Valle de Sombra

The window or the view

Posted on | June 25, 2014 | No Comments

The holy scriptures are a window into the soul of God.

They are a faithful and clear window, neither distorting nor adding anything to the soul of God.

Let us, however, not fall in love with the window. Rather, looking through this faithful window, let us fall in love with God.

The merit of this window is that it reveals God. To glorify the window is to miss the whole point of the window. The window exists not to receive glory, but to point to the one to whom all glory is due.

Of grains of sand and of mountains

Posted on | May 20, 2014 | No Comments

The large decisions in life are so often made up of many seemingly insignificant ones. When we make the small ones, we seldom perceive how they influence the large, life-changing ones. This is most true in relationships.

A point in case is marriage.

Anyone who has been married for more than a month knows that the continuity of a marriage depends just as much on decisions as did the beginning of the marriage. The ‘I do’ spoken before witnesses is only the first of countless others, each one as challenging as the first. Small decisions lay the foundations for large ones, and lead the way to them. We need not fear the large ones if we have been vigilant with the small ones.  No-one wakes up one rainy day and thinks, ‘Today I guess I’ll get divorced, and have toast for breakfast’. The decision creeps up on you, small, quiet step by small, quiet step. And suddenly you find yourself staring into the abyss of a terrible choice that you have practically already taken, and turning back is almost inconceivable.

You either let marriage transform you, as an amazingly effective tool in the capable hands of the Spirit, or little sin by little sin you will gnaw away at the foundation of your union, with each small and camouflaged act of selfishness, of impatience, egotism, anger, cowardice, rancor, disdain, uncaring, and so many other tiny drops of venom.

The choice to preserve your marriage or to destroy it is not one you will make at some terrible but abstract point in your future. It is a choice you make today. Now. And in ten minutes’ time, and in an hour’s time.

Every day you will take a dozen decisions, a hundred decisions, the sum of which will take you one more step down the road to the destruction of your union, vomiting out ruin and misery to all those involved in your life. Or that sum will add another layer of granite to buttress the roots of your marriage, to weather all the storms that life will bring, to harbour your children and be a light to their children in the gathering darkness.

The wages of sin are death.

Pandering to the little sins in your heart will surely destroy all you hold precious, and leave you with but dust in your mouth and incurable roots of bitterness in your heart.

But the gift of God is eternal life.

Did we depend on our personal aversion to sin, all would be lost indeed! But we have three mighty champions on our side, and do we but let them fight for us, victory is assured. On our left we have the active grace of our God who desires to bless us. On our right we have the redeeming blood of Christ which has delivered us from the just anger of God. And at our backs we have the tireless work of the Spirit in our hearts, to convict us of sin and to guide us to contrition and repentance, which give way to renewal and abundant life. But ours is the decision – repeated over and over again, moment by moment, day by day, year by year – to bend our hearts to the voice of the shepherd. From God comes mercy, grace and salvation, but to us it is given to receive or to reject, to humble our hearts before our God, or to harden ourselves to his voice.

Marriage is indeed a joint enterprise, a union between two people, but by having the courage to be humble before your God, you will not only have done your part to assure the continuity of your union, but will massively influence your partner, encouraging him or her to follow. As arrogance foments arrogance, so does humility teach humility.

Political tyranny and godless men

Posted on | January 30, 2014 | No Comments

The world’s people constantly demand freedom and self-determination, and any person or group of people who resist this call are demonized, and generally rightly so. Freedom is where man was created to be. Our genetic instinct is to be free. It offends our sense of identity when others impose their will on us and restrict our freedom. Yet freedom in an inherently unstable condition. It is not unstable due to any defect of freedom itself. There is nothing wrong with freedom. On the contrary, its opposites – forced servitude and subjugation – are indisputably bad things. The defect is not in freedom, but in man who cannot live in the condition he so yearns for, and for which so much blood has been spilled over the centuries and will be spilled again before our age is over.

Put man into a place where freedom reigns, and he immediately begins taking decisions the inevitable result of which will be the loss of his freedom. Make him pay a very high price for his freedom, and he will value it and protect it a bit longer, but only a bit. At the very best, the generation that paid in blood the price of their freedom will not too savagely undermine it, but the next generation will undertake the effort with a will, and will succeed.

We presume that freedom is the natural state of man, and that barring intentional assault, it will remain in effect. This is not so. It was so once, but it is no longer. Now our natural instincts demand of us things that require the suppression of others to achieve. The boundary between where our desires end and others’ rights begin is subject to legislation and the legalized use of violence. So we join forces in groups to impose our desires at the expense of the freedom of others. And we are pleased when we succeed, proclaiming a victory for democracy. We heed not that with each encroachment of the freedom of others, our freedom is also wounded, for we set the precedents that others will use against us and against our children.

Freedom is not a force of nature, like gravity, that with great effort may be momentarily overcome before the inevitable descent. Freedom is a delicate plant all too vulnerable to drought and plague and edged weapons. We rain down blows on the roots of freedom for self-serving egotistic reasons, thinking that the price someone else will pay is worth the benefit to us, and that freedom is strong enough to overcome the damage we have done. And so special interest joins special interest and negotiates with legislators the price of their eminently negotiable ethics, and the incestuous legislators and the executives that pimp them buy permanence in power by using the authority they were entrusted with to erode the freedom of the people they supposedly serve, buying votes with favors that come at the expense of the freedom of others.

And so freedom withers and is overtaken by the strangling vines of tyranny, and men lament that which they lost and yet the loss of which they themselves caused.

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the public treasury. From that moment on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most money from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy followed by a dictatorship. Democracies progress through the following sequence: from bondage to spiritual faith, from spiritual faith to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependency, from dependency back to bondage.

Alexander Fraser Tytler

Is a fatal error to believe that genuine political freedom can be sustained without a God-fearing people. As soon as a democratic majority no longer fears God, they will see freedom as a currency to be bartered away, not a precious gift to be treasured and passed down from generation to generation.

Why on earth have children?

Posted on | February 24, 2013 | No Comments

If we were to follow simple logic and reason, there would be no earthly reason to procreate, at least not in a relatively advanced economy. In poor regions where the economic instability precludes saving up for old-age and/or where the political populist opportunism makes property ownership untrustworthy, then there is indeed reason. Have as many children as you can and hope some survive to adulthood to look after you when you can no longer work.

That’s about it. If you do not live in a poor region or you find some way to save up for when you are old and weary, then it makes no sense at all to have children. Mark – I do not say that you should not have children, I only say that, if you submit your decisions to logic and reason, then you should not have children.

All other observations invoke not reason but feeling and emotion and societal approval. The pride of successful progeny; the affection reciprocated; the fulfilling of society’s expectations; the warmth of family; the end of loneliness; etc.

I will even say more (for the rest of this article I will presume you do not live in a poor region as defined above). If you put on one side of a scale all the tangible benefits of procreating, and on the other side all the costs (and we’re talking at least 18 years, folks, perhaps more), then procreation is simply and utterly nonsensical. Of course the population needs to remain stable, but this motivation falls immediate prey to the tragedy of the commons. Why should I go to all the massive expense and bother to maintain the population just so others can laze through life and retire early, depending on my effort to maintain society when they are old?

Obviously either there is some real, tangible reason, or all the millions of people having children are either dirt-poor (demonstrably not so) or illogical fools (theoretically possible, but if we start from the premise of global idiocy, then why bother going on at all?).

Future post/s to continue on this topic are forthcoming. Or not. Who can tell?

Sadness and the Soul

Posted on | October 15, 2012 | No Comments

Sadness is an inextricable part of the human soul.

It is born of the perception of loss, which is the defining characteristic of mortality. Every waking hour spent at one place, is a thousand hours not spent elsewhere. A memory saved somewhere, is a million memories never recorded in ten million other places. In the limitations born of our mortality we must constantly make choices between what we will save and what we will lose, and the losing is ever far greater than the saving. We seek to convince ourselves that the choices we made for what to save were the best choices, but even if they always were the best choices (and our mortal fallibility would make this unlikely), even so the loss is incomparably greater.

A moment spent reading a book, instead of playing a game with your son. A moment spent watching a film, instead of the sun go down. A moment spent daydreaming instead of going for a walk with your wife. How is one to know how to make the better choice? Who has sufficient foresight to see which choice turns out to be the best? And again, even if the choice is the best possible one, how must one deal with the terrible loss even that good choice demands?

How indeed, but to grieve. And to this grief we must add so many, many choices that in hindsight we see were not the best. So the chill of loss is driven into our bones by the winds of regret. Sadness, then, is the dark shadow projected on our hearts by the limitations of our humanity in the pitiless light of what might have been.

To flee from sadness is at best denial, and at worst an institutionalized schizophrenia. And whether the former or the later or anything in between, it is an illusion. And illusions, unlike dreams, are only for children.
Since it is foolish and ultimately hopeless to flee from sadness, the wise embrace it. This does not mean being overcome or poisoned by it, but accepting that, like joy, sadness is a part of the soul and it will not be denied if the rest of the soul must not also be denied. There is joy too, in the human experience. And if we would savor that joy, we must accept the sorrow. To refuse one is to refuse them both, because the only way to deny sorrow is to deliver oneself to the fatalism of a mechanistic universe, where joy is also a mere illusion, since the freedom to make personal decisions that lead to sorrow is also a prerequisite for those decisions that lead to joy.

If we deal with sorrow as it comes to us, rather than letting it accrue in the darkness of denial and forced amnesia, then we will have the strength to rise to each wave as it advances. If we refuse to face the waves and attempt to live in a Pollyanna world of pastel illusion, when the weight of the darkness is too great to be contained in our amnesia, all the sorrow stored up there will crash down upon us and crush us.
One great secret is that sorrow and joy are not the antithesis to each other. Sorrow does not wipe out joy, nor joy cure sorrow. They are two essentially distinct and mutually compatible experiences. They are not light and dark, that the one should always be in conflict with the other, but different facets of the same soul. One can grieve in joy, and be joyful in sorrow. This blended emotion is best called poignancy, which is joy all the sweeter for being filled with sadness, or sadness robbed of it bitterness by joy.

Another and almost equally great mistake caused by misguided efforts to combat sorrow is to attempt to do so by being optimistic or highlighting the happy things in life. The theory being that if one can find more things to be happy about than to be sad about, then the favourable balance will make life livable, or perhaps even good. This mistake is born of the erroneous belief that sorrow and joy are antithetical. Once we realize that these two experiences do not contradict or cancel each other out, then we can quickly arrive at a wiser conclusion. For if sorrow does not cancel out joy, then there is no need to frantically search for things to be joyful about when burdened by sorrow. No need, and no point.

Finally, the maturity of Christian character cannot happen in a state of denial and escapism. The only way to grow personally is to face each situation and experience and, in faith, absorb each one into our lives. Faith, not the ability to make lists of ‘My favourite things’, is what brings maturity and steadfastness.

Let us not be afraid of sorrow nor of grief. Let sorrow take its place unadultarated by guilt, and give grief permission to mingle its tears with the smile of true joy. Take the bitter with the sweet and reject neither.

keep looking »
  • Categories

  • Recent Posts

  • Archives

  • Admin

  • Perfection or mediocrity

    I have no illusion of creating or finding a perfect church, since any body comprised of imperfect beings must of necessity itself be imperfect. I nevertheless strongly and passionately believe that we must have an ideal upon which to mold ourselves and a concept of perfection by which to set our compass. To answer criticisms of having lost our bearings, replying that no-one is perfect, is a shallow reply born of defeatism and not worthy of the blood shed on the cross, nor of those who take up the mantle of leadership in the church redeemed by that blood.