Category Archives: Bible - Page 2

Home—or a fruit remembered (but never tasted?)

A Romantic, says Nietzsche, is someone who always wants to be elsewhere. If that’s so, then the children of the Internet are Romantics, for they perpetually wish to be someplace else, and the laptop reliably helps take them there — if only in imagination. The e-mailer, the instant messenger, the Web browser are all dispersing their energies and interests outward, away from the present, the here and now. The Internet user is constantly connecting with people and institutions far away, creating surrogate communities that displace the potential community at hand … dissolve(ing) the present away.

—Mark Edmundson, from “Dwelling in Possibilities”  in the Chronicle Review

What you have made me see,” answered the Lady, “is as plain as the sky, but I never saw it before. Yet it has happened every day. One goes into the forest to pick food and already the thought of one fruit rather than another has grown up in one’s mind. Then, it may be, one finds a different fruit and not the fruit one thought of. One joy was expected and another is given. But this I had never noticed before—that at the very moment of the finding there is in the mind a kind of thrusting back, or setting aside. The picture of the fruit you had not found is still, for a moment, before you. And if you wished—if it were possible to wish—you could keep it there. You could send your soul after the good you had expected, instead of turning it to the good you had got. You could refuse the real good; you could make the real fruit taste insipid by thinking of the other…the world is so much larger than I thought.  I thought we went along paths—but it seems there are no paths. The going itself is the path.

—C.S. Lewis, from Perelandra

In Gertrude Stein’s Everybody’s Autobiography, she tells the story of a visit to Oakland, California, where she had spent much of her childhood.  After living in Paris for several decades a lecture tour brought her back home, but she records that once there, she could not find her house—her school and park were no longer there and her childhood synagogue was gone.

“There is no there there”, she famously wrote.

She came back to where she started but found nothing that resembled Home as she remembered it—this home had faded into something unfamiliar.

***

I have an idea that stretches my mind every so often, maybe more than any other idea that weaves in and out of my thoughts.  It is sometimes a thread in my happiest thoughts, though most often it comes as a piercing sense of loss or of great longing.  It is an idea—or maybe a set of ideas—about “home”.  I will do my best to tie them together.

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Freedom in discipline

In the 30 years I’ve been a runner I’ve run more than 150,000 miles. Still, some of the hardest steps I take are those first few getting out the door for daily runs. –Bill Rodgers, Lifetime Running Plan

Are you drinking enough water? —my Dad, upon your acknowledgement of any feeling of ill health

Are you exercising? —my Dad, upon your acknowledgement of any feeling of ill health (if the above is answered in the affirmative).

A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest—and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity liked an armed man. —Proverbs 6:10-11

It’s been a bit of a broken week for me.  On the heels of being out of the office Tuesday to Friday last week, I was in briefly Monday, only to head to the airport in the afternoon—work stacking up  but trumped by more travel.  On top of that, my Chicago Marathon training was scheduled to start this week. Having taken time off after Boston, with the plan to let my body heal and adjust my running form, I’ve lost almost all of my hard earned fitness, am using very different muscles to run and have what amounts to a relatively short period left to prepare.

The net result is that I have learned to dread running again.  I have slowed my pace at times to nearly 2 minutes slower than my goal pace, labored over short runs, walked, blistered and bled.  My legs have hurt in muscles I didn’t know I had, and I am often back to limping down stairs again.  I just saw this morning that I have toe nails that are dying.

It’s so easy to forget how hard it is to get started.  Running 70 miles a week is easier than the first few runs after a break.

About a month ago, I also started a Bible in a Year reading program, which requires that I read 4 chapters per day on average.  I’m behind on this as well, watching my estimated day of completion slip over time and struggling to get caught up.

I realize these don’t seem like major events, and in the grand scheme of things, they are not…not in and of themselves anyway.  But, when my personal disciplines fade, I become grumpy, stressed and disquieted.  And it’s usually a viscous cycle for me. I start to dread runs more and attach too much significance to each run. I procrastinate on my Quiet Time (my Bible reflection and prayer). I sleep later than I should, my diet deteriorates and my alcohol consumption climbs. Then I start rescheduling my week (problem solving at its best), trying to figure out where I’ll make it all up.  Problem is, Wednesday’s run become 8 miles instead of 6, Thursday’s rest day goes away—and the next thing I know I’m in bed sick from late night cookies, dehydrated from one too many beers, trying to figure out if I can even run 8 miles any more!

Then I start beating myself up and/or making excuses.  In this case, I have been almost to the point of quitting on Chicago this year.
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Idol Hope

The story is often told that John D. Rockefeller, an oil magnate and one of the richest men of his time, was once asked when he would be happy. He is said to have replied, “When I make one more dollar.”

Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise. The longings which arise in us when we first fall in love, or first think of some foreign country, or first take up some subject that excites us, are longings which no marriage, no travel, no learning, can really satisfy. I am not now speaking of what would be ordinarily called unsuccessful marriages, or holidays, or learned careers. I am speaking of the best possible ones. There was something we grasped at, in that first moment of longing, which just fades away in the reality. I think everyone knows what I mean. The wife may be a good wife, and the hotels and scenery may have been excellent, and chemistry may be a very interesting job: but something has evaded us.   —C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

So long as man remains free he strives for nothing so incessantly and so painfully as to find someone to worship.  —Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

***

I have spent some time thinking about idols recently, mostly because I find the idea to be so challenging. An idol is something, anything, our hearts desire above God—something we put our hope in and believe will make us happy. I usually have no difficulty listing those things by the handful in my life. And yet, I believe idolatry is at the very core of a lack of peace and joy that often haunts me. Since we were created for a relationship with God in which He is central in our lives, displacement of Him from that place displaces everything else. We end up with broken relationships with one another, a distorted understanding of who we are and either an over- or under-appreciation of the good things God has put in the world for us. To be sure, I mean that loving even things as good as family and friends more than God—or the other way around, even loving our own virtue or sacrifice in not valuing the things of this world—will ultimately leave us broken and disappointed.

Said another way, we were created for a “vertical” relationship with God—created to enjoy all other good things, including our “horizontal” relationships with one another (and the world around us), in light (and proper understanding) of that relationship. But we often try to make the horizontal relationships central, and everything deteriorates from there. This is the very definition of sin in the Bible. Not “loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.”

Anyway, all this contemplation about how very many things I am inclined to make central in my life over and above God made me realize two (perhaps?) more encouraging things about idolatry. One—we were made to worship. And two—though basically everything we worship disappoints us, they all point to the One who will not.

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