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

Posts tagged ‘God’

Mysticism

The search for understanding and truth winds through the “Land of Mystery.”  To find wisdom we must begin with unknowns – things we do not understand today but we may tomorrow.  Moving from infancy to adulthood, experience should tell us that we begin not knowing anything and discover that we can know some things.  (Interestingly, along life’s way, if we have the good fortune to become elderly we return an infancy of sorts – this time KNOWING that we don’t know much of anything still.)  Part of life’s journey, if it to be LIFE at all, must wander through the extraordinary, the beautiful, and the complex.  Otherwise, life remains two dimensional – flat and statistical … numbers and letters, having no color, no joy, and no love.

The agnostic may know what they logically don’t know, but such an approach to living remains a mystery to me.  Why would any man be content to eat tasteless food or walk the path of self-imposed blandness?  Instead of saying, “If there is a God, prove it to me,” why not approach the question of God this way:  “If there is NO God, prove it to me.”  Why not accept that we know only in part … we do not know the whole, or everything.  Ah, but that is a fool talking.  No self-respecting agnostic would ever dare start there.

Only when a man can look into the heavens and say, “It’s too wonderful for me,” or smell a rose and say, “The fragrance is marvelous,” can that man begin an honest search for truth.  If, however, that man can brush aside the wondrous and marvelous, is there any hope that he can grasp any truth at all?

G. K. Chesterton wrote, “Mysticism keeps men sane.  As long as you have mystery you have health; when you destroy mystery you create morbidity.  The ordinary man has always been sane because the ordinary man has always been a mystic.  He has permitted the twilight.  He has always had one foot in earth and the other in fairyland.  He has always left himself free to doubt his gods; but (unlike the agnostic of today) free also to believe in them.  He has always cared more for truth than for consistency.  If he saw two truths that seemed to contradict each other, he would take the two truths AND the contradiction along with them.  His spiritual sight is stereoscopic, like his physical sight:  he sees two different pictures at once and yet sees all the better for that.  Thus he has always believed that there was such a thing as fate, but such a thing as free will also.  Thus he believed that children were indeed the kingdom of heaven, but nevertheless ought to be obedient to the kingdom of earth.  He admired youth because it was young and age because it was not.  It is exactly this balance of apparent contradictions that has been the whole buoyancy of the healthy man.  The whole secret of mysticism is this:  that man can understand everything by the help of what he does not understand.”

Think about it.

 

The Love of God for Muslims

Friends, please watch this video.

Loving You … and More

img_1302.jpgThe greatest thing we can do in life is love.  There are three qualities of life that make living wonderful and human – faith, hope and love … but “the greatest of these is love.”  Faith allows us to live above the normal tenors and tones; hope is the stuff of confident and believable dreams.  But love ties us to other time travelers with cords of immeasurable strength, deeper emotion, and superior thought.

Can love be commanded, or demanded of us?  Some think not.  Maybe most think not …  And so, if someone were to command love, or command anything, there are those who would resist loving, or whatever, just to retain control of their life.  But, arguably, the greatest Man to ever live said that we are commanded to love – and we are to do it in ways that bring love its fullest expression and fulfillment.

That  Man, Jesus Christ, was asked, “What is the greatest commandment?” and He replied that the greatest commandment was to love God.  He then volunteered the second greatest commandment:  to love our neighbors.  He concluded that all the commandments (to not steal, murder, lie, covet, etc.) hung on these two – loving God and loving our neighbors.

Some people think Jesus actually suggested a third commandment when He said that we should love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  The actual quote is “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

But Jesus was not saying, or commanding, that we should love our selves.  He was just pointing out that we should love our neighbors … anyone who crosses our path in life … to the same degree that we love ourselves because He knew that no human being (generally speaking) would have a problem loving themselves. 

I really want to explore what it means to “love” God, and I’ll do that in another column, but today I want to write about loving others.

We humans long to be loved, and give love.  Like a puzzle lacking its most significant piece, we have a hole in our hearts that is shaped for love.  We have it in our DNA – to be loved by someone, and to express love to someone.  Like boiling water in a tea kettle on a hot stove, we want – we must release this pent up something … this emotion that is in us and of us.  And we want to have love returned to us in a genuine way.  And that is a key thought, too, don’t you think?  Don’t we all want to be genuinely loved and authentically love someone else?

That said, you might think that loving others comes naturally. … but it doesn’t.  Loving is an acquired taste.  But once it is delightfully experienced, it’s addictive.  Loving others is a learned skill.  So, I suggest that if it wasn’t commanded, we might only drink in love, hoping not to spill a precious drop.  (For example, if parents don’t model it, children won’t do it naturally, because it’s MORE natural to be self-centered and selfish.  With our first infancy cry, we demand to be taken care of.  From birth WE COMMAND others to love us, and we do so with our incessant grasping and howling.)  Loving, like sharing, must be taught.

My Mom and Dad, Retha and Claude, loved each other, and in so doing created an atmosphere in our home that encouraged loving.  We saw their love, felt their love, and then wanted what they had.  That’s when they began the teaching process.  Mom and Dad taught us to love.

Got a question for you.  In all our talking about love, are we first loving?

Think about it.

(pictured above – Brandon, April 1, 2008) 

What Does “Aloha” Mean?

img_0658.jpgWhat does “Aloha” mean?  According to To-Hawaii.com, “aloha” can mean hello, goodbye, love and affection.  But its meaning goes well beyond any definition you can find in dictionaries.  In Hawaii, you hear aloha all the time and you are treated with aloha everywhere.  (Hawaii is called the Aloha State, and for good reason.)  Aloha express the charm, warmth and sincerity of Hawaii’s people.  It was the working philosophy of Native Hawaiians; they felt it was presented as a gift to the people of Hawaii by one of their ancient gods.

The literal meaning of aloha is “the presence of breath” or “the breath of life.”  (It’s interesting that in the Bible, in the book of Genesis, when God created Adam He “breathed into him the breath of life,” and Adam “became a living being.”)  The word “aloha” comes from “Alo,” meaning presence, front and face, and “ha,” meaning breath.  

According to the old kahunas (priests), being able to live the Spirit of Aloha was a way of sending and receiving positive energy, or living in harmony.  Aloha was and still is a way of living and treating each other with love and respect.  

Inspired by the philosophy and the wisdom of the Spirit of Aloha, nowadays many institutions and businesses in Hawaii carry its name:  Aloha Tower, Aloha Stadium and Aloha Airlines.  Many Hawaiian singers write and perform songs about aloha as well.

 

Believe it or not, Aloha Spirit is considered a state “law.”  Although the word law sounds too strong and strict, Aloha Spirit is not a type of law that will get you in trouble if you break it.  Having “the Law of Aloha Spirit” on the books serves as a reminder to government officials (while they perform their duties) to treat people with deep care and respect, just like their ancestors did.   Aloha Spirit is more a lesson than a law.   By learning and applying this lesson to real life, government officials can contribute to a better world, a world filled with aloha.

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So by now you may understand that “Aloha” is more than a word of greeting or farewell, or a salutation.  Aloha means mutual regard and affection, and is a reminder to extend warmth and caring for others with no obligation (payback) in return.  Furthermore, aloha is the essence of relationships in which each person is important to every other person.

Queen Lili‘uokalani said, “Aloha is to learn what is not said, to see what cannot be seen, and to know the unknowable.”

I greet you in the Spirit of Aloha, and pray that you will discover the “breath of life” found in the Person of Jesus Christ. [Both pictures by Lowell Qualls, Maui – 2008 (c)] 

Resurrection On Maui

maui-sunset-small.jpg Joy!

This morning I was in the ohana (a Hawaiian name for “family room”) getting a cup of coffee, this cozy and welcoming little room being located close to our condominium.   Every morning Rick – our host – makes Kona.  The smell of the coffee was wonderful, deep and rich.

A minute or two later I was returning to our place, walking past the pool, and just luxuriating in the warm, fragrant air, listening to the Mina birds chirping and turtle doves cooing.  The sun was just peeking over the West Maui mountains, causing the clouds to glow light yellows and oranges.  Almost heaven.

A man I had never met came up the path leading to the ohana, heading for the coffee pot I had just left, and he greeted me.  “Happy Easter.”  I replied, “He is risen!”

I’m back in our place, sitting on our lanai, and my son just pointed toward the ocean.  “Rainbow,” was all he said.

This joy that is welling up within me is so pleasurable, so intense.  And I wonder, “Why do we concentrate so much on the problem of pain, and never wrestle with the problem of pleasure?” 

Philip Yancey asks, “If atheists insist there is no God because of all the pain and suffering in this world, why aren’t they held accountable for the ‘problem of pleasure?’” 

“Should not atheists have an equal obligation to explain the origin of pleasure in a world of randomness and meaninglessness?” he writes, meaning that if Christians must defend the existence of God because there are so many painful experiences in life, shouldn’t atheists have to defend their beliefs because there are so many pleasurable experiences, too?

Why is sex fun?  “Reproduction surely doesn’t require pleasure,” Yancey goes on.  “Some animals simply split in half to reproduce … and … why is eating enjoyable?  Plants and animals manage to obtain their quota of nutrients without the luxury of taste buds.  Why are there colors?”  All good questions.

Back to Easter morning on Maui.  As I look around, “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the earth itself puts God’s creative genius on display,” says David, the song writer of ancient Israel. (Psalm 19)  I get to enjoy all that I see and taste and feel because there is a God in heaven who created me to enjoy creation.

I’m a happy camper, and a joy-filled human being today!

Jesus is risen indeed.

Think about it.

(By the way, I took the picture above last night … looking out of the Pacific, toward Lanai.  Wow!)

The Spiritual Journey – Belief

Sheldon Vanauken wrote that when he and his wife were studying at Oxford they were rubbing shoulders with “nuclear physicists, historians, and able scholars in other fields.”  What struck them was that these fellow scholars “believed” in Christ, and for that reason “… we must, at least, weigh it (Christianity) very seriously.”  Both he and his wife had assumed that anyone who took Christianity as true must be ignorant, but these brilliant souls who had put their faith in Jesus were anything but ignorant.

Soon the Vanaukens arrived at this conclusion:  “Christianity was a faith.”

“By now,” Sheldon wrote,” we knew that it was important.  If true – and we admitted to each other the possibility that it was – it was, very simply, the only really important truth in the world.  And if untrue, it was false.  No halfway house.  First or nothing.  I wrote (to C. S. Lewis), ‘It is not possible to be “incidentally a Christian.”  The fact of Christianity must be overwhelmingly first or nothing.  This suggests a reason for the dislike of Christians by nominal or non-Christians:  their lives contain no overwhelming firsts but many balances.’”

Once someone believes that Jesus Christ was and is the Son of God, that belief must translate into a living faith – faith being the expression of belief in hard, practical terms.  The Bible says, “Faith without action is meaningless, or dead.”

True.  Faith is belief becoming actionable, and expressed through a changed life.

Think about it.

The Spiritual Journey – Rationale

One of my favorite books is A Severe Mercy, by Sheldon Vanauken (New York:  HarperCollins Publishers, 1977).  This former atheist wrote:

“The best argument for Christianity is Christians:  their joy, their certainty, their completeness.  But the strongest argument against Christianity is also Christians – when they are somber and joyless, when they are self-righteous and smug in complacent consecration, when they are narrow and repressive, then Christianity dies a thousand deaths.  But, though it is just to condemn some Christians for these things, perhaps, after all, it is not just, though very easy, to condemn Christianity itself for them.  Indeed, there are impressive indications that the positive quality of joy is in Christianity – and possibly nowhere else.  If that were certain, it would be proof of a very high order.” (page 85)

I will put it another way.  The reason many people do not believe that Christianity is true is because so many Christians are false.  There are people in this world who claim to be Christians, and call themselves Christians because they attend church … or because they might pastor a church. 

I am in no position to say who is and who isn’t a Christian … that is, a true follower of Jesus Christ.  I don’t know what is in anyone’s heart … not even my own, at times.

But I would like to offer up for discussion what I believe a true Christ-follower looks and sounds like, hoping my thoughts will lend something positive to the current debate about the impact of religion in the marketplace of human ideas and human institutions.

At this time I will not offer up a defense for the existence of God.  And at this time I will pose that Jesus Christ was not a liar or a lunatic; that He was who He claimed to be.  That is my starting point.

For one thing, I think a Christ-follower is rational.  To follow anyone, even Jesus Christ, the Son of God, blindly or carelessly or ignorantly is nothing short of ludicrous.  It is also dangerous.  That kind of followership invites cultist results.  God, the most supreme and extreme Intellect in the Universe, would not expect, much less demand, such a followership.  Committing intellectual suicide in order to “believe” in Him was never part of the deal.  In fact, Jesus Himself invited honest inquiry.  He entered into conversation with the intellectuals of His day, and challenged them with His claims.

Think about that.

Creation – God Loves to Blow Our Minds

  

Enjoy!

This is one of the best photos I’ve ever taken … and for it to be of Quomulongma (Mt. Everest) humbles me.

I was very blessed that day. I had my two sons with me – Brandon and Chris – and they enjoyed this trip of a lifetime immensely.