Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Meditation XXXIV--The Love of Argument

Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called "knowledge," for by professing it some have swerved from the faith.

Much of this letter from Paul to Timothy is about people who, it seems, love to argue and stir up controversy. Sure, there are those who believe something (even false things) and also believe it is important to fight what they believe is "the good fight." They may even quote the verse about that fight when defending their vision of what is right or true. But they neglect the verse that comes before it: "Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness."

Of course believers should defend the Gospel, right orthodoxy, and the Christian life. But when our arguments pull us away from that Gospel, the good news, and the life we are charged with, then we are better off shutting up and letting opponents think they are right. Truth will win out. Maybe not today. However, as disciples of Christ, we must trust the God of Truth.

All the Bible verses we memorize will do us no good if we shame the Lord by neglecting his commands as we speak. The devil knows the Bible too, and he delights when anger and self-righteousness pull us away from the love of Jesus.

Lord, as I study your Word and strive to live your Way, let me not become puffed up, but help me to stay close to you, and to meet with your Love those who disagree with me. In the Name of the one who died even for the ones who do not love me, Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

God Particles: PoemsGod Particles: Poems by Thomas Lux
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mr. Lux never ceases to astound and delight me with his mastery of surreal landscapes and the possibilities of language. I don't always "get it," but I always want to.

This collection seems more personal than others, but I confess I am not sure how I would know. It isn't that there are so many voices, but the same voices speaking from different perspectives.

The title poem is a gem.

And speaking of gems, one should never say of Lux's poems that they are diamonds in the rough. In his world the diamonds are rough, and sometimes the rough shines.

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Monday, February 24, 2014

Warmth and Bite

The Blind Swimmer: Early Selected Poems 1970 - 1975The Blind Swimmer: Early Selected Poems 1970 - 1975 by Thomas Lux
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Clearly Mr. Lux has been writing surprising and thought-provoking verse for many years. This little collection demonstrates the strange combination of charm and shocking imagery that would become even more pronounced in his later poems.

It is difficult to compare Thomas Lux to anyone because his work is so unique, but it is not uniqueness for its own sake. There is warmth and bite here, like the cat that purrs and scratches, and leaves you to figure out how the motivation for both is the same.

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Friday, February 07, 2014

Not Holding Fast

Paul warns the Colossians against people who are “puffed up without reason by his mind, not holding fast to the Head.” I see this in those who have stolen the language of religion to create a formula, an equation for hate in no way in line with the Gospel of Christ or the Scripture they claim to live by. These would create burdens for others they would not lift themselves.

But before I judge them, let me check myself that I do not allow the devil to create in me merely a member of an opposite faction, weaponizing the Holy Word for my own gain.

The reference to Jesus as our “Head” ends this way: “from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.” May we all find our nourishment in Him. May we allow Him to put us together before we stumble out to do battle against our own bodies.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Making Useful Connections

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big DifferenceThe Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In my writing classes, I often have to tell my students that cause and effect connections are difficult to prove. I may have to encourage them soon to read this book to help them learn the sort of critical thinking required to look at problems and come up with and communicate viable solutions.

At first glance it may seem that Gladwell's connections are silly or oversimplified. But they not only work, and not merely as some intellectual exercise. He demonstrates the complicated relationships between actions and events. The book also illuminates the potential humans have for problem solving. This is a book that should be required reading, particularly for managers and administrators. It certainly can be a boon to those who wish to improve critical thinking skills.

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Monday, January 27, 2014

Augustine's Confessions

Confessions (World's Classics)Confessions by Augustine of Hippo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a magnificent book. Well, parts of it. Augustine's actual account of his life is beautiful and stirring. I was particularly struck by his love of his mother and his friends.

But when he gets into his ruminations about time and all that, I kept thinking, "What does this have to do with his conversion or his spiritual and intellectual growth? Shouldn't this be in another book?" Maybe that is modern impatience creeping in on my part.

Yet it is all worth it to see not only his devotion, but honesty. More Christian writers, especially memoirists, would do well to read this before thinking their journey is all that special. And even those who are not Christian could benefit from Augustine's story and reasoning. His faith comes not from backwoods ignorance, but from careful thought and an open search for the truth.

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Monday, January 20, 2014

Parents and Breaking the Bonds of the Law

Paul wrote to the church in Galatia: “the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.” Perhaps a good living metaphor for this is the relationship we have with right and wrong (not thinking of sin--that's another matter) when we live at home and when we move away from our parents. Mothers and fathers teach us what they believe is right and wrong behavior (and sometimes right and wrong thinking, attitudes, beliefs), and when we are very young we obey them not because we have recognized that their guidance is true, but because they are stronger than we are and also because we know nothing else. We also may love them and wish to please them.
As we get older, we see in the world around other ways of acting, and we may want to do that instead. Sometimes we succeed, but most often we are still bound in different ways to our parents’ way of living. We usually rebel, but only when we are completely free of our parents can we completely “try out” what is different. By then, our parents hope we are rational and mature enough to choose what is truly right, even if that choice means some actions they would not have sanctioned or approved of.

Most often, the rules our parents raise us with are not bad, but it does not take us living long for us to realize that life by rules is not freedom. Freedom is choosing the right rules. Freedom is faithful living in parameters, parameters which may change as we grow.

But Jesus had to make a sacrifice for this difference to come about. Just as we cannot keep all the rules our parents make for us – any child, even a good one, can tell us this – we cannot keep the whole of the law, and so we fall short. Just as good parents love their children when they fall short, so God still loves us. Jesus, our brother, had to sacrifice himself in order for the bonds to be broken. Our parents, if they were good, made sacrifices when we broke the rules, but we could not understand them until we became mature.

When we love Him, the law of God is kept. When we do not love Him, we have only the laws of man, bondage to which makes for failure.