Category: Uncategorized

St Augustine, you were with me but I was not with you

Late have I loved you, Beauty so ancient and so new, late have I loved you!

Lo, you were within,

but l outside, seeking there for you,

and upon the shapely things you have made I rushed headlong,

I misshapen.

You were with me, but I was not with you.

They held me back far from you,

those things which would have no being

were they not in you.

They held me back far from you,

Those things which would have no being

Were they not in you.

You called, shouted, broke through my deafness;

you flared, blazed, banished my blindness;

you lavished your fragrance, I gasped, and now I pant for you

I tasted you, and I hunger and thirst;

you touched me, and I burned for your peace.

From the archives: I’m an INFJ

I’ve known about personality typologies for a while now, but over the last year or so I’ve been a little more interested in them. I don’t think they are to be taken as black and white classifications but simply as typologies. They are helpful in knowing who you are, and knowing others around you. As an INFJ, I am the rarest of types, and thus most often misunderstood. I find them quite helpful in knowing why I do the things I do, and think the way I think (the reason for my liking typologies will be explained at number 4). The following are NOT 100% accurate, but provide soundings of who I am, and my tendencies. For one I don’t think I am “extremely intelligent” nor am I “socially inept” – but I do think that the description under those headings  provide an accurate characterization of how I think. Though, being careful of overgeneralization, it’s important to note that behaviour will depend on the context.

Also, I did not write the following, but grabbed it from here:

http://www.squidoo.com/top-10-things-every-infj-wants-you-to-know

Are you an INFJ? Do you know an INFJ?

INFJ is the rarest Myers-Briggs personality type accounting for less than 2% of the population. Because of this, we can feel misunderstood by many. While there is a lot about us that we want you to understand, here is a list of the Top 10 Things Every INFJ Wants You To Know.

10. We are planners

As with many other Judicial personality types, the INFJ enjoys structure and order. Though our intuition can cause our structure to fluctuate, we still thrive best when we can plan out the details of our situations and lives.



Sometimes, however, spontaneity can occur outside of our control. This deeply shakes us and we often respond to this loss of control with anger and frustration. Brandie, over at Little Left of Normal sums it up best when she says, “Sometimes spontaneity leaves us in a position that we cannot plan…, and we find this upsetting. Please understand that we are never upset with you, only the situation.”

9. We are extremely intelligent

INFJs are introverted thinkers and extroverted feelers. Because of this, we can struggle to articulate our thoughts. While we may, in our minds, be able to answer deep meaningful questions, retain amazing amounts of data and debate with the best of them, when asked to speak aloud, we often fumble, stutter over our words and say a small fraction of what we are actually thinking. This lands us the labels of slow-witted and unintelligent.

However, when we are comfortable with a person and situation and are given plenty of time to ponder an inquiry or organize our thoughts into words, we can speak fluidly, clearly and passionately on almost any subject.

8. We only need one person

Because we are introverts, INFJs are completely content being with just one person, whether a partner, friend or family member. When we make friends, it is usually for the long haul and it takes a lot to destroy a relationship. Unlike extroverts or some other introverts, INFJs can spend the rest of our lives with only ever being close to one person and never feel as though we are missing out on other relationships. In fact, we actually prefer it.

When we have many relationships in our lives, we can become easily overwhelmed and feel as though we are not giving our best to each relationship, leading us to feel unhappy, exhausted, and stretched thin.

7. Prolonged solitude kills us

Personality Junkie, INFJWhile some introverts can be all by themselves for every second of the day and feel nothing but contentment, an INFJ needs to be around people. Though we still need time in solitude in order to recharge ourselves, too much time alone can leave us feeling drained, lonely and depressed. INFJs thrive on the emotions of others. We live for bettering others to better ourselves. We cannot do this if we are always by ourselves. When an INFJ does not have a close relationship, they can became depressed and feel empty.”INFJs often feel happiest and most fulfilled when helping others understand themselves and their problems.” – Personality Junkie, INFJ

 6. We are perfectionists

INFJs are never happy with ourselves. No matter how much an INFJ has improved, there is always room to be better. Often times, we can struggle with relishing in our accomplishments since we continue to focus on where we have fallen short and how we could have done better. It can sometimes frustrate an INFJ to see others complacent with their current selves.

“INFJ is a perfectionist who doubts that they are living up to their full potential. INFJs are rarely at complete peace with themselves – there’s always something else they should be doing to improve themselves and the world around them. They believe in constant growth, and don’t often take time to revel in their accomplishments…they have very high expectations of themselves, and frequently of their families.”
– Portrait of an INFJ, www.personalitypage.com

5. We are socially inept

While many INFJs can practice and put on a good show, most of us struggle with social norms and routines, especially if we see little use for them. Since, as mentioned before, we find it difficult to put our thoughts into words, we can feel uncomfortable being in situations that cause us to interact in a spontaneous manner, such as meeting someone new.

INFJs spend most of our time thinking through deep and complex matters, therefore shallow and menial conversations of everyday life can confuse and frustrate us. Talks of the weather and local sports are exhausting for us. We would much rather ask for life stories, sincere problems of which we can offer solutions and therapy session-like conversations. When we ask “how are you,” we mean it on the deepest and sincerest possible level.

 4. Our label means a lot to us

While every person can be pinpointed as a specific Myers-Briggs Personality Type, INFJs tend to cling to our label as soon as we discover it. As we are the rarest personality type, making up an approximate 2% of the population, we spend most of our lives feeling lost and misunderstood. Once we learn that we are not alone and that there is an explanation as to why we have always felt different, we feel overjoyed and almost “normal.”Even if the description of an INFJ does not fit us 100%, it still usually offers us a lot of information for which we have spent the majority of our lives searching. Those four little letters can be life-changing to an INFJ.

 3. We are very open-minded

INFJs have an amazing ability to think abstractly. In our minds, it is easy to see gray areas and blurred lines. While we tend to have strong principles and passions, an INFJ can usually see another persons point-of-view on any situation. Whenever there is a difference of opinion, an INFJ is very driven to ask questions and seek information about the opposing side in order to understand the different perspective. This part of our personality leads to deep compassion and always giving others the benefit of the doubt.

 2. We are warm-hearted

INFJs can outwardly appear cold. Because we tend to be very private and enjoy only opening up to our closest companions, others can see us as cold and detached. This is the furthest from the truth. INFJs are, in fact, extremely warm-hearted and open to everyone around us, but because we are socially inept, we can struggle with making others aware of this. Our compassion knows no limits and we are mostly selfless people. We hope that everyone can open up to us and know that we are there for them, however, we will probably not open up much to them by no fault of their own.

 1. Our intuition is real

INFJs are known for being the most intuitive personality type. We “just know” a lot of information that we can never fully explain. Many sensing types and a few intuitive types cannot fully grasp our level of intuition and easily discredit our knowledge. Without any explanation as to why, we can feel the feelings of everyone around us as deeply as though they were our own.

As An Anonymous INFJ states: “In my experience, the most misunderstood part of an INFJ is how we feel everything those around us feel. We do not sympathize. We do not empathize. We literally feel exactly what you feel. Even if you are trying to hide it or don’t express your feelings, somehow we still know.”

Along with our open-mindedness and compassion, our ability to intuitively feel and sense things around us is a large part of why we can help others so easily. We just know what is best for those around us even if we cannot articulate why.

If you know an INFJ or want to be closer to an INFJ, believing in our intuition is the best thing you can do because it is the biggest part of who we are.

On being alive 

“Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”

– Ernest Hemingway 

Reflections on Gratitude and the Holy Supper

gratitude

Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? 1 Cor 10:16

Eucharisteo is the Greek word for gratitude.

The posture of thanksgiving is what the biblical narrative points to as the proper posture of the imago dei in man. This stands in contrast to our North American culture of excessive hoarding and addiction through the gratification of insatiable desires. Hans Boersma makes the observation that this is quite understandable since our words is astonishingly beautiful: “When we smell, when we taste, when we hear, when we see, when we touch—the pleasure that follows can be overwhelmingly powerful.” But the purpose of our lives is not for increased gratification of the instinctual sort. What separates us from animals and what makes us rightful candidates of the imago dei—that uniquely human calling to image the Creator—is a posture of eucharisteo: gratitude. But not just any gratitude, but the kind that leads to self-giving, the kind that recognizes that all of creation—all that we can taste, touch, smell, hear and see—is merely a gift to be offered back to God.

In response to Jesus’ instructions, christians have made what has come to be known by countless names (holy communion, eucharist, holy supper, etc) as the definitive marker of the Christian identity.

“Do this in remembrance of me,” Jesus said. Then word “communion” refers to the greek word, koinonia, which is also translated as fellowship, and participation. This special Christian act is precisely that: fellowship, participation, a unique and unexplainable mystery of entering into the Trinitarian life. And as we enter into the life of the Trinitarian God, we are launched into a life of eucharisteo.

To be authentically human, according to Christian faith and practice, is constituted by the posture of thanksgiving that leads to self-giving.

Paradoxically, and in opposition to everything we’re told by a culture of rampant consumerism, a life of gratitude is the life that is most satisfying of all.

Studies have shown that gratitude in itself is a healthy posture, and daily practices of expressing gratitude will contribute to happier life. But who are we to thank? How we answer this question will determine whether or not we will move from thanksgiving to self-giving.

God’s Plan For You is to Be a Gardener

A couple of weeks ago I had a sudden impulse to have a garden.

I bought some soil and some planters and the next you know I was in my garden gloves, watering basil, tomatoes and cucumbers in a raised garden bed made of an old bookshelf. The idea of having a garden sounds nice, but unless I learn to prune and water it, it’s going to die. If I want it to flourish, I will need to be intentionally present to it.

The beautiful thing about gardening is that it’s the primary image used in the Bible to describe what humans were created to do: to be gardeners of the world.

In the first pages of the Bible we’re introduced to God as a gardener: “And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed” (Genesis 2:8).  And like any gardener, God’s desire for His garden—His creation—was that it would flourish. In other words, when God created the world, He created it with the intention that it would be a place where goodness, truth and beauty would abound. The Hebrew word for this was shalom.

The surprising part of the story is that God did not choose to do this by Himself. God’s plan was for man and women to be co-gardeners with Him. Humans, made in the image and likeness of God, were created to join God in His creative work to care for the world in a special way.

All the pain, hurt, suffering and shame we’ve ever experienced is a result of our failure to be responsible gardeners of God’s creation.

The good news of God becoming a man and entering our world is not that we get a ticket to escape the world, but show us the way to be proper gardeners of the world.

Unfortunately, salvation is often misunderstood as a story of escaping this world because it is just too damaged and corrupt for any hope of redemption. Thankfully, this isn’t the case. See, God did not become flesh to get us out of the world, but so that we would be fully human, fully alive, in the world and for the world.

Because of Jesus, a new creation has penetrated our world.

One of the earliest Christian teachers captured this idea when he said that “the glory of God is man fully alive.” What he meant was that in Jesus, we find our true human fulfillment. This is why Jesus often talked about offering “abundant life” to his followers. It doesn’t mean that he gives us a lot of things but that he makes it possible for us to recover our human calling to be co-gardeners with God.

This has a lot of implications with how we view and inhabit our world. Christians are called to be the shapers and makers of culture. We’re called to be present, like a gardener is present to his garden, caring for our world, our city, our neighborhood in ways that reflect the ways of Jesus.

When we follow Jesus into the way of life he calls us to live, he will make us more human than we could ever be without him.

Following Jesus means that we learn to be present to people, places and things in every sphere of culture we find ourselves in for the sake of cultivating shalom.

on how busyness is laziness

“I want to appear important. What better way than to be busy? The incredible hours, the crowded schedule, and the heavy demands of my time are proof to myself and to all who will notice – that I am important. …I live in a society in which crowded schedules and harassed conditions are evidence of importance, so I develop a crowded schedule and harassed conditions. When others notice, they acknowledge my significance, and my vanity is fed. …Busyness is the enemy of spirituality. It is essentially laziness. It is doing the easy thing instead of the hard thing. It’s filling our time with our own actions instead of paying attention to God’s action. It’s taking charge.”

Eugene Peterson, from Contemplative Pastor

 

Be A Farmer: How to Experience Transformation

TransformationIf you’ve been a Christian for longer than a week you know that you can’t transform your heart through sheer determination and willpower.

The Bible talks about sin as a condition so deeply ingrained in the heart that it works its way out through the body (Ro. 7:5). Jesus spoke of this as well when he said that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” He was addressing the external righteousness of the Pharisees, telling them that “every careless word” will reveal the true nature of their heart (Matt 12:34-36).

In other words, what is inside will always come out. If you are full of anger, full of lust, full of bitterness, no force of willpower and determination will keep the heart from being revealed.

There’s two typical ways we go about dealing with this reality: the first is to try harder and do better, give will-power another try. The second route we take is to believe that there is nothing we can do so we must idly wait for change to happen automatically. In the meantime, thank God that you are “objectively” righteous, and soon enough the real righteousness—the change of heart Jesus spoke about so often—will eventually come. These are the two options: will-power or idleness, and both are wrong.

Paul gives us a third option: learn to be a farmer.

He says, “he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (6:8). Richard Foster comments on Paul’s farming metaphor and how it relates to the process of transformation:

“A farmer is helpless to grow grain; all he can do is provide the right conditions for the growing of grain.  He cultivates the ground, he plants the seed, he waters the plants, and then the natural forces of the earth take over and up comes the grain” (The Spiritual Disciples, 7).

Paul gives us the picture of the farmer to resolve the tension of transformation, and it’s a paradox: there’s physical work you can do that has no power in creating growth, yet is necessary for maturity. Like the flourishing garden of a farmer, transformation takes bodily discipline. When the Christian practices of prayer, study, solitude, silence, service, and many others become a regular part of our diet, we are creating the right conditions to experience something supernatural.

But don’t be fooled into thinking that there is some kind of power inherent in the disciplines, there isn’t.

No seasoned farmer will boast about what grows from his garden, he is well aware its mystery, and thankful to be invited into the process. The disciplines simply create “the right conditions”—they create the environment for God to do his work. They are his chosen means of grace for transformation—for taking what we believe in our heads, and webbing it deeply into our hearts.

Transformation happens not through willpower nor idleness but by learning the skills of the farmer who takes the time, the patience, and the effort to cultivate, plant, and water, creating the conditions for God do his mysterious work. It is a slow, long, but life-giving process.

 

 

 

Learning to Lament in the Midst of Tragedy

Lament

Christians need to learn to lament. We live in a culture that prefers to hide sadness, and too often, Christians have been found doing the same.

Every day, we encounter people who are suffering because of loss, instability, pain or regret and they lament because of it. And every day, Christians offer intellectual answers to the emotional turmoil that so many victims of tragedy experience, bypassing any need for lament.

We look up our favourite suffering-will-make-me-a-better-person verse and stamp them on the victims of tragic turmoil.  I hear it said all the time that since “Jesus will use your suffering for good to make you a better person,” you shouldn’t be sad.

Though the statement about Jesus is true, the conclusion about emotional repression is absolutely false.

Here’s a question that might be worth asking: How should Christians  respond to tragedies that involve violence, hate, suffering and death without disqualifying the reality and immensity of their grief? How can our faith in Jesus as Lord ultimately be a source of joy while being honest about the dysfunction of suffering and death? How can we point to something worth hoping for without giving pat answers about “sanctification” and how suffering will “make you a better person”?

It’s easy to miss, but there’s something mistakenly unhealthy about this common scenario because it fails to take into account the complexity of the biblical narrative and how Jesus himself responds to tragedy.

On the one hand, the Bible is full of claims that God redeems suffering. He reveals himself as the Redeemer of his people and the whole of creation. Indeed, the entire biblical narrative is largely about the how God promises to redeem a creation inked with suffering, violence, and brokenness.

Despite this, nowhere in the Bible do we get the idea that a victim of tragedy should silence their cry, hide away their tears and pretend that it’s all okay.

Nowhere in the Bible is the suppression of honest feelings equated to holiness.  Instead, an entire book in the Bible is dedicated to the very necessary human response to Lament.

Learning to lament is part of what it means to be human. And we see this throughout the Bible:

The great psalmist David expressed every emotion in his psalms and in the midst of tragedy and grief invited his people to lament with him (2 Samuel 1). Not only did he sing this lament but taught his people to learn and live in it, despite God’s faithfulness to redeem the situation.  When Mary and Martha lose their brother, they lament. Mary laments with particular gusto, expressing her wishes that Jesus should have been there sooner. Was she wrong? 

The narrative of suffering for many Christians doesn’t fit with the next part of the story. For many, Jesus should have just told Mary and Martha to stop being sad.

Instead, Jesus does what nobody could have guessed: he weeps. The God who makes himself into a man reveals how deeply he has tied himself to the creation he loves with real, physical, tears. This is the character of God; one who responds to tragedy not with a simple answer, but with his humanity.

The Gospel is not about a God who takes all the pain away with the click of a button, but one who enters in with great compassion and empathy, making a way possible for a redeemed and resurrected world.

In our pain, in our suffering, when we experience violence, abuse and exploitation, the God of the Bible does not stand afar, but enters into the suffering, offering his tears. Only when we see a tearful God, could we begin to hope for a redeemed future.

This is part of what it takes to become a mature human being: learning to grieve with those who grieve, to cry with those who cry, and to mourn with those who mourn. When we learn to lament with one another, we are learning to take up our cross as a communal act, and only then will we be ready to experience the miracle and mystery of the resurrection.

 

The One Thing You Need to Stop Doing with the Bible

Bible

It’s become increasingly clear in our day that people would much rather use the Bible  than be used by the Bible.

The Bible has become a book for anyone to dissect and use for their own purposes. Though it has been used to inspire good in the world, it has also been falsely used as a means to justify violence, racism, slavery, hatred, and murder.

Even today—through the impersonal means of social media—we would much rather use the Bible to argue with those we believe are wrong, rather than let it have its impact to redirect our misguided lives. Some of the worst and most poisonous uses of the Bible are when Christians use it as a weapon to fight with other Christians. One version of the Bible against another.

Indeed, this unfruitful way of using the Bible does little more than increase the wedge of division in the church, providing ample reason for unbelievers to remain unbelievers—something Jesus warned us about. Rather than be transformed by our interaction with the Bible (because it points us to the One who can transform), we use the Bible to assert our opinions and forward our agenda.

There’s this important doctrine that developed in the history of the Church regarding the special authority of the Bible. How that authority is understood and applied has varied, but its essence has always referred to these two things:

1) authority to reveal the character of God and his intention for his creation and

2) authority to bring the Scripture-reading community (i.e. the Church) into participation with God in his plan to redeem the world.

The Bible’s Authority has to do with God’s sovereign plan for the world and his desire to use a broken humanity for that plan. 

This means that the “authority of Scripture” is most truly taken seriously by the Church, and by Christians, when they get to work in the world on behalf of the Gospel news that Jesus has defeated that powers of sin and death and has begun the work of New Creation. The Authority of Scripture has to do with God’s invitation for humans to participate with him in his work to bring healing and wholeness and shalom to his world that he has neither forgotten nor abandoned.

That means that the authority of the Bible has a lot less to do with our opinions about facts, and much more to do with the lives we live. 

If you think you have a high view of the Bible’s authority because you argue with people who don’t agree with you, you’re missing out on the meaning of the Bible’s authority. If you find yourself repeatedly promoting your  arbitration of what is true and false theology on social media, it is likely that you don’t have a high view of the Bible, you have a high view of yourself.

The Bible’s authority refers to a way of life, and it wasn’t enough for God to give us a list of traits or rules to reveal this way of life. He chose instead to model it himself in the person of Jesus, revealing and making possible this way of life that the Bible’s authority points us to.

When we use the bible as a sword to slay others rather than an invitation into the life modelled by Jesus we grossly misuse the Bible and subvert its authority. You want to know if you have a high view of the Bible’s authority? Take a look at what you desire: do you increasingly desire Jesus and the way of life he embodied or are you more interested in proving a point? How do you remain in a posture that avoids using the Bible, and begins to be used by the Bible?

Luc Ferry on Salvation

“I would like you to imagine that you own a magic wand which allows you to arrange matters so that everyone in the world today begins to observe to the letter the ideal of respect for others embodied in humanist principles. Suppose that, everywhere in the world, the rights of man were scrupulously observed, with everyone paying respect to the dignity of everyone else and the equal right of each individual to partake of those famous fundamental rights of freedom and happiness. We can hardly begin to comprehend the unprecedented revolution that such an attitude would introduce into our lives and customs. There would be no wars or massacres, no genocide or crimes against humanity. There would be an end to racism and xenophobia, to rape and theft, to domination and social exclusion, and the institutions of control or punishment – police, army, courts, prisons – would effectively disappear. So, morality counts for something, and this exercise suggests the degree to which it is essential to our common life; and, at the same time, how far we actually are from its realisation.  Yet, such a miracle would not prevent us from getting old, from looking on helplessly as wrinkles and grey hairs appear, from falling ill, from experiencing painful separations, from knowing that we are going to die and watching those we love die. In the end, nothing will save us from getting bored and finding that everyday life lacks zest. Even were we saints, immaculate apostles of the rights of man and the republican ethos, nothing would guarantee us a fulfilled emotional life.”

  • Luc Ferry, atheist