J.P. Alcala's Page

My Favorite Sites

Reflections

A quote to dwell on...

September 28, 2011

Not all who wander are lost. - J.R.R. Tolkien

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Some Thoughts...

September 28, 2011

Consider the nature of a man. Every simple or complex decision
is determined by our conception of ultimate happiness. Indeed,
every action we may or may not carry out depends on how the
being considering the action will achieve the most happiness, or
the most good for him or herself. There is no escaping this inevitibility.

You might ask, as you should (if you thought wisely), why God demands
obedience (we are assuming that we live in a universe where God is Creator;
an argument otherwise isn't raised here). We, humanity, have been conditioned
to believe that obedience negates happiness. Indeed, our nature concedes that
as long as we are independent, we shall be happy beings. The question, then, is
whether obedience to God and ultimate happiness are mutually exclusive.
This is were we fork, so to speak. Either we devote ourselves to religious misery
(in the name of piety or faithfulness), or we abandon any notion of spirituality or
the transcendent.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Ode to a Cuban Latte

September 28, 2011

Suppose that coffee could save lives;
Gentlemen, perhaps even secure you wives
(Ladies, of course you’re not forgotten,
But talk of husbands feels most rotten).
Returning to our supposition,
Let’s also assume awareness of our condition
(Which Pascalians must never deny
Is want for coffee lest our souls die);
Then why, reason would request,
Would we settle for naught save the best?
We cannot blame ignorance for such a sin,
For a hippie-chic menu to you (our friend) is given,
Not merely for, although we wouldn’t mind, admiring,
But also for deliberate pondering;
And upon such deliberation and wonder,
Your eyes would rush back and forth in wander,
And, thanks to curiosity, two simple words
Curiously chalked together would be to you a lure.
“What might such an odd coupling be, I wonder,
That would merit the title Cuban Latte,” and in ponder
You’d question the barista (which is a word you don’t quite understand),
With pointed finger and “Sir,” or “Ma’am, that there looks grand,”
And the barista might not even turn to follow your gaze,
For he or she knows, and will know till the end of his or her days,
That the Cuban Latte is the glared upon drink,
The glorious, wondrous thing making you think
That maybe you’ve been missing out,
And you decide to see what all the grandeur is about.

So you order and, perhaps with a wait (for such a thing must not be rushed),
Take hold of the golden (really brownish-yellow) mug, cheeks blushed
At your own awareness of your radiant excitement,
And (you must be dazed) turn and step with back bent
Careful not to spill, hands smoldering in your grip,
You find a seat and, hesitantly (for you’re wonderfully scared), sip.
At once, the void that has rotted empty for so long
Is flooded by the rushing Cuban throng
(Is this really Cuban, you wonder, but, at last, realize you don’t care)
And a magnificent chorus sings (only you’re aware),
“It is what it is,” and “Sorry, sorry, sorry is the somebody
Who has never drunk of the glory.”
Drinking, you sit for a minute (maybe an hour, maybe a few)
And everybody is glaring at your happy hue;
So you realize what the drink has just done:
Lifted your spirit like a glowing, gold sun.

Perhaps you then fall asleep, and dream of the Cuban drink,
Or maybe in study you cannot think
Of the thing that you’re doing:
Your mind is consumed in aweing and ooing
Of the drink on your tongue
That has left your soul-bells rung.
At length, you finish, amazed and confused,
Ready to leave, fully re-fused.
You open the door (for you must be some place)
But on your lips you feel the tingling grace
Of what you’ve just drunk,
And the thought of parting leaves your soul sunk.
So you consider buying one to go,
But your wallet’s feeling powerfully low,
So you plan to return (you hope tomorrow) another day
To drink the splendidly bewildering Cuban Latte.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Widening the Road

August 18, 2011

There was a road near my home that was, at least to those in charge of such a decision, far too narrow. Morning and late-afternoon drives were apparently unbearable and the extra time (which I might add wasn’t much) that traffic added to the commute was unendurable. Those who regularly took the road perhaps desired a more comfortable, more manageable commute (one without the need for an acute sense of awareness). Those others who seldom took the road, and found that alternative routes were just as appropriate as this road, tended to avoid this road. So what we see is this: travellers of the road desire a wider, more relaxed (less work for them, i.e. turning the head, checking the mirrors, constantly lifting the foot, etc.) road; non-travellers of the road avoided the road altogether and found substitute routes where width and ease could be found. Of course, this road, perhaps after much complaint (and maybe even under the pretense of humility, i.e. let’s widen this thing to fit as many travellers as possible) was redeveloped and made wider. This seems to be America’s response (or perhaps any able society’s response) to crisis. And even now, to many of those reading this, a certain sense of justification is brimming. Why not widen the road, if we can? True, it is only a road; but this scenario represents a much bigger crisis, one that we cannot fix by reconstructing. The oddity and irony of this arise when we realize that we seem to have a sort of established notion of exclusivity; not only that, but we laud selectivity. Universities and colleges rank themselves by selecting the fewest of the few, as long as they’re the brightest (of course, there are schools that accept the rest, but they receive none of the prestige). A car salesperson will ironically excite a middleclass citizen with elite offers, but what he is really doing is widening the road. Thus, no one is truly elite, but the thought of exclusivity is entertained by the middleclass citizen without the objectivity of exclusivity (the road is for all; he or she only senses the feign exclusivity). Nonetheless, we see that the exclusivity is desired; yet, we also see a desire for an acceptance of all. What is truly happening here? Which desire holds more weight in the human heart?

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

July 27, 2011

Conversation between Piper and Platt:

Their conversation on God’s ultimate purpose being the global knowledge and treasuring of Him led me to Romans 10-11. Platt’s overwhelming burden for unreached peoples (people who don’t have access to the Gospel) struck me as central to the faith, especially for us here in America. I then saw a connection to Paul’s argument in Romans. Paul, himself an Israelite, said regarding his own people in verse three of Chapter 10, “For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.” We know the righteousness of God to be Jesus; therefore, they did not subject themselves to Jesus. So, what was God’s response to those who heard of but did not accept Jesus? In Romans 11:25, Paul said, “For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.” So then, Paul is arguing that God has by no means excluded those people who heard about Jesus but rejected Him; on the contrary, God is reaching out to those who have never heard for the sake of those that heard and rejected in order to make them jealous. Granted, Paul is clearly speaking about ethnic Israel; however, I am suggesting that a connection might be made between Israel in Romans 10-11 and America today. Here is why: there is almost no place (none I can think of) in America where the gospel is absent. The problem in America isn’t a lack of hearing of the Word, but a rejection of it (I will say Christians in America could be bolder in how they show Christ in their lives, but I believe this will happen when we get in touch with God’s global purpose). So perhaps, emulating Paul’s ministry, we in America who have believed should focus on reaching those who haven’t heard the Word (unreached peoples), so that those who have heard and rejected the Word may experience jealousy. Let me be clear, lest I be gravely mistaken: this is not an excuse to abandon local ministry or to forsake the preaching of the Word where it has already been heard. We must be faithful to the Word and the Gospel everywhere we step. Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” There is no partiality here. This is speaking about all peoples. Everybody, whether for the first time or for the millionth time, needs to hear the word for faith. Nevertheless, I am suggesting a prioritizing of our energies in the global purposes of God. If God’s grand mission is to reach those who have never heard, then shouldn’t his people share the same mission? “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things.” But Paul follows this vision by saying, “However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” Let us continue being faithful with our local ministries here in America, for even those who have heard and rejected can come to a knowledge of Him (Matthew 19:26). But let us get in sync with God’s global purpose of reaching those who have never heard the Gospel. Clearly God’s heart is for them. I believe Pratt is right on focusing all his energies on those who have never heard the sweetness of Jesus. This in turn, I think, will lead to more effective local ministry. .