Prayer, Plain and Simple

“God, bless and keep safe the many millions of Americans impacted today by the winter storm roaring across portions of the country.”  



“There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it…”

So begins C.S. Lewis’ classic work, “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.” The feature film version opened yesterday in theaters.

I know Eustace, the pouting, self-centered, peevish tormentor. He makes me smirk, chuckle and squirm, because I see actual people I know in his character, including – mostly – myself…

“Dawn Treader” is Eustace’s story, and mine: how a human soul can descent to monstrous depths, then find un expected and undeserved redemption through surrender to One who alone can convert.  

Spoiler: On an island where Eustace is supposed to be helping the mission at hand, he instead sneaks off and finds a dragon’s lair. There, fed by his greed for the horde of treasure Eustace is transformed into a dragon. At first he relishes the power, but soon isolation and shame make him realize the truth: he is an intolerable monster. He begins to want to change.

That night, a lion comes to Eustace telling him to “undress” out of his dragon-ness. Eustace tries to scratch at his skin. At first it seems to work, as the scales slip off like a banana peel. But just as soon Eustace discover that another layer of dragon skin lies beneath the first. In despair Eustace realizes he cannot cure himself. He isn’t merely wearing a dragon suit; he IS a dragon…

But wonders never cease; there is no magic, even in Narnia, but there are miracles… Eustace via Lewis later describes what happened next…

“Then the lion said — but I don’t know if it spoke — “You will have to let me undress you.” I was afraid of his claws, but I can tell you, I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it…. That very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’d ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off.”

Lewis tells truth: Conversion begins only when I recognize that I cannot change my skin. There is no “self-help,” no “extreme soul makeover.” I can never cure myself. Only if and only when I surrender to the One who rips deep the fibers of our dragon-ness, can I ever hope to be the boy, the man I was created to become…

I am Eustace Scrub… Then, and now…


Nobel.jpgAn empty chair represents imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo at Friday’s ceremony in Oslo, Norway

The empty chair was itself his acceptance speech. Imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in absentia today in Oslo, Norway.

China has not sat by silently. They have leveled furious protest since the Nobel committee announced on October 8 that Liu would receive the prize. Chinese officials label Liu a common criminal and say the award is a Western plot against China. Their rhetoric heated up again today when they called the ceremony for Liu a “political farce.”

“The decision of the Norwegian Nobel Committee does not represent the wish of the majority of the people in the world, particularly that of the developing countries,” said Jiang Yu, a Chinese Foreign Ministry official.

Liu, a professor of literature, serves an 11-year sentence in a Chinese prison for “inciting subversion of state power.” Neither he, nor was his wife, Liu Xia were permitted to travel to Norway to accept the prize.

In response Nobel chairman Thorbjorn Jagland today, likened Liu Xiaobo to Nelson Mandela, the former South African president who fought the apartheid regime. Jagland then placed Liu’s medal in the empty chair.

“God, we pray for China and for the many millions who wait and hope and pray for true liberty. We pray for the brave men and women who stand boldly for freedom of conscience and spiritual belief and expression. We pray for the many Christians suffering persecution and oppression and we pray for those Christian leaders who choose today to obey God over the unjust restrictions of a fearful regime. We pray that even under the grip of oppression many in China would find genuine spiritual freedom in Jesus.”  

Westboro Baptist Church, a small Kansas-based fundamentalist group has gone over the edge into hell once again. The sect, with a history of holding controversial and vehemently offensive protests, said today that its members will march with signs at Elizabeth Edwards’ funeral in Raleigh, N.C. this weekend.

Please… Can we imagine Jesus where Jesus stands in this matter?

Westboro is led by the infamous Rev. Fred Phelps, famed for picketing military funerals. His website,, accuses John Edwards, the surviving but estranged husband of the deceased of “spewing blasphemy” and mounting a “smash-mouthed assault on His deity.”

No, Mr. Phelps, your nauseating hatred is the actual “smash mouth assault” in this story, and when you name God as your co-conspirator, you blaspheme is name and his character. Yes, God is judge and he will sort all the light from all the darkness. But when he does he will do so in a way perfectly consistent with his love and mercy and justice. The moment you and yours begin to play his role, you yourselves have become the focus of his wrath. Beware…

“God, we pray for mercy on all those who have wronged and offended you. That is, have mercy on us all! And for those who cast judgment on the sins of others and refuse to plead mercy for themselves, as you say, may their own judgment fall upon their own heads. In Jesus…”