Problem of Prayer

Have you picked up The Screwtape Letters yet? I hope I have piqued your interest onimages some level. Here’s a questions we’ve all asked…

Does prayer work?

Actually, that aside, do you want prayer to work?

C.S. Lewis makes an insightful case against many of us who engage in prayer for any reason.

Don’t forget to use the “head I win, tails you lose” argument. If the thing he prays for doesn’t happen, then that is one more proof that petitionary prayers don’t work; if it does happen, he will, of course, be able to see some of the physical causes which led up to it, and “therefore it would have happened anyway”, and thus a granted prayer becomes just as good a proof as a denied one that prayers are ineffective.

It has frequently been noted that there are no atheists in fox holes. In other words, in the midst of dire or uncontrollable circumstances, almost anyone, for however brief a moment will resort to belief in God, and will, in sincerest tones, beseech the once blasphemed Creator to HELP!

We saw this happen at 9/11. It happens with every tsunami, hurricane and mass shooting. But then what?

It has also frequently been observed that the very ones who recently cried out to their Creator, just as quickly attribute His response to coincidence.

My husband and I are moving in a couple months. Not having children and not being high maintenance, and knowing that we’ll only live in our new domain for a year, we decided not to travel to GA to pick a house. Instead, after a few days of culling Military By Owner and realtor websites, we settled on one that seemed perfect. Actually, more honestly, we settled on one that I really felt God had “given” us.

When we called the owners, we were informed that there was another couple interested in the property and they were able to move in sooner, thus paying an extra month’s rent. If by chance, this first family fell through, we could rent the home.

How I prayed! “Lord, I really believe you said this is our house. It meets all our needs and it’s in our price range. Father, please allow us to rent this house!

Until the last minute, we waited. No word. I was pretty sure we’d lost our chance and I assumed that I had misheard God. Then, late on the last night, I got an email, “We’re sending the lease for your review. It looks like you’ll be our renters.”

Whew, that was close! And I almost did it. I almost thanked the owner and blessed my lucky starts.

But Father, thank you for knowing exactly what we need and providing it. And thank you even more, that you do speak to me, that you are wiling to speak to my heart even when my faith is weak. Lord, I believe. Take away my unbelief.

What’s in a 3 letter word?

What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in the state of mind I call “Christianity And”. You know – Christianity and the Crisis, Christianity and the New Psychology, Christianity and the New Order, Christianity and Faith Healing, Christianity and Psychical Research, Christianity and Vegetarianism, Christianity and Spelling Reform. If they must be Christians let them at least be Christians with a difference. Substitute for the faith itself some Fashion with a Christian coloring. Work on their horror of the Same Old Thing.

I really feel like in order to post this, I should expound upon it. How can I legitimately imagesexpress prose on my blog, even giving full credit, without at least sharing my two cents. C.S. Lewis makes it all but unnecessary, but I’ll try (:

This is an excerpt from Lewis’ book, The Screwtape Letters. We have been thumbing through it here for over a month, sampling and mulling on his wisdom. I am curious what effective means of time travel Lewis employed. Otherwise, how on earth could he have summarized the perilous place of Christians today?

And it is a perilous place. I do not mean to minimize the very real physical danger that brothers and sisters in Christ face daily throughout the world. But in my own little segment of the globe, a far more insidious threat is a tiny three letter word: and.

And… is in the titles of sermons, on front edges of debate. And… is the fuel of doctrinal discord, the carcass attracting scavengers to converge on hopelessly dead arguments. And… is the tinted glasses we wear when reading the inerrant word of God, it colors the pages and slants the text to address our pet issues. And… somehow manages to cripple mercy in its efforts to travel between our hearts and hands, it is the mother of all causes to the detriment of all substance. And… makes philosophers out disciples.

What is your and?
In my circles I have discussed Christianity and dialectical behavioral therapy, Christianity and antidepressants, Christianity and war, Christianity and divorce, Christianity and fitness, Christianity and beauty… fill in your blanks.

But Lewis redeems this tiny word, and, by the end of one short letter by Screwtape to his worthless nephew Wormwood. What does God do with: and?

God has made humanity capable of relishing conflicting experiences and passions at the same time.

He has balanced the love of change in them by a love of permanence. He has contrived to gratify both tastes together on the very world He has made, by that union of change and permanence which we call Rhythm. He gives them seasons, each season different yet every year the same, so that spring is always felt as a novelty yet always as the recurrence of an immemorial theme.

We must carefully tend our and. Unguarded, it can heap greed upon desire, lust upon pride. Unattended, it will lead us to add law to grace, conditions to love, reason to favor.

In the first place it diminishes pleasure while increasing desire.

images2But, used in like context as our Creator, it will teach us to deepen our faith through sunrise and sunset, our assurance in birth and death, our hope in grace and truth.

 

 

 

“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” John 1:17

Body Image and the Traditional Family

Have you ever thought about how body image is directly related to the demise of the family in modern society?

The traditional family is not simply under attack, but at this point has been so viscously and repeatedly assaulted that she is no longer recognizable as the institution she was created by God to be. It is also indisputable, even by the most liberal among us, that women’s physical bodies are so manipulated and objectified that frequently they don’t operate as God intended either.

Considering the family, I give you the divorce rate in America, the number of children in single parent homes, domestic abuse, latchkey kids, grandparents raising their children’s children, the disappearance of discipline and the overthrow of family interaction by tiny, handheld computers.

Considering the female body, I give you airbrushed magazine covers, (interesting article here) innocent daughters on diets, (talk about that here) every conceivable product offering a plastic-enhanced, fat-free version, menus touting “guilt-free” so that women have social permission to eat, women who can never have children after putting their bodies through premature menopause due to eating disorders in their formative years (ask yours truly).

Well known, observed facts, all of the above. But what do they have in common?

…great masters [demon tempters] produce in every age a general misdirection of what may be called sexual ‘taste.’ This they do by working through the small circle of popular artists, dressmakers, actresses and advertisers who determine the fashionable type. The aim is to guide each sex away from those members of the other with whom spiritually helpful, happy, and fertile marriages are most likely.

Have you ever thought of that?
That our obsession with perfect bodies (at least what the momentary, finicky appetite of sexual desire deems salable) has distracted eligible men and women from proper interests in the other sex based on faith, commitment, intellect and prayer? That an attitude of entitlement lends to severed marriages as one partner selfishly believes they deserve to be happy at the expense of their vows?

We now teach men to like women whose bodies are scarcely distinguishable from those of boys. Since this is a kind f beauty even more transitory than most, we thus aggravate the female’s chronic horror of growing old (with many excellent results) and render her less willing and less able to bear children.

As a result we are more and more directing the desires of men to something that does not exist – making the role of the eye in sexuality more and more important and at the same time making its demands more and more impossible. What follows you can easily forecast.

What astonishes me, is that C.S. Lewis published The Screwtape Letters in 1942. Screwtape was right, what followed was easily forecast. Seventy-one years later, we are fulfilling his prophecy.

What came first, the chicken or the egg? What came first, the decline of the family as the foundation of society or the objectification of the female body? Regardless, if we intentionally address one, will we necessarily affect other?

First comes love, then comes marriage?

Last weekend Patrick and I participated in a marriage retreat called Strong Bonds. True confession, as this blog is entirely about, it was emotionally difficult for me. Sometimes, I feel as if I’m mulit-lingual in the languages of love and that my hubby hasn’t even learned to sound out words. [That’s my pride talking, a subject I’m am constantly re-submitting to the Lord.]

We are learning, or I should say, I am learning, how to communicate. Wouldn’t you think that the girl who can’t shut-up would have this communication thing figured out?

As you all know from reading here, Patrick and I have been through some major mud, over towering hurdles and through the lowest of valleys. And actually, our sustenance has been, the trick to all of this is, learning to believe in God’s LOVE for us, both corporately and individually. Because when God’s love become progressively more real, we cannot help but see His reflection in each other and personally glow with His radiance.

Wrapping up this month of LOVE, I’ve still hardly scratched the surface of C.S. Lewis’ wisdom in The Screwtape Letters. So, we will carry on in March, looking for modern application of this book and alternately peering into the depths of the One Word: Naked.

After this past weekend, it really comes as no surprise that God brought us to Lewis’ chapter on love, sex and marriage. Consider this nugget:

The humans are to be encouraged to regard as the basis for marriage a highly-colored and distorted version of something the Enemy really promises as its result.

Do you see that? Kinda makes you think for a second, doesn’t it? In a generation that wants legal marriage for all and at the same time argues for no-fault divorce, it’s pretty obvious that humans believe love is the foundation for marriage. But what if that’s not as God intended?

Perhaps, and it seems evident in the Garden of Eden, marriage, oneness – is the foundation, the fertile ground for love.

Thoughts?

Me, a glutton?

Being Naked is nothing if not humbling. As God would have it, the brilliant theologian, C.S. Lewis has struck me where it hurts the most.

In so many ways, I have healed from anorexia. In so many ways, I am walking free of the chains of food fears, starvation and compulsive exercise. And even in the throws of my disorder, no one, least of all myself would have considered me a glutton. So as Screwtape began to instruct his evil nephew in the art of deception by means of gluttony, I thought, This is so utterly new to me, it should be interesting!

Interesting it was, but not because I’ve never experienced such temptations. It was interesting particularly because it could have been written about me, so convicting was it.

[Our goals] have largely been [accomplished]by the concentrating all our efforts on glutton of Delicacy, not gluttony of Excess.

Anorexia is chiefly defined by not eating much. For me, that included a desire not to need much. But I glutted on all my own selfish desires. Quite literally, I binged on exercise. I pushed my personal desires upon all who entertained me. My gluttony was on being accommodated by all who should understand the nature of my disorder. I fully expected my family to provide the foods I would eat, understand when my love affair with myself interrupted their lives. Hosts should cater to my specific food requirements. My husband should go out of his way to stop at hotels with gyms whenever we traveled.

Because what she wants is smaller and less costly than what has been set before her, she never recognizes as gluttony her determination to get what she wants, however troublesome it may be to others.

Oh, and Lewis would not feign to ignore my affection for myself in the realm of exercise.

…feed him the grand lie which we have made the English humans believe, that physical exercise in excess and consequent fatigue are specially favorable to this virtue.

Ouch.

So, the naked truth, confession at the deepest level, even my recovery is incomplete. And I brought that to my Father this morning.

God, how can I pretend to write a book on how you have walked me through the Valley of the Shadow of anorexia and how I have grown in you and been strengthened by the journey, when my journey isn’t over yet?

And He, Sweet Father, always answers.

Beloved, you ask why the journey is not complete. Your journey with anorexia is long over. Your walk with me is only beginning. Precious one, can you define a single step that you have already taken? You will not have a mark to define your successful recovery. It is a part of OUR journey. 

Stay in the Moment

Be present! Stay in the moment!

It might well be the mantra of the decade. It is hummed from the yoga mat, preached from the pulpit and scribbled in the margins of self-help books. I warrant, it’s true. There is little worth in worrying about tomorrow, as it will happen exactly as God intended it to happen without the assistance of human agony. And fretting about yesterday only gives me indigestion and entices me to break open old wounds in an effort to right past wrongs.

The humans live in time but our Enemy destines them to eternity. He therefore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself, and to that point of time which they call the Present. For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity. Of the present moment, and of it only, humans have an experience analogous to the experience which our Enemy has of reality as a whole; in it alone freedom and actuality are offered them.  ~Screwtape in C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters

I can see the wisdom of his words. I have felt the lingering, nagging, splinter-like pain of regret. I have felt the heart-stopping, immobilizing fret of the future. The great lie is that by attending to either one, I do some good. Perhaps, guilt and regret are part of paying the penalty. Do I think I am earning God’s sympathy or forgiveness through my groveling? Do I think that by making all kinds of logical suggestions about the future I can change God’s course for eternity?

Far better to rest in the finished, past and continuing work of Christ on my behalf. And far better to trust the Creator of the world to be sufficiently wise to sustain me.

-for the past is frozen and no longer flows, and the Present is all lit up with eternal rays. Hence nearly all vices are rooted in the future.

It feels good! To do, or not to do, remains the question.

If it feels good, do it. 

If it feels this good, it can’t be wrong!

“When asked to describe a moral dilemma they had faced, two-thirds of the young people either couldn’t answer the question or described problems that are not moral at all, like whether they could afford to rent a certain apartment or whether they had enough quarters to feed the meter at a parking spot.

“When asked about wrong or evil, they could generally agree that rape and murder are wrong. But, aside from these extreme cases, moral thinking didn’t enter the picture, even when considering things like drunken driving, cheating in school or cheating on a partner. ‘I don’t really deal with right and wrong that often,’ is how one interviewee put it.

“Rejecting blind deference to authority, many of the young people have gone off to the other extreme: ‘I would do what I thought made me happy or how I felt. I have no other way of knowing what to do but how I internally feel.’”
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/13/opinion/if-it-feels-right.html?_r=0

Um. Wow.

Apparently, the consensus of this generation is that pleasure is the defining moral code. Wrong.

However, the other extreme, asceticism, is wrong too. Unfortunately, Christianity is often viewed as a moderately ascetic lifestyle. Christianity is considered a list of does and don’ts, and God is seen as the cosmic killjoy. Nothing could be further from the truth. I love the way C.S. Lewis’ demon narrator says it in the book, The Screwtape Letters:

Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s ground. I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not ours. He made the pleasures: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one. All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the pleasures which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden. Hence we always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure to that in which it is least natural, least redolent of its Maker, and least pleasurable. An ever increasing desire for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula.

 

What Does He have to do with You?

“When the humans disbelieve our existence we lose all the pleasing results of direct terrorism and we make no magicians. On the other hand, when they believe in us we cannot make the materialists and skeptics.” C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

To the most reasonable mind, if there exists a God, there must necessarily exist a supernatural source of evil. And vice-versea. To believe in Satan, by consequence, and observation of the natural world, one must believe in a supernatural source of good. The war between these forces is evident in every waking moment.

  • a normally comforting mother screaming at her child
  • murder and law enforcement
  • generosity and desperate poverty

Humans only know one, good or evil, by its contrast to the other. So, for Satan to convince man that he has no Creator, no Advocate, no moral directive, no eternity, no Savior, no God, then he must simultaneously insinuate that he, himself, is a figment of a weak mind.

“I have great hope that we shall learn in due time how to emotionalize and mythologize their science to such an extent that what is, in effect, belief in us, (though not under that name) will creep in while the human mind remains closed to belief in the Enemy [God].”

This morning in my quiet time, I digested a passage that I have read more than 100 times. Jesus entered the synagogue in Nazareth, his own home town and read from the book of Isaiah. There, He declared Himself to be the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy about the Messiah. The Jews were furious at this blasphemy and tried to push Jesus over a cliff. But, without a dramatic show, He simply passed through the crowd and left.

In Capernaum, He entered the synagogue again. Immediately, He was confronted by a man with an evil spirit. “Go away! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” (Luke 4:34)

The phrase, “What have you to do with us,” is a Greek idiom, similar to, “I will have nothing to do with you,” or, “Have nothing to do with us.”

In this tantrum, the demon screamed through the man, “I know who you are. You are the Holy One of God!” Wow. Talk about proof! You would think that in such a cosmic display of good and evil, everyone would have collapsed on their faces in worship of the Deliverer. However wonderful that would have been, it would also be insufficient, that would not accomplish salvation. Jesus doesn’t want mere acknowledgement, and Satan knows it.

Yes, salvation is found in believing in Jesus, the only begotten Son of God (John 3:16). But, Christ came for so much more than that. Jesus wants us to love Him with all our heart, souls, minds and strength. Jesus wants everything to do with us. So Satan’s most vicious tactic is not to convince us that God does not exist, or that Jesus is not the Son of God, but to persuade us that God wants nothing to do with us, that relationship is impossible.

Jesus had to die and rise again in order to pay for our sins and restore our right relationship with God. Our God is personal and has everything to do with us! Praise the Lord!

Reputable Fame

“Quantitative analysis revealed that fame was the number one value, selected as the most important value for participants’ future goals,” according to a study done by psychology professors at the University of California at Los Angeles.

In C.S. Lewis’ book, The Screwtape Letters, it becomes obvious on a practical level that Satan’s most fatal weapon is subtlety. Literally, all that God created is good. ALL. Evil does not manufacture itself and is only observable relative to its opposite: Good. So it makes sense then, that to trip up a generally good person, someone mostly moral, someone rightly motivated, someone who would see right through blatant evil, Satan’s tack must be almost good.

In the Garden of Eden, Satan walked Eve up to a tree that probably looked just like the others. It looked good. It was almost OK.

Last month, in my town, three teenage boys were arrested for making sex tapes with six, unsuspecting teenage girls. Their goal? Fame.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be recognized. Proverbs, the Book of Wisdom, tells us that a good reputation is desirable over  great riches (Prov. 22:1). And in Prov. 31:23, a man is honored to be known among the leadership of his city. It is a God given desire to be loved by others, to have something to offer society and to leave our heel print in the clay of time. So Satan takes this righteous quality and pushes it just a little too far, just slightly over the edge. As we over indulge in our good reputation, it becomes self admiration and suddenly our hearts are warped. Warped just enough to mar the beauty of God’s reflection in us.

Left to ourselves in a broken world, we cannot help but pervert the complete goodness of all God’s gifts. Sex into promiscuity. Beauty into idolatry. Reputation into fame. Honor into pride. Hope into fantasy. Food into gluttony. Drink into drunkenness. Hobby into addiction.

Besides the redemption of our souls, maybe that’s another reason that Jesus had to come. More than to die and rise again, perhaps this is why He came and lived 30+ years on earth. To show us how to use all God’s good gifts for His glory.