Friday, February 17, 2012

Desiring the inner ring

"...this desire is one of the great permanent mainsprings of human action. It is one of the factors which go to make up the world as we know it—this whole pell-mell of struggle, competition, confusion, graft, disappointment and advertisement, and if it is one of the permanent mainsprings then you may be quite sure of this. Unless you take measures to prevent it, this desire is going to be one of the chief motives of your life, from the first day on which you enter your profession until the day when you are too old to care."
Please take the time to read "The Inner Ring" by C.S. Lewis. I feel that it explains much of the calamity of our modern world and makes the best sort of human dealings clear and simple.

The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it. But if you break it, a surprising result will follow. If in your working hours you make the work your end, you will presently find yourself all unawares inside the only circle in your profession that really matters. You will be one of the sound craftsmen, and other sound craftsmen will know it. This group of craftsmen will by no means coincide with the Inner Ring or the Important People or the People in the Know. It will not shape that professional policy or work up that professional influence which fights for the profession as a whole against the public: nor will it lead to those periodic scandals and crises which the Inner Ring produces. But it will do those things which that profession exists to do and will in the long run be responsible for all the respect which that profession in fact enjoys and which the speeches and advertisements cannot maintain. 

And if in your spare time you consort simply with the people you like, you will again find that you have come unawares to a real inside: that you are indeed snug and safe at the centre of something which, seen from without, would look exactly like an Inner Ring. But the difference is that the secrecy is accidental, and its exclusiveness a by-product, and no one was led thither by the lure of the esoteric: for it is only four or five people who like one another meeting to do things that they like. This is friendship. Aristotle placed it among the virtues. It causes perhaps half of all the happiness in the world, and no Inner Ring can ever have it.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Walking from East to West

I just finished reading Walking from East to West: God in the Shadows by Ravi Zacharias, a popular evangelical preacher. It is all about his life and conversion to Christianity (he is Indian). The whole book was remarkable, and I recommend it. But, there were a couple of parts that really struck me:

First, when he quoted the preacher G. Campbell Morgan that "Sacrilege is often defined as taking something that belongs to God and using it profanely. But there is a bigger sacrilege that we commit all the time. That is to take something and give it to God when it means absolutely nothing to us." (pg 68)

This cut me a little. There are so many things I do/give that I account to myself as my "points for heaven" that are easy to do/give... and I hadn't considered that there is a need not just to give but to give things THAT MATTER. It's like the story of the widow's mite. It meant nothing to the rich kings to give up their treasures, but it meant a lot to the widow to give the little she had. Her's was a sacred sacrifice and not a sacrilegious exhibition.


Ravi also quoted a story a friend told him which caught my attention:
A wealthy man walked into a village one day seeking to buy up all the homes. One by one, the villagers sold their homes to this man for a good price, except for a poor fellow who lived in the middle of the town. He simply wasn’t willing to part with his home. The wealthy man offered a generous amount, but the poor man still wouldn’t budge. Even when the price was doubled, the man said no. 
Finally, the rich man said, “Name your price. I’ll give you whatever you want, because then I’ll own the whole village.” 
“I don’t want to sell to you,” the poor man said, “I’m happy where I am, and this is where I want to stay.” He continued to stand his ground, much to the wealthy man’s disenchantment. 
A few days passed and the rich man was seen strolling through town with his friends, showing them the village. When the poor man heard about it, he stopped one of the wealthy man’s friends and took him aside. “Is this man telling you he owns the whole village?” he asked. “Don’t believe him! The ground you’re standing on still belongs to me.”

And gave this explanation: "I believe the enemy of our souls must taunt God the way this poor man taunted the rich one. You see, if there is any part of our lives that we haven’t turned over to Christ, the devil reminds him, “No, that one isn’t totally yours. I still have this patch of ground here.” Jesus is totally committed to us. And until we learn to be totally surrendered to him, we’ll never find the joy of what it means to fully belong to Him." (pg 125)

It's the paradox of freedom through surrender. We cannot be fully His, and thereby free, if we insist on maintaining some small part of control ourselves. I definitely struggle with this... it's hard for me not to hold the reins of my life and it's even harder still not to try and at least keep a finger on them... but I HAVE to learn to let go!


This is something else I personally connected to:

"Donal Coggan, the 101st Archbishop of Canterbury, once said that the longest journey in the life of one's belief is from the head to the heart. My own life was testimony to this fact. The truth that had gone into my head had rescued my heart from its turmoil.

Allow me to elaborate a bit on Coggan's maxim. If we say that a sexual union is sacred -- if marital love is exclusive and cannot be compromised -- then it stands to reason that if you violate that sanctity, your emotions will be in keeping with the violation. Likewise, if it is rationally sound that Jesus rose again from the dead, the heart should delight that this life is not the end. Or, if it is rationally sound that the home is a gift of God, then family life is emotionally invigorating. In short, if the reasoning is sound, the feelings will follow. Feelings follow belief; belief, then, should follow truth.

I would add that the converse to Coggan's statement is just as true, namely, that the longest journey is also from the heart to the head. And so came my hunger to know the great depths of truth behind my faith."

I would like to stand behind this -- that "the longest journey IS also from the heart to the head" and that when you feel so strongly through the Spirit the conviction of the gospel of Christ it WILL bring a hunger to "know the great depths of truth" and it WILL bring a lifelong journey of questions, answers, and abiding joy.


One of the most powerful things about Ravi's writings is his testimony of Christ. The manner by which he came to know Christ is remarkable and I can't help but compare him a little to Paul; he was lost but found his way and gained a powerful testimony to voice the the world. This comes from the end of his book:

God is in the shadows in many ways, but He is also in the bright light of what His servants do every day. My prayer is that He will find me faithful, and that until He calls me home I'll be willing to go anywhere, to bear any burden for Him, and to recommit to HIm afresh. It's a tall dream, and without His strength it cannot be done. Yet with His strength, all things are possible. 
When I look at the life I've had and at what the Lord has given me -- my calling, my friendships, my beautiful wife and children -- it is what dreams are made of. I have seen the world. I have walked with great leaders. I have slept in the villages and homes of the poor. I have had to stop at moments along the way and say, "I can never believe this is what the Lord had in mind for me when He started to rebuild my life." Only as you keep in perspective you roots, your ordinary day-to-day life, and the grace that called you, are you able to see clearly the extraordinary privilege of speaking to people who make a difference in our world. 
To try to begin to take it all in is to dip you toe into an ocean that's too deep to fathom. It is nothing less that a tapestry woven skillfully and mysteriously by father and son -- the elder nodding and the younger responding -- a work whose beauty is reveal in fullness only upon its completion. 
T.S. Eliot once wrote:
We shall not cease from exploration,
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time. 
Life is not merely a geographical journey -- not just east to west, or north to south. There is also an up and a down -- God's way, or our way. My prayer for you the reader is that you, too, will see it His way, both in the shadows and in the light. There is no greater discovery than seeing God as the author of your destiny.
I can hardly wait for heaven to put it all together -- yes, even more.