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So it happened again.  I sit there innocently enough in church, and when the sermon starts, my mind wanders to some related topic, and phrases kinda pop into my head and don’t leave.  Always obedient to the Muse, I take paper from the bulletin and start scribbling. I hope the preacher doesn’t mind; the sermon often lays down a bed of faithful words that gives irresistible rise to words of my own. I think of it as a kind of offering or surrender.

Not too long ago, I looked into the Psalms after a long night of trouble, wakefulness, and tears.  At church that morning, the Psalm portion also echoed the comfort I have found in that old Hebrew songbook.  And I kept thinking too about the sursum corda, that part of the service where we sing “Lift up your hearts to the Lord our God.”  It’s an act of will, of course, all this deliberate rejoicing that gives no quarter to however we may feel at the moment.

At the start of the sermon, the priest mentioned a hymn, “In Christ Alone.”  That was all it took.

He Hears Our Cries

Verse
Here I have wandered
Far from the Grace of God
Into the darkest
Night of my soul

And can You find me
Here where my feet have strayed
And somehow make me
Heart-safe and whole?

Chorus
He knows no darkness
He knows no night
He sees our sorrows
He hears our cries

We lift our hearts up
We lift our eyes
Strong now to save us
He hears our cries

Verse
So now I stumble
Seeking the Grace of God
Confess I cannot
Make my own way

Will You still help me
Though I keep falling down
Somehow restore me
Teach me to say

(Repeat Chorus)

Verse
So as You help us
Live in the Grace of God
So we will follow
So we shall stand

And as You love us
We will rejoice in You
We lay our lives down
Lift up our hands

Oh, HELP!

My friend Steven and I have been searching for alternatives to this theme, but nothing looks so nice.  If you like doing such things, we’re in search of something with a variable width, 2 OR 3 columns, something that uses FAR less blank real estate on the sides (see the big margins here~~> and here <~~?), and one, ideally, that would let me customize the header to squeeze in more of this amazing picture (it’s portrait, not landscape, and comes from the Nature Preserve near Lewis’s home.  I snapped it at 6 am my first full day in England, after having spent the night in the Kilns, Lewis’s former home).

Ideas?  Suggestions?  HELP?!?

In Matt. 18, Jesus said (essentially), “Unless you turn into a little child, you’ll never get where you really want to go.”  Lewis said that when he became a man, one of the childish things he put away was the fear of appearing very child-like.  Yes.  Exactly.  And so here’s  little poem from a while ago for you to chew on while I work on some new things.

Perhaps the point of fairy tales

Perhaps
the point of
fairy tales
is not so much
in lulling little
ones to sleep;

maybe these stories safely
sing our dreams until
they whisper us awake
to fill us
with such strength and hope
that, story-like
we open wide our pages and
our eyes until
we make these dreams
come true.

Debuting Feb. 1, Mere Christians: Inspiring Stories of Encounters with C. S. Lewis gathers fifty-five accounts of Lewis’s profound influence.  Find it here, where you can See Inside.

You want Andrew to come to your church, school, or book group to talk about the book and the life and work of C. S. Lewis?  Contact him by clicking here.

And now back to your regularly scheduled day.

Thank You Redux

A friend passed along this link. Yes, exactly. Perhaps you’ll want to take a little look and give it a small try:

http://www.worshiphousemedia.com/index.cfm?hndl=details&tab=MM&id=11695

You can also find a link over there on the sidebar~~~>

To everything there is a season.  Sometimes small lamentations can help along the winding way way through a time to mourn.  This describes the current pain of a dear friend (upon whom, peace):

dark blue (a little lament)

Drifting ghost-like through these rooms
Gathering up all that you left behind:
Promises and passion,
Bell-like laughter,
Storybooks that now must close forever or
At least until I find a way
to catch my breath, or somehow
Rub off all your fingerprints
But now I’m not so sure

For I can stow away these pieces of
A now-past life of love we shared
(and is it really gone?
so fast and wordlessly
like Christmas trees
out on the curb?).

But somehow, even with the boxes I
cannot undo the sharpness, bumping
Into edges everywhere,
Drawers and closets full
Of fading scents
I’d thought I learned to
love so well,
In every room, all of these

Dear remainders of the mess you left behind:
Now all my walls are patchy blue.

I find of course that
all this love still lives here, love
I do not want to train
To sadly slip away, and now
I cannot clear a path through all
That’s passed between us
Cause I can’t quite see
For all this salty water in my eyes
Awash over my head
And drowning me
I can’t quite breath,
As days grow dark and cloudy with
No lighthouse left to find.

Have you ever wondered what God’s will for your life is?  Believe it or not, the Bible makes it perfectly clear–no need for tea leaves, oracles, or $20 psychic advisors.  But you may find it nothing like you expect.

A few years ago I discovered that the Bible spells out quite clearly what God wants of all of us.

With deceptive simplicity, I Thess. 5:18 says, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  There it is.  God’s will in Christ simply requires that we say:

“Thank you.”

That’s it.

Sounds too easy, yeah?  Well, it almost is.

But please watch very carefully what the verse says (and doesn’t say).  First of all, you’ll find nothing in it at all about how to feel.  Which makes me glad, ’cause  honestly? the next time I hear someone tell me to ‘develop an attitude of gratitude,’ I’m gonna smack ’em.  Forty-odd years in, and much effort in the matter has left me with no idea how to change my attitude.  And this verse, which spells out the will of God, fortunately has nothing to do with my attitude.  It has nothing to do with FEELING thankful.

It DOES however have everything to do with the words of my mouth.  If I understand this passage correctly, God’s will means simply for me to say “thank you.”  Not to feel gratitude, but actually to say out loud those words.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.

Give it a try, even if, especially if you don’t feel it or even mean it.  Try it right now.

Did you?  Good.

Now, secondly, please notice that the verse tells us to give thanks  “in all circumstances.”  This clearly implies that the charge to say “thank you” does not depend in the slightest on the circumstances we face.  In other words, God commands us to give thanks for everything, even the ugly, difficult, sad things in life.

A word of caution.  I don’t believe that God intends to raise up for Himself a masochistic people who senselessly celebrate all of the awful things that occur.  I know all about the dangers of denialhooo boy do I. Nor do I think that the scripture perversely urges us to celebrate the evil in this world that befalls us and those we love.

Instead, I firmly feel that by commanding us to say “thank you” in order to follow His will, God subtly tries to teach us to see things from His perspective.  Behind that decidedly small phrase, a whole weight of glorious promises awaits us:

That He will never leave or forsake us.  That perfect peace will wrap us round.  That, circumstances decidedly notwithstanding, God yet has plans for us, plans to prosper us, to give us a hope and a future.  That He continues to rejoice over us with singing, not matter how dark the night or bitter the tears.  Than nothing, nothing, NOTHING can separate us from the love of God in Christ.  Nothing.  And oh, thank God for that.

To me, saying “thank you,” especially when I hardly feel or believe the words coming out of my mouth, serves me as a way to write a check with my lips that only the love of God can cash.  It helps me to create with my words a heart at least clean enough to acknowledge aloud that loving hands hold me, that Someone knows my name and my circumstance, and that He truly will make all things well, makes all manner of things most well.

I discovered one more helpful thing about this deceptively powerful command.  In Eph. 6:16, St. Paul exhorts us, “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.”

Did you catch it?  “In all circumstances,” again.  I looked up the Greek–it’s the same phrase.  And as I’ve tried to put into practice the habit of saying “thank you” out loud, I’ve come to see that doing so actually serves as a quite literal shield of faith; that meeting each temptation or setback or grief great or small with “thank you” serves me to turn aside a thousand little burning darts that dig into my soul.

“Thank you” forces me use my faith, makes me to say aloud that this is my Father’s world, and that I shall rest me in the thought.  It requires my implicit agreement that He made me, and that He hasn’t stopped the making.  That if I turn my eyes to the hills, I shall find help already on the way. That if with Milton “I only stand and wait,” then I shall find my strength renewed, I shall mount up, mount up, on wings like eagles.

So I suggest you try it.  Right now, and perhaps for the rest of the week.  Just keep meeting whatever comes your way with the murmur, “thank you.”  Make it a mantra or a prayer.  Whisper it softly when you have no leisure to do it louder.  Do it especially when you face grief or unexpected unpleasantness.  Perhaps you’ll not consider me glib for saying so, but I can tell you first-hand that it works.  In so many pains, whether old aches or brand-new bitterness that steal my breath (and hope) way, I find that it works.

He’s here. He neither slumbers or sleeps, He whose love watches over us and restores our souls.  Our times are ever in His hands.

Thank You.