Wednesday, May 27, 2009

How to Know God

While I was in college, my mentor recommended that I read Shadow of the Almighty by Elisabeth Elliot. The book challenged my faith like no other had up to that point. After reading it, I wasn't sure I knew God--not in the way Jim Elliot did at least. Ever since then Elisabeth Elliot has become a mentor of sorts to me. I've read almost everything she has written and she still challenges my faith. Here's a classic example:
The only valid test of love is obedience. Take one thing commanded and start doing it. Take one thing forbidden and stop doing it. Then we are on the sure road to knowing God. There is no other.

I would add that this is his commandment, "that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us" (1 John 3:23).

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Easter Wings

George Herbert (3 April 1593 – 1 March 1633) was a Welsh poet, orator and priest. Richard Baxter said of him, "Herbert speaks to God like one that really believeth a God, and whose business in the world is most with God. Heart-work and heaven-work make up his books." Here's another of his well-known poems from The Temple (1633).
Easter Wings

Lord, who createdst man in wealth and store,
Though foolishly he lost the same,
Decaying more and more,
Till he became
Most poore:
With thee
Oh let me rise
As larks, harmoniously,
And sing this day thy victories:
Then shall the fall further the flight in me.

My tender age in sorrow did beginne:
And still with sicknesses and shame
Thou didst so punish sinne,
That I became
Most thinne.
With thee
Let me combine
And feel this day thy victorie:
For, if I imp my wing on thine
Affliction shall advance the flight in me.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A New Found Favorite

George Herbert, a metaphysical poet of the 17th century, was also an English country priest. His poetry mixes the complexities of his era with profound, often moving, spiritual reflection. Several are meditations on his role as a pastor.

Here's his poem "Aaron" about the need for another to cover his 'profaneness' and clothe him in a holiness which cannot come from his own works. He's referring to the Old Testament priest Aaron's garment worn in worship and sacrifice. (Thanks to Drew Field for calling my attention to this wonderful poem.)

AARON

HOLINESS on the head,
Light and perfection on the breast,
Harmonious bells below raising the dead
To lead them unto life and rest.
Thus are true Aaron's drest.*

Profaneness in my head,
Defects and darkness in my breast,
A noise of passions ringing me for dead
Unto a place where is no rest :
Poor priest! thus am I drest.

Only another head
I have another heart and breast,
Another music, making live, not dead,
Without whom I could have no rest:
In Him I am well drest.

Christ is my only head,
My alone only heart and breast,
My only music, striking me e'en dead ;
That to the old man I may rest,
And be in Him new drest.

So holy in my Head,
Perfect and light in my dear Breast,
My doctrine tuned by Christ (who is not dead,
But lives in me while I do rest),
Come, people; Aaron's drest.


* drest = archaic English for 'dressed'. Referring to Exodus xxviii. 29-37.
Source: Herbert, George. The Works of George Herbert in Prose and Verse.
New York: John Wurtele Lovell, 1881. 276-277.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

What Are You Looking At?

In A Lamp for My Feet, Elisabeth Elliot writes about a photograph that was taken while she was a missionary in Ecuador. It's a close-up of a scorpion on a screened window. It takes up the whole frame of the picture. Nothing of the pineapple fields or wide river outside the window can be seen. She writes:
When the eye of the heart is fixed on the world and the self, everything eternal and invisible is blurred and obscure. No wonder we cannot recognize God--we are studying the scorpion. Instead of gazing at Him in all his majesty and love, we peer at the screen, horrified at what we see there.

We shouldn't be oblivious to the horrible things we see around us, but we can't lose sight of what we can only see by faith. With God in view everything else takes it's proper place. So what are you looking at?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Real Girl

Heather and I recently saw "Lars and the Real Girl" based on the recommendation of a friend. A lonely guy orders a silicon girl through the internet--not a movie we would normally watch. But this was one of the most moving movies we've seen in quite a while. It's all about community. Lars is scarred by the death of his mother and can't stand to be touched by anyone, so he orders a plastic girlfriend for himself. The funny thing is that the whole town goes along with it and makes 'Bianca' feel very welcomed. You'll have to watch the movie to see how it turns out. It shows the transforming power of community in an amazing and hilarious way. Here's the trailer.