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

In living color

All of me is wrapped up in you, and
all else fades away.
Like shedding skin,
Cover I’ve been in.
butterfly27The world I know escapes my grasp.
And slips beyond my vision.
Raw for seconds, I lay in quiet fear.
Open, wounded, at death’s mercy.

Then Glory’s shadow falls over me,
And all my effort dims.
A chrysalis, enveloped me
I woke to fairest Son.

Curled to face a different day
Fetal in pain and fear.
“Raw sores,” I cry, “Raw wounds.
One broken such as I.”

But where the pain?

The Son warms, He does not burn,
Merely struggling to breathe, I wait.

It came in gulps, cold and deep.
I fought to crawl ‘neath gossamer wings
Strange, new in brilliance above.

What’s this now? How this change?
I lay to cry and woke to sing.
I lay to die and woke to life.
I lay to resign and woke to
no rule but love, 
no law but need,
No need but Him.

How this rest, whence comes this peace?
In His eyes, my soul returns and weeps
with joy.
In His gaze my wings unfurl
In His breath, my wings catch flight.
Oh, and in and through Him
Comes this peace I own.
And fly daily free, unhindered
Round His great and loving throne.

Is time on your side?

What really, really ticks you off? I mean, what really gets under your skin?

Is it the guy who cuts you off in traffic? I just realized, with the threat of a snow storm here tomorrow, that I actually get angry at the weather for slowing down the progression of my plans for the week.
Does the repairman who wants a 10 hour window of time for his appointment drive you nuts?
How about waiting in the only open checkout line while five bored-looking employees saunter outside for a smoke break?

Now you will have noticed that nothing throws [a human] into a passion so easily as to find a tract of time which he reckoned on having at his own disposal unexpectedly taken from him. [It] anger[s] him because he regards his time as his own and feels that it is being stolen.

It occurs to me that perhaps the most common and pervasive lie among men is that we honestly believe our time is our own.

The man can neither make, nor retain, one moment of time; it all comes to him by pure gift; he might as well regard the sun and moon as his chattels.

Guilty as charged.

Not only is this a prolific lie, but at Predatory Lies, the goal is to, “uncover the lies that destroy our lives.” Is this lie all that destructive, really?

It doesn’t seem like it. I mean, we might stress less if we actually understood that all of our striving and fretting and hurrying accomplishes nothing.
We might present the Gospel more winsomely if we weren’t thinking about how the person’s question really came at a bad time.
We might not mourn over death as much as we do if we believed that our time is not our own and that what time we do have is a gift from a benevolent Father, from whom all good gifts come. (James 1:17)

The misconception that time is our own leeches the joy, value and posterity from our lives. “Lord, teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
Ps. 90:12

All quoted wisdom in this article, aside from Scripture, is courtesy of C.S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters.The Screwtape Letters.  

HOPE

I read HOPE in story books
of princess sleep 100 years.
I see HOPE in dreams and hallucinations in the desert,
a dangerous thing.
For HOPE deferred makes the heart sick.

But HOPE!
HOPE is a partner in the union of love,
faith and hope stand in solidarity.
HOPE, the spokes of the wheel of time.
For when hope dies so will I.

The God who IS love, is of HOPE.
HOPE is exercised in power,
And bores fatal holes in despair.
Faith leads the triumphal march,
From loved one to lover of the soul.

Hell is the Place of Justice

I’m not a fan of justice. That makes me sound amoral and seems to set me at odds with the Jesus I call, Savior. I submit to you that Jesus was no trumpeter of justice either. In fact, I think justice reigns in hell.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

I think we have a problem here.

Do you remember the parable of the unforgiving servant? An indebted servant was brought to the king to pay his debt. Fully unable to redeem himself, the king ordered the servant to be sold along with his wife and family. The servant groveled before his master, begging to be given one more chance. “Please, please be patient and I will pay you back every single penny.”

How the servant must have staggered at the response. I imagine that he had to be helped up off the ground, so astounded was he by the mercy extended toward him.

“I forgive you all your debt. You owe me nothing.” However, his good mood was short-lived when he came upon a fellow servant who owed him a meager amount. “YOU OWE ME!”

When the tables were flipped and the first servant was in a position of power, he demanded justice. 

Consider this equation.

INJUSTICE  = JUSTICE

There’s no solution. For the most part, society operates on a system of justice. Crimes deserve punishment. Debts require payment. There’s a sense of getting even in justice. It’s like a scale. If justice is meted out in equal measure to an injustice, then we are pleased. But do we really want to spend the rest of our lives struggling to balance the equation? Is it desirable to constantly be teetering back and forth between good and evil?

What we really long for is come to a full balance of justice. We would love to land fully on the side of justice such that our fears of being offended or of being the victim of injustice are never realized. What can we apply to injustice to equal justice?

INJUSTICE + MERCY = JUSTICE

The cross of Christ was God’s ultimate display of injustice and God’s ultimate display of mercy. The consequence is JUSTICE, a justice turned on its head. The perfect man, Jesus Christ was unjustly punished for man’s offenses toward God. The only justice that God could give man, prior to the cross, was hell. And so, God applied mercy to our sins. In one action, God applied injustice to Jesus and mercy to mankind. Now, we live in the shadow of justice.

God has been paid in full for all our sins. Like the first servant in the story, man has been redeemed from his debt in a cosmic display of mercy.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

Justice has been turned on its head. God’s expression of mercy changes what justice is for us. It is now JUST for us to show MERCY, for that is what was shown toward us. However, in our world, this kind of mercy leaves Christians looking like a doormat. We can only let this mercy alter our understanding of justice as we walk in humility. To live justly, we must walk humbly with our God who teaches us mercy. 

A Me-So-Happy-List

I learn so much every time I read She Loves Magazine. Yesterday, the author recalled All Saints’ Day and challenged me to consider the women who were the saints in my own life. Particularly, those who have passed and left a lingering legacy for the cause of Christ permanently inked on my life. Then, today, Tina asked us to write a “Me So Happy List.” A list to be applied as a direct antiseptic to festering wounds of loneliness, brutal days, sadness, sore knees, ceiling-bound prayers, loveless relationships, finding out you’re doing life all wrong.

Ever felt that way?

I think I can tie these two challenges together. Perhaps I’ll begin my happiness list with warm recollections of those who have loved me into the shape I am now.

Vanessa: I met her in church months after I got married and moved to North Carolina. That same season, my new husband deployed to Iraq for a year. At first sight, Vanessa was as vivacious, peppy and assertive as anyone I’ve ever known. Only in bits and pieces did I discover that she had just tipped over the brink of remission from melanoma. Months before I met her, she had nearly died from chemo. By the time I came along, she was trying alternative treatments successfully, her hair had grown back and she was charging full steam ahead.

I had never attempted door-to-door evangelism before, and I doubt I’ll summon the courage to do it again. But I did it with Vanessa. It seemed as if living in a thin place incensed her to talk about Jesus.

But then I watched her die.

Cancer is unpredictable. It came back so viscously that it seemed from one day to the next it sank into her bones, bound her to a bed and stole her voice. I watched her 10 year old son as she traveled far and wide searching for a miracle. None came.

But Vanessa never panicked. Her bulldog way of staring down each new day, daring the sun not to rise, buoyed the hearts of those around her until she was gone. But even the shattering pain, a wholeness filled each room of her house. That’s the way she remains to me – whole, full, complete, content, satisfied, too much, too big to contain. How does one manage that in diminishing death?

I am thankful for her.

I am thankful for a dog named, Brave. His furry body wedged between my knees at 2 a.m.  – challenging to me to sleep another wink.

That my husband loves, loves, loves his job and thrives in all its challenges.

My family loves me, and I can miss them when we’re miles apart. That longing fuels the warmth of reunion.

That God is not silent.

That I can write and that yesterday’s journal informs my heart more now than it did then.

For the difference between acquaintances and life-long friends.

For funny people who don’t know they’re funny, dressed in a blue Santa hat sitting at the table next to me.

 

Endless Beginning

Servant, Child

Lamb of mine.

Once I stepped into your time.

Never before had I curbed my power

Paid homage to a ruthless hour.

 

Beneath the burden of your yesterdays

And the looming knowledge of my own tomorrow,

I wept, I laughed and I shared your sorrow.

You cringe with ending, each night a mystery.

Does life await with next sun’s warmth?

 

I once inhaled the fog of death.

But of my own, breathed out life-breath.

In my plan of beginnings, life’s fruit a bounty

I first exhaled life’s breath.

I watched the lungs I gave to you

Expand.

 

Take it in! I smiled

All true and new.

Take it in and begin

With nothing to prove.

More than you know

The Prodigal Son charged into his father’s chambers and demanded, “I want all that you have for me right now. I don’t want it within the confines of your authority. I don’t want to wait for your perfect timing and I don’t plan to spend it on anything that would please you.” Essentially, give me my eternity now, I’d rather have a full and frivolous today than wait for the revelation of your mysterious promise of eternal riches.

Plodding my way through this familiar story on my “through the Bible in a year” plan, I was suddenly hit with a new perspective. I am not immune to society’s constant quest for youthfulness, perfection, wealth, security and self-preservation. My eating disorder is proof that I fell for the lie that today is all that matters and that I am the only person who can create my perfect destiny.

So I stole my inheritance from my Heavenly Father, this body, created personally for me. I took this brief, beautiful life and charged into the world determined to make the most of this moment, this life, right now and do it my way. It didn’t take long.

The Prodigal quickly wasted his inheritance. There is only so much to be purchased, briefly enjoyed and used up in this world. In no time, I too discovered limited returns on my ventures and unsuccessful attempts to obtain my imagined perfect life. I was unable to craft perfection, incapable of establishing my own lasting value.

Is that the critical error of man, to struggle for the fountain of youth, convinced that this is all there is to live for? What if we returned?

The Prodigal Son gathered  the remnant of his miserable days and trudged home. He planned to offer himself to his father for hire. He knew that even a second rate life, under the care of his father was better than he could do for himself.

So I gathered the scraps of my body, the tendrils of my sanity and limped back to my Father. There, I promised to clean myself up, hoping then He would take me back. I’ll try really hard, just please, please take me back. I’m dying. 

Our stories meld together. Just like in the story, my Heavenly Father laughed with joy and ran to meet me. He exclaimed that I would never have to work for his favor and that my squandered inheritance was pennies compared to the abundance I would partake of in his home.

The story of the Prodigal Son is the story of my recovery. I confess that I forfeited the good inheritance that my Father gave me. This body that is mine, ultimately belongs to Him. But I took it and manipulated it. I ravaged it for the sake of my own longings.

It took years for me to return. I languished in my misery, too humiliated to return to my good and loving Father. But when I did, I discovered that all He has is mine. He has spread a bountiful life before me. From now on, I plan to dig in.