Tuesday, January 25, 2011


I suppose a lot of how we look at life has to do what we take as a given. If we take as a given that life is about consumption then we will gauge success by how much we have If our"given" about life is that it is to be a bed of roses, then when challenges come we will grow disillusioned. I think the greatest opening line in a non-fiction book is the one found in "The Road Less Traveled", when he writes: "Life is difficult.". Do you know truer words? How we deal with that reality says a lot about how we find meaning for our days. Is difficulty to be avoided? Ignored? Medicated? Or is it be lived into? Are we to shy from those righteous things that mean suffering or hardship? Only when we think that difficulty is something that we can somehow dodge in this life does the door open to bitterness when things don't go our way. But It is a liberating thought to know that if life in itself is hard then it might as well be hard doing the right things. I'd rather stay awake at night worrying about the consequences of a courageous decision than in thinking about how to avoid making one. (Not that i've made many or any courageous decisions in my life.) So I guess that's what we see at the cross -- the righteous life meets the difficult life. Therein we find our salvation.

Friday, January 21, 2011


In another one of Lewis's great sermons, "Transposition", he talks about a mother who gives birth to a son in a prison cell. As the boy grows his mother tries to describe the outside world by drawing pencil sketches. She tries to picture for him fields, rivers, fields, etc. And the boy for years gets along with these depictions. But then one day the mother realizes that the boy really thinks the world is filled with pencil lines. He can't imagine anything different. He does not understand what reality is really like. The shapes of the real works are not defined by lines, they "define their own shapes at every moment with a delicacy and multiplicity which no drawing could ever achieve.". As Lewis imagines our earthly lives in relation to our heavenly ones, he continues, "...we may be sure we shall be more, not less, than we were on earth. Our natural experiences (sensory, emotional, imaginative) are only like the drawing, like penciled lines on flat paper. If they vanish in the risen life, they will vanish only as pencil lines vanish from the real landscape, not as a candle flame that is put out but as a candle flame which becomes invisible because someone has pulled up the blind, thrown open the shutters, and let in the blaze of the risen sun.".
What a message of hope! We can't begin to imagine what reality really is! We aim short when we project our greatest pleasures onto heaven's landscape -- golf courses, fishing holes, beaches of powdery sand. These are just the pencil sketch. What awaits us is immeasurably greater. The fullness of time and the fullness of our selves! Hard to imagine and wait for!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Far too easily pleased

From, in my estimation, one of the greatest sermons ever preached, "The Weight of Glory", Lewis said, "We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased." When I think about the amount of time I apply to seeking entertainment I can only wonder what I'm missing. Joy comes from peace, i think,and peace is found in the abiding confidence we have in the presence and promises of God. And abiding confidence results from abiding. Abiding in the shadow of the Most High. Little chance of doing that while watching the Golden Globes. I am far too easily pleased.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Which question?

There seems always to be two questions that you and I vacillate between as we go about our days. How we live between them seems to make all the difference. The first question is one we started asking pretty early: what is the meaning of my life? As soon as we started asking our parents all those "Why?" questions we were trying to figure out what meaning there was behind all the things we were experiencing. Later those "meaning" questions took on greater measure as, perhaps, they guided us in our early life decisions. The second question is: how do I manage my life? Somewhere along the way we get preoccupied with the little management decisions of life. How do I make an income? How do I succeed in my job? How do I provide for my kids? What should I set aside for retirement? And then before we know it the management answers supplant the "meaning of life" answers. The meaning of my life is now determined by how I manage my life. And when management drives meaning life gets smaller and smaller. It grows as small as our calendars or checkbooks or retirement accounts. But when meaning takes center stage and we ask questions like, What is my God-given purpose? What does God want with his world? Where does life end up? Answers to these questions serve to compete with the decisions of "management". They push us not to give up control, but just to let the other answers take over.

There don't appear to be a lot of kingdom awards handed out to those who are efficient and organized. Jesus seemed more interested in those who were willing to live, and die, for a cause. Meaning trumps management.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Sense in a senseless world

It's interesting to watch the attempt by many to attach this senseless Arizona assassination attempt and murder spree to someone or something. It seems to be a typical human response to try to to figure out who to blame. Over the next several months we'll find out who's to blame --a lone gunman and perhaps an accomplice. Why go further than this? Perhaps we want to spend time and energy assigning further blame because we don't want to stop and wonder about a more important question: how do I bring sense to an often senseless world? Chaos is the symptom of evil. Order is the fruit of goodness. As cowardly as it was for that young man to step into the fresh and beautiful morning God had made for the people of Tuscon and spew violence and mayhem, what brave thing can I do in response? What is my countervailing act of beauty and goodness? A random act of kindness (perhaps many) in response to a random act of violence?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

more thoughts on the new year

When the crew of the Dawn Treader are making their way toward the Dark Island and anticipate being swallowed by the imminent darkness, Drinian, the captain, wonders what use it would be to proceed into the uncertainty of the dark. Reepicheep, the valiant mouse, retorts:

Use? ... Use, Captain? If by use you mean filling our bellies or our purses, I confess it will be no use at all. So far as I know we did not sail to look for things useful but to seek honor and adventure. And here is as great an adventure as ever I heard of, and here, if we turn back, no little impeachment of all our honors.

I was asked this morning what my hopes were for the year. I rattled off a few tangible goals I hope to accomplish -- achievements I hope to claim by December 31. I can tell you though, adventure and honor were not at the top of my list. But they make for interesting aspirations, don't they? Have we thought about aligning our lives around some holy adventure and displays of Christian honor? Would that be enough for you to say at the end of the journey -- that it was a God-filled adventure and I displayed honor through it all? Life has to be more than filling our bellies and purses. Maybe that's why the one talent servant in Matthew 25 gets such harsh treatment when he confesses to the master that he simply buried his talent. Where's the adventure and honor in that?
So it's on into the darkness of the New Year!

Monday, January 3, 2011

In the beginning

Three days into the New Year it came to mind a thought Jack (Lewis) had of all our beginnings. In his ruminations on agape love in The Four Loves Lewis imagines what God had in mind when the universe had its beginning:
God, who needs nothing, loves into existence wholly superfluous creatures in order that He may love and perfect them. He creates the universe, already foreseeing -- or should we say "seeing"? there are no tenses in God -- the buzzing cloud of flies about the cross, the flayed back pressed against the uneven stake, the nails driven through the mesial nerves, the repeated incipient suffocation as the body droops, the repeated torture of back and arms as it is time after time, for breath's sake, hitched up. If I may dare the biological image, God is a "host" who deliberately creates His own parasites; causes us to be that we may exploit and "take advantage of" Him. Herein is love. This is the diagram of Love Himself, the inventor of all loves.
All the debates that go on about our beginnings -- scientific, philosophic and otherwise -- leave out this picture of what may truly have happened when God thought to form the universe. How much did God know when he formed us of the dust of the earth? It's love enough that he gave us life -- it is extraordinary love that he formed us knowing the humiliating outcome. A potential parent might think twice about having a child if he knew in advance that such child would rebel and make for him a living hell. God doesn't think twice. What better way to star the new year than with the realization God has no second thoughts concerning us. The first thought will be the last. The love at the beginning of the year will be the love at the end of the year, no matter what we've done. With all the uncertainties a new year brings, it's good to be sure of at least one thing. Even better that it's the most important thing.