5 of 5 stars to The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis
2018 – Now my favorite book in the series.
2009 – 3 of 5 stars.
This was my first time on the Dawn Treader, and it was as fair a journey that I imagine I would like from fiction. I do mean that to sound positive.
I enjoyed the end the best, not because it the book was finished, but because the imaginative description of the place nearest Aslan’s land made me eager for heaven, whatever (and however much better) the non-fiction version will be like.
I was sad for both Lucy and Edmund that they would never return to Narnia. I was glad that Eustace changed for the better, even though it took seeing himself as a dragon. I always get excited (for the kids, you know) when Aslan shows up.
When Jesus turned the water into wine at the wedding in Cana, what did that miracle do? It seems that there are at least two things. First, it enabled the party to continue. Second, it demonstrated that Jesus had divine power.
But is that it? Is the point of the miracles to reveal Jesus as God? It is certainly one of the things that happened, and it is important to acknowledge Jesus’ identity. But any given sign that Jesus did, such as turning the water into wine, is intended not merely to make us think about that one event, but to think about every time God ever does a similar natural thing.
Athanasius was the first to make this connection regarding the Incarnation. C.S. Lewis followed up on it in his essay, “Miracles.” All the miracles Jesus performed were supernatural, but they were focused demonstrations of what God is always doing naturally.
[E]very year, from Noah’s time till ours, God turns water into wine. That, men fail to see. Either like the Pagans they refer the process to some finite spirit, Bacchus or Dionysus: or else, like the moderns, they attribute real and ultimate causality to the chemical and other material phenomena which are all that our senses can discover in it. But when Christ at Cana makes water into wine, the mask is off. The miracle has only half its effect if it only convinces us that Christ is God: it will have its full effect if whenever we see a vineyard or drink a glass of wine we remember that here works He who sat at the wedding party in Cana. (God in the Dock, 29)
It doesn’t make the miracles less significant, but it does mean we should be more in awe and giving thanks for the mundane.
The Lord’s Table is not a miracle, but as we eat the bread and the wine it is a focused, and special, opportunity to remember the death of Jesus, followed by His resurrection and the vindication of His sacrifice for sin. But this is not the only time we should think about God’s provision of bread and wine, or about His provision of a church body, or His provision of everything, and how He is building it all together.
Many things come into focus when we focus on this meal rightly.
Although I probably could get an exhortation to confession from every page in Jeremiah Burroughs’ The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, I promise I won’t. That said, contentment and thankfulness and emotional self-control requires constant vigilance, and it often requires repentance of fear and anxiety as well.
The confession of every Christian is, Jesus is Lord. At conversion we repent from self-will and self-serving. We turn away from sin and are delivered from our slavery to unrighteousness. Jesus is Lord, we submit to Him.
Sanctification is the process in which our wants and wills are transformed by the Spirit, from the inside out. We are free from sinful wants. We are also becoming more and more free from sinful reactions.
This Genesis 3 world is tough. Even in the 21st century West not everything is easy, and much of our days is spent carrying some sort of burden. The burden carrying is right in so far as we receive it as from the Lord. Where we go wrong is when we add to our suffering an attitude of slavery to the suffering. Burroughs wrote,
“How unseemly it is that you should be a slave to every cross, that every affliction should be able to say to your soul, ‘Bow down to us.’ …Truly it is so, when your heart is overcome with murmuring and discontent; know that those afflictions which have caused you to murmur have said to you, ‘Bow down that we may tread upon you,'” (147)
How easy it is to elevate our troubles into masters, when we answer questions from friends, rant on social media, or just in our emotional reactivity. Our souls are free, not from suffering, but from being slaves to suffering. We confess, Jesus is Lord, and no man can serve two masters.
“I can only handle one friend at a time.” I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say that. Not all friendships are equal, not all require the same amount of attention or effort or time, but the nature of friendship does not limit anyone to only mono-friendship any more than the nature of a flower limits how many can make a bouquet.
My point is not about friendship, but about reading, and fiction especially. In the podcast I mentioned yesterday, the Admiral said he tries to only be reading two books at a time. I frequently hear people say that they can only handle reading one book at a time. It may be true for the moment, but also not necessary.
It is possible to increase your capacity to hold on to multiple story lines. I read two to four pages of The Pilgrim’s Progress to my kids during breakfast on Sunday mornings. I read one to two hours of The Fellowship of the Ring to Mo and the kids on Sunday afternoons (often with a Mariner’s game playing on the TV on mute). I was reading The Last of the Lost Boys some evenings for the kids (until we finished that a week ago). And I was plodding through Moby Dick on my own for 10 minutes a day while running on my treadmill.
I never confused Ishmael for Sam, or Sam (Miracle) for Sam (Gamgee) for that matter. I did not forget that Hopeful and Christian were not on a ship, or that Ahab’s journey was aimed away from the Celestial City.
Do you need to read more than one book at a time? No. Does each book require the same amount of attention and effort? Of course not. Can you hold on to a plethora of plots and characters at the same time? Maybe not as easily at first, but you definitely can increase your capacity if you want to and get to work.
4 of 5 stars to 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan Peterson
This book contains a lot of pointed, profitable counsel for people to take responsibility for themselves, especially since, not in spite of the fact that, we live in a world of suffering. It also references a lot of teaching from the Bible and biblical stories, though Peterson talks about it as if it could be a helpful framework but not as if it were actually true, and that all men must believe in God through Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross. I’m still thankful for the provocation to see, regardless of how ugly it might be, so that we might actually envision how to make (some) things better.
I listened to this Art of Manliness podcast on The Leader’s Bookshelf. The host was interviewing Admiral James Stavridis, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe (that really is some title) who had surveyed a number of generals and admirals to find out their recommendations for books on leadership and then written about the top 50 results.
Earlier this year my friend Jonathan recommended the episode to some school parents since their students were assigned to read Killer Angels, a historical fiction piece about the Civil War. In the top 50 there is a surprising amount of fiction and, less surprising, a lot of history. In the interview itself there are some easy tips for reading more, such as carrying/reading Kindle copies and using small segments of time rather than waiting for big blocks. The episode isn’t groundbreaking, but it is worth a listen for the reminders/encouragement.
In the beginning was the Word, the Logos. In the beginning the Logos created the heavens and the earth, and the earth was tohu va bohu, “without form and void.” After the initial act, there was darkness, chaos, and emptiness.
Then God’s Word went to work. God spoke and light pierced the darkness. God spoke and order came from chaos. God spoke and filled the earth, overwhelming the void. His Word formed and filled. The Logos changed the landscape of existence.
And the Logos changed existence a second time when He died on the cross and rose again on the third day. He is still changing it.
Because of Adam’s sin, we are born sinners and so we sin. There is darkness in our hearts, a chaos of confusion and disobedience, an emptiness of meaning and of love. The incarnate Word of God sacrificed Himself so that we could see the light and be in the light. We are in Him, and He is the light. He is the truth, the one who clears our thinking and conforms us to His image. He is the life, and in Him we have love and joy. He is the value by which we measure all things, and He is the meaning-giver.
Apart from Christ, we were tohu va bohu, without form and void. For those who believe, for those in Christ, we are being formed and filled with the fulness of God. Let us remember and rejoice in this Word.
God frequently reveals the priorities He has for us, and it is very common for us to make alterations. He says what He wants, we give Him something else that we think He might be happy with instead.
The Lord regularly told the Israelites that He desired their obedience rather than their offerings (Hosea 6:6); Psalm 50:8, 14-15, 23; Proverbs 21:3). Those sacrifices were, of course, sacrifices that He Himself had commanded them to make. But the sacrifices were to be an act of obedience, not a substitute for obedience.
It is just as likely for us to offer up something to the Lord that appears to meet the specs. It is not just possible, it is likely that Christians often consider their attendance and participation in corporate worship as something that pleases God, which it is, but only as we are worshipping Him in all the ways He wants.
Jeremiah Burroughs wrote,
You worship God more by [contentment] than when you come to hear a sermon, or spend half an hour, or an hour, in prayer, or when you come to receive a sacrament. These are the acts of God’s worship, but they are only external acts of worship, to hear and pray and receive sacraments. But this is the soul’s worship, to subject itself thus to God. (The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, 120)
He continued by pointing out the power of our being pleased with what God does.
in active obedience we worship God by doing what pleases God, but by passive obedience we do as well worship God by being pleased with what God does. (.ibid)
Maybe you have done all the things you think you needed to do this week. But have you been pleased with all the things that God has done in your week? Pleasure in His work is worship.
4 of 5 stars to Outlaws of Time #3: The Last of the Lost Boys by N.D. Wilson
Finished this with the kids. Inventive time-traveling, though I wasn’t always sure of the “rules,” numerous thick characters, and a satisfying end to the series.
4 of 5 stars to Moby-Dick: or, The Whale by Herman Melville
It took a while to finish, but I enjoyed it. The beginning chapters were Wodehouse-ian, the majority of the middle chapters were Ecclesiastes-ian, and the finale was simultaneously disappointing and deserved.