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Posts Tagged ‘Wonder’

Thank You C.S. Lewis

May 24, 2008 1 comment

I just finished The Last Battle, and my heart was stirred afresh by the cries, “Further Up and Further In!” My fourth grade teacher introduced our class to C.S. Lewis by reading portions from the Chronicles of Narnia each day in class. Then I read the books myself, and it was the first time as a youth that I had any longing for the kingdom of God. I didn’t know what I was longing for until I was older, but Lewis’s words awoke this yearning that only grew as I grew older.

Recently I listened to all the audio books again (and realized that I think I somehow skipped the Silver Chair as a youth). After all these years the stories still worked their magic. I felt foolish driving down the road blubbering at various transcendent points in the tales.

So thank you C.S. Lewis for you gift of another world. You helped to train my eyes to see glimpses of the kingdom around me and my ears to hears echoes of a new creation song.

Thank You Notes – G.K. Chesterton

May 9, 2008 1 comment

G.K. Chesterton’s writings helped restore my eyes to the wonder of this world and the marvel of God’s goodness revealed in this creation. His chapter, “The Ethics of Elfland” in Orthodoxy stands as one of my all time favorite chapters in a book. In Chesterton I disocvered the grace of God working in the imagination to awaken faith.

The gift of Chesterton is the gift of “eyes to see.” Our busy schedules, personal trials, and distracted imaginations can blind us to the wonder of God. Whether telling the story of Thomas Aquinas, revealing Jesus as the “Everlasting Man” or writing poems about an upside down world, Chesterton consistently shouts and sings out as the merry jester that penetrates my heart with delight in the goodness of God.

As his warm love and laughter stirred in my mind and heart, I found my clouded vision finally opening every so slightly to the marvel of creation, the wonder of life, the miracle of love that God pours out continually upon his people. Thank you G.K.

You’re words have been medicine for my soul.

Read all Thank You Notes.

Advent – Open your eyes

December 21, 2007 Leave a comment

Every time I watch “Miracle on 34th Street,” I get a strange, hopeful feeling that this just might be true. Who knows? The guy in the red suit down at the mall might just be the real thing. All of the sudden, the anxious, excited, hopefully pangs of childhood stir in my belly. Instantly, I remember visiting Santa Claus as a child. Instantly, the past becomes the present.

I don’t remember ever being afraid of Santa…or clowns for that matter. I do remember being shy and a little bit nervous. The kind of excited nervousness one might feel when looking out across the Niagara Falls. Standing that close to such concentrated power is both exhilarating and a little overwhelming. That’s how Santa made me feel. Someone with such awesome power was nearby.

During Christmas, Santa visited Gimbels, our local department store. During the rest of the year, other visitors appeared: the Jolly Green Giant, Humpty Dumpty, a variety of clowns and a host of other storybook characters. Each time we came to the store, I would peer at them through the racks. My heart raced, my hands sweated, and I stood awestruck just watching these otherworldly characters.

For a little boy with large imagination, these characters somehow represented the sacred, the holy other. The limitations of our world did not confine them. Their sizes, their colors, their powers and their stories all broke the ordinary conventions of this world. These characters were extra-ordinary.

At some point, the clock struck midnight and the magic of childhood evaporated. The big clowns climbed back in their little cars and drove away. Santa lost his sleigh and became just another sales associate trying to help the malls make more money.

Yet from time to time, I feel the pangs again. From time to time, I begin to see again and sometimes even believe. When I watch movies like “Miracle on 34th Street” I wonder, “Is it possible?” Then like waking up from Dorothy’s Oz, I see these characters all around me—in the faces of my friends.

As I look at my friends, I realize that the characters never really did disappear. They’ve been with me, all along. I just grew accustomed to the magic and lost my sight.

All these larger than life characters, like Santa Claus and the Jolly Green Giant, exaggerate certain features. Santa has an unlimited supply of gifts for the world. The Jolly Green Giant is jolly, green and a giant. Chesterton used to say, “All the exaggerations are right, if they exaggerate the right thing.” Maybe a little exaggerated giving is not so bad. And of course, no one can be too jolly. Can they?

As far as green goes, well, I’m not sure what to say. But my folks did tell me about a man who ate so many carrots his skin turned orange.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that I have known some pretty exaggerated characters in my life. I once had a friend who was convinced he possessed some of Spiderman’s abilities. And I must admit, he did seem to climb up walls fairly easily.

I had another friend who wanted to possess some mind reading power. He would tell people to think of a card and then promptly present the supposed card. Usually the thought and the card did not match. He may not have been a mind reader, but he did possess an amazing discernment of people and their moral fiber. In college, I studied Astronomy with a guy who looked like he came right off the mountaintop with a shaved head, overalls and big teeth. And yet, he was a know it all: a real one. He really did know it all. His ability to remember facts and details astounded me.

The more I look around, the more I realize these fantastic fairy tale characters are real people. And they’re everywhere I turn. They’re in front of me in the grocery store. They’re beside me on the highway. They’re taking my lunch order.

I’ve come to believe everyone I meet is extra-ordinary. There is no ordinary person. Each person is exceptional, unique, larger than life, and mysterious.

I could spend a lifetime studying one person, any person, and never fully plummet the depths of their mystery. Created in the image of God, human persons reveal aspects of wonder and glory that can be breathtaking. Their power for good, and evil, is overwhelming.

In the common graces of God, each person I encounter is wonder-filled. When I finally begin to see this, I feel the pang again. I realize I’ve been born into a fairy tale world of fascinating characters. There are no ordinary, common unexceptional people. Each person is a treasure, a marvel, a glorious being, a sacred other. In spite of our flaws, I can see through each person to see the hand of our Creator, revealing His glory in all things.

This season I am seeking new eyes to really see the majestic wonder of all the people around me. Open your eyes, you might be surprised at who you might meet.

Advent – Santa and the Wonder of Belief

December 20, 2007 Leave a comment

Here’s a meditation I wrote 3 years ago about the magic of Christmas. Like Chesterton, I learned to believe in God in the fairy tales of childhood. Here is on attempt to capture that believe in wonder.

Every year cartoons and movies retell the same story: the story of a child or an adult who has lost the wonder of Christmas, “the Christmas spirit.” Every year the tale of innocence and experience is retold through the lens of Santa Claus and a heart that needs only believe.

Christmas is the time when we hope, we wish, we dream it might all really be true. Of course, we know better. And yet deep within us there is a longing for that place called the North Pole. The sophisticated refuse to waste their thoughts or time with such pointless dreaming, ah but the child in all of us longs for the dream to come true.

In our Christmas stories, we express the truths our imagination knows to be true, even when our intellect says otherwise. I believe that our stories embody our deepest beliefs: the beliefs that are fundamental to our whole understanding of the world.

Some parents hoping to protect their children give them presents but refuse to give them the stories of Christmas. But maybe stories are more important than an endless supply of boxed toys that will soon be discarded. Long after the specific toys are forgotten, the stories will be remembered. The stories shape us: they shape the boundaries of our imagination; they shape our understanding of the world—both seen and unseen.

And what do our Christmas stories tell us? What we believe really matters. The magic of Christmas is veiled to the unbeliever. For them it is only commerce—buying and exchanging of presents. But for those who believe, we know the Christmas present reminds us that the greatest treasures cannot be purchased: they can only be received as gifts. The believer offers milk and cookies in gratitude.

After we sit in the glow of our twinkling Christmas trees inside, we might notice the glorious glow of our trees outside: and for that matter our grass and our bushes may look a little brighter. The world around is not as dull and dreary as we had come to believe, but is really an explosive symphony of light.

When we see the Santa strolling through the mall, we reminded of a goodness and a kindness and an unending benevolence just north of all we can see or hear.

We are not alone.

And who knows how often we entertain angels unaware?

In the swirl of Santas, and snowmen, and songs of sleigh rides, we discover something else—a lean to, a broke down barn, a rustic shelter. Inside this stable lies a baby that bears the hopes of all the ages.

Once again, the manger is an embarrassment to the sophisticated. How could the God of the ages come to earth as a poor child? Yet this tragically beautiful tale captures the imagination: a virgin with child, a cold winter night, no place in the inn, a miracle birth, shepherds and angels and wise men. And in the center of the story: the hope of hopes lying helpless on the hay.

This is the myth of myths, the story of all stories. The story of the God who comes to earth as man—not to betray the world, not to oppress or destroy but to love in weakness. To embrace the downtrodden, love the unlovely, heal the broken heart, preach freedom to the captives, the bear the weight of every pain, every fear, every sin, to overcome evil with goodness, and to overcome death with life forevermore.

We fear the story is too good to be true. Because ultimately we fear good stories cannot be true. We’ve seen too much pain, too much loss, too much needless suffering. We’ve lost our innocence to the dark reality of this cruel world. In the midst of this dark world, a light still shines.

Dare we believe? Dare we become childlike again? Dare we believe that our stories were pointing to something real? Dare we believe in someone who created us for a life beyond all we ever could hope or imagine?

This Christmas we might truly discover the Spirit of Christmas. Or rather, he might waken us to the wonder of a love that we have longed for all our lives.

“O come let us adore him, Christ the Lord.”

Advent 3

December 5, 2005 Leave a comment

Jesus wept.

If He wept, I am certain He laughed. For he who goes forth weeping, will come again rejoicing.

Jesus reveals the God to man. At the same time, he reveals man to man. We forget who we are and what makes us human. Like scribbles on pad, we become distorted figures, drained of the glory and wonder and the power of being human–of being childlike.

In the twilight of our fading images, we forget. We forget the wonder of this world. We forget the terror of the night. We forget the joy of a blade of grass. We forget the magic behind every bush. We forget to laugh hundreds of times a day. And we forget to cry.

We sniffle. In fact, we may shed a tear or two on occasion. But most of us no longer have the capacity to cry: to turn red and scream out at the top of our lungs, to fall down in anguished groans; to cry out with our whole body.

Jesus cried so hard he shed tears of blood.

Yet most of us will attend funerals and feel embarrassed if our cry is loud enough for anyone else to hear. It’s okay to shed a tear, but to fall to the ground; to scream out and pound our chests; to tear our clothes in agony is unthinkable. We’ve forgotten how to cry.

Jeremiah cried and cried and cried. He emptied his heart and body onto the ground in desperate sobs and moans. He says, “My eyes fail with tears, my heart is troubled; my bile is poured on the ground.” And he calls out to all who can hear him, inviting, commanding them to join in the anguish: “O wall of the daughter of Zion, let tears run down like a river day and night; give yourself no relief; give your eyes no rest.”

What could be so horrible, so painful, so desperate that would cause a person to cry until he almost died? The end of the world. His world ended before his very eyes. Babylon besieged Jerusalem. Sickness and famine consumed the city. People fell dead in the streets. Mothers ate their own children. The temple was burned to the ground. The heavens and earth were consumed by fire.

He watched the world that he knew, that he loved, that he prayed for, die a tormented death. And he cried.

“Oh, that my head were waters,
And my eyes a fountain of tears,
That I might weep day and night
For the slain of the daughter of my people!”

There is a cry so deep that sounds can no longer express the twisting of the heart inside. The soul comes undone. There is a grief that rips into the fiber of every human. On occasion, people like Jeremiah enter into it. Most of us run in terror from such deep distress. In that breaking grief, we feel the grief of this world, and we know: everything is not all right.

The earth grieves and groans and cries out for redemption. This grief beats in the heart of all things. It is this anguish, this tortured agony, this pulsing pain that can only find respite in the appearing of the Lord, the Parousia!

Despite our bravado; despite our arrogant self-sufficient attitude: all of us are desperately weak. Evil and chaos and sin has enslaved every human heart. In our cool, calm satirical smiles, we may mock the emotionally weak. We are too strong to cry and have become too weak to be human. We can no longer sustain any pure passion: genuine joy and sorrow fade and we live a bland mediocre existence.

It is only by His grace alone, that we can honestly admit our weakness and face our brokenness. It is only His grace that allows us to desperately cry out for the “Parousia!”

In the lonely hours of the dark night, the rhythm of mourning gives way to the rhythm of expectation.

He is coming!

And he comes. He comes with healing in his wings. He comes to comfort the broken heart. He comes to exchange beauty for ashes. He comes to strengthen the weak knees. He comes to baptize us in the fire of His love.

As we celebrate this Advent waiting, may He grant us the privilege to go out weeping and to return again rejoicing.

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