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In the Hallway

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“I just want to be a Christian” . . . it’s the refrain of the last few months. Often followed by “Is that a thing?”

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About every third time I voice it, Steven suggests I read CS Lewis’ Mere Christianity. Apparently, he faced the same perplexing conundrum. According to Steven’s paraphrased synopsis, Lewis concluded that denominations are rooms off the hallway of Christianity and while you can take a breath in the hallway, you can’t live there.

I am currently in the hallway. It’s not that I have become disgruntled with one denomination and enamored with another. I think, if I’m honest–which I strive to be, I’m annoyed with people who claim Christianity in general.

I have found myself over the last year frequently considering what Jesus would think of what we call Christianity today. What would he think of how we use his words as weapons for our own agendas, disregarding any carnage as long as we can say it’s in the Bible.

And one night I found myself posing this question: Even if Jesus was simply a rabbi, a teacher as mortal as me, how would he like what has happened to his words? Being a former teacher, I can relate to the feelings one incurs when what is taught is perverted. Therefore, if I believe Jesus is the Son of God, wholly man and wholly God, how much more should I consider what he thinks about the usage of his teachings?

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When I read the “red letters” I find love, compassion, empathy, forgiveness. Any condemnation is directed at the mistreatment of any person, often that mistreatment couched in the letter of the law. Jesus was a law breaker in that he didn’t allow tradition to keep him from compassion. Some might even say he used common sense. You don’t leave a donkey in a ditch to die, therefore, if you can help your fellow man, you do. Jesus didn’t pal around with perfect people because perfect people don’t exist. He offered grace. He offered love. He offered acceptance. . .all to the outcasts. In doing so, he illustrated that we are all outcasts. And if we think we have to be perfect to deserve love, we never will feel worthy of love–so he showed love to those who had been denied love and acceptance–the lepers, the beggars, the tax collectors, the tent makers, the fishermen, the women.

This is the Christian I want to be. I don’t care if you’re dunked or sprinkled. If your accountability to God includes a priest or doesn’t. If you drink grape juice or wine. If you have music or chants. If you sit in silence or speak in tongues. Or any of the other litany of differences among denominations.

Eventually, I will find myself back in a room. One I probably won’t agree with 100% because churches are great except they have people (as my dad once said).

But what it will have to do is show love and compassion and grace and acceptance for all us outcasts.

Morning Musings

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Hang on. . .I don’t really know what’s going to hit the page.  I logged into my account with no real intentions.  But I feel an itch to write a few words.  So, let’s see what happens.

Grasshopper continues to grow.  At our last ultrasound (I get extras because of my age) s/he was in the 99th percentile for size.  This kid is going to be big.  I’m not overly surprised by this as I was 12 pounds 9 ounces and my husband was no teeny tiny thing either.  Plus, we’re both tall. I’ve known since I was like 12 that were I ever blessed with a baby it would be large.  Only seems fair.  At any rate, Grasshopper is doing well and has been quite active the last several days.  Makes me wonder if s/he is turning around (it was breach at the last ultrasound). Our doctor is pleased with everything, as are we.  I can’t stay out of the baby’s room. . .I just walk in there and look around.  I don’t actually do anything.  Just look and then leave.

Grasshopper july 10

Grasshopper at 27 weeks 4 days. Look at those chubby cheeks!

We’ve decided that our dog, Daisy, who has taken to following me around the house is not really following me.  She’s following Grasshopper.  I find animal behavior interesting.  I don’t understand it, but it’s interesting to speculate their intentions.  We have now been pregnant five times.  The only one that Daisy barked at was Nugget, the first one.  Nugget is the one that was ectopic. Steven says it isn’t beyond imagination that Daisy knew something was horribly wrong; dogs can sense seizures before they happen.  At any rate, she has been quite attached to me in the last four or so months, similar to how she reacted when I came home from the hospital after breaking my leg.

I’ve been re-reading The Chronicles of Narnia.  I’m at The Last Battle now.  It is my LastBattlesecond favorite following The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Though, I must say I thoroughly enjoyed The Magician’s Nephew this time around as well.  I remember as a kid that once I got past Dawn Treader I lost interest in these books.  They didn’t have enough of the Pevensies in them for me.  Now I appreciate them on a whole different level.  There’s a great debate about CS Lewis writing the series as an allegory for Christianity.  He, himself, actually denied this claim.  Allegory has some relatively strict rules about it–everything has to stand for something else.  It’s difficult to make absolutely everything in the series match to something from Christianity.  However, it is not difficult to see the influence that Christianity has on the series.  It’s my personal belief that Lewis’s faith was so strong and so entwined in his living and breathing that it permeated everything he did.  Therefore, it had no choice but to influence Narnia.

Many people don’t believe that re-reading books makes sense.  A short thought on that. . .there’s a maxim that states we never step into the same river twice.  Well, we never step into the same book twice.  We come to a book a second time being different people. . .we have had new experiences that have shaped our thoughts.  We notice new things.  Perhaps we read more slowly and thoughtfully.  I don’t propose that we re-read every book we’ve ever read, but I find the practice refreshing and renewing quite often.

Six weeks ago I had a life coach session.  The coach pointed out that I talk about words a lot.  And that when I was a child, words and creating with words was important to me.  He encouraged me to continue to explore ways that my words could help give me purpose.  I can’t say that I’ve focused as I should on the goals we set up six weeks ago, but I have ruminated on it in quiet times.  I’m thinking about how to fashion this little corner of the internet into something that is more regular and structured.  We’ll see. It was an exciting session that helped me feel alive. Stay tuned.

Ok. . .I have an errand this morning, so my time has expired for sitting here musing.  Thanks for joining me.

Lessons from Narnia–Edmund

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Chronicles“‘Please–Aslan,’ said Lucy, ‘can anything  be done to save Edmund?’

‘All shall be done,’ said Aslan. ‘But it may be harder than you think.'”

And so it is apparent that Edmund needs saving.  And notice Lewis’ use of the dash in Lucy’s plea, drawing out the intensity of her desire to help her lost brother.  As an English teacher, that dash speaks volumes.  As a Christian, I feel the anguish.  She wants nothing more.

Our dear Edmund not only needs saving from the White Witch, but he needs saving from his own selfishness.  He betrayed his siblings, his brethren, for the promise of pleasure and notoriety and position.  There are inferences we can make about why he desires these things–Peter is the oldest and receives much attention; Edmund never seems to do things quite right; Edmund wants to be grown up and taken seriously and the White Witch offers him this.  But let’s be honest.  When you boil all those things down, Edmund really just wanted to be noticed, pure and simple.  In his humanness he desired attention.

Was it selfish?  Of course.

Are we all like this? Absolutely.

We want to feel important to others.  We want to be valued.

It is a constant struggle to put ourselves aside and do as Paul instructs: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)

And herein, I am so like Edmund.  How do I put those things aside?  That desire to be valued and important and let others’ needs be ahead of my own?

It is only through God.

“‘Here is your brother,’ he [Aslan] said, ‘and–there is no need to talk to him about what is past.'”

Isn’t that beautiful? God takes it; oh, how so very often I need God to take what is past and help me move on.  It is in what happens next that I learn from Edmund.

“‘You have a traitor there, Aslan,’ said the Witch. Of course everyone present knew that she meant Edmund. But Edmund had got past thinking about himself after all he’d been through and after the talk he’d had that morning. He just went on looking at Aslan. It didn’t seem to matter what the Witch said.”

Edmund keeps his eyes on Aslan and all that he was doesn’t matter.  It doesn’t matter what the Witch tries to stir in him–doubts, grief, shame–Edmund’s eyes are on Aslan.  Later, as he continues to focus on Aslan he realizes that nothing is expected of him–no more apology, no begging, nothing–except to wait and do as he is told by Aslan.

I will fail; it is in my nature.  I will fight my selfishness.

But it will be a much easier fight if I keep my eyes on God.

He has already done all to save me though it was much harder than I can ever imagine.

Quotations from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis copyright 1950, Collier Books Macmillan Publishing Company, New York.

Lessons from Narnia–Eustace

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ChroniclesI asked my BFF which character I should discuss in this week’s Lesson from Narnia. She said less people would talk about Eustace, so I should go with him. To this, I said “Ah, Eustace is my favorite.” This caused some surprise on her part–she doesn’t care for him.

Let’s see if I can explain why Eustace is my favorite.

Yes, Eustace is an insufferable prick in the beginning of The Voyage of the “Dawn Treader.” And not just in the beginning. He stays that way for a long time.

But it is Eustace, therefore, that has the most astounding transformation.

Eustace is a hateful child. He’s mean to his cousins, Lucy and Edmund. When he gets sucked into the painting with them he whines (and, oh, how I hate whining). Then to top it all off he turns out to be thief.

But perhaps this is the start of why he is my favorite. I see my own flaws through him. How many times have I whined because I’ve been sucked into something that I really didn’t want to experience? Here he is in one of the most beautiful lands and all he can do is whine. I’ve done that. How many times have I treated those around me with disdain? And how many blessings have I robbed others of?

But Aslan knew that he had to suck Eustace into Narnia so he could be transformed. . .and, boy, is he.

Eustace’s thievery leads him to literally becoming a dragon. A miserable dragon, but one who starts to realize that he has been wrong. Thus my favorite passage in the entire series. It’s on page 90 in my copy of The Voyage of the “Dawn Treader”. It’s too long to quote completely here. . .but here’s some of its beauty:

“Well, he [Aslan] peeled the beastly stuff right off–just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt–and there it [dragon skin] was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. . . . After that it became perfectly delicious. . .I found all the pain had gone from my arm.”

There is so much in just this little bit of my most favorite pages. First, it takes Aslan to dig deep enough that ALL the bad is stripped away. Eustace tried, but he didn’t go far enough; often we only see the surface of our own darkness. Then it hurt. Yes, stripping away our fears, our insecurities, our flaws and faults–it hurts. But then do you see what happened? Then it was delicious. And finally, Eustace is smaller than he was. He recognizes his inadequacies as just a mere man.

It is only with God that we can be so transformed. I love that CS Lewis recognizes the pain of that transformation, but immediately highlights the delicious freedom of it as well.

As I said last month. . .I am more of a Eustace (or an Edmund–who’s still coming in our lessons). I need God to strip away the things I hide behind, and though it is terrifying and often excruciating, I know that the final result will indeed be delicious.

Lessons from Narnia–Emeth

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“Do I believe the Word of God is infallible and absolute? Yes, I do. Do I believe that my, or anyone else’s, understanding and interpretation is infallible and absolute? Absolutely not.”

My dad wrote those words several weeks ago. And not long afterwards I ran across The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe while channel surfing.

I first read The Chronicles of Narnia as a child. Chronicles I loved them. I loved Lucy. I wanted to be like her. She trusted Aslan so completely, even though she didn’t trust herself all the time. But I’m more an Edmund or a Eustace. But I think I’ll save those “lessons” for another post. What really happened when I watched the movie again the other night is I thought about the seventh book (funny that the first book made me think of the last one).

I think it’s because of my dad’s words. They were bouncing around in my head and that brought up CS Lewis’ character from The Last Battle, Emeth. Emeth always fascinated me as a child and as an adult when I re-read the series. Emeth has an encounter with Aslan when everyone goes “further up and further in.” While watching the proceedings before going through the stable doors Emeth wonders why his god has not struck down those that have mocked Tash. When he encounters Aslan, Emeth tells him honestly, “I have been seeking Tash all my days.” Aslan says back to him, “Beloved. . .unless thy desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what they truly seek.” LastBattle

I’m not sure why my dad’s words and this particular section of the series have tied together in my mind unless it’s because I’ve been singularly challenged in the last few months by the differences in denominations. It seems when we say, wow, that’s different it often is interpreted as “that’s wrong.”

But is it?

John 14:6 says “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” If my denomination and your denomination believe that simple fact, then we are the same. How the Holy Spirit leads us to interpret some of the other verses or leads us to worship, well, I can’t find anything that gives me the authority to say you’re wrong and I’m right.  Just different. Paul says in I Corinthians and Romans that we are not to cause each other to stumble and in I Thessalonians 5:11 he tells us to encourage one another and build each other up. If we are constantly saying that you’re wrong, then how is that encouraging you to be in the Word and allow the Holy Spirit to work in you?

I feel that CS Lewis is on to something when he has Aslan say to Emeth that when you truly seek you will find. It mirrors Christ’s words in Matthew 7:8 “For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”  Who am I to judge your intentions, the purity of your seeking, and the heart of your worship?

And I think my dad is on to something as well. The Holy Spirit leads the interpretation of the Word.

We are all different. But perhaps we should start looking for the things that are the same.