“While discussing the growing antipathy towards Christians, a friend remarked to me, ‘There are three kinds of Christians that outsiders to the faith still respect: pilgrims, activists and artists. The uncommitted will listen to them far sooner than to an evangelist or apologist’. Although non-believers do not oppose a spiritual search, they will listen only to those Christians who present themselves as fellow pilgrims on the way rather than as part of a superior class who have already arrived. Activists express their faith in the most persuasive way of all, by their deeds. And art succeeds when it speaks most authentically to the human condition; when believers do so with skill, again the world takes note.”
Philip Yancey – Vanishing Grace
There’s a lot of wisdom there. It often feels as if we’re meant to be more sure of having all the answers – but that seems foolish.
Regardless of our belief, our view of the world is no more valid than anyone else’s. The journey of life is equal to us all. Holding a Christian belief makes for no less fumbling around in the dark, we’re just believing to have seen a light only visible from the minds eye.
I wish we as the church could live pilgrimage better than we do.
Receptivity is not a single thing; it is a compound rather, a blending of several elements within the soul. It is an affinity for, a bent towards, a sympathetic response to, a desire to have. From this it may be gathered that it can be present in degrees, that we may have little or more or less, depending upon the individual. It may be increased by exercise or destroyed by neglect. It is not a sovereign and irresistible force which comes upon us as a seizure from above. It is a gift of God, indeed, but one which must be recognised and cultivated as any other gift if it to realise the purpose for which it was given. Failure to see this is the cause of a very serious breakdown in modern evangelicalism. The idea of cultivation and exercise, so dear to the saints of old, has now no place in our total religious picture. It is now too slow, too common. We now demand glamour and fast flowing dramatic action.
A generation of Christians reared among push buttons and automatic machines is impatient of slower and less direct methods of reaching their goals. We have been trying to apply machine-age methods to our relations with God. We read our chapter, have our short devotions and rush away, hoping to make up for our deep inward bankruptcy by attending another gospel meeting or listening to another thrilling story told by a religious adventurer lately returned from afar.
The tragic results of this spirit are all about us. Shallow lives, hollow religious philosophies, the preponderance of the element of fun in gospel meetings, the glorification of men, trust in religious externalities, quasis-religious fellowships, salesmanship methods, the mistaking of the dynamic personality for the power of the Spirit: these and such as these are the symptoms of an evil disease, a deep and serious malady of the soul.
For this great sickness hat is upon us no one person is responsible, and no Christian is wholly free form blame. We have all contributed, directly or indirectly, to this sad state of affairs. We have been too blind to see, or too timid to speak out, or too self-satisfied to desire anything better than the poor average diet with which others appear satisfied. To put it differently, we have accepted one another’s notions, copied one another’s lives and made one another’s experiences the model for our own.
A.W Tozer, 1948.
We’ve come a long way.
If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.
C.S Lewis – Mere Christianity
One day soon we will round a bend in the road, and our dreams will come true. We really will happily ever after. The long years in exile will be swept away in the joyful tears of our arrival. Every day when we rise we can tell ourselves, my journey today will bring me closer to home; it may be just around the bend. All we long for, we will have; all we long to be, we will be. All that has hurt us so deeply will be swept away
John Eldridge – Epic
Sometimes a human life can seem no more meaningful than a fish flopping on a shore. Writhing. Out of its element. And I would love to tell you that the real problem in life is we believe we are writhing when we aren’t, but that’s not true. My spirituality, that is Christian spirituality, doesn’t tell me to close my eyes and pretend life is beautiful and there are no problems to confront. I’m told, instead, I am out of water, and if I want to find water again, I must go in search of a different kind of water. All of us have been washed on the shore. We all have issues, we are all broken. The brokenness we experience, the brokenness that mingles in our DNA, is a kind of fallout from the fall of man. Men and women were made to be in relationship with God, but because of the fall of man, we aren’t.
The Scripture that states if an earthly father knows how provide for his children, how much more God knows how to provide for his speaks volumes in its antithesis, too: if an earthly father abandons his children and wrecks their lives. how much more would an abandonment from God destroy a human? As I look at humanity, I can only describe the human personality as designed for a relationship with something from which it has been separated. I hear it in conversations, read it in books, listen to it in music, interpret it through psychology, and so on and so on. The idea of this separation has come to feel obvious to me.
God did not leave because he wanted to; he left because he had to. His nature defines good, and people wanted something he didn’t want. He separated himself from us but he didn’t abandon us.
Donald Miller – Father Fiction
“Shattered dreams open the door to better dreams, dreams that we do not properly value until the dreams that we improperly value are destroyed. Shattered dreams destroy false expectations, such as the “victorious” Christian life with no real struggle or failure. They help us to discover true hope. We need the help of shattered dreams to put us in touch with what we long for, to create a felt appetite for better dreams. And living for the better dreams generates a new, unfamiliar feeling that we eventually recognise as joy.”
Larry Crabb – Shattered Dreams (p32)
Viktor Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist who survived Auschwitz during World War II and chronicled his experiences afterwards. I read this bit yesterday:
There was plenty of suffering for us to get through. Therefore, it was necessary to face up to the full amount of suffering, trying to keep moments of weakness and furtive tears to a minimum. But there was no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bore witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer. Only very few realised that.
Viktor Emil Frankl – Man’s Search for Meaning
The concept of it requiring courage to suffer’s an interesting one. Guess without fear there can be no courage; with courage being found in the face of fear as opposed to the denial of it, demanding an engagement with weakness as opposed to running from it.
To live is to suffer, and suffering hurts. Pain and discomfort are guaranteed to make life messy, but through the embrace and expression of them it seems we claim a greater dignity and strength; that of being human and knowing ourselves to be alive.
Real men (and women) suffer and cry it seems (or at least aren’t afraid to).
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
Preach it Theo.
There was a real railway accident,” said Aslan softly. “Your father and mother and all of you are – as you used to call it in the Shadowlands – dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.”
And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
C.S. Lewis – The Last Battle
Finished reading Blue Like Jazz last week. It was great. Honest. Authentic. Spiritually it felt like taking a very deep breath. It left me feeling proud to be me and excited about Jesus. I can be quirky and awkward with people sometimes. It reminded me that thats ok though. God made me the way he did. He loves me outrageously just as I am. He’s immensely proud of me. I know that. What about other people though… will they ever be as accepting…?
This bit made me smile:
I don’t want to get married right away. I think it will take me a while after I meet the right girl. I like being single. I am one of the few who like it. I want to marry a girl who, when I am with her, makes me feel alone. I guess what i’m saying is, I want to marry a girl whom I feel completely comfortable with, comfortable being myself. I can be very immature and awkward in moments, and I want to be able to be like that with her and not have her walk away or be embarrassed.
I’ve had about fifty people tell me that I fear intimacy. And it is true. I fear what people will think of me, and that is the reason I don’t date very often. People really like me a lot when they only know me a little, but I have this great fear that if they knew me a lot they wouldn’t like me. That is the number one thing that scares me about having a wife because she would have to know me pretty well in order to marry me and I think if she got to know me pretty well she wouldn’t like me anymore.
Donald Miller – Blue Like Jazz (p142)
Disney’s old school robin hood. Its a special special film. Seriously. 83 minutes cuteness and carnage. Love it. Anyways, in the middle of one of the more carnage moments (above) Little John chips in with “Who’s driving this flying umbrella?”. I’ve adopted it and made it synonymous with God’s sovereignty over my life. When things seem out of control and I feel pressure to keep up, it gives me a light-hearted way of remembering that Gods got a far firmer grip on my life than i’m able to appreciate. I may make certain active choices in my life but its God who determines my every step. Continuing along these lines, i’ve been read this recently. I thought it was interesting.
Even before his birth, Jacob’s future had already been determined by God. There was nothing conditional about the promise. God simply decided that he would bless Jacob. No matter what he did, no mater where he roamed, no matter how hard he hustled, the blessing was waiting for him. As simple as that promise was, Jacob could never understand it. That is because he kept thinking the future was determined by the decisions of the present. The blessing claims, however, that the present is determined by the future.
We live in a society that bombards us with choices. We can choose whom we will love, where we will live, what we believe and how we will spend our time. Our government lets us choose our leaders and our politics. Our churches let us choose our worship styles. Our families let us choose what we will do for a living. It is easy for us to think that all of these choices are critical for determining our future. If we make good choices, then our lives will turn out fine. And if our lives have not turned out as we dreamed, we have only ourselves to blame. That is why Jacob hustled through every day of his life. He was certain that the only way he could get the future he wanted was to make the choices today that would lead him there.
The bible claims that is exactly wrong: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” God has already written the end of your story. By grace it ends wonderfully. There isn’t anything you can choose to do that will make it end any better. If you know that story ends well, then the only choice that is really left is to enjoy the mystery as it slowly unfolds. That is the path called faith.
M. Craig Barnes – Hustling God (p21/22)
The Puritans can get stick for being legalistic and judgemental killjoys. But they were deeply reverent, sincere in their spiritual piety and committed to biblical doctrine. They sound pretty intense and probably didn’t play quite enough football, but i’ve much respect for their commitment toward God.
Here’s a prayer from back in the day. More intense than we’re used to yes, but I love the sentiment behind it.
As I cross the threshold of this day
I commit myself, soul, body, affairs, friends to thy care;
Watch over, keep, guide, direct, sanctify, bless me.
Incline my heart to thy ways;
Mould me wholly into the image of Jesus, as a potter forms clay;
May my lips be a well-tuned harp to sound thy praise;
Let those around me see me living by thy Spirit,
trampling the world underfoot,
unconformed to lying vanities,
transformed by a renewed mind,
clad in the entire armour of God,
shining as a never-dimmed light,
showing holiness in all my doings.
Let no evil this day soil my thoughts, words, hands.
May I travel miry paths with a life pure from spot or stain.
In needful transactions let my affection be in heaven,
and my love soar upwards in flames of fire,
my gaze fixed on unseen things,
my eyes open to the emptiness, fragility,
mockery of earth and its vanities.
May I view all things through the mirror of eternity,
waiting for the coming of my Lord,
listening for the last trumpet call,
hastening unto the new heaven and earth.
Order this day all my communications according to thy wisdom, and to the gain of mutual good.
Forbid that I should not be profited or made profitable.
May I speak each word as if my last word, and walk each step as my final one.
If my life should end today, let this be my best day.
(“Morning Dedication”, The Valley of Vision)