Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Cost of Discipleship

Good morning dear reader.  I trust you slept well last night and are enjoying your morning coffee - black.
:)  ??
C.S. Lewis when tired and cranky?  Not so much.
I should know.  I've been ferreting my way through a whack of his stuff lately, celebrating the near conclusion of my first ever blog book:  Off to England!  Oxbridge 2008 -- an account of a two week adventure at the CS Lewis conference in Oxford and Cambridge, England with my daughter Catherine. It has been a marvellous summer so far recollecting that experience, through picture and journal and coming to the end of a project started so long ago.
All things in its appointed time.

Here's a bite size section of his classic Mere Christianity.
....You got that coffee going right?


The ordinary idea which we all have before we become Christians is this.

We take as a starting point our ordinary self with its various desires and interests.  
We then admit that something else -- call it "morality" or "decent behaviour" or "the good of society" -- has claims on this self;  claims which interfere with its own desires.  
What we mean by "being good" is giving in to those claims. 
Some of the things the ordinary self wanted to do turn out to be what we call "wrong":  
well, we must give them up!  
Other things, which the self did not want to do, turn out to be what we call "right": 
well, we shall have to do them! 
But we are hoping all the time that when all the demands have been met, the poor natural self will still have some chance, and some time, to get on with its own life and do what it likes.  
In fact, we are very like an honest man paying his taxes.  
He pays them all right, 
but he does hope that there will be enough left over 
for him to live on.  
Because we are still taking our natural self as the starting point.

As long as we are thinking that way, one or other of two results is likely to follow.
Either we give up trying to be good, or else we become very unhappy indeed.  For make no mistake:  if you are really going to try to meet all the demands made on the natural will not have enough left over to live on.    
The more you obey your conscience, the more your conscience will demand of you.
And your natural self, which is thus being starved and hampered and worried at every turn, will get angrier and angrier.  In the end, you will either give up trying to be good, or else become one of those people who, as they say, "live for others" but always in a discontented, grumbling way -- always wondering why the others do not notice it more, and always making a martyr of yourself.  And once you have become that, you will be a far greater pest to anyone who has to live with you than you would have been if you had remained frankly selfish.
The Christian way is different: harder, and easier.
Christ says, "Give me All.  I don't want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work:  I want You.
I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it!
No half-measures are any good.  I don't want to cut off a branch here and a branch there.
I want to have the whole tree down.  I don't want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out.  Hand over the whole natural self,
all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked -- the whole outfit.
I will give you a new self instead.
In fact, I will give you Myself:  my own will shall become yours."

C.S. Lewis Readings for Meditation and Reflection edited by Walter Hooper

Right now, I'm fussing over the chapter in the blog book about Ely Cathedral  
(pictured on the horizon above). 
Ely is a positively gargantuan Gothic Cathedral 
built 1083-1375 A.D. 
Our visit there was a worship experience like none other for both my little girl and myself.  
Captured in no less than 134 digital photos during a one hour walkabout in spine-tingling wordless wonder that left us with an impression SO indelible - it makes me almost too fearful to even try (make record of it). 
But I am pushing myself to get it down on paper and I've given myself the month of July to be done with this once and for all!
A far more ancient and demanding vow needs to be fulfilled this summer...  
Organizing all the music in the music room.  
I'm going for a Venti Bold Pike Place from Starbucks.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Weight of Glory

If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of the virtues, 
nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness.  
But if you asked almost any of the great Christians of old he would have replied, 
You see what has happened?
A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance.  
The negative ideal of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily 
of securing good things for others, 
but of going without them ourselves, 
as if our abstinence and not their happiness 
was the important point.  
I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love.  
The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself.  
We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; 
and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find 
if we do so 
contains an appeal to desire.
If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that 
to desire our own good 
and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, 
I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith.  
Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward 
and the staggering nature 
of the rewards promised in the Gospels, 
it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires 
not too strong, but too weak.  
We are half-hearted creatures, 
fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, 
like an ignorant child 
who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum 
because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer 
of a holiday at the sea.  
We are far too easily pleased.

That is an excerpt of The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis.
It shows up in the opening pages of Desiring God by John Piper as he expounds his description of that strange phrase "Christian Hedonism".  
Desiring God is the upcoming bible study for small groups in my church family.  
I sense something in the air.  
There's a wind around us setting things astir.
With my beloved I will commit the remainder of my summer to:
pray specifically
for it to pick up speed, 
point out truth
pin us down with conviction
prevail mightily over us and 
push us forward.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

When a child is born...

This post is dedicated to my sister Pauline, 
who became a grandmother earlier this month and who 
now knows intimately, 
the vast sweeping 'rebirth' of the heart
that the process brings to bear...

I will never EVER forget the weekend of our own grandparental coronation....
Inexpressibly glorious!
Three live births in one summer weekend, and one little body laid to rest.

...followed close by even more delightful little lives entering the family flock...

Seven with three in heaven.
Awaiting one little one still in his womb.... :)
And what's a 5th birthday anyway when we have all of eternity?
I can't help it.  
I have to finish this post with the words of yet another song playing in my heart.

God of My Fathers by Andrew Peterson 
from his incredible album Counting the Stars

God of my fathers
Huddled in the harbor
Every man an ocean from his home
Their captors could not keep them
When they heard the drums of freedom
The dream of a kingdom
In a land they've never known

And God of my fathers
Strangers in this country
Pilgrims on these dusty roads
Across the great plains
In the bellies of the steel trains
To stake a new claim
In that wilderness of hope

Like my fathers I am looking for a home
Looking for a home beyond the sea
So be my God and guide me
Till I lie beneath the hills
Then let the great God of my fathers
Be the great God of my children still

God of my grandfathers
Gone these many years now
I guess they're shining like the sun
And I envision them
Grinning at the finish
And they smile and they smile,
'Cause they love to see me run


Now we're counting stars and counting sand
Little feet and little hands
We're counting joys
We pray you'll know them
As you knew us when you wove us
As you hold us
Hold them, please hold them

Like their father, they are looking for a home
Looking for a home beyond the sea
So be their God and guide them
Till they lie beneath these hills
And let the great God of their father
Be the great God of their children,
Let the great God of my fathers
Be the great God of my children still

You must introduce yourself to this artist, singer-songwriter, published author extraordinaire.
You must and that's that!  :)
Be blessed.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Some New Grand at Chesley

First of all, I forgot to mention how our Coffeehouse culminated, and it needs noting.
Nieces Heather and Emily had worked feverishly on knitting an afghan for Grandma in the hopes of presenting it to her with time enough to enjoy it.
That timely moment as you know, never materialized.
So instead...
It was their decision to present the blanket to her dearest friends in her memory.
The way this knitting parallel keeps springing up unexpectedly in the fabric of our lives leaves me with a great sense of wonder and gratitude.   
Like being wrapped up in a comfortable sense of the mysterious :)
Uncle Bert and Aunt Arien?  We love you too...
Two days later, as if by way of divine confirmation that ALL of life at every stage, is safely in His hands, Pauline (& Gerry) became the fourth of Mom's children to be rewarded with the crown of grandparenthood!  
Little Gideon Alexander arrived a month early and becomes the twelve great-grandchild in a growing family clan that continues to taste much undeserved goodness from a Faithful Father God.
Lindsay and Brad are the proud parents and are doing well.
The grand-parents are simply out of their minds with delight.  
We TOTALLY get it.  
Is this little 6 pounder not the sweetest most alert preemie EVER???

Thursday, July 7, 2011

First Annual Chesley Coffeehouse

Without Mom that is.
She kept the tradition running for 35 years in a row.  
As torch bearers, unwilling to let such a fine tradition die an ignoble death, we held our first Sunday Coffeehouse in her honour.  Two precious family friends, Uncle Bert & Aunt Arien from Owen Sound  (who know our Mom better and longer than anyone of us) happily*bravely accepted our invitation to submerge themselves in our mass gathering & share in our time of remembrance.
It started the week before the wagon train set out, a simple mass e-mail suggestion.
Sunday Gathering moves from Crooked Cottage 26 
to Cottage 68 down from the Chapel.  
Coffee and Juice are on the house.  
Bring smiles and baked goods to share.  
If everyone brings a bit we'll have a lot.  

This was the Understatement of the Week.
Within 24 hours, the RSVP's were sailing thru cyber space at lightning speed, everyone spurring sparring each other on with the promise of a dessert 
more elaborate and sinful than the last.  
Citrus Cheesecake, Strawberry Trifle, Oven Fresh Cinnamon Buns, Mom's Famous Mocha Bars...
It was getting serious.  
As one nephew observed, "My inbox hurts".
The whole thing somehow spun itself into a bona fide Bake-Off Competition with official prize ribbons (designed by Cathy) and awarded by self-appointed family 'dignitary'  Sir William Casey the 5th and his faithful, taste-tester man-servant, Atchoo... 
??? ...yep.  
Clearly this family of ours was over-due for a reunion.
The next competition will follow a rule book 
(now in draft mode if you can believe it) 
and the one impeachable offence sadly but swiftly disqualified these contributions 
sans discussion OR apology.  
Hard core competitive. tsk. tsk.
Contributions in serious contention however....

Brittany said she'd bake three things and bring the best out of three or the least burnt.  She scored honourable mention despite her lack of confidence...   

Meanwhile, a thing of MAJOR attraction 
was going down on the dock below...
Uncle Case was offering personal guided tours 
of Chesley Lake in his motorboat.
The line-up was long and endless and
have the undeniable makings of a great Chesley memory.
A break for station identification while I pause for a 
gander at some of the most highly esteemed little peeps 
of my life:
*sigh*  - have enjoyed several quiet conversations with our sweetpea JB, 
the newest lamb-chop in the flock.
And now - the moment we've all gorged for.
Votes were tallied.  Sir William Casey stood -- a hush went thru the crowd.
Third place goes to Andrea for the recipe Mom's Mocha Whatchamecallit
Second place is awarded to Sarah for the 
instantly devoured Oven Fresh Cinnamon Buns
First place to (surprise, surprise) Michelle, 
whose reputation for home baking is legendary and 
whose Strawberry Trifle Delight was (yes indeed) incredibly awesome!
But wait!
What's this?  
Michelle carelessly leaves her first place ribbon behind?
Lying neglected in the crumbs?
Not to worry.  
It was promptly scooped up by Susie - 
purveyor of no less than TWO 
(albeit untouched) store-bought 
(i.e. ruthlessly scorned) desserts.  
Her very wide smile proves the proverb:
He who laughs last, laughs best!
You gotta love it.
I'm quite sure Mom would have approved.