The Cultured Artist

I share convicting things sometimes and basically 100% of the time those things are what I’ve been convicted of; they’re things I’m learning about. I read this C.S. Lewis quote today and immediately said, “YES, this is for me.” Maybe it’s for you too, beloved?

I consider myself an artist. I grew up loving the theater, literature, music, dance, journaling, scrapbooking, letter writing, decor and all things that move me to my emotional, relational, and spiritual core. I still love artistic endeavors dearly, as I see so much of my Maker in them. However, I’ve noticed how tempting it can be to make these good gifts into bad gods (props to David Powlison for that phrase). Yee-ayah DP! Sometimes art and artistry subtly and sneakily saunter their way to the top of the ladder of my heart. They become almost religion-like to me. C.S. Lewis articulately warns against this temptation, but also reminds me of the truth of what is infinitely more valuable than art:

“The Christian will take literature a little less seriously than the cultured Pagan…The unbeliever is always apt to make a kind of religion of his aesthetic experiences…and he commonly wishes to maintain his superiority to the great mass of mankind who turns to books for mere recreation. But the Christian knows from the outset that the salvation of a single soul is more important than the production or preservation of all the epics and tragedies in the world: and as for superiority, he knows that the vulgar since they include most of the poor probably include most of the superiors.”

-C.S. Lewis, “Christianity and Literature”

Holiest of Holy Days

On this holiest of holy days, we are transfixed by Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross…we can ponder but not fully comprehend the enormity of what happens this day…we are simultaneously dismayed and grateful: his torn flesh makes us whole, his bruises bring us healing, and his death gives us life. -Bobby Gross

God, who needs nothing, loves into existence wholly superfluous creatures in order that He may love and perfect them. He creates the universe, already foreseeing – or should we say ‘seeing’? there are no tenses in God – the buzzing cloud of flies about the cross, the flayed back pressed against the uneven stake, the nails driven through the mesial nerves, the repeated incipient suffocation as the body droops, the repeated torture of back and arms as it is time after time, for breath’s sake, hitched up. If I may dare the biological image, God is ‘host’ who deliberately creates His own parasites; causes us to be that we may exploit and ‘take advantage of’ Him.  Herein is love.  This is the diagram of Love Himself, the inventor of all loves. – C.S. Lewis

There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.
Lose all their guilty stains, lose all their guilty stains;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day;
And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.
Washed all my sins away, washed all my sins away;
And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.

Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood shall never lose its power
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more.
Be saved, to sin no more, be saved, to sin no more;
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more.

E’er since, by faith, I saw the stream Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.
And shall be till I die, and shall be till I die;
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.

When this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave.
Then in a nobler, sweeter song, I’ll sing Thy power to save,
I’ll sing Thy power to save,I’ll sing Thy power to save,
Then in a nobler, sweeter song, I’ll sing Thy power to save,

Lord, I believe Thou hast prepared, unworthy though I be,
For me a blood bought free reward, a golden harp for me!
’Tis strung and tuned for endless years, and formed by power divine,
To sound in God the Father’s ears no other name but Thine.

-William Cowper

A Guide on How To Reach or Avoid God, accd. to Lewis

As anticipated, here’s an excerpt from the C.S. Lewis Advent Reflection. I’ve thought about this one several times over the past 24 hours:

If God-such a God as any adult religion believes in- exists, mere movement in space will never bring you any nearer to him or any farther from Him than you are at this moment. You can neither reach him nor avoid Him by traveling to Alpha Centauri or even to other galaxies. A fish is no more, and no less, in the sea after it has swum a thousand miles than it was when it set out.

How, then, it may be asked, can we either reach or avoid Him?

The avoiding, in many times and places, has proved so difficult that a very large part of the human race failed to achieve it. But in our own time and place it is extremely easy. Avoid silence, avoid solitude, avoid any train of thought that leads off the beaten track. Concentrate on money, sex, status, health, and (above all) your own grievances. Keep the radio on. Live in a crowd. Use plenty of sedation. If you must read books, select them very carefully. But you’d be safer to stick to the papers. You’ll find advertisements helpful, especially those with a sexy or a snobbish appeal.

About the reaching, I am a far less reliable guide. This is because I never had the experience of looking for God. It was the other way round: He was the hunter (or so it seemed to me) and I was the deer.” -December 21st

Yep, I love how He pursues us. Like a hunter chasing a deer, or a shepherd going after his sheep caught in the thicket, or like a Papa grabbing hold of his run-away, tottering little one.

god and me

Go to Sleep and Dream of…

Yesterday was the first snow of the season! And it’s supposed to snow again tomorrow! Let’s revel in it and enjoy the snow, beloveds!

Lorelai has a special relationship with snow

My instagram of yesterday’s snowstorm

my snow pic

Linus is reveling

And these kittys seem to be having fun

cat-loves-snow

cat hit snow

But if it’s too chilly ‘fer ya you’ve got two options-either huddle for warmth or do a little dance

And though outside it’s looking like this

wintry scene

I’m inside bundled in books

bundled in books

But that’s okay because I like these books, and I’ve got

hot chocolate

And

cozy blankets

And if you’re lacking snow in your part of the world, you can always get some through books like one

narnia

Or through favorite Christmas movies like this one

And with that, I’ll leave you with a happy lil’ snow owl

happy snow owl

The Heart of Advent

I am reading through two Advent devotionals (in typical Lisbeth several-books-happening-at-once-fashion) that are revolutionizing this Christmas season for me. One was given to me by my sweet, reflective friend Abby. It’s called Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God by Bobby Gross. And my other dear friends since childhood, Henry and Ruth, sent me a C.S. Lewis Advent devotional (what gets better than Advent + Lewis?). I’m sure I’ll feature something from Lewis soon. But this amazing excerpt is from Living the Christian Year:

The Heart of Advent

“In Advent we focus on three “comings” of Christ: his arrival in history as a baby born of Mary, his return in fearsome glory at the end of time and his intermediate entrance into our own lives. During Advent we are engaged by the prophets of Israel- Isaiah, Zephaniah, Micah, Malachi- and their messianic visions. We are confronted by John the Baptist’s stern call to prepare for Jesus by repenting. We are beckoned to walk with Mary and Joseph in their anxiety and expectation. We are sobered by the teachings of Jesus and his apostles on the judgment to come at the end of the age.

But to seriously attend to things both eschatological (about the end times) and historical in a few short weeks (Advent lasts twenty-two to twenty-eight days, depending on the year) is not easy, especially when these weeks are for many of us the busiest and most demanding of the year. How can we experience Christ coming anew into our already full lives? How can our lives be enlarged in so brief a time?

Clearly it takes some work, some wrestling against the culture and our own proclivities. But making it happen isn’t all on us. A grace is also at work in this season. Think again of a pregnant woman. Yes, she must pay attention to her body and take care of herself, but the life within her mysteriously takes shape and steadily grows of its own accord…

…The paradoxical work of waiting. The prophets and psalmists can help us. Old Elizabeth and Zechariah can help us. Their son John can help us. Young, expectant Mary can help us. We can enter their stories, listen to their words and pray their prayers over these weeks. By so doing, we deepen our longing and heighten our hope for God’s coming. By so doing, we become more attuned to the joyous wonder of Christ’s incarnation and better prepared for the fierce glory of his return. By so doing, year after year, we will be changed as Word becomes flesh in us.”

Yikes! This gets me so excited! Gross later on writes that the whole of the Old Testament is text for Advent. They were all waiting. And now we’re waiting, too. We have “permission to sing” like them and “permission to groan” like them. Let’s ponder God’s great work in our own lives and throughout redemptive history, including what he is doing now and what he promises to do in the future. Advent is about his long-awaited arrival. Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again!

*Perfect Christmas soundtrack that I’m playing right now.

That Hideous Strength

Today I finished reading the third installment of C.S. Lewis’ space trilogy, That Hideous Strength. I have to admit, most of this book was quite dense (Perelandra, the second book, is my favorite). But the last little bit of this one was quite riveting, in normal epic final battle C.S. Lewis fashion! I heartily recommend the whole series! Here are two favorite excerpts from the book:

After meeting the Director, going back on a train:

“Whatever she tried to think of led back to the Director himself and, in him, to joy. She saw from the windows of the train the outlined beams of sunlight pouring over stubble or burnished woods and felt that they were like the notes of a trumpet. Her eyes rested on the rabbits and cows as they flitted by and she embraced them in heart with merry, holiday love. She delighted in the occasional speech of the one wizened old man who shared her compartment and saw, as never before, the beauty of his shrewd and sunny old mind, sweet as a nut and English as a chalk down. She reflected with surprise how long it was since music had played any part of her life, and resolved to listen to many chorales by Bach on the gramophone that evening. Or else–perhaps–she would read a great many Shakespeare sonnets. She rejoiced also in her hunger and thirst and decided that she would make herself buttered toast for tea–a great deal of buttered toast. And she rejoiced also in the consciousness of her own beauty; for she had the sensation–it may have been false in fact, but it had nothing to do with vanity–that it was growing and expanding like a magic flower with every minute that passed….Certainly she was looking well: she was looking unusually well. And, once more, there was little vanity in this. For beauty was made for others. Her beauty belonged to the Director. It belonged to him so completely that he could even decide not to keep it for himself but to order that it be given to another, by an act of obedience lower, and therefore higher, more unconditional and therefore more delighting, than if he had demanded it for himself.”

———

“Do you place yourself in the obedience, ” said the Director, “in obedience to Maledil?” “Sir,” said Jane, “I know nothing of Maledil. But I place myself in obedience to you.” “It is enough for the present,” said the Director. “This is the courtesy of Deep Heaven: that when you mean well, He always takes you to have meant better than you knew. It will not be enough for always. He is very jealous. He will have you for no one but Himself in the end. But for tonight, it is enough.”

This Itch

Context: He has just eaten a delicious gourd.

“As he let the empty gourd fall from his hand and was about to pluck a second one, it came into his head that he was now neither hungry nor thirsty. And yet to repeat a pleasure so intense and almost so spiritual seemed an obvious thing to do. His reason, or what we commonly take to be reason in our own world, was all in favour of tasting this miracle again; the childlike innocence of fruit, the labours he had undergone, the uncertainty of the future, all seemed to commend the action. Yet something seemed opposed to this “reason.” It is difficult to suppose that this opposition came from desire, for what desire would turn from so much deliciousness? But for whatever cause, it appeared to him better not to taste again. Perhaps the experience had been so complete that repetition would be vulgarity–like asking to hear the same symphony twice in a day….”

“…He had always disliked the people who encored a favourite air in the opera–“That just spoils it” had been his comment. But this now appeared to him as a principle of far wider application and deeper moment. This itch to have things over again, as if life were a film that could be unrolled twice or even made to work backwards…was it possibly the root of all evil? No: of course the love of money was called that. But money itself–perhaps one valued it chiefly as a defense against chance, a security for being able to have things over again, a means of arresting the unrolling of the film.”

Perelandra, C.S. Lewis

Occasionally One or Two

Last Sunday, City Church featured this photo paired with the following quote on the cover of our bulletin. I’m not sure if the artist, Jeremy Mangan, was referring to the church community when he painted this, but it couldn’t seem more spot on. I found myself thinking about this painting several times this week, so up on the blog it goes!! What a powerful picture of the invisible reality of the Church in process.

The story’s in the title: “Occasionally One or Two Get Out, But They Never Go Far.”

“In friendship…we think we have chosen our peers. In reality a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another…the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting–any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” can truly say to every group of Christian friends, “Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.” The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.”

-C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

(linking up at sewmanyways and morganharpernichols)