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Jesu, Juva

Archive for the ‘Vocation’ Category

Based

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So there was that dispensationalist, and then the reconstructionist, and he had that great interview with the Anglican, and now there’s this Calvary Chapel guy you should hear about. Three cheers for faithful pastoral ministry in the public square! And diversity!

Written by Scott Moonen

October 16, 2020 at 9:20 pm

Adventure

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We are reading The Last Battle aloud. Some choice quotes:

Jewel, to Tirian: “Farewell. We have known great joys together. If Aslan gave me my choice I would choose no other life than the life I have had and no other death than the one we go to.”

Jill, to Eustace: “I’d rather be killed fighting for Narnia than grow old and stupid at home and perhaps go about in a bath-chair and then die in the end just the same.”

Jewel, to Tirian’s little band: “Nothing now remains for us seven but to go back to Stable Hill, proclaim the truth, and take the adventure that Aslan sends us.”

Written by Scott Moonen

August 5, 2020 at 10:30 pm

Posted in Quotations, Vocation

Not at all an enchanting smell

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“Come, all of you. Put away these childish tricks. I have work for you all in the real world. There is no Narnia, no Overworld, no sky, no sun, no Aslan. And now, to bed all. And let us begin a wiser life tomorrow. But, first, to bed; to sleep; deep sleep, soft pillows, sleep without foolish dreams.”

The Prince and the two children were standing with their heads hung down, their cheeks flushed, their eyes half closed; the strength all gone from them; the enchantment almost complete. But Puddleglum, desperately gathering all his strength, walked over to the fire. Then he did a very brave thing. He knew it wouldn’t hurt him quite as much as it would hurt a human; for his feet (which were bare) were webbed and hard and cold-blooded like a duck’s. But he knew it would hurt him badly enough; and so it did. With his bare foot he stamped on the fire, grinding a large part of it into ashes on the flat hearth. And three things happened at once.

First, the sweet, heavy smell grew very much less. For though the whole fire had not been put out, a good bit of it had, and what remained smelled very largely of burnt Marsh-wiggle, which is not at all an enchanting smell. This instantly made everyone’s brain far clearer. The Prince and the children held up their heads again and opened their eyes.

Secondly, the Witch, in a loud, terrible voice, utterly different from all the sweet tones she had been using up till now, called out, “What are you doing? Dare to touch my fire again, mud-filth, and I’ll turn the blood to fire inside your veins.”

Thirdly, the pain itself made Puddleglum’s head for a moment perfectly clear and he knew exactly what he really thought. There is nothing like a good shock of pain for dissolving certain kinds of magic.

“One word, Ma’am,” he said, coming back from the fire; limping, because of the pain. “One word. All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. 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, thanking you kindly for your supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we’re leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that’s small loss if the world’s as dull a place as you say.”

C. S. Lewis, The Silver Chair, 189-191

Written by Scott Moonen

August 3, 2020 at 8:46 pm

Difficult

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Interviewer: Then is writing easy for you? Or do you find it difficult?

Chinua Achebe: The honest answer is, it’s difficult. But the word difficult doesn’t really express what I mean. It is like wrestling; you are wrestling with ideas and with the story. There is a lot of energy required. At the same time, it is exciting. So it is both difficult and easy. What you must accept is that your life is not going to be the same while you are writing. I have said in the kind of exaggerated manner of writers and prophets that writing, for me, is like receiving a term of imprisonment—you know that’s what you’re in for, for whatever time it takes. So it is both pleasurable and difficult.

The Paris Review, Chinua Achebe, The Art of Fiction No. 139

Written by Scott Moonen

August 2, 2020 at 4:44 pm

Posted in Quotations, Vocation

Principalities and powers

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C. S. Lewis’s book, That Hideous Strength, describes a cosmic battle between good and evil played out on the stage of a small British college, with a revived Merlin thrown in for good measure. In Lewis’s story, demonic powers have enthralled many men and women through their various vices. These have been organized in a seemingly good and helpful way, but with the ultimate goal of overpowering and destroying all that is good, true, and beautiful, including and especially the church. The book is an extraordinarily prophetic picture of our time, but it is obscure, and thus underappreciated.

You can see this process at work in how corporate America and our media, including social media, have largely responded to the two great crises of 2020. We see messages being proclaimed that are a combination of true things that the church is normally eager to affirm and protect; yet mixed together with great falsehoods, inconsistencies, and unbelief; and then leveraged with powerful social appeal and pressure.

We love to affirm and preserve and cultivate God’s gifts of life and health, but we refuse loudly to accept that Jesus’s worship is a disposable accessory to modern life. Rather, the church and her worship are the very wellspring of the world’s life. We love to affirm and treasure the image of God in all men and their equal standing before God; but we refuse loudly to accept that human rivalries and pride and history are simplistic; in particular, that the rank evil of abortion can be factored out of the equation; or that men and women can experience any enduring healing, unity, peace, or joy apart from Jesus. (As usual, Doug Wilson has outstanding thoughts on this.) Enduring brotherhood requires a sacrifice for sin, and until we look to Jesus as that sacrifice, we are going to keep on sacrificing one another. The current moment is proof of that demonic cycle.

This does not mean that we cannot have a fruitful public discussion about foolishness, sin, crime, and the lines between them. But it does mean that apart from Jesus and his objective word, this discussion will be hopelessly subjective and muddy. Even the best intentions will lead men to grave mistakes without the proper foundation.

If principalities and powers lie behind an unholy alliance in the world, then we know that they have the goal of enslaving humanity and destroying God’s church. Zeitgeistheim is a prison. It has been amazing this year to watch the emails and tweets of corporate America as they line up for their daily serving of gruel. But the church despises the world’s approval, knowing that whoever is not for Jesus is against him. We cannot have common cause with this world, or even common language: in Jesus, even these words like unity, peace, love, righteousness, justice, and equality take on different meanings than the world perversely assigns to them. But we do warmly and urgently invite the world to experience the unity, peace, and joy that can only be found by coming to Jesus. In coming to Jesus, we repent of our sins and receive genuine, enduring justification for them. But we also repent of the thought that we had anything virtuous in ourselves to commend us to God or to one another.

What is the cash value to our people in recognizing that the current battles are not battles with flesh and blood? First, it gives us insight into Satan’s moda operandi: he seeks to sow suspicion and division, stir up our various lusts, and distract us from simple faithful living; he wants to get our “trust” and “obey” out of order. Second, when the force of this is turned against the church, as it will be, it equips us so that we will not be surprised “that the world hates you,” or surprised “at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you.” Rather, we will “count it all joy.” Third, it spares us from the regret we will experience at that time for having entertained the principalities and powers rather than withstanding them. Fourth, it reminds us that their end will be to bite and devour one another, which gives us both a hope of victory but also a warning of the dangers of dallying with the spirit of the age. Fifth, it directs us to the primary way to wage such battles: the spiritual warfare of worship and prayer in the common life of the church. Sixth, it renders us immune to the world’s attempts at guilt manipulation: our justification is secure in Jesus. Finally, it equips and reminds us to minister the one gift that the world needs: true justification in Jesus from all guilt and sin.

Written by Scott Moonen

June 6, 2020 at 7:34 am

There’s no other way

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“You have done what was required of you,” said the Director. “You have obeyed and waited. It will often happen like that.”

C. S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength

Written by Scott Moonen

March 1, 2020 at 9:05 am

Posted in Books, Quotations, Vocation

Sacrifice

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This is the problem of Christianity, gentlemen. The whole honor of Christ is that He came when the times were fulfilled. And that is the new element of the Christian religion, compared to all other religions. That in Christianity, the criterion of righteousness is that by one man heeding the catastrophe in time, the catastrophe which is inevitable can be turned from a terrible thing into a blessing. The catastrophe, per se, gentlemen, is just terrible and inevitable. By human sacrifice, the catastrophe which is terrible and inevitable can be turned into a blessing. . . . The Christian problem is to recognize which catastrophe is indispensable, and then to go into it by voluntarily stripping yourself of the privileges of the old order, which make the break so much harder if the privileges still stand up.

Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, Comparative Religion, 1954

Written by Scott Moonen

January 15, 2020 at 12:36 pm

Leisure

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No, the contrary of acedia is not the spirit of work in the sense of the work of every day, of earning one’s living; it is man’s happy and cheerful affirmation of his own being, his acquiescence in the world and in God—which is to say love. Love that certainly brings a particular freshness and readiness to work along with it, but that no one with the least experience could conceivably confuse with the tense activity of the fanatical “worker.”

Who would guess, unless he were expressly told so, that Aquinas regarded acedia as a sin against the third commandment? He was in fact so far from considering idleness as the opposite of the ethos of work that he simply interprets it as an offense against the commandment in which we are called upon to have “the peace of the mind of God.” . . .

Idleness, in the old sense of the word, so far from being synonymous with leisure, is more nearly the inner prerequisite which renders leisure impossible: it might be described as the utter absence of leisure, or the very opposite of leisure. Leisure is only possible when a man is at one with himself, when he acquiesces in his own being, whereas the essence of acedia is the refusal to acquiesce in one’s own being. Idleness and the incapacity for leisure correspond with one another. Leisure is the contrary of both.

Leisure, it must be clearly understood, is a mental and spiritual attitude—it is not simply the result of external factors, it is not the inevitable result of spare time, a holiday, a weekend or a vacation. It is, in the first place, an attitude of mind, a condition of the soul, and as such utterly contrary to the ideal of “worker” . . . .

In the foregoing sections leisure was tentatively defined and outlined in its ideal form. It now remains to consider the problem of realizing its “hopes,” of its latent powers of gaining acceptance, and its possible impetus in history. The practical problem involved might be stated thus: Is it possible, from now on, to maintain and defend, or even to reconquer, the right and claims of leisure, in face of the claims of “total labor” that are invading every sphere of life? Leisure, it must be remembered, is not a Sunday afternoon idyll, but the preserve of freedom, of education and culture, and of that undiminished humanity which views the world as a whole. In other words, is it going to be possible to save men from becoming officials and functionaries and “workers” to the exclusion of all else? Can that possibly be done, and if so in what circumstances? There is no doubt of one thing: the world of the “worker” is taking shape with dynamic force—with such a velocity that, rightly or wrongly, one is tempted to speak of demonic force in history. . . .

There is, however, a fact which from the vantage-point we have now reached must be strikingly clear and significant, and it is this: whereas the “total work” State declares all un-useful work “undesirable,” and even expropriates free time in the service of work, there is one Institution in the world which forbids useful activity, and servile work, on particular days, and in this way prepares, as it were, a sphere for a non-proletarian existence.

Josef Pieper, Leisure: The Basis of Culture

Written by Scott Moonen

January 5, 2020 at 5:15 pm

A Failure of Nerve

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For several years now I’ve appreciated and benefited from Edwin Friedman’s book on leadership, A Failure of Nerve. I enjoy thinking about big ideas that help to make sense of God’s world. For example, it is helpful to think of all sin as being a form of idolatry, or a form of pride, or arising from a kind of covetousness. We look for a structure of conflict and climax in most of our stories. René Girard teaches us to look for imitation and scapegoating in all of the crises of story and history, and points us to the one scapegoat who alone can cover mankind’s sin.

Edwin Friedman’s organizing big idea revolves around anxiety. He was a student of organizational behavior, ranging from families and churches to businesses and nations. He suggests that all of the ways that an organization can break down involve a kind of anxiety on the part of the group or the leader or both. And from this he draws a program of non-anxious leadership.

Friedman sees anxiety behind how a group or organization becomes stagnant, resistant or even hostile to change and growth; and also behind leaders’ addictions to either quick fixes or to data rather then decisive action. He suggests that a non-anxious approach to leadership is crucial, that the “calm presence” of a leader matters more to calming an organization’s anxiety than almost anything else the leader says or does. He develops this into an idea of what he calls “differentiation,” which is the leader’s own focus on his integrity and stability. Out of this non-anxious differentiation, he charges leaders to allow their organizations to experience a healthy dose of their own learning experience and even pain so that they can mature; what you might call a sort of non-anxious “tough love” that is appropriately sympathetic but does not devolve into the kind of empathy that is powerless to help others grow. In Friedman’s model, the leader functions both as a kind of anxiety absorber and also an immune system.

Although Friedman was not a Christian, many of his ideas have Christian parallels. Jesus charges us not to be anxious, and the fact that Jesus himself is not anxious is perhaps the greatest boost to our own faith. It is faith, after all, that is the true antidote to fear and anxiety, and Jesus invites us to bring our cares to him. Perhaps a way of expressing Friedman’s differentiated self is to say that it is a faith-filled, wise, mature, patient, and Spirit-governed self. This integrity of a leader includes the careful watching of his life and doctrine, and the taking of logs out of our own eyes before we address the specks in others’ eyes.

There is a superficial way of reading Friedman that suggests that leaders should be aloof and uncaring. I don’t think this is what he is saying, but in any case we want to be careful not to swing the pendulum that far. And while anxious leadership may be the problem of our time, we should also be on guard for a sinful complacency.

Additional reading:

Written by Scott Moonen

November 17, 2019 at 5:54 pm

Posted in Books, Parenting, Vocation

Good Timber

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The tree that never had to fight
For sun and sky and air and light,
But stood out in the open plain
And always got its share of rain,
Never became a forest king
But lived and died a scrubby thing.

The man who never had to toil
To gain and farm his patch of soil,
Who never had to win his share
Of sun and sky and light and air,
Never became a manly man
But lived and died as he began.

Good timber does not grow with ease:
The stronger wind, the stronger trees;
The further sky, the greater length;
The more the storm, the more the strength.
By sun and cold, by rain and snow,
In trees and men good timbers grow.

Where thickest lies the forest growth,
We find the patriarchs of both.
And they hold counsel with the stars
Whose broken branches show the scars
Of many winds and much of strife.
This is the common law of life.

Douglas Malloch, HT: Michael Foster

Written by Scott Moonen

September 11, 2019 at 11:10 am