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The Worst F-Word There Is (On the Elephant in the Room)

The Worst F-Word There Is (On the Elephant in the Room)

I feel sorry for those who have to put up with me this month. It gets pretty unbearable. You see, some people try to lose weight in January. For me, it’s June, the month when the calendar empties out and I can devote what little willpower I have to the project of reduction. The other eleven months of the year, for whatever reason, such attempts have always proven to be “subject to futility”.

So for thirty days at the beginning of each summer, the majority of my mental energy is occupied consumed by dieting. I try to play the single-mindedness for laughs, but it’s irritating.

The…

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“Dr. Sigmund Freud Discovers the Sea Shell” by Archibald MacLeish

When he moved to Paris in the 1920s, Archibald MacLeish (1892 – 1982) ran with the likes of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein, and I have every suspicion that his God-wrestling Pulitzer-winning legacy will make a cultural resurgence soon enough; here’s hoping.

Despite first appearances, the following poem doesn’t just pit science against faith. Rather, it emphasizes the persistence of the unknown versus the known and the unmeasurable versus the measurable. As with much of MacLeish’s work, it’s designed to affect us emotionally, not just intellectually.

Eugenia-Loli6

Eugenia Loli

Dr. Sigmund Freud Discovers the Sea Shell
by Archibald MacLeish

Science, that simple saint, cannot be bothered
Figuring what anything is for:
Enough for her devotions that things are
And can be contemplated soon as gathered.

She knows how every living thing was fathered,
She calculates the climate of each star,
She counts the fish at sea, but cannot care
Why any one of them exists, fish, fire or feathered.

Why should she? Her religion is to tell
By rote her rosary of perfect answers.
Metaphysics she can leave to man:
She never wakes at night in heaven or hell

Staring at darkness. In her holy cell
There is no darkness ever: the pure candle
Burns, the beads drop briskly from her hand.

Who dares to offer Her the curled sea shell!
She will not touch it!—knows the world she sees
Is all the world there is! Her faith is perfect!

And still he offers the sea shell . . .

What surf
Of what far sea upon what unknown ground
Troubles forever with that asking sound?
What surge is this whose question never ceases?

Hopelessly Devoted: Matthew Chapter Thirteen Verses Forty Four Through Forty Six

This morning’s devotion comes from the great magician, Jim McNeely III. 

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had, and bought it.” (Matthew 13:44-46, NASB)

pearlHere we have two very distinct parables with two very distinct messages: the “Treasure in the Field” and the “Pearl of Great Price.” Let’s start by getting our actors straight. In the first parable, the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure, and you and I are the man. In the second parable the kingdom of heaven is like the merchant, and you and I are the pearl. The simple observation that the kingdom of heaven is said to be like the merchant, not like the pearl, ends up being very significant, as you will see.

After years of thinking and writing about it, I am more convinced than ever that the message of the parable of the treasure hidden in the field is critical for us. It is because there was a treasure that the man sacrifices all. It is from joy that he sells all that he has. It is from a great and a true desire that he acts. The Gospel is not simply doctrinal correctness or sound theology—it is a great treasure, and once we perceive its surpassing value hidden in the scrubby field of the church, it engages our desire powerfully. We drop our self-justification projects with joy, because we have found a treasure of much greater worth. We are released from all care and worry, and we have become impossibly and eternally rich and taken care of. Of all the people on earth, we have found our way and have obtained our fortune—we are spiritual gazillionaires.

I am even more convinced that the message of the Pearl of Great Value is critical for us. The heart of the message of the Gospel is that God truly wants us. He is greedy and jealous for us. He has sold all that He had, to obtain us:

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:10-11, NASB)

Why do we call Christ’s death on the cross the “Passion?” I haven’t researched it at all and I have no idea why we call it that. But I know what passion means—it means extreme desire, reckless love, fierce devotion to the point of obsession. It means laser-like focus born of strong wanting. How does this word relate to Jesus’ death on the cross?

His love for us is an absolutely reckless and dangerous love. It is abandon-everything-else desire. It is the pearl merchant selling all he had to get that one perfect pearl. It is passion for us that led to such sacrifice. He wanted us. Badly. Enough to do this.

God is love. Not just any love. Not just idle affection. Not the gentle, detached love of a grandmother. That is a wonderful kind of love, but it is not this love. His is a passionate, reckless, die-for-you love. His is a throw-away-every-other-option love. We are His obsession. We are not His obligation, we are His joy (Heb 12:2). This is the God who is love—the God who would go to such shocking lengths on our behalf.

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. Amen.

From the Archives – Coping with Our Failure to Be Happy: Moral Palliatives vs Repentance

From the Archives – Coping with Our Failure to Be Happy: Moral Palliatives vs Repentance

Well, we’re probably nearing our yearly limit for writing about anxiety, but great articles on the subject have been irrepressible. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that our increasing need to self-actualize, and increasing avenues for doing so, is a root behind the contemporary epidemic of nerves that had 1 in 5 American adults on anti-anxiety or antidepressant meds in 2011, numbers which have presumably risen since. An organization called the ADAA (anxiety and depression, etc) reported that almost one-third of the nation’s health bill is caused by anxiety disorders. You could reasonably ask to vet the numbers there, but even…

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Imagining Worst Case Scenarios with a Hellfire Therapist

Imagining Worst Case Scenarios with a Hellfire Therapist

A wonderful reflection from Carrie Willard.

Some people feel guilty about their anxieties and regard them as a defect of faith. I don’t agree at all. They are afflictions, not sins. Like all afflictions, they are, if we can so take them, our share in the Passion of Christ. – C. S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm

When my son was almost three years old, he got violently ill while we were away from home. What started as a run-of-the-mill virus turned into an ambulance ride and several nights in the pediatric intensive care unit at a major teaching hospital. I was pregnant with our second son…

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Richard Rohr on Why We Kiss the Cross

Richard Rohr on Why We Kiss the Cross

The “performance principle” is a guiding mythology that, according to Richard Rohr, guides the first half of our religious lives. It is the mythology that suggests we are defined, more or less, by our achievement. It is also a mythology that is rooted in and propelled by fear: the expectation of punishment. Our achievements are meant to secure for us a way out of this punishment. In short, we live to prove. I don’t know a better summation of the Law.

What must happen, then, is death. Our first self must die. Thankfully, as Rohr’s meditation illustrates, this is the nature of the cross…

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Everybody Else’s Biggest Problem: Living in a Material World

Everybody Else’s Biggest Problem: Living in a Material World

Welcome to the fifth installment of act three of author Ted Scofield’s series on everybody else’s biggest problem but your own. If you missed one or more of the previous installments, the entire series can be found here.

Nearing the end of our year-long quest to define greed, today we’re going to explore materialism, a logical result of the phenomena we’ve discussed and debated in Act III: the prominence of narcissistic individualism, the increase in religious “nones,” the build-a-god mentality of personal spirituality, and the rise in moral subjectivity, even among Christians.

To start, let’s all get on the same page: What exactly is…

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Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah (Son, and Holy Ghost, Amen)

Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah (Son, and Holy Ghost, Amen)

This one comes to us from Carrie Willard.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s I went to an Episcopal church camp in Northern Wisconsin. It was called Camp Horstick, named after a late bishop, but due to the unfortunate pronunciation of that name, most people called it by the name of the Victorian house on the grounds of the camp: Bundy Hall, or even just “Bundy” for short. My older sisters went there first, and they had so much fun that I counted down the days until I was old enough to go. My mom also went as a volunteer…

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The Culture of Narcissism, Part 3: The Religion of “Me”

The Culture of Narcissism, Part 3: The Religion of “Me”

Here is the penultimate post in a series inspired by Christopher Lasch’s book, The Culture of Narcissism.

Back in 1987, when the New Age movement had not yet become just another part of the spiritual background noise of postmodern America, ABC television mainstreamed one branch of the movement in the miniseries “Out on a Limb,” which was based on actress Shirley MacLaine’s autobiographical book about her adventures in New Age spirituality. Just over a decade had passed since my own brief involvement in the New Age, so much of the mindset and the jargon was familiar to me. One scene in…

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Everybody Else’s Biggest Problem: Let’s Build-A-God!

Everybody Else’s Biggest Problem: Let’s Build-A-God!

Welcome to the third installment of act three of author Ted Scofield’s series on everybody else’s biggest problem but your own. If you missed one or more of the previous installments, the entire series can be found here.

“You like your church, right?” My friend’s question came from out of the blue. “I tried bikram and meditation, then Buddhism for a while, then my own thing but none of it’s working for me. I need to try something different. Work is killing me.”

“Do you believe in God?” I asked.

“Well … I believe in a divine energy that unites all things in the…

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Sending Lady Gaga to Her Room

Sending Lady Gaga to Her Room

Circa 2009, around the time of The Fame Monster, there were very few American high schoolers cool enough to talk down about Lady Gaga. For both girls and guys, she was edgy enough (and inevitable enough, releasing single after single after single) to leave everyone feeling at the very least a distant admiration. She did however possess a particular power in the art classes, one that you wouldn’t see her having on, say, the lacrosse field, and this was because historically speaking art classrooms have always been “interesting” places. Mine was no exception: it was by all accounts an underground church, the…

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Everybody Else’s Biggest Problem: The Rise of the “Nones”

Everybody Else’s Biggest Problem: The Rise of the “Nones”

Welcome to the second installment of act three of author Ted Scofield’s series on everybody else’s biggest problem but your own. If you missed one or more of the previous installments, the entire series can be found here.

Last time we met Dr. Jean Twenge, author and professor, who has documented in our nation “a clear cultural shift toward individualism and focusing on self.” With the help of Ayn Rand and Nobel Laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, we also asked ourselves, In our radically selfish world, what god do we now serve?

Fifteen years after her groundbreaking research on individualism, Dr. Twenge helps us answer…

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