Thursday, September 6, 2012

A New Life

I have been thinking about new life lately because my son, Peter, and his wife, Sarah, became parents of a baby boy in June; he was born by C-section. I was struck by a picture of them minutes after the birth. Peter has baby Alex cradled in his arms, and has laid the baby and his own head on the operating table next to Sarah. Peter and Sarah are together enveloping Alex in smiling beams of love and happiness, as well as the warmth of Peter's arms.

But baby Alex seems oblivious to them, and his face looks anguished. It is as if he were saying, "This is terrible! I have just been through great trauma! I've been pushed on and pushed on, over and over. And then I was grabbed out of my warm, soft, snug world, into glaring light and cold air, with nothing around me! People poked me! What kind of horrible thing has happened to me?"

Alex seems to have no idea that two strong and loving people are encircling him with love and care. He has no idea that what he thought was his secure and comfortable world would have been his tomb had he remained in it a few weeks longer. All he knows is that the world has changed, seemingly for the worse. He liked his old life.

But how things had changed a month later! My son put a video of Alex on their website, showing him responding in happy smiles, and even a laugh, whenever my daughter-in-law whistled. In the video, Alex can't take his eyes off of his mother. He is obviously delighted to be with her. Even when she picks him up and moves him around, his eyes never leave her face. He loves her.

Alex has discovered that his new life is better, far better, than his old one. His new life makes him smile and laugh! There is a mommy, and a daddy, and even a sister, in his new life. Before going through the trauma of birth, he had no way to imagine these things, no knowledge that could give him a clue about them. But once he was on the other side of birth, there those wonderful people were. Now that he has them, he would never choose to give them up and go back.

Alex's experience reminds me of two other things, changes that many of us fear and yet that may lead us to wonders beyond our imaginings.

One of them is becoming a Christian and handing over our lives to Jesus. Many people do not want to relinquish control of their lives to anyone else. They don't want to make changes by stopping doing what is fun or pleasurable, perhaps having to change some enjoyable habits. Similarly, a relative of mine was an alcoholic for years and didn't want to quit because she thought it would be boring to be sober.

But once we truly give ourselves to Christ, we find treasures that we did not even know existed. There is a richness and a joy that is beyond the imagination of people who aren't Christians. The old habits that we thought we loved seem like nothing to us; it's no problem to give them up, because we don't care about them any more. My relative, who has been sober for years now, says that she loves it; it's not one bit boring, it's richly fulfilling. She had not been able to imagine that before she tried it. It is the same with being a Christian.

The other change that many of us fear is dying. Most people dread it. We are usually happy here, or at least it seems better than dying. We don't know what it will be like to die. Very few people would willingly go to their deaths. This life is usually at least comfortable and familiar. Death is frightening, and it may be traumatic.

But what is on the other side of that dying? If we are Christians, what we will find when we die is Jesus and all the joys of eternal life with Him. We don't know what that will be exactly, but we do know that it will be so great and beautiful that we can't even imagine it. We think that in this world we are secure and comfortable, like baby Alex thought he was in the womb. But when we pass through death to new life, we will be filled with joy, like baby Alex is now with his family surrounding him with love and care. It is not to be feared; when we are Christians, it is to be anticipated with gladness.

We are so blessed to have a God that we can trust, and to have a new life to look forward to with joy.

Monday, February 27, 2012


{This is a post from 2007 that I wrote on a different blog, and I am reposting it here.)

Today I was on the floor again.

Syncopal episode is the term that the doctor uses for it. I just say "I fainted." It happened on Saturday evening when I was exercising, and it happened again today after I walked up some stairs at work and sat down at my desk. Today, once again, I found myself wondering why I had lost control of my thoughts, and then I realized that I was actually down on the floor, waking up.

After the first time, I had gone to see the doctor. That was yesterday, and she had ordered an EKG. When the EKG was done, the nurse looked at the results and said, "It's abnormal, but I don't know what it means." Then she left the room.

A year and a half ago, I was going through breast cancer treatment. Now with the nurse's announcement of an abnormal EKG, it looked like maybe I was going to have another health issue. So I decided it would be a good time to pray.

"Dear God," I started, and then paused, and then the thing that seemed right to me to say as I continued was: "whatever!" And what I meant by that was, "whatever the outcome of this is, whether I have heart problems, or something else, or nothing at all, it's in your hands, God, and I'm OK with that. I don't actually need to ask you for an outcome of any kind, because I trust you with anything. I'll just wait and see what happens and try to be your witness to the people I encounter in whatever the situation is." And although I only used the one word, "whatever", I think God knew what I meant.

The reason I was able to pray this prayer, instead of asking God to keep me from illness or harm, was because of the cancer I had just gone through. He had been with me in a strong and loving way throughout that time, and had shown me in many ways how much he cared for me (see here and here). Because I knew this, I had suddenly realized, when I started to pray, that I had no fear of any new illness.

The doctor then came in and told me that the EKG looked identical to the one I had two years earlier, so it wasn't really abnormal after all. However, she wanted me to see a cardiologist. And I was actually in the process of making that appointment when I fainted again today. And Microsoft Security came, and the paramedics came, and off I eventually went to the ER!

Now I'm sitting in a hospital room, admitted for observation and tests, and I still feel the way I felt when I prayed yesterday: I am not afraid. A new illness might even be a new adventure in learning more about the depth of God's love. For what can separate us from the love of Christ? Certainly not illness. "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39).

No, I still say, "Dear God--whatever! I'm with you, and that's all that matters."

Friday, February 3, 2012

Unknown Future, Known God

This is a post that I wrote in January 2009, on another blog. I'm reposting it here because, although some aspects of it are dated (Obama hasn't just been inaugurated, my husband got a job, lost it, and now has another, I work elsewhere now, etc.), the general message it contains is, I believe, timeless.


This is a scary time here in our country, and even around the world. True, many people have been rejoicing in the last few days over the inauguration of President Obama. But that hasn't made the economic crisis go away. I work for one of the most well-known companies in America, generally regarded as safe and secure: Microsoft. But yesterday, two days after the inauguration, Microsoft laid off around 1000 people, and announced that more jobs would be eliminated in the next 18 months. My job is still intact. But who knows what the future holds?

My husband lost his own job four months ago. The non-profit Presbyterian renewal group he worked for was a victim of the economic climate, and had to eliminate several positions. Now I'm our sole breadwinner, working for a company that is planning reductions in staff. And there are so many other families like us.

The papers are talking about the possibility of a second Depression. We're approaching retirement age. What does that mean for us? What does it mean for our children, for our three-year-old granddaughter, or the other grandchildren still to be born? It's easy to feel fear thinking of this possibly cloudy future.

At work yesterday, the Christians at Microsoft were talking via e-mail about the layoffs. Some of them were among those who had been let go. One of our Christian brothers in India sent the words from a poster he used to have. The poster had said this:

Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.

We certainly have an unknown future right now! But we also most certainly have a known God. His constancy, love, and care for us are known from the Bible. But they are also known from our experience with him. I know from going through cancer a few years ago that I can absolutely rely on him to get me through any hard time, to sustain me and support me and give me what I need to get by. He doesn't leave us when we're in need.

In fact, God's goodness and love are so great that, when I had cancer, I found that he can make a hard time into a time of blessing and relationship with him that can bring joy beyond imagining. It was a surprise; I hadn't expected it. But it was a wonderful surprise! Others have had this same experience. The hardness of the hard time fades away next to the joy--the joy that comes with the deepening of the relationship with God that happens in the hard time.

So, yes, he is a known God, and what is known about him is so wonderful that, when I read that sentence, "Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God," it actually gave me a thrill. It made me remember that I don't need to fear. In any future, he'll be there. So even if that future is hard, we'll have him with us, and that will make it good.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

God Cares about the Desires of our Hearts

I was out of work for eight months, but now I have a job. How I came to have that job, and other aspects that have to do with it, is, I believe, a story of God's incredible goodness.

I was laid off from Microsoft, where I had worked as a linguist for eleven years, in May 2010. (During the time I'd been at Microsoft my husband had become pastor of a tiny church, and we had left the large church where I had been a member of a huge choir for fifteen years.) Because there aren't any other linguistic tech jobs here in the Seattle area for native speakers of English, and the academic field has moved on since I was last in that world, I started looking for an admin-type job. But I was overqualified and also too old. So eight months went by fruitlessly until I was contacted out of the blue by my former choir director, Scott, who is head of Worship and Music at our former large church. Scott asked me to work as his interim administrative assistant. Eventually he offered me the job permanently.

Meanwhile, last fall when I heard that that choir was going to present Mendelssohn's oratorio Elijah as a concert, I had asked Scott if I could sing in it. He had explained that many people would like to sing just for the concert, and he had to limit the choir for it to Sunday morning singers. I understood that, but was bitterly disappointed, since I had wanted to do Elijah for years, and didn't know if I'd ever get another chance. My husband, Jim, can attest to the fact that I often complained to him ("Can you believe they would do Elijah after we left?").

So after I started working at that church, I asked Scott if I could just rehearse with the choir, and he said yes. That was plenty good enough for me; just to sing the amazing words with other believers was wonderful. I had been singing with a secular chorus in the interim, and I remember the thrill I felt at the first rehearsal back with the church choir, as I sang with other believers the words from Elijah: "Our God is one Lord, and we will have no other gods before the Lord." But then about a month before the concert Scott invited me to join them for the concert, too, since I was on staff, and that was icing on the cake.

Here's how I think God was working in this: I could not for the life of me find a job, though I was diligently applying to jobs right and left. And then Scott contacted me with a job I did not even expect, working with people I highly respect and enjoy, at a familiar church, and in the department of that church that I was most at home in. That in itself shows God's care for me, to provide for me a job that is not only just a job, but one that makes me happy. But that's not all. God took thought for the desires of my heart--to sing in Elijah. Such an unimportant thing, yet it meant so much to me. I can still hardly believe that God would work this out, yet He did. He cared that much about such a little detail in my life.

What an amazing God!

There are more unknowns in Jim's and my future. They may not be wrapped up as neatly as this. But I know for sure that if God cared for me this way, that this is one more piece of evidence that He is a God to be trusted. We can go forward secure in His love.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

So Great and Beautiful

(This post is part of a series of posts about The Chronicles of Narnia.)

After the utmost desperate battle to save Narnia from its enemies, its last king, Tirian, has ended up inside a little stable, along with Eustace and Jill, who had come from our world to help him. But instead of the dangers they expected to encounter there, they find instead Peter, Edmund, Lucy, Digory, and Polly, the other friends of Narnia, and all are dressed richly as kings and queens. Back in England, they had all been about to meet at a train station, some on the arriving train, some waiting on the platform, when suddenly there had been a terrible noise and jerk. Eustace and Jill had found themselves with Tirian. The rest were in the supposed stable, which had turned out to be a wide open, sunny country, not a dark hut.

Not long after, Aslan, the Christ-figure Lion, joins them, and then they watch as, through the stable door (standing incongruously in the middle of the wide country, yet opening to Narnia), he puts an end to Narnia and its world. They mourn its passing, and yet they cannot help but be glad. For one thing, they are in a beautiful land. For another, many friends that they had thought dead have now reappeared and have run past them, calling "Farther up and farther in!" Aslan himself utters the same cry, and dashes off westward. So the friends decide to follow.

After an exhilarating, marvel-filled run, they all arrive at a wonderful garden, where they joyously greet many of the people they have known through all of Narnia's centuries. Lucy is talking to one of them.

And then she forgot everything else, because Aslan himself was coming, leaping down from cliff to cliff like a living cataract of power and beauty.... Then Aslan turned to them and said:

"You do not yet look so happy as I mean you to be."

Lucy said, "We're so afraid of being sent away, Aslan. And you have sent us back to our own world so often."

"No fear of that," said Aslan. "Have you not guessed?"

Their hearts leaped and a wild hope rose within them.

was a real railway accident," said Aslan softly.... "All of you are—as you used to call it in the Shadowlands—dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream has 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 for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.

Lewis paints a most wonderful picture of what it is like to be in Heaven. This is only a part of it; the entire book needs to be read to experience it.

When I was 20, I read this book for the first time, and ever since then, I have had no fear of death. Why would I fear going on to things that are so great and beautiful that we are unable to imagine them or write about them? I want to read that story in which every chapter is better than the one before.

Thanks be to God that he has broken through my sinfulness with the good news of Jesus Christ, so that I can belong to him and go on after I die to read that wonderful story—to live with him forever! It is available to all of us if we turn to God and give ourselves to him. And the things that will happen to us will be so great and beautiful that no one can write them.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Refusing to See

(This post is part of a series of posts about The Chronicles of Narnia.)

The Last Battle tells how the country of Narnia falls, through treachery, to its enemies, the Calormenes. Before the end, belief in Aslan had been questioned by many in Narnia, most especially by the Dwarfs. In a desperate nighttime battle, one by one, King Tirian and his friends, including Eustace and Jill, are flung into a stable where unknown horrors await them. Before that point, a group of dwarfs had also been pushed into the stable, after they had shot their arrows at both the Narnians and the Calormenes.

When Tirian emerges through the door of the stable, he finds to his surprise that he is in a brightly lit world, with pleasant fruit trees. Tirian is now wearing beautiful comfortable clothes, and in the presence of almost all the people from our world who have ever come to Narnia: Peter, Edmund, Lucy, Digory, and Polly, as well as Eustace and Jill. They are all attired as kings and queens.

After some explanations of what has happened since they have been there, the group turns its attention to the Dwarfs who had previously been flung into the stable. The Dwarfs are seated in a little circle, paying no attention to the gorgeous surroundings. Tirian and his friends approach the Dwarfs.

"Look out!" said one of them in a surly voice. "Mind where you are going. Don't walk into our faces!"

"All right!" said Eustace indignantly. "We're not blind. We've got eyes in our heads."

"They must be darn good ones if you can see in here," said the same Dwarf whose name was Diggle.

"In where?" asked Edmund.

"Why you bone-head, in here of course," said Diggle. "In this pitch-black, poky, smelly little hole of a stable."

"Are you blind?" said Tirian.

"Ain't we all blind in the dark?" said Diggle.

"But it isn't dark, you stupid Dwarfs," said Lucy. "Can't you see? Look up! Look round! Can't you see the sky and the trees and the flowers? Can't you see

"How in the name of Humbug can I see what ain't there? And how can I see you any more than you can see me in this pitch darkness?"

"But I
can see you," said Lucy. "I'll prove I can see you. You've got a pipe in your mouth."

"Anyone that knows the smell of baccy could tell that," said Diggle.

"Oh, the poor things! This is dreadful," said Lucy. Then she had an idea. She stooped and picked some wild violets. "Listen, Dwarf," she said. "Even if your eyes are wrong, perhaps your nose is all right: can you smell
that?" She leaned across and held the fresh, damp flowers to Diggle's nose. But she had to jump back quickly in order to avoid a blow from his hard little fist.

"None of that!" he shouted. "How dare you! What do you mean by shoving a lot of filthy stable-litter in my face? There was a thistle in it too...."

Lucy, Tirian and the others try a little longer to convince the Dwarfs that they are not in a black, dirty stable, but they have no success. The Dwarfs see everything wrong.

Then, suddenly, Aslan appears. After the friends have flung themselves at his feet and adored him, Lucy asks Aslan if he can help the Dwarfs. Aslan replies that he will show her how much—and how little—he can do. He provides a wondrous feast for the Dwarfs, but they think it is only garbage and dirty trough water that they have scrounged for in the stable. The Dwarfs say:

"Well, at any rate there's no Humbug here. We haven't let anyone take us in. The Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs."

"You see," said Aslan. "They will not let us help them."

How sad that is! As Lucy and the rest soon discovered, the Dwarfs were in the midst of Paradise—Aslan's own country. It was truly Heaven. No more sorrow was to be any more the lot of Tirian, Lucy, Eustace, and the rest. But the Dwarfs had refused to take part in that wonderful life.

Because the Dwarfs wanted to be sure that they were not fooled by anyone, to be sure that they did not believe anything foolish, they had denied to themselves the greatest blessing and happiness that anyone could ever wish for. All they had to do was open their eyes to Aslan and they would have had joy and life beyond imagining. But instead they kept their minds tightly barricaded against him, and they remained in the black, dirty, miserable stable.

So it often is in our world. Many of us do not want to believe what we used to believe as children. We feel we know better now that we think we are mature. We shut Christ out of our lives. In doing this, we have imprisoned ourselves in a dark, dirty, wretched hovel, when all we would have to do is give ourselves to Christ, and we would find ourselves in a land of beauty and abundance of joy.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Things Always Work According to Their Nature

(This post is part of a series of posts about The Chronicles of Narnia.)

Near the end of The Magician's Nephew, young Digory Kirke is told by Aslan, the lion who is Lewis's Christ figure, to go fetch an apple from a special tree, beyond Narnia's borders. Aslan wants Digory to bring the apple back to him so that he can plant it. The tree growing from this apple will protect Narnia from the Witch that Digory has inadvertently brought into Narnia.

When Digory gets to the garden, he sees a sign saying that no one must pick those apples for himself; they must be picked for another. But in that garden he finds the Witch, who has already picked one of the apples and eaten it. She tells Digory that it has given her everlasting life. The Witch urges Digory to eat an apple, too, and rule Narnia's world with him. The fruit smells enticingly good to him, but he refuses. But then the Witch suggests that he take an apple and return to his own world, without telling Aslan, and give the apple to his mother, who is sick and dying. The apple, she says, will cure his mother.

At this proposal Digory is torn. He certainly wants to heal his mother. He almost falls for the Witch's temptation. But when she makes the mean suggestion that Digory leave his friend Polly behind in Narnia so that she won't be able to tell on him, Digory realizes how evil the Witch is, and returns to Aslan with the apple.

When Digory is with Aslan again, he remembers once more how good and great Aslan is, and he is comforted. Aslan tells Digory and Polly that because the Witch ate the apple in the wrong way, by stealing it, the tree growing from it will be hateful to her and keep her out of Narnia.

"Oh I see," said Polly. "And I suppose because she took it in the wrong way it won't work with her. I mean it won't make her always young and all that?"

"Alas," said Aslan, shaking his head. "It will. Things always work according to their nature. She has won her heart's desire; she has unwearying strength and endless days like a goddess. But length of days with an evil heart is only length of misery and already she begins to know it. All get what they want; they do not always like it.... And the Witch tempted you to do another thing, my son, did she not?"

"Yes, Aslan. She wanted me to take an apple home to Mother."

"Understand, then, that it would have healed her; but not to your joy or hers. The day would have come when both you and she would have looked back and said it would have been better to die in that illness."

Something very similar actually happened in our world. There was a garden here, too, and a tree growing marvelous apples. An evil creature met a man and a woman and tempted them to eat one of those apples. The apple, this creature said, would give them the knowledge of good and evil.

Things always work according to their nature. Unlike Digory, Adam and Eve did eat that apple and they did gain the knowledge of good and evil. They got what they wanted; they did not like it. Their idyllic life in the garden, walking and talking with God, came to an end. They were cast out into the world where they had to fend for themselves, toiling to earn their living, living with sickness and sorrow. All of us, their descendants, sin to some extent, some more, some less. We are miserable because of it. Sinning makes us unhappy. All get what they want; they do not always like it.

Thanks be to God that he has provided Jesus Christ as a way to escape the consequences of our getting what we want! Jesus came into the world and took the punishment for our sins. All we have to do is acknowledge that he did it, confess that we have sinned, and ask him to be our Forgiver and Leader. Aslan is a marvelous picture that only begins to paint how loving Jesus is. When we turn to him, he responds with amazing love.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

He Understands Our Sorrows

(This post is part of a series of posts about The Chronicles of Narnia.)

In the first book in The Chronicles of Narnia, the four Pevensie children find their way into Narnia from the house of a professor with whom they are staying. The sixth book, The Magician's Nephew, tells the story of how that same professor first discovered how to go to Narnia when he was a boy named Digory.

But before he got to Narnia, he and his friend Polly had visited another world. Because Digory had been arguing with Polly, and because he wanted to have his own way, he rang a bell in that world, which awoke a powerful witch-queen. That witch accompanied Digory and Polly back to their own world. Then, though they didn't know they were going there, she went with them to the brand new world of Narnia just as Aslan, the Lion who is C. S. Lewis's Christ figure, was creating it. There in Narnia the witch-queen runs off into the woods.

Digory's mother was sick and dying back in his own world. As he sees how rich the possibilities are in the new young world of Narnia, Digory decides to ask Aslan if he can have fruit from this new world. He hopes this fruit will be magic and revive his mother. But when he gets to where Aslan is conferring with the Talking Animal leaders about the evil that has entered the new world, Aslan does not answer Digory's request directly. Instead, he asks Digory to tell how he came to bring the witch into Narnia. Then he asks Digory another, unexpected question.

"Son of Adam," said Aslan. "Are you ready to undo the wrong that you have done to my sweet country of Narnia on the very day of its birth?"

"Well, I don't see what I can do," said Digory. "You see, the Queen ran away and—"

"I asked, are you ready?" said the Lion.

"Yes," said Digory. He had had for a second some wild idea of saying, "I'll try to help you if you'll promise to help about my Mother," but he realized in time that the Lion was not at all the sort of person one could try to make bargains with. But when he had said "Yes", he thought of his Mother, and he thought of the great hopes he had had, and how they were all dying away, and a lump came into his throat and tears in his eyes, and he blurted out:

"But please, please—won't you—can't you give me something that will cure Mother?"

Up till then he had been looking at the Lion's great front feet and the huge claws on them; now, in his despair, he looked up at its face. What he saw surprised him as much as anything in his whole life. For the tawny face was bent down near his own and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the Lion's eyes. They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory's own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must really be sorrier about his Mother than he was himself.

We are so often like Digory. We have many sorrows in our lives. But sometimes when we take them to Jesus and ask him to fix the problems, we don't receive the answer we hope for. Instead, he asks us to do something else.

So often we think in those cases that God doesn't care. But we have forgotten to look into his face. His tears are bigger even than ours.

In The Magician's Nephew, when Digory rectifies the wrong he has done, he also receives the help he needs for his mother. Aslan is able to work both things out. And so it is for us with Christ. We can trust that he understands our sorrows. We can trust that even while he asks us to do what we need to do, he will heal our griefs in some way. He is sorrier about our sorrows than we are ourselves.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

He Is Always There

(This post is part of a series of posts about The Chronicles of Narnia.)

Near the end of The Horse and His Boy, the boy Shasta ends up riding alone (on a non-talking horse) on a mountain pass in a very dense fog. Suddenly he becomes aware that Someone else is walking beside him, but Shasta is unable to see who it is. He is only aware from the breathing that the presence, a person or a creature, is very large. Shasta is quite frightened, but eventually he dares to speak to the unwelcome fellow traveler.

"Who are you?" he said, scarcely above a whisper.

"One who has waited long for you to speak," said the Thing....

"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!"

But the creature next to Shasta breathes gently and warmly on him, and asks Shasta to tell what his sorrows are. And Shasta proceeds to relate all the bad things that have happened to him, including several encounters with lions, who chased him and his friends.

"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 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 while you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses 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."

All the time that Shasta had thought that he was alone, Aslan the Lion had been with him, watching over him. At one point Shasta had had to spend a night alone among the tombs, but a cat had shown up and stayed with him; that had been Aslan. As a baby Shasta had been set adrift in a boat; Aslan had pushed the boat to shore where a man had found him. Aslan's care for him had been constant, even though Shasta had not realized it.

Not only was Aslan's care for him continuous, but Aslan's patience was also endless. Aslan showed up next to him, but he waited for Shasta to speak first. Shasta asked who he was. What was Aslan's response? "One who has waited long for you to speak."

So it is with Christ and us. His care for us is never-ending. Even when we think he is absent, he is still there, watching over us. We may turn our backs on him, but he does not turn his back on us.

Who is Jesus Christ? He loves us and wants us to come to him. He is one who has waited long for us to speak.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Misfortunes Are Not Always What They Seem

(This post is part of a series of posts about The Chronicles of Narnia.)

The Horse and His Boy tells the tale of a young boy raised in Calormen, the country adjoining Narnia. This boy, Shasta, meets a talking Horse named Bree who has lived in captivity in Calormen, and together they start on an escape to Narnia. During their journey they find a girl, Aravis, and another talking Horse, Hwin, who are also escaping to Narnia, and they join forces.

When they are almost to the fortress of Anvard in Archenland, a small border country, they see an army of Calormenes close behind them in the desert. They need to warn the people in Archenland about the coming attack, but the group of Calormene enemies is gaining on them. The horses start running fast.

"Quick! Quick!" shouted Aravis. "We might as well not have come at all if we don't reach Anvard in time. Gallop, Bree, gallop. Remember you're a war-horse."

It was all Shasta could do to prevent himself from shouting out similar instructions; but he thought, "The poor chap's doing all he can already," and held his tongue. And certainly both Horses were doing, if not all they could, all they thought they could; which is not quite the same thing. Bree had caught up with Hwin and they thundered side by side over the turf. It didn't look as if Hwin could possibly keep it up much longer.

At that moment everyone's feelings were completely altered by a sound from behind. It was not the sound they had been expecting to hear—the noise of hoofs and jingling armour, mixed, perhaps, with Calormene battle-cries. Yet Shasta knew it at once. It was the same snarling roar he had heard that moonlit night when they first met Aravis and Hwin. Bree knew it too. His eyes gleamed red and his ears lay flat back on his skull. And Bree now discovered that he had not really been going as fast—not quite as fast—as he could. Shasta felt the change at once. Now they were really going all out. In a few seconds they were well ahead of Hwin.

It's not fair," thought Shasta. "I
did think we'd be safe from lions here!"

The two children, Shasta and Aravis, and the two Horses think they are in a most unfortunate circumstance. They think that a cruel lion is chasing them. They are extremely frightened. But suddenly the Horses are running faster than they realized they could run. And they end up arriving in Archenland in time to give warning of the approach of the Calormene enemies. If they had not run as fast as they could have, they would have been too late.

As it turns out, the lion that was chasing them was Aslan, the Christ figure of the Narnia stories. He never really meant to harm them (though he does punish Aravis for something wrong she had done). Instead, he uses the fear that he inspires, when they think he is merely an anonymous wild lion, to get them to do what they need to do. In fact, Shasta, Aravis, Bree, and Hwin had dawdled earlier in their trip and wasted time, even though they knew the Calormene army was on its way. Now Aslan has to take drastic measures to get them to Archenland on time.

So it often is with us. Many times we think we are having unfair bad circumstances. But perhaps God uses these bad situations to get us to do what is right and necessary. Maybe we have dawdled and wasted time, or done what was wrong. We have made a mess of things. Now God needs to take drastic measures to get us back on the right track. "It's not fair," we say. "We did think we'd be safe from lions!" But in fact, the lions are for our good. They get us back to where we need to be. Thank God that he knows how to get us to the right place at the right time! It might seem hard at the moment, but it turns out for the good in the end.

Monday, January 24, 2011

His Blood Resurrects Us

(This post is part of a series of posts about The Chronicles of Narnia.)

At the end of The Silver Chair, the Lion Aslan brings Eustace and Jill back from Narnia to his own country, which is beyond all worlds. There they see in a stream the body of the aged King Caspian, who has just died; they can still hear the sad music playing. Aslan tells Eustace to pluck a foot-long, very sharp thorn from a nearby bush. Aslan asks Eustace to drive the thorn into his paw. Eustace is reluctant, but knows he must obey.

Then Eustace set his teeth and drove the thorn into the Lion's pad. And there came out a great drop of blood, redder than all redness that you have ever seen or imagined. And it splashed into the stream over the dead body of the King. At the same moment the doleful music stopped. And the dead King began to be changed. His white beard turned to grey, and from grey to yellow, and got shorter and vanished altogether; and his sunken cheeks grew round and fresh, and the wrinkles were smoothed, and his eyes opened, and his eyes and lips both laughed, and suddenly he leaped up and stood before them—a very young man, or a boy.... And he rushed to Aslan and flung his arms as far as they would go around the huge neck; and he gave Aslan the strong kisses of a King, and Aslan gave him the wild kisses of a Lion.

When Aslan gives his own blood, Caspian is brought back to life. And because Christ has given his own blood, we can be brought back to life after we die. The doleful music will stop once we have arrived in Christ's country and our new life starts. Christ will remake us into new people. We will leap up and stand before Christ, laughing.

Caspian had hard times in his life, and we may have many hard times in ours. But when we arrive in Christ's country, there will be no more tears. There will be the strong kisses that we offer to our Savior and Lord and the wild Lion kisses that he gives back to us, and then joy forevermore.

Friday, January 21, 2011

There Is No Other

(This post is part of a series of posts about The Chronicles of Narnia.)

In The Silver Chair, Eustace Scrubb and his schoolmate Jill Pole have miraculously escaped from their school into a wood in Narnia's world. But through inattention and showing off, Jill has inadvertently caused Eustace to fall off an enormous cliff. Amazingly, a huge lion (Jill does not know that this is Aslan, Lewis's Christ figure) rushes up and blows at Eustace so that he flies away into the distance. Then the lion walks away.

Jill is overcome with shame and loneliness, and casts herself down, crying. But after a long bout of tears, she finds herself dreadfully thirsty. She hears the sound of water and goes in search of it. Finally she finds a stream. But she is afraid to drink.

"...just on this side of the stream lay the lion.... She knew at once that it had seen her, for its eyes looked into hers for a moment and then turned away—as if it knew her quite well and didn't think much of her.

"If I run away, it'll be after me in a moment," thought Jill. "And if I go on, I shall run straight into its mouth." Anyway, she couldn't have moved if she had tried, and she couldn't take her eyes off it. How long this lasted, she could not be sure; it seemed like hours. And the thirst became so bad that she almost felt she would not mind being eaten by the lion if only she could be sure of getting a mouthful of water first.

"If you're thirsty, you may drink."

...For a second she stared here and there, wondering who had spoken. Then the voice said again, "If you are thirsty, come and drink," and of course she remembered what Scrubb had said about animals talking in that other world, and realized that it was the lion speaking.... It did not make her any less frightened than she had been before, but it made her frightened in rather a different way.

"Are you not thirsty?" said the Lion.

dying of thirst," said Jill.

"Then drink," said the Lion.

"May I—could I—would you mind going away while I do?" said Jill.

The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience.

The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.

"Will you promise not to—do anything to me, if I do come?" said Jill.

"I make no promise," said the Lion.

Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer.

Do you eat girls?" she said.

"I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms," said the Lion....

"I daren't come and drink," said Jill.

"Then you will die of thirst," said the Lion.

"Oh dear!" said Jill, coming a step nearer. "I suppose I must go and look for another stream then."

"There is no other stream," said the Lion.

This is a marvelous picture of the need that each of us has. We are all filled with great needs—with sin—just as Jill was filled with thirst. We are dying of our sin. We need to drink the water of forgiveness.

Christ is there at the stream. It can be frightening to find him there. We might have to make some changes in order to get to that stream. Perhaps we will have to give up some cherished ways of life, some self-indulgences, some habits. We might prefer some other teacher, some other religion.

But Christ is in front of the stream, and he will not move aside for our convenience. He makes no promises not to do anything to us. He has swallowed up others before us. And if we are thirsty, we must go through him.

After Jill's thirst became so great that it overcame her fear, she went forward and drank. It was the best water she had ever had. And Aslan did not hurt her. He loved her and forgave her, and then sent her forth on a new life.

Jesus said in John 14:6b: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." If we do not drink, we will die of thirst. And there is no other stream.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Great Bridge Builder

(This post is part of a series of posts about The Chronicles of Narnia.)

C. S. Lewis had one primary purpose for writing his books about the country of Narnia. At the end of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Edmund and Lucy are told that they will never return to Narnia, but instead remain in their own world. Lucy sobs that she will be very sad never seeing Aslan again. She says,

"And how can we live, never meeting you?"

"But you shall meet me, dear one," said Aslan.

"Are—are you there too, Sir?" said Edmund.

"I am," said Aslan. "But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there."

Lewis wants us, through reading his Narnia books, to know Christ better. That was his primary purpose for writing the stories.

These books not only give us great help for our life in the present. They also give us hope for our future. At the end of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the Mouse Reepicheep sails a little coracle over the edge of the world to Aslan's country. The others wish they could go there, too, but it's not their time yet. Aslan tells them they must go to his country from their own world.

"Oh, Aslan," said Lucy. "Will you tell us how to get into your country from our world?"

"I shall be telling you all the time," said Aslan. "But I will not tell you how long or short the way will be; only that it lies across a river. But do not fear that, for I am the great Bridge Builder."

We can surely get to Aslan's country! It may be a long way; it may be a short way. The way may be difficult. But he will not leave us languishing. He has the country we long for, and he provides the way for us to get there. Christ is the great Bridge Builder.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Only He Can Undragon Us

(This post is part of a series of posts about The Chronicles of Narnia.)

In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Edmund and Lucy Pevensie magically end up back in Narnia, on Prince Caspian's ship, the Dawn Treader, exploring the oceans eastward, along with their cousin Eustace. Only Eustace, a miserable person anyway, hates everything and constantly complains. He makes life unpleasant for everyone around him.

When the Dawn Treader survives a storm and takes shelter in an unknown island for repairs, Eustace sneaks off. He ends up finding a pile of treasure. Since he has never read adventure stories, it does not occur to him that this is a dragon's treasure. But that is what it is. This dragon, however, is very old, and it dies in Eustace's presence. In relief, thinking greedy thoughts about the treasure, Eustace falls asleep, after putting on a gold armband. But when he awakens, he has become a dragon himself, with a now very tight armband causing him great pain in his leg.

Many things happen after the band of Narnians realize that this dragon is Eustace and puzzle about how they might take him with them when they have to leave. But eventually one night, Edmund awakens to find Eustace a boy again. Eustace describes to him how a lion (he does not know that this is Aslan, the Christ figure of the stories) had come to him and led him to a well on top of a mountain. Eustace says that he was happy about this, because he wanted to bathe his sore leg in the well. But the lion, Aslan, says that Eustace must first undress. Eustace continues the story.

"I was just going to say that I couldn't undress because I hadn't any clothes on when I suddenly thought that dragons are snaky sort of things and snakes can cast their skins. Oh, of course, thought I, that's what the lion means. So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place. And then I scratched a little deeper and, instead of just scales coming off here and there, my whole skin started peeling off beautifully, like it does after an illness, or as if I was a banana. In a minute or two I just stepped out of it. I could see it lying there beside me, looking rather nasty. It was a most lovely feeling. So I started to go down into the well for my bathe.

"But just as I was going to put my feet into the water I looked down and saw that they were all hard and rough and wrinkled and scaly just as they had been before. Oh, that's all right, said I, it only means I had another smaller suit on underneath the first one, and I'll have to get out of it too. So I scratched and tore again and this under skin peeled off beautifully and out I stepped and left it lying beside the other one and went down to the well for my bathe.

"Well, exactly the same thing happened again. And I thought to myself, oh dear, how ever many skins have I got to take off? For I was longing to bathe my leg. So I scratched away for the third time and got off a third skin, just like the two others, and stepped out of it. But as soon as I looked at myself in the water I knew it had been no good.

"Then the lion said—but I don't know if it spoke—You will have to let me undress you. I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

"The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right down into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I've ever felt.... Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off—just as I thought I'd done it myself the other three times, only they hadn't hurt—and there it was, lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly looking than the others had been. And there I was as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me—I didn't like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I'd no skin on—and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious...."

Eustace had been a dragon but wanted to become a person again. But he couldn't do it himself. Only Aslan could do it for him. What a great illustration Lewis has written of what it is like for us! We are all lost in sin. We want to become better people. We try to be better people. But we can't do it. No matter how hard we try, we always end up slipping up again. We cannot make ourselves better—not truly, completely better. Christ has to do it for us. It hurts, but it feels so good to get rid of the sin and the nastiness that we've had in our lives. And after that it becomes perfectly delicious.

As Paul wrote in Romans 7:15-16b,21-25b, "I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.... So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

When We Fix Our Eyes on Him

(This post is part of a series of posts about The Chronicles of Narnia.)

Yesterday I wrote about an episode where the Pevensie children are crossing Narnia, trying to find Prince Caspian and his followers. On the way, Lucy encounters Aslan, and he tells her that she has to instruct her brothers and sister, and Trumpkin the Dwarf, to follow him. But the others won't see Aslan at first—only Lucy will see him—and they probably won't believe her.

This is in fact how it turns out. However, since going their own way hasn't worked out very well for them, and because of some other factors, the others decide to follow Lucy. But they aren't very cheerful about it. And Susan says some unkind things to boot. Lewis writes,

And so at last they got on the move. Lucy went first, biting her lip and trying not to say all the things she thought of saying to Susan. But she forgot about them when she fixed her eyes on Aslan.

It turns out that way for us a lot, too. People say things to us that we feel are uncalled for. They do things that are unfair. There are plenty of things that we'd like to say. There are lots of things that we'd like to do in exchange. But they aren't the right things to do or say.

We can forget about those things if we fix our eyes on Christ. He is all that we need to see, and he helps us remember what is right.

After Lucy had followed Aslan for a while, the others started to see him too, one by one. Lucy's faithfulness not only brought the others to safety through Narnia, but also brought them back into relationship with Aslan.

That's what will happen when we keep our eyes fixed on Christ. Not only can we forget about the wrong things we want to say and do, but we can help others too. Keeping our eyes fixed on him is what we need.

Monday, January 17, 2011

We Are Called to Obey Him

(This post is part of a series of posts about The Chronicles of Narnia.)

Trumpkin the dwarf and the four Pevensie children are making their way through Narnia to the camp of Prince Caspian, but the landscape has changed since the Pevensies were there before, and Trumpkin had been blindfolded when he was taken to where he met up with them. It is not long before they all become lost.

As they are heading along what seems the most logical route, Lucy sees Aslan, the lion who is the Christ figure of the stories, indicating to her that they are to follow him in a different direction. She tells the others, but they do not believe her. Miserably, she continues to follow them. Their route turns out all wrong and they are attacked by enemies. They barely get away, and they end up heading back in the direction Aslan had wanted.

That night, Lucy awakens and encounters Aslan while the others are sleeping. Here is part of their conversation. Aslan says,

"You have work in hand, and much time has been lost today."

"Yes, wasn't it a shame?" said Lucy. "I saw you all right. They wouldn't believe me. They're all so—"

From somewhere deep inside Aslan's body there came the faintest suggestion of a growl.

"I'm sorry," said Lucy, who understood some of his moods. "I didn't mean to start slanging the others. But it wasn't my fault anyway, was it?"

The Lion looked straight into her eyes.

"Oh, Aslan," said Lucy. "You don't mean it was? How could I—I couldn't have left the others and come up to you alone, how could I? Don't look at me like that...oh well, I suppose I
could. Yes, and it wouldn't have been alone, I know, not if I was with you. But what would have been the good?"

Aslan said nothing.

"You mean," said Lucy rather faintly, "that it would have turned out all right—somehow? But how? Please, Aslan! Am I not to know?"

"To know what
would have happened, child?" said Aslan. "No. Nobody is ever told that."

"Oh dear," said Lucy.

"But anyone can find out what
will happen," said Aslan. "If you go back to the others now, and wake them up; and tell them you have seen me again; and that you must all get up at once and follow me—what will happen? There is only one way of finding out."

"Do you mean that is what you want me to do?" gasped Lucy.

"Yes, little one," said Aslan.

"Will the others see you too?" asked Lucy.

"Certainly not at first," said Aslan. "Later on, it depends."

"But they won't believe me!" said Lucy.

"It doesn't matter," said Aslan.


Lucy buried her head in his mane to hide from his face. But there must have been magic in his mane. She could feel lion-strength going into her.

Aslan has his own agenda. He knows best what ought to be done. And just like Aslan, in our world, Christ has his own agenda. He has told us in the Bible what ought to be done.

We know from reading God's Word what is right. But sometimes it is very hard to do it. Surely, we think, God doesn't expect us to stand up all by ourselves and do what is right all on our own, does he?

But we won't be truly alone when God is with us. And there is only one way to find out what will happen when we obey him, and that is to do it. Will others believe us? Will they like what we do? That doesn't matter. What matters is that we obey God.

How can we find the strength to do this? We bury our heads in his mane. We turn to him in prayer. Christ will give us his lion-strength and his loving consolation.

The others said some very bitter things to Lucy at first, when she wakened them and told them they had to follow her and Aslan. But even so, it all turned out very well for her in the end. It always turns out well in the long run when we follow Christ.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

His Solutions Always Work

(This post is part of a series of posts about The Chronicles of Narnia.)

One of my favorite parts of Prince Caspian occurs when the dwarf Trumpkin has been sent to look for the help that Prince Caspian and his friends have summoned by the use of Queen Susan's magic horn. By this time, the Pevensie children had left Narnia after growing up there and reigning as kings and queens, and in Narnia time, hundreds of years have passed since their departure.

But the winding of her horn has called Susan, Peter, Edmund, and Lucy back to Narnia from England. However, when they had returned to England, no time at all had passed there, and they are children again. It is only a year later in England time when they find themselves in Narnia again, alone, amid the ruins of their former castle, on an island.

When Trumpkin shows up and tells them all that has happened in Narnia since they left, they all realize that they have been called back by Susan's magic horn. But Trumpkin doesn't believe that four children will be of much use; he thinks that Aslan's answer to the blowing of the horn has been pretty impractical.

The passage about how the children show Trumpkin otherwise is too long for me to quote here, but I can summarize it. First Edmund asks Trumpkin to indulge him in a swordfight ("Kids like us don't often have the chance of meeting a great warrior like you"). Edmund, who has regained his old Narnian skills, of course beats Trumpkin, though Trumpkin is no mean swordsman. Then Susan challenges Trumpkin to an archery contest. Susan was a famous archer as a queen, and she also wins fair and square, despite the fact that Trumpkin is quite skilled. Then when Trumpkin reveals he is injured, Lucy cures his wound instantly with her magic vial that she had retrieved from the castle treasury.

Trumpkin acknowledges that he had judged too hastily. The aid that Aslan sent in answer to their call was good and useful, indeed excellent help after all, even though Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy did not appear to be anything other than four children.

Just like Aslan, Christ knows what he's doing when he answers our prayers. Sometimes his answers don't look practical to us. Sometimes we think we've got a better idea. But we never have a better idea. We can trust what he tells us in the Bible. His solutions always work.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Deeper Magic from before the Dawn of Time

(This post is part of a series of posts about The Chronicles of Narnia.)

In The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe, one of the Pevensie children, Edmund, betrays the other children to the evil White Witch. The Christ figure, the lion Aslan, organizes Edmund's rescue from the Witch, but she turns up to demand him back as a sacrificial victim. This is according to the Deep Magic from the dawn of time, by which rule all traitors belong to her. To the dismay of all the children, Aslan says he cannot refuse her. But he works out a secret deal with her, and she gives up her claim.

In the night, Susan and Lucy Pevensie follow Aslan as he surreptitiously leaves their camp and goes to the camp of the White Witch. There he gives himself over to her power and allows himself to be slaughtered on a Stone Table by her followers. This was Aslan's deal; he gave himself up in Edmund's place. Lucy and Susan are distraught with grief, and watch over Aslan's body after the Witch and her followers leave. But when dawn arrives, Aslan miraculously comes back to life!

This is Deeper Magic from before the dawn of time. Aslan explains it:

"It means," said Aslan, "that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards."

The forces of evil in the world think that they know what they are doing. They think that they may triumph. But they do not know everything. It is God who really knows everything.

Like Christ, Aslan gives himself to pay for the wrongdoing of Edmund. Only Christ's sacrifice is made not just for one person, but for the wrongdoing of all of us. We are all the lawful sacrificial victims of evil, and ultimate death is where we are headed. God cannot alter this deep magic from the dawn of time. But he has made a deal with evil, and has given himself in our place, a willing victim who has committed no treachery.

Because of Christ's sacrifice of himself, Death has started working backwards for all those who acknowledge what he has done. We are no longer headed for ultimate death once we submit our lives to Christ.

After Aslan comes back to life, he runs through Narnia on business that needs doing, and he allows Lucy and Susan to ride on his back. Lewis says that ride "was the most wonderful thing that happened to them in Narnia." When we give ourselves to Christ, our lives become a wonderful ride on Aslan's back. There are, to be sure, ups and downs, but it's a journey worth taking.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Character of Aslan

This is the first of a series of blog postings I am planning to write about the Chronicles of Narnia series, by C. S. Lewis. I have read the series many times, and I reread it again last summer (2010). With the release of the film Voyage of the Dawn Treader, I decided I wanted to write about some of the key passages in the seven books. So here is the first one, as I go through the books in order.

From The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe, Chapter 8, when the four Pevensie children are talking with Mr. and Mrs. Beaver about Aslan:

"Is—is he a man?" asked Lucy.

"Aslan a man!" said Mr. Beaver sternly. "Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-beyond-the-sea. Don't you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion—
the Lion, the great Lion."

"Ooh!" said Susan, "I'd thought he was a man. "Is he—quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion."

"That you will, dearie, and no mistake," said Mrs. Beaver; "if there's anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they're either braver than most or else just silly."

"Then he isn't safe?" said Lucy.

"Safe?" said Mr. Beaver; "don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you."

"I'm longing to see him," said Peter, "even if I feel frightened when it comes to the point."

Aslan is the character that Lewis uses throughout the Narnia books to represent Christ. And here we see some of the key feelings towards Aslan and ideas about him that the creatures of Narnia have, that the four children will end up having, and that Lewis intends for us to have by extension concerning Christ.

First, Aslan/Christ is not safe. He's not a tame teacher or leader who fits our preconceived ideas of what is right or what ought to be. He has his own agenda. He knows the world better than we do. He knows right and wrong better than we do. He knows us better than we know ourselves. And when one day we meet him, if we can appear before him without our knees knocking, then we are, as Lewis says, braver than most or else just silly.

Second, Aslan/Christ is not safe, but he's good. We can trust him to do what is right and fair, even when we don't understand why he does what he does. We can give our lives to his control and trust that they are in good hands. The children find this out again and again during their adventures in Narnia, and I have found it out again and again in my life, as have many others too many to count. He surprises us in the end with how he was right, and fair, all along. He is good.

Third, Aslan/Christ is the King. He's not just a friend or an advisor, though he is those things as well. In our times we don't like hierarchy, and we don't like bosses (we have "managers" instead at work). But nevertheless, he is the King. He is utterly in authority. And he has the right to be so, because he is so much greater and wiser than we are; he made us. And remember, he is good, even through the bad times. We have a King who is thoroughly good.

I love Peter's response at the end of this passage. "I'm longing to see him," said Peter, "even if I feel frightened when it comes to the point." That is how all those who know Christ feel about him. He is so good, so wonderful, so winsome, that we long to be with him. And as we read through the Narnia books, we find that that is what the Pevensie children long for too. Unlike in the movies, they do not long for the restoration of their ability to be kings and queens again. No, what they long for is Aslan. He is not safe, but he is good.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Dog's Attitude

This is a post I wrote on April 28, 2007:

Friday was a good day: I got the magenta tray at the cafeteria.

The cafeteria in our building at work has lots of gray and yellow trays, some brown ones, and a few blue ones, but there is only one magenta tray. Since pink is my favorite color, I always hope that I will get that tray, and when I do, I really enjoy it.

Maybe if you're reading this, you're thinking, "What's the big deal about what color your cafeteria tray is?" True, it's not a big deal. But I like to take pleasure in all sorts of little things. Savoring them makes my day more enjoyable.

The other day I once again came across a line in The Fellowship of the Ring that I really like. Gandalf the wizard has just told the hobbit Sam that he is going to accompany Frodo on his journey, which means that Sam will get to see Elves, something he's always longed to do.

"Me, sir!" cried Sam, springing up like a dog invited for a walk.

I love the image because it immediately conveys a great deal of excitement. Yet when we think about it, what are dogs so excited about? Just a walk! But they get a great deal of pleasure out of it.

My dog Hana waits every morning for me to sit down with my bowl of cereal, because she knows I will give her two pieces of it. It's only two pieces of cereal, usually Cheerios, so not a big deal, but to her it's a very happy moment.

Dogs are optimists, too. Every time I prepare a meal, Hana thinks, despite the mountain of previous experience, that this time, maybe the meal is going to be for her. And her tail is almost always ready to wag; she expects good things out of life.

I think that we can learn a lot from dogs' attitude. With God as our father, we can expect good things out of life, too. That's not to say that everything will always be rosy. But we can know that he is with us and will see us through any hard times. I found this out a year ago as I was going through cancer. God didn't make the cancer magically disappear, but he did sustain me as I underwent surgery, chemo, and radiation. I knew that in the long run, whatever the prognosis (mine ended up being good), God was going to be there in the end.

And then there were those little things, like the magenta cafeteria tray. God put a lot of them in my life, and when I looked for them, I found them. Things like the kindness of fellow co-workers, or a daffodil that the radiation oncology center gave me. It made a big difference to how I experienced a year of cancer treatments. I could have looked for the unpleasant, difficult things, or I could have just not looked for anything. But instead I looked for the little fun or nice things, and they were there to be found, and so my days were more pleasant and enjoyable than they might otherwise have been.

What's more, because I found those little good things, I was able to give thanks to God. I knew he was there helping me get through a bad time. In fact, I felt his presence more closely during that cancer year than I ever had before. That in itself brought joy to me beyond what I can describe.

I know it sounds silly to say I had a good day because I got the magenta tray at the cafeteria. But I have a fun life. And a lot of it is because I take pleasure in the little things.