The Vantage Point

There are several vantage points from which to view the scene in today’s Gospel (Luke 13:10-17).  The first is through the eyes of the temple authorities, those who are charged with maintaining order and the good functioning of society.  Theirs is an important job, have no doubt.  They ensure the well-being of the whole.  They dole out favor at specific times and in reasonable doses.  They preserve standards and expectations so that the world can turn in predictable ways.

The second vantage point is from a ninety degree angle, looking up.  It is the view of a woman who is bent over and quite unable to stand up straight, who has been stooped for years by a burden left unidentified.  She is accustomed to seeing the world as one who has been doubled over by its weight.  There is no indication that she has any expectation that she will ever be able to straighten her back and raise her eyes to the sun.

The vantage point from a ninety degree angle, looking up

The vantage point from a ninety degree angle, looking up

And then there is the third vantage point.  It is the outlook of the one who enters the scene from elsewhere, from a realm that is governed by another set of rules entirely, sent from One whose standards and expectations are very different from our own.  He looks at this scene, and he knows immediately what must be done.  Jesus calls out to the woman.  He lays his hands upon her and says, “Be well and be free.”

How do the people around Jesus react to his words and actions?  Some are filled with hope; some are indignant.  Some beam, while others bristle.  But Jesus recognizes that all who witness these things—the temple authorities, the bent woman, the crowd—all are in bondage.  The only difference between them is that those who hope realize their bondage and see freedom in Jesus’ actions, while those who fume and bluster fail even to recognize that they, too, are in chains.


Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, who served New York City for twelve years in the 1930s and 40s, had a habit of upending people’s expectations.[i]  He was barely five feet tall and was nicknamed “Little Flower,” but when he entered a room with his trademark carnation in his lapel, everyone noticed.  Tiny LaGuardia would raid speakeasies alongside the police.  He’d treat entire orphanages to Major League baseball games.

One dark winter’s night in the middle of the Great Depression, the mayor showed up unannounced at night court in a bad part of town.  He relieved the magistrate and took the bench himself, banging the gavel with abandon.  Before long, an elderly, stooped woman showed up on the docket, charged with stealing food from a corner grocery.  The woman explained that her daughter’s husband had deserted the family, leaving grandchildren who were destitute and hungry.  The old woman had stolen bread to feed her family, but the grocer would not drop the charges.  “This is a bad neighborhood, Your Honor,” he told the mayor, “She’s got to be punished to teach other people around here a lesson.”

Mayor LaGuardia paused in thought, then sighed and said to the defendant, “I’ve got to punish you.  The law makes no exceptions—ten dollars or ten days in jail.”

A hush fell across the courtroom as Mayor LaGuardia sentenced this ragged, frail woman to incarceration (since she hadn’t a dime to pay the fine).  She was condemned, and rightly so according to the ways of the world.  But then Fiorello LaGuardia took his own billfold from his coat pocket and said, “Here is the ten dollar fine, which I now remit; and furthermore I am going to fine everyone in this courtroom fifty cents for living in a town where a person has to steal bread so that her grandchildren can eat.  Mr. Bailiff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant.”

Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, the "Little Flower"

Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, the “Little Flower”

Brennan Manning, who tells this story, goes on to say, “The following day the New York City newspapers reported that $47.50 was turned over to a bewildered old lady who had stolen a loaf of bread to feed her starving grandchildren, fifty cents of that amount being contributed by the red-faced grocery store owner.”


How do we respond to this story?  Does it fill us with hope, or are we indignant?  Do we beam, or do we bristle, red-faced like the grocer?  Our response depends upon the vantage point from which we view the scene.  And either emotional response reveals that we, too, are in bondage.

Much of the time in our world, we are the ones with the vested interest in maintaining standards, of ensuring the way the world turns.  We are the temple authorities; we are the grocer.  And the world spins on its axis most smoothly when our expectations of the way things should work are preserved.  It is best, we think, when the wicked are punished, and the broken-backed stay conveniently out of sight, when even our own internal struggles are suppressed far beneath the surface and kept from the light of day and from the view of other people.

It is not that we’re against grace.  But sometimes we prefer that it be dosed out in manageable and reasonable bits, in appropriate places and at appropriate times.  And yet, we fail to see, when we operate in this mode, that our very outlook is a kind of bondage all its own.  It is a bondage that denies our solidarity with others of God’s children.  It fails to see that the same image of God exists in them as in us.  It fails to recognize how desperately we are in need of grace.

It does these things, that is, right up until some crushing blow breaks us.  The blow can come in innumerable ways. There is illness; there is family debacle; there is financial disaster; there is emotional or mental breakdown.  Some broken backs are more noticeable than others, but for any who cannot raise their eyes to the sun, the effect is the same.  The bend in our backs can sap our hope.  It can keep our eyes cast downward.  That’s the more obvious form of bondage.

Where, then, is freedom?  To see that, we have to remember the third vantage point from the Gospel story.  On the Sabbath day, Jesus walks into the midst of the synagogue.  He sees the bent woman who is without hope.  He sees the temple authorities, whose backs are so bowed up that they don’t realize they, too, are in bondage.

old woman stooped over

“And the entire crowd rejoiced at all the wonderful things Jesus was doing.”

And with a view that takes in both, Jesus upends the expectations of both.  He denies the propriety of the authorities, and he denies the hopelessness of the woman.  Like Fiorello LaGuardia marching in and taking over the night court, Jesus disregards all the rules, and he reaches out to heal her.  His touch restores her hope, her dignity, her acceptance.  It reminds her that she is beloved, and she stands up straight.

God’s grace enters into our world and operates by God’s rules rather than our own, and it will not be boxed in.  Grace won’t observe our expectations or preserve our vested interests.  Rather than ensure the earth’s smooth spinning, grace will rock the world on its axis.  Grace will seek out—at any time, in any place, under any circumstance—those whose backs the world has broken.  Grace will free all from bondage.  And thank God it will, since those in bondage are us.

When we are confronted face-to-face with grace, we have two options.  We can bristle or we can beam.  We can get red-faced in indignation and anger, or we can stand tall with hope.  We can keep the world spinning smoothly—as it grinding wheels crush so many in its path—or we can become the one who reaches out a healing hand, who raises up the broken-backed, no matter what the time or circumstance.  In short, we can remain in chains, or we can be freed from bondage.

The ending of Brennan Manning’s story about Fiorello LaGuardia is the best part.  He reveals the final scene in the courtroom by saying, “Some seventy petty criminals, people with traffic violations, and New York City policemen, each of whom had just paid fifty cents for the privilege of doing so, gave the mayor a standing ovation.”

Luke’s Gospel tells us, “And the entire crowd rejoiced at all the wonderful things Jesus was doing.”

So, how do we see this story?  It depends upon our vantage point.  Who will be set free from bondage on this very Sabbath day?”

[i] The story that follows comes from Brennan Manning’s The Ragamuffin Gospel, pp. 94-95.  It’s such a great story, but I wondered if it’s factual. has a lengthy piece on it, and identified a nearly identical anecdote about Fiorello LaGuardia published by Bennett Cerf while LaGuardia was still in office.

Heroes of the Faith?


In 1977, a few years before glam rock bands and Olivia Newton John helped “spandex” come into its own, the Fruit of the Loom underwear company stumbled upon a brilliant idea.  Fruit of the Loom realized that kids love to read comic books about superheroes.  Kids will don bath towel capes and their mothers’ gardening gloves in order to create superhero costumes in which to run around the yard as Superman or Batman.  And, kids must wear underwear.  (Well, they should wear underwear.  In some households even that is a challenge.)  All those makeshift superhero costumes are bulky and cumbersome, but underwear fits snugly like the heroes’ costumes in the comic books.  And so, Fruit of the Loom created “Underoos,” colorful kids’ underwear imprinted with Superman’s “S” or Shazam’s signature lightning bolt on the t-shirt.  Now, kids really could look like the heroes they emulated.  Underoos sold as fast as Shazam’s lightning, but the new product presented an unexpected problem for families.  When kids wore Underoos, they didn’t want to wear anything else!  After all, what kid would want to cover up his Spiderman costume with actual clothes?  And indeed, somewhere in a photo album at my parents’ house, hopefully buried deep in a bureau drawer, are photos of me (excuse me, photos of Superman) walking hand-in-hand with my mom around Wal-Mart and the grocery store, adorned in nothing but tennis shoes and my red and blue Underoos.Underoos

No less than children, we all crave our heroes.  We can’t get enough of them.  The four highest-grossing movies of 2012 were the Avengers, Batman, the Hunger Games, and James Bond.  (You have to move all the way down to the #9 movie, a film about an irreverent Teddy bear who comes to life, before you bypass hero movies.)  In each of those four highest grossing films, the heroes are those who live by a bedrock set of rules.  They never waver or stumble.  Through sheer grit they reach their goals with their integrity intact.

This love of heroes exists outside of fantastic stories as well.  The reason the television show “The West Wing” was so popular wasn’t primarily because of Martin Sheen’s acting (as good as that was).  It was because President Josiah Bartlett virtually never faltered.  He didn’t make indiscreet comments into an open mic.  He didn’t take bribes or give out patronage for political favors.  In other words, he didn’t do those things to which our real-life politicians and leaders seem to be so prone.  And that’s what made him a hero.

The idolization of heroes is not a distinctly modern phenomenon.  As the author of the Letter to the Hebrews demonstrates to us today (Hebrews 11:29-12:2), people have looked to heroes for inspiration and guidance since biblical times.  The names listed in the epistle, other than those of Samson and David perhaps, are likely unfamiliar.  But their exploits are exactly what we’d expect.  The author says these heroes, “conquered kingdoms, administered justice, shut the mouths of lions, escaped the edge of the sword.”

In other words, the Bible would make the best action movie.  And very often in Christianity today, that’s how the Bible is presented.  There’s even a term for it: “Muscular Christianity,” that articulation of the faith in which the biblical characters are presented in their muscle-bound glory, spiritually and in some cases physically, and in which we are called to emulate them in our own spiritual, physical, social and even political lives.  Muscular Christianity finds its way into our world in sports figures like Tim Tebow.  It’s preached from many pulpits, and—returning to the kids—it’s embodied in many Sunday school curricula.  A quick perusal of the Cokesbury store Sunday school rack will reveal curricula such as “the faith of Abraham,” “The goodness of Joseph,” and the “pure heart of David.”[i]

There’s only one problem.  This telling of these stories isn’t true.  Half the time, Abraham is laughably fickle.  Joseph is a grade-A, narcissistic jerk, which is why his brothers beat him up and sell him into slavery.   And David—the archetypal great king—covets another man’s wife and then orchestrates the man’s death so he (David) can have her.  The other “heroes” mentioned by the author of Hebrews don’t hold up any better.  Rahab earns her living as a prostitute.  Sampson breaks his sacred vow to God out of lust for Delilah.

Maybe the New Testament heroes fare better.  Let’s see: Peter denies Jesus three times.  The apostles bluster and brag only to abandon Jesus at the foot of the cross.  Paul idly holds the coats of those who stone an innocent man, and even after Paul’s conversion he is so hard to get along with that his companions keep parting ways.

Behind the green curtain

Ignore the man behind the green curtain…

This is hard to say and hard to hear, but whether we’re talking about standard Sunday school curricula or the inspirational vignettes we find online, the heroic images we construct from the biblical narrative usually just aren’t true.  These characters aren’t heroes in the Hollywood mold.  And this realization makes some people so nervous that they conveniently disregard it.  To reference another Hollywood film, they prefer to look at the projected image of the great Oz rather than the real, small man huddled behind the green curtain.

But if they’re not heroes, why does the author of Hebrews offer us this laundry list of pretenders?  If they’re not the stuff of James Bond and Superman, what good are they to us?

It’s important to know that the original, first century audience of the Letter to the Hebrews was very familiar with all of the names the author lists.  They knew Samson’s flaws.  They knew David’s weaknesses.  They knew Rahab’s bad reputation.  And they knew the wonder of these characters isn’t their heroism.  The wonder—the miracle—is that God called them and made them the agents of his purpose and plan despite their painfully obvious warts and flaws.

I mean, truly, how many of us can relate to Superman?  Or James Bond?  I can’t lift a car, and I invariably get crumbs in my cummerbund when I wear a tuxedo.  But Abraham’s tendency to make matters worse by taking things into his own hands, and David’s covetousness, and Paul’s chronic irritability, and Peter’s false courage…those things I understand.  They are the things about myself that sometimes make me squirm when I approach this pulpit to speak a Word to you.  I mean, who am I, with all my warts and flaws, to speak for God?

You know how that feels in your own walk of life and faith, don’t you?  Each of the characters in Scripture knows how that feels.  And yet, we are told, they shut the mouths of lions.  They quenched raging fires.  And, when they had to, they endured mocking and flogging and chains of imprisonment.

Here it is: Superman is of no use to God, because Superman is not real.  Neither is James Bond.  Neither is President Josiah Bartlett.  What is real is the person who begrudges, and waffles, and gets tired, and lets others down, and occasionally makes really bad mistakes.  And that’s the person God pursues and says, “I need you,” and will not let alone.

Why is this so?  Why would God deign to pay attention to us, for any reason other than to turn his head in disappointment?  Why would God pursue Samson, and Gideon, and Rahab, and us?

Samson, doing his thing.

Samson, doing his thing.

The theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar (who is worth reading) says that, though God does not see us as some false, heroic projection, neither does God see us as the pitiful man huddled behind the green curtain.  So what does God see?

Von Balthasar’s answer stresses why it is that the Incarnation is central and indispensable to our faith.  In the person of Jesus the Christ, God joins himself to our humanity—to us—and God will not see us apart from our connection to Jesus.  In other words, God does not see us as defined by our faults and flaws, no matter how awful they are and no matter how much damage they’ve done.  God sees us through the power of Jesus to redeem us, any of us.  And God declares that his vision is the real us.  Von Balthasar says, “The way God sees us is in fact the way we are in reality–for God, this is the absolute and irrevocable truth…Through God’s creative and transformative love, we become what he takes us to be in the light of Christ…our being represented in Christ becomes Christ’s being represented in us.”[ii]

“The way God sees us is in fact the way we are in reality–for God, this is the absolute and irrevocable truth…Through God’s creative and transformative love, we become what he takes us to be in the light of Christ…our being represented in Christ becomes Christ’s being represented in us.” Hans Urs von Balthasar

Do you get that?  When God looks at Rahab, God sees Jesus.  When God looks at Joseph, God sees Jesus.  When God looks at you, God sees Jesus.  The author of Hebrews goes on, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings to us so closely.”

We are, indeed, surrounded by that great cloud of witnesses, both ancient and contemporary, and from their flaws we can gain strength.  This is why they are given to us as examples.  God call us, too—even us—to pursue the good, to quench raging fires, to shut the mouths of lions.  The same Christ who presents us redeemed before the eyes of God empowers us to do these things.  And the more we do them, the more God’s vision of us becomes the reality, the more Christ within us becomes our identity.  Think about that through the lens through which God sees you. You and I can shut the mouths of lions!  We live in Christ as the joy of God, not as a heroes, but as part of that great cloud of witnesses and saints.

[ii] Von Balthasar, Hans Urs.  Love Alone is Credible, pg. 103-104.

Filling the Cracks with Gold

Do you remember the last time you broke a coffee cup?  Bent a fork?  Scratched a CD?  What did you do with the broken thing?  Chances are you threw it away.  How about the last time you chipped a lamp or cracked a crystal vase?  You may not have discarded these items, but you likely turned them to the wall so the marred part didn’t show or else boxed them away in the attic, as too sentimental to get rid of perhaps, but no longer beautiful or functional enough to use.Bent fork

Did you know that the average American produces 4.5 pounds of solid waste—that’s stuff we throw away—every day?  Collectively, each day Americans throw away 1.35 billion pounds of stuff.  To put it in perspective, that weight is the equivalent of seven thousand blue whales of garbage, daily.  Surely, some of this is legitimate, unusable scrap.  But very much consists of things we’ve simply decided to get rid of because they’re out of date, or their beauty has faded, or their newness has worn off in favor of the next big thing.  They’re no longer worth our time or consideration, so we dispose of them.[i]

Some of the most productive archaeological digs are the sites of ancient garbage heaps.  There, shards of broken pottery, metal, and glass are recovered in abundance.  Archaeologists develop theories for what ancient landfills tell us about ancient peoples.  And even when they don’t tell us the full story of the people from which they came, these broken pieces always tell us at least one important fact: What it was those ancient people were willing to discard and throw away.  Such finds reveal to us what our ancestors considered worthless.  The more affluent the ancient society, the more intricate the garbage.  Those who barely subsisted threw little away, but those who could afford to build ever bigger barns to house all of their things thought little about throwing away a barely cracked pot or slightly scarred jewelry.  If something was scratched or broken—if it was marred in any way—it was tossed aside in favor of something new.

We can ask: What do the things we throw away say about us?  I would offer that, often, what we throw away is an indication of our deepest values, or lack thereof.  And sometimes the broken objects we throw onto the trash heap are symbolic of the other things we experience as broken in our lives.

The most disturbing movie I’ve seen in the past several years is a British-French Indie film titled “The Broken.”  The film kicks-off with a family—father, grown children, the kids’ significant others—sitting around a dinner table having a conversation.  In the middle of dinner, the large mirror above the sideboard spontaneously shatters.  It is broken into ragged shards that crash to the ground, and its brokenness symbolizes something ominous.  The family members freeze in shock for a few moments before breaking into nervous laughter wondering at what could have caused the seemingly perfect mirror to break.

The BrokenIt turns out the movie is one of doppelgangers.  Somehow, the broken mirror releases into the world the double of each family member, and the doppelgangers embody the worst, broken qualities of the people they mimic.  By the film’s end, the doppelgangers have disposed of and replaced all the original family members.  The characters are thus, indeed, forever broken.  In fact, they are now defined by their brokenness.

That is the very diagnosis of the human condition found in Holy Scripture.  Since the proverbial fall “in the beginning,” we are defined by our brokenness.  We still love, but our love quickly twists into a desire to possess or control the other.  We still recognize beauty in the physical world, but we cheapen it so that our most prevalent images are things like the hyper-sexualized photos of an Abercrombie and Fitch advertisement.  We say we want to save the environment, eradicate poverty, and further the good, but we throw away the old and replace it with the new so fast that our accumulations force us, as the Gospel relates today, to tear down the old warehouses and barns and build bigger ones.  St. Paul is the best at rattling off the laundry list of failings that underlie virtually every action.  Today in the Letter to the Colossians he says we are marked by “fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, greed, anger, slander, malice and abusive language from our mouths.”

We are broken.  And what have we already said we do with broken things?  We throw them away, and we treat ourselves little differently than we do the scuffed and outdated stuff of our lives.    Poet and essayist Lelanda Lee says, “How quickly Western culture discards the broken—broken objects, broken people, and broken relationships.”

Existentially speaking, we even throw ourselves on the trash heap.  As, in our own eyes, our physical beauty fades, or our virtue fails us, or our ability falls short—as our lives skirt with feelings of emptiness—we discard our own sense of self-worth and give way to loathing.  Too often, too many of us begin to think of ourselves as little better than refuse.  Indeed, I think that’s what’s behind the actions of the rich man in Jesus’ parable today.  Many of us, like him, keep on throwing away the old stuff and accumulating the new—building ever bigger houses, buying ever better cars, constructing ever greater barns—to draw our attention away from how disposable, deep down, we have concluded that we are, to keep us from acknowledging our self-loathing.Barns


There are cultures that traditionally have not been so quick to throw things away.  In Japan, there is an ancient practice, that somewhere along the way turned into an art, called kintsugi.  Kintsugi means, literally, “golden joinery.”  When pottery is cracked, even sometimes with fissures as wide as your finger, it is not discarded.  With an amalgam mixed with powdered gold, the crack is filled.  The amalgam hardens with a density even stronger than the surrounding pottery, and the gold that fills the crack shimmers and shines.[ii]

There’s no doubt the pottery is damaged.  The outlines of the breaks remain for all to see.  And yet, the cracks are filled with gold.  Lelanda Lee says, “As an art form, kintsugi points to [the value] of something that has been broken and is made whole again in a new identity.”

I can’t imagine a better articulation of the Gospel!  Yes, we’re broken.  We scarcely need Holy Scripture to tell us that.  But Paul—and Jesus—only make mention of our brokenness as prelude to the Good News.  Our cracks, our fissures, our past failings and disappointments will not go away.  There are no mulligans in life, and consequences are real.  (Remember, the wounds on Jesus’ own hands and feet still remained even after the Resurrection.)  But the breaks in us that once served as centers of hurt and pain, the love of God-in-Christ can fill as if with gold.

Paul says to the Colossians today, “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory…[You are clothed] with the new self, which is being renewed according to the image of the creator.”

Kintsugi translates as "gold joinery."

Kintsugi translates as “gold joinery.”

Paul might as well say to us, “Those cracks of yours that you used to believe defined you, that you thought rendered you worthless?  Now they’re filled with gold.”  And the love of God that serves as the amalgam of the soul that pieces back together the shards of our lives is stronger than the pieces themselves.  God turns what were our weaknesses into the strongest parts of us.  Anyone who has had suffering redeemed and then used his own experience to assist someone else in a similar situation knows this to be true.

That gives us courage not to throw away our sense of self-worth but to acknowledge that, ribboned with gold, we are invaluable.  We can then quit building those ever-bigger barns and hiding behind them to mask our self-loathing.  We can then strip away and discard the things we ought to be rid of, the things Paul lists that cause the cracks in the first place: our undue anger, malice, greed, abusive language.  We can rethink the ways we have sometimes tossed aside the other broken people and broken relationships in our world and instead choose to see them as worth preserving, honoring, and renewing.  And we can look back at our fissures and cracks, not only as evidence of our hurt and disappointment, but also as the locations of our redemption, where God has begun to renew us in his very image, where God has mended the pieces back together with nothing less than gold.

[ii] “Mending our brokenness” in Lelanda Lee’s blog, What a cup of tea (, June 18, 2012.

The Glory of the Unfinished Creation

This past May I attended the final spring concert of the Houston Chamber Choir.  It was a performance of Mozart’s Great Mass in C Minor (with Christ Church Cathedral’s Canon Bob Simpson conducting and Cathedral parishioner Kelli Shircliffe singing soprano solo).  Even with my unsophisticated ear, I love Mozart.  But this was the first time I’d heard the C Minor Mass.  When the Credo began, I listened with great intent as I followed the English translation in the playbill.  The creed continued, “True God of true God; begotten, not made” and crescendoed with “Who for us and for our salvation came down from heaven…” And then it stopped.  The entire movement.  Cut short.  Unfinished.

The score of Mozart's Mass in C Minor

The score of Mozart’s Mass in C Minor

Mozart never completed this mass.  It is a half-done thing.  As words read on the page, it is actually pitiful: choppy, distracted, even half-hearted.  Of the mass, Mozart wrote to his father in 1783, “The score of half a mass, which is still lying here waiting to be finished, is the best proof that I really made the promise.”  The “promise” in question was for a family visit to Salzburg to which Mozart had committed, but it could equally refer to the unfulfilled promise of the mass itself, a sin of that “left undone.”

How like Mozart’s C Minor Mass we are.  We are intended by God to be things of glory: incarnate spirits endowed with great creative power.  We are placed on God’s earth full of promise, and yet so often we fail to finish the good thing God has started.  We commit ourselves to God but are quickly distracted.  We love half-heartedly.  We flit from one thing to another in our lives at a choppy pace.  Instead of pursuing God’s hopes for the world with vigor, we forget the promise for which we are made and give our attention to lesser, self-centered things.  There are times when we, like the bare words on Mozart’s page, are pitiful.

But words on the page don’t tell the whole story!  When sung, the Great Mass in C Minor is among the most glorious masses ever written.  It buoys the soul and draws the heart toward heaven.  Even though it is unfinished, the mass is still widely performed two hundred and thirty years after Mozart set down his pen, and we rejoice in its majesty and celebrate Mozart’s half-hearted effort.Mozart

This is because we don’t hear Mozart’s great work through the filter of its incompleteness.  Rather, it is as if God himself has taken the thing Mozart began and infused it with grace and glory.  God redeems its incompleteness and declares it good.  And that, surely, is also God’s posture towards us.  What will God make of us, his unfinished creations, and the promise begun in us?  If we’ll listen with a discerning ear and respond with a ready heart, God will infuse us with grace and glory; God will challenge us to pursue his purposes in the world; God will inspire us to love one another in full measure and see one another—all of us—as glorious things to be sung and celebrated.  And the spiritual music we will make together will buoy our souls and draw our hearts toward heaven.