“You know,” he said, as he sat in the old wooden rocker, watching the fire. “People talk about the perseverance of the Saints as if it’s a good thing. I’m not so sure it is.” The old man stared at the flames as they danced around the logs. “I mean, sure. ‘Once saved always saved,’ and all that jazz, but wouldn’t it be better if we could lose our salvation?”
“How are we even certain of our salvation in the first place, Jim? We’re told that good fruit comes from good trees, but then at other times we’re told that all the trees are rotten, and only one thing can rid the rot. Where’s that magical tipping point?” Jim didn’t answer.
“‘Confess with your mouth and believe in your heart,’ Jim! That’s what they used to say. They also told me that I couldn’t do anything. ‘Not by works, old boy.’ ‘God is love, son;’ that’s why He burns the rotten trees that couldn’t grow anew. I mean, you can’t allow the infection to fester. What about when God plants the trees, Jim? What then? What if the infection is sown by the Doctor? The Doctor sure doesn’t like to see His patients suffer. That much is clear. What Doctor would? At what point do the sick become the condemned, though? I just don’t know, Jim.” Jim just sat there.
A fiery avalanche in miniature tumbled into the ashes. Sparks cartwheeled and floated, seemingly of their own volition. The air expanded and exploded, and Jim just sat there.
“I really want to believe in a loving God, you know? I can’t believe that there is no God. Sure, perhaps our idea of God is wrong. I could be a deist, but then there’s all those stories. God is love. Jesus loves the little children. He healed that woman who bled; He deigned to touch the lepers. Love your enemies and, bless those who curse you. The peace that would result from such an attitude, Jim! But I suppose that forgiveness requires wrongs, and wrongs require a Right. Malice needs an object, Jim. How do we get around that?” Jim looked over for a minute, but he didn’t say.
“An all-powerful God is a terrible idea, Jim. A loving, all-powerful God is a thing of beauty. A just, loving, all-powerful God is what they posit, Jim. The justice supersedes our idea of love! God’s justice requires Him to destroy evil, and we are evil! I didn’t want to be evil, though, Jim. I didn’t have a choice in the matter. I want to be saved; who doesn’t? I want to do good; only the truly sick don’t want that. Only those in need of a Doctor, Jim, not a Binary Judge. Why would the Doctor-Judge make His patients his defendants, and then try them before treating them? Jim, I don’t mean to be blasphemous, but the idea of a loving Father does not mesh with the idea of a fickle King who casts his subjects into a fire. The judgement is always the same. ‘You are sick. You shall die.’ How do we know when we’ve won the cosmic lottery, Jim? Do we want to?” Jim stood up and began to pace.
“Come on Jim. Let’s go for a walk.”
Jim wagged his tail.
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It’s time for another incredibly useful and absolutely essential and indubitably indispensable how-to!
If you’ve had a twelvemonth anything like mine, Christmas has sneaked up on you this year. That day of merry-making, mistletoe, and gift-giving is only seven days away!! The radio has been attempting to drill that fact into my head for the past month, but I have successfully avoided that ploy by boycotting all stations that play, have played, or are planning to play the song “Christmas Shoes.” I have avoided decorating; I try not to do too much shopping, and the only movie I have been to was the midnight premiere of The Hobbit. In fact, due to my Grinch-like behavior, it seems that I have almost forgotten the holidays altogether!
To remedy this perilous situation, and to prevent my offending of the poor little Whos of Whovillle, I have determined to bring myself to have sympathy for those besot by the mood of the season.
With very little further delay, let us commence the how-toing of the getting intoing of the Christmas Spirit.
First of all, I have acquired for myself some music that both fits my tastes and the thematic setting of the world around me. A Christmas metal mix, a mix of Christian Indie artists singing Christmas carols, and a classic album from Relient K comprise the majority of my listening now. This seems to be making some headway.
I also decided that while I didn’t really want a full-sized conifer brought into our home to shed its joy and needles, a small table-top version would not be that terrible. The cheery little reminder of bright lights and ornaments (yet to be placed upon its boughs) sits and beckons our attention.
While I don’t like dressing in holiday apparel, perhaps you do. Good for you. Please don’t bring your reindeer antlers near me.
One thing I love about this time of year is that people seem incredibly inclined to cook sweet things. Throughout most of the year, cookies and brownies are about as special as the deserts get, but now that the 25th is rolling around, I’ve had cinnamon rolls and cakes and cookies and éclairs and candies and all kinds of stuff! (I do so love to eat.)
Finally, I looked at a book that’s been a bit too long neglected. Why, exactly, is the Bible one of the least prominent of decorations yet one of the most integral to the origins of the holiday? Perhaps, though, Christ’s Mass has become so only in name. True, hundreds of millions of people celebrate the holiday, but do they do so for the tradition or for the observance something more? In the US, it’s practically impossible to avoid the effects of the commercialization of Christmas, and it seems as though even the Christmas spirit has been commercialized. All that I listed above has nothing to do with Christ, yet this is His Mass, and I suppose we could give Him a bit more than a second-place seat to a fat old man with a troop of reindeer and a collection of midget slaves. So, isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?
And if you’re not in the “Christmas Spirit” now, I’m afraid there’s no hope for you, Charlie Brown.
To look out into the stores and streets,
The thoughts of a sacrifice are not brought to mind.
The pastel-colored decor and cheap plastic eggs serve the perfect compliments,
Celebration and gaiety are rampant; thought better serves duller days.
Solemnity is not present; why should a bunny evoke such feelings?
The religious are more so, for today is important.
The house is proper and children are preened.
The church is prettied, and the pews are cleaned.
The glamor is prepared, and the preacher is ready,
A big crowd is expected today.
The kitchens are abuzz with talk and bustle,
This is the big day!
The families in their homes are running in circles.
Clean under the table! Move those chairs!
The dust is evacuated, and the windows shine.
The in-laws are coming! No time for discussion!
The food must be ready, the clothes must be ironed.
The eggs have been prepped and colored,
Hidden in the yard for the children to find.
The house is prettied, and the yard is cleaned.
The talks are prepared, and the father is ready.
A big dinner party is happening tonight.
The games are prepared, and the parlor is set.
This is the big day!
Thought better serves duller days,
After all, why make such a bright time dreary?
Joy is found in the Lord!
He wouldn’t want thought to hinder the glee.
Bunnies and eggs, bright clothes and good food.
Think rather on these things.
Chocolate, caramel, sugar, and Peeps,
These are the fruits of the spirit.
Eat and be merry, as the good book says.
From whom should we expect contradiction?
Celebrations are here.
This is the big day!
These are his eggs, and this is his chocolate;
Eat this in remembrance of him.
He was pierced for your pretty clothes:
Crushed for your Easter dinner.
The widows and orphans watch as the show is performed,
After all, weren’t we commanded to represent him?
He suffered to break the cycle, to complete the law;
If you love him, you will buy lawn ornaments.
The wardrobe has the focus of the weekend;
The oven has the place of honor.
The sacrifice was made long ago, why think on such sadness?
This is the big day!
Go and make disciples of all the other church-goers!
Use pretty colors and serve tasty food!
Dress in fancy clothes, and gather in a safe brick house.
Separate yourself from the world with a wall.
Be in the world, but not of it.
Take up its traditions, but ignore its people.
If they are worthy, they will be attracted to the show.
Do not associate with those lower than thou.
He died for our sins; let’s talk about the splendor of spring!
He was raised to cover our iniquities; let’s buy a suit!
Let’s go to church, for today at least.
After all, today is the big day.