Suffering and Love

I highly recommend to you the article and photos of my friend Courtney, which are in the the latest edition of Catapult. Courtney is an amazing photographer, a fact which combined with her compassionate heart for the destitute and suffering makes for a powerful combination that illustrates the brokeness of the world and the manifestation God’s love. Courney writes:
“Mother Theresa said that “we can do no great things, only small things with great love” and that is so much of what my experience in Calcutta was. I didn’t do anything great. I simply loved as best as I could, and hope that God used that and will continue to use me in the future. Isn’t that what he wants of us all? To love Him with all of our hearts, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.”
Be sure to check out the rest of Courtney’s article as well as the slide show of her pictures.
in sickness.jpg
Indeed, I commend to you all the articles in this issue on sickness, especially Dr. Stan’s, which is a thoughtful reflection on the Eucharist and Psalm 103; Ryan’s, which reminds me a great deal of the surgeries and struggles my own niece has had to undergo; and Allison’s, which is a beautifully written piece, full of wisdom, which is surprising from someone who has just graduated college. Here is an excerpt:
“This is the other part of the story. We suffer, and the world suffers, and we hear its groaning along with our own groaning: the beeps of IV machines, the smell of the cancer ward, the slow fracture of friendships, the reports of famine, the suffering that marks our living in the not-yetness of the Kingdom of God. Suffering marks our identities, and it also marks our calling as disciples. It is in weeping with those who weep, mourning with those who mourn, that we hear the brokenness of the Gospel, the brokenness of Christ’s own body, the brokenness that brings us life. It is in the taking up the suffering of others that we know ourselves to be the people of God, called to minister to our neighbors lying in the ditch, unheard, unnoticed, silenced. Before we can speak and act, we have to listen to the groaning, we have to recognize that suffering exists, we have to encounter suffering for what it is in order to hope, to heal, to rejoice and return home. Let us take up that rejoicing in the not-yetness of the kingdom. Let us speak the truth about the world around us. Let us allow ourselves to speak the truth about our suffering world, our suffering selves, our suffering-and-ascended Lord. Let us tell the whole story, and in that telling, may we yearn for the true freedom of the children of Godfreedom to tell the truth, freedom to listen, freedom to embrace shalom.”

Amazing. Truly.

I became aware of this story by reading the blog of an efriend, Joy. It made her cry. It deeply moved me, both because of the power of the performance and the refreshment of truly seeing substance triumph over style, when so often the opposite is the case these days. This audtion is an amazing video, because while watching it you really get the sense that it is like the documenting of a bolt out of the blue.
Paul, it turns out, has had some training and performance experience, but only stictly amateur stuff. Here is his website with more videos.

The Four Hundredth Post

In response to Kirk Ward’s suggestion that I do something special for my four hundredth post, below are some categories I came up with and the winning blog entries for each. Thanks, Kirk, I am not sure I would have noticed that milestone, and though 500 posts might be a more logical marker for this sort of thing, who knows when that might actually occur, what with my beginning seminary in the Fall and what not. I would like to have reprinted all the blog banners I have used, but they are on my computer at work. So, perhaps that will be the first of the next hundred posts.
*The blog that inspired the Effect: Hey, I even tried to rip off its brown decor. Thanks for the inspiration and early encouragement, Jeremy, and for the intro to Catapult.
*The first post (from the Blogger Days): What I consider to be my greatest poem.
*The most controversial series of posts: The reposting of this story led to me to discover that I had deeply wounded a friend five years earlier. It is an odd thing to bleed in public, but it is alright when it leads to healing. Here and here and here. Beware of page-long comments 🙂
*The series I most wanted comments on but didn’t get any: Ah, that would have to be the Ringbearer sonnets. The Samwise one still needs a major overhaul. Here and here and here and here.
*The most obviously vulnerable post: No contest.
*The posts most meant not to be obviously vulnerable, but not succeeding: Ah, you are just going to have to play along at home and find these ones on your own. And I don’t want to hear about them. You shouldn’t have to look too hard 🙂 This is a blog after all.
*The wisest post: It’s perhaps a bit arrogant to come up with that category, but when you learn through pain and God gives you the ability to comfort others with the comfort you have received, well, I have no problem in championing that wisdom, even if I did write it down.
*This post changed everything: And I’m thankful for it.
*My favorite comment: Can you which one it is? It’s my favorite because of the comment, but more even for who the commenter was.
Well, that will do! But before I bring this in for a landing, let me just say thank you to all you readers. And a special thank you to all you readers who have also commented. I have really appreciated the conversations we have had, silly and serious. If you have been only in the former category and wish to join the latter, this post would be a lovely time to say “Hey!”
Blessings on you all.

George MacDonald’s Scotland

I was looking up a bit of information on George MacDonald today. He is the author/theologian who C.S. Lewis called his spritual master. I have to tell you, though, he does have some strange, and I believe ultimately unorthodox and aberrant theological ideas. In brief, he is more or less a universalist, believing that ultimately everyone will submit to the stern mercy of God. Paradoxically, or perhaps not so paradoxically, the good characters in his books are stringently holy in a seemingly inachievable, though I must say in a very winsome, way.
I want to look into him more, not because I believe universalism is true (though I sure would like it to be), but because I am genuinely interested in what manner of holiness we as Christians are intended to attempt and manifest in our lives. Sometimes I feel that even asking that question in a Reformed, grace-not-works contexts is a non-starter, that peoples’ heresy-o-meters are immediately raised, but still I think it an entirely biblical question, one that I have paid entirely too little attention to in recent years.
At any rate, all of this is not the purpose of this post. That was to share with you this vision of George MacDonald’s Scotland, provided on the website of Michael Phillips, MacDonald’s main champion, editor, and popularizer of our times. Aside from the children’s books (The Princess and the Goblin, etc.), it is actually only a few of his versions of MacDonald that I have read, which are more or less like moral romances set in Scotland, and published by Bethany House (which, not coincidently is a publishing house, I believe, associated with the holiness wing of Protestantism). I even have as yet to read Phantastes, the fantasy book that deepy impacted C. S. Lewis. At the current momemt, though, it is these pictures which are deeply impacting me. Oh my, I want to go.