Yes, my normally contemplative brain grows more so at season changes. If you’ve been visiting here for any length of time, you’ll know this about me. The way I ramble on at the changes of seasons actually embarrasses me a bit. You must be thinking, “here he goes again.” Of course my seasonal thoughts and emotions are contextual to our South Carolina climate, so if any of you would be willing to admit that you are also affected, perhaps your thoughts or emotions occur earlier or later than mine. Spring comes earlier and Fall comes later here than for many of my readers. Yesterday was our first wintry day. Many of you would no doubt laugh at that adjective applied to yesterday had you experienced it, but when I walked outside between services to get a cup of coffee, it was at least 10 degrees colder than it had been when I got there an hour earlier. The sky was overcast and a chill hung in the air all day long. Last night, December’s “cold moon” was nearly full and shone brightly from behind a thin veil of broken, fast moving clouds. I remember once riding in a van across the Pennsylvania turnpike on a cold winter day a couple decades ago. Allison looked out the window at the barren hillsides and brown grassy hollows and commented on its dreariness. I disagreed, and told her how I thought it was just as beautiful as any other season, but in a completely different way. At the time, there was little I enjoyed more than slowly walking through winter woods, looking for shape and line in the monochrome landscape, curiously following hollows carpeted with tall brown grass. For years, I’ve not had time, occasion or opportunity to do that. As a result, it doesn’t excite me like it did back then. On the contrary, it rather depresses me. Long cold nights and short chilly days. One hunches over and moves quickly through the cold outdoors only to get from one building to another, from the house to the car or the car to the house. I seem to have forgotten how much different the experience is if you give yourself to it. For years, I’ve mourned as the colors of autumn flutter to the ground and the once shady trees expose us to the biting winds of winter.
I don’t know, I probably have the same thoughts and say the same things every year at the beginning of each season. But why do these thoughts seem so new and epiphanic every year? Change. It’s uncomfortable. It marks the passage of time. It’s the green light on a one-way street with all you’ve known in your rearview mirror. Yesterday, as I drove home from church, chilled from the short jaunt to the car, I looked up into the cold, newly bare trees at the countless, huge, dense balls of mistletoe. Now that’s something that you don’t see in the summertime. Mistletoe. I thought of warm lips. I thought of wintry, woodsy walks all bundled up with gloved hand in gloved hand and frequent pauses under those mistletoe laden bare branches. I thought of fireplaces, coffee, comforters, and Saturday mornings. Winter ain’t all that bad.
Well, I had the opportunity to see Dr. Willard for myself yesterday. He gave a lecture at UT's C.S. Lewis Ethics Conference entitled "Beauty and the Nature above Nature in Lewis' Abolition of Man." Very philosophical and very intellectual (surprise). We would have had some interesting conversation, I think, had we all been there. I'm sure some of the content will seep into forthcoming bloggings. Until then, here's some quick notes:
Chapter One of Abolition "debunks" the current mode of academic teaching (esp. Literature), in which everything becomes a human construction. Reality is "in here," not "out there" - so language is merely a failed attempt to describe one's feelings about something. Therefore, it's only natural to see everything (including God, Scripture, Constitution, etc.) as a human construction - in need of de-construction and continual reworking. [Was Lewis a prophet?]
Truth is rooted in nature; it doesn't yield to constructions. Nature is impervious to how you feel about it.
Beauty is "good made sensibly present." (self-described Incarnational definition) "It is difficult to complain in the presence of beauty. Pick a daisy and stare at it - you will find it hard to be grumpy!"
Values require a growth of experience, which is primarily SOCIAL (in community). [Yes, he said the magic word.]
5 Practical Points of Conclusion:
1. Knowledge is too important to be left to universities or churches. 2. Institutions suppress the Truth. 3. Nevertheless, be present within the institutions. 4. Learn and practice logic. 5. Know that the Kingdom of God is here. We don't stand alone.
how can we live our lives such that we communicate that both this life (in the present) and the life made complete (call it heaven, paradise or ithaca) are equally important before God? in other words, some xtians emphasize heaven (life-boat theology, hang on til land comes) while others emphasize (i sometimes fall in here) the eternal life now (try to save the world, make love not war, etc.) -- what kingdom praxis might aid in achieving harmony here?
Well then. Guys, I am so sorry to be so late at this. As it turned out, I had one page to finish, but didn't realize it. I gotta say that the more I hear about this subject, the more confused I become. This chapter confused me more than any of the others. Probably not because of Willard, but in trying to fit it into everything else that confuses me about it. So what I take away is the same thing I always take away from discussions on this topic. The need for trust. Gotta trust that God is True, victorious, sovereign, because I can't make heads or tails out of what to expect as the time nears and when it gets here. How many centuries since someone did a study of what we're told rather than a topical proof of what they already believe? Ok, in my confusion and anticipation, my question will probably sound a little twisted, but here is what I'd like to toss out based on what ifs and so whats and new questions of soteriology and morality and loving and kingdom living that have come up since we started consuming and ruminating the wisdom of Willard. There are some topics I'd like to bring to the deck community that I think I've got to come to Godly grips with in order to develop a Godly heart to people around me. If I'm going to learn to love and serve people into the Kingdom, I've got try to feel the way God feels about some things. Can I gather some biblical wisdom from my more biblically educated comrades that would shed some light on these things among others?: Soteriology (not how it is provided for, but how it is obtained) Sexual (im)morality I need to learn to love, counsel and lead believers as well as love unbelievers to a saving knowledge of Jesus. So this is a humiliating thing to admit. I'm not only confused about the future.
I too, am sad for the end of this book's interweaving of our lives and minds. As a road map for the future, it left me scratching my head. The final chapter fizzled like a dud firecracker on the fourth of July. Maybe the mystery of the kingdom will be forever just that -- a mystery. The Apostle Paul took many stabs at explaining it and even he had to resort to calling the gospel a mystery. However, i still wonder... Could we, (as spiritual journeymen) work on writing our own conclusion to the book? Or maybe just to the premise of living out the Kingdom Among Us. Could we (as Greg has queried) put together a set of core "mount disciplines" and then a work out a few strategies to begin implementing them into our own lives (and churches) with some intentionality? Maybe it could be written with no "periods" at the end of the sentences, but with a fluid sense of motion inherent in its nature? any way----just a thought.
Congratulations fellow Willardites. The book has been mined right down to the end. This last chapter ended in more of a whimper than a bang for me, but in some ways I was reminded of our deck time in Rodric's honor a few weeks ago. I spoke of having sympathy for those who believe in purgatory, because it at least attempts to take the whole of Scripture seriously. Dan spoke of God being outside the space-time continuum. Both of these are man-made theories that help us get from one mystery to the next. In the end, however, I always feel that these descriptions are incomplete. Willard's words were no different (C.S. Lewis and Augustine come the closest - with the exception of John the Revelator and Tolkien). OK, enough commentary. My question is a nuance to chapter 9's question about core disciplines:
How can we bring the knowledge of the future to bear in our pursuit of disciplines that will result in faithfulness to Christ as our Master-Mentor?
ok brothers, here is my diatribe about the great doctor's delivery in chapter 9. like rodilic, i have many things to comment on, but i will limit myself to this one for now.
(pg 315) The fact is that there is now lacking a serious and expectant intention to bring Jesus' people into obedience and abundance through training.
My question/observation is this ... i don't believe that the issue is necessarily in the hands of those who plan out and implement the discipleship curriculum, (although there equal amounts of blame to go around, ignorance of history, spiritual laziness, and others), i wonder if the root of the cause in the portrayal of the gospel message from all of our lips. Easy believism so to speak. we present a gospel message that smacks of "pray a prayer and your in". the way that i see it, each time that jesus dealt with someone he seems to give them a corresponding task to "test" their obedience. faith is referred to as trust and obey. mathematically the equation is faith = (trust + obedience). we seem to have turned it into a flow chart that looks like ...hear the message -- respond by prayer---you are now a christian--- maybe you should do some good stuff. myself, i think i have been misleading people with a flow chart and have been disappointed by the lack of lasting results. i think obedience needs to be presented as part of the original package.... what do you think?