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February 5th, 2015
Geologists tell us that for all the calamity volcanic activity wreaks, the earth would be essentially inhabitable without it. Among its several salutary contributions, volcanic eruptions allow the earth’s core from becoming overheated; they facilitate the growth of habitable landmasses, and then add rich nutrients to the surrounding soils which promote the cultivation of exotic plant life; and the very presence of both nourishing water below and a protective atmosphere above is attributable, to some immeasurable degree, to the sustained belching of volcanic emissions.
To put it bluntly, we’d be cold dust were it not for hot ash.
But history’s volcanic tragedies–Vesuvius, Krakatoa, Mt. St. Helen’s, Pinatubo–naturally temper our appreciation for whatever their rejuvenatory contribution to the earth. Thousands die from the blast, from the blanket of suffocating ash, from the later rains turned acidic.
But the reason why volcanoes have wrought so much carnage is tied not so much to the power they vent, but to the unpredictability with which they do so. And that’s attributable to the inherent nature of volcanoes. Every eruption represents a massive geologic altercation between molten and solid rock. Volcanoes are volcanic–read: explosive–because the heat beneath has no way to rise above the dense rock above. And the rock that cooled after previous eruptions leaves no vent behind to release the excess heat and pressure that surfaces every time the molten seas churn upward.
We said last Sunday that anger is a matter of the heart. And so it is. Though we’d like to blame what is external to us, nearly every instance of upwelling anger derives from something triggered within.
And while I think we made clear there’s a *place for anger, anger becomes a danger when we forget what volcanoes “teach” us: unless we find ways to vent what lies beneath, we risk leaving only ash behind when we finally erupt. Anger is a spiritual matter, but it’s management is also a skill to be honed.
How do we vent? We think. We Pray. We speak. I don’t know any other way.
We have to think about what makes us angry. C.S. Lewis somewhere said that the quickest way to dispel anger is to query its reason for being. How many times would you find your hysterics utterly untenable if you only applied a little analysis to it? Is your zeal really sourced in deep moral indignation about something, or just your own self-interest? Is your vehemence elicited for the sake of its object or your own desire?
We have to pray when we’re angry. It’s like thinking but with even more vulnerability and humility. It’s inviting scrutiny from the only One who has a right to be angry when the moment calls for it. Praying our anger forces us to see it in a wider context and often reveals just how egotistic is the belief underlying it.
We have to speak up when we’re angry. Not blow up, but give voice with restraint to what’s eating us. I dare say this is the hardest skill to learn when it comes to dealing with anger. There’s a fear in becoming honest about what’s roiling inside because it might expose just how non-sensical and nigh-on narcissistic is the source of our anger. And yet unless some heart-vent is opened up, the inner pressure will only become excessive–and then explosive. In any friendship, in every marriage both parties must give the other the freedom to say absolutely blinkered things if only to help them see just how blinkered they are. Otherwise the fear that holds back venting words creates the condition for a worse experience.
Anger, like a volcano, has great promise in bringing forth goodness; to be good and angry can yield sweet and lasting change. But unless anger parts company with how a volcano comes to erupt, we’ll only know anger as a tragedy.
*(I wish I’d included last Sunday C.S. Lewis’ quote about the indissoluble relationship between love and anger: “Anger is the fluid that love bleeds when it gets cut.”)
From geology to physics.
Sir Isaac Newton’s first law of motion states:
a body at rest will remain at rest unless an outside force acts on it, and a body in motion at a constant velocity will remain in motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an outside force.
You proved that law even this morning when you laid there in bed. You’d have just stayed there in your soporific stupor unless something within impelled you to rise. And nothing else would get done today were it not for some force acting upon your will to complete your assigned tasks–all the while leaning against those forces that would restore you to a posture of restful inaction.
We consulted the Proverbs for wisdom about anger last week. This week we’ll turn to them for wisdom about that thing we need in order to overcome the natural state of rest: diligence.
Diligence holds our proverbial feet to the fire to do what we must. It’s antithesis is sluggardliness, a bygone but still accessible term connoting the sloth that leads to neglect. We’ll review several texts that traffic in this term, but we’ll give most of our attention to a passage more parable than pithy quip. By its cautionary tale we’ll see diligence:
- and empowered
Meanwhile if you’d like to see diligence in action, and in a mesmerizing way, save seven minutes for this:
We’re delighted to report that our nursery ministry is expanding–into 2nd hour during our customary time of Q&A! Children, infant to 5 years, are welcome to stay in nursery for both hours now! (first hour worship will accommodate, as always, infant-4 years) When you see Karla Pollock, Debby Comer, or Jan Van Staalduinen, be sure to thank them for coordinating this expansion!
Furthermore, for those new to our community, during 2nd hour (11-11:50) we have elementary (K-6th) Sunday school led by Christy Lafferty, and youth (7th-12th) sunday school led by Kevin and Marisol Gladding. More details forthcoming on what’s going in those classes.
Questions about nursery? Contact Karla.
We’re gathering to pray as a community Sunday night, as we do each 2nd Sunday of the month.
If you’re planning to come, I wonder if we might ask you to prepare yourself to come by watching the following talk Tim Keller gave last week about the essence and essentiality of prayer. Like all else we undertake, prayer is something we have to approach with diligence. But in order to remain diligently given to prayer, we have to learn to pray, to be honed in prayer.
So while we aim to pray for many things Sunday night, we also aim to learn to pray as we pray. The prayer liturgy will afford us that opportunity as it leads us to give our attention to four themes:
- the worth of God
- the holiness of God
- the beneficence of God
- and the power and willingness of God to answer us
In the spirit of the ancient practice of lectio divina, we’ll hear texts read to us (more than once); we’ll each meditate upon what we hear (maybe for a while); and we’ll pray in response to our meditations.
And just as a preface to one dimension of our prayer time together–the part devoted to the theme of God’s worth–here’s a helpful (and likely familiar) word from C.S. Lewis in one of his letters to an imagined friend Malcolm. To explain what it means to adore God, Lewis wrote:
I have tried…to make every pleasure into a channel of adoration. I don’t mean simply by giv- ing thanks for it. One must of course give thanks, but I mean something different. How shall I put it?
We can’t—or I can’t—hear the song of a bird simply as a sound. Its meaning or message (‘That’s a bird’) comes with it inevitably—just as one can’t see a familiar word in print as a merely visual pattern. The reading is as involuntary as the seeing. When the wind roars I don’t just hear the roar; I ‘hear the wind.’ In the same way it is possible to ‘read’ as well as to ‘have’ a pleasure. Or not even ‘as well as.’ The distinction ought to become, and sometimes is, im- possible; to receive it and to recognise its divine source are a single experience. This heavenly fruit is instantly redolent of the orchard where it grew. This sweet air whispers of the country from whence it blows. It is a message. We know we are being touched by a finger of that right hand at which there are pleasures for evermore. There need be no question of thanks or praise as a separate event, something done afterwards. To experience the tiny theophany is itself to adore.
Gratitude exclaims, very properly, ‘How good of God to give me this.’ Adoration says, ‘What must be the quality of that Being whose far-off and momentary coruscations are like this!’ One’s mind runs back up the sunbeam to the sun.
If I could always be what I aim at being, no pleasure would be too ordinary or too usual for such reception; from the first taste of the air when I look out of the window—one’s whole cheek becomes a sort of palate—down to one’s soft slippers at bed-time.
I don’t always achieve it. One obstacle is inattention. Another is the wrong kind of attention. One could, if one practised, hear simply a roar and not the roaring-of-the-wind. In the same way, only far too easily, one can concentrate on the pleasure as an event in one’s own nervous system—subjectify it—and ignore the smell of Deity that hangs about it. A third obstacle is greed. Instead of saying, ‘This also is Thou,’ one may say the fatal word Encore. There is also conceit: the dangerous reflection that not everyone can find God in a plain slice of bread and butter, or that others would condemn as simply ‘grey’ the sky in which I am delightedly ob- serving such delicacies of pearl and dove and silver.
We hope you’ll join us. Even if you can’t, there’ll be opportunity to share your requests so that we might pray for you.
I'm praying today for a church so aware of Jesus’ presence that it cannot resist drawing close in intimacy and prayer.
— Justin Welby ن (@JustinWelby) February 5, 2015
The time draws nigh. On February 22nd we’ll behold the emotive tenor behind the Text. Click here for details about the Biblical Performance Troupe’s visit to CtK.
When you pray, remember to pray for
- Dave Farah recovering from a bout of the flu
- Seth Jones (grandson of Jane Peterson) recovering from a serious lung infection
- the work of the North Texas Presbytery as they gather this weekend in Ft Worth
- the family of Lieutenant Moaz al-Kasasbeh, and for peace to come upon Syria and Iraq again soon
It fit nowhere else in this week’s PB, but I thought it worth posting nonetheless. How dark were the Dark Ages? At least according to Anthony Esolen, the reports of the absence of light have been wildly exaggerated.