Advent – the Season of Deeper Magic

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by Cathee Poulsen

It means that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.
―Aslan describing the Deeper Magic (Chapter 15).[src]
 
I suppose many evangelicals have great difficulty with the words “magic,” “incantation,” or “witch.” And rightly so, considering passages like Deuteronomy 18:11 where God’s laws to Moses forbids such things. But when C.S. Lewis, highly respected theologian, uses the terms in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, he’s using the words, not literally, but to represent truths best explained through story or fable or fairy tale. 
 
Frederick Blechner explains it this way:
“It is a world of magic and mystery, of deep darkness and flickering starlight. It is a world where terrible things happen and wonderful things too. It is a world where goodness is pitted against evil, love against hate, order against chaos, in a great struggle where often it is hard to be sure who belongs to which side because appearances are endlessly deceptive. Yet for all its confusion and wildness, it is a world where the battle goes ultimately to the good, who live happily ever after, and where in the long run everybody, good and evil alike, becomes known by his true name….That is the fairy tale of the Gospel with, of course, one crucial difference from all other fairy tales, which is that the claim made for it is that it is true, that it not only happened once upon a time but has kept on happening ever since and is happening still.” 
After all, didn’t Jesus say “Once upon a time there was a son who asked for his inheritance early”? Or “Once upon a time there was a farmer who went out to plant some seed…” Jesus understood the deep connection we have with stories and so He never taught except to use this form of story telling.
 
If Christmas isn’t the quintessential time of magic, mystery, of deep darkness and flickering starlight, I don’t know what is. We’re all tuned in to something beyond what we see in the natural, that other world that we encounter from time to time in a thin place. Sometimes we attribute it to the carols that play everywhere, from Chick-fil-A to Macy’s. “People are in a more benevolent mood this time of year,” we say. 
 
But maybe there’s something else going on.
 
He Came to Us
 
This is one of the wonders of Christmas. Advent – “the arrival of a notable person.”  Was there anyone more notable that God? Himself breaking into our world, promising good news and peace? 
 
He came then so why wouldn’t we anticipate that He desires to come now? Why wouldn’t we be looking for Him now?
  • In the grocery store as well as the choral performance
  • At the doctor’s office as we wait to hear the report on our test
  • During the quiet moments we pour ourselves a cup of tea and admire the Christmas tree

Position Yourself to Hear

This month of December is a “time between times” when the old is passing and the new approaching. It’s meant to be a deeply spiritual time and if we turn our ears towards His voice, He will show us new things about Christ’s coming to us and tell us specific things to prepare us for the new year.

How do we position ourselves to maximize this time?

  1. Make it your aim to really simplify the way you celebrate Christmas this year. Here’s a great article with lots of suggestions to help you: The Helpful Guide to a Simpler Christmas.
  2. Set aside some time to learn about the meaning of the Advent Tradition.
  3. Buy a new journal and write a “Foreword” to 2017 in the opening pages. Reflect on 2016, it’s lessons, mistakes, achievements, joys, and then write about your anticipation for the new year.
  4. Buy an Advent Wreath and each Sunday evening light another candle and – with your family, spouse or friends – pray for the coming year and listen for what God may want to say to all of you.
  5. Reach out to someone who may be alone this year and include them in your celebrations.
  6. Write a special card to an old friend you’ve drifted away from over the last few years. Reconnect. Let them know you miss them.
  7. Carve out a time of solitude where you can ponder the “deeper magic” of a God who would become a man and break the curse so death could start working backwards.

If we, the self-proclaimed followers of the Prince of Peace, cannot manage to declaw the stress and anxiety of this busy season, and exemplify that “all is calm, all is bright,” what possible hope do we have of being a true influence for Christ at Christmas?

 

 

Put Down the Fork and Step Away from the Table

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by Texas Stready

As long as I can remember the holidays have been spectacular events in our home. It wasn’t till I had my own children that I realized how much work’s involved. You see I was born to a family that’s serious about food.

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of dining in my mother’s or one of my siblings’ homes, you’ve tasted this tradition. Yum!

In case you don’t get it, let me inform you, food doesn’t have legs and platters lack wings. This means preparation is mandatory.

Savor The Flavor

Got grace all over the place. As Kings’ Kids, we all do. Trouble is we have no clue how to enjoy it. Approval and support are served to us in daily proportions and even on a silver platter, but they’re far more than hors d’oeuvres. Favor is no menial snack, it’s a banquet.

Been around church my whole life. Started Indian style on the floor, moved up to pews, and on to the present day padded chair. Shifted from cute children’s songs, to hymns, then leapt with both feet into Praise and Worship.

All the while loving God, but lacking action. I just sat around with my mouth hanging open waiting to be spoon fed. Although the truth was going in, I hardly even tasted it, and never got to enjoy the benefits. It took monumental displays of grace for me to begin to appreciate not only it’s flavor but how desperately I needed it to live.

Recognize Your Responsibility

I’d felt God’s presence but the personal power part seemed to elude me. Why’s that? Just like Thanksgiving dinner, I took no personal responsibility in the matter of preparation. All I wanted to do was enjoy the feast.

James 2:18-25 says:

Do you think that just believing there’s one God is going to get you anywhere? The demons believe that, too, and it terrifies them! The fact is, faith has to show itself through works performed in faith. If you don’t recognize that, then you’re an empty soul.

And that’s exactly what I was, a miserable, selfish, pinhead. (i.e. empty soul).

What Does the Scale Say

Pigging out at the party takes us to a painful and lazy destination, while not enjoying the celebration leaves us starving and malnourished. I do not believe that God has called us to a life of balance, rather one of total dependence. However, it’s foolish not to keep ourselves in check.

Stay in spiritual shape

  • Exercise your ability to hear from God by stepping out in faith
  • Use God’s designated resources to accomplish your goals
  • Interact with like-minded people to keep yourself challenged

These things help us tap into God’s power and provision. Finding a place of peace in the middle of messy circumstance is a great start (kinda like yoga), but that’s not where it ends. It is vitally important that we do the work of living right, in spite of our achy heart or lack of stamina.

There’s always work to be done, and wasted time only lengthens the process. One of the keys to acceleration without exhaustion is to learn to listen to your spirit man. Once you become fully in touch with who you’re called to be, and what that looks like, it becomes easy to enjoy the process in spite of the labor. Doing the work it takes to stay in spiritual shape gives you the power to put down the fork and step away from the table.

When Everything Flies in the Face of Your Peace

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by Cathee Poulsen

By 7:45 the temperature is nearing 60 and the Florida sun rises from a clear sapphire sky on my morning walk. This time of year, its angle reflects ten thousand diamonds on the water. I find it energizes me to walk alongside the lake and breathe in the fall morning air. Especially today when peace is scarce and thoughts agitated.

At the end of the road I see the cranes – they’re almost always there to greet me. Florida Sandhills are endangered and smaller than the Great Lakes Sandhills that migrate here in the winter. These two are happily picking through a neighbor’s grass, looking for mole crickets, grubs and earthworms. Noisy birds, the female makes two calls for every one from the male. Typical, I think with a smile.

Breaking the rhythm of my walk, I stop a minute to enjoy their vigilant search for food, bald scarlet heads bobbing up and down and awkward gait carrying them alongside the road.

From my left I see a movement and realize there’s a third crane whose ocher color blends so well with her surroundings I didn’t see her at first. Her rattling call is haunting and beautiful but I notice she is lame. She holds her right leg up and isn’t eating much. And just like that, I see many of us, struggling to go on in face of cancer, or addiction issues, regrets and the like, bravely trying to muster up some energy for life.

What happens to your peace when life becomes a series of troubling, agitating questions that no one can answer? And worse, it seems like God’s on vacation in Tahiti right when you need Him most.

Pat Answers and Old Clichés

Oh, I know the Bible verses that say we can cast our cares on Him because He cares, or the admonition to not let our hearts be troubled. But what do those words mean when it comes to these moments? How do I go on living when part of me is dissolving away?

If God is really there – present in our greatest moment of need – there has to be something tangible we can do. This has been haunting me like the cry of that bird.

When I got back from my walk I turned to those familiar words in John 14. I wanted to see if I could read them again, slowly and with intention, to see if I might have missed something.

“Do not let your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you…I am the way…” John 14:1-6 NASB

What if there’s a secondary meaning to these words? What if it’s not about dying, going to heaven, and having a elaborate mansion bequeathed to us by Jesus?

I stared at the words and then went to my Strong’s Concordance app and started looking up the words individually. Here’s what I discovered:

  • Do not let is a directive. It means it’s up to you and me to do this.
  • troubled means “disturbed or agitated”
  • mansions is better translated “dwelling places” as it is here in the NASB. This one thing alone opened a world of difference in interpretation
  • I go to prepare a place for you – this is Jesus’ part. It’s His promise. We can count on it.
  • How do we find our way to that place? I am the way.

Here’s my takeaway from that search.

  1. Peace is a choice. I can choose not to let bad news, lack of money, health issues or family problems trouble me to the point of agitation and loss of peace. It’s my job to maintain my own level of peace.
  2. There is a God who loves me and has prepared a special place for me to run when I am troubled, scared, or even sick. “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty (Ps. 91:1). Could this be the dwelling place He’s talking about in John 14? Is my dwelling place the Presence of God?
  3. If He says He is the way there, don’t I have a choice to believe Him or not? I mean, He’s either the way, the truth and the life, or He is a liar. There can be no middle ground.
  4. In the end, it’s not really up to God to do anything. He’s provided the means for continual peace no matter what happens next and I have the choice to dwell there or be troubled and agitated.

It’s such a snare to torture ourselves over what we cannot help and did not foresee. But if the Presence of Christ is a safe dwelling place and He carries with Him always that lovely Balm of Gilead (Jer 8:22), we can be assured of a healing – if not here, then in eternity.

Like the Sandhill Crane this morning, we grieve as a family when one of us is injured. But my heart tells me that if we can allow our present grief to be simply an open wound before Him, Christ will come, pour in that sweet ointment and touch it, and in due time, it will be healed.

He is all we have. There is no other way. But I promise you, it is enough.

How to Successfully Party Through Life

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by Texas Stready

It’s so easy to become consumed with the problems of everyday life.

  • Pained by your children’s choices
  • Fearful of our country’s future
  • Anxious about your monthly income or lack there of

But what good does that do, I ask? None–that’s what.

The only avenue to a productive party life lies beyond the gates of what’s good. Rummaging around through the trash of life, only leaves us in possession of the best garbage we can get our hands on. That, my friend, is simply not good enough for God’s people. We are heirs to the kingdom of heaven but only we can access this rightful position.

Take positive risks

As I look back through the years of my life it’s funny to me how I would swallow handfuls of pills hoping for the next high but when the doctor prescribed seizure medicine or antidepressants I wanted nothing to do with that.

Seems to me, as humans, we are drawn towards the more negative risks.

Why’s that? Could It Be Satan?

I want to learn to be the kind of person who is willing to make a fool of myself for the right cause. I mean it’s quite obvious—I’ve been a dodo for the wrong cause for years. What do I got to lose? Not one thing. And I have everything to gain. And so do you.

Don’t let negativity defeat you

It seems everyone wants a Yes-man, the easy way out, or at least someone who won’t create waves. As far back as I can remember the rewards in life have been found in unexpected accomplishments, not in the easy stuff.

Remember when you got Mark Montgomery to ask you to the homecoming dance. None of your friends thought it was possible but the smile on your face in that picture is priceless. Why? Because you overcame the odds.

Everywhere you turn in life there are roadblocks. Things set up to discourage and defeat. If we’re willing to look at things honestly, the question quickly becomes, “What’s it going to take to bring out the fight in you?”

Nobody wants to fall down but the race to success is never won without training,

and only failure produces the unction it takes to be a gold medalist.

Count your pluses

I personally don’t care if you sit around sucking your thumb, mulling over the things in life that have been unfair. Feel free, but know this, next year you’ll find yourself in the same playpen with diapers that no longer fit.

We’ve become self-proclaimed experts at sitting across the room and listing all that others could be doing better—meanwhile the crap from our own lives is running down our legs. Well I say, “Wake up 30-year-old toddler, it’s time to grow up and become accountable for your own waste.”     

  1. Wasted time
  2. Wasted energy
  3. Wasted opportunity

You know, stuff like that…

It’s your crap and you should be way beyond the point of sitting in it.

It’s up to you to do the work of climbing up out of the bio-hazardous material. The way I’ve found to successfully party through life is Focus on the Good Stuff.

  • Enjoy what’s right
  • Expect the best
  • Eradicate the rest

Choose to operate in a constant state of celebration. That doesn’t mean ignore what’s wrong, or forget what needs fixing. It simply means dance through it—appreciate what’s good more than you dread what’s not. How far you have to go can’t matter more than getting there.

Today is freaking good and I’m glad to be part of life. It’s a choice. Simple as that.

Is it Fair to Say God is in Control?

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by Cathee Poulsen

To be honest, I’ve been struggling all day with how to word what I want to say in this post. I’m not so sure I want to “say” anything as much as I hope to provoke you to think. Deeply. To question the party line.

I hear it all the time: “Don’t worry. God is in control. It will all work out.”

We’ve heard it. We’ve most likely said it. But what about the person who just got a leukemia diagnosis? What about the pregnant mom who got test results that indicate her unborn child has a 70% chance of Down’s Syndrome? What about the husband who just saw a text pop up on his wife’s phone? The one she left on the kitchen counter when she went out to get the groceries from the car. “Meet me again tonight? Same place?”

To answer these circumstances by saying, “Don’t worry. God is in control. It will all work out,” is quite frankly not acceptable. It seems a refusal to acknowledge the complexities of life. A pat answer that brings no encouragement or even truth.

Can We Give These Situations the Answer They Deserve?

Isn’t God in control? Yes — in one sense. He’s the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe. He has power and authority to stop the earth’s rotation if He should so choose. But when we examine the stories of people facing all kinds of dilemmas in the scriptures, do we see God controlling the outcome of people’s lives?

I don’t think we do. Here’s what we see:

    • He is present
    • He is able to work circumstances to our benefit
    • He never stops loving us
    • He is relentlessly kind
    • He reveals aspects of His nature through our difficulties
    • He can identify with our pain, whatever kind it is

How Much is Up to Us?

But He doesn’t control what happens, or our response, or even the outcomes. And He doesn’t control people. He is ever-present to provide wisdom and counsel when we ask and He sustains us from start to finish. He teaches us how to walk through deep waters with both joy and peace because we are in a process of being changed. These difficulties are the very things that change us.

The mother who gives birth to a child with Down’s Syndrome will often tell you how grateful she is that she has the privilege to raise her beautiful child. The sister to that child will grow up with a compassion unattainable had she not had that sibling in her life.

In that sense, God is working these situations for good, but He’s not controlling them. I think it not wise to spout off that phrase to anyone. God’s mercy never fails and His grace doesn’t run out, but we have the power of choice and we live with the consequences of that choice. A lot of the outcome is up to us. That mother could choose to abort her baby and the outcome would be entirely different – and not just for her.

What About the Election?

As we approach the last few days before we elect a new president, emotions, fears, hopes and predictions run high. And from time to time, someone is bound to say, “Oh, don’t worry about it. God is in control and it will all work out.”

We are still a nation who elects the people in office. Despite rumors of voter fraud, conspiracies and such, we probably get what we ask for collectively.

But this I know for sure, God is with us, He hears our prayers, and He has no intention of abandoning us if our candidate doesn’t win. It is up to us to stand for what is decent and just and good. We have a voice and we each have a sphere of influence. Let’s be faithful to cry out against injustice and to do what’s right and good.

We can take comfort from these two scriptures and what they infer:
He (GOD) changes the times and seasons; He removes kings and establishes kings. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. Daniel 2:21 (Holman)

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which is from God. The authorities that exist have been appointed by God. Romans 13:1 (NASB)

No matter the outcome, our God is with us, His love never ceases, and our confidence is in Him. Our assignment always, is to convey to those who watch us, that we walk in the peace of that truth. Besides… we have dual citizenship, and His kingdom will always trump this one. (No pun intended).

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