Seraphic Doctor

Had to follow up yesterday’s theology havering with this Rohr observation from Eager to Love. Had to. I’ve been sipping on this read 9781473604018-2through the summer, and this portion was timely on this perfect patio reading morning:

Bonaventure is called “the Seraphic Doctor” of the Church because his writings are so filled with the warmth and fire that was associated with the Seraphic order of angels. He is probably an exemplary Franciscan mystic because he so effectively pulls his brilliant head down into his fiery heart, and integrates contemplation with an extremely active life, as we hear in one of his more oft-quoted verses, all the more amazing because he was such an intellectual:

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Bonaventure’s theology is never about trying to placate a distant and angry God, earn forgiveness, or find some abstract theory of justification. He is all cosmic optimism and hope! Once it lost this kind of mysticism, Christianity became preoccupied with fear, unworthiness, and guilt much more than being included in – and delighting in – an all-pervasive plan that is already in place.

In Bonaventure’s world, the frame of reality was still big, hopeful, and positive. One reason he was able to do that, as we can see in many Catholic mystics, is that he was profoundly Trinitarian, where the love always and forever flows in one positive and forward direction. That was both his starting point and his ending point. Most of Christian history has not been Trinitarian except in name, I am sad to report; it has largely been a worship of Jesus who was extracted from the Trinity – and thus Jesus part from the eternal Christ, who then became more a harsh judge of humanity than a shining exemplar of humanity “holding all things in unity” (Colossians 1:17-20).

After reading Bonaventure, the crossed lines of the crucifix henceforth become a geometric metaphor for all the seeming contradictions in the world – which, if held with compassion, create deep wisdom in the soul.

Oh what need we have of “Seraphic Doctors” skilled in the art of pulling brilliant heads (or at least passably intelligent ones) into fiery hearts, hearts burning with optimism and hope and seeing his unity everywhere -
true Trinitarians sensing the pulsing, beating, throbbing heart of Love beating at the center of all existence, and whose every consequent word and deed are forged in such a flame emanating from a deep wisdom in the soul.


Behold the Seraphic Doctor! Complete with dancing action…



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Posted by on September 22, 2014 in Books, haverings


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tiny-bubble-on-the-side-of-big-bubble theology

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~ from “The Doctor’s Wife,” Series 6 of Doctor Who

This is us and all our supposed mastery of all things God, isn’t it?


so easy to get lost in the guts of the Tardis...

so easy to get lost in the guts of the Tardis…

Double imputation.
Hypostatic union.
Norma normans non normata.
Ontological Trinity.
All those Omni’s (no way to dodge them):
Penal obedience of Christ.
Passive obedience of Christ.
Recapitulation theory of the atonement.
Simul justis et peccator.
Supralapsarianism and, let us not forget,
                                                   – my personal favorites in the “cool theological terminology” category.

                                                      They’re also killer words for Scrabble: Theologian’s Edition.

It’s all a tiny bubble sticking to the side of the big bubble.
Yes. No! but if it helps, yes!

We think we know so much when it comes to God – or when it comes to life, for that matter.

I find myself cringing just a little bit whenever I hear someone stating in unequivocal terms, “This is what God is like” or “This is not what God is like” or “God would never do this” or “Of course God would do that.” Maybe cringing is the wrong word. Smiling is perhaps more fitting. Smiling at our bold assertions, however well founded we may think they may be from what we observe and deduce from Scripture or from life, because all of our bold talk amounts to little more than kindergartners pontificating on the playground about their theories of adult life, i.e., tiny bubbles on the back of big bubbles.

I suppose the cringe factor increases in direct proportion to the arrogance in the pontificating. David Hayward observes, “Theology is a vicious cycle of our desperate need to understand and control our universe.” I really want to modify “theology” here with “bad” or add “sometimes” or even “often” and take just a bit of the sting out of that. But he does name what drives all of us through much of life: a desperate need to understand and control.

Theology is a perfectly fine way to spend an evening, as long as we recognize our limitations in it and that our most sophisticated efforts at it amount to not much more than describing a tiny, little bubble universe on the side of a big bubble universe…

…and that when that bubble pops, love is what remains.

We know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up.
If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.
But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.

(Yeah, Paul said that)

I suppose the most important lesson here is that Rory and Amy didn’t have to understand the technical explanation of how they could be where they were. They were already there. It’s fine to try to put into words what we are experiencing – but how thankful we can be that our experiencing of it isn’t dependent on how well we manage to put words to it. Explanations can enhance our experience, or like explaining a joke, they can tediously ruin it. Especially when we make this or that explanation a prerequisite to the experience itself – or a disqualifier of the validity of your experience if you don’t explain it the way I do, resulting in your expulsion from the Tardis, of course (off to your own cursed tiny bubble universe!).

We would do well to remember that after eleven chapters of the most systematic, detailed theologizing in all of Scripture, Paul ends up on his face, shouting,

“Oh the depths of the riches, both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are his judgments and his ways past tracing out!
For from him and through him and to him
are all things
both now and forevermore.”

Worship is the ultimate fruit of all truly good theology.
Good theology puts me on my face;
bad theology just puts me in the faces of others.

Good theology will leave me nose in the dirt with Paul –
at best all we can really manage is licking our lips as we kiss the dirt
and sputter out rocks. Or, in other words, havering.

After thirty-seven chapters of theological Bildad/Eliphaz/Zophar/Elihu/Job jargoning, jawing, explaining, extrapolating, and positioning, God finally shows up in the whirlwind (how cool that God’s shows up in whirlwinds!) and speaks with unrelenting bullet-point question after question, leading Job to make the most profound theological statement of all time:

“I’m speechless, in awe—words fail me.
    I should never have opened my mouth!
I’ve talked too much, way too much.
    I’m ready to shut up and listen.”


Tiny bubble popped.



Posted by on September 21, 2014 in haverings, theology


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Bible ennui

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I actually get this question a lot.
The “why” and “how” of reading are huge. Especially when reading the best-selling book of all time.

Peter Enns’ latest book The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It is stretching, to say the least. But he’s spot on in his description of Holy Writ:

The Bible isn’t a cookbook – deviate from the recipe and the soufflé falls flat. It’s not an owner’s manual – with detailed instructions for using your brand-new all-in-one photocopier/FAX machine/scanner/microwave/DVR/home security system. It’s not a legal document – make sure you read the fine print and follow every word or get read to be cast into the dungeon. It’s not a manual of assembly – leave out a few bolts and the entire jungle gym collapses on your three-year-old.

When we open the Bible and read it, we are eavesdropping on an ancient spiritual journey.
That journey was recorded over a thousand-year span of time, by different writers, with
different personalities, at different times, under different circumstances, and for different reasons.

Eavesdropping on an ancient spiritual journey as we encounter Life in our own.
I can’t think of a better posture for the read.
Owner’s manual?
Legal document?
Manual of assembly?

Not so much.

And such methods will find us with Sheila, more often than not (if we’re lucky),
dealing with our own Bible ennui. Perhaps we should stop trying so hard.


Take a smaller bite as you eavesdrop on this ancient spiritual journey.
Suck on it a bit as you step out the door
embarking on your own.


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Posted by on September 20, 2014 in Bible Questions


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dark color palette


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This has to be my favorite exchange between God and Bruce in Bruce Almighty.
And it’s just a deleted scene.

Somehow that seems so very fitting.

We really have no idea what we need, how life should go.
And I’m really, really glad I don’t have to decide.
Who lives.
Who dies.
Who wins the lottery.
Who has cancer roar back into their life.

Yes, You have to use some dark colors.

But I still hate them.

please nix the black fox; more sassy green, please

please nix the black fox; more sassy green all around, please

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Posted by on September 15, 2014 in Quotations


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faith breathes

On the stairs she sits.
Weary, bleary.
Eyes reddish and puffy.
It’s been a long night – stretching over a year. And more.
The boy.
A violent, eternal coughing spasm
had finally sputtered out into

She could only place her hand on his chest
and pray
“God, let him stop, let him sleep.”
And he did.

Now in morning light she sits.
Coughing had revived and then sputtered out again.

“I don’t ask ‘why’ anymore. I don’t.
I know God is good.
I know God is love.
I know God has all power.
I know there is purpose even in this…but…”

And I told her she had just won a gold star for a perfect set
of Sunday School answers.

The reality is, faith has its own violent,
seemingly eternal,
coughing spasms.
And often sputters out to barely a
wheezing whisper;
no deep lung reservoir on which to draw;

But you’re still breathing.

And so is he.

And lying next to him on his bed,
bathed in sun’s rays
the boy and I breathe together and,
in a glorious moment that seemed to linger like
dust entranced by sunlight,
faith breathes from a deeper place.


each time I’m with Gid, I’d like to think I’m a little more Phin-ish…

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Posted by on September 14, 2014 in Faith, haverings, Suffering


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dragged by the hair into his presence

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It’s been awhile since I picked up Rumi and took a stroll with him through his pages.
And now I remember why.

He tells the truth just a bit too brutally.

“By deferring generosity I am helping him.”
aka “I caused you to hunger then fed you with manna
that I might know what was in your heart.”

And so our need “drags us by the hair into his presence.”

Received a text this morning from a couple I love who have been dragged by the hair into his presence for decades. Well meaning idiots people tell them, “This is the enemy! Pray against the enemy!” This, of course, has never occurred to them. Such glorious words of comfort rank right up there with blood letting for them. I told them “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” Yes, that enemy I will ever pray against. God bless and keep you far away from all who suffer.

Satan gets so much credit for what God is doing.
Where did we get this notion that it’s all about escaping pain,
that this is God’s number one goal and plan for my life?
Because if that is his plan, quite frankly he sucks, and his plan sucks.

I would love to trade in the torn-open cry. I would.
I can caw-caw like a crow, truly I can, if that means you would let me go.
But you have stolen me, with no intention of return, I your singing nightingale.

And in my torn-open nightingale-ish cries,
I see what I never would have seen,
feel would I never would have felt;
dimensions and worlds open before my dumbfounded gaze,
my torn-open lips screeching, “Holy, Holy, Holy”
but to your ears it’s my own nightingale song
and so I steal You.

Rumi, I really, really hate you.


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Posted by on September 13, 2014 in haverings, Poetry, Suffering


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love is the strongest leg of them all

Was asked to read 1 Corinthians 13 in the MAV at a friend’s memorial.
MAV = Mike’s Amplified Version.
Used to say it’s my Authorized version, but it’s most definitely, totally unauthorized.

I didn’t actually have an MAV rendering of 1 Corinthians 13 and almost just settled for the Message as a standby, but then thought better of it. So I did – with an assist from Word on the Street to get me jump started – and I read it. And I saw Jerry’s face right before me in the reading.

Rest in peace, my friend.

If I possess supernatural talent to speak theologianese or even the most refined angel-ese,
but I’m rusty in the language of love
then I’m just clattering round like a broken drum kit.

If I’m brimming with prophetic insight into next month’s news,
or philosophy’s deepest conundrums,
if I know more than anyone,
if I can shift mountain ranges by the sheer weight of my towering intellect,
but forget how love fits into the picture,
then I may as well shut it and go home.

If I donate millions to charity, but my love-account’s in the red,
if I volunteer for extreme martyrdom, yielding my body to the flames,
but love’s flatlined in my life,
then it’s just a bonfire of vanities
and I’m wasted space.

What is love, anyway? Not the tripe you’ve been force-fed by popular culture.

No, love gives people time and space, it does people good.
It’s not jealous, loud-mouthed, big-headed or pig-headed.
It’s not vulgar or crass;
It doesn’t look out for Number One.
It’s not got a short fuse – it forgives, forgives, forgives.
Love doesn’t smile when the dark stuff hits the fan,
but it’s the first to throw the confetti when the light of truth bursts over the horizon.
It protects more than a blockbuster hero;
and trusts more than a toddler.
It’s not a perpetual Debbie-Downer, it looks up and hangs in there.
Love doesn’t run away, Love won’t let you down. Ever.

Brilliant prognostications will prove wide of the mark;
the fine elocutionists will be speechless;
our whole stockpile of knowledge of which we are oh so proud will all be hopelessly out of date.

Everything we know is but a fraction of what there is to know; in our deepest understanding of past and current events we only scratch the surface. But on the day everything comes to completion, on the day we all finally come home, we shan’t need our little bits of knowledge anymore.

Once upon a time I was a child. I babbled like a baby and was filled with childish thoughts and feelings. Ah, but now I’ve grown up into true childhood and have left those sophisticated childish ruts for good.

What we know now at best is but an enigma wrapped in a mystery – a blurred reflection in a dull piece of metal. One day we’ll see it all in IMAX 3D – better! – with 20/20 vision, face to face.
Now I fumble around the edges of reality trying to sort it all out, but with most of the pieces missing. One day the whole puzzle will be put together right before my eyes and I’ll finally GET it – the way GOD has gotten me all along.

Until then, we sit anchored on a stool with three solid legs that will never collapse under the weight of life or death:
deepening trust in God’s goodness
unshakeable hope in our prospects as his kids,
and unstoppable love.

And love? Ah. Love is the strongest leg of them all.


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Posted by on August 21, 2014 in MAV


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