Tears

YOU NEVER KNOW what may cause tears. The sight of the Atlantic Ocean can do it, or a piece of music, or a face you've never seen before. A pair of somebody's old shoes can do it. Almost any movie made before the great sadness that came over the world after the Second World War, a horse cantering across a meadow, the high-school basketball team running out onto the gym floor at the start of a game. You can never be sure. But of this you can be sure. Whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears, it is well to pay the closest attention.

They are not only telling you something about the secret of who you are, but more often than not God is speaking to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from and is summoning you to where, if your soul is to be saved, you should go to next. 

-Originally published in Whistling in the Dark and later in Beyond Words 


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Love

THE LOVE FOR equals is a human thing—of friend for friend, brother for brother. It is to love what is loving and lovely. The world smiles. 

The love for the less fortunate is a beautiful thing—the love for those who suffer, for those who are poor, the sick, the failures, the unlovely. This is compassion, and it touches the heart of the world.

The love for the more fortunate is a rare thing—to love those who succeed where we fail, to rejoice without envy with those who rejoice, the love of the poor for the rich, of the black man for the white man. The world is always bewildered by its saints.

And then there is the love for the enemy—love for the one who does not love you but mocks, threatens, and inflicts pain. The tortured's love for the torturer. This is God's love. It conquers the world.

-Originally published in The Magnificent Defeat


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Superstition

SUPERSTITION IS THE SUSPICION that things are seldom what they seem and usually worse. Breaking a mirror foreshadows a graver misfortune than having to buy a new one. Inviting thirteen for dinner involves a greater risk than not having enough to go round. The superstitious person may be more nearly right in being wrong than the person who takes everything at face value. If a black cat crosses your path and all you see is a black cat, you need to have more than your eyes examined. What is crossing your path with four legs and a hoisted tail is the dark and inscrutable mystery of creation itself. 

-Originally published in Wishful Thinking and later in Beyond Words 


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Suicide

THE MOST FAMOUS SUICIDE in the Old Testament is King Saul's. He was doing battle with the Philistines. The Philistines won the day. They killed his three sons, and he himself was wounded by archers. Fearing that he would be captured by the enemy and made a mockery of if he survived, he asked his armor-bearer to put him out of his misery. When the armor-bearer refused, he fell on his own sword (1 Samuel 31:4).

Judas Iscariot's is of course the most famous one in the New Testament. When Jesus was led off to Pilate and condemned to death, Judas took his thirty pieces of silver and tried to return them to the Jewish authorities on the grounds that Jesus was innocent  and he had betrayed him. The authorities refused to take them. They said that was his problem, and Judas, throwing the silver to the ground, went off and hanged himself (Matthew 27:3-5).

Taking your own life is not mentioned as a sin in the Bible. There's no suggestion that it was considered either shameful or cowardly. When, as in the case of Saul and Judas, pain, horror, and despair reach a certain point, suicide is perhaps less a voluntary act than a reflex action. If you're being burned alive with a loaded pistol in your hand, it's hard to see how anyone can seriously hold it against you for pulling the trigger. 

-Originally published in Whistling in the Dark and later in Beyond Words 


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Story

IT IS WELL TO REMEMBER what the ancient creeds of the Christian faith declare credence in.

"God of God, Light of Light... for us and for our salvation came down from heaven... born of the Virgin Mary... suffered ... crucified... dead... buried... rose again... sitteth on the right hand of God... shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead." That is not a theological idea or a religious system. It is a series of largely flesh-and-blood events that happened, are happening, will happen in time and space. For better or worse, it is a story.

It is well to remember because it keeps our eyes on the central fact that the Christian faith always has to do with flesh and blood, time and space, more specifically with your flesh and blood and mine, with the time and space that day by day we are all of us involved with, stub our toes on, flounder around in trying to look as if we have good sense. In other words, the truth that Christianity claims to be true is ultimately to be found, if it's to be found at all, not in the Bible, or the church, or theology—the best they can do is point to the truth—but in our own stories.

If the God you believe in as an idea doesn't start showing up in what happens to you in your own life, you have as much cause for concern as if the God you don't believe in as an idea does start showing up.

It is absolutely crucial, therefore, to keep in constant touch with what is going on in your own life's story and to pay close attention to what is going on in the stories of others' lives. If God is present anywhere, it is in those stories that God is present. If God is not present in those stories, then they are scarcely worth telling.

-Originally published in Whistling in the Dark and later in Beyond Words


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