Monday, April 30, 2012

In God’s Image (Portals of Prayer)



‎"I was alive, I had the power of feeling;
I had instinct to keep myself safe and sound,
to preserve my own being,

which was a trace of the single unseen Being
from whom it was derived...

Should I not be grateful that so small a creature
possessed such wonderful qualities?

But they were all gifts from God,
for I did not give them to myself.
His gifts are good and the sum of them all
is my own self.
Therefore,
the God who made me
must be good
and all the good in me
is his."
St. Augustine 

In God’s Image

When we recognize an act of Christian love, why does it leave us feeling so blessed? Or why does excelling at something mean so much to us or seeing beautiful scenery move us to tears? The answer to all these questions is rooted in Christians being recreated in the image of God (Gen 1:26). To be made in God’s image means we are made to be like God, serving neighbor in penitent humble faith according to God’s will. That is why serving our neighbor helps us feel fulfilled. God loves sacrificially and unconditionally. No wonder we at times feel so blessed when God works His will through us and we reflect His image to our neighbor. God’s aesthetic greatness is ours to reflect to the best of our ability. So when we encounter beauty, we’re blessed. Our image of God was lost by sin, but as ones converted to faith in Jesus, we “have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Colossians 3:!0).

In our incessant chase for fulfillment, we will be most fulfilled when we reflect the nature and attributes of our Creator. God’s character is revealed in the Scriptures and in His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus embodies the fullness of God. God calls us and keeps us close to Him, that we may reflect His will, our Creator’s image, to our neighbor.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, by Your Spirit, make me more like You. Amen.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Lamb of God (Slice)


Lamb of God

Ralph Wood, professor of theology and literature at Baylor University, once asked a group of seminary students to compare two individuals: the modern, astute collegian who insists that sin and the fall of humanity are fallacies invented by the superstitious, and a primitive young man in a remote village whom you find in the woods sacrificing a chicken on a makeshift altar. "Which man is farther from the truth?" he asked. The students hemmed and hawed but hesitantly agreed that the pagan boy, however crudely, understood something the other did not. There is a need in our lives for atonement. There is a need for blood.

We have within us a basic sense of our desperate condition. As Malcolm Muggeridge regularly insisted, the depravity of humankind is at once the most unpopular of the Christian doctrines and yet the most empirically verifiable. We are aware—or reminded often—that we are not quite what we could be, what we might be, what we were intended to be. Something is wrong, something we yearn to see made right, but somehow find ourselves incapable of the kind of restoration we seek.

For generations, the Israelites labored to follow laws that were meant to atone for their sin and restore them to the presence of God: "And you shall provide a lamb a year old without blemish for a burnt offering to the LORD daily; morning by morning you shall provide it."(1) The language of sacrifice and offering was found throughout Near Eastern culture. But Israel's sacrifices were not the same as blood shed by those attempting to appease the many gods they feared and followed. The prophets sent throughout Israel's history were forever insisting that what God was commanding was something far more than the empty performance of sacrifice. God wanted sacrifices offered with hearts of worship, lives yearning to be in the presence of their creator, though recognizing the fear of such an act. The God of Israel wanted to be near his chosen people, and God made them a way, through the blood of a lamb.


When Christians speak of Christ as the Lamb of God, it might sound like a strange allegory, a symbolic code. The lamb is Christ. The lion is Christ. As with any metaphor, the risk is minimization, instantaneous recognition of the symbol and discontinuation of all that symbol might lead us to discover. But Christ as the lamb is not simply a metaphor. Oxford scholar John Lennox reminds us that these passages tell us not only who it is, but what it is. It is Christ as the lamb, the spotless lamb whose blood my life requires. The description moves well beyond symbolism. Christ is the Lamb whose blood atones my depravity, the Lamb who moves me forever into the presence of God. 


When the apostle John describes his vision of heaven in the book of Revelation, the Lamb is found in the center of a singing multitude: "Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders."(2) Thoughtfully Lennox asks: "But how can a slain lamb stand?" It is an image that poses so much beyond a static metaphor. The Lamb who bore my sins, forever bears the scars of my atonement,even as he stands. 

As the Lamb, Christ has reached a need we cannot. He has become the sacrifice we cannot give. He is the Lamb who was slain and yet stands so that we can stand in the presence of God. In these days of Easter, indeed, as the apostle instructs, behold the Lamb of God. The Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Cornerstone, the Shepherd, the Advocate who overcomes. The Slain Lamb stands! 

--Jill Carattini

(1) Ezekiel 46:13.
(2) Revelation 5:6.








"...Christ loved us
and gave himself up for us,
a fragrant offering
and sacrifice to God."
Ephesians 5:2

"For the Lamb in the midst of the throne
will be their shepherd,
and He will guide them
to springs of living water..."
Revelation 7:17


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Trust (Webbing)


One of Spider-Man's biggest characteristics is the ability to "sling" webs. He can use them to distract villains, wrap up criminals, and probably even to pick up girls (literally).


Most notably, though, is Spider-Man's ability to use these webs to carry him across Manhattan. The Spiderman movie makes this revelation seem pretty comical, but there is still something to it. Daily, hourly, perhaps even minutely, Spider-Man depends on the strength of his web slinging in order to carry his whole body through the air. He cannot fly and would be squashed (like a bug) on impact if his webbing would suddenly give way.

Spider-Man does not only trust that his webbing exists. He daily uses it. He trusts that it will continue to be there to support him and to carry him through any predicament that he may be in.


In this same way, we are to trust in God:

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding."
Proverbs 3:5

It is one thing to say, "Yeah, I believe God exists. I have faith that he is there." And a completely different thing to say, "Yeah, I believe in God. I have faith in him." The difference is in the understanding of the trust behind this faith.

Do you only "trust that God exists" or do you specifically "trust in him?" Do you just  know God is real, yet distance yourself from him? Or, do you lean on him, knowing that he will be there to support you and carry you through any predicament that you may find yourself in?

I encourage you to take the jump. Leap in faith. Know that he will be the web strong enough to carry you through.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Common Cross (Slice)


The Common Cross

"The cross," someone said recently, "has become so ordinary that we hardly see it anymore." The words at once sent through me a rush of lament, which then settled into a pool of reflection. How can this be true? How can an image once shameful enough to bow the proudest heads become ordinary? Could the gallows ever be innocuous? Would the death sentence of someone near us ever fail to get our attention?

Theodore Prescott is a sculptor who has spent a great deal of time thinking about the cross. In the 1980's he began working on a series of crosses using different materials, forms, and processes hoping to reconstitute the cultural and scriptural imagery of the Roman cross. In a sense, Prescott attempts to portray the incongruous. The Roman cross was a loathsome manner of execution that inflicted an anguished death; the Cross of Christ held a man who went willingly—and without guilt. Though a reflection of beauty and sacrifice, the cross is also an image of physical torture, inseparable from flesh and blood. There was a body on these beams. Its image bears both startling realities—the presence of outstretched limbs and the mystery of being scandalously vacant. These contrasts alone are replete with a peculiar depth. Yet, our daily intake of the cross "precludes contemplation," notes Prescott. The cross has become so ordinary that we hardly see it anymore.

Maybe he is right. But if the cross has become merely a symbol of Christianity, an emblem of one religion in a sea of others, it is still a symbol that stands secluded and unique. Even as an image among many, it remains conspicuously on its own. The symbol of the cross is an instrument of death. Far from ordinary, it suggests, at the very least, a love quite beyond us, scandalous, and impenetrable. Perhaps it is we who have become ordinary, our senses dulled to unconsciousness by the daily matters we give precedence. Even in his own time, the apostle Paul lamented such a blurring of the cross, calling us to a greater vision. "[A]s I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven" (Philippians 3:18-20).

For those who will not look carefully, the cross can be perceived as foolish or not perceived at all. It can be stripped of meaning or emptied of beauty, hope, and depth. But it cannot be emptied of Christ.

...

---Jill Carattini




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Artist’s Statement: 
I stumbled into making crosses almost 30 years ago. I made a piece that many people saw as a cruciform image, though that was not my intention. But the resemblance was clear, and started me thinking about crosses and their imagery. In the early 1980s I embarked on a series. Two crosses from that initial series, Florentine and Selma Cross are exhibited here. My goal was to make useful liturgical objects for the church.

If the purpose of the cross is symbolic, the question is “what is being symbolized?” In my experience the answer found in too many church crosses is, “not much.” Their conventionality precludes contemplation. Their ubiquity and repetition make them almost invisible, and possibilities for spiritual reflection are muffled by a barely audible drone. So after that initial series, I resolved to treat the cross as sculpture, and to draw upon the forms, materials, and ideas that moved me as an artist. My goal was to begin to reconstitute this basic Christian symbol.

The sculpture I love has a strong material presence, a visible sense of the processes involved in making, and simple forms originating in nature or utilitarian objects. The imagery of this kind of art is not divorced from its physical embodiment. By contrast, we may easily forget that television imagery depends on a stream of electrons, since we are so taken with the projected characters and stories. But the sculptural imagery I prefer requires some interaction of form, material, and process. 


This interaction can be readily seen in the Salt Lick Cross, which was assembled, and then taken to a pasture where cattle used it. The cattle modified the block forms of the salt as they drew sustenance from it, and the rich rust patina of the steel background was the result of corrosion from the cow’s saliva. Both the material and the process join with the cross form to create an image with specific, suggestive content.

Crosses like Law and Grace and Broken Tablet use paired stones which are often associated with the law. But they also resemble instruments or tools, and some people see them as weapons, or containing the potential for violence. It is important, I think, to recall that the cross was an instrument of torture, and whatever we derive from its image is inextricably linked to that. 

Initially I made a sharp distinction between a cross and a crucifix, but over time that historically rooted difference blurred in my mind. Both Burnt Cross and In the Shadow have figural form. While the Protestant preference for the empty cross is understandable in the light of history, I do not believe we can finally separate the flesh and blood of Christ from its painful union with the cross.

I have included one piece, Taste and See, that is obviously not a cross. The title comes from Psalm 34: 8. The reconstitution of the cross is not just about new images for faith or art. It is something that can be tasted. The honey in this piece, Tupelo Honey, is the one kind of honey that never crystallizes. It always stays fresh.

---Theodore Prescott


Original source:

Stephen Colbert




(the original voice of Yoda and the Muppets),

"What's it like to play a character who isn't really you?"
*They both laugh.*
This question brings in a little insight on
Stephen's persona while the tapes are rolling.

"Before every show, Stephen visits the green room and tells that evening's guest the same thing: "My character's an idiot. Your job is to set him straight."

Easier said than done, especially since the first part's a lie. Stephen's character may ask idiotic questions, but they're so unexpected and diabolically entangling that watching his guests fight their way toward daylight is unalloyed pleasure.

On The Colbert Report, every day is Opposite Day. Because of how his humor works, the audience finds meaning through sustained inference, which is a lot more fun than it sounds. Colbert's riffs are so ingeniously convoluted and deeply weird that the post-reason wingers have no response to him. They just have to absorb the punishment, night after night.

I'd like to add here that Stephen and I are old friends, but I can't. I barely know the man. But like millions of others, I revere him as the class clown I never knew — the one without a trace of mean. How he can be so devastating and endearing at the same time I cannot say, but it sure wears well. Look for him to hold down this spot on TIME's list for years to come."

                                                                                             --Garry Trudeau


One of the great aspects of Colbert's show is that Stephen is a truly great man and actually smarter than most people know.

His show:
http://www.hulu.com/watch/352496/the-colbert-report-thu-apr-19-2012

Original source (TIME Magazine): http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2111975_2111976_2111953,00.html #ixzz1sb12UoX4

Colbert and a Cardinal:
http://genesiseightseven.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-faith-in-funnies-colbert-and.html

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Pascal's God-Shaped Vacuum


"'Because,' say some,
'you have believed from childhood that
a box was empty when you saw nothing in it,
you have believed in the possibility of a vacuum.

This is an illusion of your senses,
strengthened by custom,
which science must correct.'

'Because,' say others,
'you have been taught at school
that there is no vacuum,
you have perverted
your common sense
which clearly comprehended it,

and you must correct this
by returning to your first state.'

Which has deceived you,
your senses or your education?"
Blaise Pascal
Penseés 82




"All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end....

And yet after such a great number of years, no one without faith has reached the point to which all continually look....

A trial so long, so continuous, and so uniform, should certainly convince us of our inability to reach the good by our own efforts.... And thus, while the present never satisfies us, experience dupes us, and from misfortune to misfortune leads us to death, their eternal crown.

What is it then that this desire and this inability proclaim to us, but that there was once in man a true happiness of which there now remain to him only the mark and empty trace, which he in vain tries to fill from all his surroundings, seeking from things absent the help he does not obtain in things present? But these are all inadequate, because the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object, that is to say, only by God Himself.

He only is our true good, and since we have forsaken Him, it is a strange thing that there is nothing in nature which has not been serviceable in taking His place; the stars, the heavens, earth, the elements, plants, cabbages, leeks, animals, insects, calves, serpents, fever, pestilence, war, famine, vices, adultery, incest. And since man has lost the true good, everything can appear equally good to him, even his own destruction, though so opposed to God, to reason, and to the whole course of nature."
Penseés 425

"True nature being lost,
everything becomes its own nature;
as the true good being lost,
everything becomes its own true good."
Penseés 426

"Man does not know in what rank to place himself.
He has plainly gone astray,
and fallen from his true place
without being able to find it again.
He seeks it anxiously and unsuccessfully
everywhere in impenetrable darkness."
Penseés 427

"...the darkness has not understood it."
John 1:5

Man, left to his own means
searches hungrily.

The vacuum in his heart
needs to be filled.

Without God,
he loses his true nature,
he loses good,
he loses himself.






Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Twin (Kaine)


"...the Twin..."
John 11:16

I'm sure that I don't have to tell you that there are many versions of Spider-Man out there. There's always the basic Amazing Spider-Man (the normal one of Earth 616). There are the Identity Crisis Spider-Man(s). There's a powerless Spider-Man, there's a zombie Spider-Man, and there's an Indian Spider-Man. There are "What If?" universe Spider-Man(s). There are Spider-Man(s) from different time periods (1602, Noir, and 2099). There's also an Ultimate universe that includes at least one Spider-Man (Peter Parker) who is now deceased and his replacement, Miles Morales. For a longer list click here.

It is always interesting to read how different these Spider-Man(s) can be while remaining so similar. They tend to believe the same things ("With great power comes great responsibility."), they tend to act the same (both nerdy and heroic), and they all could be the real Spider-Man under different circumstances. There's always a little bit of Peter Parker in there somewhere.


One of the most interesting series of different Spider-Man(s) is in the realm of the clones. The Jackal decides to defeat Spider-Man by creating clones of him. The first of Jackal's clones is Kaine.


Being Jackal's first attempt at re-creating Peter Parker, Kaine has some physical defects. Not only that, he slowly degenerates. Yet, in other areas Kaine is stronger than Pete ever was. Not only does he have Pete's strength, speed, and agility, he has also been created with a "Precognitive Sense" which is like the "Spider Sense" on steroids (granting glimpses of the future instead of only a warning feeling). He also has the "Mark of Kaine" that releases acid from his hands (from an enhanced version of clinging to walls like Pete's hands do).


I'm not sure how Kaine overcomes his degenerating problem, but by the end of it he switches sides. Instead of remaining brainwashed by the Jackal, Kaine sides with Pete. Yet, because of his dark background he walks off into the sunset.


Recently, Kaine has resurfaced as Houston's protector: Scarlet Spider (a semi-darker version of Manhattan's [Peter Parker] Spider-Man).

In the Bible, the disciple Thomas was known as "the Twin" (literally what his name [T'oma] meant in Aramaic) or duplicate. It is not clear who Thomas' other twin was. He could have been ours. In a different time, in a different place, under different circumstances, we could have been Thomas. Thomas could have been us.

We could have been the one who, after Jesus had finished discussing his death along with Lazarus's, stated (perhaps skeptically or sarcastically), "Let us also go [with Jesus], that we may die with him" (John 11:16).

Or, we could have been Thomas here:

"Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, 'We have seen the Lord.' But he said to them, 'Unless I see his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe" (John 20:24-25).

We could have been the one missing when Jesus returned. We could have been the one to make the claim, in denial, that we could never believe that Jesus had resurrected unless we saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands.

"...Jesus came and stood among them and said, 'Peace be with you.' Then he said to Thomas, 'Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.' Thomas answered him, 'My Lord and my God!' Jesus said to him, 'Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed'" (John 20:25-29).

Jesus came back to Thomas, just as he had come back for us (in his resurrection). He comes back in faith through the Holy Spirit. As long as we do not deny Christ (as Thomas originally had), we can believe.

In many ways, we could have been Thomas. We doubt. We are unsure. We become skeptical or sarcastic. But, at the same time, we are not quite the same.

Like Kaine, Thomas lived his own life. Even though it may be similar to ours, both living out the Gospel and sharing it with those around us. We live 2000 years later. We cherish the faith that Christ has died and rose to redeem us for the sin that we constantly commit. We trust the news that he is risen, instead of being filled with doubt. We believe although we "have not seen."

God's peace.







For more information specifically on the clone saga:
http://estellabooks.blogspot.com/2008/12/back-to-90s-clone-saga.html

This has been part of the Spider-Man Series

Kony 2012: Cover The Night (Cause)

Friday is:
Cover The Night
I will continue to post the daily videos here:


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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

What If? (Fallen Son)



"What if... Iron Man had died?"

Not long after Captain America had been assassinated, the Fallen Son graphic novel was written, and the whole event seemed to be over, Marvel came out with this "What If?"

This book goes through all of the same stages as the other one had (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance), but instead of dealing with the loss of America's Son, Cap', the universe had lost it's favorite billionaire, playboy, philanthropist, and hero, Tony Stark (Iron Man). Heroes and civilians alike took his death as hard as Cap's. Once someone who seems to be untouchable falls, anything could happen.


The really odd thing about this story line is that a lot of things stay the same. The Civil War is still going on, Ms. Marvel still looses her cool, and Cap' is still arrested. While in prison, Cap' receives this letter:

Steve,

I hope you never have to read this, old friend, because if you do, it means something terrible has happened.... It means I'm dead.... I suppose it shouldn't come as much of a surprise, really.... It's funny, though. I always prided myself on being a futurist--constantly thinking a leap ahead of everyone else.... Apparently, that leap wasn't nearly far enough....

But this letter is about looking forward--not back.... It doesn't matter what killed me. All that matters is what happens next... This is about my ideas--the plans and the inventions that I hoped would make the world a better place.... This is about making sure those things don't fall into the wrong hands.... I don't even want to imagine the suffering that could cause....

That's where you come in.... I need your help, Steve.... I need you to keep an eye on things now that I can't anymore--which is a lot to ask, I know, after what I've put you through.... Still, you're the only one I trust to make certain everything I was working for doesn't fall apart without me... and to ensure that the threats that I wasn't around to predict don't end up blindsiding us in my absence....

Our war may be over, Steve, but we both know that it won't be the last one.... When the time comes, the world will still need heroes.... It will still need you.... And when the fighting is over and history is written... I can only hope that we will be remembered as more than just heroes.... I hope that we will be remembered as I will always remember us... As friends.

                                                  --Tony

While Cap' remains imprisoned and powerless reading this letter, Ms. Marvel almost kills Luke Cage (however impossible that may seem), Pepper Pots goes into a mental break down, the Red Skull purchases Stark's auctioned off Iron Man suits, and the next crisis in the Marvel universe happens. The Skrulls invade. But, this time, Earth was even less ready.


"It wasn't supposed to be this way..."
The Watcher

In the real universe, Cap' is able to come back. The gun that had been used to assassinate him really just teleported him through different time periods of his own life. Eventually he was able to come back. Tony's death, on the other hand, was permanent. He was squashed, obliterated. There is no coming back.

In a way, this devotion is the opposite of last week's. We addressed who Cap' was and why his death meant so much and compared that to who Christ is and how that gave meaning behind his death. Now, we take a look at what would have happened if Iron Man would have died instead of America's Son. In this light, we may be able to contrast what would have happened if just a man would have died, instead of the Son of God.

If just a man had died, the world would have still reacted, like the reaction to many martyrs. The man might have been glorified or even inspired faith in others.Yet, there would have been drastic repercussions. Instead of Ms. Marvel almost killing Luke Cage, God would have still needed to condemn the world. Without Christ's resurrection, he would neglect forgiveness knowing that the world is unable to redeem itself. Like Pepper Pots, those close to the man would suffer a greater loss than those close to Christ. The man's death would have had less meaning. Some might have lost faith in any god after watching their dear friend suffer without cause. Like the Red Skull buying the suits of Iron Man, Satan would still own humanity. We would remain slaves to sin, not knowing redemption. Worst of all, more evident than any of these previous things, the Spiritual battle and war for the world would have been lost. God would know that the battle is coming (just like the Skrulls arriving), but Christ would not have already won. Heaven would be ill-prepared and weak instead of already proclaimed as victor.

In the end, there is no way that a mere (and imperfect) man could have bared the sin of the world on his shoulders. Even if he had, like Stark, he would have remained dead. Christ alone was able to defeat death. This was not only so that he might be saved from Satan's clutches, but that we might be saved too. The war has not been lost, but won.

This has been the final installment of the Super Inc. Fallen Son series.

Ron Guyatt (Artist)





"Science is no more than
an investigation of a miracle
we can never explain,
and art is
an interpretation
of that miracle."

Ron Guyatt is another artist who creates prints that amaze me. He takes ideas, many from videogames, and forms beautiful renditions of them.






















"There was a smell of Time
in the air tonight.
He smiled and turned
the fancy in his mind.
There was a thought.
What did time smell like?"






"The Martians were there--
in the canal--
reflected
in the water...

Guyatt's newest collection is compiled of tourist posters for Mars.

...The Martians stared
back up at them for a long,
long silent time from
the rippling water."










Quotes from Ray Bradbury's

The Martian Chronicles


"In a recent issue of the New Yorker, Ray Bradbury wrote about discovering science fiction stories as a child growing up in Waukegan, Il., ... 'I would go out to that lawn on summer nights and reach up to the red light of Mars and say, 'Take me home!' I yearned to fly away and land there in the strange dusts that blew over dead-sea bottoms toward the ancient cities'."

Guyatt on DeviantArt.com

Another Blogger's Guyatt post

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Cross or Compartment (Slice)


"Whatever you do,
Do all to the glory of God."
1 Cor. 10:31


It is similar to the parent who defers the questioning child with the evocation to "go ask" the other parent. Professors who have dedicated their lives to the study of a particular subject are not fond of venturing into unrelated territories. So the student who asks a theological question in economics class is told to ask his theology professor, and the student who asks an economic question in theology class is told to ask his economics professor. The admonishment is laced with the not-so subtle, though common and accepted, language of specialization, privatization, and compartmentalization—namely, stick to the subject at hand and keep these things properly separated.

Professor of theology William Cavanaugh is aware of the academic phenomenon of deflecting such questions, the cultural milieu that encourages compartmentalization, and the natural tendency of students to rebel against it. He sees in students an authentic discomfort with the idea that we need to compartmentalize our lives, a bold awareness that our culturally growing drive to keep politics from theology or theology from finance and religion from law doesn't actually work. "I think they have a very good and real sense," notes Cavanaugh, "that in real life things are not separated: that the way you buy has a lot to do with the way you worship and who you worship and what you worship."(1) Cavanaugh encourages this awareness by commending the kinds of questions that recognize compartmentalization as unlivable, and by doing the historical work that shows this notion of separable entities as a modern, credulous construction in the first place.

Compartmentalization may well be a way of coping with a world that wants to keep the confusion of many religions out of the public square, but it is evident that it is not a very good coping mechanism. Each isolated discipline wants to discuss on some authentic level the good or benefit of all as it pertains to their subjects. And yet they somehow want to bracket any and all questions that might lean too closely toward things of a spiritual nature—purpose, meaning, human nature, morality. While such restrictions might successfully allow us to avoid stepping too closely to religion, in the fancy footwork it takes to do so, we end up sidestepping the actual subject as well.

On the opposite side of these contemporary fences, spirituality is restricted to private realms, personal thoughts, or a single day in the week, and thus becomes far more like one of life's many commodities than an all-encompassing rule of life. Separate from the world of bodies and societies, the world of hearts and souls is not seen as appropriate or even capable of informing our understanding of business or capitalism, the principles behind our daily choices, how we live, what we buy, or what we eat. The presuppositions here are equally destructive of the true identity of the thing we have compartmentalized. Held tightly in such compartments, the Christian way ceases to be a "way" at all.

So what if our categories are wrong? If our compartments merely confuse and obscure, failing to be the coping mechanisms we think they are, will we remove them? And what does life look like without such divisions? What if Christianity is not a category of thought at all, a set of beliefs, or a religion that can be privatized without becoming something else entirely? What if the life of faith is not about what we think or what we do, but who we are? Such a way would exist over and above every category of thought, every compartment and realm.

In fact, long before theology was ushered out of the public square, out of politics, economics, and the sciences, it was considered to be the highest science, the study of the rational Mind behind our own rational minds. It was the discipline that made sense of every other discipline, the subject that united every subject. Such a perspective is inherently foreign to the contemporary mindset. But it cannot be shooed away like a meddling religion or deferred like an unwanted question without dismissing some sense of cohesion—and without dismissing Christ himself. His very life is a refutation of compartmentalized thought, belief, and action. His cross was neither public nor private; it spanned both, and every century following its own.

In dire contrast to the harried and highfalutin rules of compartmentalization, Jesus's rule of life was undivided and down-to-earth, pertaining indivisibly to hearts and souls, bodies and societies. He paid theologically-informed attention to every day and everyday lives, and the institutions, ideologies, and systems that shaped them. He went to his death showing the inseparable nature of the spiritual and the physical, who we are, how we live, and what we believe. Those who follow him to the cross, through Good Friday and each day beyond it, do so similarly.

-- Jill Carattini

(1) William Cavanaugh with Ken Myers, Mars Hill Audio Journal, Volume 95, Jan/Feb 2009.
(2) Richard J. Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home (New York: HarperCollins, 1992), 27.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Character and Sacrifice (Fallen Son)


These past five weeks, we have been going over the Fallen Son series and how it pertains to Lent. Yet, both of these instances, Cap's and Christ's deaths, would have been much less significant if we did not already know who these men were. Let's take a step back to remember.



Captain America, without hesitation, fell on a grenade for his comrades. Even though he probably never really knew any of them and had a long life ahead of him, he was willing to give it all in order to save these few. That, my friends is more than patriotism, loyalty, or even bravery. It's courage.

Cap' always did the right thing, he was a person that any man, woman, or child would learn to admire. This was not because he was handsome, all-powerful, or witty; but, because his virtue shown through. He cared for those around them like a brother. He stood up for them, he guarded them, and he would have given his life for them. Cap' didn't turn out as goody-two shoes as Cyclops or as cheesy as Superman, who both get on peoples' nerves sometimes simply because of how perfect they tend to be. Cap' did the right thing, like they did, but not only because it was right. It seemed to be part of his character. He didn't choose to lead the X-Men because it was his responsibility, and he didn't defend Earth just because he had the ability to do so. He did what he did because that was who he was. And, he never took the easy way out. He did what was right, no matter how painful it tended to be. You could never see Cap' as a villain. Even when he legally was (during the Marvel Civil War), it almost forced you to believe that what was being called "right" must have been completely wrong. What made him great wasn't his powers, it was his character and who he was.


Anyone in their right mind would choose to stand by Cap's side. Due, in fact, that he would already have volunteered to be on yours.



This week we specifically, remember the time of Jesus' life between his joyful entrance into Jerusalem, his betrayal at the Garden of Gethsemane, his crucifixion, and death (all leading up to his resurrection on Easter). Yet, all of these things (except the resurrection) would have been extremely less important if we did not know who Jesus was; and only saw him only as a man who was glorified, suffered, and died. Faithfully, we know that he is God

It may have seemed as if I had just glorified a man, Cap'. But, imagine how much greater Christ, as God, had been for us. He became even less ("He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross" Philippians 2:8.), so that we could be redeemed as much, much more. Like Cap', it wasn't Christ's miracles or powers that made him great, it was who he was and what he did for us.

Just like Cap' turned himself in to end the bloodshed of the Civil War (the end of Civil War 7 [1]), Christ was willing to go with Judas and the soldiers that night in the garden. He could have put up a fight, fled, or divinely slaughtered them all; but, he chose not to. Christ showed more than loyalty, bravery, and even courage. He displayed limitless love. This is even more love than we or Cap' could be able to muster for his common allies.

He sacrificed himself for us, even more so than Cap' was willing to sacrifice himself. "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). Not only did Jesus Christ humble himself to become man and die, he faced death and defeated it. He overpowered Satan and rose again. He stood by our side not only in front of Satan, but also before God. Jesus intercedes and pays for our sins so that we do not get the penalty that we not only deserve, but a debt that we fall into again and again with our own sin.

Yeah, Cap' was good. He was the best. But, Christ... Christ was perfect.



[1] I was going to focus on this point more in this devotion, but thought that doing a parody of Hebrews 3 ("Jesus Greater Than Moses") with "Jesus Greater Than Moses" would have been even better.

Be Still


"To choose time for silence is to deliberately take a route against our nature." 

"If you are speaking, you are not listening.
If you are not listening, you are not learning.
All too often, when I see people talk,
I get the impression that rather than listening,
they're just waiting to speak.

When one learns to meditate and silence the mind,
one also learns the patience and the receptiveness
to really take in what another person is saying.

But you cannot receive that knowledge
the other person has to offer
if you are making noise in the meantime." 

"Be still, and know that I am God."
Psalm 46:10



Original source:
(I do not endorse many of her other philosophies)
http://silverspiral.org/index.php/home/item/112-silence-the-virtue-of-the-north
(One of the darkest forms of witchcraft is the ability to spin the truth with their lies, likes strands to a spider-web. I was able to point out some of her truth within the lie.)

The Silence Is Not Empty II (Slice)


"I don't want the absence of sound, I want the absence of noise. Listening is worship."
--Gordon Hempton, an audio ecologist.(1)

For the Christian church, Holy Week begins a time of silence, a week of sitting in the dark with the jarring events from the triumphal entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem to the march of Christ to the grave. Holy Week moves the world through the shouts of Palm Sunday to the empty space of Holy Saturday. Though the Christian story clearly and loudly ends on the note of triumph and resurrection, there is a great silence in between, a great darkness we believe is necessary to sit with.

Writing of Holy Saturday, the day most marked with this silence, theology professor Alan Lewis says of the Christian story: "Ironically, the center of the drama itself is an empty space. All the action and emotion, it seems, belong to two days only: despair and joy, dark and light, defeat and victory, the end and the beginning, evenly distributed in vivid contrast between what humanity did to Jesus on the first day and what God did for him on the third... [Yet] between the crucifying and the raising there is interposed a brief, inert void: a nonevent surely—only a time of waiting in which nothing of significance occurs and of which there is little to be said. It is rare to hear a sermon about Easter Saturday; for much of Christian history the day has found no place in liturgy and worship it could call its own."(2)

Perhaps this is because we are generally uncomfortable with silence, uncomforted by waiting. We don't understand a messiah who stands at the crossroads of an identity as a deliverer, a political hero who could fight with force for our salvation and that of a servant, a messiah who chooses intentional suffering, who chooses to walk us through darkness on the way to redemption. If Holy Week is filled with events that silence us in disbelief, Holy Saturday levels us with the silence and emptiness that is the end of God.

Yet Holy Week attempts to prepare the world precisely for this silence. For certainly, here, after the end of God on Easter Saturday, we find not only the absence of sound, the absence of noise, but the end of the world—confirming our despair and doubt, the fear that history is meaningless, that evil is in control, and our future perilous. Such silence is one in which we can only manage a redirected cry for "Hosanna," a reiterating of the lighthearted cheers of Palm Sunday, a desperate prayer for a Messiah to save us now, to deliver us from evil and emptiness.

...

This is the story Holy Week sets before the world this week. There is much to listen for in between the crucifying and the raising. There is always much silence and darkness to sit with, but it is never fully empty.

-- Jill Carattini

(1) Diane Daniel, "Listening is worship," Ode Magazine, July 2008.
(2) Alan E. Lewis, Between Cross and Resurrection: A Theology of Holy Saturday (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001), 1.


Monday, April 2, 2012

The Silence Is Not Empty (Slice)


Willa, as a young adult, was hospitalized and classified as schizophrenic of an undifferentiated type. She was born into a home where she was unwanted and abused. Though was a bright child, everyone took advantage of her. She grew up with no sense of boundary or healthy relationships. Tragically, even the very individuals who pledged to help her became abusive towards her. In the second year of graduate school, she finally broke down and could not finish her term.

In the hospital, Willa sat for hours rocking her doll and staring into space. The head nurses expected that she would never be able to leave the hospital.

One day, while Willa was sitting in her chair, someone came up behind her, put arms around her and said, "The silence is not empty; there is purpose for your life." She turned around, but there was no one there.

The power of that experience began to build sanity within Willa. She began to distinguish illusion from reality. Even though no one thought that she would ever leave the hospital, she was released after three weeks. Eventually, she was baptized and returned to her original calling (the same profession that she had been in graduate school for).

God is still in the silence when all else seems lost, Loder writes: "The intimacy of the Spirit runs deeper than family violence and neglect, and has immense restorative power."(1) Truly, the intimacy of God runs deeper than silence.

This is the story Holy Week sets before the world this week. There is much to listen for in between the crucifying and the raising. There is always much silence and darkness to sit with, but it is never fully empty.

-- Jill Carattini

(1) Story as told by James Loder, The Logic of the Spirit (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1998), 264-265.