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August 20th- Resentment

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” (Ephesians 4:31)

 

When Peter, Edmund, Susan, and Lucy found their way through the wardrobe and into the land of Narnia, Edmund was in a foul mood towards his older brother. In fact, Edmund resented him. And, so, when the evil White Witch offered to make him the King of Narnia above Peter and his sisters, he was very much taken with the idea.

 

Edmund

All the Queen asked was that Edmond bring his siblings to her castle. Deep down, Edmond knew that this was a bad idea, but a selfish bitterness (and a desire for some more magical Turkish delight) over-ruled his conscience.

 

Eventually, having given up on bringing his brother and his sisters along, Edmond snuck away from them, and began to make his way, alone, towards the home of the White Witch.

 

“It was growing darker every minute and what with that and the snowflakes swirling all round him he could hardly see three feet ahead. And then too there was no road. He kept slipping into deep drifts of snow, and skidding on frozen puddles, and tripping over fallen tree-trunks, and sliding down steep banks, and barking his shins against rocks, till he was wet and cold and bruised all over. The silence and the loneliness were dreadful.

 

In fact I really think he might have given up the whole plan and gone back and owned up and made friends with the others, if he hadn't happened to say to himself, “When I'm King of Narnia the first thing I shall do will be to make some decent roads.” And of course that set him off thinking about being a King and all the other things he would do and this cheered him up a good deal. He had just settled in his mind what sort of palace he would have and how many cars and all about his private cinema and where the principal railways would run and what laws he would make against beavers and dams and was putting the finishing touches to some schemes for keeping Peter in his place, when the weather changed....

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August 15th- The Empty Mountaintop

“Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me." Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’"” (Matthew 4:8-10)

 

What is it you are fighting for? What mountain are you trying to climb?

In his book, A Long Obedience, Eugene Peterson recounts a story told by Charles Colson, the one time aide for Richard Nixon.

 

mountain top

“Months of struggle, of strategy, of sacrifice all paid off in a landslide victory for President Richard Nixon in 1972. On election night his aide Charles Colson was in the place he had always wanted to be. The picture Colson draws of that night contains three figures: chief of staff H. R. Halderman, arrogant and sullen; Nixon, restlessly gulping scotch; and Colson, feeling let down, deflated, 'a deadness inside of me.'

 

Three men at the power pinnacle of the world, and not a single note of joy discernible in the room. 'If someone had peered in on us that night from some imaginary peephole in the ceiling of the President's office, what a curious sight it would have been: a victorious President, grumbling over words he would grudgingly say to his fallen foe; his chief of staff angry, surly, and snarling; and the architect of his political strategy sitting in numbed stupor'

 

The experience is not uncommon. We work hard for something, get it and then find we don't want it. We struggle for years to get to the top and find life there thoroughly boring. Colson writes, 'Being part of electing a President was the fondest ambition of my life. For three long years I had committed everything I had, every ounce of energy to Richard Nixon's cause. Nothing else mattered. We had had no time together as a family, no social life, no vacations.' And then, having in his hands what he had set out to gain, he found he couldn't enjoy it.”

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August 12th- How Can A Loving God...

“But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.” (Luke 12:5)

 

“How can a loving God send people to hell?” I've heard the question a thousand times, and I've asked it a few hundred myself.

 

It is a sincere and important question that I don't want to minimize. But, at the same time, the assumption underlying this sincere and important question is often unfair. Christian philosopher Peter Kreeft points out the problem in his book Socrates Meets Jesus.

 

Socrates

In the book, Socrates has been transported through time to a modern university, where he helps the students analyze their beliefs about God.

 

Bertha:...I believe God is loving and forgiving.

 

Socrates: And therefore he is not also just and punishing?

 

Bertha: Yes. I mean, no. Well, I don't know about the therefore. I know what you're going to say: that it doesn't logically follow from God's mercy, that he's not also just.

 

Socrates: And then you were going to say in reply...?

 

Bertha: I don't know what I was going to reply. I just know God is loving, that's all.

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August 13th- Wronged

“for though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again” (Proverbs 24:16a)

 

Have you ever been done wrong? Has someone ever mistreated you, lied to you, or hurt you? If not, I'd like to take your picture...you must be an alien from another planet.

 

Boise City

The people of Boise City, Oklahoma had certainly been wronged, or rather, the people of the fictitious city of Boise City, Oklahoma.

 

When Boise City was founded, those who bought lots had purchased them sight unseen. And when they arrived, the people discovered that they had been sold a lie. Timothy Egan explains:

 

“Even the name itself was a lie. Boy-city, the promoters pronounced it, from the French word le bois-trees. Except there was not a single tree in Boise City. Nor was there a city. But that didn’t' stop the Southwest Immigration and Development Company from selling lots, at forty-five dollars apiece, in a phantom town in the newly opened Panhandle of Oklahoma. The company sent fliers all over the country, showing a town as ripe as a peach two days into its blush.

 

The brochures sketched a Boise City with elegantly aged trees lining the streets, a tower of cold, clean water gushing from an artesian well in the center of town, and houses any banker would be proud to call home. The streets were paved. Businesses were chock-a-block on main street. Three railroads were building lines to Boise City, the company said, and a fourth was on the way. You could grow cotton, corn, or wheat on rich land just outside the city limits. Hurry—sites are going fast. A fiction, all of it. But the story helped them sell three thousand lots in 1908, one year after Oklahoma became the forty-sixth state.

 

When the lucky buyers showed up to see their share of the shining new city on the designated opening day, they were shocked. Women came in full-length white dresses and men in polished boots. If anyone from the development company had been around, the life would have been chocked out of them by the best dressed mob on the plains.

 

On Boise City's imaginary streets, the buyers found stakes in the ground and flags flapping in the wind. No railroads. No tracks. No plans for railroads. No fine houses. No businesses. The artesian well was a stockman's crude tank next to a windmill, full of flies. Worst of all, the company did not even own the land it had sold.”

 

Wronged. Deeply, horribly, wronged. They were sold a bill of goods. There was no city. There was nothing even approaching a city. And so what did they do?

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August 8th- A Father's Pride

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1a)

 

For Augustus Saint-Gaudens it was his first great taste of success, but not his last.

 

He was America's great sculpture, and he gained public recognition after completing his statue of David Farragut in Madison Square.

 

Farragut

The New York Times proclaimed it a “Triumph:”

“It is Farragut just as he looked, quiet, unpretending, stern, resolved to do his duty. The heroic is not obtruded...For the great point of this statue is the absence of 'fuss and feathers' in the attitude as well as the dress. It would be commonplace if it were not so simple and true.”

“Praise came from all sides,” wrote David McCullough. “Most touching for Saint-Gaudens were the reactions of his fellow artists and friends. The statue took his breath away wrote Maitland Armstrong....'The sight of such a thing renews one's youth, and makes one think that life is worth living after all.'”

 

But the greatest praise of all was the most subtle. It was from Saint-Gaudens father. McCullough continues:

 

“A few days after the unveiling, at about midnight, Saint-Gaudens and Gussie and a friend were walking up Fifth Avenue, on their way home from a party. As they approached Madison Square, they saw an elderly man standing alone in the moonlight looking at the statue. Recognizing his father, Saint-Gaudens went to him and asked what he was doing there at such an hour.

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