What does it mean to love God with our Souls?

I did not quite understand the answer to this question until I was walking down the Jamaica beach in Galveston at 2:00 am on a Saturday morning. I realized that to love God with my soul is to be deeply moved by a sheer display of His brilliant majesty in a way that bypasses my heart and mind and reaches deep into my unconscious, my soul, to lift it up into an ecstasy (in the truest sense of that word) to a posture of absolute submission and worship of God. 

We are called to love God with the heart, soul, mind and strength. I have at times wondered what it means to love God with the soul. 

I think of loving God with my heart to mean that desires are being shaped to love God. This happens when I read, say, Kierkegaard or Tolkien or Dostoevsky. Loving God with my mind is like reading Alvin Plantinga, Charles Taylor or Jamie Smith. To love God with my strength is to love him with the works of my hands.

So what does it really mean to love God with my soul? 

I did not quite understand the answer to this question until I was walking down the Jamaica beach in Galveston at 2:00 am on a Saturday morning. I realized that to love God with my soul is to be deeply moved by a sheer display of His brilliant majesty in a way that bypasses my heart and mind and reaches deep into my unconscious, my soul, to lift it up into an ecstasy (in the truest sense of that word) to a posture of absolute submission and worship of God. 

I was spending the weekend with some friends from Church at a beach house in Galveston. Before I was about to sleep, I realized if there was something worth loosing sleep over, it would be to experience what it feels like to talk a walk along the beach at 2:00 am in the morning. There were a few words welled up from within my unconscious, my soul. I have tried to capture that elusive feeling in words, as pitiable as the attempt may be. If there was something worth allowing oneself to be made a fool of it is to attempt to express the experience of beauty that so moved ones heart. So here I go with my words of folly!

Rhythmic roar of the deep waters!
White lines of foam sliding over
Reaching out from the dark water
The ominous shaped clouds afar

So full of sound and fury
Yet signifying something
From beyond the Horizon
Yet so near, Lord of hosts!

Who set the foundations of Earth
And the boundaries of furious waters
An encounter with awesome Nature
An encounter with the almighty Creator

Un-curving my inwardly curved self
Shattering my self-importance
Saving the puny me from myself
By a sheer display of His vast Majesty

To stand still and look with my eyes
To be enchanted onto my knees
To be moved in my soul. To sing Hallelujah!
Over the rhythmic roar of the deep waters.

 I took this picture the next morning...
I took this picture the next morning…
 While drinking coffee on the beach!
While drinking coffee on the beach!

Tick! Tick! Tick! goes Life

Tick! Tick! Tick! goes Life

A perpetual loss
Of time
Of loved ones
Of precious moments

All is evanescence
All lost into oblivion
Is the ticket worth it, Alyosha? 
Or can the earth be kissed, Ivan?

But oh wait!

Little buds becoming roses
Little babies becoming lovers
Time becoming blessedness
New Creation coming into Being.

Tick! Tick! Tick! goes Life.

What Moves Our Love?

When St. Augustine says “weight moving me is love”, he means that if his love is heavy like earth then it will be stuck in the materialism of this world. On the other hand when one’s love is light like the fire, it will raise up towards the Heavens where God resides. 

I have been reading St. Augustine’s Confessions for a class I am teaching on it. One phrase that grabbed me in Book XIII of the Confessions is, “weight moving me is love.” 

In Greek thought, the world is made of four elements – Earth, Water, Air and Fire. Earth is the heaviest so it is stuck at the bottom. Water is lighter so it is above earth. Air is lighter still and raises above water. Fire is the lightest for it sends flames heavenward. When St. Augustine says “weight moving me is love”, he means that if our love is heavy like earth then it will be stuck in the material-love of this world. On the other hand when our love is light like the fire, it will raise up towards the Heavens where God resides. 

Of course, this lightening of love does not happen by self-effort. Augustine says… 

“By your (God’s) gift we are kindled and borne upward, we are set afire and we go… It is your fire, your fire for good, that burns in us as we go up…”

What is the weight that moves our love? What fires our passion and keeps us moving? Is it the fire of the love of the living God or is it the fire of personal ambition, which entangles us in the web of earthly loves?

Robin Williams, and the Hunger for Hope

When I was a kid, Robin Williams was enough to make me happy and hopeful for more happiness. Now that I have grown and become more aware of the cynical hopeless of life, my need for wonder and hunger for hope to compensate for the ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short’ life has grown such that I need more than a phenomenally talented Robin William, I need a powerful and loving, transcended and immanent God to make my happy.

Robin Williams’ ability to cheer people was so contagious that it reached me even as I was a kid living in India, thanks to the movies Ms. Doubtfire and Jumanji. Now that I am older, I can’t but help ponder about life’s poignant vagaries that someone who could bring so much cheer to people around the world could himself get bankrupt of hope. Hearing about Williams death, I remembered an observation that Robert McKnee made in his book about movie script writing, ‘Story’. McKnee said that in hollywood the most depressing parties were the ones where too many comedy writers were invited. Apparently, the best comedy in one that grows as a coping mechanism for the pain the comedians feel in their life. If as Bertand Russell said, ‘life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short’, then it makes sense that we all need dozes of comedy to put up with it and survive. Of course, even with the best comedic assistance, none truly survives. One day, we all die one day, it is just a question of  the time.

Given Williams unique life as a talented comedian, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that so much has been written about the circumstances of the demise. It also shouldn’t be surprising that much of what has been written has been on the questions on ethics surrounding suicide. After all, being ethical creatures, we can’t help but debate the right and wrong of things (even when someone disagree that categories of right or wrong, they still are affirming a unique view point as right and other view points as wrong). I do not so much intend to add new twists to the question on ethics as much as try to make sense of the tangled mass (or mess). As I see it, there are 2 broad opinion-camps…
1. Those that debate whether or not suicides resulting from depression should be treated as a disease or as a choice. I’ll call the former group as Debating-diseasers and the latter Debating-choicers.
2.  Those who do not want to get into the moral debate on justified suicide, instead want to enjoy the reminiscence of a spectacularly interesting life. I’ll call this group the ‘Rememberers’ hence fort in this write-up.

Easy Little Boxes for Images of God?:

‘Debating choicers’ wish to use Robin William’s suicide as an opportunity to teach other people that suicide is a choice and that none has an excuse to take their life away no matter what. They intend to make this into a cautionary tale to the living, so that the instance of suicide will reduce. On the other hand, ‘Debating diseasers’ see suicide as the result of the disease of depression over which one has no choice or control. They intend to not be judgemental on those suffering depression and suicidal thoughts. Least the feeling of guilt should tip one over into ceasing to live.

Here is my opinion on the Debating Choicers and the Diseasers, I think without enough data we cannot make an assessment of whether or not Williams suicide was a choice or a disease. Man, being made in the Image of God (fallen as he may be) still has a vestiges of the lofty mystery which defies being fitted into any easy categories (unless it is God who is doing the ‘fitting’ which He will on the day of Judgement, on His terms). What is to be noted here is that both of these groups intend to classify the act of suicide into an ‘easy little box’ of choice or disease. Of course, there is nothing wrong with putting things in a box, we all do it, not just when we are moving stuff. The problem with putting things is a box is if the box is too small, we miss the BIG picture life. To not attempt to see the BIG picture in order to fit something into an easy box we are comfortable with is if not stupidity, ignorance*.

To state my position from a different vantage point… To see the BIG picture of life, that takes into account the mysterious image of God we have been made into, it behooves us to not resort to fitting people and events into easy categories and little boxes of choice or disease. Defining little boxes to categorize people in is an attempt to not disrupt something that has already been neatly filed away into ossified cabinets in the mental synapses. A mind which seeks to ossify the experience of mystery is not worth of the deep mysteries imbued in God’s creation.

A Hunger for Meaning:

Now on to the Rememberers… the rememberers because they fear the ossification of their minds, run a million miles away in the opposite direction and commit the other error of defying all possible definitions. They are looking for something more than mere definitions, they are looking for meaning. They want someone’s life to ‘mean’ something. They do not want the circumstances of ones death to rob someone off of the meaning that that life contributed. This urge to find meaning in the midst of pain and suffering is not escapism as some (in the debaters camp) might argue. Rather, this urge to find meaning is a reflection of the deeper reality of the mysterious Image of God in man (fallen as it is, there still is a vestige).

If there is meaning, then human being has a great potential to forebear pain and suffering. An athlete will be willing to undergo pain and suffering in training or olympic because to compete in Olympics means something. A soldier in a the army would throw himself on a grenade to save his comrades because his saving them MEANS something (technically, this soldier’s act is suicide too). In fact, in the movie ‘Saving Private Ryan’, a whole battalion losses their lives so that the son of a widowed mother, who had lost two of her other sons in the war, might be saved. And in his dying words the captain of the battalion exhorts the disaffected soldier to life for the sake of all who died to save him, thus bring meaning to the pain and suffering they endured.

My sympathy is with the Rememberers for in trying to bring meaning into the equation of the experience of loss, they turn the experience into something that is ‘more than a memory’ as C.S.Lewis would call it in his book ‘A Grief Observed’. To have ‘more than a memory’ is to not be bogged down by the loss, but to orient oneself to the bigger meaning of the experience. 

However, I do think the Rememberers too like the Debaters, are missing out on seeing the BIG picture of life by avoiding the debate on the causes of suicide all together.

No Brushing it Away Under the Rug:

Albert Camus put the importance of discussing suicide this way…

“There is only one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is whether or not to commit suicide”

Camus was no coward. He was an thinker to be reckoned with. Suicide is not just a problem at the philosophic realm, it is in fact the 3rd highest cause of death among teens in the world. Suicidal tendencies is not a problem of the weak and the stupid. Ironically, the strong ones who ponder suicide too. Winston Churchill, the man with the indomitable will who was happy to fight the Nazis with the skin of his teeth if it came to that told his Doctor, “I don’t like standing near the edge of a platform when an express train is passing through, Churchill told his doctor. A second’s action would end everything”**.

To want to brush discussing the topic of suicide under the rug and not even talk about it as the
‘Rememberers’ seem to want to do is a disservice to humanity. Just like we are told again and again by the media that we should have healthy conversations about sex with kids, perhaps it is time to have healthy conversations about suicide too. After all, sex isn’t killing as many teens as suicide does. I do not think discussions about suicide should be repressed.

The Suicide Mindset – Loss of Hope:

I am not expert in suicide studies. I don’t know enough to discuss how to about about talking about suicide. However, I would like to give a couple of quick pointers on the causes of suicide.

In broad general terms, there are three types of caused for suicide
1. Financial failures -the suicides that happen with every financial collapse.
2. Health reasons -the older people who would rather die than be a burden.
3. Prolonged Trauma – some unresolved issue in ones life that becomes a prolonged trauma and slowly saps the will to live.

The one thing that is common among all these three is the loss of hope for a happy future. When someone feels like they no longer can hope for a better future, then they lose the will to fight for it. Life is a fight. We all need to have a will to fight. We all need a cause that encourages us to fight. When a person experiences trauma through some life event, they begin to value life differently. When they begin to see life differently, the causes (family, a principle, desire for more happiness) that kept them alive suddenly lose staying power. If something else does not happen to snap them out of this spell of losing hope for a better future, they will quickly begin to lose the will to live, someday sooner or later, they will surrender this fight. Surrender takes courage of a certain sort. Only when the loss of hope become so unbearable does on get the courage to surrender the fight.

Basis for Hope – Immanent or Transcended?:

I would venture to suggest that the way to teach our kids to not commit suicide it to teach them to be hopeful. But here is the BIG question. What do we hope for? What is the basis for our hope?

The formidable philosopher of Enlightenment Immanuel Kant said that the most important questions of philosophy are,
1. What do we know?
2. What should we do?
3. What can we hope for? The question of what can we hope for is of crucial importance for a life well lived.

I would submit that there are two ways to think about hope. 1. Immanent hope. 2. Transcended hope.

I define Immanent hope as one in which the hope for one’s well being is entirely dependent upon ones own effort. The ‘American Dream’ is a classic example of immanent hope. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a great example of the ‘American Dream’. Born in Austria, the young Arnold told his parents he wanted to be the strongest man in the world, they thought he was mad. But then they were proved wrong. Then after holding on to Mr. Universe title for a record seven consecutive times, he decided he wanted to become a famous actor. Given his heavy accent and wooden mannerisms none thought it credible. But then he again proved them wrong. Then he went into politics to become the Governor of California. He is a man of immense energy who sleeps just six hours each day. This hopeful pursuit of success keeps one alive. The key in this ‘Immanent Hope’ is to choose to make ones life mean something by pulling the bootstraps, working the butt-off, reaching for ones dreams.

There are two potential problems with this ‘immanent hope’.
1. Not everyone can win and be successful.
2. Upon facing failure, not everyone has strength to cope with failure (it should be no surprise that among teenagers suicide is the 3rd highest cause of death).

Immanent hope is not a comprehensive solution, it works for some it does not for other. People always fall through the cracks. When someone falls through the cracks, if nothing happens to stop the descent one may quickly reach a point where one would rather die than live. When there is nothing to hope for, when there is nothing to live for why not just put oneself out of ones misery. After all, Camus wasn’t joking when he said, “There is only one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is whether or not to commit suicide”.

Transcended hope on the other hand is one in which ones hope is not buttressed on the choices one makes to bring meaning to ones lives, rather ‘transcended hope’ sees meaning as being given them from an external source that is beyond the immanent world.

For example, in the Bible Abraham’s hope was in a God who promised to make him into a great nation and be his Friend and Protector. This transcended hope that he would be a great nation gives Abraham the courage to fight the conquerors of notorious Kings and to redeem those taken captive without getting any spoils in return. In St. Paul’s life, when life gets so tough and he ‘despairs of living’, it is his vision of Christ’s glory that spurs him on to live and to ‘fight the good fight’. When Hagar wandering in the desert with Ishmael is ready to die, the Angel of God appears to give her a bigger vision of what Ishmael will grown into that fills her with hope and meaning to live on. When the prophet Elisha decides that he is done with this life, God intervenes to tell him about the bigger community of Saints he is a part of to spur him to keep going.

This principle of such hope coming from a transcended source to spur to fight the good fight is seen in a crucial scene in the book “Lord of the Rings”, it is the scene where Frodo and Sam have entered Mordor through the evil marshes. They are tired and desperate. Gollum has given them the slip to plan their murder. At this point of deep despair, Sam looks up at the star of Earendil (the saviour of mankind in the battle against Morgoth – Sauron’s boss). Sam tells Frodo, “Look Mr. Frodo, the light of the phail you have is the same light from the Star of Earendil. We are still a part of the same story (of battle against good and evil). Don’t great tales ever end?”. Frodo replies, “No Sam, great tales never end, we just come play our part and go”. This recognition of transcended hope gives Sam and Frodo the courage to press into the evil of Mordor even to the point of death. The rest is history, at least mythic-history!

This transcended power of the bigger story the bigger vision of hope is what kept Sam and Frodo going on their fight against evil. All human beings, need the the transcended hope of the bigger story and bigger vision from beyond that would draw us from our narcissistic selves, into something bigger that would perpetually enchant us and would perennially fill us with meaning buttressed on the hope that the story we live would be victorious no matter what, that there is Someone outside the system who will guarantee that.

Just to clarify, ‘Transcended hope’ is not about losing hope for this life and then transferring it to the next life in Heaven. ‘Transcended hope’ rather is about meaning ‘incarnating’ into our lives from a Transcended source so that we would live our life ‘to all its fullness’. Jesus Christ incarnated into this world to bring to us a Transcended meaning and a Transcended story to see ourselves in. He did so to set us free and to help us live our lives to all it FULLNESS. He gave us fullness by dying what seemed a hopeless death on the Cross, but He resurrected to bring a new Transcended meaning to Death itself. It is a fullness in which Death isn’t a defeat. A fullness in which hope defeats Death. It is a fullness in which meaning is not limited to looking back at ones life after death (as the Rememberers want to do), but continues on in the flourishing life one will live in Heaven.

A Hunger for Hope:

Every human being, who is made in the image of God (fallen as it is), will have to make a choice about whether they are going to put their trust in some form of ‘immanent hope’ or in some form of ‘transcended hope’. We will have to decide what will truly satisfy our hunger of hope. Ones choice may be dependent on ones own philosophy and experience of life. As for me, I being a Christian, my ontological belief is that human beings are not just made as spiritual images of God, but also as embodied temples of God. So, I see my life as meaningful because I am ‘known’ by a Transcended God who is also Immanent, living within me. Of course, this does not mean that I will not despair. There have been, and there will be moments of desperation. At such moments of loss of hope, I do not have to depend on comedians to cheer me up, rather it is God’s incarational intervention through the Holy Spirit that comes to my rescue to remind me of the hope buttressed on the Truth (incarnated) and orient me toward the BIGGER vision of God’s glory in which is my happiness.

After all as the Westminster catechism says, “man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever”. When I was a kid, Robin Williams was enough to make me happy and hopeful for more happiness. Now that I have grown and become more aware of the cynical hopeless of life, my need for wonder and hunger for hope to compensate for the ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short’ life has grown such that I need more than a phenomenally talented Robin William, I need a powerful and loving, transcended and immanent God to make my happy.

Psalm 16:11 You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.


*So what is the benefit of seeing the BIG picture and not put things in
easy-boxes one might ask. Answer: To attempt to get a better
understanding of life is to have lived a good life. Of course, that was a
restatement of Greek philosophy, ‘an unexamined life isn’t worth
living’. It is not just the Greeks, the Bible encourages seeing the BIG
picture too, ‘it is the glory of God to hide mysteries and it is the
glory of kings to uncover them’, ‘my people perish for they lack
understanding’, ‘you predict the weather but can’t read the signs of the
time we live in’. (Of course, biblically, seeing the BIG picture has to
be done within a covenental and incarnational context, which is the
topic for a different blog post).

**In fact, Nassir Ghaemi in his book ‘A First Rate Maddness: Uncovering
Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness’ argues that it was
episodes of depressive mental illness which made Great men into who they
were, the likes of Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King
Jr., FDR. When a person has stared death in the eye and come out
victorious, they are stronger than before. But then, there are other
people who don’t quite make it out of the staring contest.

No Freedom without Meaning

If there isn’t a big purpose that is captivating us, we will likely be lost in one of two realms. We would either be lost in a flurry of activity bouncing about from one whim to another or in the realm of inactivity callously slipping into a depression. Both of which makes man less human.

I was reading the book ‘Loves Me, Loves Me Not’ by Laura A. Smit in which she has a quote from Harry G. Frankfurt in his book ‘Reason of Love’ saying,

“the necessity with which love binds the will puts and end to the indecisiveness concerning what you care about”. 

Laura A. Smit goes on to comment that,



“real freedom then is not found in being autonomous selves but in having a worthy direction and purpose that we can embrace completely and whole heartedly without ambivalence”.

Reflecting on this… if there isn’t a big purpose that is captivating us, we will likely be lost in one of two realms. We would either be lost in a flurry of activity bouncing about from one whim to another or in the realm of inactivity callously slipping into a depression. Both of which makes man less human.

Purposeless distracting activity, as in watching cats videos on Youtube cannot captivate us. Indulging too much on it makes us but less human. Purposeless inactivity, as in being lazy to the point of getting depressed, leads to a dreariness that would ultimately make one less human.

On the other hand, some people find their bigger purpose in their family life, everything they do is guided by demands of family life. Some others find their bigger purpose in their careers. Some other find their bigger purpose in some altruistic motives, like solving world hunger or promoting greener energy resources.

In all this, ‘purposeful meaning’ that firmly binds us to a some BIG goal helps us to be truly human. To try to be untethered oneself from any semblance of meaningful purpose of the human enterprise is to make of oneself, ‘an empty bubble floating about in void’ (borrowing a phrase from Sartre).

Often, man, at least the bohemian one who values freedom, dreams of running away from any meaningful responsibility and be in a state of perpetual vacation. The irony is that if any man would truly achieve a state of responsibility-less vacation, he would find that he isn’t so much free as empty.

Black Hawk Down – A Lesson on Love

The movie ‘Black Hawk Down’ is a non WWII war film that is riveting in its realism of depicting the workings of a modern war fought in the urban cities. In spite of the incessant violence in the role of ‘Hoot’ played by Eric Bana I found a poignant lesson of love.

Hoot rugged looking handsome and brave insurgent that works behind enemy lines. While every soldier is supportive, helpful and anxious, Hoot appears standoffish, unloving and almost incapable of compassion. In the battlefield he is decisive, brave and appears to love war that you might want to label him a jingoist. One might want to say that Hoot is either a sadist who loves violence or he is a man who has been hardened by years of living life the hard way at the edge of mortal danger.

The Delta force that Hoot is a part of raids a rebel stronghold. They massively underestimate the enemy firepower and get badly beaten. Not knowing what hit them, large numbers of troops are trapped behind enemy lines. As the trapped soldiers make their way out into the safe zone they get butchered as they fight their way through. After hours of battle, being chased and shot down as though they were dogs, a group of soldiers make it through and Hoot is among them.

While the soldiers that made it through rest feeling safe and blessed to have made it to the safe zone, Hoot retools to go back behind the enemy lines. Sgt. Eversmann is flabbergasted that Hoot wants to go back behind the Enemy lines after having been through hell and back. He asks…

Sgt. Eversmann: You going back in?

Hoot, the seemingly unfeeling in-compassionate machine of a man gives a impassioned poignant reply explaining his rationale for taking this crazy risk…

Hoot: There’s still men out there. Goddam. When I go home people ask me, they say “Hey Hoot, why do you do it man? Why??? You some kind of war junkie? I won’t say a goddam word… Why??? They won’t understand… They won’t understand why we do it. They won’t understand, it’s about the men next to you. And that’s it. That’s all it is. 

There is a deep Christian principle in what Hoot is saying here. If you truly loved your Neighbor as you should, you will do what needs be done. If need be, you will go behind Enemy lines to save souls. When I think of this tall, sharp nosed, handsome Hoot, I am reminded of an ugly, short, (supposedly) large nosed man who lived a couple of millenia ago and loved going behind Enemy lines to save souls, St. Paul.

To Paul, going to Rome was to go behind the Enemy lines. To be right under the nose of the Great Caesar and preach that Caesar isn’t God but Christ is, is asking to get killed. But Paul is eager to do it, Why? Because he feels an ‘obligation’ to the ‘neighbor’ both Jew and Gentile.

Romans 1:
13. I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14. I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15. So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.

Paul is no crazy adventure junkie. He has a reason why He eagerly risks going behind enemy lines. He explains… that it is because the Gospel he preaches is ‘powerful’ enough to change ‘people groups’.

Romans 1:
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

If you know anything about History, you’ll know that the Gospel is the Power of God that transforms people groups. It may not happen overnight. It usually takes centuries. Since Paul got behind enemy lines it took about three centuries before Rome turned from being the seat of a Pagan power to a well spring of Christianity.

The famed Historian Will Durant when describing this age of Early Christianity succinctly says, “Christ and Caesar met in the arena and Christ won” (BTW, Will Durant was no Christian. He was just a good historian.)

That there were men out there that needed to be saved was preeminent on Hoot’s mind. It defined who Hoot was. That men needed to hear the Gospel, that it was his ‘obligation’ was preeminent on Paul’s mind. It defined who St. Paul was. The question that 21st Century Christians might want to ask ourselves is what thought take such preeminence in our minds that it defines us. 

Not every Christian has to have a St. Paul like ministry, but all of us have preeminent thoughts in our minds that define us to such an extent that we appear crazy to other people. Crazy people are attractive. It is the normal run of the mill folks that are vapid. As Christians aren’t called to be run off the mill people. We are called to be crazily in love with our neighbor that others will see that and be attracted to Christ.

John 13:
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Going behind enemy lines looks different for different people. To Paul it was going to Rome to fulfill his obligation to love his neighbor. To us it might be spending time with a friend to make him/her feel valued or may be lending money to people who need help or just being with people listening to their suffering without venturing to give half-baked prognosis as Job’s friends did or just doing whatever it take to make one realize one is loved.

To love is to risk. To love much is to risk much. If the ‘new commandment’ to crazily love is something that would truly be preeminent in our minds, if this would truly define us as Christians, that would be a place where the Power of God transforming people groups through the Gospel would be easily apparent and would attract people to Christ. Unless Christians understand this transformational lesson on love, we will miss an opportunity to help the pagans understand the language of love that Christ speaks in.

Saving Power of Imagination!

My introduction to Woody Allen movies was through his later film ‘Midnight in Paris‘. I liked Woody Allen’s use of imagination in the movie. ‘Midnight in Paris’ is a story about a couple, Gil and Inez, engaged to be married that go to Paris for vacation to celebrate their engagement. The lady’s personality is that of a ‘philistine’ in that she lives in the ‘material’ world cares pretty much for nothing else other than good food, dressing well and exciting sex. The man on the other hand has a finer tastes for life. Gil is thrilled that he is in Paris the city of dreams for the quintessential artist.

The man and the woman see and experience very different worlds in Paris. Inez goes about the city uninterested, disenchanted and ends up having an affair with the guide. Gil on the other hand, finds his imagination getting fired up. He can’t get enough of the city and goes about exploring it. Inez sees no point in enjoying the night walk in Paris. Gil goes it alone. It is in one such midnight walk that a carriage pulls by and he is asked to hop over into it. He gets transported into the Paris of the 1920s when it was thriving richly with a host of young Bohemian artists. He meets everyone from Ernest Hemingway to Gertrude Stein and spends the night in their August company. This happens every night. Gil lives a dream life in his imagination. He is a happy man.

The question here is… What do you make of Gil’s imaginary world? Does it really matter that the guy has such a powerful capacity for imagination? Or may be he needs to see a Psychiatrist? Why make such a big deal of this imaginary world? Should we just dismiss this cinematic depiction of the power of living in an imaginary world as a crazy old Woody Allen’s attempt at making mediocre movies towards the tail end of his career.

I think the answer to this question is implied at the end of the movie in how Paris changes the lives of the couple. Gil is not looking for anything specific in Paris to satisfy him. He surrenders to allow himself to be surprised by his imagination. The more Gil is drawn into this beautiful imaginary world, the happier he is in the real world. That he does not get any sexual satisfaction from his bride to be is immaterial to him when compared with the beautiful imaginary world he is a part of. The woman on the other hand presumably gets ALL she the exciting sex she thinks will make her happy, but ultimately ends up dissatisfied.

When Inez finally confesses that she has been has been having an affair with a mutual friend of theirs and wants to break-up, Gil isn’t the slightest bit perturbed which infuriates her all the more. Gil was living in such a beautiful world of imagination that the pleasures offered in the real world seemed mediocre. His imagination was powerful enough to make life satisfying for him. He did not need a ‘hot wife’ after all. He has his eyes set on a world where ones satisfaction isn’t determined by ones needs but by ones ability to be eternally surprised by imagination.

I think there is a Christian principle here. Just like Gil is satisfied by the hope, joy and love offered by the imaginary world do that he does not care much for the mediocre pleasures of the real world, the Christian is to be satisfied by the hope, joy and love of the Heavenly world so that sometimes when we have to give up some of the pleasures of this world it wouldn’t be that big a deal.

The Bible uses our imagination to enthuse us about the great goodness of the Heavenly world. The Bible talks abstractly about the next world in terms of the length, breadth and height of the treasures God has prepared for those that love Him. Then the Bible also talks concretely about streets of gold, sea of glass, great mansions. This abstract and concrete figures of speech is meant to fire-up our imagination so that in the imagination empowered Hope of the things to come, we would endure the hardships of this world.

If we do not use our imagination to envision, explore and be enthralled by the Hope we have in Christ we, like Inez will see a very ‘reductionistic’ world and will ultimately begin seeking after silly pleasures to satisfy us. Christians like Gil have to be people with fired-up imaginations so that we see that there is more to this world than meets the eye. We should go about exploring the world through the Word of God. The imagination empowered vision of the World painted by the Bible will help us set our priorities right and live a happier and FULLER life in this world and the next. Unless Christians use their imagination to see the BIG world that God created and called us to be in, we would become a bunch of petty people seeking after silly stuff in a reductionistic world. Imagination saves us from this narrow focus by helping us SEE the great things God has in store for those that love Him.

Love is Stronger Than Death

Disclaimer: Though I am clumsy with poetry, I felt impelled to write one about dear Chilo. Chilo is a character in ‘Quo Vadis’ which is one of the best books I have read. (http://www.amazon.com/Quo-Vadis-Narrative-Time-Nero/dp/B000JPG7HQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1333395858&sr=1-1) . If you plan to read the book, you may not want to read the poem below… Chilo I hated so and then loved all the more… not so much because Chilo turns good, but because love is stronger than death.

At last, Old, weak and defenceless
On the tree hung dear Chilo
Whose trade was with words
Wit, his Greek weapon.

Since birth, a vile soul within a wretched  being
Forsaken, hungry and ugly
Cunning had sought life.
Vengeful had sought glory.

Venomous worm, made his way
Through the blood of the Martyred
Christians preyed upon by Caesar’s Beasts
Betrayed innocent blood to claim his destiny.

A destiny of comfort, honor and glory
Beside the Caesar, depraved Augustinains alongside
Orgy unending, void of Love and Truth
In the shadow of the Cross

The smoke lifted… joyless and wretched
Beheld he the scary Cross… forgiving him.
Love and sorrow mingled flowed…
Thus was chosen the wise, wretched Greek.

Conquered by love to hang upon the tree. Tongue-less
To proclaim to the Augustinains, the Christian Truth.
Caesar or Christ? Comfort or Cross? Glory or Love?
Chilo chose Christ! Chilo chose Cross! Chilo chose Love!

Terrified Augustinians tongue-tied, blinded by Truth
The Christian Truth the Greek had finally divined…
The loving King had destroyed Death! Death is dead!
And so Christian Love is stronger than Death!

Tenderness Trumps Beauty!

The weekend before last, after the Superbowl loss Tom Brady the quarterback of the losing Patriots was disappointed. To be a quarterback and lose a game is like being the surgeon who loses a patient in the operation. Of course there would be the nurses, the anesthetist etc… who are responsible for success, but when it is a failure the responsibility in most cases, falls squarely on the shoulders of the surgeon. Such is the weight the quarterback feels when his team loses. If my analogy doesn’t quite fit football, blame it on my lack of understanding of the game. I don’t follow sports much. The reason I watched the Superbowl was to just experience the community part of watching the Superbowl.

There was something after the game that perked my interest. The camera focused on Tom Brady’s despondent face ans someone said, “Well, he has lost his game, but he is going home to a supermodel wife”. Then I was watching some news and there too the anchor made the same comment.

Honestly, I was a little bit pissed off with the characterization. Is that supposed to mean that guys who do not have supermodels wives can’t help but be sadder? Or does it mean having a supermodel wife is so great that even if you are total wimp, your faltering ego will find its footing on the beauty of the wife you possess?

Just to make clear, I am not belittling what Tom and his beautiful wife share. I belittle how people perceive and present it to others thus reinforcing a wrong value in marital intimacy. The moment of intimacy that Tom and his wife share is precious, and what makes is precious is not Gisele’s beauty but her tenderness and caring nature.

Unfortunately, our culture places a lot of premium on beauty. Both men and women do it, though slightly differently. Men generally want hot wives, that is all they mostly ask for. Women generally just want good husbands who are also, btw, hot and handsome!

The importance of tenderness over beauty is best said in the words of Max De Winter in the movie ‘Rebecca’. Max De Winter says, “I was told that what a man needed in a woman was beauty, brains and breeding. But now I realize that is wrong. What a man needs in a woman is sincerity, modesty and the ability to love”.

Tenderness triumphs beauty anytime… anyday!

My Valentine Meditations – On the Missing Valentine

Saint Valentine married people off and got killed for that. In a poll among young urban Americans one the questions was, ‘Do you think marriage is obsolete?’. Majority said ‘Yes’. Another question of the same poll said, ‘Do you want to get married?’ Majority said ‘Yes’. Most want to marry, but aren’t getting married. We live in a world of delayed marriages, if at all people marry. Modern times is missing its St.  Valentine.

The idea of obseletness of marriage is not a problem among just among urban elites. I was reading an article where a school teacher writes about the struggles he has in understanding the mindset and the maturity of the a few of his students who are pregnant in their teens. He discusses a bunch of questions two of which caught my attention. He asks the pregnant teen, “Do you think the father of your kid would marry you?”. The pregnant girl answers, “I don’t think so”. “Do you think your having this child will affect your future marriage?”. The girl answers, “I don’t know”. The girl sitting near by asnwers, “Nobody marries anymore, Mister”. The whole class bursts out laughing. 

Where is the St. Valentine of this age who helps those who want to get married, but don’t know why it isn’t that simple as it once used to be? Is he in hiding? Have we lost him? Has he matyred again?

I was reading another article about some controversial debates about the implementation of the new Healthcare ACT in the US. The question on the table was about whether birth-control pill had to be made freely available in College campuses as part of the Healthcare mandate. The article also had some snippets about what students in college thought about the plan. One of the girls supporting the free distribution of pills said, “I am an adult. None can stop me from having sex. The only question is whether or not I am going about it in a healthy way.”

Today, I read an article about how women in military are sexually abused by men. Last year alone there were 3200 reported cases of sexual abuse in the US Army. Most go unreported. One of the ladies said that when she complained about abuse to superiors, she was told to “things like this happen, suck it up”.

The fundemental premise in the above statements is the idea that ‘sex is a fundemental right’. The belief is that, “None can deny me my right to sex”. It is almost has the primacy of the First Amendment right. What is missing there is the idea that ‘sex is right, only when the season is right’. 

God created life to have different seasons. In one season, we are kids and then we become adults, then we become parents, then we become grandparents. Then we die. All of these seasons are held together by the ‘bonds of love’. Love has different manifestations in different seasons. If we try to mess with the appropriate manifestation of love for a season, we end up marring that season itself.

Marriage is an important season in a person’s life. When God instituted marriage he clearly defined the need for a new manifestation of love. He said, “for this reason man shall seperate from his father and mother and ‘cleave’ with his wife, and they shall be one body”. Marriage ushers in a new season which is manifested by new expressions of love in the romantic and erotic forms. As long as the romantic and erotic forms of love are expressed towards the purpose of becoming one with the spouse, the God ordained manifestation of love brings joy to the season of marriage. 

Our modern society is trying to reengineer the manifestations of love and decouple it from its appropriate season so that people will have the individualistic RIGHT to gratify themselves with any form of love they want anytime with anyone.  The lines between the seasons of adulthoood and marriage gets blurred because people try to enjoy the marital manifestation of love before marriage. When the lines get blurred so much, eventually the season itslef finds no reason for existence. We are left with, “Nobody marries anymore, Mister”. 

Premature experience of profound love forms can be very detrimental to love itself. In the movie ‘Blue Valentine’, the wife says that she has been sexually active since 13 had more than 25 partners. Still carrying the baggage from her old relationships, she is not able to enjoy sex with her husband. She is unable to make the transcition from ‘lusting sex’ to ‘loving sex’. In the movie, this inability of hers becomes the breaking point of an already strained marriage. 

Marriage, kids and a stable family is the basis for any civilization to thrive. A civilization that does not have thriving marriages will die. The root cause of this predicament is the unwillingness to submit to Truth. The Truth as God instituted is for different life seasons to be coupled with appropriate manifestations of love. God joined sex with marriage. Let man not separate what God has joined, for if he does will end up destroying both of what he seperated. As the author of the book ‘Unhooked’ says, “we delay love to enjoy sex and end up losing both”. 

St. Valentine stood by God’s Truth to multiply and be fruitful. He supposedly stood against the edict of a selfish tyrant to the point of death. Our civilization needs, many who imbibing the spirit of St. Valentine will stand up for Truth of God and take a stand against their own selfish desire for gratification. God’s Truth sets us free to experience life in ‘all of its fullness’ that spans across life’s seasons, bonded in love. Sacrificing God’s Truth in the altar of self-indulgence is the problem of the missing Valentine.