Perspectives on Spiritual, Intellectual and Pastoral Issues: Host – Lowell Qualls

Posts tagged ‘Eternal Perspectives’

The Spiritual Journey 3 – Humility

Sheldon Vanauken wrote (in A Severe Mercy):  

“To believe with certainty, somebody said, one has to begin by doubting.” (p. 83)

“… there is nothing in Christianity which is so repugnant to me as humility – the bent knee.” (p. 91)

“… if we were a species that didn’t normally eat, weren’t designed to eat, would we feel hungry? … Do fish complain of the sea for being wet? … [and] Notice how we are perpetually surprised at Time.  (‘How time flies!  Fancy John being grown up and married!  I can hardly believe it!’)  In heaven’s name, why?  Unless, indeed, there is something in us which is not temporal.” (in a letter from C. S. Lewis to Sheldon Vanauken, p. 93)

Based on these quotes, I’d like to make a few observations.  First, if you’re going to believe that Christ is the Son of God, and therefore the Savior He claims to be, it is no fault to begin by doubting such a phenomenal claim.  

Doubting allows a person to begin with a clean sheet, so to speak.  A person that has been raised in the Church, had positive experiences in the Church, and is therefore open to indoctrination from early on, doesn’t wrestle with doubt on the same level as someone who (a) has been raised in the Church and had negative experiences or (b) not been exposed to either positive or negative Church experiences during their childhood and adolescence.  In speaking to those who doubt, I suggest:  that is a good place to start one’s spiritual journey, as did Vanauken.  Why?  Because of the “clean sheet.”  But to be truly clean, one’s “sheet” must have a valuable and necessary ingredient in its makeup or constitution, and that ingredient is HONESTY.  Not openness but honesty.  If it is discovered during one’s investigation of Christianity that there is a prejudice (a pre-judgement) based on anything – peer pressure, education or one’s educators, or the bias of unbelieving parents – and that prejudice is not addressed or challenged in one’s heart and mind, that person is not being honest.

Second, being honest comes from or springs from a general HUMILITY, and that humility is based upon an appreciation that NO ONE knows everything, and that there may be someone or something outside the existential confines of one’s reality and intellect that knows and understands more about the universe of ordered things.  Therefore, true humility must be allowed to and may result in “a bended knee” – acknowledgement that something is true when it would appear to the honest seeker, based upon the life-education-experience limitations mentioned above, that it “should” be false.  Humility requires the honest seeker of truth to allow for things to be true outside “the box” of one’s current thinking.  Again, this basic, this fundamental humility must be allowed to move toward a greater humility – a humility that would require a bended knee.

Third, it seems that if there is a hunger for something (say a belly for food, a fish for water, or the temporal for the metaphysical or, in this case, the sacred or mystical), that longed-for something may exist.  REPEAT:  The humble man will allow that something may be true that was, up ’til now, thought to be improbable, false, or impossible.

I would suggest, humbly, that mankind hungers for God because there is a God.  If one honestly doubts that supposition, help me understand the immaterial part of me – thought, love, joy, sadness, etc. – and why there is this debate about all things spiritual (and in this case, the idea that there is a God)?  How is it that the idea or possibility of God cannot be easily dismissed as some have dismissed the existence of the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, or flying saucers?

Think about it.

Teachers, by Mary Eady

Earlier today I revisited a fantastic blog site – “Merlot Mudpies.” (http://merlotmudpies.wordpress.com), hosted by Mary Eady.  She’s quite the writer.  What drew me to her site initially was her blog about the cancer-death of her mom.  It’s a great article, one I highly recommend if you want “an eternal perspective.”

Today I’ve posted the article quoted here, along with one of her pictures (with her permission, by the way).  I’m copying her to this site to expose her insights to a larger audience … well, at least one that’s growing.Picture by Mary Eady

Read, and think about it.

Barry, one of my fellow gardeners, reminds me a lot of one of my old teachers, Mr. O’Hagan.  Mr. O’Hagan wouldn’t give you answers.  But he asked you questions that led you to them.  He would not tell you how to do things, but he’d guide you through your own thought process until you got there.  He didn’t gush at his students, but with a well placed word he made you feel 10 feet tall.

This whole experience of getting my plots at Ivey Ranch has been intimidating from the get-go in its way.  As I’ve said before, I’m a renown black thumb in my family.  My mother-in-law and I used to giggle about my “dried herb garden” — my attempt at growing an herb garden in a strawberry pot that I’d seen on TV.  It was dead within the month.  Not just one of the plants I planted.  All of them. I don’t buy houseplants for this very reason.  No matter how sweet they look in the store, they turn into a brown, depressing mess the second they enter my domain.

But this seems to have changed somehow in the past few months.  Maybe it’s just that I finally get the wonder of it all.  I finally understand those people who stop and smell the roses, pet the alyssum, and admire the inside of an iris for minutes on end.  It really is, in a word, glorious.  Creation is happening all around us still — no longer perfect but still stupendous, brave, and amazing when you stop to consider it all.

My husband, Ryan, is a tolerant man.  He helps me cart my 20 tomato seedlings back and forth from the apartment courtyard every day and doesn’t complain about them all sitting on our laundry hamper in the evenings where it’s warm next to a little lamp.  He smiles about my avocado seed which I couldn’t bring myself to throw away and is now sprouting in a glass of water in the kitchen on the sill next to a six-pack of okra seedlings and a six-pack of cranberry bush bean seedlings I’m hoping will start soon.  He doesn’t say a word about the strawberries I have sprouting on one side of the kitchen sink.  Maybe he understands how the newness and awe is so important to me now.  I think he does.  He’s that sweet kind of man.

However, all of this does not mean I know what I’m doing at all.  When I find bugs I rack my brain trying to decide if they are good or the kind I should consider killing.  When I see things sprouting in my garden I didn’t plant I let them go for a few days until I’m positive they are weed-like and not veggie-like.  This sometimes takes a few weeks for me to figure out. I even grabbed a handful of nettle one day and stung myself with it to a ridiculous degree because I thought it was mint.  You get my drift?

But Barry just stands there and smiles at me while he pounds in rebar and trims his beautiful beet greens.  He asks me things when I come to him with questions instead of answering me.  He says things like, “Well now — where did you think you’d go with it?” or “So tell me then…what did you have in mind?”  Then he listens and encourages and leaves me to my own devices.

Today we talked as I walked Eamonn (Mary’s young son) through the plots looking at plants, lizards and flowers.  “Look at what your neighbors did, Barry!” I cried, staring at a freshly tilled and composted plot that had been overgrown with weeds last week.  “Yeah…people are gettin’ the bug to work hard around here.  Maybe they feel like trying to garden like you, figured a little hard work wasn’t going to hurt anybody.  You’re inspiring people girl.”  I sputtered and blushed and didn’t know what to say.

Later on he told me, “I’ve been coming and checking on this plot of yours and I’d say you figured out you know what you’re doing!”  I beamed from my tomatoes and peppers and squash.

How do people learn this trait of building up instead of tearing down?  Of guiding instead of directing?  I’m sure I don’t know but I love it when I see it in action and feel blessed when I’m the recipient of it.  I hope to model the way I interact with Eamonn, Ella and others who come across my path with that gentleness and insight.

Today I left Ivey Ranch feeling 10 feet tall.

EPIC – New Perspectives

Mt. Everest 

   People have been asking me, “What are you doing?” My response, typically, is, “I’m writing … and waiting.” I’m writing articles and books (like “One Little Bite” “Dancing With The Healer,” “At Cross Purposes,” and “Under New Management”), and I’m waiting for God to open doors that will allow for face-to-face ministry … ministry to congregations and pastors.

The only clues I’ve received from Him as to what I might be doing in the future revolve around the following paragraphs that describe something called “EPIC.” Back in June and July of 2005 God spoke to me about the following:

EPIC (Eternal Perspectives In Christ, or E-Perspectives International Corporation) will “Challenge Conventional Thinking, Provide Innovative Solutions, and Produce World-Changing People” in two spheres:

1. The way churches and pastors approach and do local, national and international missions (including the support and selection of home and foreign missionaries in particular) and mission trips (cultural exposures, building/construction, medical, evangelistic, etc.), and …
2. The way pastors and church leaders approach local church ministry.

These two primary goals will be accomplished by using four means or methods:

1. Books and magazine articles,


2. Seminars and conferences,


3. Video materials, and …


4. One-on-one mentoring relationships

By “Challenge Conventional Thinking” I mean, to address the American and Western postmodern Church “consumer mindset,” and the misplaced priorities and values of that Church. I believe these things are rooted in secular, contemporary culture (that has been shaped by postmodern, existential, nihilistic, and relativistic philosophies) as opposed to being based upon the teachings of Jesus Christ concerning the Kingdom of God.

I believe the end result will be changed churches and church leaders – “World-Changers,” or “World-Changing People.” These churches and church leaders would not be “mainstream” as much as they would be “swimming up stream” – against the current of the culture. Scary thought, eh?

In order to bring about change, I hope to “Provide Innovative Solutions” to the contemporary Church. I believe that by reexamining biblical principles, values and priorities, change will occur in the Church to better reflect Kingdom principles, values and priorities. I will be using the following to encourage change: print and electronic media, teaching that revolves around what I have learned about these things after 30+ years of ministry, introducing current “World-Changers” to my audiences, and opportunities to experience (“hands-on”) intercultural adventures. I will also make myself available to mentor prospective “World-Changers.”