Monday, February 27, 2012

Filled with the Fragrance

"Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume." John 12:3

Perhaps Mary, after witnessing the miraculous resurrection of her brother Lazarus, now felt the spikenard non-essential. Death no longer held power over her. The sweet fragrance, originally intended for the anointing of the dead, was now being enjoyed by the living. Mary lavished the spikenard upon Jesus, the author and the sweetness of life.

Celebrate life! Celebrate Jesus' presence at the table! Let the whole house be permeated with the oil of gladness!

"Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life." 2 Corinthians 2:14-16

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Marathon, Not a Sprint

"And we desire that each one of you
show the same diligence--->
to the full assurance of hope-->
until the end." Hebrews 6:11
Some twenty years ago, I was studying about the resurrection from the classic passage in I Corinthians 15. Although the doctrine of the resurrection had been deeply ingrained in my theology since childhood, it suddenly--whoosh!!--became a hope so sure, so solid that I was literally engulfed in the sweetness of it. The ancient fear of death vacated my heart and the full assurance of hope took up residency in its stead.

What if I had not exerted the effort to study that passage of scripture? The diligence of study was an invitation for the Holy Spirit to breath life into the truth, transferring it out of the mind's data bank and into the treasure vault of my heart.

Full assurance isn't obtained by minimal exposure to truth, but by diving into the depths. There is a labor involved in mining, a diligence required of the "workman who needs not to be ashamed, handling accurately the Word of truth." That diligence must extend PAST the assurance of hope. Once that assurance has been obtained, the directive in Hebrews 6:12 further warns us:

"do not become sluggish"

Human nature pulls me back, tempts me to be sluggish. The Apostle Paul is an example here: at the latter end of his years he continued in fruitful service even when confined to a Roman prison. He said, "I press on..."

"imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises." Hebrews 6:12b

That is why I like to read biographies. They are the ongoing chapters of the book of the Acts of the Apostles, the flesh and blood examples of saints who have inherited the promises via their persevering faith.

Some scriptural promises are not realized at all apart from persevering faith. My own perseverance is stimulated by the examples of those who have walked the road ahead of me. I take courage from their possession of the goods.

Christianity is a marathon, not a sprint.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Book Review: Island of the World by Michael D. O'Brien

The Island of the WorldThe Island of the World by Michael D. O'Brien

My rating: 41/2 of 5 stars

The Island of the World is not reached by swimming the shallows. This is a book with depth and pathos, a tale of a Croatian who suffered unspeakable horrors and loss as the winds of war engulfed his country. An 800+ page tome, the lengthy story begins in 1933, painting the picture of the idyllic and remote mountain village into which Josip Lasta is born. The author takes great pains not to sweep over this happy season quickly, imbedding vivid scenes of Josip's simple and wholesome childhood deeply in the reader's mind. Tender moments with his Father, books he loved, the first stirrings of love, the little game he plays with his Mother as she is hanging out the laundry---evocative pleasures are painted in a way that leaves one feeling the way a child feels; the days are long but the years are short. Because the reader has lived with Josip during his brief, happy years, the stage is set to also deeply feel the loss he endures during the later phases of his life.

One would think that a handful of apolitical peasants in a mountain village, tucked away from the strategic centers of war, would be safe. But no one was safe during the storm of WWII. Josip Lasta suffered unimaginable loss and witnessed horrific scenes of such violence that it took his entire life to wrestle with their aftermath.

Michael D. O'Brien's talents lie not just in storytelling, but in art and iconography as well. The reader will pick up and collect many icons along the way, just as Josip Lasta does: the swallow, the dolphin, the white stag. There are many layers of spiritual depth in much of the reading, many wisdom nuggets to pick up. Most of it was enriching but toward the end of the book I felt it was becoming a little too much. One can only pick up so many nuggets before they become heavy.

That was a small fault, however, and gladly exchanged for the privilege of the interior ruminations of a man who clung to life and love with a tenacity that was remarkable. Josip Lasta's life was ultimately a triumph of faith and sacrifice over a set of circumstances that can only be described as "hellish". A truly brilliant picture of a simple kind of hero.

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