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Poured from a Clay Pot (Part 2)

July 7, 2014

I very much appreciate being back in Canada, enjoying time with my family and friends, participating in “Canadian” activities, delighting in the beauty of my “home and native land”. But my joy is tainted by a heart troubled by a gross obscenity—how far removed this world is from the world in which I lately spend the other half of my life, how uncaring of it. I plan to expand on this in my next post.

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Further to my last post, Highjacking Poverty? :

Despite Augustine Thompson’s reservations concerning his motives, it is impossible for me to ignore that Francis of Assisi has captured the imagination of more people, both Catholics and Protestants, Christians and non-Christians alike, than any other Catholic saint.

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In Haiti, the line between my self-imposed austerity and the poverty of those around me is far from thin. Voluntary poverty, an option only open to “haves” of this world, is not an ideal that has much meaning for them. Even though I have renounced many of the trappings of Canadian life and elected to “live like a Haitian”, I always hold a most powerful trump card: I can at any time leave my poverty behind and resume the life I left behind in Canada, albeit a life indelibly altered by my experience of Haiti. Even if my own resources were to be exhausted, I have a support network of family and friends who are in a position to help me get back on my feet. This allows a kind of care-less-ness to my poverty that most Haitians can never dream of, much less realize. Unlike them, I am free from preoccupation with the satisfaction of my physical needs, so can devote far more time and attention (and resources) to my spiritual ones. Thus the gap between their involuntary poverty and my voluntary poverty reflects the class distinction that separates the rich from the poor of this world, a distinction that has spiritual implications.

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The centuries-old assumption that the pursuit of theoretical theology and the pursuit of the practical theology were antithetical, and that the former was to be preferred over the latter as a more certain path toward authentic spirituality, I believe still holds sway. This assumption in my estimation has no scriptural basis.

pen-dividerThompson brought to my attention the use of the present tense in the first beatitude—”theirs is the kingdom of heaven”—as opposed to the future tense (“shall”), which is found in all the rest. Hmmm… Sounds to me as if Jesus is saying the kingdom of heaven is a present day earthly reality, and it belongs to the poor.

pen-dividerThe vivid depiction of poor relief in Matthew 25 as essential—the sine qua non of divine mercy—is compelling. As I see it, the Christian ideal is a life of active charity, a life for others.

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Some thoughts on wisdom:

We are living in the Information Age. Consequently many people put a very high value on information and knowledge. Although I personally put considerable stock in them, I think perhaps the current emphasis has made casualties of truth, beauty and wisdom.

Wisdom is different from intelligence.  Intelligence seeks certainty in knowledge, makes its goal the elimination of ambiguity.  Wisdom on the other hand, resists dualistic (either/or) thinking, endeavours to understand ambiguity more fully, to grasp the deeper meaning of what is known and to appreciate the limits of knowledge.

While the Greek philosophers held that wisdom begins in wonder, the Bible is of a somewhat differing opinion:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. (Proverbs 9:10 ESV)

I have written before about what I believe “fear of the Lord” is (Fear of the Lord, December 6, 2013). It is a fundamental understanding of the way things really are, that God exists and is engaged with His creation. In a nutshell, it is God-consciousness.

Scripture further tells me the nature of this wisdom:

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. (James 3:17 ESV)

Therefore, in my comprehension, a wise person is one who desires to deeply understand things, who is humble and aware of the limitations of their own knowing and of knowing itself, who, avoiding black-and white-thinking can see things from many perspectives, and who radiates compassion. I believe that personal wisdom begins with knowing who—and whose—I am, in appreciating that knowledge, and in living by a values system consistent with that understanding.

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I’m of the conviction that most people do not really look at the world; they just drive straight through it.

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You shall have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:3)

“At first glance, we may think this deals only with handmade likenesses of God. But it mostly refers to images of God that we hold in our heads.”

― Richard Rohr

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Anyone who has followed my blog at all cannot have missed that I have an ongoing love affair with quotes. I liberally salt my posts with them. In fact, I some time ago devoted an entire post to them (Quotography—A Little Help from My Friends, January 19, 2013).  At times I have framed a few of my favourites and hung them on the walls of my home. I harvest them from what I read and ferret them out on the Internet. I have a bulging file on my laptop dedicated to them. Why? For the answer to that, I serve you up a quote from Alema Pequoia, a frequent contributor to a number of my Internet haunts:

“Because they precisely and definitively express what we know, recognize, feel, believe, think, accept, imagine, hope, fear, desire, acknowledge, and/or have experienced. It is a recognizable life truth.” 

Often quotes excite resonance in me, echoing what is already in my soul. Sometimes they are harmonious notes adding their fresh voices to expand and enrich the unfinished symphony written there by the Great Composer. Occasionally they are dissonant notes demanding a rewriting of elements of the composition. When the curtain falls on this life and rises in the next, my magnum opus will be played before God. No matter how discordant that performance may be, I know my Father will be delighted and will join in with song. (Zeph. 3:17)

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Here are a few quotes that recently struck a chord with me. Perhaps they will be music to your ears as well. Or perhaps they will not be in keeping with your arrangement. We are all different.

 

“We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.”

― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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“These things will destroy the human race: politics without principle, progress without compassion, wealth without work, learning without silence, religion without fearlessness, and worship without awareness.”

― Anthony de Mello

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“Arrogance is someone claiming to have come to Christ, but they won’t spend more than five minutes listening to your journey because they are more concerned about their own well being, rather than being a true disciple of Christ. Blessed is the person that takes the time to heal and hear another person so they can move on.”

― Shannon L. Alder

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“We cannot suffer with the poor when we are unwilling to confront those persons and systems that cause poverty. We cannot set the captives free when we do not want to confront those who carry the keys. We cannot profess our solidarity with those who are oppressed when we are unwilling to confront the oppressor. Compassion without confrontation fades quickly to fruitless sentimental commiseration.”

― Henri J. M. Nouwen

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“We do know that no person can be saved except through Christ. We do not know that only those who know Him can be saved by Him.”

― C.S. Lewis

 

 

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