I watched The Exorcist in high school. While I watched movies often in those days, especially action/adventure movies and comedies, I hadn’t yet explored much in the realm of horror. The movie left an impression on me that remains to this day, though not because the movie itself scared me. No, I remember The Exorcist because, around the viewing of the film, I was told stories of real life events that inspired parts of the story. The story of The Exorcist forced me to recognize the reality of spiritual warfare, the existence of actual demons. The film reminded me that we face a very real, very evil enemy.
Lord, save me from the fatal flaw
Of needing to be right,
Of loving not my brother but the fight.
God, humble me with holy awe.
Let truth be my delight.
Let me persuade with meekness, not with might.
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I remember finding a used copy of A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis in a back room of a house-turned-flea-market in Natchitoches, Louisiana while I was in college. The price was less than two dollars, I think. I was beginning to venture into the world of Christian thought, and my hunger for truth was strong and wild. Lewis’ name rang a bell in my mind, recalling memories of his Narnia stories. A Grief Observed, if memory serves me well, was my first taste of his nonfiction. I hadn’t a clue what that short book would do to me.
Compare at your own peril, for your life
Will never measure up to what you see
In others. You will only grow in strife.
You build a prison cell though you are free.
When we compare, we only see in part.
We view another’s gain where we have naught.
We note the diff’rences but miss the art
Of walking in the Way the master taught.
O faulty vision, warped by my desire,
Look not to other men but to the Lord.
Comparison would be to me a fire,
And its destruction I cannot afford.
So fight, my soul, temptations to compare
Or else resign to living in despair.
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My eyes, too weak to properly perceive
The face of beauty, found in God alone,
See clearly lesser things, and thus they leave
The truth of God for gods of self and stone.
And thus I grow to hold too high a place
In my own estimation. I forget
That any good in me is all of grace.
My ev’ry breath is evidence of debt
To God who is the giver of the breath,
Revealed in part, unknowable in whole.
He is, before my birth, beyond my death,
The maker and sustainer of my soul.
Adjust my eyes to greater glories see;
Thereby produce in me humility.
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Might sins which seem so far removed from us
Be those which pose the greatest hidden threat?
Temptations that we never much discuss
May be o’erlooked, which leads us to forget
To strengthen our defenses ‘gainst the foes.
Imagining that we, somehow exempt
From diff’rent dangers, will not face such woes,
We look on those who struggle with contempt.
In truth, we are no better off than they,
For we all wrestle with the fallen state.
We all would perish if not for the Way.
We all need God to make our pathways straight.
So guard your heart with all humility,
Or else risk falling to futility.
Last week, I wrote that the word of God discerns in us what we fail to discern ourselves, and I tried to show how this cutting work serves to draw us nearer to God. But what do we do when God reveals idolatry in our hearts? How should we respond when God highlights some object or dream or comfort or person and reveals to us our unhealthy attachment? The answer, I think, lies in how we understand gifts. Continue reading
Do sinking ships feel fear as they descend,
Or do they resolutely meet their end?
Do they imagine all that then is lost,
And measure meaning by the final cost?
Do they, as waves wash over them, regret
The course that led them to the final debt?
Or can they see, when all seems lost, the role
That they will serve just past the ocean’s shoal?
For they, in stillness, serve to make a home
For all who in the waters deep do roam.
And they, like buried treasure, can preserve
The stories of the ones they once did serve.
They seem to fail, yet still they meet a need;
And maybe, in this knowledge, they are freed.
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The heart that hurts to hold the hand
Of one who shares both heart and name
Can only ever understand
The purpose past the painful game
By fixing eyes upon the Lord
Who sov’reignly provides for needs
And knowing that the piercing sword
Is severing the sickly weeds
Which would corrupt the growing fruit
For which we labor, trust, and pray.
God sees the garden at the root
And guides us toward the light of day.
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