Jon Foreman goes to Washington

Here are my terrible pictures when I went to see Jon Foreman in DC. Forgive me. With that said, the show was incredible. He opened the show with “Terminal” setting the tone of our existence. We are all broken. But continued with many of his songs from the EPs and played a handful of Switchfoot songs. All the while reminding us the hope we have in the God, who is love. He is the one who heals us; who loves us perfectly and transforms us.

He had a lot of fun on stage. It was an intimate, fun setting. He had us, the audience, write his playlist and we even shouted out songs we wanted to hear. He performed with two other musicians, they were excellent. They played songs never done together tonight as well. This is the mark of a true musician, following the lead and playing it well. What a great show. The goodness of God, of a man living well was palpable in that theater. Such a great concert. See Jon Foreman live and see Switchfoot. He’s probably the saint of Rock n’ Roll.

He ended with “Your Love is Strong” which is basically the Lord’s prayer set with verses. My God, what a powerful ending to a fantastic evening. The prayer set to music, the prayer Jesus spoke directly from the Father and gave to all of us… what amazing life-changing power that song/ prayer has. It was incredible.


The Good Place

I have been watching the TV show, the Good Place recently. It’s good. I have a few thoughts on the show. For those who do not know the premise: it is about a woman Elenor who mistakenly is sent to the Good Place after she dies. She is paired with a soulmate who was a moral philosophy and ethics professor in his life on earth. The show is a comedy and rightly so because it has hope within it.

Those who are sent to the Good Place are those who did a lot of good in their life and are ranked with a scoring system. Of course, we cannot save ourselves by our good morals and virtues, yet being good is something that people of all faiths strive to be. Is it for a reward at the end? So we can make it to heaven or the Good Place? Possibly.

But if you love a God who is love, why wouldn’t you want to obey His commands to live well and treat your neighbor as yourself? If God is good, why wouldn’t you want to be with him for eternity? There’s a song by Queen called “Who Wants to Live Forever?” The song is about the pain of this life. The pain of loss. The pain of loving and losing. I get it, this life is full of suffering. I wouldn’t want to live forever in misery and pain. I don’t want eternity in a broken world that won’t be corrected by human effort. But I do want eternity in a place where everything was supposed to be good. Where there is no pain, sin, suffering, hurt, weeping. Not a utopia, but the kingdom of God.

What I like about the show The Good Place is that Elenor tries to be good because her being there screws up the order of the Good Place. The fabric of that “universe” starts unraveling. Her “soulmate” teaches her how to be good, what is means to be good. Reminding her that Aristotle was the one who said, with habit and repetition, if one wants to be good, a person can be. I think we have seen the evidence of this in cognitive studies. Breaking bad habits and forming new good ones takes 30 days, apparently. If we work at living well, it happens. Of course, we don’t do this perfectly and still screw up. Anyway, back to the show, Elenor is granted that she stay in the Good Place because the creator has formed an attachment to her. And has seen she isn’t all bad. This is the underlying grace in the show. It is a reminder that even at our worst, if we want to change, and usually this is a grace given by God, God gives us the grace to change and aim for our goal–God, who is all good, who is love.

Today in church, the priest talked about his witnessing miracles. He talked about the saints and some first class relics he has with him at all times. He reminded us that we need help everyday from the communion of saints, other Christians, to “get to heaven.” He reminded us to live as though we were going to die tonight–to live well with our eyes on God.

Like Elenor, who is being trained and coached by a moral philosophy professor, we too are edified, built up by other Christians (living and dead), moral people, the Good. We cannot do it on our own. We need others who are wiser than us. To live well takes a lot of work and commitment and grace. Of course, it’s not a points system, but worshipping the Good, God, will change our desires to be good.

Canto 28 Paradise: perfect order

In this canto, Dante describes the perfect order of Paradise and the angels and saints perpetually praising God at the center point of the concentric spheres. It is described in poetic vision.

In Hell, the disorder and division of the schismatics that split apart the order of church and state or city, community, polis. In Purgatory, Dante sees the order of the Earthly Paradise and all that the human truly, made whole. In Paradise, Dante witnesses the orders of the angels, Thrones, Princes, Powers, Virtues all in their correct place, a perfect harmony with God at the center.

Dante describes, “So when my Lady (Beatrice) gave me her reply I saw the truth, beheld it like a star shining in brightness and serenity. And when she finished, as an iron bar thrust in the forge will fling out glints of flame, so were those circles glittering in fire.” Dante witnesses the beauty and perfect order of Paradise. Everything in its proper place. Everything “drawn toward God.”

This is the poetic vision of perfect harmony and its center and ground–God.

Canto 28 Inferno: schismatics

“What the sinners did in life they now become, with the mists of self-deception stripped away” (Esolen, 503).

Here Dante meets the schismatics. They are cloven in two. Grotesque bodies split in half are described. It is a truly disgusting sight to witness. If biblical and philosophical language is used, the church and the polis are seen in terms of a body. Every person within the organism serves a purpose that keeps the body of the church or city working as it should.

When a meddler comes into the picture, it divides the body. The order of the body (church and city) begins to crumble and work against itself. God has set organizations, cities, countries, churches, the universe to work in a certain order. To have an order to it. Working together. Yes, we are flawed. But if God is good and is a God of order, and his highest creation reflects his image, should not our workings be in the similar way God has ordered things?

The schismatics cause a lot of pain to a system. Mainly because the church and city isn’t the thing itself, it is the people. It is incredible how much pain and problems we humans cause by unjust action. We think a decision will not harm, but it certainly does. One who causes division for a larger entity (church, state, city) may pay in this life. There is possibility for repentance of course. But the unrepentant will meet justice even in eternity.

In Purgatory 28, Dante enters the Earthly Paradise. This is the polis or the church in its perfection. All is as it should have always been. Ones memories of sin are washed away and all the memories of the good in that persons live given back and restored. The human being restored to full humanity. The soul (body, whole person) restored. Therefore, the human being in body, can function in full capacity within the polis (city) of God. The kingdom of God.

In Hell, the people there reflect their sin. In Earthly Paradise, they reflect the completed, whole, restored image of God.

another sketch: photograph

Photographs capture moments of memories.
The same person, but different in each.
This one wears the face of grief.
A sickness in the family, death at the doorstep.
More grievous than the people realize (in the picture).
The face of joy in other pictures.
A moment of sadness, yet tinged with hope–
you can see it on the edges of his face,
the lines of sadness, but a glimmer in the eye.
Looking at yourself in the past
brings a smile to the face
or a pange of sadness
where a pool of tears
occlude the eye.
Photographs will remind of things forgotten.
Emotion usually attached.
Yet, our lives are not photographs.
God holds each person’s life within His memory.
A whole life in one moment–all at once.
We forget our own moments,
But God does not.
Some of the person’s life brings grief;
He knows our thoughts and our secrets.
He sees our whole life in the hope of what it will be.
Present in our memories–redeeming what was lost.
We are finite and only know who we were and who we are
our pain, our joy known only now.
Never knowing if healing will come. But we hope.
Yet, God knows, even redeeming that which caused us pain in the past.
Our end– wholeness and union with Him. In peace and rest.


Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina: the way of Peter, the way of Judas

The way of Peter is that though he denied Christ three times, he was restored after Christ was resurrected and followed Christ the rest of his life. The way of Judas was that he betrayed Christ. He could have been restored, but chose despair and suicide instead.

Tolstoy’s main themes in this book are forgiveness, the wages of sin, the appetite vs. love, restoration, love, virtue and constancy. The story revolves around four couples. Constantine returns from abroad to ask Princess Kitty to marry him. But he is rejected because she is infatuated with Prince Vronsky. Yet, Prince Vronsky becomes infatuated with Anna Karenina, a married woman, and they vow to be together. So in the end Constantine and Princess Kitty are married.

Constantine is virtuous and noble and has a lot of integrity. Kitty is young (eighteen) and still has her girlish ways of romance. But as the story continues, she grows in maturity and becomes who she is–a princess of nobility and honor. She and Constantine love each other and endure hardship and grow together. They learn what love truly is–honoring one another, respect, ever vigilant against wandering thoughts and passions. To love one another and build the family together.

Anna Karenina’s brother and his wife are another couple in this story. The brother has had an affair and his wife is devastated by this; she doesn’t want to continue with her marriage. But in the end they too are restored to one another. Anna Karenina even helps with their restoration.

Then there’s Anna and Prince Vronsky and finally Anna’s husband (making the fourth couple). There is an affair. Anna’s husband grants, out of mercy, for her to be with Prince Vronsky after her near death episode. This is what she wants, so he grants it. Yet after all the secret passion, once she and Prince Vronsky are together, she has bouts of jealousy and suspects Vronsky being with other women. She doesn’t trust him at all. She is plagued with guilt but hopes for the best in moments. But overall, her shame and guilt consume her. But instead of being restored, either returning to her husband, or reconciling somehow, (Although, her husband would not grant the divorce.) she throws herself at a moving train and dies.

Her madness consumed her. I think what Tolstoy was saying is that there is always a wage for sin. There can be restoration. Either, she could have waited it out and finally be granted the divorce and move on with Vronsky. Or she could have returned to her family. But the option of being on her own, unless she became an Orthodox nun, wasn’t an option. The laws have changed quite a bit since the 19th century. It’s difficult to comprehend that Anna couldn’t have been completely on her own, since in these days things are much different. Divorce was a big deal. There were many implications. It’s not that it isn’t in this day, there is still pain and hurt and division. But the laws have made things “easier”.

Guilt and shame will drive a person mad. The beginning of a romance has much delight within it. Once parties are aware and people are hurt, reality sets in. There is always a price to pay. Yet, within the pain, there is restoration eventually. It takes all the virtues: cardinal and theological, to press through. Despair could overtake the person, but that is not the way. Even after all the pain and loss, Christ is the restorer. The person may have a different life, but has taken responsibility for their actions and have moved forward, though the life may be completely different.

Tolstoy may have wanted to show the way of Peter (restoration) and the way of Judas because that is how the world is. But emphasizing the way of Peter because that is the hope that we have. It is the way of the Christian (Orthodox, Protestant, Catholic).

Grotto in Emmitsburg: I thirst

I took a pilgrimage to Emmitsburg, MD today. I journeyed (a short journey) to the Grotto of Lourdes of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. I have been here many times, but haven’t been in several months, possibly a year. I didn’t want to leave the place. There were a lot of people there from all over the world. I love that about pilgrimage spots–the entire world is represented. God’s people are in all places and all times.

I drove North from where I live and realized I forgot my water. Which I usually forget. So I was thirsty, but I was thirsty in a different way. My soul needed nourishment. I walked around, looked at the many statues, mosaics, stations of the cross, sat with St. Francis of Assisi and listened to the birds and animals in the woods around me. I wrote a crappy poem. It was metered: most metered poems come out terribly when I write them. I thought about taking selfies with some of the statues of saints, but then thought better of it (I’m trying to put some humor in here too.)

As I walked back toward the parking lot, I was still within the grotto woods and I heard singing. It was coming from the chapel. There was a Mass happening. I speed-walked toward the chapel as though I was a person in the crowds flocking to Jesus on the Mount giving the Sermon. My soul hunger and thirsted for His word and it was satisfied.

Unbeknownst to me today is the feast day of St. John Paul II. I like him, not only because he was Polish, but because he changed the face of the Catholic Church–all Christians (of other denominations) like him quite a lot.

The priest who gave the homily talked about how John Paul had a lot of trepidation becoming the Pope. But he accepted and encouraged all to not be afraid, the same words Jesus used and the angels use. The homily went on, the priest encouraged us to open our arms to the power of Jesus, not the power of the world.

The priest went on reminding us of St. Augustine’s search for God, but also reminded that the Truth searches for us. He said, “We seek beauty, but are really looking for Christ, we seek peace, but it is in Christ, we seek love, but really looking for Christ, seek truth, etc.” Where the priest was pulling from is from St. Augustine’s Confessions. It is quoted below:

“Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all.

You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.”

Though I am a local pilgrim to the Grotto, I longed and thirst and hungered for Christ. Though alone, I am not alone. Though I put myself in darkness, dawn is coming. I listened to the EP Dawn by Jon Foreman on the way home. Anxiety, loneliness, fear and other things gnaw at me still, but I have to remember who I am. I forget often. Lord, give me (us) strength and light, grace and your peace.

It was beautiful at the Grotto today. I didn’t want to leave. There is something wonderful, delightful, peaceful, beautiful about a place that has been set aside, dedicated, cut out of, for the purpose of prayer and worship. This place has been set aside for over 100 years. You can feel it there. The same way I felt it in Israel where prayer and worship has been happening for thousands of years. The beauty and holiness of God–wonderful, powerful, terrible, merciful, just.

I love and have missed the order of the liturgy. And to share it with the world, many nationalities was wonderful and beautiful. Christ in all who are baptized–the Holy Spirit present among us. The image of God searing through all of us. All from different cultures, but one faith, One God.