Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Some of you may be familiar with Frederick Buechner.  He's a pastor and a writer who has a way of capturing experiences, thoughts, and ideas and articulating them in unique and accessible ways.  He has a book called Wishful Thinking that is a collection of definitions on theological and Biblical words/concepts.  I've been jotting down my own thoughts on some various faith related words over the past couple of months and so I'll share them here.  A few of them are quotes of others that I've included, since I couldn't add anything to what they already said or wrote.  I hope they'll provide you with something to think about.

What is selfishness?
Selfishness is a hole you dig so that you can sit in it alone with the crust of bread you wanted for yourself. The only thing that changes is that the bread is moldy. 

What is lying?
Lying is walking on a path that you have told others leads to water, but really only leads to a dry, desolate valley.

What is pride?
Pride is being the best, winning the prize, standing on the pedestal, pinning on the blue ribbon, announcing you’re number one and doing all of this in an empty arena. 

What is hate?
Hate is the tiniest of soldiers who carries the biggest of weapons to defeat an enemy one can only overcome with love.

What is sloth?
Sloth is trading the benefit and joy of industry and purpose for doing nothing in order to store up despair about lost opportunities.

What is greed?
Greed is an appetite for something with no taste or nutritional value.

What is lust?
Lust is treating another like he or she is a mealy apple core after you’ve enjoyed the delicious fruit.

What is resentment?
Resentment is drinking poison so that your enemy will die (Nelson Mandela)

What is despair?
Despair is what one feels from losing what you never had in the first place and in the process giving up what you had all along

What is revenge?
Revenge is taking something from someone else that you believe they owe while forgetting that you owe the same thing.  (Matthew 18:23-35)

What is happiness?
Happiness is the red laser dot that the cat chases around the room unable to ever catch it because as soon as it pounces then the red dot isn’t under the cat’s paw, but on top of it—except happiness is something other than a red laser dot and it is usually us chasing and pouncing on it. 

What is faith?
Faith is knowing someone or something is trustworthy despite a lot of loud evidence that claims otherwise.

What is hope?
Hope is the life-vest the castaway wears in the middle of the ocean waiting for the rescue.

What is love?
The greatest love isn’t a thing or a feeling, it’s an action, a doing, a demonstration of care and selflessness.  It is giving another castaway your life-vest and treading water.

What is church?
Church isn’t a place or an institution or a set of by-laws or an organization; it’s a people: people forgiven for what they cannot repay who are sent to let other debtors know about the deal and the One who offers it.  In the process these people do what they can to make things better for any they encounter, usually giving away their life-vests.

What is salvation?
Salvation is something you can’t achieve on your own that comes by giving up something you can’t keep in order to receive something you will never lose.  (Based on Jim Elliot

What is peace?
Peace is the windless place inside one’s heart while sitting in the middle of a hurricane. 

What is sacrifice?
Sacrifice is the sacred act of seeing everything and everyone as holy and beautiful and worth setting free.

What is freedom?
Freedom is what happens when everything requires one to act and feel justified in anger and arrogance, but not acting or feeling that way. 

What is joy?
Joy is the light one sees even when the world throws dark blankets over you. 

What is humility?
Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less. (C. S. Lewis)

What is Courage?
Courage is having no alternatives you can live with, and when the fear of giving up is greater than the fears that have kept you hiding. 

What is Steadfastness?
Steadfastness is holding onto something or someone no matter what is pulling you away.  God’s steadfastness is how we experience God’s love for us, since it is God holding onto us even as we push God away. 

What is truth?
Truth isn’t being right and others being wrong, it’s right being for wronged others. 

What is justice?
Justice isn’t getting even and it isn’t being fair.  Justice is stripped of all prejudice and cultural baggage in order to lift everyone up who is bent over and grant everyone the opportunity to stand upright. 

What is grace?
Grace is inconceivable and without any human terms to really explain it.  It is something that must be received to be understood—not with the head, but with the heart.  It is scandalous, to say the least, since it releases the recipient from the debt, burden, brokenness, estrangement and any other sort of terror that haunts the human heart.  It does so without any condition or expectation.  For some, this translates into immense gratitude, the kind that seeks to express itself in responsiveness to the Grace-Giver. 

Grace is indefinable, because the human psyche is so bent out of shape that it makes no sense.  Grace is the sweetest of gifts that comes to the undeserved, not out of pity or weakness, but out of the remarkable strength of love.  It is given, not to shame, but to redeem; not to forget the sin, but to forgive it; not to indulge the sin, but to transform the sinner.  Grace cannot be equaled in any way for it is divine and holy and borne out of God’s womb of love. 
Grace is the treasure you discover after you realize that you’ve squandered everything you thought mattered and despaired that life was over only to realize you had believed smoke was solid and shadows were the things casting them.  Grace is the thing we cannot reach ourselves, but are lifted in order to grasp it.  Nothing else compares to it.  It is God’s secret weapon used against self-imposed spiritual death. 

© Stephen R. Carl

1 comment:

  1. Beautifully written words that make you see them in a different light.