Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Navigator: C.S. Lewis, Guide to the Galaxy

If our desires for things present are like signposts pointing us to the Eternal city, then I have found few writers to be as good a navigator for the journey as C.S. Lewis. There is something particularly insightful about his understanding of desire and the inability of lesser goods to ultimately fulfill them that serves to echo the voice of Ecclesiastes better than anyone I have ever read. On of the ways he deals with the tension of there being some good present in things like family, work, wealth, long life, and nature is to take serious what the Bible communicates to us about here we have come from and where we are going. Bruce Edwards in reflecting on Lewis describes it this way: 

 

Ours is the story of three worlds:

The world we left behind in shame, Eden

The world we occupy in struggle and doubt and turmoil, Earth

The world that impinges in fleeting glimpses of wonder, glory, and joy, Heaven

 

 The primary concern of the writer of Ecclesiastes is to help us reckon with the world we occupy and awaken a desire for the one that impinges. In his epistle, James writes that every good an perfect gift comes down from the Father of Lights in whom there is no shadow of turning. The good that we experience in life is  gift of God that is really the manifestation of his divine quality through creation. Our sin and the curse of Genesis 3 has not emptied the world of its created beauty, such that the Psalms and the Prophets can declare that the whole earth is filled with the glory of God. Most importantly to the writer of Ecclesiastes, we must not confuse gift and giver or else the gift will not be enjoyed for what it is and simply crumble to dust as a flower cut off from the life-giving nourishment of its roots.

 I can remember several years ago when I read Lewis's fictional tale The Great Divorce twice over a period of 12 months. The first time I tried and tried to make sense out of it and couldn't. The second time it sprung to life and I could see in the characters a vivid description of what it looks like to remain among the signposts of desire and miss the Eternal city. It was not until just the other day that I would have described it this way, but my recent fascination with Ecclesiastes finds a concrete fictional description in the short novella that had so puzzled me. If you haven't read it, put it near the top of your list.

 The connection between Ecclesiastes and Lewis hit me the other day when I was writing the first post and I remembered a passage from The Weight of Glory that I recognized had prepared me to think with the writer of Ecclesiastes. It is an oft quoted pice of Lewis's work and I will leave it with you and let you ponder the connections and ideas.

“Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others to do the same.”

 

 

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Signposts of Desire: To the Eternal City

First, a word about reading the Bible. I think that a lot of people who read the Bible can miss two very important things. First that the Bible is made of a diversity of theme and parts the create a greater whole. Each book plays a role in building a clearer picture of God's redemptive work in history. This will help because it can make you thankful for a book like Ecclesiastes which leaves you wishing you could hear a little bit more about what life IS about, and a little less about the fleeting value of things that seems so important to us. In the symphony of truth, Ecclesiastes plays the dirging Bass note and does so beautifully, only leaving a glimmer of hope. Second, the different authors and genres of the Bible speak to different parts of our human condition and experience. A book like Ecclesiastes in the genre of wisdom literature helps to take knowledge and bore it into the soul of our being and experience. We can feel the truths it addresses while we bring the ideas before our mind and this is much different than reading a narrative like The Acts of the Apostles.

So, if the conclusion of the matter is that all of the aspects of life addressed by Ecclesiastes are a meaningless chasing of the wind, how do we hold that in tension with our recognition that there does seem to be glimpses of beauty and meaning in family, justice, work, wisdom, and such. As I said yesterday, we seem to reach into these boxes of life because there appears to be something promising about them, the fulfilling of some deep longing that we have. Further the very real experience of life is that some of these things seem to deliver on the promise of meaning and life, even if not totally satisfying and eventually fading. I sit in nature and I don't feel the endless circulation of the water cycle, but instead a certain discernable goodness and beauty that I long for and can almost feel. At the birth of a child and in the love of a wife and family I do not immediately feel the closeness of death and the immediacy of being forgotten by a fickle world. Instead I sense that there is something real here, something particularly right, even if I know that death can come without warning. Eventually, death will come to all, riches will fade, honor and glory will be forgotten, and The Teacher of Ecclesiastes is right to warn us not to place our hope in these things.

Ecclesiastes instructs us in an important theme. The idea is that these lesser "goods" are not ultimate and cannot bear the weight of the eternal desire for God that has been placed in our hearts. Ecclesiastes 3:11 seems to capture the truth of the book in one simple statement and this seems to be the meaning of the idea that God has put eternity into man's heart. The lesser goods are signposts of desire, but always leave us longing for the country to which they point. For this reason they are good, but they do not complete life in such a way that we can just remain with them. In the eyes of Solomon, it is a tragedy for us to stop on the road to the eternal city to remain forever among the signposts.

As I thought about this idea the other night I thought of one of my favorite writers. Tomorrow I will look at this idea through his eyes and share some of the connections with Ecclesiastes.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Empty Box

I have had some thoughts from Ecclesiastes stirring in my heart and mind the past two days since Annie and I had the chance to participate in Brett and Jen's small group study on Sunday Night. Every now and then I seem to come back around to this mysterious little book and discover it like new all over again. If you have never read it, I would encourage a full sit-down read sometime. Taking a couple of weeks to go verse-by-verse can be good, but we must not neglect to read the whole or we run the danger of dividing a meaningful journey into hard to discern little visits.

Have you ever felt like we spend a lot of our life looking for something that we cannot quite put our hands on, and are not even sure how to describe. It is like a child going from box to box at Christmas looking for THE gift, but the box never quite has what he was looking for. We may call it satisfaction, but then we never really know whether we are satisfied and quickly long for something else, something more, something exciting, something different, something permananent. We open box after box, hoping to find the gift to end all gifts, the key that will unlock the meaning to everything else in life. We eagerly open the box of a new relationship. We look for it in productive work. We search for it vigorously in health and long life. We expect to find it in significance or honor. We open the gift of knowledge and wisdom. We hope for it in justice. And we thirst for it in celebration, but it is always so elusive. The emotion fades or the lover dies. The wealth and production of work causes worry, and produce spoils before we can consume it or is left to those who follow after to enjoy. The disease breaks forth uncontrollably despite the best efforts of doctors. The fifteen minutes of fame and honor are followed by an eternity of forgetfulness and the trophies of accomplishment tarnish with each passing day. The knowledge and wisdom we do gain only serve to awaken us to how little we actually know and we despair because of what we do. The righteous often suffer and the wicked prosper, and the cry for justice can never satisfy our own guilty soul. This is life under the sun and Ecclesiastes reminds us that our search for that which will end all searching isn't to end in acquiring any one of these. It's not there; the box is empty. It is a vanity of vanities...a chasing after the wind.

The power of Ecclesiastes is that the writer is not quick to rescue us from this despair. He works harder and harder to underscore it and make it more palpable and real with every line and chapter, offering only a mall concession here and there that things are not as bad as they could be. Even in the end we are not so sure we are glad to have taken the journey in verse, because for all the artful display of the inherent meaninglessness of every aspect of life, we are left with a seemingly terse instruction.

Maybe tomorrow I'll try to be more positive. To be continued...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Pictures and Places

I took this picture...
at this beautiful place...
on a two-day date with this beautiful woman.

Good News/Bad News




After Haley's birthday party, we made our way up to Galeton, PA to visit Colby's parents and his home church. Watching the leaves change on the drive north was gorgeous, and the ride was peaceful until we started smelling burning rubber. The unfortunate part was that we did not make it to Galeton before our clutch gave out....fortunately, we broke down by a fun pile of leaves to play in.

Happy 4th Bday Haley




Since Haley and Bailey are exactly 365 days apart, we had a combined birthday party. We managed to mesh the themes of My Little Pony and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse quite well. Good times had by all...

Mommy-Haley Date




Living in Lancaster County is feeding Haley's horse addiction quite nicely...

Friday, October 17, 2008

"So, what have you guys been doing up there?"

We've been asked the question more than once.  We are enjoying a gift that I constantly crave, but no amount of money cannot buy: the gift of time.  More specifically, time together.  It is truly a gift from God to be here with no responsibilities or expectations...nothing on the to-do list but learn to love and serve each other better.  Okay, I shouldn't say there is nothing on the to-do list...but it certainly is less.
This week, I thought it would be fun to take turns taking the girls out on dates.  On Wednesday, Darcy and I enjoyed some special mommy-daughter time drinking smoothies, playing catch, having a picnic and blowing bubbles.  The whole time, I couldn't stop staring at her and thinking that she would never be two years old again.  I tried as best as I knew how to capture
 the moment and mentally preserve her precious little voice, her sweet touches, and her soft curls.  Of course, having the Nikon on hand aids that process quite nicely.  
 

Saturday, October 11, 2008

International Gospel Blimps Inc.

Sometimes a little fiction is just the trick to get you thinking. In this book a group of friends desiring to reach their neighbors for Christ take on the monumental task of starting a non-profit organization that utilizes fly over blimps dropping literature and gospel advertising sign trailers to get the job done. It is a tale of sacrifice, hard work, prayerful dedication, hardship, and of course...well I'll let you read it to guess how I would complete the list. The little story, which is in itself only 60 pages, begs the question, "If Christians desire to bear witness to the truth of the gospel to their friends and neighbors, what might be the best and worst ways to go about it?" First published in 1960, Joseph Bayly saw the present and the future with a razor sharp clarity that may allow this story to be more important today than it was almost 50 years ago. I hope you're intrigued, you can order it on Amazon.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Darcerella

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Richmond Reflections continued...

Haley's new friends in the quad:


I wanted to get a modest picture with Darcy and the squatty, but Colby forbid it (His nickname in college was the fun-hater).  

Richmond Reflections...

Before we totally wrap up the Richmond box, I wanted to reflect on five fun things that we experienced at Orientation. 

1.  Cultural worship.  Every Sunday night we had a worship experience from a different part of the world.  Highlights of this event include starting 20 minutes late for South America night, having to wear head coverings and bring a prayer mat for Middle East night, dancing and making tribal calls during worship for Africa night,  leading worship in Icelandic with Colby for Europe night, and having everyone pray out loud at the same time for East Asia night.  The girls were especially cute with their head coverings.

2.  The squatty potty.  Everyone was expected to participate in this cultural activity at least once during our time there. Darcy was especially a fan and preferred it to the regular potty.

3. House church.  Every sunday morning we met in our small group and worshipped together in the quad.  It was so relaxing to not have to be anywhere till 10:30 in the morning.  After the kids got used to it, it was enjoyable to have the whole family together.  I am looking forward to having house church in Reykjavik, too...smaller groups=more intimacy.  

4. TCKs.  Has anyone heard this term (besides Keilan?).  The phrase MK (Missionary Kid) which I heard all growing up, is being replaced with the new paradigm of Third Culture Kid.  A TCK is a child who spends a significant portion of his/her developmental years in a culture other than his parent's culture.  One of my goals at training was to become aware of the challenges presented to TCK's.  I interviewed different missionaries and read a book, "Children of the Call."  During my interviews, I became increasingly jealous of all the missionaries in the Pacific Rim.  Every last one of them has hired house help because it's so cheap.  Tough luck for me.

5. Darcy's mirror:  One of Darcy's teachers, Chesed, had curly hair that looked a lot like hers.  Apparently, when Chesed first came to her class, Darcy stared at her all day long.  Finally at the end of the day, she went up to her, put her little fingers around Chesed's cheeks and remarked, "You my mirrow."  Chesed wrote us a letter the last day of school that was so special:
   "Garmans, 
So, I'm pretty sure that I'm not supposed to have favorites in this job....but....I have fallen utterly and completely in love with your daughter!  Know that as you guys go and live in Iceland, I will be praying specifically for Darcy and Haley.  I have always been taught that heart connections are purposefully placed by the Father and I do not doubt His purpose in my loving your children." 

The rest of the pictures are not loading...stay tuned......

I know, this is really lazy of me...

Okay, I need help.  
1.  Cindy or Jennifer:  To your knowledge, are there any umbrellas being stored in Iceland?
2.  Any Icelandic readers:  Do they make special Icelandic umbrellas? Any suggestions if I end up having to buy one?  Any special, sturdy brands that will hold up under Icelandic winds?  

I guess this is a good test to see if anyone still is reading this blog...

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Ch-Ch-Ch-Change!

I stole the title from a friend, but it describes life for the Garmans these past few months. I am making a rare appearance on the blogosphere as I have not been active during our time at Field Personnel Orientation getting ready for Iceland. As times are a changin' I find myself thankful for the way that I learn so much through it. Some of it has been stressful, but the majority of it is challenging me to trust God with a deeper sense of resolve.
The reality is we are walking on a path that I feel will allow us the best view of God's glory and the greatest chance to land on our face if we are not careful. We are also walking on a path that for the time being shows no sign of a clear destination. The other day while I was doing some journaling I thought to myself, "what a strange story I find myself in! I am not even sure how I got to be where I am, doing what I am doing. I certainly did not meticulously plan my life to come to this point, yet I feel like it's been in the plans the entire time." The wise Solomon once said, "Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the Lord's purpose that stands." (Prov. 19:21) I believe it!. For the past several years I have wrestled deeply in my soul about the course of my life and thought through plan after plan. I have continually asked God, "For what things have you fashioned me?" Seemingly, one morning I wake up and there I am in the midst of the story I could have never written, but have been longing for all my life. Never let anyone tell you that God's greatest glory and your deepest joy are not one in the same thing. He has fashioned you for His glory and in pursuit of it you are most fully alive.
All of this to say, I find myself right where I would want to be, but where apart from God's gracious sovereign work I would have never brought myself. So, when my face is in the mud, I will thank God for mercy to be washed in the grace of the Lord Jesus. When I am standing at the peak of the mountain I will kneel and not forget who brought me there. And everywhere in between, I will take time to reflect on the unfolding story mystery of Christ in me the hope of glory.

Friday, October 3, 2008

DONE!!

We are officially done with training and are relaxing on Antietam Loop in Stafford with the fauth family. Looking forward to the commissioning service this weekend!