26 November 2011

Just because I am happy doesn't mean I don't have problems…or…being human.

When I was about 11, my parents brought me to the newly released film, A Man for All Seasons. The film was largely about the conflict between King Henry VIII of England and his right-hand man, Thomas Moore (who was beheaded for not agreeing with the King.)  At the time,  I knew quite a lot for a young American of Henry VIII, but little about the figures who surrounded him. I was continually perplexed by the film’s story--I wanted it to be simpler. It seemed as though Sir Thomas Moore’s biggest problem (Moore had gone from being the king’s opponent to a  friend to, well, being killed by his friend) was not Henry VIII but himself-- his own conscience. Till then most movies I sat through presented a difficulty (or several), solved problems, and presented triumph at the end in true Disney-esque style. But this bore no resemblance to those stories at all. It was an uncomfortable movie to view because it was  more like real life than like pure escape! (How dare they?)
Well, that was umpteen million years ago and since (in real life), I have seen the problem-and-solution played out over and over again in more settings than I could count.  I have been in churches and work environments and even friendships where we must find  the “culprit” in our quest to hunt down the source of our problems, and then an investigation is rolled out to determine what it is we need to avoid in order to cleanse ourselves and have a “happy” or peaceful setting. And, I have lived through the mid 1960s-1970s wherein Someone (the “Man”) must be blamed and society needs to be ‘taken back.”  Past and present, friends ask me to jump on band-wagons all the time to “restore” things, right society’s wrongs, and do good things to make the world ” a better place for our children.”
Yet my life tells me a different tale–I think it tells me the truth: I  was a middle child, I have been married for 35 plus years, raised children and dealt/deal  in-laws. My experiences have given me the thought that our typical approach to many life-issues, work, religion, family, money, friends, has been (frequently) one-dimensional and too often merely transactional. Granted, our objective is good, and one to be cherished: a desire for perfection, but the reality of a  fallen (AKA messed up) world, will never leave us. 
In my experiences I have not seen easy, simple solutions, but messy situations and half-resolved, partly messy results. I have had a lifetime of conflicts and messy problems, and the result has not been merely “growth” for me, but strangely but life-giving, as well. How do I account for that?  Dorothy Sayers suggests that it is in tight situations that we can enter into a creative process we have been endowed with by our Creator, somehow out of the labor pains of problems comes a new baby.
Dorothy Sayers says that the ordinary man is an “artist” (like a writer) in his own life, and that he needs to approach life more like an artist does: in this way–there is no final, predictable, complete solution nor might there be only one solution. Sayers asserts that we reflect our Creator by being creative people in the midst of tragedies, and in times of troubles by looking for a creative way to redeem the mess in which we will perpetually find ourselves living through.
She says: “If the common man asks the artist for help in producing moral judgments or practical solutions, the only answer he can get is something like this: You must learn to handle practical situations as I handle the material of my book: you must take them and use them to make a new thing. As A.D. Lindsay puts it:
….we say “Yes” or “No.” “I will” or “I will not” [At these times] we choose between obeying or disobeying a given command.
[In contrast, we may find ourselves] in the morality of challenge or grace, the situation says, “Here is a mess, a crying evil, a need! What can you do about it?” We are not asked to say “Yes” or “No” or “I will” or “I will not,” but to be inventive, to create, to discover something new.
->The difference between ordinary people and saints is not that saints fulfil the plain duties which ordinary men neglect. The things saints do have not usually occurred to ordinary people at all…
“Gracious” conduct is somehow the work of an artist.  It needs imagination and spontaneity. It is not a choice between presented alternatives but the creation of something new.”
[Sayers continues:]
The distinction between the artist and the man who is not an artist thus lies in the fact that the artist is living in the “way of grace,” so far as his vocation is concerned.
He is not necessarily an artist in handling his personal life, but (since life is the material of his work) has has at least got thus far, that he is using life to make something new.   Because of this, the pains and life of this troublesome world can never, for him, be wholly meaningless and useless, as they are to the man who [stoically] endures them…
If, therefore, we are to deal with our “problems” in “a creative way,” we must deal with them along the artist’s lines: not expecting to “solve” them by a detective trick, but to “make something of them,” even when they are, strictly speaking, insoluble.”
  • Dorothy Sayers, The Mind of the Maker
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

24 November 2011

Best Deal Of The Holiday

This is the Christmas/holiday kickoff weekend. As we go into the wormhole of celebrations and gift exchanges, let us remember that it is not that which surrounds us that makes us wealthy, but the times in communing with God and with encounters with those who He made in His image which supplies our real sense of satisfaction and inner wealth. “We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito.” ― C.S. Lewis "There is but one good; that is God. Everything else is good when it looks to Him and bad when it turns from Him.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce The Apostle Paul warns, some 2000 years ago, against being excessive in our acquisitiveness (greedy): "...godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content." 1 Timothy 6:6-8 "He who has God and everything else has no more than he who has God only.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

23 November 2011

Education of the Heart and the Mind?

I have an old book called "Poems Every Child Should Know."
The school teacher who compiled it includes teacher's notes before some of them. They were positively broadminded about what constitutes a proper education, as per the note here that precedes Shakespeare's poem.
Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou are not so unkind
   As man's ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen
Because thou are not seen,
   Although thy breath be rude.

Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,
Thou dost not bite so nigh
   As benefits forgot;
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
   As friend remembered not.

-- William Shakespeare

21 November 2011

Jesus, Lover and Friend

After Communion
Why should I call Thee Lord, Who art my God?
Why should I call Thee Friend, Who art my Love?
Or King, Who art my very Spouse above?
Or call Thy Sceptre on my heart Thy rod?
Lo, now Thy banner over me is love,
All heaven flies open to me at Thy nod:
For Thou hast lit Thy flame in me a clod,
Made me a nest for dwelling of Thy Dove.
What wilt Thou call me in our home above,
Who now hast called me friend? how will it be
When Thou for good wine settest forth the best?
Now Thou dost bid me come and sup with Thee,
Now Thou dost make me lean upon Thy breast:
How will it be with me in time of love?
  • .1830–1894)

14 November 2011


Here lies another day
During which I have had eyes, ears, hands,
And the great world around me;
And tomorrow begins another.
Why am I allowed two?
-GK Chesterton

09 November 2011

You Have the Infinite Attention of God

God is not hurried along in the time stream of this universe any more than an author is hurried along in the imaginary time of his own novel.
He has infinite attention to spare for each one of us. He does not have to deal with us in the mass.
You are as much alone with Him as if you were the only being He had ever created.
When Christ died, He died for you individually just as much as if you had been the only man in the world.
The way my illustration breaks down is this. In it the author gets out of one times series (that of the novel) only by going into another times series (the real one).
But God, I believe, does not live in a time series at all.
His life is not dribbled out moment by moment like ours: with Him, it is still, so to speak [a decade ago] and [50 years from now]. For His life is Himself.
If you picture time as a straight line along which we have to travel, then...picture God as the whole page on which the line is drawn. We come to the parts of the line one by one;
we have to leave A behind before we get to B, and cannot reach C until we leave B behind.
God, from above or outside or all 'round, contains the whole line, and sees it all.

  • C.S. Lewis from Mere Christianity