the alchemist picked up a book that someone in the caravan had brought. leaving through the pages, he found a story about narcissus.

the alchemist knew the legend of narcissus, a youth who knelt daily beside a lake to contemplate his own beauty. He was so fascinated by himself that, one morning, he fell into the lake and drowned. at the spot where he fell, a flower was born, which was called the narcissus.

but this was not how the author of the book ended the story.

he said that when narcissus died, the goddesses of the forest appeared and found the lake, which had been fresh with water, transformed into a lake of salty tears.

“why do you weep?” the goddesses asked.

“I weep for narcissus,” the lake replied.

“ah, it is no surprise that you weep for narcissus,” they said, “for though we always pursued him in the forest, you alone could contemplate his beauty close at hand.”

“but… was narcissus beautiful?” the lake asked.

“who better than you to know that?” the goddesses said in wonder. “After all, it was by your banks that he knelt each day to contemplate himself!”

the lake was silent for some time. Finally it said:

“I weep for narcissus, but i never noticed that narcissus was beautiful. I weep because, each time he knelt beside my banks, i could see, in the depths of his eyes, my own beauty reflected.”

“what a lovely story,” the alchemist thought.

– paulo coello

a different kind of Jesus

as told by mclaren, originally told by Athanasius

Once upon a time there was a good and kind king who had a great kingdom with many cities. In one distant city, some people took advantage of the freedom the king gave them and started doing evil. They profited by their evil and began to fear that the king would interfere and throw them in jail. Eventually these rebels seethed with hatred for the king. They convinced the city that everyone would be better off without the king, and the city declared its independence from the kingdom.

But soon, with everyone doing whatever they wanted, disorder reigned in the city. There was violence, hatred, lying, oppression, murder, rape, slavery, and fear. The king thought: What should I do? If I take my army and conquer the city by force, the people will fight against me, and I’ll have to kill so many of them, and the rest will only submit through fear or intimidation, which will make them hate me and all I stand for even more. How does that help them – to be either dead or imprisoned or secretly seething with rage? But if I leave them alone, they’ll destroy each other, and it breaks my heart to think of the pain they’re causing and experiencing.

So the king did something very surprising. He took off his robes and dressed in the rags of a homeless wanderer. Incognito, he entered the city and began living in a vacant lot near a garbage dump. He took up a trade – fixing broken pottery and furniture. Whenever people came to him, his kindness and goodness and fairness and respect were so striking that they would linger just to be in his presence. They would tell him their fears and questions, and ask his advice. He told them that the rebels had fooled them, and that the true king had a better way to live, which he exemplified and taught. One by one, then two by two, and then by the hundreds, people began to have confidence in him and to live in his way.

Their influence spread to others, and the movement grew and grew until the whole city regretted its rebellion and wanted to return to the kingdom again. But, ashamed of their horrible mistake, they were afraid to approach the king, believing he would certainly destroy them for their rebellion. But the king-in-disguise told them the good news: he was himself the king, and he loved them. He held nothing against them, and he welcomed them back into his kingdom, having accomplished by a gentle, subtle presence what never could have been accomplished through brute force.

mclaren – is everyone in?

But what about heaven and hell? you ask. Is everybody in?

My reply: Why do you consider me qualified to make this pronouncement? Isn’t this God’s business? Isn’t it clear that I do not believe this is the right question for a missional Christian to ask? Can’t we talk for a while about God’s will being done on earth as in heaven instead of jumping to how to escape earth and get to heaven as quickly as possible? Can’t we talk for a while about overthrowing and undermining every hellish stronghold in our lives and in our world?

Imagine you are driving down a country road on a journey west from New York to Los Angeles. You find yourself at a flashing red light somewhere in South Florida. You can turn left, turn right, or go straight. The road to the left heads toward Boca Raton. The road to the right leads toward Naples. The third road leads south toward Key West, through the Everglades. None of the roads leans in the general direction of Los Angeles. What do you do? Which road do you take? What are you doing in Florida anyway? The fact that you have to choose between these three destinations means that you are already far off track! But you have to go somewhere, so what do you do?

Here’s what you do: you admit that you’ve been lost for a long, long time – like for the last 750-plus miles. You whack yourself in the forehead for not realizing this sooner, and then you make a U-turn and head back north until you find I-10, which will send you west toward the City of Angels.

This is how I feel when I’m offered a choice between the roads of exclusivism (only confessing Christians go to heaven), universalism (everyone goes to heaven) , and inclusivism (Christians go to heaven, plus at least some others). Each road takes you somewhere, to a place with some advantages and disadvantages, but none of them is the road of my missional calling: blessed in this life to be a blessing to everyone on earth.

One signpost tells me that some people aren’t ever going to be blessed, so I should just rejoice that I am one of the blessed – meaning I can retire in Naples, Florida, and enjoy the blessings of golf on the Gulf. One sign post tells me that everybody is already blessed, so I can watch the sun rise each morning from the beach in Boca Raton. The other signpost tells me that maybe some are blessed and maybe they aren’t, which means I proceed straight ahead into the swamp and feel confused, not knowing what to do.

But my mission isn’t to figure out who is already blessed, or not blessed, or unblessable. My calling is to be blessed so I can bless everyone. I’m going to Los Angeles!

do you love me?

a wonderful scene from Fiddler on the Roof between Tevye and Golde his wife:

“Do you love me?”

“Do I what?”

“Do you love me?”

“You’re a fool.”

“I know. But do you love me?”

“Do I love you? For twenty-five years I’ve washed your clothes, cooked your meals, cleaned your house given you children, milked the cow after twenty-five years, why talk about love right now?”

“Golde, the first time I met you was on our wedding day. I was scared”

“I was shy.”

“I was nervous.”

“So was I.”

“But my father and my mother said we’d learn to love each other and now I’m asking, Golde:
Do you love me?”

“I’m your wife.”

“I know.
But do you love me?”

“Do I love him?
For twenty-five years I’ve lived with him fought him, starved with him twenty-five years my bed is his if that’s not love, what is?”

“Then you love me?”

“I suppose I do.”

“And I suppose I love you too.”

“It doesn’t change a thing, but even so, after twenty-five years it’s nice to know.”


i fear appeasement is a dangerous road. it is not unity, but merely the appearance of it. there is no more unity after today than before. we must take care, lest we find ourselves unified around an empty nothing.


“As we enter into this week, I pray that you would contemplate with me the nature of Christ – the one who allows such betrayal, who opens himself to such betrayal and somehow manifests love in the most trying of circumstances. I know that’s easy for us to talk about, and it’s really hard when we’re in the trenches trying to love people who seem unlovable, whose words and actions cut to the very core of who we are – it’s the hardest time to love. Yet as we read the scriptures – especially as we walk toward the cross this week – it seems to define the essence of Christianity in so many ways.”

-Chris Seay (3/20/2005) listen here

walk by the light we have

a quick thought inspired by this morning’s class:

we all walk by the light we have.

very profound when you think of it. perhaps there will be more expounding later.

for now there is bed.

o fortuna

o fortuna
velut luna
statu variabilis,
semper crescis
aut decrescis;

o fortune
like the moon
you are changeable,
ever waxing
and waning;

from carmina burana

if we have the opportunity to walk away

Here’s the deal: if we’re going to have this relationship with each other – if we’re going to be intimate and close, which I want, then you have to be able to hurt me. Because unless you can hurt me, we can’t be intimate, I would just be a control freak.

This is really true in all our relationships, isn’t it? If you’re dating a girl and you’re trying to manipulate and control and keep her from seeing this other guy or worried about whether she’s going to fall for this other guy, or you’re worried because she seems interested in your friends – it’s just not the sort of relationship that God has with humanity at all.

God just says this: I’m going to be really, really good. If you want this, I want this too. If you don’t, you can go. He’s not a control freak. He’s not a manipulator. He’s not co-dependant. And the only way that He’s saying we can be close to Him is if we have the opportunity to walk away and we don’t do it.

~don miller

be near to us

from soren kierkegaard:

Our Father, be near to us with Thy power so that we may feel a joyous assurance of heart that Thou art not far from us, but that we live and move and have our being in Thee.