On Wednesdays in this interim season between Inversion and moving to New Jersey I am trying to slow down the soul a bit on Wednesdays for some time dedicated to my growth and development as a man. One of things I am doing is reading slowly through the book Renewal as a Way of Life by Richard Lovelace (I forgot to put this one on the "books I am currently reading" below). I am about 1/3 of the way through the book and it has been very good, humbling and quotable. So, I thought I would share some quotes today which encouraged me...and by typing them out hear perhaps provide some light for others.
Here is one on the relation to using God to get stuff...a mixture of Lovelace/Augustine:
On the other hand, evangelical religion as an aid to self-assurance, health or wealth really short-circuits the soul's path toward contact with God, which is the heart's deepest desire. As Augustine observes, "Many cry to the Lord to avoid losses or to acquire riches, for the safety of their friends or the security of their homes, for temporal felicity or worldly distinction, yes, even for mere physical health which is the sole inheritance of the poor man...Alas, it is easy to want things from God and not to want God himself; as though the gift could ever be preferable to the giver." Or as he says elsewhere, "The soul cannot rest save in that which it loves. But eternal rest is given only in the love of God, who alone is eternal." Lovelace, 31
The next one was his commentary on the soul's search for a sense of value and identity apart from God - I think many of us, Christian and not, live here often.
They must get a black market substitute for God's love from psychiatrists or other human beings. But this need for love and dignity is so great that self-admiration and the love of others cannot begin to satisfy it. We can cheer ourselves up only so long by repeating the pitiful fiction "I'm OK - You're OK." Then we begin to check our own credentials, and our therapist's, for making such judgments. Lovelace, 36.
In reflecting on the outflow of the love of God through his people he makes a rather dogmatic claim which I found very true.
Spirituality which neglects the love of neighbor, and which fails to seek justice for the neighbor, is simply not biblical. Lovelace, 37.
He has an interesting metaphor for the reality of human enterprise on the earth. We can be about building the Kingdom or simply go on building Babel.
In the Old Testament, God warns Israel that most human kings will not hallow life, but will turn it into building materials for the Tower of Babel (he includes here the text of 1 Samuel 8:11-18)...Things have not changed since biblical times. Building Babel is still an expensive business. Lovelace, 43.
Indeed, it costs us our very selves as we become cogs in the machine rather than sons and daughters with a purpose in the universe. Finally, in a bit of meddling he comments on the focus of upwardly mobile Protestants in New England after the influence of dying religious formalism (in our day we might as well apply it to upwardly mobile atheological evangelicals).
The real goals of upwardly mobile Protestantism can be seen in Lisa Birnbach's humorous volume entitled The Official Preppy Handbook, which idealizes the semi-apostate New England family, still glumly going through the motions of "the Puritan ethic" in a sort of twilight zone between Christianity and secularism in order to facilitate its summers on Martha's Vineyard. Lovelace 52-53.
Lovelace's book so far has been a great refresher - a call to God-centeredness and then to living under the rule and reign of Jesus - working, laboring, fighting for...a Kingdom of peace, justice, truth and beauty in this present age as we await the renewal of all things.