Pray Without Ceasing
Developing a consistent prayer life can be difficult. Focus does not come easily, and often I find myself praying when it "really matters" and not talking to God daily. When I do I am glad I did because I find myself and my perspective changing and bending towards God - through acknowledging who God is, articulating gratitude for all we have been given, and asking God to step in where I cannot and guide my steps where I can go.
This has been a really difficult week for our larger Chicago-metro area. I prayed a lot this Tuesday night as events in Chicago that 'really mattered' were unfolding. I prayed that God would protect our city. I prayed that God would keep our children safe. I prayed God would comfort the family of Laquan McDonald. And I prayed violence would not create more violence. I prayed for wisdom from city leaders, who, though easy to poke fun at, have much more difficult jobs than we will even imagine. So I prayed for all of the above and much more.
Richard Foster said "the hinge of human history is swung by those who pray with passion." I want to be that person. I want us to be a church full of those people. I want us to pray with passion and change the course of human events by faith. I want our first response to tragedy to not be snark, social media rants, or shallow, predictable left and right political 'answers'. I want us to beg God to intervene in ways seen and unseen so that truth and righteousness prevail... full of awareness and gratitude of all we have been given, and full of expectancy of what God does and WHO God is.
This Thanksgiving Day, if you get to sit down to eat a feast with family or friends, I want to encourage you to pray with those people closest to you. Tell God what you are grateful for, and yes, bless the meal and pray for those not able to be there. But what if God's people offered focused and humble and honest and authentic prayer to the events of our lives, our families, and our world that will dominate our side conversations once the prayer is done? I believe it could change so much, beginning with ourselves.
1. Call on God. 2. Humble yourselves in truly grateful thanksgiving and honest need. 3. Ask and trust God to heal us and those around us.
"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land." 2nd Chronicles 7:14
First Sunday of Advent
The Christian story is precisely the story of one grand miracle, the Christian assertion being that what is beyond all space and time, what is uncreated, eternal, come into nature, into human nature, descended into His own universe, and rose again, bringing nature up with Him. It is precisely one great miracle. If you take that away there is nothing specifically Christian left.
~ C.S. Lewis, "The Grand Miracle," God in the Dock, pg80.
First Monday of Advent
The Eternal Being, who knows everything and who created the whole universe, became not only a man but (before that) a baby, and before that a fetus inside a Woman's body. If you want to get the hang of it, think how you would like to become a slug or a crab.
~ C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p179
First Tuesday of Advent
He goes down to come up again and bring the whole ruined world up with Him. One has the picture of a strong man stooping lower and lower to get himself underneath some great complicated burden. He must stoop in order to lift, he must almost disappear under the load before he incredibly straightens his back and marches off with the whole mass swaying on his shoulders.
~ C.S. Lewis, Miracles, p148
First Wednesday of Advent
Just as every natural event is the manifestation at a particular place and moment of Nature's total character, so every particular Christian miracle manifests at a particular place and moment the character and significance of the Incarnation.
~ C.S. Lewis, Miracles, p143
First Thursday of Advent
In this descent and reascent everyone will recognize a familiar pattern: a thing written all over the world. It is the pattern of all vegetable life. It must belittle itself into some thing hard, small and deathlike, it must fall into the ground: thence the new life reascends. It is the pattern of all animal generation too.
~ C.S. Lewis, Miracles, p148
First Friday of Advent
The Incarnation was God's 'weak moment': when Omnipotence becomes a baby in a manger has 'weakened' itself.... The temptation...is precisely a temptation to evade the self-imposed weaknesses, to be strong, omnipotent, again - to make stones into bread, to be emperor of the world, to do 'levitations'. The weakness was the strength.
~ C.S. Lewis, Collected Letters III, p 409ff
First Saturday of Advent
No woman ever conceived a child, no mare a foal, without Him. But once, and for a special purpose, He dispensed with that long line which is His instrument: once His life-giving finger touched a woman without passing through the ages of interlocked events.
~ C.S. Lewis, Miracles, p182
Quest for Peace: Second Sunday of Advent
When the year dies in preparation for the birth
Of other seasons, not the same, on the same earth,
Then saving and calamity go together make
The Advent gospel, telling how the heart will break.
Therefore it was in Advent that the Quest began...
~ C.S. Lewis, "Launcelot", Narrative Poems, p95
The Gift of Judgement: Second Monday of Advent
Judgment is at hand, promise of judgment and threat of judgment.... It is the same sort of ambivalence which Christians have been taught to recognize in the season of Advent.
~ C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams, The Arthurian Torso, p157
God Shatters: Second Tuesday of Advent
My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself. He is the great iconoclast. Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks of His presence? The Incarnation is the supreme example; it leaves all previous ideas of the Messiah in ruins. And most are "offended" by the iconoclasm; and blessed are those who are not. But the same thing happens in our private prayers.
~ C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed, p78
What We Can Understand: Second Wednesday of Advent
We cannot conceive how the Divine Spirit dwelled within the created and human spirit of Jesus.... What we can understand...is that our own...existence is...but a faint image of the Divine Incarnation itself - the same theme in a very minor key.
~ C.S. Lewis, Miracles, p147
Just Like Your Father: Second Thursday of Advent
The Son of God became a man to enable men to become the Sons of God. We do not know...how things would have worked if the human race had never rebelled against God and joined the enemy.... You and I are concerned with the way things work now.
~ C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p178
Test of Greatness: Second Friday of Advent
[The great French writer] Montaigne became kittenish with his kitten but [it] never talked philosophy to him. Everywhere the great enters the little - its power to do so is almost the test of its greatness.
~ C.S. Lewis, Miracles, p147
Excitement Of A Child: Second Saturday of Advent
I have read [your book] Treasure on Earth and I don't believe you have any notion how good it is.... I've never seen the hushed internal excitement of a child on Christmas Eve better done. That is something we can all recognize.
~ C.S. Lewis, from "Letter to Mrs. Phyllis Sandeman", Dec. 10, 1952, Lewis' Collected Letters, III, pp261ff
His Name In This World: Third Sunday of Advent
Dear Hida (is that right?) Newman,
Thank you so much for your lovely letter and pictures.... As to Aslan's other name, well I want you to guess. Has there never been anyone in the world who (1.) arrived at the same time as Father Christmas. (2.) Said he was the son of the Great Emperor. (3.) Gave himself up for someone else's fault to be jeered at and killed by wicked people. (4.) Came to life again. (5.) Is sometimes spoken of as a Lamb.... Don't you really know His name in this world? Think it over and let me know your answer.
~ C.S. Lewis, from "Letter to Hila Newman," June 3, 1953, Lewis' Collected Letters, III, p.334
To Tell His Story: Third Monday of Advent
My brother and I took a day off last week, put sandwiches in our pockets, and tramped sixteen miles..from Dorchester Abbey to Oxford.... You would be surprised if you could see the unspoilt beauty and charm which can still be found.... I hope to send you the autographed children's book by Christmas, but will probably know more about its progress this afternoon, as I am going out to lunch with my publisher.
~ C.S. Lewis, "Letter to Miss Vera Mathews," September 20, 1950, Lewis' Collected Letters, III, p54
Greatness Comes In Smallness: Third Tuesday of Advent
"It seems, then", said Tirian..."that the Stable seen from within and the Stable seen from without are two different places."
"Yes," said the Lord Digory. "Its inside is bigger than its outside."
"Yes," said Queen Lucy. "In our world too, a Stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world."
~ C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle, p141
To Glorify And Enjoy: Third Wednesday of Advent
The Scotch catechism says that man's end is 'to glorify God and enjoy Him forever'. But we shall then know that these are the same thing. Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy him.
~ C.S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms, p97
A Gift To You For Others: Third Thursday of Advent
"Hadn't we better take what we want and get out again?" said Edmund.
"We must take the Gifts," said Peter.
For long ago at a Christmas in Narnia he and Susan and Lucy had been given certain presents which they valued more than their whole kingdom.... They all agreed...and there, sure enough, the gifts were still hanging. Lucy's was the smallest for it was only a little bottle.
~ C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian, p23
Christmas Shopping: Third Friday of Advent
From the waist upwards he was like a man, but his legs were shaped like a goat's.... One of his hands...held an umbrella: in the other arm he carried several brown paper parcels. What with the parcels and the snow it looked just as if he had been doing his Christmas shopping. He was a Faun. And when he saw Lucy he gave such a start of surprise that he dropped all his parcels.
~ C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, p8
Any Point In Going On?: Third Saturday of Advent
[The Queen of Narnia] "isn't a real queen at all," answered Lucy. "She is a horrible White Witch.... She has made an enchantment over the whole country so that it is always winter here and never Christmas."
"I wonder if there's any point in going on," said Susan.... "What about just going home?"
~ C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, p56
Jesus Saves: Fourth Sunday of Advent
Most of my books are evangelistic, addressed to [those outside the faith].
~ C.S. Lewis, from "Rejoinder to Dr. Pittenger," God in the Dock, p181
Peace On Earth: Fourth Monday of Advent
There! They're at it again. "'Ark, the errol hygel sings".... Boxing Day [December 26] is only two and a half weeks [away]; then perhaps we shall have a little quiet in which to remember the birth of Christ.
~ C.S. Lewis, "Delinquints in the Snow," God in the Dock, p310
Very Many Thanks: Fourth Tuesday of Advent
Once more, very many thanks to all your great goodness to me and mine: and with all best wishes for a happy Christmas.
~ C.S. Lewis, from Letter to Dr. Warfield Firor, Nov. 6, 1948, Lewis' Collected Letters, II, p889
Campaign of Sabotage: Fourth Wednesday of Advent
Enemy-occupied territory - that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed...and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage. When you go to church you are really listening-in to the secret wireless from our friends: that is why the enemy is so anxious to prevent us from going.
~ C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p46
Bring Religion Into Everything: Fourth Thursday of Advent
Just a hurried line...to tell a story which puts the contrast between our feast of the Nativity and all this ghastly "Xmas" racket at its lowest. My brother heard a woman on a bus say, as the bus passed a church with a Crib outside it, "Oh Lor'! They bring religion into everything. Look - they're dragging it even into Christmas now!"
~ C.S. Lewis, Letters to an American Lady, Dec. 29, 1958, p80
Give More Than We Can Spare: Fourth Friday of Advent
Charity - giving to the poor - is an essential part of Christian morality.... I do not believe on can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.
~ C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p86
Developed by Anchor Community Church, Ontario, Canada
Time to Feast!
It's almost here!
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday - well, top two for sure.
I love the food, the family... and the football.
A couple years ago, my family decided they needed to eat healthier. We basically showed up for the meal they had prepared, so we could hardly weigh in and suggest they not make any changes. But suffice to say, we were not as excited about a 'healthy' holiday.
Imagine our surprise when dish after dish was rich, savory, and exploding with seasonal flavor. By the time it was over I could hardly believe how delicious it had all been. In fact, I begged them to remember exactly what they had done so it could be replicated the next year!
God's heart for us is much the same. His commandments seem like they will curtail our lifestyles. Obedience sounds like it will be hard and taxing. His ways don't sound like our ways because they aren't... they are so much richer, so much deeper, so much more satisfying than our habits. But it takes a leap, or a surrender, to let go of the weaker option we know, and sit at the feast of goodness God is preparing for our lives.
As C.S. Lewis wrote :
"It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."
What a Gift!
What an amazing gift this last week is been. When the weather touches the 70s in early November, you have to be grateful. When we look back at how much snow we had already gotten it this point last year and then compare that to walking outside in shorts, it is truly a gift!
But sometimes it's hard to be grateful even with something as fickle as weather. Gratitude is not natural to entitled-inconvenience-driven suburbanites like ourselves. Yes that means you. Yes that means me. When we have the anticipation so much in life will break our way, we miss the good and gracious gifts that God gives - like the leaves in our front yard that brush against our legs in a November day in shorts. Even with goodness all around, gratitude can go forgotten.
There is a phrase that I keep repeating to myself when bitterness rises up: "You can thank your way out of any problem."
Chances are this week you will have someone or something or some circumstance that disappoints you. And the pain it causes will leach in. Each and everyone of us will be given the choice to sulk or to find a way to be grateful in all circumstances. Which one of those do you think God has asked of you as a follower of Jesus?
Make a choice to be grateful. Change your mind and heart and spirit. If you change yourself, everything around you will start to change.
The Widow's Portion
A year and a half ago our lives radically changed. We had waited 7 long years to have a baby, and his arrival meant the end of a season of adult life and the start of something totally new. The thing is, I was never a person who sought this particular role of caregiver voluntarily. I did not babysit as a teenager. Truthfully, it has always come difficult to me. So being a parent to a new person, a very NEEDY new person has been hard for my very selfish brain.
There are lots of seasons in our lives that lead us to focus on our deficits. Maybe the commute to your current job is taxing your time and emotional health. Maybe your relationship status makes you long for something different, more peaceful, more rich. Maybe your finances leave you feeling you are falling behind the 8 ball week after week with only uncertainty facing your future.
In the Gospels, Jesus is sitting with his disciples watching people give their offerings. In that world, it was a public event, on the way into the temple... imagine us parading our checks before we sat down in church. Jesus is irritated with the display until he sees a widow give a couple of small coins - so small it was a truly inconsequential amount. However, Jesus points her generosity out to his disciples, and the ages, explaining that "...Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” (From Mark 12:43&44)
This story is a great illustration of our love and advocacy for tithing. Throughout the scriptures, God invites us to give - not based on a certain sum or dollar amount - AND never to be impressive. Instead, God lovingly invites us to acknowledge all that He has given - our portion - and to offer from that honestly. God serves us each a dollop of resources- just like around the table at a meal.
What is your portion? What has God given you? Are you devoted to building God's kingdom from your portion?
Jesus lifted up the Widow - not JUST because she gave so generously of her portion. The widow was living the faith that seeks and finds our generous God. In one of his most important teachings, Jesus states that "whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much..." It may sound overly simplistic, but if God is who He says He is, then God met the widow with provision - and God will meet us the same. That full portion widow invested was a statement of outrageous and powerful faith! And her action undoubtably led to God's outpouring of care and faithfulness.
Simply put, we all want more. However, God CAN NOT increase our portion - any portion - that is not investing in the Kingdom of God with faith and love. How could God?
So if you feel like you have a widow's portion right now, it's okay to acknowledge that honestly. Give faithfully and generously with it and watch and see. God will meet you wherever you are. And if you are faithful with what the portion you have right now, small as it may seem, you will experience God's care and increase and provision. I believe that with all my heart, mind, and spirit.