Friday, January 4, 2008


Do I make my plans like a worldly person, ready to say Yes and No at once? As surely as God is faithful our word... has not been Yes and No.

Test me, Lord, probe me, scrutinise my heart and mind: Your love is always my study, and your constancy my companion.

I mimic the deaf in hearing nothing, I mimic the dumb in not saying a word, I mimic the one who, since he hears nothing gives no sharp answer in return.

I mean to sing to the Lord all my life, I mean to play to my God as long as I live. May these thoughts of mine give the Lord as much delight as he gives me.

Dear friends, if our consciences do not condemn us, we approach God with confidence, and we obtain from him whatever we ask for, because we are obeying his commands and doing the things that please him.

My heart exults, my mind rejoices and my body can dwell secure, knowing that you will not hand me over to Sheol and not put your friend within danger of the grave. Instead you will show me the path of life, the unbounded joy of living in your presence.

The Son of God, Jesus Christ whom we preached to you... was not Yes and No; but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him.

God is love and whoever continues to love keeps in union with God and God with him.

(2 Corinthians 1: 17-18, RSV; Psalm 26: 2-3, JB; Psalm 38: 13-14, JB; Psalm 104: 33-34, JB; 1 John 3: 21-22, Goodspeed; Psalm 16: 9-11, JB; 2 Corinthians 1: 19-20, RSV; 1 John 4: 16, Goodspeed)

It is prayer which alone makes good sense of the past, illumines the present and makes the future hopeful. In the first half of life we are immersed in doing. We test our strength and innocence against the flood of experience which comes upon us, even over us. We taste in order to become wise, we enter in so that we know, we seek in the hope of being found. There are so many possibilities presented to us that we hardly contain our impatience, an impatience which later surprises us, gives cause for regret. We don't call 'procure me possibility'; we hope only for sufficient time to buy up all the experience possible.

In the second half of life we emerge from this welter of sensation to find that our necessary immersion in the world has left scars upon us. There are some regrets, there is some emptiness and longing. We are not satisfied; whatever we were looking for, that was not it. Our successes have not filled us, though we own that they were worth the labour. Our failures have dimmed the bright image of ourselves we entertained. We look about us with a view both widened and restricted by our experience. The fine things we hear ourselves saying have no corresponding beauty within. We paint ourselves into a corner with the varnish of appearance, even as God troubles our hearts with truth.

Now is the time of emergence. God comforts us by leading us into prayer. Some old securities and certainties he renews with paradox. Pride and hardness of heart he commutes into vulnerability. The love which we dwelt upon but which was not within us he puts into hearts renewed in tenderness. The creation we largely ignored in pursuit of more glittering prizes he fills with grandeur. We were afraid of dying and he allowed it to touch us in failures and disappointments, and having fallen so far, he raises us to comfort and joy. He satisfies longing and makes it increase. The cry of wretchedness is the cry 'procure me possibility'. God knows the wretchedness, hears the cry, answers it in and by prayer. The life of prayer discovers true riches.

From the Christian point of view everything... should serve for edification.

The sort of learning which is not... edifying is precisely for that reason unchristian. Every thing that is Christian must bear some resemblance to the address which a physician makes beside the sick bed.

Soren Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death

Salvation is humanly speaking the most impossible thing of all; but for God all things are possible. This is the fight of faith, which fights madly for possibility. For possibility is the only power to save. When one swoons, people shout for water, Eau-de-Cologne, Hoffman's Drops; but when one is about to despair the cry is, Procure me possibility, procure me possibility.

Soren Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death

We are free when we are living in a homeland, not when we are straying and breaking away. We are free when we are obeying some deep, inward voice of religious belief. Obeying from within. We are free when we belong to a living, organic, believing community, active in fulfilling some unfulfilled, perhaps unrealised purpose.

D.H. Lawrence, Studies in Classic American Literature

For only to faith is God alone of value, and God is God in that he desires nothing but faith... and just as faith is a trust which reaches out into the darkness, so God is the presence, affirmed in spite of every experience of his absence, of the one being who is worthy of faith, never disappoints, never fails, and deserves total reliance.

Gerhard Ebeling, Luther

It is from within us, deep down within us, that the new life proceeds and that means that anything which is not an expression of us will not be an expression of God either. In some sense the converse is also true. What is not an expression of God will not be a true expression of us.

Simon Tugwell, Reflections of the Beatitudes

If the soul loves God, its heart will not be turned in upon itself or preoccupied with its own pleasure and glory.

Rather, it will be intent upon giving honour and glory to God and upon giving him pleasure.

Francis Kelly Nemeck and Marie Theresa Coombs, The Spiritual Journey

We learn about sin only on the basis of the proclamation of grace and pardon.

Jacques Ellul, The Subversion of Christianity

He who is truly alive is free to die... the people who find death intolerable are those who have never been more than half alive... Death followed by resurrection, life through dying is the way things are. It is the principle of all existence. Hang on to what you have of life and you are lost. Let go, do the necessary dying and a fuller, richer quality of aliveness will be given to you.

John V. Taylor, Weep Not For Me

Being a child of yours, dear Father, is the best adulthood I've ever had! It's richer, by far than any combination of status, promotion, glittering things, beauty prizes and being 'special'. It gives me liberty to laugh at myself with enjoyment. Indeed, now I can grin and bear, laugh and be happy because you appreciate the joke and the joy better than I do. I am freed from envying the talent which others possess. I can say 'I don't know' without feeling the world reddening with embarrassment. 'Truth in the inward part' is what you give and it's wonderful, it's freedom! I see that I'm more ordinary than I thought and that others are deeper, more interesting, more loveable than I used to think. And the poor, dear God, the poor! I see them, more and more. For these wonders and for all the possibilities that he will yet draw from them, may God be praised!


A Benediction

On your head let there be humour,
In your breast let there be peace,
Out of your eyes much seeing,
Out of your words much ease.

Rowland Croucher ed., High Mountains Deep Valleys (Albatross/Lion 1991/1994) chapter 39

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