Closing Lewis

Did you see the movie Thor? Remember that great, impassable chasm that in the end seemed to forever separate him from his love? The movie portrays two distinct realms, the world of the gods and the world of men.

Now, truthfully, the gods of Thor, were more like men, even in the fantasy. They could do evil and good. They had rivals and equivalents, relatives and love relationships. They lied and were deceived. But Praise the Lord, our God is not such!

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.” Is. 55:8

Though it’s admittedly fiction, allow me to blow some holes in movie’s premises about gods and men.

At the close of the book, The Screwtape Letters, Lewis’ main character and narrator is blasting his nephew and protege for allowing a young man to slip through his demon fingers. The human died with full knowledge and acceptance of Christ’s substitutionary death which purchased his pardon and eternal life.

It’s interesting to consider that first moment of real life. It’s murky, a muddy puddle, to peer into the mystery that we’re told we cannot even imagine.
“However, as it is written: ‘What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived’ — the things God has prepared for those who love him–“. 1 Cor. 2:9

But as expected, Lewis does a masterful job of imagining what that might be like. You see, though God is utterly unlike us, we were created in His image. And then, Jesus came to earth clothed in human flesh so that a perfect man could ransom the lives of wretched men.

God has allowed our worlds to overlap. In fact, from the beginning, His desire was to walk with us daily, visibly, physically. Only sin has carved this chasm between us.
“But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” Is. 59:2

But that chasm is most certainly crossable. In fact, it has been crossed already, by Jesus, so that we can be reunited with our Creator. For those of us who have humbly accepted Christ’s payment for our sins, we have the promise that we will see Him!
(1 Cor. 2:9) 19
“Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body,”. Hebrews 10:19-20

So listen to Lewis’ description of a Christian meeting his maker:

he saw Him. This animal, this thing begotten in a bed, could look on Him. What is blinding, suffocating fire to you[Wormwood, the failed demon], is now cool light to him, is clarity itself, and wears the form of a Man.

and

-that this thing of earth and slime could stand upright and converse with spirits before whom you, a spirit, could only cower.

Think of it, Friends! Think and be thrilled that it cannot be contained! Your great future, the glory of beholding His face and being able to stand before Him loved and unashamed! What magnificence! And it is not far away!
“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” Jude 24-25

In fact, except for the physical vision of Jesus, it all ready is.
“For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.” Eph. 2:6

P.S. Lewis was such fun. I think I might go very slowing through his book, The Great Divorce, with you next. What do you think?

 

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Real Miracles

Earlier this year, my husband and I were blessed with an opportunity to do something kind for someone anonymously. It wasn’t one of those things we do on a regular basis, like try to be friendly, give someone a lift, babysit for a neighbor or loan someone a tool. No, it was one of those things that never occurs to me in the scope of my daily life. So, when the impetus came out of the blue, I knew God was urging us to do something new.

Afterward, I started wondering how this person must have felt about their, “miracle” when the gift mysteriously appeared. I’m confident that they knelt in worship and gratitude to the God from whom all blessing flow.

I chuckled, if they only knew, it wasn’t a real miracle, it was just a couple of Jesus followers who listened to His voice and (though this isn’t always the case) obeyed. Almost instantly, God put His hand on my heart.

“What do you mean, ‘Not a real miracle?'”

“Well God, it’s just that it was only us. They must feel like it’s manna from heaven, or multiplied loaves, but really, it was just another human!”

“Dear One,” I heard Him clearly say. “Just because I choose to use one common means or another does not make my goodness any less of a miracle.
Remember Elijah’s crows in 1 Kings 17? He could have claimed it wasn’t a real miracle, just a bunch of crows dropping food to him out of the sky.
Humans often relegate goodness to the ethereal; alternately, they try to explain it by means of coincidence.
Apart from me there is no good thing. (Ps. 16:2)
Therefore, Beloved, all good acted upon, all good things given, the very fact that you are capable of kindness is part of the supernatural miracle that I AM.”

After that personal didactic, it was interesting and affirming to read C.S. Lewis’ description of this thought process in the final pages of his book, The Screwtape Letters.

You will notice that we have got them completely fogged about the meaning of the world, ‘real’. They tell each other, of some great spiritual experience, ‘All that really happened was that you heard some music in a lighted building’; here ‘Real’ means the bare physical facts, separated from the other elements in the experience they actually had.

The general rule which we have now pretty well established among them is that in all experiences which can make them happier or better only the physical facts are ‘Real’ while the spiritual elements are ‘subjective’; in all experiences which can discourage or corrupt them the spiritual elements are the main reality and to ignore them is to be an escapist.

The Imprint of Virtue

With finite perspective, we usually only see either vice or virtue. Depending on which we angle of a person we first observe, often we form a fast opinion and relegate that person at least generally, or for a time, to a category: Good or bad.

When my husband has spent half of the weekend watching movies and droll TV shows, I feel disgust and a swelling sense of pride for my own productivity. While he is reclining, I can hardly seen any virtue. When we speak, my tone becomes snippy and condescending because I cannot manage to see all of the good things I know and love about him, while still entertaining my irritation at his vice.

Does that make sense?

Recently, I heard a marital counselor interviewed for tips on how to avoid conflict. The suggestion that struck close to home was this: When conflict is brewing, or I’m angry at my husband, I immediately try to think of his Christ-likeness. (paraphrased)

Don’t get me wrong, there’s an abundance of, “happiness everywhere, see the good in everything, pink glasses, rosy walkways, tolerant wimpy-ness,” to go around. I’m not just talking about finding the good in someone, but searching out their Christ-likeness. I promise it’s there, they were created in His image.

Just a thought from Screwtape on this matter:

Are we to aim at cowardice-or at courage, with consequent pride?Well, I’m afraid it is no good trying to make him brave. Our research department has not yet discovered (though success is hourly expected) how to produce any virtue. This is a serious handicap. To be greatly and effectively wicked a man needs some virtue. What would Attila have been without his courage, or Shylock without self-denial as regards the flesh? But as we cannot supply these qualities ourselves, we can only use them as supplied by the Enemy-and this means leaving Him a kind of foothold in those men whom, otherwise, we have made most securely our own.

Hmmm… is finding that Christ-likess the key to broadening the foothold of God in their lives so that the love of Jesus can seep in?

For excellent expansion on this idea, read Kelley’s post here at She Loves Magazine

Not long after the incident at school I remember my son asking from the backseat, “Do those boys have God’s fingerprints on them, mom?” As we pulled into the driveway I assured him, “Yes, they are made in God’s image just like us.” “So, God loves them like he loves me and my sister?” I answered in the affirmative. “So I shouldn’t be mean back? I should forgive them and give them another chance?”

And there it was … acknowledging the image of God in others and letting that truth control how we seen them and respond to them. We don’t return evil for evil. We offer forgiveness and we believe everyone gets second chances (and then some) from a generous God. We try to see the humanity of those boys like our own, and how a loving God embraces us all.

Insights from a Demon

In the wake of the Boston Marathon tragedy, I almost hesitate to write this post. But maybe it’s more appropriate than ever to question, “What is evil?”

They [humans] of course, do tend to regard death as the prime evil and survival as the greatest good. But that is because we have taught them to do so. Do not let us be infected by our own propaganda. Uncle Screwtape from C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters

What causes us to revile death is the foreboding of the unknown. Let us rejoice that in Christ, even death is no mystery!

“For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
1 Cor. 15:56-57

Another quick thought from Uncle Screwtape addresses something I hope dig into deeper later this year. This is the presence of beauty, the distinct fragrance of God’s love for us and His goodness toward all mankind, even in the most secular.

Even if we contrive to keep them ignorant of explicit religion, the incalculable winds of fantasy and music and poetry-the mere face of a girl, the song of a bird, or the sight of a horizon-are always blowing our whole structure away. They will not apply themselves steadily to worldly advancement, prudent connections, and the policy of safety first. So inveterate is their appetite for Heaven that our best method, at this stage, of attaching them to the earth is to make them believe that earth can be turned into Heaven at some future date by politics or eugenics or “science” or psychology, or what not. Real worldliness is a work of time-assisted, of course, by pride, for we teach them to describe the creeping death as good sense or Maturity or Experience.

“Let us set our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him…” Heb. 12:2

God has dripped Heaven into our atmosphere. Even on the ugliest of our days, the sun still stretches its fingers over the horizon. Even in the face of our enemy, is the astounding creativity of our Perfect Creator. Yes, Heaven is not far from us. But, let us not be willing to stay here forever either. The greatest JOY will be seeing Jesus face to face.

(Screwtape is the demon in C.S. Lewis’ book, The Screwtape Letters. The book is a collection of Screwtape’s advisory letters to his nephew, a young tempter.)

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

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.  

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.