Friday, July 24, 2015

He Turned Out All the Lights

I’ve been listening to the audio version of a book written by Barbara Brown Taylor, “Learning to Walk in the Dark.”
I’ve listened to it on several recent road trips. On the 4th of July when I went to help Emily move her stuff out of the house where she was temporarily staying. And again, recently, when I went to visit my mom. I also checked out the ebook version so I could find and reread the snippets that caught my attention.
I am mesmerized by this woman’s voice. She narrates the book herself and does an amazing job. She was an episcopal priest for years but eventually left the church. (She wrote a book to tell about her experience….Leaving Church)
Perhaps she honed her speaking skills behind the pulpit....? I am also intrigued with her writing style. Sometimes she conveys her thoughts in very long run on sentences, cobbled together with commas, colons, semicolons and dashes. She gets her point across in an almost long winded, lyrical way.
My last post talked about a late night (very dark) journey when Shasta met Aslan. It broaches the subject of learning to walk in the dark. While Taylor acknowledges that, at first glance, darkness in scripture seems overwhelmingly negative there are also verses that say something different. There are stories that tell of great things that are said/done/accomplished at night or in the dark.

In the Message, in Job Chapter 19 Job laments:
God threw a barricade across my path—I’m stymied; he turned out all the lights—I’m stuck in the dark. He destroyed my reputation, robbed me of all self-respect. He tore me apart piece by piece—I’m ruined! Then he yanked out hope by the roots. He’s angry with me—oh, how he’s angry!

Perhaps the treasures hidden in the darkness are not easily seen until we are back in the light once again. We think God is mad at us but it is often in our darkness that we meet God. I met him there during a very tumultuous period of my life that was indeed dark, scary and overwhelming.
I will give you the treasures of darkness And hidden wealth of secret places, So that you may know that it is I, The LORD, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name. 
So does God really turn out the lights? That is the age old, oft pondered (and more oft argued about) paradox of determinism versus free will. That has been a major sore spot for me in my relationship with God but it’s true; scripture indicates that He does, sometimes, turn out our lights ..for his purposes....and for our good.
God dwells in deep darkness. God comes to people in dark clouds, dark nights, dark dreams and dark strangers in ways that sometimes scare them half to death but almost always for their good--or at least their renovation. God does some of God’s best work in the dark. From a sermon delivered by Barbara Brown Taylor at the 2014 Festival of Homiletics in Minneapolis, Minn

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

When God Hides Himself....

The inspiration for my last post was several quotes by Milada Horáková; excerpts from a letter she wrote to her teenage daughter the night before Horáková was scheduled to be executed. She urged her daughter to learn the difference between dazzling tinsel and real gold...and not to "drop real gold from her hand" in pursuit of tinsel.

One of my favorite, yet most irksome, verses in the Bible is in the book of Job Chapter 23

8“But if I go to the east, he is not there; if I go to the west, I do not find him.9 When he is at work in the north, I do not see him; when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him.10 But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold. NIV

It seems to me this verse in Job and Horáková's advice are related. I'm not sure if Horáková was a person of faith or not...and after reading several articles about her principles, her career, her courage and her execution, I'm still not sure. But her thoughts on real gold versus tinsel run deep and true. Job declares that he will emerge as gold when it is all said and done. He will surely know the difference between gold and tinsel.

I found it comforting that the Young's Literal Translation renders Job 23:10 this way:

For He hath known the way with me, he hath tried me -- as gold I go forth.

With in you are not alone even though you may feel like you are….

And I came upon another excerpt while researching (okay...googling) for this series of posts.

The following looooong excerpt is from The Horse and His Boy. Thanks to Gavin Ortlund for posting it on his Soliloquium Blog….and thanks to to CS Lewis for originally writing this scene in his tales of Narnia series. I find it beyond profound when I remember that the lion represents Christ.

And to C.S. Lewis, Aslan did represent Christ. When replying to a fan who wrote to tell him how much she enjoyed The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Lewis said:

The idea in my mind was, “supposing there were other worlds, and if one of them was like Narnia - and if it needed saving - and if Christ went to save it as He came to save us - let’s imagine what shape and name He might have taken there.” And the answer was Aslan.”

Keep that in mind as you read….

And being very tired and having nothing inside him, (Shasta) felt so sorry for himself that the tears rolled down his cheeks.

What put a stop to all of this was a sudden fright.

Shasta discovered that someone or somebody was walking beside him. It was pitch dark and he could see nothing. And the Thing (or Person) was going so quietly that he could hardly hear any footfalls. What he could hear was breathing. His invisible companion seemed to breathe on a very large scale, and Shasta got the impression that it was a very large creature. And he had come to notice this breathing so gradually that he had really no idea how long it had been there. It was a horrible shock.

It darted into his mind that he had heard long ago that there were giants in these Northern countries. He bit his lip in terror. But now that he really had something to cry about, he stopped crying.

The Thing (unless it was a person) went on beside him so very quietly that Shasta began to hope that he had only imagined it. But just as he was becoming quite sure of it, there suddenly came a deep, rich sigh out of the darkness beside him. That couldn’t be imagination! Anyway, he has felt the hot breath of that sigh on his chilly left hand.

If the horse had been any good – or if he had known how to get any good out of the horse – he would have risked everything on a breakaway and a wild gallop. But he knew he couldn’t make that horse gallop. So he went on at a walking pace and the unseen companion walked and breathed beside him. At last he could bear it no longer.

“Who are you?” he said, barely above a whisper.

“One who has waited long for you to speak,” said the Thing. Its voice was not loud, but very large and deep.

“Are you – are you a giant?” asked Shasta.

“You might call me a giant,” said the Large Voice. “But I am not like the creatures you call giants.”

“I can’t see you at all,” said Shasta, after staring very hard. Then (for an even more terrible idea had come into his head) he said, almost in a scream, “You’re not – not something dead, are you? Oh please – please do go away. What harm have I ever done you? Oh, I am the unluckiest person in the whole world.”

Once more he felt the warm breath of the Thing on his hand and face. “There,” it said, “that is not the breath of a ghost. Tell me your sorrows.”

Shasta was a little reassured by the breath: so he told how he had never known his real father or mother and had been brought up sternly by the fisherman. and then he told the story of his escape and how they were chased by lions and forced to swim for their lives; and of all their dangers in Tashbaan and about his night among the Tombs and how the beasts howled at him out of the desert. And he told about the heat and thirst of their desert journey and how they were almost at their goal when another lion chased them and wounded Aravis. And also, how very long it was since had had anything to eat.

“I do not call you unfortunate,” said the Large Voice.

“Don’t you think it was bad luck to meet so many lions?” said Shasta.

“There was only one lion.” said the Voice.

“What on earth do you mean? I’ve just told you there were at least two lions the first night, and -”

“There was only one, but he was swift of foot.”

“How do you know?”

“I was the lion.”

And as Shasta gaped with open mouth and said nothing, the Voice continued. “I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you as you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.”

“Then it was you who wounded Aravis?”

“It was I.”

“But what for?”

“Child,” said the Voice, “I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own.”

“Who are you?” asked Shasta.

“Myself,” said the Voice, very deep and low so that the earth shook: and again “Myself,” loud and clear and gay: and then the third time “Myself,” whispered so softly you could hardly hear it, and yet it seemed to come from all around you as if the leaves rustled with it.

Shasta was no longer afraid that the Voice belonged to something that would eat him, nor that it was the voice of a ghost. But a new and different sort of trembling came over him. Yet he felt glad too.

The mist was turning from black to grey and from grey to white. This must have begun to happen some time ago, but while he had been talking to the Thing he had not been noticing anything else. Now, the whiteness around him became a shining whiteness; his eyes began to blink. Somewhere ahead he heard birds singing. He knew the night was over at last. He could see the mane and ears and head of his horse quite clearly now. A golden light fell on them from the left. He thought it was the sun.

He turned and saw, pacing beside him, taller than a horse, a Lion. The horse did not seem to be afraid of it or else could not see it. It was from the lion that the light came. No one ever saw anything more terrible or more beautiful.

Luckily Shasta had lived all of his life too far south in Calormen to have heard the tales that were whispered in Tashbaan about a dreadful Narnian demon that appeared in the form of a lion. And of course he knew none of the true stories about Aslan, the great Lion, the son of the Emperor-over-sea, the King above all High Kings in Narnia. But after one glance at the Lion’s face he slipped out of the saddle and fell at its feet. He couldn’t say anything but then he didn’t want to say anything, and he knew he needn’t say anything.

The High King above all kings stooped towards him. Its mane, and some strange and solemn perfume that hung about the man he, was all around him. It touched his forehead with its tongue. He lifted his face and their eyes met. Then instantly the pale brightness of the mist and the fiery brightness of the Lion rolled themselves together into a swirling glory and gathered themselves up and disappeared. He was alone with horse on a grassy hillside under a blue sky. And there were birds singing.

I. love. this. More to come....

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Tinsel or Gold?

But in order to be a truly positive person in all circumstances, one has to learn how to distinguish real gold from tinsel. It is hard, because tinsel sometimes glitters so dazzlingly. I confess, my child, that often in my life I was dazzled by glitter. And sometimes it even shone so falsely, that one dropped pure gold from one's hand and reached for, or ran after, false gold.

This quote was written by Milada Horáková the night before her execution on June 27, 1950. She was convicted of high treason; found guilty of plotting to overthrow the communist regime in Czechoslovakia.  It is an excerpt from a letter she wrote to her 16 year old daughter.

I came upon it on a blog called Letters of Note, a website that features under the radar correspondence from/to famous people. If you love obscure quotes that you can't find on sites like BrainyQuotes, it is an interesting place to visit.

It makes me wonder what I might feel compelled to write to my kids if I knew I was going to die tomorrow. She was a brave woman. She was very wise. I’m not sure I could write anything as profound as what she penned in the letter. I wonder if she wept as she wrote it. I wonder if she questioned the choices she made in her life....whether what she thought was gold what actually tinsel.

One day, when you grow up, you will wonder and wonder, why your mother who loved you and whose greatest gift you were, managed her life so strangely. Perhaps then you will find the right solution to this problem, perhaps a better one than I could give you today myself. Of course, you will only be able to solve it correctly and truthfully by knowing very, very much. Not only from books, but from people; learn from everybody, no matter how unimportant! Go through the world with open eyes, and listen not only to your own pains and interests, but also to the pains, interests and longings of others.

Until my last breath I shall pray for your happiness, my dear child!