My New Year’s Toast

To my family, to our son, new this passing year,
I lift this glass with friends tonight, may it pass with cheer.
Here love abides, strangers welcome, as friends they may soon be,
I lift this glass in thankfulness, though sometimes hard to see.
And to my friends I lift this glass, through trials come and gone,
Laughter in our hearts has filled our houses and our lungs.
Friends new are pleasant, old are grand, wrought with depth and truth,
I’d raise that glass a thousand times, though ageing, from my youth.
Now to this year,  through blessings brought from God who art on high,
Our hearts and minds have reeled at gifts we have, but know not why.
Now raise with me a glass you all, for things as yet unseen,
For what is coming next, God knows, in two thousand and sixteen.

Happy new year.

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Japanese Car, Juggernaut Heart

I was around fourteen when I started writing about love. I wrote poetry of infatuation, odes to beauty and heartbreak. Phrases that I thought at that age summed up well all there was to know about love, that great muse of the Greeks, beauty and truth herself wrapped in pure sunlight and veiled by shimmering clouds. Until only a few years ago, my imagination of love and pure rapture of its presence gave me more delight than the real thing itself. The love of my mind was fierce and impervious to attack. It was kept as the secret source for hope, joy, happiness and resilience for those who knew its mysteries. The love of my mind was the love of the romantics, or what I thought I read in Shakespeare and all the writings of dead men that I placed firmly in the mental file of “Old Poetic Stuff.”

It is worth taking stock at various junctures in life of the progression one moves along, (not progress in the evolutionary sense, but intentional work one does in pursuing perfection) if only to mark the differences, and to view the imagined trajectory of ones inner growth along the spectrum.

This is that.

Note the wisdom of the maker. As I grew up, I started to understand the love one must have for their neighbour. In friendship and acquaintance, I learned dedication and loyalty, and the ferocity one may find in themselves at the degradation of their closest friends. As situations present themselves and you feel the inner heat flare inside yourself and the sense of justice and the war for peace you feel for those you care about you start to get your first inkling of what love looks like.

–Note: I am leaving out the different definitions or types of love for my purposes. Many have worked out their distinctions and I think could easily point out and categorize the ones I name here, I am not presently concerned with definitions, but of my personal interaction with these loves through the course of my short life. —

This first sense of love then paints itself into the picture I had held in my mind of perfect love. Love now had grit to it. It was taking form somehow, becoming alive. My heart had been given the premium fuel and I craved the passion that made me weak but made me feel somehow beyond powerful. The strength of genuine human connection.

If the love of friendship is the ideal fuel for the human heart, then romantic love that is forged into the steadfast love of lifelong marital commitment is a crude retrofit of parts bolted onto the heart of homo sapiens. You start with the inkling of a feeling, an understanding, that you and some other person have begun a journey toward something you both value but do not understand. Like any experiment all of the parts bolted together spew smoke and boiling hot oil outside and any operator must wear his goggles if he wishes not to be (as is often accused of those in love) stricken blind by the new firepower that backfires and spits and threatens to break through his rib cage. And if this were to continue forever the caged heart would break.

Now what I’ve found happens next is not a fearful thing. It is not a thing to bemoan. It is the engine of the heart being tempered and tweaked and optimized and made efficient. After a time those in love must calm themselves and the temperature must cool if they wish to be any good to the world at all. And the cooling is a sign that the heart of their love is running well, because the fights become less regular, there is more harmony, all of the parts of the two become one milled and engineered to exact specifications.

Those who know the truth of chosen love and experience it as I have and do, know that there is a regularly occurring reminder that to lose the other person would be the most horrific and degrading of amputations. “The two become one flesh” is not a euphemistic turn of phrase. As I have only known in nightmare the fear deep set in every man’s heart is to lose the one they love, stolen by the one I call the organ thief. To be awake in the operating room unable to speak and only scream in your own head “Please! You’ve taken my good leg! My strongest lung! The very best of all that I am…” And then to be forever a cripple, knowing that what you had thought, before you met the one you love, was complete health was only a half-man.

Despite the fear, it is a life of great peace. 3 years in and I already know I’m owed no more than this. No one has lived a life deserving of more than the joy I’ve already been given. And yet, in the divine wisdom of an infinite God, I received, a son.

What I’ve found since the birth of my son is that if marital love is a retrofit for the heart, then parental love is a completely new transformation. All the excess is cut out to make room for a heart that no young man suspected could beat beneath his chest.

I could never believe myself capable of the humility and servant-heartedness that is required to love an infant. It seemed a trick to find it in myself and when you deeply love your child it is a reward, even if not the end in itself. Somehow, all work and all sacrifice made for them seems like its own pleasure, and one has the sense that it is the baby who is doing you a favour. Or at least through him you can learn humility, gentleness, kindness, consideration, to be quiet and calm.

I’ve looked back and seen the way God has taught me through this ever expanding love for others, and the love itself was its own sort of lesson. Seeing that it has grown in me is proof of the hand of God growing and teaching and reproving in me. There is no other explanation, for I know that left to myself I would only crave chaos.

But here. My shaking hands with her smooth hands, his tiny hands held tight, I know at the bottom of this juggernaut heart that I have been made new.

Radical Forgiveness

“What a pity that Bilbo did not stab that vile creature, when he had a chance!’
Pity? It was Pity that stayed his hand. Pity, and Mercy: not to strike without need. And he has been well rewarded, Frodo. Be sure that he took so little hurt from the evil, and escaped in the end, because he began his ownership of the Ring so. With Pity.”

Dear Lewis,

I do not propose to map out a method for the release of all hatred, malice, vengeance, and anger, but only to plead with you passionately on behalf of your soul. I have seen the world, and I have seen the way we humans get when we are together. The progression of technology that has brought us closer than ever, or more truly brought those of us already in agreement together, is a double-edged blade in itself.

I have tried to reintegrate myself into this world in careful measure but I admit to you now that I have ever and always the increasing inclination to reject wholeheartedly what I have seen called tolerance and social justice, “crying out against oppression” and forms of patriotism. I want to live somewhere I can no longer see the smoke of our cities burning. The online communities that have sprung up serve as a benefit to those who felt alone by replacing that feeling with one of being surrounded by many like-minded friends, all sympathetic, to their cause and station.

Now it is true that the foundation of all great sins are good things. The most passionate violence can stem from the deepest love. The motive, however, cannot redeem the action.

I cannot read the news. Every day there are people being ugly to one another in unimaginable ways. It hurts me but it does not anymore surprise me. Worse yet when a person of some importance is found guilty of something that was supposed to be “beyond him” there are two responses that I despise the most. The first is an arrogant declaration of the person’s guilt and how so-and-so knew all along they couldn’t be trusted, and he yells harshly “look at your God now!” They feel that they have been justice itself all along. A lone blind judge holding the balance.

The second response is similar and it is the response of those who take on the pain of others as a personal insult, as if they were owed righteousness from their famous ones. They, then, make it their personal goal to find and inform every person who will listen about the many horrible things the fallen person has done and replay and rehash until breathless every horrid thing, and in doing so shove their hands deep into the filth of the accused, and I think, take some joy from it.

Not so for you. You cannot judge the heart of man. If there is anything that I hope you learn from me it is to practice daily the forgiveness of the unforgivable. This is the greatest benefit to the shrinking of the globe. Now that you know who the worst people are in all the earth, think of them. Think of their faces before you. Look them in the eyes and wonder and pray and ask God how it is they came to take part in these things. Pray with tears and be thankful that whatever your lot in life was it hasn’t brought you to the place this person now dwells. Then, take pity. Console the victim. Encourage the downcast. But never take on the hate of this world for any cause. If you must rise up, rise up in justice, but never in anger or out of vengeance. I assure you it cannot be born without ruining you. Forgive the war criminal. Forgive the murderer. Forgive the liars, cheaters and the self-justified who would die without admitting their guilt. I say again you cannot bear the judgment for the sins of the world, for none is righteous.

This may seem impossible. But it is a practice that I think will serve you well. If these are your thoughts, then maybe, just maybe, you will in life be able to forgive your friends, and your family, and your neighbour, and possibly even yourself.