Monday, November 28, 2011

This is Home

“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. "
~ The Last Battle: C. S. Lewis
Every day this exclamation rings true in my heart, but some days it pierces me more acutely. There are the days when I believe the lies that I am not as cool as my friends, or that I am not intelligent enough. There are days that I feel less than average in my appearance. There are days when I feel like my friends underestimate (or ignore) my knowledge and skills... And days when I, too, believe that I am ignorant and useless. Days like these make me long for another world where being in the presence of The Superlative to every good thing does not make me feel worthless, rather it invigorates me to be more like Him.

The other time Lewis's phrase burns in my heart is when I look into the ashen embers of the eyes of Death. Whether someone I know dies, or the family member of a friend passes away, it makes me weep. I do not lament because there is no hope, rather because Death is not what we were created for. We were made to live, and Death mocks the very order of our creation. However, Death can only quench our life because we let him in through sin, and sin begets death.
"But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death."
~ James 1:14-15 (NKJV)

Death. It is an ugly word, worse yet, a hideous reality. One day Death itself will be turned on its head and what seemed such a certain reality will melt away. Death will be swallowed up in the Life of Christ Jesus the Lord. At least, that is the hope of those who believe on Christ Jesus for salvation from their wanton desires (those that lead to sin and death, as stated above). Being fully alive is also the hope of those whose desires cannot be satisfied by all that this world has to offer.
“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”
~ C. S. Lewis

Have you been looking all your life for another world? You were certainly made for another... And there lies real hope {confident expectation}. We must live here and now because this is where God has placed us. But we live here and now in the hope {expectation} that Redemption has happened, is happening, and that it will be fulfilled more deeply and richly than we could fathom or dare to dream in the world to come.
"...for them it was only the beginning of the real story. And all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: and now they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has ever read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before."

~ The Last Battle: C. S. Lewis

When we finally discover that there is a real country, a home that we never knew existed but still somehow always believed in, then every chapter really will be better than the one before. Worthless feelings, lies, and Death will all be vanquished by the King of Glory, the LORD strong and mighty. 'Blessed, blessed, blessed be He!'

~ Johanna

Monday, November 21, 2011

"Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, that without distance closeness cannot cure."
~ Henri J.M. Nouwen

Without the depths of the Valley of Loss, the Heights of Joy are not quite as invigorating as they could be. Without making room for stillness even the sound of a symphony becomes a cacophony blotting out clear thoughts.

Are we willing to walk through the Valley of the Shadow in order to know joy more fully? Do we practise silence by turning off the car stereo, or going for long walks without headphones or a cell phone? Do we thank God for the physical distance between us and our loved ones? Without that space the sweetness and gladness of seeing a long-missed friend or family member is dulled, sometimes into contempt. Do we welcome Sorrow, Suffering, and Grief as tutors to bring us to Joy and Hope and Revival?

Often paradoxes like these arrive in our lives; at first we see only trial, hurt, and brokenness. However, if we allow hard things to be our schoolmasters, we may learn from them and be strengthened by them. This often requires altering the paradigm of our perspective. Sometimes this change can be done manually, but other times it is only by asking God to open our eyes to His perspective that we can see redemption in hurtful and hard things.
"...pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world."
~ C.S. Lewis

Pain, Sorrow, and Suffering are not God's optimum way of obtaining our attention; yet He uses even these things for our good. He refines us, shapes us through hard things. We find indeed that hardships, distances, silence*, and ugliness help us to appreciate the Good, True, and Beautiful.

~ Johanna

*Silence is not a punishment, or a bad thing. It is actually a spiritual discipline. However, silence is needed to gain perspective on hard things.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

For the Beauty of the Earth

Some of my Oxford photos set to 'For the Beauty of the Earth'. The fact that I was able to attend New College (where many of the photos are taken) and live in England with awesome persons is definitely the highlight of my year (and my life to date).

Thank You, Jesus, for such an awesome opportunity!

What are YOU thankful for this year?

~ Johanna

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Snapshots of Life...

I finally realised that I can upload my own photos right onto my blog. This could make my posts a bit more colourful!

I got a new coat for $8 at Goodwill this week. The funny thing is, it is almost exactly what I was looking for last year when I found out I was going to England (minus the hood - someone detached that). Does that mean I get to go back to England?

Last week Andréa and Kasey came to Colorado and we visited the Summit Semester clan at Snow Wolf Lodge. In this photo we are sporting our Nebraska gear in honour of Kasey.

Aren't my flatmates absolutely Beautiful? :) We're just missing the lovely Jacqueline.

Er, um, during my second visit to Semester (Alumni weekend/Farvest Hall) some of the guests made almond butter... Laura and I may have decided that licking the spatula was the most responsible way to clean it.

That's all for now, merry Thanksgiving to one and all!
~ Johanna

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Christ Now and Then

"I wanted life itself, the colour and fire and loveliness of life. And Christ now and then, like a loved poem I could read when I wanted to. I didn’t want us to be swallowed up in God. I wanted holidays from the school of Christ.”
~ Sheldon Vanauken, A Severe Mercy (page 136)

There are many other, arguably better, quotations from A Severe Mercy. However, this one reminds me that I, too, don't always desire Jesus as I ought. It is sobering. Do I want holidays from the school of Christ? Sometimes. O God, help me to want more and still more of You!

In light of this struggle, I found another well-loved quotation from A Severe Mercy apropos:
“The best argument for Christianity is Christians: their joy, their certainty, their completeness. But the strongest argument against Christianity is also Christians--when they are sombre and joyless, when they are self-righteous and smug in complacent consecration, when they are narrow and repressive, then Christianity dies a thousand deaths. But, though it is just to condemn some Christians for these things, perhaps, after all, it is not just, though very easy, to condemn Christianity itself for them."
~ Sheldon Vanauken, A Severe Mercy

On the days I would rather have a holiday from the school of Christ, I find that I am not exhibiting the first characteristics Vanauken says are indicative of Christians. But even when I want holidays from the Master's school, the truth of Christianity does not shift or change. I shift, I falter like a shadow, but He is the light that dispels even my darkest desires. Persons may [rightly] reproach Christians, but no slander sticks to the Truth of Christ.

~ Johanna