Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Love/love II

1 comment:
by Henk Hart

"Night Light" by Henk Hart

Life, light, and love are a trinity of God-speaks into our reality. One of the message bearers is the full moon, whose bright light fills the night. When it is night in our life, the night light tells a good advent story.
When, now almost ten years ago, I had written down how my experience of love/Love had impacted my life an awareness came over me that something was missing. It took a few days to discover that the piece of text in front of me missed the dynamic of what I tried to say. The words and phrases, so it seemed, were asking me to let them dance. And so they guided me lovingly to find another shape for them. Together with the two preceding blogs (one, two) they complete the triptych that introduces a series of blogs related to love/Love.


At heart,
a human life
gains without measure
in depth and scope
exposed to giving
or receiving
primeval energy
of all that is.

In the embrace of Love
vessels of love
become aware:
irresistible energy
compels us
be centered
in all we do
in Love’s embrace;
to seek for ourselves
and others
peace, justice, joy, life,
fulfillment, patience,
hope, light, and healing.

Love begins,
guides us
to set our priorities,
distribute our energies,
choose our relationships,
value our involvements.

Love fills us,
its blessed awareness
whenever and wherever we follow
step by step but irresistibly,
bids darkness recede—
light spreads.

We become driven by Spirit—
Ruah, Wind, Breath
blows where it wills
harvesting without exception
light and life
wherever it blows.

Growing in trust
the Presence of Love
in our life
bit by bit
our presence as love
in the Presence.

I experienced Love
dawning forcefully
at the dark edge of the abyss
in their last journey.

The doom of death
revealed depths unknown
of Love.

Who are you?
fullness of evil?
part of life?
final separation
from self and other?
Why do we weep?

Death’s deepest sense persists
as ineradicable persuasion:
new life emerges for us all
after our death.

Daisies bloom another spring,
so do we.
Our death is singular,
no circling cycles,
no seasons,
we die
then live forever.

The birth of Love in our life,
foretaste of eternity:
this inexpressible joy will be ours

What is hereafter
after their death?
In my brain
survival beyond the end
is dead.

In my heart
a compelling reality
anticipated and celebrated
in music, in song.

Tears well up
with songs of visions of redemption,

No remnants of a childish faith,
a final maturation
of our trust
of Life and Love.

In Love's world
our tears of weeping

trickle into rivers of joy.

This piece is part of the Ground Motive project From Henk's Archives.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


1 comment:
by Henk Hart
"For the love of bees," photo by Henk Hart
Jim Olthuis’s exaugural address on creation as an act of love, "Creatio Ex Amore," opened our hearts to knowing love as having no boundaries. When all creation flows from love, love must flow to all creatures. The bee keeper shows us how.
Last week’s blog briefly told the story of how, really for the first time, hitherto unknown love became a reality in our lives virtually overnight. This week I share how after some years I wrote down briefly, as a marker, what the presence of love/Love had come to mean in my life.

After love/Love exploded in our lives while waiting for death, I was powerfully drawn to search for the meaning of love and Love. I now know that, at its core, a human life gains immeasurably in depth and scope when it is exposed to giving or receiving love as the primeval energy of all that is. Once we begin to be in the embrace of Love and begin to experience ourselves as vessels of love (I mean: to BE), we become aware of an irresistible energy that compels us to become centered, in all we do, in that embrace; to seek for ourselves and others peace, justice, joy, life, fulfillment, patience, hope, life and much more. Love then begins to guide us in setting our priorities, distributing our energies, choosing our relationships, valuing our involvements and in so doing fills us with a blessed awareness that whenever and wherever we follow this guidance we find that, step by step but irresistibly, darkness recedes and light spreads. We become driven by a Spirit (Ruah, Wind, Breath) that blows where it wills and that without exception harvests light and life wherever it blows. The more we trust the Presence of Love in our life the more we ourselves become a presence of love in that Presence.

I have experienced that Love dawns (!!) most forcefully when I lived at the edge of the abyss of darkness. In Esther's and Anita’s last journey the doom of death revealed unknown depths of Love. This experience has started in me a steady meditation on two meanings of death, as the ultimate concentration of evil and as a normal stage in the course of all that exists. And at this time I am inclined to see the two meanings used as a metaphor for each other. Death can then be a metaphor for the concentration of all evil as experienced in our final separation from self and other. But the other sense then seems to persist in us in our ineradicable persuasion that new life emerges for all of us after our death. Not only do daisies bloom another spring, so do we. And so strong is this persuasion that we interpret our death as a unique event, not occurring in eternally circling cycles, but happening only once: we die and then live forever.

So when we experience the birth of love in our life, we can feel that as foretaste of eternity: once this inexpressible joy will be ours forever.

Ever since Esther's death I have struggled with "hereafter." Slowly an awareness has ripened in me of our "future life" as inaccessible to our understanding, but felt as a compelling reality, especially when anticipated and celebrated in music. The tears that well up when we sing of visions of redemption, reconciliation, resurrection, and rebirth speak to me not as the left-over remnants of a childish faith, but as a final maturation of our trust of Life and Love. In God's world our tears of weeping trickle into rivers of joy.

This piece is part of the Ground Motive project From Henk's Archives.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

God, Virtue Ethics, and Rhythm

by Caleb Ratzlaff

There are countless ways of understanding God’s nature. New atheists such as Daniel Dennett, for example, reject a variety of theisms that defines God as a supernatural agent who desires humanity’s worship. Peter Rollins, a self-identified emergent Christian defines God as “that which we cannot speak of [and] the one thing about whom and to whom we must never stop speaking.”* Rollins finds inspiration in Christian mystics such as Meister Eckhart, tending away from anthropocentric understandings of God like the one Dennett rejects. Like Dennett, Rollins aims to disturb conventional theism while, unlike Dennett, maintaining a semblance of orthodoxy. Jack Caputo, taking these ideas a step further, conceives of God as an “insistence” with little agency in the world other than the ability to disturb and haunt our actions.

Conceptions of God play a critical role in shaping our moral lives; some theists practise an escapism because their God shuns the world, while others become champions of social causes because that is what they believe God desires of them. This post will work backwards, so to speak, considering how our daily attempts to act ethically can shed light on God’s nature. To this end, I will employ virtue ethics’ approach to moral life, a school of ethics that emphasizes virtues, opposed to an emphasis on the need to follow rules (deontological) or an emphasis on the consequences of one’s actions (consequentialism).

In a nutshell, virtue ethics claims that we should always make decisions that encourage health. On a personal level, this means being concerned with one’s character, believing that if one engages in the daily practice of care, for example, one will be prepared to act caringly when a weighty ethical situation demands such action. Similarly, on a societal level, a subscription to virtue ethics would aim to develop life together in ways that encourage healthy relationships — for example, by building neighbourhood landscape that create opportunities to practice hospitality.

But what does this ethical school have to do with our conceptions of God?

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Filled Fully With God's Love

by Henk Hart

The preceding half dozen blogs focused on finding God. I asked many questions, I wondered and wandered, and sometimes I found my way. When I did I often wrote of love and found God as Love. The next few blogs will especially focus on finding our way in loving, on finding God in Love. The joy of being with God and of trusting God's being with us are movingly illustrated in Old and New Testament in the life of sparrows. Psalm 83:4 expands the joy of being home with God by including “even the sparrow” who builds a nest on the altar in the temple and in Matthew 10:29 Jesus encourages the disciples by reassuring them of God’s presence even with lowly sparrows falling to the ground. So the picture I’ve chosen for the first of the following love/Love blogs is dark and cold, bare shrubs wrapped in snow and fog. The chill of that scene notwithstanding, however, is the promising presence of a home for the sparrow, on the bare stem in the centre.

The blog that follows tries to tell a story of being filled fully with all God’s fullness. I learned that expression from Ephesians 3:17b-19, where the author is confident that in following in the love of Christ we will come to know the unknowable, namely that we will be fully filled with all the fullness of God. I read this as meaning: As we grow in cruciform love, the image of God, who is Love, will be fulfilled in us. In the last weeks of our daughter’s life we experienced this knowledge-transcending love. With that short story I hope to share the deepest meaning of the blogs that follow.

A relative who learned how my wife and I cared for our daughter in her last weeks said: I could not do that. I understood. I thought the same when Esther asked us to help her die at home. No more hospitals. We were perplexed and afraid. Seeing our hesitation she asked: is your love not big enough?—How could we refuse?—But could we do it?

In death’s face love filled us to overflowing. Ephesians calls this love unknowable and also says that in our loving God makes it fully known.

Changing Esther's bed and clothing in the middle of night while giving her affection revealed the paradoxical character of death’s agony matched by love's treasures. Her pain riddled body and immobility often required 2 hours for us to clean the bed, bathe her, and provide whatever comfort we could. In these trying hours, in the dark of night, the rest of the house asleep to find strength for tomorrow, we found the unfathomable depths of love making possible the impossible. When she was vulnerable in her literal nakedness, weeping for her lack of control, too tired even to breathe, our fragile care revealed what, in all its depth, all great religions write about love: the light that shines in this darkness is the healing sun of God's love filling us.

Our dance together forged boundless bonds. In these despicable hours she smiled most. We whispered "I love you" and said more than we knew. We experienced love's bonds banish pain and nurture peace. Witnessing God loving us as children we cried tears of joy, moved by the mystery of love. In the darkest and heaviest moments for a caregiver, the stars see love through the windows of a dark house with lights on in the bed and bathroom. When Esther was finally back in a clean bed, washed of her pain, angelic peace on her smiling face, sleep came before she felt the pillows. Love unknowable became known. We could love because we were loved.

This piece is part of the Ground Motive project From Henk's Archives.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Spiritual Challenge of a Trump Presidency

by Dean Dettloff

The Temptation of St. Anthony, Niklaus Manuel

Along with the rest of the world, a lot of Americans woke up yesterday morning to the surprising news that, barring some miracle, Donald Trump will be the 45th president of the United States. Yes, despite being an accused sex offender, identifying black people with “inner cities,” seriously suggesting banning all Muslims from the US, making fun of people with disabilities on the campaign trail, calling Mexicans rapists and planning to build a wall between the US and Mexico, and more, Donald Trump will enjoy a majority Republican Congress as he looks to implement the platform of anxiety and opportunism he ran on. It appears the baffled double-take of referenda like the UK's Brexit vote or Colombia's rejected peace agreement is becoming the norm. Surprising though the results are, the disorientation seems almost natural following the embittered struggle of the 2016 campaign season, an affair that brought out the worst of the American populace and stirred up a mixture of fear and resentment unlikely to stop swirling any time soon.

What are American people of faith to make of this situation (I ask Ground Motive's significant Canadian readership to permit me to address my fellow Americans)? Now that we know Donald Trump will inherit that swirling mixture of fear and resentment, we are faced with two choices. Either we do what Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, among most other elected officials, advise us to do—accept Trump's presidency, painful though it is, and greet it with an open mind and willingness to cooperate. Or we do what a variety of Americans have already started to do—take to the streets and demonstrate, materially, an unwillingness to accept the presidency of a candidate who just days ago was being called unfit for the office by Clinton and Obama themselves, and try to build alternatives.

Many Christians have already begun to take the first strategy by appealing to Providence and praying for wisdom for Donald Trump in his new position of power. Trump won the election fair and square, even if he lost the popular vote, and the magnanimous thing to do is accept the results. The spiritual challenge suggested here is one of forgiveness and fidelity, reaching across the aisle in a spirit of good sportsmanship and charity. God is in control, so the view goes, and that means, for whatever reason, Trump could prove to be the negotiator many take him to be.

To accept the results of a Trump presidency under the assumption that God will sort it out without any help from us... is to take a view of divine sovereignty that serves the interests of polite society and party politics.

But this strategy is not so much a challenge as a luxury. It is especially easy for white Christians to make this suggestion, as we (since I'm a white Christian myself) stand to be least affected by a Trump presidency. For those who fall on the other side of Trump's campaign rhetoric, this strategy is tantamount to self-sabotage. To accept the results of a Trump presidency under the assumption that God will sort it out without any help from us, or to make voting the end-point of Christian political activity, is to take a view of divine sovereignty that serves the interests of polite society and party politics. It enables the privatization of religion so necessary for the smooth functioning of American projects, unimpeded by the annoyance of faithful believers whose shaping narrative is profoundly at odds with the story of exclusion and paranoia told by Trump. It rejects any prophetic vocation, as the prophets of the Old Testament certainly were not afraid to demonstrate their refusal to accept their leadership (whether by Isaiah's protests in the nude (Isaiah 20) or Ezekiel's odd theatres of resistance). What appears like an appeal to fidelity on the part of many Christians is in fact a betrayal, trading in the Gospel of a God executed by the state for good manners and civic duty.