fain | fān | archaic

fain | fān | archaic: adjective: 1. pleased or willing under the circumstances, eager. 2. obliged. adverb: gladly

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Idol Factory

Ed Stetzer is a pastor, writer and commentator on the North American missional scene. This piercing little reflection is appropriate to the Advent discipline of preparing a place for Jesus to come and stay with us by focusing on the content of our inner lives more than that Christmas "to do" list we've all got. He reminds me that I've got idols of my own that need to go!
This week, I am attending my third denominational annual meeting within the last month. What I have noticed at each meeting is homage to the past as well as hope for the future. This is a good thing. We need to remember where we came from as we look to where we should go.
However, this is not always an easy thing. Especially for denominations.

Often times, denominations want to hold on more to the past than they want to reach for the future. Only when the pain of remaining the same grows greater than the pain of changing do many denominations actually move forward. Sometimes the root of this strong desire to stay the same can, unfortunately, border on idolatry if we are not careful.

Both personally and as a denomination, we tend to long for the good ole days. Many times, however, those days really weren't that good. They were just comfortable. That comfort becomes our desire instead of doing what God has commanded regardless of the discomfort.

These last few weeks brought to mind this excerpt from my new book Subversive Kingdom.
I've seen lots of idols in my time. From statues in India, and masks in Africa, to ancestral markings in South America, idols exist in all shapes and sizes. All forms of idols fill gaps. Man was designed to worship and will worship something. And as strange as these items may appear, it's not hard to notice their power. They capture the identities of those who are so connected to these attachments from their culture and history.

Yet strangely enough, my idols are not strange to me.
They call to me. Personally. They appeal to me from my past. They make their persuasive case for why I need them so badly and how much they can do for me. They try to convince me that we can all get along here in one place together, that I can share space with both them and my Christian devotion at the same time, and that God will understand.

So my idols are much more personal than a piece of stone or a block of wood. Anything from my past or present that shapes my identity or fills my thoughts with something other than God, especially on a regular, ongoing, irresistible basis, is an idol. Idolatry does not count the cost of worshipping anything but God. And although few of us could ever imagine worshipping a picture of ourselves, the reality is--we are either worshipping God or some form of ourselves. When we are driven by physical and emotional appetites rather than being led by the Spirit of God, we are worshipping the idol of ourselves. Paul spoke as a prophet on fire to the Colossian Christians: "Therefore, put to death what belongs to your worldly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry" (Col. 3:5).

Both a king and his kingdom exist in every person's life, creating within us an impulse or desire for something more than we have right now. Even many God-given desires can turn into idols when we become too urgent to satisfy those desires. But every idol is a competitor. Our kingdom calling will always be mutually exclusive with the conniving appeals of other gods. We must never forget that we are in "rebellion against the rebellion" of the world's system, that we are commissioned by God to live with different loyalties from those of the world--and that, in fact, part of our motivation for choosing this singular existence is for the sake of those who are caught in the enemy's trap.
We're just subversive that way, aren't we?

Because if we allow idols to occupy living quarters in our hearts--especially on a consistent, unquestioned basis--we will never be able to develop the integrity and discernment necessary to challenge the oppressive values of the broader culture. We'll be too distracted and self-absorbed to notice the many examples of pain, doubt, confusion, and injustice happening in people's lives right around us. We simply cannot serve successfully as agents for the kingdom of light while simultaneously harboring pockets of darkness in the shadows and corners of our hearts. Just can't. Doesn't work like that.

Idols. Divided loyalties. Split personalities. These are things we cannot tolerate if we hope to remain subversive.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Robert's Reads: The Funeral Selfie

God's answer to pain, suffering, and death is to redeem and defeat them by offering himself in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Does the cultural obsession with denying these difficult human realities partly explain the total lack of interest in church or things Christian by so many today?

The "Funeral Selfie" and How we Deal with Death
by Nathaniel Torrey

A tumblr entitled “Selfies at Funerals” is the latest variation on the theme of spiritual entropy facing the modern world. The tumblr consists of self portraits of pretty youngsters making goofy expressions or showing off how flattering their dress or hair cut makes them look on the way to or after a funeral.

The phenomenon of “the funeral selfie” is inevitable in a culture entirely adverse to pain and terrified of dying. We would much prefer to make a silly face and strike a pose then to contemplate the fact we will inevitably die. As the Atlantic observed, what formerly inspired reflection and mourning now inspires a goofy grin or a suggestive pose. When death confronted Macbeth he pondered perhaps that life is nothing more than “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” We are content to shout “YOLO! LMFAO!” and pose for a quick photo to show off how good our hair looks for the funeral. To see a loved one as a corpse and realize that we too shall be just as dead is too much for  modern man’s constitution; he is too used to taking every available short cut with the aid of modern science and technology.  The idea that pain, suffering and death are things we must come to grips with in order to be fully human is entirely foreign to our sensibilities.

As a result,  we tend to gloss over death whenever possible when it rears its head in our lives. If we have to deal with it face-to-face, say at a funeral, any distraction will do. Fr. Alexander Schmemann in his book For the Life of the World saw this best exemplified in the funeral industry. He writes:
Inside, the “funeral director” tries to take care of things in such a way that one will not notice that one is sad; and a parlor ritual is designed to transform a funeral into a semi-pleasant experience. There is a strange conspiracy of silence concerning the blunt fact of death, and the corpse itself is “beautified” so as to disguise its deadness.
Like the funeral home, we try to dress up and disguise the fact that we will die.  Yet, “YOLO” or “you only live once” is the motto of a rising generation of people.  What a paradox! We are so afraid of death we’d rather photograph ourselves posing absurdly, yet we tell ourselves it is better to live as if our death was immanent; implicit in “you only live once” is “you will die someday.”

Not only do we live in a culture in denial about death, it also takes death as the guiding principle of life. Because we will die someday, it is best to act a certain way. And the way we are supposed to act is to “live in the moment.”  This is usually translated as “pursue any pleasure that requires the least effort.” There is almost always a sense of urgency when a call of “YOLO” is issued. Death could come upon us any moment, so don’t hesitate!

We simultaneously acknowledge that we will die yet we do everything in our power to avoid discomfort at acknowledging it. We end up like the demon possessed man living among the tombs in the Gospels. We carry out our lives immersed in death as if this were the normal course of life. A culture so premised on the normalization of death can only be termed as diabolical.  To give just one example, what is abortion but a necessary option for a culture that is guided by the “YOLO” mantra? After all, if a woman only has this life to live why wouldn’t she think it appropriate to dispose of him if she felt it would inconvenience her? If there is only one life; why waste it raising an unwanted child?

Where we need to begin is allowing ourselves to face our death and allow ourselves to feel grief. Jesus himself wept at the grave of his friend Lazarus. He understood that death is the greatest tragedy. Yet, He did not shy away from it. By not allowing ourselves to grieve, we effectively shut our eyes to the reality of death’s tragic nature. Fr. Alexander Schmemann remarked in aforementioned book that “It is when Life weeps at the grave of a friend, when it contemplates the horror of death, that the victory over death begins.” Let us be brave and grieve.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Robert's Reads: Inevitable Loneliness

I read a lot everyday. There are so many Christians writing good, solid, thoughtful articles, and I want to share them with you as a way of providing you with good stuff to think about and hopefully start some conversations.

What do you think about the following reflection I recently read on inevitable loneliness? Does social media really connect folks?

It's Inevitable: We're Human, We're Christian, and We're Lonely
By:Enuma Okoro
From: Her.meneutics

Earlier this summer in The New Republic, Judith Shulevitz opened up an ugly can of worms, writing that "loneliness lay at the heart of nearly all mental illness and the lonely person was just about the most terrifying spectacle in the world."

It's Inevitable: We're Human, We're Christian, and We're Lonely

She explores the fascinating history of loneliness and mental health and how it slowly became an area for scientific research. Going by Shulevitz's definition of loneliness—"the want of intimacy"— we're all suffering. Most of us aren't mentally ill or chronically depressed; we're just human. We can't help but feel this pervasive sense of disconnectedness.

In the Christian tradition, we have a certain understanding that loneliness is inevitable and part of the human condition. We're created for complete union with God, but unable to fully consummate that union this side of God's Kingdom. There is an Augustinian element of truth from which we cannot escape no matter how much intimacy we do cultivate. Still, that doesn't seem like a sufficient response for our loneliness predicament. If anything, it's an invitation for Christians to communicate more openly about the challenges of the loneliness we are all bound to experience at various seasons of our lives.

In our age of social media, when new "friends" are a click away on Facebook and Twitter users actively form real-time communities around everything from favorite TV shows to breaking political news, we can easily be led to think that loneliness is an outdated phenomenon. But it is not.

An animation on Vimeo called "The Innovation of Loneliness" illustrated how these social networks can perpetuate our feelings of being alone. Our modern society largely measures individual success by personal achievements that have little to do with maintaining healthy social communities. "Many people lose their social and familial communities in favor of a self-actualization ideal," said Shimi Cohen, the video's creator. He plays off the research of Sherry Turkel, an MIT professor and author of Alone Together, who suggests that the false sense of intimacy created in the virtual world fails to satisfy people's real needs for knowing others and being known by others.

After all, being lonely is not necessarily about a-lone-ness, but about lack of intimate, meaningful connection. Intimacy comes from recognizing the value of vulnerability, that needing other people is not a sign of weakness but a mere fact of human existence. This necessary criteria for intimacy goes against our cultural conditioning to laud the self-made, self-sufficient person.

On the other hand, I think of the West African culture in which I was raised, where living and working together with others gets so interwoven into the daily fabric of life that one barely has the opportunity to sit in feelings of loneliness for very long. I've noticed that in many "developing" countries and in Southern Europe, cultural patterns provide ample opportunity for fostering intimate relationships over the mundane aspects of shared lives, with families across generations living together under one roof and random visitors showing up at your doorstep, only to be welcomed with a sense of hospitality.

As I continue to come across articles that deal with our loneliness—revealing not only the emotional effects of the condition, but physical ones, like illness and early death, as well—I wonder if we are talking about it in our communities, or just writing about it on the Internet?

As communities of faith we can and should reflect on what we might do to help one another respond well in those moments, hours, days, and seasons. As Christians, how do we prepare one another for the inevitability of loneliness, whether married, single, socially overactive or not?

The lonely can easily fall into the unfulfilling trap of the quick fix: the new romantic relationship or sexual encounter, the new material item, or novel experience that we hope will fill that space (turns out shopping is linked to loneliness). Loneliness can make our head lie to our heart and vice-versa.
As Christians, we're called to train one another in the theological virtue of caritas, as understood by Thomas Aquinas as friendship with God that ultimately leads to deepened friendship with one another. In that space, we learn to cultivate more genuine depths of safe intimacy with one another not merely for our own sakes but for the sake of the one who first called us friends and never sent his disciples out alone.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Law and Justice

The trial of George Zimmerman for the death of Trayvon Martin has concluded. A jury of six women found Mr. Zimmerman not guilty of the charges of second degree murder or of manslaughter. The jury did not say that Mr. Zimmerman was innocent, only that he was not guilty of these two charges. It was not their task to determine his moral culpability in the encounter with Trayvon that resulted in the young man’s death. The outcome is disappointing to many across the country, and there is a misguided effort in the works to try the man again under civil rights laws in order to obtain a different result. Several of the jurors have since attempted to justify the outcome by issuing a statement explaining that they had followed the court’s directions in issuing a verdict that was based on the facts as presented in the trial determining whether the laws of the state of Florida had been violated in this tragic event. The outcome and the subsequent reaction to the verdict serve to illustrate the difference between law and justice.

While there is no universal agreement about what the word "law" means, it is generally accepted as a system of rules recognized by a country or community that regulate the behavior of its members. Institutions are empowered with the authority to enforce these rules and charged with the responsibility of imposing penalties when they are disregarded. Over time, as case history and precedent are established, the law evolves and becomes a matter of very precise interpretation, which is appropriate, given that a judge or jury can take away from a charged person their freedom, their life, or their livelihood. If you were the subject of a trial, I am sure that you would have it no other way. This was made clear for me in the play A Man for All Seasons, in this exchange between Sir Thomas More and his son-in-law, William Roper, over the slimy, opportunistic Master Richard Rich. After More turns away the position-seeking, information-gathering Rich, his son-in-law demands:

Roper: Arrest him.

More: For what?

Roper: For libel; he’s a spy.

Daughter: Father, that man’s bad.

More: There is no law against that.

Roper: There is! God’s law!

More: Then, God can arrest him.

Roper: Sophistication upon sophistication!

More: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what’s legal, not what’s right. And I stick to what’s legal.

Roper: Then you set man’s law above God’s!

More: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact – I’m not God.

Some further exchanges and the dialogue resumes:

Roper: So, now you’d give the Devil benefit of law!

More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

Roper: I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you – where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast – man’s laws, not God’s – and if you cut them down – and you’re just the man to do it – d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.

In the end, More was not safe within the thicket of the law, because Henry VIII was bound and determined to be rid of More because his very presence, though silent, screamed judgement of Henry’s growing tyranny and abuse of royal power.

Which brings us to the concept of justice, which the preceding dialogue suggests is a greater aspiration and longing than the mere interpretation of the law. The desire for justice seems to be innate and universal. It starts in the sandbox or in the playpen when a child first proclaims, "That’s not fair!" or "that’s not right!" Justice has to do with moral rightness. Its absence invokes offense and outrage. It is by virtue of this nature therefore, a more subjective ideal. The law has as one of its purposes the pursuit of justice, but the law, because it is written and executed by fallible human beings, often fails to attain justice and the closure that just adjudication brings.

Justice, in its essence, is about naming what is right and what is wrong, and from that determination proceeds the assignment of fault, the imposition of penalty, and the making of restitution when possible. Until recently, the pursuit of justice in America rested on the assumption that determining right and wrong began with the understanding that right and wrong were such to begin with because God and natural law had declared them to be so. This provided an unassailable basis for ordering human life and addressing its failures which trumps any exclusively human basis for justice which might turn out to be self-serving or merely the imposition of the will of the majority. Justice is frequently illusive, and when attained can bring closure, but not reconciliation to the cases of human negligence, ignorance, or malfeasance.

Only God can reconcile all of this human failure, effect perfect justice, show mercy, and provide restoration and reconciliation in the world. The Christian Gospel is clear that it is only through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus that there is any hope at all, that all that is wrong in the world and that which is lost because of human sinfulness, can be redeemed.

We are reminded of this every Sunday as we gather and pray, "Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid:" We would all do well to remember that only God alone is fit to judge all human actions, because only God alone knows all the facts and more importantly, knows what is in the human heart.

The church fully understands that even though Jesus has come, we still live in a fallen, broken, imperfect, and imperfectable world inhabited by fallen, broken, imperfect, and imperfectable people. People will make mistakes, make bad choices, break the law, commit crimes, and find themselves judged by others or more seriously, standing before magistrates and juries.

Scripture charges all human beings with violating the good order and rule of God that is intended for the well-being of all creation. As a result, we have brought on ourselves and others not only the consequences and injustices of our actions, but the displeasure of God himself. In the most egregious example ever of injustice, Jesus has borne the consequence of all of our lawlessness and obtained for all of us the forgiveness, mercy, and reconciliation that only God can achieve. We who have come to know this are also called to go and become agents of this reconciling, redemptive work ourselves.

It remains a great mystery to see how God will finally effect both justice and mercy. We might very well ask if the two shall ever lie down together. To which the Gospel proclaims: Yes. For God so loved the world...

Friday, June 7, 2013

"Remember this: after today, it's not about you."

Increasingly, we understand that forming young disciples who will stick with Jesus after high school is a critical calling for the people of God. In this mission, Good Shepherd is blessed beyond measure with the Episcopal Day School, started in 1944, which is dedicated to helping each child realize their God-given potential and to take their place in God's world.

EDS teachers and staff work conscientiously and tirelessly to create a place and environment that not only prepares the children intellectually for the challenges of the new century, but nurtures and cultivates their relationship with a loving God who calls each of them to the service of others, rather than to the service of self, as the true path to a happy and fulfilling life.

This is a message that receives little to no reinforcement in our culture, and EDS families are fortunate to be able to place their children in a school environment that offers alternatives to the ways of the world and challenge youngsters to rise to their best.

Graduation events always remind us of this sacred calling and encourage us that our efforts are not in vain. Last Friday, the EDS Class of 2013 concluded their time as EDS students and were sent forth into the world with this counter-cultural message and challenge, given by the Chairman of the EDS Board of Trustees, Jim Trotter, himself an EDS graduate. Read on!

Jim Trotter Addresses the EDS Class of 2013:

I am truly honored to be here tonight to talk to all of you on your graduation.  I have made a promise to myself that I would not talk to you about my years at EDS, how EDS has changed over the years, what I learned at EDS, or about the future of EDS as it spreads out over 32+ acres (which is what I am really most excited about and more qualified to speak).  Tonight is NOT about my history, your history, or this school’s history or future; it is about you and your future.

Please also understand that by trying to give you some advice or life lessons tonight, I am not implying that I have figured all of this out in my own life.  In fact, I am still learning many of these lessons – sometimes the hard way.  However, they are all facts of life that I wish I had accepted as true much earlier in my own life.

Today we are celebrating the fact that you are graduating, moving on. It is appropriate that we do so because you have worked hard (and your parents have worked hard) to get to this point. But I would like to make an important distinction. Today, we are not celebrating you. By that, I mean that we are not celebrating you just because you are wonderful and deserve a ceremony and party. Rather, we are celebrating your choices. You made choices that brought you here today. You worked and struggled and achieved. Had you not made those choices, had you not done the work, you would not be here.  Granted, your choices may not have always been purely voluntary – they may have been encouraged by such directives as you either study or lose your iPhone – but they were choices nonetheless.  Your parents have also made important choices and sacrifices to get you here and we also celebrate those today as well.

I make this point because it is an important one for your future happiness and well-being. It is easy when we are young to think the world revolves around us. We think this because, in many ways, it is true. If we are blessed, then we have parents who take care of us, who order their lives in such a way as to see that our needs and wants are met and fulfilled. If we are blessed, then we have gone to a school where our needs are addressed. Skilled teachers have spent untold hours trying to figure out how to make education appealing to us. They have worked to interest you, to excite you about learning and to prepare you for life beyond EDS.  That’s really what I want to talk about: life beyond EDS.

The rest of the world, however, is very different and will NOT revolve around you. The older you get, the less you will be rewarded simply because you are wonderful, a unique individual. The older you get, the fewer trophies there will be for coming in fifth or fourth. Or even second or third. The older you get, there will be a sharp decrease in the number of people who order their life around you. In fact, you will be one of those who is expected to order your life around others. Remember this: after today, it's not about you. To the extent you think it is and try to make it so, you will be unhappy and will squander your energy and talents. It's really not about you.

I recently had the pleasure of being invited to a private viewing of artifacts and historical documents at the Augusta Museum of History.  Most all of them were related to the City of Augusta and they were fascinating.  Reviewing letters from the civil war era and from the early 20th Century really helped put into perspective our current role in the history of our community.  It will also help put someone who thinks that the world revolves around them in their proper place – it reminded all of us that night that our time on this world is relatively short and that history can be made any day.

The fact that the world will not revolve around you is not a bad thing. Not at all.  To the contrary. One of the few latin phrases I remember from my own studies is “Sic Vos Non Vobis” – not for yourself but for others.  You will find that real happiness in life comes from sacrificing your own wants to make someone else happy. You will find that real happiness in life comes from investing yourself in relationships and taking care of other people more than you worry about yourself.  Of course, I didn’t learn this myself until I got married and had children of my own.

Real happiness in life can also be found in serving your community.  For most of my life, I viewed community service as a means to an end: checking off an assignment in school; getting rid of a speeding ticket or other indiscretions; building a resume; getting into a school or getting a job after school.  It is only in the last few years that I have learned to enjoy service to my community for what it is: giving back to the same community that has blessed me in so many ways.  I know your years at EDS have involved a lot of community service.  Many of you probably already enjoy it for what it is – if not, I hope you can learn to enjoy it for the right reasons so that you will continue to serve your community even when your resume is full.

You will find that lasting satisfaction is linked inextricably to what you earn and achieve, not what you are given. Work will bring rewards that nothing else will. Real success and meaningful achievement must be earned. The longer you live, what you meant to do will often matter less than what you did. You will be judged on your actions and not your motives.

Life is not and will not be fair. Don't waste your time or energy complaining about that or trying to make it fair. Life will be hard. Don't be surprised when it is difficult beyond anything you imagined.

These challenges are often the motivation needed to push us to change our lives--and sometimes the world around us.

Don't be afraid of hard work. Be afraid of laziness and entitlement. Don't be afraid of failure. Be afraid to never try. Don't be afraid of sadness and hurt. Be afraid not to care. Don't be afraid of making sacrifices. Be afraid of having nothing worth sacrificing for. Don't be afraid of being overshadowed by others who are brighter, faster, or better at whatever. Be afraid of not pushing yourself. Don't be afraid of not achieving as much as someone else. Be afraid of not achieving all you can.

Learn to listen to people who are older and wiser than you.  For thousands of years, humans were solicitous of and attentive to their elders--those who had walked the same paths and climbed the same mountains and lived to tell about it.  That quality has been lost, I’m afraid, in more recent generations.  I would not be where I am today in my own law practice without a handful of older attorneys who have mentored me and continue to provide guidance – almost every day.

As most of us get older, we realize our parents were right about 95% of what they told us. We realize that the other 5% really didn't matter all that much.

Life can be good. It can be very good--exciting, enriching, and entertaining. You can be happy even in imperfect circumstances. Your futures can be bright without them being perfect. You can really be happy without having everything you want.   I know that one is particularly hard to believe – but it is very true.  We all have to remind ourselves of it sometimes.  Let me say it again – you can be happy without having everything you want.

Don't try to avoid the storms. Learn to ride them out.  Don't seek the easy way--grow strong enough to take the road as it is, not how you wish it would be. Life is the best preparation for life. Don't wish it away. Savor it. Love your family. Work hard. Hang on when it gets rough.  It will get better. And you will too.

Good luck and may God bless you.

Monday, May 6, 2013

What the Masters Can Teach Us About Serving THE Master

The recently concluded Masters Golf Tournament is acknowledged as the most prestigious golf event in the entire world. Only the British Open which is played on a different course each year, can begin to challenge that claim. The logo of the Augusta National is instantly recognized anywhere in the world and here in Augusta the appearance of the distinctive Masters green and yellow colors on anything and everything heralds the approach of the golf tournament just as the appearance of daffodils means that spring is near. This international recognition attaches to Augusta itself, known around the world as the home of the Masters.

The instant, global recognizability of the Augusta National logo is arguably the epitome of successful "branding." Branding is the term that is used to name the process by which an organization, an institution, or a business is recognized and identified as distinctive among others engaged in the same business or enterprise. A brand is a corporate entity’s most valuable asset. It not only identifies, but it may also communicate corporate personality as well as values like trust or reliability. The word "brand" is derived from an old Norse word which means "to burn" and its most common association for us is the marking of cattle so that their rightful owners are easily identified, much like the marking of the newly baptized with the sign of the cross upon the forehead identifies them as "Christ’s own forever." If you don’t think branding matters, consider the controversy in our community about the branding of the new Georgia Regents University!

What can the Masters teach us about serving THE Master?

First, the Augusta National is focused passionately on one thing, and that is hosting the finest golf tournament in the world. In other words, they are clear, crystal clear, about their mission and bring a single minded focus to this task that is constant. They innovate carefully from time to time and over time as their audience changes and as the world changes. Their two newest members are examples of how they will make adjustments so that nothing interferes with accomplishing the primary mission of hosting the world’s greatest golf tournament. If Masters patrons are an older and graying audience presenting a long term challenge to the vitality of the tournament, no problem. New initiatives are undertaken to cultivate among today’s children, tomorrow’s Masters patrons. Is the church listening?

If you have tickets for practice rounds or tournament play you will notice the thoroughgoing hospitality that is extended to guests. Signs, services, and structures are clearly designed for the benefit of those attending the tournament. Everything from tee times to viewing suggestions to scoreboards, even the scoring system is to facilitate the patrons experience of the play, the course and the experience of being present at the Masters. Intentional in their welcoming of patrons, they are equally clear that there are higher expectations of behavior expected from a Masters’ gallery than that of the fans at other tournaments. And by the way, if you close your eyes for even a moment, when you open them there will be no doubt about where you are for the National logo and colors are everywhere and on everything!

What can the church learn from this?

First, we must be clear about our mission, our reason for being, which is to offer life changing, purpose giving relationship with Jesus Christ to anyone who seeks it. We must bring the same single minded focus to what we are about in the world. We also need to be responsive enough to make carefully considered adjustments so that nothing interferes with our witness to the redemptive work God is doing in God’s world. Things that are important to us cannot be allowed to become the most important thing themselves or to distract or detract from the main thing or the mission of the church.

What can The Episcopal Church learn from this?

The Episcopal Church does not have a single message or mission - it has a dozen! And some of them are completely inconsistent with some of the others thereby compromising the primary mission of the church. This, despite the fact that the Book of Common Prayer is clear that the mission of the church is "to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ." Our public voice appears to be a purely partisan political voice and it seems there is never any clear witness to the Gospel in the public square. Public pronouncements are made first on the assumption that people understand that the church responds out of faithfulness to Jesus Christ. That is a gigantic asumption if there ever was one in today’s culture! And, secondly, they speak on the assumption that politicians and public policy makers are listening or even care about what Episcopal leaders, purportedly speaking for the Episcopal Church and not just for themselves, have to say. It may be that to these policy makers, the only value of our church’s efforts in the public square is for its usefulness in rebutting the claims of other Christians on the other side of an issue. James Davison Hunter of the University of Virginia, posits in his book, To Change the World, that the over involvement of both the religious right and the religious left in partisan politics has left the whole Christian movement discredited in the public eye. Time to concentrate on "faithful presence" he writes, being salt, light and leaven in the world for a generation or two and then we might possibly regain the priceless credibility required to speak effectively to the public again.

What about Good Shepherd?

We have chosen the path of getting clearer and sharper about what it means to follow Jesus Christ as a parish and more importantly as individual Christians in this very different cultural context. We recognize that the Christian "brand" is damaged and that speaking effectively in the Babel of competing voices and messages will require us to hone a clearer, less ambiguous message about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is yoked with an already considerable effort of offering caring service in the community. Outreach ministries too, are being sharpened and evaluated for their effectiveness in actually trying to change the circumstances of others struggling in our community.

Increasingly we understand that the first thing we were sharing with others is transformed, renewed, purposeful life in Jesus Christ. Next, we do that as the particular local community known as Church of the Good Shepherd, which has its own "brand" in the community to create, sustain, and to improve. People who become part of our parish, do so because of what they sense, perceive or feel about the dynamics, the values, the culture and the ethos, that is the brand, at Good Shepherd. Lastly, we are a parish whose life is shaped by the Episcopal Church’s traditions of Prayer Book worship, compassionate pastoral care, humility and gratitude.

But lets be honest, while we can learn from them, the Augusta National is not a church, at least not in the sense of the common use of that word, though visitors there almost universally hold a reverence and awe for the place and what occurs there that borders on the idolatrous and that frankly, the church envies. If only we could produce that effect for God’s glory in our churches! Factors unique to Augusta National give them leverage in their pursuit of excellence and control of their brand that the church simply does not possess.

The love, grace, mercy and goodness of God are not ours to possess but are freely given to all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Because they are freely given we may easily make the mistake of assuming that this gift is not costly to give and therefore, is not of great value to us. But, for the one who has come to know and understand this, there is no prize the world has to offer, not even a green jacket, that comes close to the privilege of knowing Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Is Jesus really risen... or not?

Church of the Good Shepherd Resurrection Window
We are just out of Easter Week which begins with Easter Day when the church proclaims and celebrates that Jesus, who was crucified, dead and buried, is risen from the dead and living! Therefore, he is Lord and Messiah, the One who has effected God’s redemptive mission to all people. Alleluia! The first week of the Great Fifty Days celebration of Jesus’ victory concludes with the story of Thomas, who was not present on Easter Day and who will not believe the testimony of the others that Jesus is risen and alive, until he sees the empirical proof (that is, sees with his own eyes and touches with his own fingers) the body of the Risen Lord.

You would think then, that it is both elementary and foundational to these astounding claims (Jesus is Lord, Messiah, risen, alive, living and accessible) that they rest on the fact of Jesus’ resurrection. By fact, I mean that the best inference of all the available evidence, including our own experiences and encounters with the living Jesus, is that his resurrected and transformed body got up and walked out of his borrowed tomb on that first Easter Day.

St. Paul says much the same thing when he writes:
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain. We are even found to misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ - whom he did not raise if it is true the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are all people most to be pitied.
(I Corinthians 15:12-18)
Yet puzzlingly enough, our church has had several bishops over the last 45 or so years who did not believe in the bodily, or actual resurrection of Jesus. They have at best, posited that his was a “spiritual” resurrection and at worst, that resurrection is a “metaphor” for the innumerable ways human beings rebound from adversity or tragedy. Mariann Budde, the Bishop of our flagship Diocese of Washington in the nation’s capital, is the latest to espouse similar understandings. Read her blog here. And you can read a caring rebuttal here.

Well, either he did or he did not, either he is or he ain’t. To my mind truthfulness and credibility do not lead themselves to either a “spiritual” or a “metaphorical” understanding of Jesus’ resurrection. Judaism and Christianity are material, worldly religions. They take seriously this world and the life that takes place here. Both believe that the transcendent, beyond physics God has revealed himself to people in time and space, that is in history and in ways material enough to be apprehendable to human beings: first, in the created order itself, next in the story of ancient Israel; and finally and most uniquely in Jesus which is also problematic in a religiously plural world.

The departure point for Jews and Christians in our shared belief is that the Creator God who is acknowledged as generally knowable in a study of the world around us and more precisely in Israel’s own history, has really taken it further and corporeally in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. If you can believe that God created the world from NOTHING, is it really all that much more of a stretch to believe God was in Christ (incarnation) reconciling the world to himself, and THAT the clear sign of his effectiveness in this project is Jesus’ resurrection?

Our Bishop, Scott Benhase, has written an excellent (and succinct!) reflection on the relationship of Easter faith, belief, knowledge and resurrection. Please read it at ecrozier.georgiaepiscopal.org (to be posted soon).

As for me, I know by the facts of my own life, that I am in need of a savior to redeem many of my days. The knowledge of my own failures and shortcomings, things done and left undone, thoughts, words and deeds is disappointing to me before I even begin to compare them to the aspirations and hopes a loving God has for me. It may not have been necessary for Jesus to come to rescue any other poor soul in this world but I assure you, it was necessary for me. And, if Jesus did not come out of that tomb in some kind of actual, tangible, real and apprehendable way, if the dogs had merely dragged off his bones (Crossan), then we’d have never even heard of him. And I don’t know about you, but for me, that would be a super huge tragedy.

If bishops and leaders of the church do not believe that the Christ we proclaim, serve and invite others to follow is, in reality, the same Christ whom the Gospels and the Creeds reasonably present him to be, then why would anyone else take him seriously and why would anybody follow a Jesus who fails to convince even the leaders of his movement that he is the way, the truth and the life?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Eight Practical Ways to Celebrate Easter

Lots of preparation and activity go into celebrating Christmas and very little into Easter, which, from a Christian's point of view, carries much greater significance. After all, if God had not raised Jesus from the dead, we would not be celebrating Christmas in the first place. 

Here are eight suggestions for building Easter traditions in your home (from this post on the Thom Rainer Blog by Chuck Lawless).

Do you have any to add to this list? Please post a comment to share your ideas.
  1. Focus on new beginnings. We make new commitments at the start of a new year, but let’s be honest: for many of us, we’ve already given up on those commitments by the time Easter comes around. If ever there were a time to start over, though, it’s Easter. The resurrection is God’s reminder that hope still exists. If you’re already behind in your Bible reading for this year, start again. If you’ve failed in your commitment to pray regularly with your spouse, re-start this week. Walk away from that sin that is controlling you. Start afresh, renewed by God’s resurrection power.
  2. Start Easter family traditions. Many families have Easter lunch together, but I’m thinking of more than that. Read the Easter story on Sunday morning, just as you do the Christmas story. Use old photographs to remember loved ones, and talk about the importance of resurrection hope. Bake Easter cookies for your neighbors. Serve a meal at a homeless shelter. Make holiday memories that your children will want to duplicate in their own families.
  3. Send Easter cards or an Easter letter. We expect cards or family letters at Christmas, but not at Easter. This year, send a resurrection card to everyone on your Christmas card list. If you send an Easter family letter, focus more on Jesus than on your family. Talk about his love, his grace, his forgiveness, and his victory over death. Be sure to write about the hope you have in Christ.
  4. Reach out to others who buried a loved one in the past year. Churches usually do well in ministering to grieving families at the time of a death, but that ministry is not always lasting. Eventually, the loving crowds return to busy lives. The holidays are often especially difficult as families find themselves alone. This Easter, call one of those families and pray with them. What better time than Easter is there to celebrate life and look forward to resurrection?
  5. Learn about and pray for a people group who know nothing about Jesus’ resurrection. Missionaries tell us that 1.7 billion people have little access to the gospel. They do not know the name of Jesus, much less the story of his conquering death. Learn about one of these people groups at www.joshuaproject.net, teach your children about them, and then pray they will hear the Easter story.
  6. Tell somebody what Jesus means in your life. As Christians, we know we need to be telling the gospel story. Why not tell others during the Easter season? Maybe you can approach someone this way: “I know a lot of folks think about going to church on Easter. May I have five minutes to tell you why this holiday is so important to me?” You might find somebody who has been waiting for some good news!
  7. Write a thank you note to someone who models overcoming faith. Maybe it’s that friend who experienced disaster, but who trusted God through the pain. Perhaps it’s a missionary who has been faithful even when his life was at risk. It might be your church pastor or a Bible study teacher. It may even be your parent or one of your children. Easter is about celebrating victory – so honor God by celebrating what He’s done through someone else’s life.
  8. Don’t give up. I don’t know what you’re facing. You might be discouraged and hurting. The mountain you’re trying to climb is steep, or the valley you find yourself in is deep. Prayer seems useless. Trusting God is tough because the obstacles are so big. Whatever you’re facing, though, is not bigger than the God who defeated death. Don’t give up – the God of resurrection is alive.

Photo:  Thomrainer.com

Saturday, March 23, 2013

A Review of "The Bible Among the Myths: Unique Revelation or Just Ancient Literature?"

 In this book review of The Bible Among the Myths: Unique Revelation or Just Ancient Literature? by John N. Oswalt, I find the contrasts between the myths of ancient literature with the Genesis account fascinating.

An excerpt from the review:
I have asked in the past how the ancient Hebrews could have been so far ahead of their time. The Bible Among the Myths extends the question: how could they have been so utterly different from every other culture in history? For the contrasts are great. Oswalt identifies these common (if not universal) features of myth, contrasted with the Genesis view:
  • Cyclical time: there is a lack of definite beginning and no clear direction to reality (with no one to give it direction). The Bible speaks of history with a beginning, with progress, and with a destination.
  • Nature symbolizing the divine. The Bible specifically rejects this.
  • The significance of magic, specifically the use of ritual and/or manipulations of matter to cause predictable results in the realm of deity. This, too, is nowhere to be found in biblical religion.
  • Obsession with fertility and potency, often expressed in religious (temple-based, even) prostitution of every base description. God is not sexual, nor is the religion he revealed.
  • Polytheism: obviously not the case for biblical theism.
  • The use of images in worship: expressly forbidden in the Ten Commandments.
  • Eternity of chaotic matter: see above; not so in the Bible.
  • Low view of the gods, who are more powerful than humans but no better ethically; the Bible depicts God as perfectly holy, just, loving, and righteous.
There is considerably more: I would rather leave you wanting to know more than thinking you had the gist of it covered here. These differences in substance obtain in spite of certain similarities of form between the Bible’s account and others.

Read the full review on the Thinking Christian Blog.

Friday, March 8, 2013

We're talking a lot, but is anyone listening?

Last week I watched Morning Joe with Ralph Reed on as a guest.  He was asked about the range of subjects that currently occupy political conversations, one of them being gun control.  Mr. Reed offered his personal opinion on the matter which I’d summarize as serious skepticism about the efficacy of anything that might be attempted.  Just the day before his appearance, the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church, passed a resolution reiterating the concerns the General Convention has expressed about gun violence in our culture.  Suffice it to say, I was struck by, let me say jarred by, these two very different responses: one from Ralph Reed, conservative Christian activist; and one from the Executive Council, on the liberal side of social and cultural issues. These two responses taken together did not present a coherent Christian perspective on the matter.  Indeed, were anyone to place the two responses side by side, they would probably conclude Ralph Reed as a Christian speaks in favor of the Republican response to gun issues and the Executive Council as Christians speak in favor of the Democratic approach to the same questions.

So, a couple of questions come to mind.  In post-Christendom America, do individual religious leaders or religious groups really believe they can influence politicians on outcomes by issuing pronouncements or personal statements about such matters?  Aren’t such actions in and of themselves, automatic Christendom responses which are therefore wasted effort in a post-Christendom culture?  And what happens when Christian leaders offer contradictory and mutually exclusive statements on the cultural issues of the day?  Would this be confusing to any who are paying attention?  Does the inconsistency in responses dilute even further any possible Christian impact on the matter at hand?

So, what do you think?  Is James Davison Hunter (To Change the World) correct, that the culture is at best, highly skeptical about anything Christians say publicly and therefore the Christian movement is best served by holding our peace and concentrating on being, salt, light and leaven in the world until such time as say, a generation or two, we might regain the credibility that is necessary to speak publicly to the culture again.  Or, is Ross Douthat (Bad Religion) correct, that cultural Christianity is essential to our society and the mainline churches must recover some vitality and consistency and get back in the game to bring positive influence to bear on the culture?

In this post-Christendom context, don’t we Christians need to hone our message to the world so that Christianity speaks with, despite our many differences, a more coherent, consistent and therefore intelligible voice to the culture?

Do we need to resist the temptation to comment or speak about every single thing and choose our moments with more consideration, addressing candidly the deeper, underlying issues of our common life, while always offering the word of good news, hope and encouragement to those responsible for addressing the issues?  Perhaps it would be a less complicated matter to speak with a more consistent voice if we disciplined ourselves to expend our words on fewer and weightier concerns.
It appears to me that in this new context, it is necessary for all Christians to realize that the days of making distinctions between ourselves for the purpose of attracting new members (we’re not like those ___________s!) or trying to gain credibility with others at the expense of other Christians, are long past.  We are truly in it together now.  What each Christian does or says reflects either favorably or unfavorably on all of us.  I don’t believe that our non-Christian neighbors who share this culture with us make any distinctions between reasonable or unreasonable, liberal or conservative Christians. We just all get lumped together, period.

If that’s the case, our message needs to get sharper and clearer.  Things really don’t have to be this way.  There is a better way.  Come and follow Jesus and see for yourself.

photo souce: www.rejesus.co.uk

Friday, February 22, 2013

Honoring the Body

This Lent, our preaching series focuses on the Christian practices and habits that will make us a distinctive people in the New Apostolic Era.  Lisa's sermon is a fine and compact presentation on the Christian habit of Honoring the Body...

The Rev. Dr. Lisa Barrowclough
The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd
Augusta, GA – Sunday, February 17, 2013 – Lent 1C

Jewish midrash tells a story of the beloved sage Hillel, who on his way to the bathhouse, explained to his disciples that he was going to carry out a mitzvah, a commandment. “Is it a religious obligation to bathe?” they asked. “Yes,” replied the wise teacher, “If the statues of kings erected in theatres, circuses, and town squares are regularly scoured and washed by the person appointed to look after them, how much more I, who has been created in God’s image and likeness.”

Disclaimer: If 15 years ago anyone had told an ambitious seminarian that she would one day stand in a pulpit and begin a sermon with a story about bathing, that young seminarian … well, I would have laughed, “I think not!” Well, in the interest of full disclosure, I actually felt that same way just a few weeks ago, when the preaching series schedule was published and I was assigned to the Christian Practice of ‘Honoring the Body.’ God is known to have a great sense of humor, however … and also to desire the stretching and growth of His disciples … and so my Lent has begun with special attention paid to the disciplines of tending to that which is indeed made in God’s image and likeness – the body that we, as Christians, are called to care for and honor.

Whether I want to pay attention or not, our world has a lot to say about our bodies. A quick internet search for “body care products” produces 163 million results – a three-year-old Department of Labor study claims that between 40 and 50 percent of the annual expenditures of the average American family fit in categories associated with care of the body, from gym memberships to health care, from the clothes on our backs to the food in our refrigerators – and, according to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Heath, half of the top ten stressors in the complicated development of adolescents are directly related to their bodies … what they’ve been told they should look like, what they think they must wear, what they are tempted to try, what is happening to them naturally and, sadly (for far too many), what is happening unnaturally to their bodies at the abusive hands of others.

The world of Jesus and the early Christian church was very concerned with the body as well. A sizeable majority of the Laws of the Torah are somehow related to the body, what a person can and cannot wear, eat, touch, and do. Jesus’ own radical ministry was marked by regular associations with those whose failing bodies made them unclean in the eyes of the faithful; and most of his miracles fed or healed bodies in need. St. Paul teaches passionately about the human body as the ‘Temple of the Holy Spirit’ when seeking to correct the destructive choices folks were making and the abusive habits they had fallen into – he more than once uses the image of the human body to describe the Church, the Body of Christ, as having many members who complement and need one another, and the whole system rejoicing or hurting when any one part does – and he describes compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience as godly virtues with which we must clothe ourselves.

The whole of our faith, of course, is grounded in the Incarnation – the truth that God himself “put on” a human body … and, in Jesus, the creator lived among the creatures. That the divine would walk and talk, and live and die, as an earthly human being is the unique claim of Christianity among the world’s religions, and because of this awesome wonder the holiness of all human bodies is an absolutely central understanding of our faith. Have you noticed that the whole of your body is involved in our worship? The often-mocked “Episcopal Aerobics” of “stand, sit, kneel, repeat” are intentional movements to engage our whole selves in prayer and praise. We touch and taste and smell in church – we see and hear and speak and sing together – and thus we honor our God with our bodies, made in His image. We walk the labyrinth – we get our hands dirty in service to others – we wrap our arms around grieving brothers and sisters – we lift up those who have fallen – we jump with joy for those who have reason to celebrate. We make use of our bodies to the glory of God and the building up of His church and His kingdom.

And because our bodies are intended to honor the One who made and strengthens them, we must take good care of them. In the same way that we are called to be good stewards of the earth, our time, our talents, and our treasures, so too must we be good stewards of the bodies God has given us. This means that what we eat and what we drink – how we wash and what we wear – the ways we are active and the times we are restful – the choices we make about intimacy … being a responsible steward of our bodies means that what we do to honor that which has been made in God’s image must honor God – in ourselves and in others. Like the incarnation, our practices of honoring the body are unique commitments of our Christian faith and they are outward and visible signs of our gratitude to the God who has given them to us. When we monitor and tend to our physical health – when we eat wisely and work off extra calories with exercise – when we practice good hygiene and dress modestly – when we reserve the gift of sex for marriage … when we do these things and more (and importantly, when we teach these things to our children) then we are honoring these vessels, these Temples of the Holy Spirit, as we should.

I say these practices are uniquely Christian commitments because, like so much of what we do and say, the tradition and truth of honoring our bodies is not necessarily the same as the habits and ways of the world in which we live. It has always been so. Our faith was born in a culture that viewed the human body as a commodity that ensured the growth of the empire. Procreation was highly valued, though irresponsibly, even recklessly practiced by the Romans, because babies meant more citizens, more soldiers, more cities. New Christians who reserved sex for marriage made the unpopular claim that their bodies belonged to God, and not to the state. Women, who before Christianity had dutifully born many children and too often died young as a result, suddenly enjoyed the freedom to become educated and to teach others. Those who had, for so long, gone without the basic necessities for healthy living finally had access to goods and services in Christian communities that shared all things in common. And the garments and jewels that had always set the “haves” apart from the “have-nots” were seen less and less among believers called to recognize Christ in one another, and to celebrate the image of God in all whom they met.

They say that history repeats itself, and it is not at all a challenge to find similar disconnects between the views, values, and practices of the faithful and faithless these days. Thankfully our bodies have never again been thought to belong to the empire, but our world is a long way from viewing them as belonging to God. In a highly sensationalized culture, our movie screens, websites, and magazines display minimal clothing on impossible (without photo-shop) bodies while, at the same time (isn’t it ironic?) promoting super-sized junk food filled with sugar and fat. Our culture assumes promiscuity by teaching our children solely about protection and no longer about abstinence, and we’ve made even basic health and wellness the privilege of those who can afford it. The evening news is tragically never without reports of human bodies being exploited and abused and, despite an almost immeasurable wealth of medical advances and services, avoidable sicknesses are spread at increasing rates. But we must not lose heart, for in this unhealthy, immodest, and broken culture, the voice of our faith is a prophetic voice – one with a message of hope and reason – to proclaim … “It just doesn’t have to be this way!”

In this morning’s gospel, the one we hear annually on the first Sunday in Lent, we are reminded of the prevailing weakness of temptation and sin, and (thanks be to God!) the strength and power of God in Christ to save us. The tests of the devil – appealing as they do to the natural tendency of fallen humankind to pursue (often at any cost) self-centered desire, worldly ambition, and the easy-way-out … these are the temptations that haunt us – the longings that seek satisfaction in the dishonorable practices of the culture in which we live and move and have our being. In the gospel Jesus provides for us the ultimate and perfect example of obedience to the One who made us in His image … an obedience we are meant to practice as we live in these bodies we are called to honor. It’s not easy – in fact, it often feels like a forty-day fasting battle in the desert, when we live into the fullness of God’s plan for these bodies of ours. It is hard work to honor our bodies – and to honor the image of God in the bodies of others – but it is for this that we have been fearfully and wonderfully made.

Admittedly, I am not the best practitioner nor teacher of this practice. I pray often for greater strength and motivation in these honorable ways. I began this morning by confessing that I’ve struggled to picture myself giving this sermon, so I might as well also admit that I’ve been remiss in settling on a Lenten discipline. God does indeed work in mysterious ways, doesn’t He?! This practice is an especially challenging one for me – and I’m guessing it may be for a few of you also. Let me wrap things up here with a powerful image of God’s continued work on the bodies He has given us – an image that reminds and reassures me that this hard work is not ours alone. I’m not going to offer any comments of my own (I’m actually not sure I’m ready to) but rather I will just leave the picture with you – a picture of a body that tells the story of so much more. I pray we’ll each hear and see what God intends.

In the fifth book of C.S. Lewis’ Narnia Chronicles series, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” we meet an unpopular young boy: “There was a boy named Eustace Clarence Scrubb,” we are told, “and he almost deserved it! His parents called him Eustace Clarence and his masters called him Scrubb,” explains the narrator. “I cannot tell you how his friends spoke to him for he had none.” Self-centered, ambitious, and always looking for an easy way out – Eustace battled with the temptations we read about in the gospel. And so it was that, while he slept atop a dragon’s hoard of riches, with greedy, dragonish thoughts in his heart, Eustace became a dragon himself. At first he tried to look on the bright side, imagining that his fierce new image would provoke fear in others and give him power. He liked this idea! But gradually, through a Lent-like practice of “self-examination and repentance,” Eustace realized that he had been quite a monster even before this unfortunate transformation into a dragon. Eustace began to regret his past mistakes and he wept big (and sincere) dragon tears. … So, enter the lion. The dragon suddenly found himself in the presence of Aslan, who simply beckoned, “Follow me.” Leading Eustace to a clear pool of fresh water, the lion commanded him to undress. “I couldn’t undress,” the boy explains, “because I hadn’t any clothes on when I suddenly thought that dragons are snaky sort of things and snakes can cast off their skins. Oh, of course, thought I, that’s what the Lion means. So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place. And then I scratched a little deeper and, instead of just scales coming off here and there, my whole skin started peeling off beautifully, like it does after an illness, or as if I were a banana. So I started to go down into the well for my bath. As soon as I looked at myself again in the water I knew it had been no good. Then the Lion said … ‘You will have to let me undress you.’ I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty desperate now. So I just lay flat on my back and let him do it. The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the awful dragon skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. Then … he caught hold of me – I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on – and he threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but for only a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that … I’d turned into a boy again. After a bit the Lion took me out and dressed me.”