Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Made for Some Reason

Surely a man of genius composing a poem or symphony must be less unlike God than  a ruler? But the man of genius has no mere by-products in his work. Every note or word will be more than a means, more than a consequence. Nothing will be present solely for the sake of other things. 
If each note or word were conscious it would say, "The Maker had me myself in view and chose for me, with the whole force of His genius, exactly the context I required." And it would be right – provided it remembered that every other note or word could say no less.

~ C. S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm Chiefly on Prayer (pp. 54-55)

Words, words, words: God made the world and its contents with them. By the word of His mouth the heavens stand firm. The Son of God is called the Word (logos). Moreover, God reveals Himself most expressly in the words of a story contained in a book. That story is the great Story, complete with a plot, interwoven themes, protagonist, antagonist, and damsel in distress. The Story has a beginning, a plight, a climax, a liberator, an ultimate sacrifice, and is still in the throes of climax resolution. God tells His Story in a variety of lives and through numerous means: poetry, philosophy, narrative, historical accounts, and letters.

Did you know that you are a part of God's grand Story? Not only that, but in "the whole force of His genius" you are in the exact context that you require. You should not have been born two hundred years ago, nor two thousand years hence. You should not have been born into a different culture, on a different continent, or to a different family (even though your family life may have extreme brokenness, God can redeems and use even that). You should not try to be someone or something you are not. You do not have to fit into the box the world offers you. You were made to be the exact person you are to carry the Story further. Your line is not just your own, but it fits into the context of the Story right now.

This idea from Lewis surfaced in another book I read recently:  

"Did you ever notice that all machines are made for some reason?" [Hugo] asked Isabelle. "They are built to make you laugh, like the mouse here, or to tell the time, like clocks, or to fill you with wonder, like the automaton. Maybe that's why a broken machine always makes me a little sad, because it isn't able to do what it was meant to do... Maybe it's the same with people," Hugo continued. "If you lose your purpose... It's like you're broken."
 ~ Brian Selznick, The Invention of Hugo Cabret (pp 374-375)

If we lose our purpose, if we seek a different context than the one chosen for us, it is like we are broken. We are like a line read out of time, dropping the rhythm and rhyme. Have you ever felt out of time? As if your line had no context at all, let alone the 'exact right' sort? Perhaps you don't know what to do after school, or what job to look for, or whom you should marry, or whether you ought to remain single, or where you should live.  Maybe you feel trapped where you are. Are you really trapped, or do you no longer fit inside a constantly shrinking space?  Like a piece in a complicated machine, you will not simply 'do' in one of a number of places. You must fit exactly where the Maker has intended for you to go from the beginning.

That you are here—that life exists, and identity;
That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.

 ~ Walt Whitman, O Me! O Life! (from Leaves of Grass)

And as Mr Keating (from my favourite film, Dead Poets' Society) asks his class, I ask you: what will your verse be?

~ Johanna

Saturday, May 19, 2012

In Ten Thousand Places

As today has been a lovely rainy day, I decided to record Hopkins's poem, "As Kingfishers Catch Fire" for fun. Many of the photos I took in England, a few I found on-line.

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came.

I say móre: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is —
Chríst — for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men's faces.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Wind in the Willows

Cold rain falls from a dark and misty sky tonight. In fact, the whole day has been the sort in need of a mug of tea and a good book. Thankfully, I have had much of both. While I cannot share mugs of tea via my blog, I can share the story to which  I have been listening. It is none other than the belovéd The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. 

The above is Mr Grahame's gravestone at Holywell Cemetery, Oxford, England. When I was in England it had been some 15+ years since I read Grahame's delightful book. Listening to it now I can see why it is so well-loved by many persons in various times, and at all ages. Some of my favourite persons, Sheldon and Davy Vanauken, read this classic along the banks of the Thames during their Oxford years. I love them even more for it.

The story is one of friendship (friendship when it hurts, or is hard and trying to be a friend), the ache of Beauty, adventures, and having a home to call one's own. Typing that out fails miserably in conveying the depth, scope, and joy of the book... Thus, I encourage you to click on the title above and listen to the book in full - or pick up a copy from the library. You may find yourself at a loss for words, yet completely understanding, the sweet pain described in the meeting of "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn"; or laughing at the all-too-true-of-ourselves antics of the four friends. 


~ Johanna

'It's gone!' sighed the Rat, sinking back in his seat again. `So beautiful and strange and new. Since it was to end so soon, I almost wish I had never heard it. For it has roused a longing in me that is pain, and nothing seems worth while but just to hear that sound once more and go on listening to it for ever. No! There it is again!' he cried, alert once more. Entranced, he was silent for a long space, spellbound.
 `Now it passes on and I begin to lose it,' he said presently. `O Mole! the beauty of it! The merry bubble and joy, the thin, clear, happy call of the distant piping! Such music I never dreamed of, and the call in it is stronger even than the music is sweet! Row on, Mole, row! For the music and the call must be for us.'...
...`Rat!' he found breath to whisper, shaking. `Are you afraid?'
`Afraid?' murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love. `Afraid! Of HIM? O, never, never! And yet--and yet-- O, Mole, I am afraid!'
~ The Wind in the Willows: The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, by Kenneth Grahame

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

With Our Lives

ALMIGHTY God, Father of all mercies, we, Thine unworthy servants, do give Thee most humble and hearty thanks for all Thy goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all men; We bless Thee for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all, for Thine inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.
And, we beseech Thee, give us that due sense of all Thy mercies, that our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful; and that we show forth Thy praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up our selves to Thy service, and by walking before Thee in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with Thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, world without end.   Amen.

We prayed this prayer during Evensong tonight. Much of the content gave me reason to pause and think, though the service swirled on around me.

"...give us that due sense of all Thy mercies, that our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful..."   
Am I unfeignedly thankful? Without pretence, without contrivance do I thank God for little things? The orange rosebush or purple allium along my morning walk are cause for praise. As are the sweet-scented lilacs, spicy poppies, and soft snowy dogwood petals. May their beauty cause me to bow the knee in worship to the One who is Beauty.

Often I wonder if I am truly grateful for the things most of us take for granted. I certainly appreciate hearing out of both ears clearly now, after having a blocked ear for a few weeks not long ago. And I am often thankful for running water and water pressure in my shower, having had times without both. There is a greater appreciation for  a 'common' thing when I have lost that thing for a time. How sad when the separation of death causes one to realise how much they loved another!

I pondered, too, being thankful in all things - in trials, loss, suffering, and pain. I have been reading some thoughts by Amy Carmichael on her response to a great injury that befell her. The injury caused her to be bed-ridden for the last 20 years of her life. She could have been bitter. She had times of frustration. However, she chose to let God use that loss as a gain - for His glory. She trusted His goodness in all things. Miss Carmichael was able to give thanks as Paul said:
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (I Thessalonians 5:16-18)
~ ~ ~

"...and that we show forth Thy praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up our selves to Thy service..."
On my kitchen window I have a line, paraphrased from a prayer written in the front of my Bible. The prayer is this:  
 Lord, I give up all my own plans and purposes, all my own desires and hopes, and accept Thy will for my life. I give myself, my life, my all utterly to Thee, to be Thine forever. Fill me and seal me with Thy Holy Spirit. Use me as Thou wilt. Send me where Thou wilt, and work out Thy whole will in my life at any cost, now and forever.  ~ Betty Scott Stam
That last line is rather frightening. Am I willing for God to send me where He wilt? Am I willing to give God my life at any cost, or are some things, dreams, or persons too dear to really mean that? 

The General Thanksgiving calls for much the same as Mrs. Stam's prayer: that I might show forth God's praise in my whole life, sacrificing myself to His service. Sometimes His service is pure bliss. Sometimes it is weary drudgery. Other times sacrifice is lonely or painful. Often, surrender is freeing, if we would but do it. There's the rub - am I willing to give up myself to God's service, or will I serve my flesh?

~ ~ ~

" walking before Thee in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord..."
Holiness and Righteousness all our days... Does anyone even believe a person can be those things? Many persons in Scripture were called 'righteous' persons, and we know they were not sinless. So it seems that a 'normal' person can be righteous. Further, the Bible commands believers to be holy as God Himself is Holy; and Peter calls Christians 'holy priests'. 

Note how the prayer book says this holiness and righteousness is accomplished: 'through Jesus Christ our Lord'. It is not our own goodness spoken of, or our own efforts that make us holy. It is Jesus Christ working in and through us that brings about change. This is only done when we lay down our wills (now, at any cost), and ask Him to be very present at work in us.

Are YOU unfeignedly thankful?

Is your life showing forth God's praise?

Are you allowing God to purify you with His Holiness, and to make you righteous?

~ Johanna