to carry a heavy burden but instead you carry a burden of emptiness: loss or rejection or abandonment? And then my friend says this:

Emptiness is a heavier burden than fullness.

Wow.

I think about Frodo carrying the One Ring that gets heavier and heavier with each step he takes towards Mount Doom. When Frodo puts it on, he sees the eye of Sauron and a voice speaks from the shadow and flame, "There is no life in the void." It's such a great image because the purpose of the ring is actually to take away life—to steal, kill, and destroy. Later Frodo tells Sam, "You must understand, the Ring is my burden. It will destroy you, Sam." So the ringbearer feels this great weight of emptiness.

I think about Jesus who warned against the empty religion of his day where the leaders "bind heavy burdens...on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers." But of himself he said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest...for I am gentle and humble in heart...and my burden is light." His burden is not heavy or grievous to bear. In fact, it is light because it is full rather than empty. "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."

Emptiness is a heavier burden than fullness.