Thursday, May 28, 2015

Kindness

“My son, my son,” said Aslan. “I know. Grief is great. Only you and I in this land know that yet. Let us be good to one another.”  —C.S. Lewis. The Magician’s Nephew

Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth;
Keep watch over the door of my lips;
Let not my heart speak severely.[1]Psalm 141:3

When I was a child I was an ardent reader of L. Frank Baum's Land of Oz books. Id not seen a copy for decades until this week when I came across a
Gutenberg e-book facsimile of Baums Rinkitink in Oz with all the original artwork (http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/958).

Imagine my delight!

I laughed again at the antics of Baum's portly, ebullient, irrepressible, goodhearted King Rinkitink, of the Kingdom of Rinkitink and was reminded of his downtoearth goodness.
Young Prince Inga describes him best. When Bilbil the goat excoriates Rinkitink as an incompetent fool, Inga replies, But his heart is kind and gentle and that is far better than being wise."

How simple and how sensible! Yet, who of us has not jarred the heart of someone dear to us by a harsh word, a sarcastic remark, an impatient gesture, a displeased look, a disapproving frown. In subtle ways we register displeasure, disturb the peace and quiet of the hour, and undo much of the good we have done that day. "A small unkindness, says Hanna More, is a great offense.

Grief is great. We must be good to one another, by soft endearments in common strife / lightening the load of life (John Keble). In a world in which love has grown cold, kindnessa kindness that comes from the heart of Godis one of the most helpful and healing things we can offer to others.

And heres the good news: Anyone can become kind. We may be incapable of preaching corking good sermons, fielding hard questions, or evangelizing vast numbers, but we can, in time, become kind.

How? As King David did: Through prayer, the only way to soften our “rubbled–over hearts”—Karl Rahner’s apt expression—the source from which severity and all other sins flow. Hard words flow from hard thoughts. Indeed, Lord, “Let not my heart speak severely.”

David Roper
5/24/15


[1] The sense of the Hebrew text (Brown, Driver & Briggs Hebrew Lexicon).

Monday, May 25, 2015


Feed My Sheep

If we are devoted to the cause of humanity, we shall soon be crushed and brokenhearted, for we shall often meet with more ingratitude from men than we would from a dog; but if our motive is love for Christ, no ingratitude can hinder us from service to our fellowman. Oswald Chambers

In 1627, Samuel Rutherford penned a letter to Marion M'Naught, wife of William Fullerton, a worthy clergyman doing his weary best in a small Presbyterian church in Kirkcudbright, Scotland. Things were not going well, and he had few to "speak a good word" for him.

Like most of us he occasionally wondered it was time to move on: He would most gladly have the Lord's call for transplantation," Rutherford wrote. However, he continued, all God's plants, set by His own hand, thrive well."
In other words, as the adage has it, bloom where you're planted.

Rutherford writes on, Ask of God a submissive heart. Your reward shall be with the Lord, although the people be not gathered (as the prophet speaks); and suppose the work do not prosper...you shall not lose your reward.

So your people do not gather in numbers and the work does not seem to be prospering, be content for now to remain,[1] to pray, to instruct, to listen, to love, and to grow in grace. Continue "for the love of the Prince of your salvation, who is standing at the end of your way, holding up in His hand the prize and the garland to the race-runners."

Feed your sheep for love of Jesus and for no other reason (John 21:15-17). "You shall not lose your reward."

David Roper
5/25/15


[1] Remain until you're extruded, to use Francis Schaeffer's  colorful term.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Reflection on Psalm 130[1]

“Are the gods not the gods just?”
"Oh no, child. What would become of us if they were?”

― C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces

Psalm 130 is an ascent psalm, a psalm to get us up and get us going—especially on those days when we cry "out of the depths" of our troubled, sin-ridden souls, knowing that we will sin again—and again (130:1).

If God “kept a record of sins”—if he were solely just—what would become of us? (130:3). But—and here’s a lovely Old Testament grace note—with him “there is forgiveness,” for in due time God himself bore our sins, past, present and future, in his body on the Cross.[2] What can I say but “Awesome!” (130:4).

Thus, forgiven for all time and eternity, we await our final redemption from sin: ”I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I my hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning" (130:5,6).

Morning is a sure thing and so is our ultimate salvation, but we must wait. There is no final deliverance from sin in this world, though there should be and will be progress in righteousness. But the promise holds: “With the Lord there is unfailing love (now) and with him is full [and final] redemption” (then) (130:7).

Now we are enveloped in his sure and certain love, and very soon, when he comes for us or we go to him, “he himself will redeem [us] from all our sins” (130:8). When we see him we shall be like him!

When Julian of Norwich asked God why sin entered world, she replied, "Sin is necessary, but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well."

Lift up your heads. Your redemption is nigh!

David Roper
5/21/15

[1] It would be helpful to have the psalm in front of you.
[2] God’s forgiveness is based on the Cross, an event in time with timeless implications. Jesus “is the lamb having been slain from the creation of the world” (Revelation 13:8).

Monday, May 11, 2015

Fool’s Gold

“All that is gold does not glitter.” —J.R.R. Tolkien

Back in the 1860s a prospector named Captain Tom Morgan filed a claim on a hard–to–find drainage in the mountains northeast of Boise and rode into town claiming he had discovered over $50,000 worth of gold. After a legendary spending spree his “gold” was discovered to be chemically enhanced iron pyrite—fool’s gold.

Captain Morgan was never caught, nor was he ever seen again, but his skullduggery is memorialized in the name the site bears to this day, Bogus Basin, and proves again that Shakespeare was right: “All that glitters is not gold.”

We know the proverb and we know the truth, for we’ve all been fooled by those who shimmer and shine, but whose hearts are dark and deceitful. We’ve learned that outward beauty can be an overlay, a fa├žade, an affectation that conceals evil, self–serving motives. It’s good to be wary of those who look too good to be true, for too often they are!

J.R.R. Tolkien, howevert, turns that proverb upside down and finds an equal and opposite truth: “All that is gold does not glitter.” As ugliness can be cloaked in beauty, so goodness and beauty can be hidden in an unattractive presence.

The phrase occurs in a letter delivered to the hobbit Frodo at The Prancing Pony, an inn to which Frodo and his halfling friends had come after a long journey through the Misty Mountains.

Riders had come from the south the day before, strange, suspicious looking men who were now lodged in the inn. But the strangest of all was a tall, dark man who sat in a shadowy corner, wrapped in a cloak with a hood that hid his face.

He was a Ranger, the inn–keeper Barliman said, a solitary wanderer who came and went at will and whose business was shrouded in mystery. His presence was grim and forbidding.

Then old Barliman remembered a letter from Gandalf in which the wizard informed Frodo that he might meet a friend at the inn: “A Man, lean, dark, tall, by some called Strider. He knows our business and will help you.”

In a postscript to the letter, Gandalf inserts this poem…

All that is gold does not glitter
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken;
The crownless again shall be king.

Who could have guessed that the dark rider was in fact a nobleman, Aragorn, son of Arathorn, a “crownless” king, an ancient warrior with deep wisdom who would become a fast friend, faithful guide and guardian to the travelers—which is Tolkien’s point: an unappealing presence can conceal a heart of gold. 

The media and other elements of our culture have taught us to court the buffed, the best–dressed, and the beautiful and attribute worth to them. The old, the dull, the dowdy, the homely are discounted.

But Wisdom speaks otherwise: “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). It leads us to go beyond appearance and look within the soul of every man and woman for virtue and the beauty of holiness, for authentic worth lies just there.

Our Lord: “had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised…and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:2,3). Yet his heart was pure gold.

And so I ask myself, “On what basis do I evaluate others? What kind of fool am I?”

David Roper



Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Frailty and Its Works

“Who has not seen, as the infirmities of age grow upon old men, the haughty, self-reliant spirit that had neglected, if not despised the gentle ministrations of love, grow as it were a little scared, and begin to look about for some kindness; begin to return the warm pressure of the hand, and to submit to be waited upon by the anxiety of love?" (George MaDonald, Adela Cathcart, vol. 3, ch. 7).

I was hobbling up to the door of my gym some months ago, when a young man brushed past me, almost knocking me down. At first I thought it was merely the thoughtless behavior so often characteristic of the young, but to my surprise he wanted to reach the door before I did so he could open it for me. It was an act of great kindness.

But it wounded my pride. "Am I not man enough to open my own doors?" I thought. I smiled and thanked him, but underneath I was troubled.

I’ve always found it hard to accept help from others. I was raised that way: My father thought you should never ask others to do for you what you can do for yourself.

Thus, frailty humiliates me. I want to be strong in old age, go out in a blaze of glory, exit in full prime, but weakness and neediness is a good thing for in it I am learning to “submit to be waited upon by the anxiety of love” (love that is anxious to serve). So the Amish believe, "God permits infirmity so others can learn to care."

I think of the lesson of Pope John Paul II who refused to give up public appearances even when be was obviously uncomfortable and weak. He wanted people to see his pain, because, as he once wrote, “Suffering stirs the heart to act with compassion; it unleashes love.”

David Roper

5/5/15

A Poor Wise Man ""It is amazing what you can accomplish if you don't care who gets the credit" (Harry S. Truman). ...