We may find a violence in some of the traditional imagery which tends to obscure the changelessness of God, the peace, which nearly all who approach Him have reported—the “still, small voice.” And it is here, I think, that the pre-Christian imagery is least suggestive. Yet even here, there is a danger lest the half conscious picture of some huge thing at rest—a clear, still ocean, a dome of “white radiance”—should smuggle in ideas of inertia or vacuity. The stillness in which the mystics approach Him is intent and alert—at the opposite pole from sleep or reverie. They are becoming like Him. Silences in the physical world occur in empty places: but the ultimate Peace is silent through very density of life. Saying is swallowed up in being. There is no movement because His action (which is Himself) is timeless.
Compiled in Words to Live By
Miracles: A Preliminary Study. Copyright 1947 C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright renewed © 1947 C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Revised 1960, restored 1996 C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. Words to Live By: A Guide for the Merely Christian. Copyright © 2007 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
The God of Do-Overs
Some people need a do-over from God because guilt has been squeezing the hope out of their lives. That was the case with a woman who wrote to me about the turbulence in her life.
She explained that several years ago she had been living with her boyfriend when she got pregnant. Even though she wanted the baby very much, her controlling and domineering boyfriend talked her into having an abortion. Later he abandoned her.
"For years, I was miserable," the woman wrote. "I was ashamed of myself for not being strong enough to stand up for myself or for my baby."
That's what guilt does. It tries to convince us that our wrongdoing disqualifies us from ever starting over. Guilt robs us of hope. It tells us we're not just people who have failed, but that we're failures as people and therefore beyond redemption.
A stifling sense of remorse haunted this young woman until she didn't know where to tum. Finally, in desperation, she turned to Jesus Christ and implored Him for a do-over. And what happened amazed her—He not only forgave her and wiped her slate clean, but He helped her through the process of healing her emotions as well.
Now that God has renewed her sense of hope, it's like the darkness has lifted and a new day has dawned. Just before she was baptized as a new follower of Jesus, she wrote: "I can't thank God enough for all the grace I have received from Him."
I had the privilege of baptizing her in front of a crowd of several thousand people. By her participation in that sacrament, she was declaring to the world that this God who gave her a new beginning is the God she wants to follow forever.
And if your own life is weighted down with guilt—shame over a marriage that went bad, or kids who've gone astray, or promises to God that you've broken—then maybe it's time for you to ask Jesus Christ for a do-over.
The question isn't, "Will He give me one?" The issue isn't, "Does the magnitude of my wrongdoing make me ineligible?" The extent of your foul-ups has never been an impediment. Romans 5:20 says, "Where sin increased, grace increased all the more."
Jesus Christ has publicly declared Himself ready, willing, and able to grant you a do-over; the real issue is whether you have the humility to ask Him for one.
St. Patrick - A Legendary Life
Quote: "The Lord opened the understanding of my unbelief, that, late as it was, I might remember my faults and turn to the Lord my God with all my heart."
Growing out of the ministry of Celtic monks in Britain is the work of an illustrious missionary to Ireland. Patrick (c. 389 - 461) is a much-celebrated saint, though his actual identity is shrouded in legend. Indeed, historians have for centuries wondered if there were actually two individuals (Pelladius and Patrick) melded into one. The first of these individuals is thought to have died in 461, and the second in 493. History is not always an exact science, and the story of St. Patrick is too good to be set aside for want of solid data. So Patrick and his double become one, and we recognize that hagiography and biography are often blended.
Patrick is born in Britain into a Celtic Christian family of clerics—his father a deacon and his grandfather a priest. Kidnapped by a band of Irish plunderers when still a youth, Patrick is sold into slavery. For six long years he herds swine and seeks God. During this time he is convinced that he hears the voice of God telling him that a ship is waiting to take him home. He escapes and journeys to a port where he works aboard ship for his passage home. Now a free man, he finds refuge in a monastery and then returns to his home. There God speaks in a vision:
I saw a man named Victoricus, coming as if from Ireland, with innumerable letters; and he gave me one of these, and . . . while I was reading out the beginning of the letter, I thought that at that very moment I heard the voice of those who were beside the wood of Focluth, near the western sea; and this is what they called out: "Please, holy boy, come and walk among us again." Their cry pierced to my very heart, and I could read no more; and so I awoke.
For Patrick the vision is God's call, but the clerics are not convinced. In spite of one delay after another, however, he finally arrives back in Ireland in 432, now past the age of forty. His mission field is isolated and hostile, beyond the borders of the empire. There are scattered Christian communities, but his encounters are primarily with pagans who have no desire to turn away from their traditional ways of worship. They revere the sun and wind and fire and rocks, a worldview that finds magic and spirits everywhere in nature. The druid priests mount strong opposition, but Patrick eventually prevails. He trumps their magic with magic (or miracles) of his own, causing some historians to wonder if Patrick might have been the mightiest druid of them all.
In the years that follow, Patrick impresses political leaders and makes alliances that promote church growth. Within fifteen years much of Ireland is reportedly evangelized. His missionary story features perilous journeys, life-threatening opposition, kidnapping, and captivity. After some thirty years of ministry, he laments: "I fear to lose the labor which I began" lest God "would note me as guilty."
The evangelization of Ireland by Patrick and others is a venture conducted primarily by the Celtic church, as opposed to the Roman church. One of the most noted of the Celtic abbot-missionaries is Columba, who, with twelve clerics to serve under him, establishes his headquarters just off the coast of Scotland on Iona, a small barren, foggy island, battered year-round by pounding waves. Here he sets forth a monastic life of prayer, fasting, meditation, Bible study, manual labor, and training for evangelists who are then commissioned to preach, build churches, and establish more monasteries.
Although Gregory I is credited with initiating the conversion of Europe through missionary and military undertakings, the work of Patrick, Columba, and others is also an important piece of the puzzle. Indeed, this is an era when missionary ventures spurred by monastic expansion begin in earnest.
Into the darkness came light,
Into despair hope,
Into a world enslaved by sin a deliverer,
Into chaos and confusion, clarity and calm,
When God became a man,
When Christ came to die and then to live again
That is what Christmas means to me.