After 12/7/2011, this blog will no longer be updated, although content will remain. Please visit my new blog at Hidden Latitudes.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christian Consiousness

   Christian consciousness begins in the painful realization that what we have assumed was the truth is in fact a lie….
   The lies are impeccably factual. They contain no errors. There are no distortions or falsified data.  But they are lies all the same, because they claim to tell us who we are and omit everything about our origin in God and our destiny in God. They talk about the world without telling us that God made it. They tell us about our bodies without telling us that their temples of the Holy Spirit. They instruct us in love without telling us about the God who loves us and gave Himself for us.
Eugene H. Peterson, from A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

     My youngest son (now 28 and soon to be a father) is a gifted artist. So it is with great fun we bring out his Christmas angel every year. He made it in Sunday School when he was three. We call it the Stephen King angel.
     A Blessed Christmas to you all.
     --W. S.

Monday, December 21, 2009

An Advent Prayer

Lord Jesus,
Master of both the light and the darkness,
send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations
for Christmas.
We who have so much to do,
seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.
We who are anxious over many things
look forward to your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways
long for the complete joy of your kingdom.
We whose hearts are heavy,
seek the joy of your presence.
We are your people,
walking in darkness,
yet seeking light.
To you we say,
Come Lord Jesus...
Henri Nouwen

Saturday, December 19, 2009

What is it?

(click photo to enlarge)

You will never guess (and I mean that—my guess was that it was a detail of some ancient tapestry) so I will tell you: It is a photograph of the surface of Mars, taken by a satellite 178 miles above the surface. The photo covers an area about half a kilometer (.3 miles) across. It has not been altered. Read more at the Top Ten Astronomy Photos of 2009.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

C. S. Lewis on Christ as Myth

You ask me my religious views: you know, I think, that I believe in no religion. There is no proof for any of them, and from a philosophical standpoint Christianity is not even the best. All religions, that is, all mythologies to give them their proper name, are merely man's own invention--Christ as much as Loki. Primitive man found himself surrounded by all sorts of terrible things he didn't understand--thunder, pestilence, snakes, etc: what more natural  than to suppose that these were animated by evil spirits trying to torture him. These he kept off by cringing to them, singing songs and making sacrifices, etc. Gradually from being mere nature-spirits these supposed being(s) were elevated into more elaborate ideas, such as old gods; and when man became more refined he pretended  that these spirits were good as well as powerful.
   Thus religion, that is to say mythology, grew up. Often, too, great men were regarded as gods after their death--such as Heracles or Odin: thus after the death of a Hebrew philosopher Yeshua (whose name we have corrupted into Jesus) he became regarded as a god, a cult sprang up, which was afterwards connected with the ancient Hebrew Jahweh-worship, and so Christianity came into being--one mythology among many, but the one we happened to have been brought up in...
--C. S. Lewis, on October 12, 1916 age 17.

Now the story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us in the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened: and one must be content to accept it in the same way, remembering that it is God's myth where the others are men's myths: i.e. the Pagan stories are God expressing himself through the minds of poets, using such images as He found there, while Christianity is God expressing Himself through what we call "real things". Therefore it is true, not in the sense of being a "description" of God (that no finite man could take in) but in the sense of being the way in which God chooses to (or can) appear to our faculties. The "doctrines" we get out of the true myth are of course less true: they are translations into our concepts and ideas of that wh[ich] God has already expressed in a language more adequate, namely the actual incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection. Does this amount to a belief in Christianity? At any rate I am now certain (a) That this Christian story is to be approached, in a sense, as I approach the other myths. (b) That it is the most important and full of meaning. I am also nearly almost certain that it happened...
--C. S. Lewis, on October 18, 1931, age 32, around the time of his conversion to Christianity.

Both quotes are from Letters of C. S. Lewis edited by Walter Hooper and W. H. Lewis

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Is my end near?

  Recently, I met with a dietician to discuss a diet plan that would help me shed some unwanted (and dangerous) pounds. In the questionnaire there was this question: "Why do you want to become healthier?" Of course, the list is long—to spend time with future grandchildren, to finish my novel, to go as far as I can down the road hand-in-hand with my wife.
   But I was feeling a bit frisky that day, so I replied, "I want to live long enough for Al Gore to become nothing more than the butt of a joke." The reply got a laugh and a nod from the dietician. I have nothing personally against Al Gore, but everything against him philosophically. I think he is disingenuous, a demagogue and a coward.
  Then Vice President Gore appeared on The Tonight Show and, in the course of his usual sermon, let loose this whopper:

   Actually, the core of the earth is somewhere in the neighborhood of  9000 degrees Fahrenheit. He only missed it by "millions of degrees." This is not atypical of Al Gore's message, and the only thing that makes him appear wise is that he won't debate anyone. Smart move.
   But here is my concern: Al Gore is becoming the butt of jokes. So, should I be sure my will and medical directive are up-to-date?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The faith of last resort

Man approaches God most nearly when he is in one sense least like God. For what can be more unlike than fullness and need, sovereignty and humility, righteousness and penitence, limitless power and a cry for help?
C. S. Lewis, in The Four Loves

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

God in the equation

    I am a person who has problems believing, and yet, in spite of them, perhaps because of them, I do believe. I think the right to doubt is one of the most important rights given to human beings. But I believe in God. In fact I never stopped believing in God—that's why I had the problem, the crisis of faith. If I had stopped believing, then I would have been much more at peace. It would've been okay to be disappointed in human beings. what else could you expect from a human being who is the object of seduction and all kinds of ambition, right? It is easier if God doesn't enter the equation. The moment you start to believe in God, then how can you accept the world? Do you then accept God's absence? Do you accept God's silence? God—why doesn't he tried to make people better, make them lead better lives and be kinder to each other? Why doesn't he do it? A few times he gave up. But the floods were not a punishment for sins against God but for crimes against each other. what are they doing to themselves? God thought. So he brought the floods. And it didn't help. I cannot understand two aspects of human nature: indifference and nastiness. I cannot understand. At my age, I should be able to understand. But I cannot. I do not understand. Indifference and nastiness on every level, on petty levels and on high levels.
Elie Wiesel, Author, Holocaust Survivor, Nobel Peace Prize Winner, quoted in The God Factor, by Cathleen Falsani.

Monday, December 07, 2009

On Book Critics

"George looked forward to writing his book, and even, dream upon dream, publishing his book. But he was insecure about the reading of his book, especially by critics and reviewers. Most of them, at least towards Southern writers, seem consciousless sadists, who enjoy stabbing and shooting naked people, yet are never brought to justice because no one actually bleeds or dies."

—from a work-in-progress. W. S.

Photo from wombatunderground1 via Flickr

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Holding contradictions in tension

"The Bible itself is absolutely teaming with contradictions. But the problem with Christianity—one of the many problems with Christianity—is that the contradictions don't seem to bother the Christians. They pick and choose and say under certain circumstances, 'Jesus said, "Turn the other cheek; love thine enemies.'" But then on a different day, with different motives they will quote the Old Testament, 'An eye for an eye,and a tooth for a tooth.' The problem is not with the contradictions themselves. I don't think the Bible is any less valuable because it's full of contradictions. The problem is Christians choose one or the other. And you have to choose both. You have to hold both of those ideas in your head at the same time."
—Author Tom Robbins, quoted in The God Factor, by Cathleen Falsani.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Afraid of strength?

   Perhaps I'm stronger than I think.
   Perhaps I am even afraid of my strength, and turn it against myself, thus making myself weak. Making myself secure. Making myself guilty. 
   Perhaps I am most afraid of the strength of God in me. Perhaps I would rather be guilty and weak in myself, than strong in Him I cannot understand.
Thomas Merton, in Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander