Lenten Journey: Waiting for Aslan

“WHAT an extraordinary place!” cried Lucy. “All those stone animals – and people too! It’s – it’s like a museum.”

“Hush,” said Susan, “Aslan’s doing something.”

…..Everywhere the statues were coming to life. The courtyard looked no longer like a museum; it looked more like a zoo. Creatures were running after Aslan and dancing round him till he was almost hidden in the crowd. Instead of all that deadly white the courtyard was now a blaze of colours; glossy chestnut sides of centaurs, indigo horns of unicorns, dazzling plumage of birds, reddy-brown of foxes, dogs and satyrs, yellow stockings and crimson hoods of dwarfs; and the birch-girls in silver, and the beech-girls in fresh, transparent green, and the larch-girls in green so bright that it was almost yellow. And instead of the deadly silence the whole place rang with the sound of happy roarings, brayings, yelpings, barkings, squealings, cooings, neighings, stampings, shouts, hurrahs, songs and laughter.” from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

****************************

During our summer weekend walks in Rockport we pass by some amazing houses. Each one is different in color, size and style. Each one with character and charm: wrap-around front porches on some, outside spiral staircases to rooftops on others, gilded turrets on still more. They are blue, white, deep orange, and green. They have gardens and window boxes full of flowers, driveways and wide porches.

Just to look at them is a treat for our eyes.

One of the houses we aren’t able to describe. It sits down a hill closer to the ocean. Large trees block the view and it’s clear by the No Trespassing sign that strangers are not welcome. A large plot of land opposite the driveway belongs to the house and in recent years the land was developed. Trees were removed and the land is now sculpted with bushes, plants and flowers all artistically pre-arranged so they fit in with large rocks in the area.

But that is not enough.

A couple of years ago, the owners introduced stone statues of animals to the landscaped area.

First we saw a haughty ostrich at least 10 feet tall, its neck rising above its body.

Next we saw a proud lion on a rock.

Then we saw a lioness.

And her cubs.

Stone monkeys, children, and more lions have been added to the stone menagerie.

They stand, poised to pounce and play. But they can’t, because they aren’t alive. They are merely stone and granite statues fashioned by a talented artist.

These stone animals remind me of the castle of the White Witch, Queen of Narnia, where “Her Imperial Majesty Jadis, Queen of Narnia, Chatelaine of Cair Paravel, Empress of the Lone Islands” turns her enemies into stone and they sit in a large courtyard, seemingly forever trapped under a curse. Moments before they offended the queen, these animals and people were fully alive with a purpose ordained by their creator. Then, through the curse of this queen, they became stone.

They are waiting for Aslan.

I think of how like these stone statues I am at times. Hard. Immoveable. Lifeless. Paralyzed. Stationary. Like I’m waiting for Aslan, waitng for the great lion to breathe life into me so I can live the way I was created to live. 

In Narnia, Aslan is on the move and even stone statues are not beyond his reach. The breath of Aslan touches the statues and moves them from cold, grey stone to living, breathing reality full of color, movement and life. They become who they were created to be – the strength and glory of the Lion in their bearing.

I sit stationary, praying for the breath of the Spirit of God. Just one breath is enough to be fully alive.

Reflection Question: How has the Spirit of God used your Lenten journey to breathe new life into your heart and soul? 

20130710-074736.jpg

20130710-074758.jpg

20130710-074936.jpg

 Note: This post has been adapted from one published in 2013.

The Beaver’s Whisper

spring - Aslan quote

“They say Aslan is on the move—perhaps he has already landed,” [said Beaver].

And now a very curious thing happened. None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different…. At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in its inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summerC.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

In the beloved children’s book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, children from our world happen upon another world: The world of Narnia. And Narnians are tired. The land has been under the spell of an evil witch, where it is always winter and never Christmas. A place where there is fear and sadness, and little hope that anything will ever change. A world where what you say can be held against you, where betrayal is rampant, where faithful friends and family seem few.

If you’re like me, you probably have days like Narnia under the spell of the White Witch. Days when you are tired and where it seems like nothing will ever change. Days where you feel like faithful friends and family are far away or non-existent. It’s on these days when I take comfort from the words of a fictional character in a fictional land; specifically a talking beaver.

Because today I need to know that “Aslan is on the Move!”  

“Have confidence in the compassion of our Creator. Reflect well on what you are now doing, and keep before you the things you have done. Lift up your eyes to the overflowing compassion of heaven, and while He waits for you, draw near in tears to our merciful Judge. Having before your mind that He is a Just Judge, do not take your sins lightly; and having also in mind that He is compassionate, do not despair. The God-Man gives man confidence before God.” from St. Gregory the Great

Photo Credit: http://pixabay.com/en/flowers-spring-white-yellow-plums-291902/ Word Art by Marilyn R. Gardner

Puddleglum’s Declaration

Puddleglum quote

Although only 2 weeks, it has been a good rest. The longest time I have spent away from the blog in three years. It was a time of saying goodbye to our oldest child, a time of packing up summer, a time of not worrying about social media or reactions to posts on Communicating Across Boundaries, a time of recognizing I am moving into a new season.

I now move into a busy fall, a time where work pushes its demands, where the season changes from brilliant blues and greens to radiant Autumn golds and reds. It’s a new season at home as well. With changes in our family we are empty nesters and adjusting to the good and hard of a house that rattles and time that we didn’t previously have.

As I reflect I am sobered and humbled by all of life – but especially by the story that God is writing.  For it is a worldwide story of people and redemption, of restoration and rescue. The story God is writing is a story that goes from Pakistan to Syria; from Iraq to Germany; from Russia to Gaza; from Senegal to the United States; from North Pole to South Pole and all places between. Sometimes the story feels like it’s at a stand still, sometimes I hate the plot or I don’t understand it, sometimes all is calm and I read with encouragement and clarity. Sometimes I want to give it a 5-star rating and urge others to read it; still other times I want to rant and curse and give it a 1-star book review, begging others not to read it. But no matter what my feelings are about this story, it is always there, always moving forward, always being written. And at the end of each day, I thank God for this story.

A friend recently reminded me of Puddleglum. Puddleglum is a character in the Narnia series, specifically in The Silver Chair. Now Puddleglum is a complete pessimist. You know the kind – the one that when you say “It’s so beautiful out” they say “Yeah – but tomorrow it’s going to rain.” But Puddleglum shows his true character in one part of the story. At this part the green witch is trying to cast a spell on Puddleglum and some of his friends to make them forget Aslan and Narnia. She is throwing green powder on a fire, and Puddleglum? He stamps out the fire. Despite the pain of the flames, he stamps it out. And this is what he says:

“But there’s one thing more to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things–trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play-world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia.

So as I end this period of rest, this I know – no matter what black pit this world may seem, no matter how awful it gets, no matter where the story goes, I believe there is a story worth clinging to, worth trying to understand. And despite all my doubts, all the things that can go against my faith, all the horror and evil that exists – I believe there is something better on the other side. Along with Puddleglum I declare that even if there is no Narnia, I’m going to live like a Narnian. 

Between Worlds has a giveaway through GoodReads! Between now and September 14 you can enter the give away! If you have purchased Between Worlds and want to dialogue about it or would like a copy of the discussion guide, send me a message – I’d love to talk to you. Email communicatingblog@gmail.com

Read reviews of Between Worlds here: 

Purchase here:

Equator People in an Arctic World

20140109-074015.jpg

I had to do it. Cliché as it may be – I have to write about the cold. About the polar vortex. About how all you see are frozen eyebrows peeking out of massive winter hats. About how everyone around you is bundled up so tight that we do the vortex waddle – that clumsy “I have too many clothes on but at least I am not freezing” waddle.

I have to write about how everyone is so cold they forget to be mean to each other – and how refreshing this is. About how even the homeless on these Boston streets are non-existent because the polar vortex has overtaken the most hardened and has them running to shelters. About how I almost slip on black ice, but I catch myself, and breathe a deep sigh of thanks in the sustaining grace of God. About hot water – and how I pray in my hot shower. How I pray that those who are cold will be warm, that those whose hearts are walls of ice, will feel the breath of the spirit melting the hard, cold wall into a warm puddle of vulnerability.

I have to describe the way we, a society of individuals who “do by self”, collectively walk with one purpose – that of making it to a place that is warm. We are resolute in our goal and we move as one down the city streets.

I read a story about a man in Kentucky who escaped from a minimum security prison, only to turn himself in as the temperature dropped and his prison khaki couldn’t sustain the cold. He walked into a motel and asked them to call the police – better to be in prison than out in this cold. This is what the cold is doing to people! When an escaped prisoner turns himself in you know it’s cold.

We are equator people in an arctic world. We are made for warmth and light, color and joy. But we walk in solemn black and grey, heads covered, eyes down, as though in mourning. The only conversation heard among people is “Stay warm” “How cold is it outside?” “How far did you have to walk in the cold?”

Equator people in an arctic world. Made in the image of God to know the love of God. Made to enjoy him forever, yet surrounded by ice that keeps our hearts cold to that love, unable to move past the arctic chill, that stubborn defense against all that is good, all that is holy.

But a polar vortex can’t last forever. Already the temperature is rising and the winds of warmth are coming. In the first book of the beloved series The Chronicles of Narnia we see equator people in an arctic world. Narnia is frozen under the spell of the white witch. All is cold and grey. Evil lurks in shadows and neighbor turns on neighbor. All of Narnia feels the oppression of the white witch and a world where it is “always winter but never Christmas.” But words of hope come that Aslan is on the move.

“They say Aslan is on the move—perhaps he has already landed,” [said Beaver]. And now a very curious thing happened. None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different…. At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in its inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.”*

For equator people in an arctic world this is hope indeed. That Aslan is on the move. That warmth will come. “Heaven has cracked into this cold, dark world yet again – and nothing that collides with the holy can stay the same.” from Addie Zierman, “Stumbling into the New Year”

*C.S. LewisThe Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Enhanced by Zemanta

Waiting for Aslan

“WHAT an extraordinary place!” cried Lucy. “All those stone animals – and people too! It’s – it’s like a museum.”

“Hush,” said Susan, “Aslan’s doing something.”

…..Everywhere the statues were coming to life. The courtyard looked no longer like a museum; it looked more like a zoo. Creatures were running after Aslan and dancing round him till he was almost hidden in the crowd. Instead of all that deadly white the courtyard was now a blaze of colours; glossy chestnut sides of centaurs, indigo horns of unicorns, dazzling plumage of birds, reddy-brown of foxes, dogs and satyrs, yellow stockings and crimson hoods of dwarfs; and the birch-girls in silver, and the beech-girls in fresh, transparent green, and the larch-girls in green so bright that it was almost yellow. And instead of the deadly silence the whole place rang with the sound of happy roarings, brayings, yelpings, barkings, squealings, cooings, neighings, stampings, shouts, hurrahs, songs and laughter.” from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

****************************

On our weekend walks we pass by some amazing houses. Each one is different in color, size and style. Each one with character and charm: wrap-around front porches on some, outside spiral staircases to rooftops on others, gilded turrets on still more. They are blue, white, deep orange, and green. They have gardens and window boxes full of flowers, driveways and wide porches.

It is a treat for the eyes just to look at them.

One of the houses we aren’t able to describe. It sits down a hill closer to the ocean. Large trees block the view and it’s clear by the No Trespassing sign that strangers are not welcome. A large plot of land opposite the driveway belongs to the house as well and in recent years the land was developed. Trees were removed and the land is now sculpted with bushes, plants and flowers all artistically pre-arranged so they fit in with large rocks in the area.

But that is not enough.

This year the owners have introduced stone statues of animals.

We first saw a haughty ostrich at least 10 feet tall, its neck rising above its body.

Next we saw a proud lion on a rock.

Then we saw a lioness.

And her cubs.

They stand, poised to pounce and play. But they can’t for they have no life. They are merely stone and granite statues fashioned by a talented artist.

These stone animals remind me of the castle of the White Witch, Queen of Narnia, where “Her Imperial Majesty Jadis, Queen of Narnia, Chatelaine of Cair Paravel, Empress of the Lone Islands” turns her enemies into stone and they sit in a large courtyard, seemingly forever trapped under a curse. Moments before they offended the queen these animals and people were fully alive with a purpose ordained by their creator. Then through the curse of this queen, they became stone.

They are waiting for Aslan.

I think of how like these stone statues I am at times. Hard. Immoveable. Lifeless. Paralyzed. Stationary. Like I’m waiting for Aslan

In Narnia Aslan is on the move and the stone statues are not beyond his reach. The breath of Aslan touches the statues and moves them from cold, grey stone to living, breathing reality full of color, movement and life. They become who they were created to be – the strength and glory of the Lion in their bearing.

I sit stationary, praying for the breath of the Spirit of God. Just one breath is enough to be fully alive.

20130710-074623.jpg

20130710-074646.jpg

20130710-074736.jpg

20130710-074758.jpg

20130710-074810.jpg

20130710-074936.jpg

RELATED ARTICLES

When You Need to Have the Layers Peeled

“Culture stripping begins the moment you touch the earth in this new place. It doesn’t stop. Ever. Not even when you return to your passport country. Culture stripping forever changes who you are.

Culture stripping is the slow peeling back of layers and layers of self. You give up pork. You give up wearing blue jeans. You give up holidays with relatives. And those are the easy things. Your ideas about politics and faith and family, your sense of humor and taste in clothes, the books you read, evolve and change. Even, potentially, your outlook on spirituality.” Rachel Pieh Jones in Beyond Culture Shock: Culture Pain, Culture Stripping in A Life Overseas

In a beautiful post published five months ago on A Life Overseas, Rachel Pieh Jones takes us beyond culture shock. It was the first piece I think I ever read by Rachel and I was hooked.

Her insight into those layers beyond culture shock comes from experience and she writes about culture pain and culture stripping with wisdom.  I re-read this piece yesterday and it hit me again that I am in a season of culture stripping. It’s like a sunburn. No matter how much aloe or cream you put on it, it still hurts. But perhaps it’s a good hurt, a healthy pain. Perhaps it’s a pain that shows me I’m willing to change, take a deep breath and be stripped of all that hinders.

The cultural trappings that need to go are being ripped off, in their place a new softness that will help me learn. The cultural superiority that I wear so well-hidden, and so hideously? That’s being ripped away and in its place first tears, then a sigh of relief and moving forward.

And as I reflect on culture stripping I realize the Apostle Paul speaks to culture stripping in the book of Romans. His words “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind”* are culture stripping words. They are words of challenge, words to wake me to the reality of two worlds – worlds often in conflict with each other.

We who have lived life between worlds should be good at this. We should be able to understand culture stripping and the need for having our layers peeled.

But – I’m not. Not good at having these layers peeled. I fight it. I get angry. I ask ‘Why?’. I point the finger at others. “Look at her” I say “She needs culture stripping!” I try and put the layers back on – because I’ve become comfortable in my layers and I’m stubborn.

I am one flawed character in life’s novel.

But – God is the author and as author of my story He is gently doing this culture stripping, this layer peeling – ever persistent and ever-present.

But oh, it still hurts. 

eustace

Rachel closes her post by taking us into the Narnia series and looking at one of the most flawed characters in that series – Eustace found in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.  The first words of the book describe Eustace perfectly: “There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.” He was self-centered, proud, and he whined about everything. In the book he is turned into a dragon, his body changing on the outside to what he already is on the inside. Through the course of the story he is transformed back to a boy through the work of Aslan and becomes a different person. He is stripped, layers and layers of dragon skin peeled away until his soft, boy skin is once again revealed. Eustace says this:

“The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off.” 

And in the transformative process of culture stripping, – sometimes the only thing that makes me bear it is the pleasure of feeling the ‘beastly stuff’ peeled off.

*Romans 12:2a

Blogger’s Note: I encourage you to head over to Beyond Culture Shock: Culture Pain, Culture Stripping – the post that inspired this one.

Weeping for the Kids

Just down the road from us on Memorial Drive is a big apartment complex. It’s one of the tallest buildings in that area and is flanked on one side by the Marriott and another by a gas station. It’s steps away from RiteAid Pharmacy and Whole Foods; just across from the river.

I don’t know how many families it houses but my guess is it houses a lot — a diverse group that includes immigrants, refugees, and those who have lived in the area a long time.

Last night the 11 pm News focused on the building and the Mobil gas station beside it. Another young man from my kids’ high school was arrested in connection to the Boston bombing and he lives in this building.

This kid is also 19. This kid is also an immigrant, this time coming from Ethiopia. This kid is also an American citizen. This kid is also a kid. 

He tampered with evidence and now faces jail time for up to eight years.

And I can’t get over the fact that all of those involved who are still alive are 19 years old. I can’t wrap my head around this.

Think about the ages of the victims and the folks involved in the activity: 8 year-old, 23 year-old, 29 year-old for victims;19 year-old, 27 year-old – alleged bombers. And then another three 19 year-olds arrested last night for tampering with evidence.

My heart weeps for a generation. They were too young too die – and the others are too young to lose their lives through these horrific choices.

Never has there been more money and time put into anti-violence programs in this country. Anti-bullying campaigns have sprung up across the country. People are begging for a stop to violence, whether it be bombings, shootings, or bullies. Yet never have we seen so much sustained violent activity.

And this is only Boston – a safe and wealthy city.

My mind and heart move on to Syria where war has created an environment where children grow up too soon; where young kids sit on street corners trimming vegetables to make some hard-earned pennies, where little girls stand in bread lines, lucky if they are not raped in the process.

And so I weep for a generation that feels unfairly lost, unfairly violated, unfairly portrayed.

What can I do to change that? I’m one person! I can barely handle my stuff, let alone the stuff that, in the big scheme of things, is so much more serious.

But the sun still came up today and we are seeing our fifth day of sunshine in a row. Birds are chirping and a bright red cardinal sits in the tree that is blossoming purple down the road (Whoever said red and purple can’t go together?!) The river is alive with sail boats, the walk beside the river equally alive with people. Beauty is all around us – spring has entered with as much gusto and strength as winter ever had. During those cold days of dark, spring was moving underneath the cold and dark – change was coming.

So in the midst of this I proclaim the goodness of God, a God who cares about kids, who said “Bring the kids! Let them hear!” Who told us we too should become like children, who said “Let the little children come unto me – do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these”*

A God who loves kids, who weeps for a generation, who refuses to give up but continues His redemptive work even though I can’t always see it.

In the midst of my cries to God for the kids I remember a passage – from one of my most favorite books on ever earth: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Aslan

“They say Aslan is on the move—perhaps he has already landed,” [said Beaver].

And now a very curious thing happened. None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different…. At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in its inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.” 

My heart overflows with irrational joy for indeed – Aslan is on the Move.

*Matthew 19:14