Tag Archives: Father

C.S. Lewis on longing and friendship

A few tidbits today from a greater mind than mine by a thousand or more:

C.S. Lewis.

jacklewis

Jack, as his friends called him, lived and wrote with an authenticity that made courageously interacting with the most painful and potent stuff of life an ordinary occurrence.

He loved deeply, he thought deeply, he wrote deeply, he suffered deeply. All these things, love, joy, friendship, sacrifice, loss, and longing were the topics of his work.

A heavyweight intellectual with the rare kind of genius to write concisely and accessibly to anyone, he never shied away from the messy parts of life–no matter who the audience. He might be most famous for his children’s fiction, but his poetry, literary criticism, apologetics, and other works reveal him as a polymath and literary giant. Thanks to the recent Hollywood versions of Narnia movies (which ardent C.S. Lewis fans find grossly wanting) ave created a renewed interest in Lewis making him more widely read now than he was in his own lifetime.

What made the man?

Tragedies cultivated a pensive and sensitive aspect of Leiws that complimented an agile, imaginative, and sharp mind.

Perhaps the deepest wound happened at age 9 when he lost his mother in death. His father was emotionally distant and sent him off to a series of boarding schools–which he deplored. The isolation and grief seemed to create a “heart-wound” from which he suffered his whole life; and from which he found solace in the hope of heaven and in the embrace of friendship.

Author Anthony Burgess wrote that “Lewis is the ideal persuader for the half-convinced, for the good man who would like to be a Christian but finds his intellect getting in the way.” (*source)

But, not at first.

First, the pain made him a committed and intellectual atheist at age 14. Despite his choice, Lewis still wrestled with what most creators and artists do, spiritually, as his journal from that time reveals:

“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

Later, Jack would reconcile these longings more throughly with theism. (An acceptance of God as Creator.)

Subsequently, he found Jesus Christ the fitting Savior and Redeemer of the story–which is life and human experience. The Savior myths of ancient times and other cultures he said evidenced that the story of God and Jesus was a “true myth” reflected in meta-truth and narrative intwined into the cultural fabric and story of (nearly) every civilization.

He continued to explore this idea of desire and longing–from which any one with an artistic temprament can take confort:

“In speaking of this desire for our own far off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency.

 

 

I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you—the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both.

 

 

We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name. Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter.

 

Wordsworth’s expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past. But all this is a cheat. If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering.

 

The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing.

 

 

These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers.

 

For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”

 

How beautifully he captures longing!

For Lewis, camaraderie, fellowship, friendship, and love brought light and healing to his heart and his world. Through them he remained grounded and prolific.

Lewis on friendship:

In a circle of true Friends each man is simply what he is: stands for nothing but himself. No one cares twopence about anyone else’s family, profession, class, income, race, or previous history.

 

Of course you will get to know about most of these in the end. But casually. They will come out bit by bit, to furnish an illustration or an analogy, to serve as pegs for an anecdote; never for their own sake. That is the kingliness of Friendship. We meet like sovereign princes of independent states, abroad, on neutral ground, freed from our contexts.

 

This love (essentially) ignores not only our physical bodies but that whole embodiment which consists of our family, job, past and connections. At home, besides being Peter or Jane, we also bear a general character; husband or wife, brother or sister, chief, colleague, or subordinate. Not among our Friends. It is an affair of disentangled, or stripped, minds. Eros will have naked bodies; Friendship naked personalities.

 

Hence (if you will not misunderstand me) the exquisite arbitrariness and irresponsibility of this love. I have no duty to be anyone’s Friend and no man in the world has a duty to be mine. No claims, no shadow of necessity. Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art, like the universe itself… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which gave value to survival.


The Religion of Liberation

(Dura Europos - Fresco from 2nd C Synagogue Jews cross the Red Sea pursued by Pharaoh.)

(Dura Europos – Fresco from 2nd C Synagogue Jews cross the Red Sea pursued by Pharaoh.)

 

The Jewish people have a big event, a central story, that encapsulates what the Jewish (and Judeo-Christian) faith is about:

Crossing a sea: Crossing from slavery to LIBERATION

“Let my people go!”

This is the cry of (the Jewish) God, the Living God, through Moses; and it’s really the cry of freedom in every human heart.

So what do we want to be liberated from?

Oppression.

Yes, of course.

…and oppression takes many forms.

But, we tend to also want liberation from authority…and that’s not what God has in mind. That misses the mark and produces precarious results.

In fact, the best liberation we can have is one that happens internally.

Our heart is liberated from sin and death and then we receive peace and life.

This is no marginal quality of our faith tradition. Liberation is found not in fleeing something (or someone) but in returning.

A homecoming. A reception by the Father for the children he loves.
Liberation must always be about fleeing to someone
(the One).

…and that someone isn’t just another warden in a different prison, but One who wants our peace to be fully realized.

It’s about community identity and belonging.
Each brings freedom and saves us from ourselves.


 

Sometimes we suppose liberation means freedom to act autonomously and unilaterally for our own interests.
True liberation is the antithesis of that.

When I consider, in this very moment, what I hope to be liberated from in my own life, it seems to concern being free from believing lies. Lies about myself, others, and any sorts of ignoble things that imprison my future in a jailhouse of smallness.

A confined place that is missing the grandeur of what it means to be a sentient being enjoying the majesty of creation that a benevolent incomprehendable Being has fashioned.


On Public Showering: The Accidental Peep Show

399448096_e44472b485_zI’m jumping ahead on Funny Fridays, today.

This true story happened a few weeks ago, and it just occurred to me that it makes an amusing tale…so here goes. Why not?

If you follow this blog, you know that I got a new part-time job this summer at a winery. I manage the Tasting Room once or twice a week. It’s been a hectic summer and I worked a bunch of my weekends solid, including missing 9 Sundays of church in a row–A first in nearly two decades. More on that another time.

 This is part cautionary tale and part embarrassing antic.

BACKSTORY:
So, I’m commuting 52 miles each way and working a bunch of days back-to-back and it dawns on me, finally, to ask my relatives if I can crash at their home which is only 12 minutes away. Instead of getting home at 11:30-midnight and fitfully sleeping for 5-6 hours and driving back again 52 miles for a hour meeting, this will make everything far better.

They graciously agree, but in the process of making plans, I forget that they will actually be away during that time. But, it’s no matter to them, they extend the offer and I’m grateful for it.

ARRIVAL:

It’s dark and I use my phone as a flashlight to enter their house and the cat is none too pleased. After hissing and keeping her ears back, I greet her.

“Hi, puppy. What’s wrong?” She doesn’t think it’s funny and she disappears for the rest of my stay.

SHOWER SCENE:

I’m achy, stinky, and ready for a shower and bed, so I head upstairs. I’m brushing my teeth and getting my things prepared when I realize a bit of horror…

The window is a big one, and just a sheer curtain separates me from the rest of the neighborhood.

Um, what?

I’m on a second story stage. All light is on me. I’m about to disrobe.

Have they not realized this is optical insanity?

I suppose plenty of people never realize that if one’s house is lit and it’s dark outside, one’s rooms are on display fully. Hum. Saying “one’s” make this seem very Victorian. That’s not the vibe I was going for.

Anyhow…At night, a lit bathroom it turns into like something you would find in a red light district.

Gulp.

If I went outside buck (or doe) naked, I would have more cover than this. I look like the main event, right now.

I imagine hearing slinky music start and then abruptly shaggy men near the street start grumbling and folding up their chairs.

Boo!

Where’s the regular?

We want silver fox!


Then, I blanch as I realize who might spend occasional weekends here, no doubt showering unaware. Oh God, why!

I fight off the urge to send a quick text and have a small vomit burp.

All I have to do is get a shower and get to bed. Stay focused.

ACTION PLAN:
There’s nothing to block the window. Finally, I decide to get undressed with the light off. Dark inside + dark outside = privacy, after all. That’s my plan.

Then, I think of the cat having a good laugh at my expense.

I’ll pretend I’m Hellen Keller. No she was deaf and blind. I think I’d just do a sponge bath if that were the case. No, I’m Mary Ingalls. I can hear Laura and Pa in the next room. The cat is whispering and making them laugh.

 

Perfect. Sort of.

Oh no, how will I navigate everything when I get out without getting water everywhere, or killing myself?

Wow, it’s dark in here! What a pain! Good, god, I’ll have to tell my daughter it’s a tricky business here.

After I step into the shower I reach out and flip the light back on.
(I can’t do the entire cleaning process blind. I don’t have the skills.)

All this thinking after a long day of work. It’s no match for me.

I deliberate behind the curtain…which I’m discovering is also rather sheer.

IS this all purposeful?

Do they have a web cam in here, or what?

Is this how they plan to save for retirement? Interesting.

Nightly Showers for Harrisburg’s viewing pleasure.

(Gracious tips are appreciated. Give them to the smirking cat.)

 

Gross! I’m in a freakin’ fish bowl here.

That notion will be hard to scrub from my brain as I try to sleep, won’t it now? I think.

I finish up, flip the light back off before I step out. Careful. Easy. I could twist an ankle.

This will be a fine mess if I fall and need an ambulance, yes? Curses.

[Day dream sequence: Queue harp music.]

 

Why is it dark in here, ‘mam?

 

-Well, I’m not fond of starring in peep shows and I fell. Oh, gosh. Can you turn the light back off?

 

Sorry no. We can’t see. Oh, look, a crowd is gathering down there. Where you yelling for help?

 

-No. I think they’re regulars.

 

Huh?

[End day dream sequence]

I towel off as best as I can and sneak for my room. Oh, brother. It’s facing the same way. Big window. Again.
Lucky me, a slightly less sheer curtain blocks it. I guess. A little.

NICE! Grrrr.

So, now I crouch down and get dressed. I flick the bedside lamp on. This will have to do.
Exhausted, I collapse into bed.

 

Modesty is something I need for me, not for other people, I suppose. At my age, I’ll attract gawkers, and hardly more. And maybe it’s doubtful anyone was watching. But, who knows…the whole experience was…memorable.

 

THE TAKEAWAY

If it’s lit in your house, and dark outside, be prepared to be a viewable object, like it or not.

It’s just simple optics.

Go ahead, grab a helper and do an experiment…keep your clothes on.

You’ll see what I mean. 


Finding your PURPOSE: 4 Surprising Ways 2

Creative Commons photo

Creative Commons photo

Today, I’m sharing with you my thoughts and draft notes as I prepare a talk.


 

If you’re getting stuck and feeling like you can’t find your purpose, or if you thought you knew your purpose and now you don’t really–don’t worry.

Although your basic human purpose changes very little, the details can change at different stages in life or in different circumstances. You are normal.

If you don’t know this bit about the shifts of purpose, you can go through dark periods needlessly and have longer slumps. Well, enough of that!

The WISP technique is something I came up with to keep me on track.

Not that there could be a “technique” per se.

Think of it as a rule of thumb or guide, if that helps.

Do you have a notebook?

Grab one.

Purpose – the finding and keeping of it – can be slippery. So, field notes help.

Keep track of your progress. It gives you a structure and a history to check on.


 

STEP 1

W

Worship

Does this sound a bit odd? Worship.
The more odd it sounds to you as a starting point, the more you need to do it to get properly orientated straight-away.

Worship is other focused, by nature. Yes?

That new perspective alone can help you make a break-through. But, really it’s much more than that at work.

“As we worship a fundamental shift happens because we remember who we really are.” -LD

At first blush it seems like worship is for God, because he is owed our worship. True?

That’s really only part of it. Let’s dig deeper:

1. God doesn’t need ANYTHING from us. He’s not insecure.

2. This means that Worship is to him (or toward him), but for OUR benefit.

To put it simply, God commands us to worship him because he wants it to be well with us.

[He knows we need it. Sure it’s his due, but he’s not an egomaniac. He’s always been taking care of us, even through the vehicle of worshipping him.]

When we fail to worship God, we start to worship lesser gods, like…ourselves, other mortals, our ambitions, the gods of the secular, dying world, and countless vanities.

Astray is where we go without properly directed worship.

Few things can create more clarity than a rightly worshipful heart.

• Clarity is a byproduct of worship and so are many other positive things I won’t get into this time.

 

Remember what Worshiping God helps us remember:

  • Who we are
  • Who we love (and who loves us)
  • And to whom we belong

 


 

Don’t feel like worshiping?…well you have to start somewhere.

Loosen your grip on your desires and expectations until you finish this stage. Shift your posture and you will find a new take on your life and on your purpose.

Back to that Handy-dandy Notebook!

(Shout out to Dora the Explorer)

Note feelings, changes, attitudes in your field notes now and during worship.  


 

So where or how should you start in worship?

You can start with something that tends to speak to you and get through to you. What worked before? Start there and keep pushing through. Maybe you’ll find something new or maybe something familiar will help.

OPTIONS:

For some this may mean getting a true break from others and a return and appreciation of the created world. (A walk, a camping trip, a hike, a solo picnic.)

For some it’s music and song. (Just listen, create some, or sing along.)

For some it’s just praying for a while. (It’s talking to God, so it’s a great place to start, if possible.)

For some it’s a with the help of a spiritual exercise like… “Praying the Names of God”

Here’s a quick “course” on how it works:
“Praying the names of God” is to first, come up with 10, 20, or 100 names of God. There are plenty: Savior, Redeemer, Creator, Father, Shepherd, Mother Hen, Majestic…you get the idea. As you say, write, and pray the names, roll them over in your mind. What do they mean? Let them affect you, be thankful and rejoice, and (of course) express your thanks and gratitude to God in prayer…which would be the actual worshiping part.

Example: “God you are my Provider. You have taken care of me and continue to. I thank you for providing for me, even in ways I don’t now about. God you are my Rock…”

Reading the Bible might help trigger true worship. Reading the psalms or the great Bible stories like the one of Joseph can inspire a true attitude of worship. You can read using the practice of Lectio Divina for some extra punch too. As you read thorough a portion, note the works or wonders of God, and pray about them, giving glory to God. Worship.

 


Maybe you have other ways to get the worship started. So, just get started!


 

HOMEWORK!

You thought this was just some quick reading or some mental exercise, huh?

Nope. I’m asking more of you.

Assignment:

Use a notebook to record your mode of worship and your attitude at the start, during the time of worship, and afterwards. Then, continue to enter into times of short (5-15 minutes) and uninterrupted worship experience for a few days, or until the next post (which ever is longer).

Next post we will continue and with I in WISP

Click Here 


21 Century- Divine High Places

We’re not so different than the ancients. Here’s why:

See the image below? It is a “high place”.

For the ancients it is, unquestionably, the best place to reach a (pagan) god.
A god of human making.

Not good.

2 Kings17: 7

All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of Egypt from under the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They worshiped other gods 8and followed the practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before them, as well as the practices that the kings of Israel had introduced.9The Israelites secretly did things against the Lord their God that were not right. From watchtower to fortified city they built themselves high places in all their towns. 10They set up sacred stones and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every spreading tree. 11At every high place they burned incense, as the nations whom the Lord had driven out before them had done. They did wicked things that aroused the Lord’s anger. 12They worshiped idols, though the Lord had said, “You shall not do this.”b

ancienhighplace

(ancient high place used for worship)

Why a high place?

They built on the highest parts of mountains to tap into unseen power.
They erected “antenna” to communicate with the gods of their own making.
They knew that the high ground was a prime location in their pursuit of more of everything they desired.
They sacrificed their time, energy, blood, sweat, effort, animals and sometimes their children  to get the upper hand the mountain high places could provide.

So do we. Yes?

Smartphone_as_Child_Toy

(A child sacrificed and handed over to the god of our times?)

On our high places we build towers to better our lives that would look like religious shrines to anyone one who stumbled on them millennia later.

And aren’t they, really?

 

highplace

(21st Century high place)

Tech is certainly our Baal.

Instant access and fast communication are two of gods we love.

We love access to the internet, high speed wifi, speedy download times, cable or digital tv, reliable mobile phone service.

And we need our high places for all that.

It seems we don’t have moral superiority on this.

The ancients aren’t more foolish or more gullible than us…not as we may suppose they are.

Couldn’t the ancients accuse us of the same sorts of categorical trappings and devotions?

It is humbling.

 

Verse for reflection:

John 4:23 “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24“God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” -Jesus


The “Praying for Enemies” Misconception 2

waterhouseRemember the Sermon on the Mount?

It’s the 4 chapters ( Click to read Matthew Chapters 4-7 ) where Jesus lays out this upside down, counter-intuitive foundation for the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. He shows how God’s ways don’t look like our ways. It’s a recapitulation of the law of Moses that was warped by God’s people over time and needed to be righted.

Disciples of Christ try to get this passage into their DNA and live it out. While many claim to be Christians few really follow or even grasp the framework Jesus lays out for the Kingdom. Maybe it’s too challenging.

In Matthew 5 Jesus covers the very unpopular idea of not hating our enemies.

• We like to side with people we agree with.

• We like to make sure people know where we stand and what we oppose.

• We love our own

(Much like today, the prevailing thought at the time was that your kin, tribe, or people group are your neighbors and you should love them. Everyone else? They could be treated like enemies. Jesus stresses that our enemies are our neighbors too and later he uses the parable of the Good Samaritan to make his point about what love and following God really looks like.)

But, back to hating our enemies…

(quote blocks cover Mathew 5:43-48)

 

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbori and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.

 

Loving our enemies means blessing them. Blessing our enemies means we enrich their lives.

But, what about the prayer part?

There’s a common misunderstanding that this verse implies that we should pray for blessing for our enemies, or pray that good things happen to our enemies, or perhaps the most common…we should pray that they will change.

(That’s one I’ve done quite a bit!)

Jesus’ point is different.

He’s not suggesting that we pray for circumstances to change or for our enemy to change, but that’s just what we do, isn’t it?

No. The point is that our enemies and the persecution works to change us into children of God, when we do as Jesus would do.

What praying “for them” means is that we are praying for them to be our teachers. We are praying for us. The trying experience shows us the potential to take on the nature of God. A nature that is so radically different than ours.

God’s ways are the ways of love.

• What does that mean?

It becomes more obvious as Jesus continues the thought and tells us something about God and his character. 

How good is God? Thoroughly. Or we could say “perfectly good”.

In fact, he is so unsparingly generous in his goodness that…

He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Huh? That seems odd. He does good to bad people. . .

We think of justice as righting wrongs usually by giving someone a form of evil or payback for their evil, and rewarding good with more good. We like liking those who like us and we like punishing or casting out those we don’t like.

For instance, in two minutes on Facebook and you’ll see demarcation lines drawn. Outsiders and insiders. Good and bad. Idiots and smart.

We assume that praying for them (to change) is the godly option …

(because we are actually tempted to do something really nasty and let them have it…but, gosh, we are holding our selves back, you know, because of trying to be godly and such).

The godly thing to do is to think and act through the framework of love as our heavenly Father would.

This has nothing to do with feeling warm fuzzies or giving out hugs. It’s about fundamental fairness, as God defines it.

It’s about a shift is perspective.

Jesus tackles that next:

If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?

 

So what should we do instead? Jesus says…

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Don’t trip over the perfection part.

The point of the statement is to show how God is thoroughly good and also quite different in his ways than you and me. Be like God.

Being like the good Father from heaven is the true aim. This portion of Matthew 5 isn’t truly centered on what to do about our enemies. Weird, right?

It’s about transforming our thinking and our ways into Kingdom ways.

(That’s what all of the Sermon on the Mount to geared toward.)

The more good and loving we are, (even to those who are unlike us, or who hate and mistreat us), the more we are like children of God and children of his kingdom (dominion).

The contention Jesus makes is that God doesn’t play favorites.

Most people don’t like this part and don’t truly go along with it. We do gymnastics to find some useable loopholes or other verses to avoid the this part, because we define ourself by who our favorites are.

Why doesn’t God play favorites?

Because he really loves us. It is the very nature of God, as defined and modeled by Jesus.

Evil is redeemed through generosity, forgiveness, and love.

Sounds crazy, of course, but we see this happen all the time.

• Remember the story of Officer Jeremy Henwood who bought a child a happy meal just a few minutes before he was violently gunned down in a random attack (and his good deed was caught on video)?

 

• Or the woman from Rwanda who’s only son was violently murdered. She not only visited the young man who killed him and visited him in prison, but later adopted him and became his mother when he had no place to go.

This stories make us want to be better people through just hearing the story!

• Think of Jesus dying for his enemies.

• Think about how true forgiveness makes things new.

Because we let the person off?

No.

It’s because we have transformed.

We stopped letting the offense trap and define us.

The next time you think about “praying for your enemies” remember:

• You are praying for you.

• You are praying for your mindset to change about what is happening.

• You are practicing being a child of God.

 

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13 Inappropriate Things to Say to Your Family Members (humor post, part II)

shower

1. You used to be so cute.

2. I’ve been posting your showers as a LIVE feed. You have 1,740 “likes”.

3. I wouldn’t have gossiped about you so much if I had known you were actually going to marry my son.

4. I didn’t realize that was your toothbrush. I’ve been using it to clean the grout.

5. It’s great to have everyone around the table again. Want me to tell the plunger story?

6. I told your mother it’s her fault that you’re in counseling.

7. You’re still handsome, in a Cialis commercial kind of way.

8. If you feel a little nauseated soon it’s because the date on the cream expired a while ago.

10. Would you like to know who your real father is?

11. If you do that one more time I will mention vaginal dryness at the top of my voice, right here in this elevator, I swear.

12. The back of your dress was tucked into your belt at church today.

13. I didn’t say I caught you doing that. I said we ran out of tissues and it was suspicious.

(Read part one)

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