Heart to heart

Knowing with your heart

If we can’t imagine our own deepest desires, then we can’t understand Jesus’s desire for us. Perhaps we know that God wanted to create us and save us, but unless we experience our own desires, we can’t feel the intensity of the desire of the God-man Jesus for us. St Augustine said that “God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.”

The spiritual classic the Imitation of Christ says, “His glory and beauty are within you, and he delights in dwelling there. The Lord frequently visits the heart of man. There he shares with man pleasant conversations; welcome consolations, abundant peace and a wonderful intimacy.” We can only know this with our heart.

What does it mean to know with one’s heart? We are so used to knowing with our mind that we have to pause and remember experiences of knowing with our heart.

I can remember an intense experience of the heart. I had taken my wife and daughter to Paris and we arrived very early in the morning. We walked down to the Place de la Concorde and I happened to look at my daughter’s face (she was 20 and this was her first time in Paris). She had a radiant smile of wonder on her face as she looked around. My heart swelled in me and practically burst with happiness. That is what I mean by knowing with the heart.

I encourage you to remember experiences in your own life where your heart was filled with happiness and joy. That will give you some faint idea of how Jesus’s heart is filled with you.

 

Where am I going?

Always ask why

 

Einstein was noted for asking questions, to discover new things. Here is a well known quote of his —

The important thing is not to stop questioning; curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when contemplating the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of the mystery every day. The important thing is not to stop questioning; never lose a holy curiosity.”

Always ask why.

If you aren’t curious about the mystery of everyday life, ask yourself why?

 

You can’t know where you’re going in life until you know why you are living.

A Guide for everyone

The grace of faith

In the New York Times on 14 August 2021, columnist Russ Douthat wrote an article called A Guide to Finding Faith. In it he tries to explain to his audience a way to find faith, while admitting that the “spell of materialism” is a substantial barrier. “Unbelief has its own comforts: It takes a vast zone of ideas and arguments, practices and demands, supernatural perils and metaphysical complexities and whispers, well, at least you don’t have to spend time thinking about that.” In a way Douthat is saying that it is highly unlikely that a modern person is going to reason their way to faith. I take it further. I say the search for faith is literally impossible with today’s mindset and paradigm about reality. But in that impossibility lies the way to faith.

Finding faith is a bit like being a larvae in a cocoon (if it were self-conscious), trying to see itself as a butterfly. The transformation from one state to the other is discontinuous — you can’t see with the eyes of faith until you have faith. So, one must give up the search and wait. In the larvae’s case wait for the transformation to be complete to understand what it means to be a butterfly. In the human case, wait for the gift of faith to be given. “Be still and know that I am God” says the Psalmist. [Psalm 46:10] In our human case, believing is seeing. But reasoning through all the complexities of modern knowledge and epistemology will never get you to believing. Sorry Mr. Douthat.

The theologian Karl Rahner said this: “The Christian of the future will either be a mystic or he won’t exist at all.” Another thinker said, “Faith will either affect ordinary awareness, create new ways of living and energize every dimension of life, or it will be formulaic, superficial and empty.” So, the journey toward faith is never over. People who call themselves Christians still face an impossible search: how to become a mystic and experience and follow God every day. In my own experience, God’s grace brings us to a point where we give up and admit we can’t find him.  Then we wait, perhaps only for a short while, and God comes to us, gives us a gift we don’t deserve, and we see with the eyes of faith. I wrote a book about my own experiences called Living Well in the Presence of God.

Click here to go to Amazon and read a selection.

 

Higher and deeper

The key question in the 21st century

In the 20th Century the human race ascended and descended higher and deeper than ever before. We discovered the origins of the cosmos at the quantum level and our own origins in the evolution of DNA– and we went to the Moon and killed more humans in wars than ever before. To me this raises the question, why do we not explore our own depths as far as we can reach in our knowledge and imagination, to understand who we are and why we do these things?

I think it has to do with our mindset.

Many thousands of years ago, human self-consciousness arose in the course of evolution — and we began to ask questions about our origins and future. We invented writing and libraries to capture and store our answers to such questions. Gradually we developed philosophy, science, art and religion. The scope of human knowledge and understanding grew to the point that, in the early 21st century, no one person can hope to understand everything. It seems that most people now simply live in the present and don’t reflect on the heights and depths. A very common mindset seems to be “I can’t understand everything so I may as well live as best I can in my local situation. At least I can get my head around that.” That mindset is closed to the heights and depths and, in  a profound way, impoverished.

Why is it important to change this mindset to one which values exploring and reflecting on the deepest questions about the heights and depths?

I can give my answer but it’s much more important for you to think about your own situation and attitude towards the heights and depths. I attempted to answer that question in my latest book Once I Was Lost. You can read a summary at my Amazon site: Click here.

We and they

Love and compassion

I have a friend, a lovely woman who is a self-proclaimed atheist. She is caring, gentle and compassionate. Yet she and I see and experience the world in very different ways. I live in the continual presence of God, who works in my life and is shaping me into what I am (but not yet fully) — a son of God. My friend lives in a human-centric world where everything is determined by how men and women act and treat each other. In her world, you become a better person by striving to improve yourself. She makes a genuine effort to be the best person she can be.

The temptation is to think in “we” versus “they” terms about such people. This doesn’t make sense to me.

What does Easter mean?

If one thing is clear in the Bible, it’s that Christ the God-man died and rose again for all people. As the saying goes, “God didn’t make any second class people.” Every human being is lovingly created by God. So the first point is God loves my friend as much as me, regardless of her beliefs.

Secondly, Jesus went to great pains to associate with the non-religious people of his day: non-Jews, flagrant sinners, everyone. He did this so that all his brothers and sisters who followed him would see absolutely clearly that there is no “we” versus “they” in God’s kingdom. In fact he strongly criticised the strongly exclusive religious people of his day who held such a we/they view.

Lastly, like the two men walking on the road to Emmaus, many of us “religious” people haven’t yet met Jesus. We keep walking, putting one foot in front of the other, hoping to see him. Our faith tells us Jesus is risen! Jesus is Lord! But he remains largely hidden from us. Are we so very different from people like my friend who haven’t seen God ? (especially in religious people and their churches?)

Easter is the time when our joy in knowing the meaning of the profound truths of the Cross and the empty tomb should lead us to embrace all the people walking along with us. To see that every human being is doing the best they can right now,  hoping (perhaps very incoherently) to encounter the living God. Our joy is what marks us as Easter people. One of my greatest joys is my confidence that Jesus is walking along side of people like my friend, even if she can’t yet recognise him.