Word of Grace — October 27, 2014

Monday Grace

Dear Friends,

One of the overlooked commands of Scripture is “Be thankful” (1 Cor 10:30; Col 3:15; Col 4:2; Heb 12:28). The prescription is for a state of being for the believer. It is not an instruction to do something.

Have you ever gritted your teeth and tried to force yourself to be thankful? True thankfulness is an attitude of heart that cannot be coerced or manufactured. It is always a voluntary action hence the term “thanksgiving.” The Lord prizes a glad flow of humility and appreciation that flows from a heart that understands it is the beneficiary of grace (2 Cor 9:7).

A child may be compelled to say “thank you” as an homage to politeness. This is an important lesson in respect and a necessary lubricant against the frictions of human relations. Ultimately,  personal knowledge and joyful experience with the goodness and unconditional love of the Lord leads to the expressions of thanksgiving and praise described in Psalm 100. Read more »

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Word of Grace – September 29, 2014

Monday Grace

Dear Friends,

Then he said to them all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23, ESV).
Patricia and our son Andrew, then four years-old, were making chocolate chip cookies for a wedding shower. I passed through the kitchen and asked Andrew if he had saved any dough for me. I love to eat chocolate chip cookie dough.“Dad!” was his outraged reply. “We’re not making cookie dough. We’re making cookies!”I laughed, but couldn’t argue his point. I’ve thought about the truth of that little incident from time to time when tempted to stray from the pursuit of my goals for instant gratification or to settle for some half-baked compromise.Andrew’s declaration came near the beginning of my committed walk with Jesus Christ. That walk started late for me even though my earliest memories are of songs and Bible stories at church. I came from a praying, worshiping family. My education was received in church schools up to the time that I attended law school. After I graduated, I was recruited to the service of the church as an administrator and an attorney.

No matter how well-intentioned and devoted were my parents and teachers, my education and experiences were only raw materials. Something was lacking. When I tried to forge those raw materials into a life as a husband, father, attorney, church and community leader, I came to know that lack in my heart although I could not name it. I was on the rise in those days, but I was lost.

The gleam of trophies and awards blinds one to spiritual need. Why do I need a Savior when I am doing well on my own? Why should I ask for mercy? Only losers need mercy. Only losers beg.

Unfortunately, the benchmarks of my faith community and the world coincided in the fatal delusion that material success achieved while professing moral values guaranteed God’s approval. The discontent in my heart told me otherwise. The approval and admiration of others for the achievements of “the young Christian lawyer” rang hollow in my unfulfilled soul and could not satisfy the hungry loneliness of my heart.

I now recognize that the discontent in my heart was the Holy Spirit telling me that “what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15). Such discontent is the holy call of God to leave our neatly fenced world of comfort, possession and control to embark on the journey into the mysteries of faith like Abraham who “set out, not knowing where he was going” (Heb 11:8).

On this side of the fence is everyone and everything that we hold near and dear. There is only Jesus Christ and a vast unknown on the other side. Although Jesus knows we are hungry, he invites us on a walk, not to sit down with him at a lavish banquet. This frankly is so disappointing and disillusioning that most people who come to look over the fence turn back figuring that whatever they have stored in their spiritual cupboards is better than foraging along the road with him.

We would employ a new marketing plan and make a more attractive offer at this point, but Jesus is not us. He simply states his invitation: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23, ESV).

Jesus is talking to you and to me, not to the generic crowds. The Greek language does not have Him speaking in the plural of “any” and “their,” but in the singular “anyone,” “him,” “himself,” and “his.” The use of the masculine gender is not exclusive, but the singular tense shows that his challenge is intense and personal.

He is not calling us to a weekend retreat, a Bible conference, a financial stewardship seminar, or a short-term mission trip. Neither is he offering us a job with paid leave and a retirement plan. He posts his schedule as  “daily,” meaning 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 52 weeks a year for life.  A “hit or miss,” part-time hobby featuring a two-hour a week excursion to a worship service and an occasional small group discussion will not suffice as an acceptable response.

Jesus challenges us to leave behind our “What’s in it for me?” thinking. More than that, he asks us to set aside our desires and ambitions along with everyone and everything we claim we can’t live without. Instead, he tells us to pick up and carry at all times whatever most closely identifies us with him and his suffering and death.

Note that suffering and death have no intrinsic moral or spiritual value except as messengers of our need for Someone who can overcome the squalid, fatal powers of this world. Jesus’ call is to trust the Father who so loves us that he gives eternal life to whoever believes in his Son (John 3:16). Suffering and death only make sense if they lead us to new life in him. Identifying with Jesus’ in his suffering and death means giving way to the wild freedom of an all-consuming love that leads us into the fire, not away from it.

There is no holding back or turning back in following him. Taking the cross and clinging to it in our daily lives will so fill our hands, minds and hearts that we will have no strength and ability with which to grasp the material handholds of this world. Nor will the world be able to grasp us because we are crucified to it. Attaching ourselves to Jesus Christ in ruthless trust means of necessity that we will detach from the world.

Many spiritual teachers advise emptying ourselves of thoughts and desires so that God may fill us. They offer various formulas and techniques to accomplish and verify success in self-denial, but I find that such programs keep the focus on me and my comparative progress in the form of “navel gazing.”

I have learned what the Apostle Paul discovered– even if I were to master spiritual practices, gain spiritual insights and understanding, practice a zealous faith, and deny my physical desires and needs, it would mean nothing if I didn’t know in my heart and head that the Father and Son loved me and I didn’t live out my trust in that love (1 Cor 13:1-8; see also 1 John 4:19-5:2).

Jesus said that his love is deep, intimate, and passionate. He seeks to possess you personally and completely. He accepts no half-way measures of association and activity (Matt 7:21-23)  He wants to consummate his relationship with you and with me, not merely count us in his circle of friends and acquaintances.

Merely going through the motions means loveless human relationships of convenience and appearance. Why are we willing to settle for distant, pro forma relationships with Jesus who is so madly in love with us that he would rather die than live without us? Who loves you like that for real?

You have settled if your life and heart are burdened by religious obligation and the need for the approval of others in fulfilling those obligations. You have settled if the need for material comfort and security rule your life. You have settled if you feel that you cannot live without someone else who isn’t Jesus Christ. You have settled if you have concluded that you have everything you need right here and now and there isn’t anything more that you want beyond the fence. You are making dough, but you aren’t baking cookies.

The only reason for denying yourself, taking up your cross and following Jesus is love. He only offers you himself, his passionate, eternal love and nothing else.

Be warned that your committed relationship with Jesus will disturb others who are close to you. They will urge you to be reasonable and take and do all things in moderation. They will tell you that following your heart will make for a poor match and you can’t live on love. They will lie to you that obedience is drudging compliance, not a passionate response of the beloved to the Lover’s voice and touch. They will appeal to your talents and tell you that they can’t possibly get on without you.

Remember that his call is as personal to them as it is to you. Those who make it all about them or all about you, are not making it all about Jesus and that’s what his call demands of us.

If your heart is stirred, and still discontented by the gap between how you are living now and how it ought to be in the yearnings of your heart, be glad  that Jesus is still calling you. It is not too late. He wants you with him. There are more chapters to be written in your story. Your unfinished dough is yet to be the cookies you’ll share. The great affair of eternity awaits your “Yes.”

“O taste and see that the Lord is good. Happy are those who take refuge in him” (Ps 34:8).

Under the mercy of Christ,

Kent

 

P.S. If you received this it is because you requested it or someone you know passed it on to you. If you wish to continue to receive this weekly meditation, simply send an email to me at khansen@claysonlaw.com with the word “subscribe,” or tell whoever forwarded it to you to keep sending it.

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In Memory of Jennifer Gilnett

For those who know our friend and Kilns Trustee, Kim Gilnett, or who knew his dear wife, Jennifer, we regret to inform you that Jennifer Gilnett died Thursday, September 11, 2014, after a swift and severe illness.

A memorial service will be held today in just a few minutes at 11 a.m. Pacific Time, at First Free Methodist Church, 3200 Third Avenue West, Seattle. The service will be live-streamed at http://new.livestream.com/FFMC/Gilnett.

In lieu of flowers, donations to support the Jennifer and Kim Gilnett Scholarship Endowment will be gratefully received. Please designate your gift in that name at spu.edu/give or Seattle Pacific University, 3307 3rd Avenue West, Suite 304, Seattle, WA 98119. – See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/seattletimes/obituary.aspx?n=jennifer-johnson-gilnett&pid=172528059#sthash.26my6ybP.dpuf

As our thoughts and prayers go out to Kim and his family, we’d like to share this memorial piece by Tammy Rowan:

“During our summers at The Kilns, I would often pause in front of Joy’s portrait in the room of her namesake. Many thoughts came to mind, in forefront, the unfathomable sense of loss Lewis must have felt upon her death. For me, this spot in a house full of diversions became a place of prayerful reflection. With the coming events in our lives, the prayers I often said there grow deeper in their intentions.

We were a happy crew hosting the Summer Seminars. To our surprise, we discovered a familial bond, three sisters and a brother held close by days of hurried domesticity. Like the most fortunate of brethren, we were to share some of life’s happiest moments, and in due course, together shoulder its most painful ones.

The first break in our sunny skies came with the devastating illness and death of our beloved sister, Kate Simcoe. Only a year and a few months have passed since she left us, leaving a chasmic void in our hearts that, honesty demanding, will never be filled. Kim Gilnett, Debbie Haney, and I, in a manner shared by the closest of siblings, helped one another cope with the loss of one so dear, and continue to do so yet.

With this heart wound still fresh, we find ourselves pausing again. No matter how many severe blows we receive in this life, pain, on entering our lives through another door, never loses its prodigious ability to steal our breath away. Upon hearing of Jennifer Gilnett’s illness, through a night of rending prayer and supplication, and on the final receiving of news that God had called her home, we suffered the arrows again, so brutal and incomprehensible. We ask ourselves how the brilliant and talented wife of our brother, Kim, could be snatched away in a cruel and shocking instant?

I had the opportunity to meet Jennifer once, but knew her beforehand from the deserving praise of her husband. In our brief time in Seattle, we chatted easily over dinner in an Irish pub. We traded stories and mishaps of an editor’s life, tossing about the jargon of the trade with convivial sympathy. I was overwhelmed by her accomplishments, and more so by her remarkable humility concerning them. She was elegant and charming with an easy manner. I understood immediately why Kim loved her so. They were a match truly blessed by Heaven.

In years past, visitors to The Kilns were enthralled by tours given by Kim and Kate. They both delighted in telling the inspiring story of faith personified by Lewis and Joy Davidman. Every summer on the anniversary of her death, we paid a visit to Joy’s resting place at the Oxford Crematorium. After placing flowers, we would pause for prayer before the beautiful plaque commemorating the vast and inscrutable love of a man for his bride.

Her memorial epitaph, written by Lewis, is as follows:
“Here the whole world (stars, water, air,
And field, and forest, as they were
Reflected in a single mind)
Like cast off clothes was left behind
In ashes, yet with hopes that she,
Re-born from holy poverty,
In lenten lands, hereafter may
Resume them on her Easter Day.”

We find ourselves pausing once again with great sadness. Strengthened by Lewis’ words, we join in remembrance of the deep love between a man and his wife. In Kim and Jennifer’s life together, faithful to God’s plan for marriage, we see a reflection of Christ, the eternal bridegroom, and His love for us.

For now, our hearts ache for Kim with immeasurable sorrow. We cover him with our prayers and love. Yet, we do not mourn without hope. With our faces wet with grief, we await the heavenly wedding feast where tears are no more.”

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C.S. Lewis Summer Institute on the Web

Conference-Audio-SI14The Oxbridge 2014 C.S. Lewis Summer Institute may have come and gone; however, the Foundation staff and those who attended are continually inspired by what was an intellectually, artistically, and spiritually-engaging conference! It is for this reason that we wish to share the various articles, pictures, and videos of those who experienced our C.S. Lewis Summer Institute, all in the good company of friends among the “dreaming spires” of Oxford and the riverside beauty of Cambridge.

Eric Metaxas, friend of the Foundation and keynote speaker for Oxbridge 2014, shared a video of his first plenary address “The Meaning of Meaning: Chance or the Dance?” that took place during our opening night at the University of Oxford. Plenary speaker Dr. Greg Thornbury of King’s College shared his address “Christian Virtures That Inspire Atheist Philosophers” on his Twitter account, as well. You can also watch Metaxas’ and Thornburys’ addresses through the Foundation videographer Ralph Lindhardt’s YouTube channel.

Interested in reading about the conference? Conference volunteer Sarah Clarkson has written two lovely articles about her time at Oxbridge 2014 titled “Oxford Again” and “Evensong and Sunlight.”

After arriving back in the States, our friend and 2014 afternoon session leader Melanie Jeschke did a radio interview featuring her experience at the conference and her book series.

Finally, for those of you who would like a  visual presentation of what goes on during one of our C.S. Lewis Summer Institutes, conference volunteer Emmeline Dobson used the program Storify to create a collection of stories, pictures, and videos (all shared by Foundation staff, faculty, and attendees) to give our readers a taste of what it was like to be a part of Oxbridge 2014. You can view Emmeline’s collection by following this link: https://storify.com/emeraldsong/a-cs-lewis-oxbridge-2014-story.

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Word of Grace – September 8, 2014

Monday Grace

Dear Friends,

Then Esau said, “Let us journey on our way, and I will go along side you.” But Jacob said to him., “My lord knows that the children are frail and that the flocks and herds, which are nursing, are a care to me; and if they are overdriven for one day, all the flocks will die. Let my Lord pass on ahead of his servant, and I will lead on slowly, according to the pace of the cattle that are before me and according to the pace of the children, until I come to my Lord to Seir” (Gen 33:12-14).

Jacob was known for his shrewdness and his work ethic, not his tenderness. He made a sharp bargain to take his brother Esau’s birthright. He cheated his brother out of their Father Isaac’s blessing. When his Uncle Laban cheated him out of a promised reward for seven years of service, Jacob worked another seven years for what he wanted. He ultimately outsmarted the scheming Laban and became a rich man in the process. Read more »

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