Life is an Enjoyable Fight, or a Miserable Truce

There are some men who are dreary because they do not believe in God; but there are many others who are dreary because they do not believe in the devil… The full value of this life can only be got by fighting; the violent take it by storm. And if we have accepted everything we have missed something — war. This life of ours is a very enjoyable fight, but a very miserable truce.
-G.K. Chesterton, in Charles Dickens
I stumbled, or re-stumbled upon this quote just after a conversation with someone about fear and the Christian life. While there are a number of things we should not fear as Christians, we should be terrified of something that will lead us away from living fully in Christ. Complacency should be one of those things.
Of all the vices, the early Christian fathers most warned about acedia, better today known as sloth. It is not just laziness, but a “a state of restlessness and inability either to work or to pray” according to Aquinas. As I write this, spell check does not even recognize the word. 
I once worked in an office environment where there was an acknowledgement of the afternoon slowdown, referred to as a being “food stupid.” Full bellies, a lull in the day, and the highly contagious attitude of acedia made the hours after lunch seem to drag out.
The desert fathers, however, had a  more solemn name for this apathetic nature: the noonday demon. Yes, a demon. Acedia was considered a very dangerous mindset not only of laziness or sadness, but of apathy.
The monk John Cassian wrote of Acedia:
“It also makes the man lazy and sluggish about all manner of work which has to be done within the enclosure of his dormitory…. Then the fifth or sixth hour brings him such bodily weariness and longing for food that he seems to himself worn out and wearied as if with a long journey, or some very heavy work, or as if he had put off taking food during a fast of two or three days. Then besides this he looks about anxiously this way and that, and sighs that none of the brethren come to see him, and often goes in and out of his cell, and frequently gazes up at the sun, as if it was too slow in setting, and so a kind of unreasonable confusion of mind takes possession of him like some foul darkness, and makes him idle and useless for every spiritual work, so that he imagines that no cure for so terrible an attack can be found in anything except visiting some one of the brethren, or in the solace of sleep alone. “
Sluggishness, watching the clock (in its most ancient form, the sun), anxious fretting, idle conversation, procrastination, and a desire to nap. Sounds like a typical office afternoon, though Cassian’s account lists serious signs of a demonic influenced disease. His description goes on to describe the afflicted monk being affable and hospitable, making visits to this person or that, while neglecting his calling.
This is, I can speak from experience, a miserable state to find yourself. While generally agreeable, somewhat peaceful, it is an anxious restlessness, and sometimes a feeling of uselessness – or that nothing can really be accomplished right now anyway. To put it otherwise, the “miserable truce” to which Chesterton refers in the opening paragraph.
Suddenly, this seems like a rampant problem among Christians today. A passive contentment that seems to grip us. We are not idle, but we shirk some more serious work to busy ourselves with being pleasant or killing time.
Killing time – as if we had any to spare! We are called, as Christians, to be soldiers, to be servants, and to go forth and proclaim the Gospel. If we idle away the hours waiting for the end of the workday, the day, the week, the month, we are eventually losing that precious and too short life on this earth. How will we give an account for those hours spent in an acedic state?
Peacetime is a scourge to soldiers and armies. Those highly reputed masters of the sword, the samurai, recognized this and thus maintained regular practice and a desire to perfect their martial craft. The Art of Manliness cited the activities of a sword master who would practice slicing raindrops as a way of practicing zanshin, or an ever-readiness for battle. This even extended, as the article discusses, how the samurai would use the toilet.
To a samurai, life was all about being ready for battle. Life was a fight. Acedia or sluggishness got you killed, or cut off from your employer. As Christians, we should fear what the demon of acedia can do to our soul if we do not vigilantly watch for it and occupy ourselves with the work we are given.
If you find yourself experiencing life as a “miserable truce,” remind yourself that we are engaged in an ongoing spiritual battle  “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Train yourself daily – not necessarily by slicing raindrops with your sword, but by constant and regular prayer, charitable acts, and doing your duty in each and every moment to your Lord, your family, and your employer.
That is why we have been warned not to conform to the world as it is, or to put it in military terms, to declare a truce with the world. Life gets a lot more enjoyable when you realize it is a battle.

Pray for Revolution

 

If you’ve ever received an email from me, I use a non-standard closing: “Pray for Revolution.” It’s a phrase that appears throughout the site here at Eternal Revolution and there is even a shirt design using the phrase. I realized I never explained the source anywhere on this site.

I admit, it is an unusual prayer request. It comes from Chesterton’s essay The Wind in the Trees, collected in Tremendous Trifles.

The wind is up above the world before a twig on the tree has moved. So there must always be a battle in the sky before there is a battle on the earth. Since it is lawful to pray for the coming of the kingdom, it is lawful also to pray for the coming of the revolution that shall restore the kingdom. It is lawful to hope to hear the wind of Heaven in the trees. It is lawful to pray “Thine anger come on earth as it is in Heaven.”

Chesterton’s point in the essay is that just just as the invisible force of the wind moves the trees, so too does the invisible forces of spirit come before the violence and madness of human revolt. “No man has ever seen a revolution,” G.K.C. summarizes.

It is certainly not the popular interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer. Yet as with most Chesterton quotes, once he points out the odd interpretation in makes a great deal of sense. We pray for the coming of the kingdom. We pray for His will to be done on earth. And what He said he came to bring was a fire that would consume the earth.

Does that fire consume the earth now? Does it even consume you? Is there a zeal, a passion, burning in your soul like the bush that spoke to Moses, or that pillar of fire that led the people of Israel through the desert?

If not, then pray for the revolution. Pray for the turning (volution) again (re) of your heart and mind back to the things of God. Turn away, again and again, from the things of this world.

All we can directly effect with our own will is our own person. The eternal revolution for which we pray every time we say the Our Father is therefore first and foremost an internal revolution. When properly burning within us, it will catch on to the world around us.

Nurture the flame of the spirit within yourself. Discipline your self, your mind, and your heart to follow the Lord’s will more and more closely every day.

And pray for revolution.

Interrupting the Impossible

 

While reading a book on business strategies, I came across an expression credited as “an ancient Chinese proverb.”

The person who says something is impossible should not interrupt the person who is doing it.
In the context I found it, the expression was an answer to naysayers who criticize a project or goal while the yet-impossible task is being accomplished. As mankind’s creativity, communication, and knowledge grows, things that were impossible are becoming reality every day.
The proverb has meaning in the Christian experience too. God does the impossible, has done the impossible, and will do the impossible. The scriptures are full of stories of impossible things happening, such as Moses striking a rock and water coming forth. Jesus worked miracles. His disciples worked miracles in His name after his ascension.
What impossible things have you undertaken? What impossible things does God ask of us that we cannot see working out or happening?
If we believe the Gospel, if we accept the Bible’s teachings as true (hence using the title of Christian) then we should expect the impossible to happen – even big miracles. But it seems we have even lost the faith and the hope for small miracles and wonders. We fear tithing because we may not have enough money to pay our bills, when it is God, not our own labor, that provides for our families (Psalm 127). We fear to speak out against wrongdoings and evil, because we fear reprisals. But we have been given power even over evil spirits in the name of Christ (Luke 10:17).
What are we missing out on – what are we denying the world because we think something God asks is too much, too impossible to be real?
We should not interrupt He who is doing the impossible.

10 Things Christians Fear That They Should Not

 

It is human to be afraid. Everyone is afraid of something (or somethings). Several fears are in fact common to a lot of people. 

Fear motivates us to change. Whether it is some learned trait for survival or a psychological reflex to avoid danger, when we act on our fears we make a choice to change our behavior, our circumstances, and even our lives.

In other words, what you fear, determines what you worship.

If you are afraid of being poor, you tend to idealize financial security. You worry about not having enough. You stress over unexpected costs. You feel more comfortable, more secure, with a certain dollar amount in your bank account. Your mood is a function of how much money you have and how much you feel you need at any given time. This is what the idolization of money looks like – you need not be wealthy to be a miser.

As Christians, we are told over and over in the Bible to not have fear. To put it more positively, we are told to have “fear of the Lord.” Not necessarily or solely fear of punishment from God, but a respectful fear that drowns out all other worldly fears. A fear of separation from He who is your security, and your foundation.

Here are just a few common fears that we Christians need to eliminate in ourselves, for they are symptoms of putting some other worldly good above our faith in God. There is a single verse I have associated with each one, but of course there are many more that could fit each, and some verses address more than one type of fear.

Financial Loss

Poverty. Job loss. Financial hardship. Not having enough money for college for your kids. Not having enough money for retirement. Not having enough for any reason. 

The Lord sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts. 1 Samuel 2:7

Pain

Suffering. Loss of Comfort.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4

Illness

Sickness. Fatigue. Poor health. Cancer. Obesity. Disease. Germs.

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:31-33

Death

Dying. Death of yourself. Death of a loved one. The dead.

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. Hebrews 2:14-15

The Future

What will be or will not be. Being prepared. Change.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34

The Past

Mistakes catching up with you. Family shame being exposed. Loss of time.

But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. 1 Timothy 1:16

Judgement
Of others. Of God.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1

Separation
Loss of friends. Loss of family. Loneliness.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

Evil

Bad things. People that mean you harm. Injustice. Evil spirits.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4

The Devil

And He said to them, “I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you.” Luke 10:18-19

 

Why then do you continue to be afraid? Seek to root out your fears, lest they drive you away from your relationship with God and weaken your faith.

 

Why Are You Here?

What makes less ‘sense’: 

Christian Pirate 

Christian Samurai 

or a Christian Financial Planner?

G.K. Chesterton wrote in Orthodoxy: “Christianity even when watered down is hot enough to boil all modern society to rags. The mere minimum of the Church would be a deadly ultimatum to the world.” 

Obviously that isn’t true of Anne Rice’s ‘Christianity,’ but is it even true of Dave Ramsey’s, Rick Warren’s? What about your own ‘Christianity’? 

We are not here to earn a living. We are not here to save for a comfy retirement. We are not here to be comfortable, period. We are not here to be patriotic, to serve the state, or champion a political party or philosophy. 

Our heroes are those who smashed idols, were unpopular, were traitors, rebels and enemies of the State, were exiled, and were brutally killed. 

We are here to change the world, to set it on fire. To allow the kingdom of God to come upon the earth through us. Don’t lose sight of that.

The Career Father

My adventures as a freelancer have brought me back to the place ‘between clients.’ The point where we trust God’s providence for our daily bread fully – as we ought to always – because efforts at the moment feel particularly in vain. Apparently this was something I was to consider this Lenten season. 

I can’t say I have much of a career that can be defined as a pattern of work. I’ve worked in IT, management, retail management, government jobs, and so forth. Even ‘award-winning board game designer’ is in there now. There is no particular pattern that I can use to define myself by my work. Except maybe writing, which as a communication medium just seems necessary in every job, and sometimes it is part of the title.

I did not set out to define myself this way, but I guess my career is my family. I’m a career husband and father. The job is always second, which might irk some employers, but my loyalty lies at home.

There’s a passage from Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game series – from the book Xenocide to be exact, that explains it much more poetically than I could. It is a piece of an interview between Ender’s  sister, Valentine, and his stepson Olhando.

“I saw what Andrew (Ender) did in our family. I saw that he came in and listened and watched and understood who we were, each individual one of us. He tried to discover our need and then supply it. He took responsibility for other people and it didn’t seem to matter to him how much it cost him. And in the end, while he could never make the Ribeira family normal, he gave us peace and pride and identity. Stability. He married Mother and was kind to her. He loved us all. He was always there when we wanted him, and seemed unhurt by it when we didn’t. He was firm with us about expecting civilized behavior, but never indulged his whims at our expense. And I thought: This is so much more important than science. Or politics, either. Or any particular profession or accomplishment or thing you can make. I thought: If I could just make a good family, if I could just learn to be to other children, their whole lives, what Andrew was, coming so late into ours, then that would mean more in the long run, it would be a finer accomplishment than anything I could ever do with my mind or hands.”

“So you’re a career father,” said Valentine.

“Who works at a brick factory to feed and clothe the family. Not a brick-maker who also has kids. Lini also feels the same way… She followed her own road to the same place. We do what we must to earn our place in the community, but we live for the hours at home. For each other, for the children.”

I’m not the provider for my family. That is ultimately God’s job for all of us. I do the work I must, and one way or another we have what we need. If I did define myself by my ability to provide, that would be depressing. Not only in the dry spells but even in the glory of accomplishment; for no matter what I may write, or do with my life it will be nothing compared to what I can be for my children.

I’ve sort of stumbled into this path, but if more of us chose it from the outset, it would change the world.

Revolution Starts With You

It is all too easy to push off changing the world to things that “society,” “the future,” or even worse, “the government” ought to do.

You may have noticed we don’t talk a lot here on Eternal Revolution about current politics, if at all. Most of us can’t affect the power plays of the ruling class other than with our votes and the occasional participation in notification campaigns.

Leaving change to something society must do is lazy and cowardly. It reduces your requirement to change things in your life, in your world, and in your sphere of influence. The Eternal Revolution, like the Kingdom it is restoring, exists in its smallest, most nuclear form within you and your family.

Jesus did not call society to change. Rather, he said specifically that men’s hearts must change first. When teaching socio-economics, his command was “Go and sell what you have and give the money to the poor.” It was a a personal call to action, not a suggestion to join a political action committee.

Many of us would rather cut off a hand than quit a job, for instance. Even a morally questionable job, even though we are told to sever the ties that lead us to sin – even if it be a hand or an eye. Most of us fear criticism of our fellow man more than doing the right thing.

Most of the changes we need to make are not drastic, world-changing actions in the public eye. Looking to your personal economy. Look first to care for those who you have a divine charge to take care of – your children, your family, your neighbor. The revolution starts there. Don’t skip ahead.

Sacrifice of Lent – More than Giving Up Good Stuff

 

The season of Lent is almost upon us – 40 days prior to Easter (excluding Sundays) that are a time of preparation for the celebration of Jesus’ passion and resurrection.

The early Christian church marked the 40 days of preparation for Easter as far back as 325, and it was established formally in the 600’s. While today it is most often observed by Catholic, Episcopalian, Anglican and Lutheran denominations, there has been a revival of late in other Christian denominations.

In modern times, the practice of a Lenten sacrifice of something you liked for the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday (again, excepting Sundays) has been the most common form. “So what did you give up for Lent?” becomes a conversation starter in some congregations this week, and for the next six as well.

Sometimes these sacrifices are meant to be times to break bad habits – giving up smoking for 6 weeks put you pretty solidly on the path to breaking an unhealthy and expensive habit. Other recent sacrifices include Facebook, Netflix, video games, and even caffeine. Growing up, sweets and desserts were an automatic family-wide sacrifice, to which each person added their own sacrifice.

These neo-traditional sacrifices of goods in order to be better are great, but they are not the only option for a 40 day preparation for Easter. There is even a danger that such a practice gives the wrong idea of the sacrifice; it is not to make you a better person, but to offer up something of this world in expectation of the glorious promise of eternal life we believe, and will celebrate especially at Easter.

I have heard some people who practiced a Lenten sacrifice for most of their life say that they had nothing left to give up, for they (in their own words) saw nothing in themselves they could improve. This is not a New Year’s resolution. You cannot make yourself more worth for God’s gifts. This is a sacrifice of something you like or love.

Here are some ideas for Lenten preparations you can make for this coming season of Lent.

Sacrifice of Time 

Prayer is one of the three traditional activities associated with Lent. Set aside 40 minutes a day for prayer or Scripture reading. We are all given the same 24 hours a day, so this is a sacrifice of the most precious and limited commodity you have.

Sacrifice of Treasure

Almsgiving is the second traditional Lenten activity. Tithe extra, or pledge to give more than you usually do to charitable causes. Donate your time to soup kitchens, food pantries, and other services in need of volunteers. Make and pack lunches to hand out to people on the street.

I heard of a family that changed their food budget to what their family would receive if they were on food stamps, and donated the rest of the grocery budget to the local food bank. This was an act of empathy, charity, and sacrifice.

Fasting

Fasting is the third traditional activity for Lent. While it does not mean going completely without food, you can drastically alter your diet for the next six weeks.

Note that this should NOT be done only with the intention of losing weight. The sacrifice should be a sacrifice, not a new resolution.

Facing Your Fears

My Lenten preparation falls into this category. I have set an aggressive goal to tackle something mundane, but that has terrified me for as long as I can remember.  We are called to fear nothing in this life, and yet I have been afraid of this thing. 

Accepting God’s Will

Over the past several years my family has face several personal tragedies that fell just before or during Lent. Sometimes the best sacrifice you can make during Lent is the one God chooses for you. PRay for the strength to accept, bear, and even choose it.

Final Note on Attitude

“Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in  heaven. “Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,  so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.  “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received  their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward  you.

“And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words.  Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.  Pray then like this: Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread;  And forgive us our debts, As we also have forgiven our debtors;  And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil.  For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you;  but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

“And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I  say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,  that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

Matthew 6:1-18

Called to be Faithful, not Successful

Although legendary and oft repeated quotes on the internet are sometimes inaccurate, and I have not been able to verify this one, the statement itself is very true:

 

God has not called me to be successful; He has called me to be faithful.

-Mother Teresa of Calcutta

 

As you carry Christ’s message to the world, do not despair if no one hears you in the present. If you never seem to get ahead, if you barely keep your head above water – it doesn’t matter in the end. We are called to be faithful to a divine will, something not of this world. Material success is measured in worldly terms, and is worth nothing in the end.

So remember what it is you are called to be working towards. Let all that does not matter truly slide.