Friday, April 28, 2006

Blogging may be light...

I'm getting ready for the track!

To all who've been reading and responding to my posts, I say a big thank you. Many of you have encouraged me greatly, and I trust you are encouraged in this journal!

However, blogging will regretfully be lighter in the short term, as circumstances mitigate. I'll try to keep brief updates coming for the Hopegivers orphan care situation in India. And in the meantime I recommend and also the site [for email and other contact info].

God bless all of you, and see you at the track! :-)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The one who knows us best...

...loves us the most

Jesus didn't reply to the men, but rather stooped down
and began writing in the dust.
Some say He wrote the deepest sins of each man,
from oldest to youngest...
At this silent writing, their shouting ceased
and stones dropped from their hands.
Slowly they walked away, from oldest to youngest:
From shouting slogans of false justice,
so willing to sacrifice a desperate woman
on the altar of tradition,
to walking quietly away...
thus the Power of His silent act.

And He turned to her: "Woman, where are your accusers?"
"I see none, Lord..."
Yet her unspoken question hung between them,
like a leaden stone in her soul...
His next words took that weight away:
"Neither do I condemn you, go, and sin no more!"

The One who knows us best loves us most;
The only One who can condemn us chooses to forgive us,
and takes the stones from our hands and heart:
This is not justice, it is something Higher.
It is Him. His eyes tell us what our hearts cannot believe:
He has given us Himself instead of stones!
"Go, and live in Me!'

Monday, April 17, 2006

A meditation of Resurrection

A lesson from a childhood sunrise service

Early Easter mornings usually take my mind back to a sunrise service of my childhood. In those days, the sunrise service would begin in the pre-dawn darkness, and we would finish as a hint of pink light crowned the eastern sky. And we would declare to the wakening world, “He is risen!”

But this year wasn’t service as usual, for it featured special visitors. Very early in the morning, my father drove a few miles down the road to pick up a worshipper for the service. It was so early in the morning, that he happened to pass two drunks on their way home from the local bar. They had stayed to last call, and weren’t feeling any pain. But Dad rolled down his window and offered them a ride. They said, “Sure, preacher!” But once they got in the car, Dad invited them to church. “What, church this time of morning?” they asked. “It’s a sunrise service,” Dad replied. “And you’d be welcome!”

And so they came to church, their first time in years.

They managed to stay awake, so I’ll have to give them credit. But when it came time for Dad to read the scripture lesson, we nearly lost it. For that morning, Dad read from the Gospel of Mark, where Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, at her graveside vigil. The old Authorized text reads something like this: “Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven devils…”

As soon as Dad read the words, “out of whom He had cast seven devils…,” one man turned to the other and said, in a dramatic, drunken stage whisper,



It echoed through the little church in stereo, and nearly brought the house down. I’ll never forget that service!

Looking back, we just have to laugh. But it raises a serious point of human nature. It is so human: two guys sitting in sunrise service, battling the sin of drunkenness, yet focused on the infidelity of their wives! Not their own evident issues, but the perceived issues of others.

Even at sunrise service, even at Easter, when we see our Lord’s rising from the grave, His victory over sin, we still cope with our own sinfulness. It’s the fallen human condition. This is our condition – maybe not drunkenness, or infidelity, but something: a lack of discipline, judgmental spirit, broken word, or relational failure – and it’s far too easy to see another’s need, before our own. This is our natural state, but it is not our true state.

And so, we can get discouraged. The cross truly shows us the destructive power of sin. Sin separates us from God, from one another, and from ourselves. Even in Holy Week, we struggle with separation. Even in sunrise service, we ask,

“Is sin the last word for me? Is separation the last word for my life?”

And here is where our Easter morning text speaks so loudly:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God…

The resurrection of Christ means something radically new for human life. Yes, we have been bound over to sin in every aspect of our being. But now, in the risen Christ, our life is in a very real sense bound up in God. Bound over into sin, yes, but now bound up in Christ to divine life. The verse says we are “hidden with Christ in God.”

The text goes so far to say that Christ is our new life.

Christ is the fount and reality of new, real existence. As Augustine said when he came to the knowledge of new life in Christ: “O God! When I was outside you, I was outside myself!”

Our true self is a risen self. Truly the text says: Christ is life, new life.

And it goes on to give a list of powerful sins, which Christ can help us conquer: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness. Or, putting it in modern terms: Living life treating bodies like objects and treating objects as the essence of life, living as a slave to things we taste, touch and feel, devaluing others in the process. Isn’t this our world? Without Christ, we are only slaves to these things. With Christ, we can break free from their power and control. As Augustine put it, in Christ we go from non posse non pecare to posse non pecare; or, “not able not to sin,” to “able not to sin.”

That is the power and hope of the gospel. Christ has defeated that which defeats us. As the psalmist put it, “Our sins are stronger than we are, but you are stronger than they are, and you will blot them out!”

When skeptics mocked the early Christians for believing that Jesus could rise from the dead, the Christians merely responded: If Christ is not raised, how then can He give us the power to live this new life? The skeptics could not answer…

There is something about the life of Christ which wins for us a possibility of new life.

The proper response before the risen Christ is not “your wife and mine,” but rather your life and mine – a life of great need, yes, but also a life of great possibility, because our Savior has power over our sin, and our grave…

Jesus is risen, and stands among us this morning in the Holy Spirit, offering us a new beginning, offering us our true selves.

As we die with Him, we are raised to new life.


Saturday, April 15, 2006

A song for Easter vigil

Resting from His work today

Resting from His work today
In the tomb the Savior lay;
Still He slept, from head to feet,
Shrouded in the winding sheet,
Lying in the rock alone,
Hidden by the sealed stone.

Late at even there was seen,
Watching long the Magdalene;
Early ere the break of day,
Sorrowful she took her way
To the holy garden glade,
Where her buried Lord was laid.

So with Thee, till life shall end,
I would solemn vigil spend,
Let me hew Thee, Lord, a shrine,
In this rocky heart of mine,
Where in pure embalmed cell,
None but Thee shall ever dwell.

Myrrh and spices will I bring,
True affection's offering;
Close the door from sight and sound,
Of the busy world around;
And in patient watch remain,
Till my Lord shall come again.

Friday, April 14, 2006

That Hideous Strength

When the Straight meets the Crooked...

Good Friday: The Straight meets the Crooked

by C.S. Lewis

Note: Lewis received complaints for his use of the word “damned.” He understood the criticism as he was opposed to swear words in principle, but he responded to the effect that he did not use frivolous swearing; he rather used the word as it was intended: if something was truly of the damned, then it was not swearing to call it what it was.

When the Straight meets the Crooked

Meanwhile, in the Objective Room, something like a crisis had developed between Mark and Professor Frost. As soon as they arrived there Mark saw that the table had been drawn back. On the floor lay a large crucifix, almost life size, a work of art in the Spanish tradition, ghastly and realistic. “We have half an hour to pursue our exercises,” said Frost looking his watch. Then he instructed Mark to trample on it and insult it in other ways.

Now whereas Jane had abandoned Christianity in early childhood, along with her belief in fairies and Santa Claus, Mark had never believed in it at all. At this moment, therefore, it crossed his mind for the very first time that there might conceivably be something in it…

“But, look here,” said Mark.

“What is it?” said Frost. “Pray be quick. We have only a limited time at our disposal.”

“This,” said Mark, pointing with an undefined reluctance at the horrible white figure on the cross. “This is all surely pure superstition.”


“Well, if so, what is there objective about stamping on the face? Isn’t it just as subjective to spit on a thing like this as to worship it? I mean – damn it all – if it’s only a bit of wood, why do anything about it?”

“That is superficial. If you had been brought up in a non-Christian society, you would not be asked to do this. Of course it is a superstition; but it is that particular superstition which has pressed upon our society for a great many centuries. It can be experimentally shown that it still forms a dominant stem in the subconscious of many individuals whose conscious thought appears to be wholly liberated. An explicit action in the reverse direction is therefore a necessary step towards complete objectivity. It is not a question for a priori discussion. We find it in practice that it cannot be dispensed with.”

Mark himself was surprised at the emotions he was undergoing. He did not regard the image with anything at all like religious feeling. Most emphatically it did not belong to that Idea of the Straight or Normal or Wholesome which had, for the last few days, been his support against what he now knew of the innermost circle at Belbury. The horrible vigor of its realism was, indeed, in its own way as remote from that Idea as anything else in the room. That was one source of his reluctance. To insult even a carved image of such agony seemed an abominable act. But it was not the only source. With the introduction of this Christian symbol the whole situation had somehow altered. The thing was becoming unbearable. His simple antithesis of the Normal and the Diseased had obviously failed to take something into account. Why was the crucifix there? Why were more than half the poison-pictures religious? He had the sense of new parties to the conflict – potential allies and enemies which he had not suspected before. “If I take a step in any direction,” he thought, “I may step over a precipice.” A donkey-like determination to plant hoofs and stay still at all costs arose in his mind.

“Pray make haste,” said Frost.

The quiet urgency of the voice, and the fact that he had so often obeyed it before, almost conquered him. He was on the verge of obeying, and getting the whole silly business over, when the defenselessness of the figure deterred him. The feeling was a very illogical one. Not because its hands were nailed and helpless, but because they were only made of wood and therefore even more helpless, because the thing, for all its realism, was inanimate and could not in any way hit back, he paused. The unretaliating face of a doll – one of Myrtle’s dolls – which he had pulled to pieces in boyhood, had affected him in the same way and the memory, even now, was tender to the touch.

“What are you waiting for, Mr. Studdock?” said Frost.

Mark was well aware of the rising danger. Obviously, if he disobeyed, his last chance of getting out of Belbury alive might be gone. Even of getting out of this room. The smothering sensation once again attacked him. He was himself, he felt, as helpless as the wooden Christ. As he thought, he found himself looking at the crucifix in a new way – neither as a piece of wood nor as a monument of superstition but as a bit of history. Christianity was nonsense, but one did not doubt that the man had lived and had been executed thus by the Belbury of those days. And that, as he suddenly saw, explained why this image, though not itself an image of Straight or Normal, was yet in opposition to crooked Belbury. It was a picture of what happened when the Straight met the Crooked, a picture of what the Crooked did to the Straight – what it would do to him if he remained straight. It was, in a more emphatic sense than he had yet understood, a cross.

“Do you intend to go on with the training or not?” said Frost. His eye was on the time…

“Do you not hear what I am saying?” he asked Mark again.

Mark made no reply. He was thinking, and thinking hard because he knew, that if he stopped even for a moment, mere terror of death would take the decision out of his hands. Christianity was a fable. It would be ridiculous to die for a religion one did not believe. This Man himself, on that very cross, had discovered it to be a fable. And had died complaining that the God in whom he trusted had forsaken him, in fact, found the universe a cheat. But this raised a question that Mark had never thought of before. Was that the moment at which to turn against the Man? If the universe was a cheat, was that a good reason for joining its side? Supposing the Straight was utterly powerless, always and everywhere certain to be mocked, tortured, and finally killed by the Crooked, what then? Why not go down with the ship? Here Mark began to be frightened by the very fact that his fears seemed have momentarily vanished. They had been a safeguard…they had prevented him, all his life, from making mad decisions like that which he was now making as he turned to Frost and said,

“It’s all bloody nonsense, and I’m damned if I do any such thing.”

C. S. Lewis, The Descent of the Gods, That Hideous Strength (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1976), 334ff.

The world’s Objectivity Room

We live in a world which, in its own powerful and seductive way, requires *objectivity training* for those who would be feted and successful. Look at the manicured and gelded news anchors – look at their “objective” references to religion and Christ, which gradually trample His person with subtle mockery and suspended disdain.

Listen to the NPR-like sotto voce when referencing Christ; look at the chosen caricatures of media and Christ; look at the breathless embracement of Jesus Seminar pseudo-scholarship, or the revisionist DaVinci Code: raw Gnostic fiction embraced as new truth.

It’s what happens when the Straight meets the Crooked.

Or, look at how the “objective” media flee the storyline of 2,500 orphans threatened for their faith, because their caregivers stand against a racist caste system – now victims of its unjust court system.

Look at how this militant Indian state can pass an anti-conversion law which specifically makes it a crime for Christians to care for orphans – humanitarian goodness hanged on a cross –, yet ignored with a yawn by those with media power!

Look at how sacrificial caregivers can be imprisoned without investigation or formal charges in court, without due process or bail, held and tortured until their assets are gone and bodies broken…all because they gave care to orphans in an old-caste culture which feeds on those orphans’ de facto slavery, and not a word said!

This is where the Straight meets the Crooked.

The world has its Objectivity Room, and one either accepts its training or Christ: Good Friday shows us the results of choosing Christ. Kota, Rajasthan is no accident.

But we still must stand with Christ, and with those who embrace the Straight. The Crooked may always and everywhere marginalize or torture the Straight, but something tells me the Straight will have the last word…

For the Straight is the Word and is of the Word: the Beginning will have the End.


The way of the cross

Consider Him who endured the scorn of sinful men

"For consider Him that endured such hostility of sinners against himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.

"Therefore, we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of God."

Heb. 12:3, 1-2

Go to dark Gethsemane

Go to dark Gethsemane,
Ye who feel the tempter's power;
Your Redeemer's conflict see,
Watch with Him one bitter hour.
Turn not from His griefs away,
Learn from Jesus Christ to pray.

See Him at the judgment hall,
Beaten, bound, reviled, arraigned;
O the wormwood and the gall!
O the pangs His soul sustained!
Shun not suffering, shame, or loss,
Learn from Christ to bear the cross.

Cal'vry's mournful mountain climb;
There, adoring at His feet,
Mark that miracle of time,
God's own sacrifice complete.
'It is finished!' hear Him cry;
Learn of Jesus Christ to die.

When the Straight meets the Crooked

The cross is the sign of what happens when the Straight meets the Crooked. What is happening in Rajasthan is no accident. The deadly irrationality of militant Hindus, who pass laws to make orphan care a criminal offense, is nothing new. The spirit behind the men who torture Christian caregivers in India is the same spirit behind those who whipped Christ on the way to the cross.

But if we learn to die with Him, we may learn something else...

Monday, April 10, 2006

Congressional signers of the Akin-Wicker letter re: orphanage

U.S. Congress contacts Indian Prime Minister
The letter specifically mentions Hopegivers orphanage, and asks that Prime Minister Singh take a personal interest in the ongoing persecution of Christians and minorities in India.

Below are the members of U.S. Congress who signed on to the Akin-Wicker letter to Indian Prime Minister Singh, requesting that he take action to halt the religious persection taking place now in India. The letter specifically requests that the Hopegivers orphanage in Kota be protected [Emmanual Hope Home (EMI)] and that its leaders be released from prison.

The letter is listed in full, here. To which these intrepid members signed:

Page one of signatures:

Page two of signatures:

These signatories are worthy of our gratitude. If your congressperson is listed here, please consider sending a note of thanks.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

A sword of blessing and peril

'The Lady of Lorien! Galadriel!' cried Sam. 'You should see her, indeed you should, sir... I'm not much good at poetry -- not at making it: a bit of comic rhyme, perhaps, now and again, you know, but not real poetry -- so I can't tell you what I mean. It ought to be sung. You'd have to get Strider, Aragorn, that is, or old Mr. Bilbo, for that. But I wish I could make a song about her. Beautiful she is, sir! Lovely! Sometimes like a great tree in flower, sometimes like a white daffadowndilly, slender like. Hard as diamonds, soft as moonlight. Warm as sunlight, cold as frost in the stars. Proud and far-off as a snow-mountain, and as merry as any lass that I ever saw with daisies in her hair at springtime. But that's a lot o' nonsense, and wide of my mark.'

'Then she must be lovely indeed,' said Faramir. 'Perilously fair.'

'I don't know about perilous
,' said Sam. 'It strikes me that folks takes their peril with them into Lorien, and finds it there because they brought it. But perhaps you could call her perilous, because she's so strong in herself...'

Just thinking tonight about those who practice violence against Christians and then blame the Christians. Or, those who practice violence against women and then blame the woman for that violence: "Oh, she was too beautiful...and she dressed that way, etc." ad infinitas, ad naseum.

Those who blame women for their own sinful thoughts and actions, and those who blame Christians for their abuse of Christians, have taken their own peril with them into a land so fair, a land so compelling and wonderful that it reveals their innermost thoughts and calls forth their true character; and yet, for all that, it is a land about which they know nothing.

Their doom is sure.