Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

The Magician’s Nephew

“When the great moment came and the Beasts spoke, he (Uncle Andrew) missed the whole point; for a rather interesting reason. When the Lion had first begun singing, long ago when it was still quite dark, he had realised that the noise was a song. And he had disliked the song very much. It made him think and feel things he did not want to think and feel. Then when the sun rose and he saw that the singer was a lion (“only a lion” as he said to himself) he tried his hardest to make himself believe that it wasn’t singing and never had been singing-only roaring as any lion might in a zoo in our own world. “of course it can’t really have been singing,” he thought, “I must have imagined it. I’ve been letting my nerves get out of order. Who ever heard of a lion singing?” And the longer and more beautifully the Lion sang, the harder Uncle Andrew tried to make himself believe that he could hear nothing but roaring. Now the trouble about trying to make yourself stupider than you really are is that you very often succeed. Uncle Andrew did. Soon he couldn’t have heard anything else even if he had wanted to.”  –CS Lewis

The context of this excerpt is the creation of Narnia. Aslan is singing his new world into existence and the humans are watching with a mixture of joy and anxiety. Uncle Andrew, however, was entirely void of joy and only determined NOT to see the picture for what it really was. He was a high and mighty sort of man whose extreme insecurities caused him to be a first-rate bully, though he was only a third-rate magician. And he was a coward to boot. It takes courage to look at things around you that are not what you expected, or don’t into any previously known understanding, or could pose some risk or harm to you. When Uncle Andrew was faced with a situation far beyond him, he absolutely lacked the courage to embrace it. Instead he convinced himself it didn’t exist. We can pity him for being a fool, which is indeed sad. But to me, the far more sobering matter is the ultimate effect of his efforts. He soon lost the option to see anything different.

This illustration has always been a stark reminder to me of the danger in convincing yourself of an alternate reality. You don’t have to like it, you can even been shaking in your boots about it, but do not try to convince yourself that something else is true. While you may not commit an outright sin with your non-reality, you are most certainly contributing to the decay of your perspective. The more you convince yourself the Lion isn’t singing, the more you will lose the option of changing your mind. It is a cause and effect principle based on our denial of the truth.

On a more intense scale we can see the principle playing out with those who override their conscience. It’s there for a reason. While legalism is a distasteful alternative, it is a grave consequence to push your conscience repeatedly into silence. We talk of people who seemingly have no conscience – no inner sense of good and evil at all. There is no capacity to choose one or the other. While there are sometimes more sinister forces at play, much of the time those people get there one decision at a time.

In the midst of the sobering effect of this illustration is the joy of God’s redemptive power. There are some who may reach a place such as Uncle Andrew and never return. But for many of us, this verse is a constant encouragement for us to grow: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

To me, this verse speaks of the literal change of our physical mind, the rewiring of thinking patterns, the changing of perspective, the growth of our spirit and soul so we can embrace the will of God and the nature of His fingerprints in our lives. Continually we need to pursue a greater level of renewal, so as to continue moving upward in the health of our mind and the ability to see the truth. When you are faced with a reality you don’t want to accept, remember Uncle Andrew and then ask God to transform you through the renewing of your mind and give you the courage to face the day and emerge triumphant!


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The Second Inaugural Address

“‘Woe unto the world because of offences! For it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh.’

If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offences which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove and that He gives to both north and south this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offence came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him?”

By the time of the second inaugural address the country was torn asunder by war.  Lincoln had been re-elected, but it was a tough fight and his reward was another term of gut-wrenching presidency.  In the beginning of the war, his chief concern was preserving the Union, whether that meant ending slavery or not.  The issue of slavery was secondary.  But as the war advanced he became more convinced of the evil and more public about abolishing it.  His second inaugural address is transcendent in its grasp of the core struggles of mankind.  Perhaps this is why it is the one engraved next to the Gettysburg Address in the Lincoln Memorial.

In the first line of the excerpt you will likely see that he is quoting Jesus.  We can believe that Jesus was well aware of the reality of the broken state of humanity.  Offences will come.  There will be pain and wrong doing, it is inevitable in a world of sin-stained free will, but woe to the one who does it.  We still, after all, have a choice and a responsibility and each one of us, without exception will give an account for our behavior.  Lincoln, too, saw the reality of our nature. Divisiveness and prejudice were not new.  Neither was greed.  He was clear-headed and precise in his connection between the sin and the consequence.  What astounds me about his conclusion, however, is that he also justifies God’s nature in the punishment.  This is the bone on which most of humanity chokes.  We find it much easier to make God the bad guy.

And not only does Lincoln justify God, he clearly states that it takes nothing away from the divine attributes we ascribe to Him, the inference being that God is being as majestically Himself here as anywhere else.  And when we think of God as the Just Ruler of the Universe, it makes sense.  But when we are the ones being judged, especially if we are caught in a corporate judgement, it’s not a facet of His nature we like to think about.

As I ponder this dynamic it leads me to the issue of parenting.  God takes great risk by leaving us options.  Do you think He likes to watch us blow each other up or destroy His beloved creation?  Yet, He has not turned us into puppets.  He is a Father, not  Mr. Stromboli.  He puts us into situations where we have to make choices.  A parent may give their teenager the keys to the car with instructions of how to get to the library, but when the car leaves the driveway, the teen has a choice. Library or … ?  The parent doesn’t remove the option to fail, but if the kid messes up, he or she will get punished.  It’s an essential part of growing up.  When faced with a crossroad, which branch will you take?

God does this with us, only on a larger scale and with much more at stake.  Will we be a slave or a son?  What will we do with the options we have?  How will our decisions impact our lives, our communities, our nations?  As adults we have a whole lot more power than a set of keys and a few bucks in our pockets.  The Civil War didn’t happen overnight.  Individual men and women made a lot of bad choices, many of which were part of an accepted lifestyle.

So, while we must recognize the righteousness of God in punishment, we must also remember His wisdom in parenting.  Think about the options He has given you and what does it look like to be a son?  Let not the offence come through you!

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“The great beast rolled over on his side so that Lucy fell, half sitting and half lying between his front paws. He bent forward and just touched her nose with his tongue. His warm breath came all round her. She gazed up into the large wise face.

“Welcome, child,” he said.
“Aslan,” said Lucy, “you’re bigger.”
“That is because you are older, little one,” answered he.
“Not because you are?”
“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”
–Excerpt from “Prince Caspian” CS Lewis

Many people use the illustration of an onion to describe how you can peel back layer after layer and eventually reach the core of the person or matter. Most of the time I think it gets used to explain someone who may have more brokenness and compensations than wholesome complexity, but I suppose that’s a matter for another time. I’d like to take that picture and work it exactly backwards, from the inside out.

Let’s start at the smallest part of the onion, the core, and suppose that it is your view of God at present. You can see that much of Who He is, how He interacts with the world, and what He has done with your life. It’s all you see right now. Then God takes you through a season of growth or reveals a particular insight, and suddenly you see that there is a layer OUTSIDE of the one you knew. The onion is bigger! This ring is a whole new experience. You see something about God you didn’t see before. You see the world through a new lens. God just got bigger to you. He was really that size all the time, but some part of Him that was invisible became visible, just as you moved outside of the center of the onion and saw there was another ring.

It is a marvel to me to think that when I look at the world around me, as I walk through my day, there are rings upon rings of the onion that I haven’t seen yet. There are facets of God’s character that are invisible to me now, but they are there. They are around me. He is functioning entirely true to Himself, whether I am big enough to see Him or not.

I love the picture as Lewis paints it with Aslan. The lion did not grow, but because Lucy did, he seemed bigger to her. Our God will never lose that capacity to grow bigger every time we do. It is an amazing thing.

May you NEVER lose the hunger to see the ring outside the one you know.

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The Four Loves

The Four Loves

“Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”  –C.S. Lewis

We all go through times when the wringing and breaking happen. The temptation to bury our love in our hobbies and interests is especially strong at those moments of pain. Boy, there are days when I look across the room at my stained glass table and think “you know, I’d be very happy to lose myself in my stained glass work and forget that people even exist.” I imagine you’ve had a day or two like that yourself … or maybe a whole lifetime??

Then I think about the vulnerability of the love of Christ. Not just His death on the cross, but the fact that He ever walked the earth in the first place. He left the realm where the angels worshipped day and night to spend 30 odd years in a broken world where He was loved one minute and reviled the next. Just the incarnation alone was a magnificent statement of His willingness to be vulnerable in His love. He is the King of Kings. Why on earth would He subject Himself to such a humiliating pilgrimage, to die the death of a thief? It was a characteristic of His love to make Himself vulnerable at a level we can’t even comprehend. That’s the same love that we are made the carry, the one that will grow stale and unbendable if we, in our pain, suffocate the life out of it. We will not know, perhaps, until we reach heaven what it will be like to be vulnerable in love without pain. Probably our entire understanding of love will be transformed. But we do know, that here, on earth, Christ demonstrated this important characteristic of love.

So, when that urge comes to bury your love in your hobbies, or work, or whatever else, remember that you are burying it in a coffin. Take the pain to Christ instead and let Him show you how to breathe life into it once again.

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