Strangers In a Strange Land

If you weren’t already aware, recent events should have opened your eyes to the fact that Christians are not of this world. We are not welcome in it. Our words are twisted, our ideas ridiculed, our hopes and dreams remain unrealized because they are not from here. When we were given a new heart, that heart was not from here, and through it we are inexorably drawn away from the here and now towards the hereafter and Him.

This is a paradox, because while we are aliens and strangers, we are also inhabitants of Our Father’s World, which is certainly this physical realm that surrounds us. The earth itself and the things in it still belong to God, and it is still His will actively working in the world, yet still we do not belong here.

We see injustice, cruelty, hatred, not yet always leveled at us, but increasingly so. We are entering a period, here in the United States, of intolerance against those professing Christ crucified, yet it is we who are being called intolerant. Our Christians sisters and brothers around the world have suffered under such injustice since time immemorial, and they have grown strong and hearty in their faith through it, even as their possessions and bodies have been taken and weakened. It scares our minds accustomed to comfort and ease that we live in sight of losing those things we consider precious: our freedoms, our things, our rights, but we should never forget that this has been prophesied by Christ Himself and that we have only been enjoying a reprieve from what is the sinful order of things.

There are many things which should comfort us as we consider the inevitability of suffering, but here are two: first that it is yet another proof that we belong somewhere else, somewhere incomparably better, and second, that we find peace, love, hope, and forgiveness in showing these ourselves.

C.S. LewisIn speaking of this desire for our own far off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you—the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name. Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter. Wordsworth’s expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past. But all this is a cheat. If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering. The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.

~C. S. Lewis, The Weight Of Glory

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

~The Prayer of Saint Francis (but probably not written by him)

Headline image Stranger In A Strange Land by Deviant Art Artist Pecuniam

Repost: Brain Dead Friday

Originally posted 1 April 2010 as “No Thinking Tonight”.

1fd4d3f129ab7bb636a2f3a2975abd340b33b38be7744a43ea9bdf3e9bba4027StumbleUpon is a great way to find those corners of the internet you haven’t yet discovered. Or a great way to find out how desperate affiliate marketers really are for their slice of the internet pie (hint: it’s a really REALLY small slice of pie).

Here are a few recent jewels StumbleUpon shared with me:

It started out innocently enough. I began to think at parties now and then to loosen up. Inevitably though, one thought led to another, and soon I was more than just a social thinker.

A useful tool for IT professionals to help users understand a basic yet fundamental state of their computer: ComputerPowerTest.com

I began to think alone —”to relax,” I told myself — but I knew it wasn’t true. Thinking became more and more important to me, and finally I was thinking all the time.

I began to think on the job. I knew that thinking and employment don’t mix, but I couldn’t stop myself.

See how far we’ve come

Things weren’t going so great at home either. One evening I had turned off the TV and asked my wife about the meaning of life. She spent that night at her mother’s.

I soon had a reputation as a heavy thinker. One day the boss called me in. He said, “Skippy, I like you, and it hurts me to say this, but your thinking has become a real problem. If you don’t stop thinking on the job, you’ll have to find another job.” This gave me a lot to think about.

I came home early after my conversation with the boss. “Honey,” I confessed … “I’ve been thinking…”

I know I’m a happy guy. I’m a very happy guy. I tend to retain a relatively rosy outlook on life, a tune on my lips (or running incessantly through my head), and spring in my step. Maybe it’s because I spend my lunch times exploring philosophical arguments for the spheres of responsibility between church and state, and discussing the finer points of social and cultural issues with friends, family, and foes alike.

NYTimes; Talk Deeply, Be Happy?

I am tempted to say it’s the deepness of the conversation that is the primary corollary between that and happiness, but it is more likely the fact you have people in your life with which you can have deep conversations. Humans, after all, are social creatures, and without friends and family and close-knit circles in which to spend our lives, we hang loose in the winds of time flailing pointlessly about.

“I know you’ve been thinking,” she said, “and I want a divorce!” “But Honey, surely it’s not that serious.”

“It is serious,” she said, lower lip aquiver. “You think as much as college professors, and college professors don’t make any money, so if you keep on thinking we won’t have any money!”

“That’s a faulty syllogism,” I said impatiently, and she began to cry. I’d had enough. “I’m going to the library,” I snarled as I stomped out the door.

I headed for the library, in the mood for some Nietzsche, with an AM station on the radio. I roared into the parking lot and ran up to the big glass doors … they didn’t open. The library was closed.

To this day, I believe that a Higher Power was looking out for me that night.

(Finish this tale here)

Groucho Marx came up at work the other day. He came up here too:

From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it.