Thursday, February 27, 2014

Willard on Silence and Solitude

This passage from Dallas Willard’s book Knowing Christ Today has been a frequent companion as I try to practice these disciplines, thought I’d pass it on.



Among the practices that we learn to engage in to enable effectual focus upon Christ is a combination of solitude and silence. You have only to look at the lives of those most successful in living with Christ to see that this is so. To go into solitude means to be alone and do nothing for lengthy periods of time. That is necessary to break the grip of a God-alienated world over us at the level of our constant habits and preoccupations. Silence means to eliminate noise, including the noise of our own mouth. It further frees us to move into the life that is eternal. We need to combine solitude and silence on some occasions to gain their full effects. They must be practiced intensely and extensively. These are root-reaching practices that slowly bring us to an understanding of who and what we really are—often producing occasions of profound repentance—and that allow God to reoccupy the places in our lives where only he belongs. They require lengthy times and extreme intensity to do their work, though at the beginning we must ease into them in a gentle and non-heroic manner. Once established in our mind, soul, body, and social involvements, they go with us wherever we are and need to be renewed only periodically by special times of practice. Irritability and anger, loneliness and busyness, are signs that they need renewal. (Pp. 156-7)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Hope Surges

Rounding the corner I see

a newborn sunrise romancing me

stirring something deep within

making me want to weep;


The long dark is nearly over,

winter’s reign is ending

death winding down

At the command of the Lord of Seasons;


Something new is coming, something good

My heart awakens with thirst

Life pushes up

pushes through death

I breathe deep

hope surges

Monday, February 17, 2014

Cheerful Insecurity

In one of his letters to a “Sister Penelope” (December 30, 1950), C.S. Lewis writes about the difficulties involved in putting his ailing ‘Mother’ in a Nursing Home (not his actual Mother, but a friend’s Mother, Mrs. Moore).

Our state is thus: my ‘mother’ has had to retire permanently into a Nursing Home. She is in no pain but her mind has almost completely gone. What traces of it remain seem gentler and more placid than I have known it for years. Her appetite is, oddly, enormous. I visit her, normally, every day, and am divided between a (rational?) feeling that this process of gradual withdrawal is merciful and even beautiful, and a quite different feeling (it comes out in my dreams) of horror.

One of the biggest difficulties surrounding this time in Lewis’ life was worry over the financial cost of the services provided for his Mother. He then makes a very interesting distinction between worry and what he calls “cheerful insecurity” that I find fascinating, since I have always struggled so much with worry myself.

There is no denying—and I don’t know why I should deny to you—that our domestic life is both more physically comfortable and more psychologically harmonious for her absence. The expense is of course very severe and I have worries about that. But it would be very dangerous to have no worries—or rather no occasions of worry. I have been feeling that very much lately: that cheerful insecurity is what Our Lord asks of us. Thus one comes, late and surprised, to the simplest and earliest Christian lessons! (The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume III: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy 1950-1963).

Lewis doesn’t unpack the distinction beyond what is described here (perhaps he does elsewhere, I don’t know), but from what he says I can gather that it is good for us and our souls to face occasional worries because they remind us of our need. Like “pain receptors” that tell our bodies “something is wrong!” worries tell our souls, “You need help!” Cheerful insecurity keeps us on our toes, keeps us childlike, in dependence on our Father. For that reason, they are cheerful.

I think the apostle Paul would say he has learned to live in cheerful insecurity, for his insecurities and weaknesses provided endless opportunities to know God and his Kingdom grace which empowers us to do what we cannot.

To keep me grounded and stop me from becoming too high and mighty due to the extraordinary character of these revelations, I was given a thorn in the flesh—a nagging nuisance of Satan, a messenger to plague me! I begged the Lord three times to liberate me from its anguish; and finally He said to me, “My grace is enough to cover and sustain you. My power is made perfect in weakness.” So ask me about my thorn, inquire about my weaknesses, and I will gladly go on and on—I would rather stake my claim in these and have the power of the Anointed One at home within me.  I am at peace and even take pleasure in any weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and afflictions for the sake of the Anointed because when I am at my weakest, He makes me strong. (2 Cor 12:7-10, The Voice)

Jesus lived in the world seeing it as God-drenched and God-bathed. He learned from this that he would always be safe from harm. Nothing could separate him from his Father. May the Master Jesus teach me the same lesson as I bring my worries to him and try with all my might to cast my burdens on his shoulders (it’s very difficult sometimes, let’s be honest!)

Monday, February 03, 2014

What the Shepherd Knows

I often linger in the symbolic world of Jesus the Good Shepherd caring for me, one of his weak and wandering lambs. This world can become for me a place to breathe deeply and rest.

John Hendryx posted a blog recently at an excerpt from J.I. Packer’s classic work, Knowing God about the knowledge that the Good Shepherd has of His sheep. This excerpt beautifully magnifies an aspect of the Shepherd-sheep relationship, that of the Shepherd’s knowing. May we rest in the comfort of being utterly known and completely loved today.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. . . . My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.I and the Father are one.” (Jn 10:14-15; 27-30 NIV)

What matters supremely, is not, in the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it — the fact that He knows me. I am graven on the palms of his hands. I am never out of his mind.

All my knowledge of him depends on his sustained initiative in knowing me. I know him because he first knew me, and continues to know me. He knows me as a friend, one who loves me; and there is not a moment when his eye is off me, or his attention distracted from me, and no moment, therefore, when his care falters.

This is momentous knowledge. There is unspeakable comfort — the sort of comfort that energizes, be it said, not enervates — in knowing that God is constantly taking knowledge of me in love and watching over me for my good. There is tremendous relief in knowing that his love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench his determination to bless me. . .There is great incentive to worship and love God in the thought that, for some unfathomable reason, He wants me as His friend, and desires to be my friend, and has given His son to die for me in order to realise this purpose.”

- J.I. Packer (1926- )
excerpt from: Knowing God (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1973) pg. 37.