Non-Swimmer’s Lament

Surf, but not for some
who dive in, get wet,
who know real surf,
and thrill to the threat.

Cold water, so refreshing,
life healing, and
soul cleansing, but
it may be messy.

I want to be bold,
to get soaking wet,
yet, I may catch cold,
so I play at the edge.

Spirit says, “Come to me!
Leap into my waters!
Refresh yourself,
nothing else matters.”

So I leap, in halting faith,
swim warm—
not cold,
soaked with infinite grace.

Why did I not leap sooner,
a coward to the core?
But he is always faithful,
that I might fear no more.

C.S. Lewis Asks, Do You Have Rats In Your Basement?

cartoon-rat

Honestly, this has little to do with rats or basements, as you’ve probably already guessed. But it has a lot to do with … well, I’ll let Uncle Jack clarify the issue:

We begin to notice, besides our particular sinful acts, our sinfulness; begin to be alarmed not only about what we do, but about what we are. This may sound rather difficult, so I will try to make it clear from my own case. When I come to my evening prayers and try to reckon up the sins of the day, nine times out of ten the most obvious one is some sin against charity; I have sulked or snapped or sneered or snubbed or stormed. And the excuse that immediately springs to my mind is that the provocation was so sudden and unexpected; I was caught off my guard, I had not time to collect myself. Now that may be an extenuating circumstance as regards those particular acts: they would obviously be worse if they had been deliberate and premeditated. On the other hand, surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man; it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. The rats are always there in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light.
From C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity

One concept that often confuses people is “sins” versus “sin.” Sins(plural form) are simply acts that are contrary to God’s expressed will, whether or not anybody sees you do them. Some clever preacher came up with a catchy phrase about the two kinds of sinful acts: “Sins of commission, and sins of omission,” but differentiating them isn’t always easy. Sins of omission often cause sins of commission because the sinner has neglected the necessary preparation to resist temptation. It’s the old “If I had done this, I wouldn’t have done that.”

Sin(singular form), however, isn’t just one sinful act. It’s the condition humans are born into ever since that fateful day when the first humans first tried to stick it to God. We’ve all seen “fails” videos, but that was the first, and the worst, fail of all. Can you imagine how Adam felt when he realized God wouldn’t accept his cop-out? I’d say it involved the world’s first, and worst, blush. Ever since then we’ve all tried to put one over on God, whether it’s trying to con him with our lame excuses, or simply ignoring him while alleging that he doesn’t exist.

Here’s a clue: your snubbing God doesn’t hurt his feelings. And you don’t have to be an atheist to snub God. Many who claim to be Christians routinely snub him, by refusing to take their feelings, their faults, and their failures to him in prayer.

And speaking—or writing—of prayer, there’s confusion about it, similar to the confusion about sin; prayer, and prayers, aren’t the same thing. “Saying ones prayers,” implies a deliberate, one-time or routine act of devotion to God. And that’s a great thing as far as it goes. But God said he wants us to “pray without ceasing.” Fortunately, he didn’t mean we have to constantly kneel beside our beds praying. It’s much more subtle than that. He meant we need to always see, think, and do things in a way that will allow us to go to him in prayer at any instant. It’s like walking with your loved one; you won’t always have things to say at any given moment, but just being with him or her comforts and affirms you. That’s what relationship is all about.

 

Peace Like a River

Horatio G. Spafford had ample reason to feel anything but peace that day in 1873 as his ship carried him over the spot where his four daughters perished in a shipwreck a few weeks earlier. Rather than sink into the slough of despond, however, he penned the following words:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27) The world freely gives no peace at all, but occasionally it reluctantly grants temporary lapses in violence. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, had something entirely different in mind, something those invested in this world system cannot grasp.

This morning I awoke feeling awash in a river of peace. God has taught me—and continues teaching me—that feelings aren’t facts; a hard lesson for any natural human being to learn. But God’s peace is entirely unnatural, so when that is what we feel, it must be from him.

During that unnatural moment, I pictured the river of peace as like the Columbia River, carrying millions of gallons of water swiftly from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. If all that water just lay there with no circulation it would become brackish, a breeding place for mosquitoes and disease. But it moves, slowly enough to be safe for navigation, but swiftly enough to keep it fresh, washing all its organic matter out to meet the purifying sea water. Like the mighty Columbia, God’s peace washes all the potentially putrefying matter from our lives, refreshing us moment by moment as only his Prince of Peace can do.

Please, don’t fall for the world’s counterfeit peace, but hold out for the unconditional, sanctified peace that only Christ can give.

Words of Christ in Red

Opinion-time, everyone. The bug bit me while I was studying Proverbs chapter eighteen—rather odd, as it contains no “words of Christ.” But that’s where it gets interesting; Jesus Christ is God’s eternal Word in the flesh, and he authored the verbal (both the ancient, oral tradition, and the written) Word of God from start to finish (John 1:1-18, 2 Timothy 3:16). In view of these facts, can any part of God’s verbal Word not be Jesus’ words? Highlighting Jesus’ words in the gospels implies that they are somehow more reliable or have more authority than the balance of Scripture, which is theologically unsound.

That said, I understand how novices in Bible-study might prefer “Red-Word” Bible editions, but I would also caution them against assigning those red words undue significance. There is a heresy that says Jesus’ words carry divine authority, but the rest were written by (sexist) men, most especially that male-chauvinist-pig, Paul.

To deny any part of God’s Word is to deny its Author, and we wouldn’t want to do that, would we?

Brain Dead

Well, not brain dead in the literal sense, but I feel that way. Unlike Homer Simpson, though, I fully realize my current depth of stupidity. A couple of circumstances are conspiring against my creative thought processes: First, a case (not a half-case or a six-pack) of asthmatic bronchitis is keeping me planted in my chair; even though I’m on the mend I am anything but peppy. Second, my “stay-awake” medicine is awaiting my doctor’s prior approval, leaving me firing on half my mental cylinders. How can one lousy ream of red-tape take so long to be completed?

I have so much to be thankful for, however, that even mentioning these trivial trials seems ungrateful. That leaves me wondering how I would handle real hardship. But I know my loving heavenly Father will give me the grace to accept, and spiritually prosper under, whatever he allows to come my way. I love his promise through Apostle Paul’s words: And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Philippians 4:19-20)

C.S. Lewis on Love

This is a cool quote, even though it has nothing to do with my post.

This is a cool quote, even though it has nothing to do with my post.

My Uncle Jack didn’t speak or write on love and marriage very often because he felt he didn’t have enough experience in those areas to contribute meaningfully to the body of thought on them. He was wrong, which is a statement I won’t often make about him. The following is from The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III:

There are two kinds of love: we love wise and kind and beautiful people because we need them, but we love (or try to love) stupid and disagreeable people because they need us. This second kind is the more divine because that is how God loves us: not because we are lovable but because He is love, not because He needs to receive but He delights to give.

Those two love-categories—natural love, and godly love—are a slightly different take on love-categories, that reduces the usual three to their least common denominators. And I find it a point so well taken that I can’t add to it. Wonder of wonders!

Don’t Say “Ouch”

Say, “Lord, help me.”

I heard some fantastic preaching today at Parkgate Community Church in Pasadena, Texas, while I was washing a sinkload of dishes in Kalispell, Montana. The second sermon ended when the dishes ran out—yes, it was that bad. If you are considering giving ear to Pastor Ken Boggs’ preaching, I can promise it’s more-than worth the time spent.

Pastors Ken, Jim, and a guest speaker, have been preaching through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. So far, this is convicting preaching, or it should be for some of those people. Well, Apostle Paul admitted to making crazy, worldly statements in his letters to make a point, so why can’t I? In fact, I didn’t even get off scot free.

Since you’re reading this, I assume you can access said preaching on your own, so I won’t try to re-preach what I heard. It’s tempting, even though I certainly couldn’t add anything of value to it.

The one thing Pastor Ken didn’t say that I desperately wish he had is (even though I just said that I wouldn’t), “If you consider this message as something others need to hear, you need it more than they.” We all have trouble keeping our eyes on our own hearts instead of others’. God won’t convict anyone but you from his Word and its preaching.

So, again I say, “Lord help me to live according to the light you’ve given me, and not worry about others’ lives.

Faded Glory

Trident Stowaway Trike

As I began my day this morning, the rejoicing I experienced upon waking slowly began to subside. I felt like Moses returning to camp after experiencing God’s presence. Hurriedly, I jotted off my basic early thoughts for this blog, euthanized my computer, threw on my Sunday-go-to-meetin’ togs (You likely wouldn’t recognize them as such.), dashed out the door to my garage (my affectionate name for the mini-van) dragged my recumbent trike (photo above) out of the back, and hit the road for church.

Even after all that dashing and pedaling, including the infamous, Meridian Hill, I arrived at church still rejoicing. Though I forgot to check a mirror to see of the glory had yet faded, no one complained about sudden blindness from looking at me.

Brother Sam, an older, olde-time preacher, preached a rousing Bible lesson that helped stoke my fire, and then we got down to the business of singing God’s praises. What a glorious time in the Lord, worshiping with my beloved brethren! I liked-to wore out my arms, holding them up through some of the songs. But then came the real preaching, with Brother Mark delivering the message. And yes, that too blessed me.

What can I say? When God blesses, which is more than I even realize, he doesn’t hold back. My loving Savior indeed keeps me in the palms of his ginormous hands, and I can hardly wait til I can praise him continuously, without my arms and voice tiring. What a Day that will be, when I see his face and the glory will never fade!

It Is No Secret


This morning I awoke rejoicing in my God. I don’t know why the old gospel song, “It Is No Secret What God Can Do,” ran through my mind, but I turned what lyrics I could remember into a song of praise to my Lord. To refresh the rest of the lyrics, I turned on my computer to listen to the whole song. What I discovered was a half-truth, but at least it didn’t tell an outright lie. While those who are in Christ have some idea what God can do, we have no idea what he will do.Stewart Hamblen’s lyrics begin with:

The chimes of time ring out the news
Another day is through
Someone slipped and fell
Was that someone you?

You may have longed for added strength
Your courage to renew
Do not be disheartened
For I have news for you

It is no secret what God can do
What He’s done for others, He’ll do for you
With arms wide open, He’ll pardon you
It is no secret what God can do

By now, if you are older than forty you may have the tune running through your head. If not, it goes like this: Ta da da daa daaa da da da da, etcetera. Does that help?

Anyway, while the “arms wide open” part is right, it leaves out the required confession and repentance. That’s anything but a minor omission.

The song goes on:

There is no night for in His light
You never walk alone
Always feel at home
Wherever you may go

There is no power can conquer you
While God is on your side
Take Him at His promise
Don’t run away and hide

The second stanza begins with a gloriously true statement: In his light you indeed never walk alone, and no power in heaven or on earth can conquer you. What puts God on your side? If we don’t run away and hide, but love him with our obedience, we can safely take him at his promise, expressed in his holy word. What a mighty God we serve! And yes, I realize that’s another gospel song.

My Uncle Jack

Clive Staples Lewis, or Uncle Jack to me.

C.S. Lewis’ works have blessed me greatly, both as entertainment and as teachings. When I consider him, my first mental picture is of “Professor Lewis,” a lavishly gifted senior intellectual who stimulates my own thinking with his delightful, insightful prose. His door is never closed to me, and when I seek him out he welcomes me with an open smile.

I visualize him at his desk, seriously evaluating his students’ submissions, occasionally chuckling or laughing out loud at the young people’s novel perspectives. When I knock his doorsill he looks up, the remnant of his thoughtful frown still decorating his face, but on recognizing me everything changes; the frown is gone and his face lights up. He removes his reading glasses and those piercing eyes that had just been studying his students’ writing suddenly begin studying me. I feel as though he is a physician, but his specialty is not diagnosing and treating physical illness. Rather, his eyes are his diagnostic apparatus, penetrating all my facades and pretensions, rather like the Sword of the Spirit.

When he’s not Professor Lewis, or Doctor Lewis, he is my dear Uncle Jack. As Professor, Doctor, or Uncle, he never feeds me pseudo-spiritual platitudes or intellectual pablum, but always well thought-out, unique insights that bless my heart and mind. He truly was, and still is, God’s gift to us.