We went to see the movie version of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader last weekend, and while it was often quite different from the book, the Christian messages included by C.S. Lewis were definitely still there.

Not everyone sees this, though, so if you’re interested in knowing more about the Christian themes in the book, Carl McColman’s book The Lion, the Mouse, and the Dawn Treader: Spiritual Lessons from C.S. Lewis’s Narnia is a great place to start. McColman goes through the book chapter by chapter, tracing the lessons. It’s a good analysis, especially for those who are new either to Narnia or to Christianity.

We chose the Beatitudes as one of the readings at our wedding, because my husband felt it was a meaningful passage for him (although we really weren’t even churchgoers at the time). Today, we heard it once again at church.

These are all ideas from the pastor’s sermon — I didn’t come up with this myself! But it made a lot of sense to me, so I wanted to share it.

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5:3-12, THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2010 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

I’ve seen the Beatitudes interpreted a couple of different ways. First, they are often seen as prescriptions for how we should live — we should be poor in spirit (humble), pure in heart, merciful, etc. We should be OK with being persecuted; it just proves that we’re doing all the right things!

Or, we think that Jesus is saying “It’s OK if you’re broken-hearted, or if people persecute you, because you’ll be rewarded later, so don’t worry about it!” Yay, pie in the sky!

Both of these are lacking something, I think.

So, in the sermon, Dustin suggested that perhaps the Beatitudes are an invitation, and a message of inclusiveness, instead! Jesus is saying that everyone is welcome in the kingdom — the broken-hearted, the meek, the mourners, those who are persecuted by society, as well as those who are already pure in heart, hunger and thirst for righteousness, etc.

Jesus didn’t exclude anyone from the kingdom — and neither can we.

Life with three kids is full of noise. And so is my head. Sometimes it’s because of the noise around me, and sometimes it’s my own fault. Sometimes I’m constantly on the computer, looking for something, anything, to keep my brain busy.

And usually, my brain is happier when it’s busy. I don’t like having to sit and wait and do nothing. I want to at least have something to read.

But sometimes, I recognize that what I really need is some quiet, and I’m seeing that right now.

I have a lot to do tomorrow. I don’t have to work, so I’m planning to take care of multiple errands and household tasks. But maybe I can carve out a time and place for quiet; if not tomorrow, then maybe some evening soon.

One place I like for quiet is The Grotto, also known as The National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother. It’s a Catholic sanctuary on Rocky Butte in Portland, Oregon, with 62 acres of gardens and chapels. It’s peaceful and beautiful, with indoor and outdoor spaces, and it’s much less expensive than the typical spiritual retreat (free to visit the lower level; $4.00 to ride the elevator to the upper level).

Just thinking about it makes me smile.

Today was a difficult day. Did I get through it? Yes. Did I use coping strategies to get through it? Yes. I took some deep breaths, took myself offline for a little while to eliminate stress, and went for a two-mile walk. I also reached out to a higher power. Did this connection help me get through today? YES.

Part of the difficulty today was an encounter on Twitter with a couple of people who have a problem with me believing in this higher power. In the past, I’ve been more likely to get upset about encounters with religious fundamentalists who think that everyone MUST believe as they do, and practice religion as they do. But today it was atheists — who also think that everyone should believe as they do. And today, they were insisting that Christianity is evil, and encourages people to kill, and what kind of God allows children to be killed or molested, anyway?

And it got to the point where it was simply not a healthy conversation any more.

For now, I’ve unfollowed them on Twitter. That just means they won’t show up in my timeline while I’m on Twitter. I haven’t blocked them from my life. I’ve actually known one of them for several years, and I don’t want to do that. But I can’t take a daily barrage of what I’m starting to feel is hate speech.

Other than that — I’m hoping to move forward with a loving attitude, and without entering into potentially hurtful conversations.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances. (First Thessalonians 5:16-18a)

Paul gives this advice to the Thessalonian church, and it’s a list that transcends time; I certainly find it as useful in the 21st century as it presumably was in the first.

But how? OK, maybe I’m not literally CONTINUAL about it. But I do reach out often for a hand, a rope, a presence. And if I don’t know what to say, I fall back on a couple of short prayers that are easily memorized and repeated.

One is similar to Paul’s advice above.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever. (Psalm 118:29, paraphrased from the NRSV)

This phrase appears in many of the Psalms and in other books of the Bible; I can imagine people throughout the ages repeating these words.

And the other is the Jesus Prayer, a traditional prayer of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

I got this one from Madeleine L’Engle, who described especially falling back on the Jesus Prayer when waking up with middle-of-the-night anxieties. I’ve read about it elsewhere since then (and even seen it on Twitter), but that was where I first heard about it.

In times of joy, anxiety, grief, or any time at all, this is where I go.

This post was triggered by my reading of the daily devotional from The Upper Room; reading this is a great daily practice and I urge you to check it out if you’re interested.

I was quite busy on Saturday. We did housework in the morning, and then I took my eldest daughter to a science class in the afternoon. It was way across town, so I waited there for her, and did some blogging and related tasks on my computer. Then we went home, ate dinner, and hung out reading and watching TV until bedtime.

But I still had more things to do today. There were a few more cleaning tasks, the grocery shopping, and preparation for our Girl Scout meeting on Monday. But I didn’t really want to do any of that, and I knew that what I really needed was a Sabbath.

However, I still felt like I needed to do the other things. So I sat around on the computer and didn’t really do anything, and felt guilty about the things I wasn’t doing. I didn’t really either take a Sabbath or get things done; all I did was worry.

Next Sunday, I’m just going to do it. I’m going to take a Sabbath. I’m going to play music and read books and dance with my daughters and not worry about stuff that I “should” be doing.

Want to read a FUNNY book about Jesus? This is it! Imaginary Jesus is a novel, in which Mikalatos introduces us to various familiar versions of Jesus — King James Jesus, Testosterone Jesus, Magic 8-Ball Jesus, while he searches for the REAL Jesus.

I was a tiny bit disappointed at the end…real Jesus didn’t quite work for me. But overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and its reminder that we’re not always following the real Jesus, even (or especially) when we think we are.

My husband managed to snatch this book and read it before I did, and he posted his review a long time ago. He also included Todd Agnew’s song “My Jesus,” which totally fits with this book.

Finally, I’m proud to say that Matt Mikalatos is from our own Portland, Oregon. I look forward to reading more of his work.

Check out Matt’s imaginary website for Imaginary Jesus! You can even download and read a sample chapter there.

Disclosures: I received a free copy of the book through The Ooze Viral Bloggers in exchange for this review. I do receive a small commission for any purchases made through Amazon.com links above. Thanks!

Colors of God: Conversations about Being the Church was co-written by three authors/pastors: Quentin Steen, Dave Phillips, and Randall Peters. The three are or have been leaders of an emerging church called neXus in Abbotsford, B.C., Canada.

The book draws on their experiences working with an emerging congregation, but the three also come from an Evangelical background, which is reflected in their theology. In fact, the evangelical aspects were a little off-putting for me at first. I come from a Roman Catholic and United Methodist background, so I have a hard time with statements about “the finished work of Jesus Christ”, like “the gospel says that Christ has fully met all the expectations and requirements of God on my behalf.”

I think behind the language we probably do agree more than disagree, though. I do agree that we should not be worrying so much about whether we are pleasing God with our holiness. God is already pleased with us and loves us, and nothing can come between us and the love of God! And I do think we need to acknowledge our brokenness and our need for God’s grace. I just don’t necessarily believe in the theology of atonement that goes along with that.

Anyway. The book is divided into four sections. Blue represents Gospel Faith, Green is Healthy Living, Red is Inclusive Community, and Yellow is Cultural Engagement. These are the tenets that neXus is based on. In each section, the three authors carry out a three-party conversation, which is apparently to the sermons/teaching they do at neXus. This is followed by a chapter of question and answer with questions frequently asked by other people, and a chapter of additional notes on the topic, again in a conversational style.

I really enjoyed the conversational style and humor of the authors. In one of my favorite exchanges, Randall references Karl Barth on whether everyone goes to heaven (Barth says no, because some will choose not to), and Dave and Quentin respond.

Dave: By the way, let me say, I believe you just quoted a German theologian. I kind of think that makes you a dangerous liberal, but I’ll leave it at that.

Randall: He’s actually Swiss, by the way, not German.

Quentin: Nicely played.

The authors also refer constantly to scripture, and specifically to Jesus’ parables. They do look at Scripture a little differently. I thought their take on the Good Samaritan was a little odd (the injured man represents Jesus?), but I thought their look at Matthew 18 was interesting. Matthew 18 begins with the disciples asking “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” It then moves quickly from “unless you become like little children” to “If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away,” and on to the parable about leaving the 99 sheep to look for the one lost one. This is followed by the instructions for what to do if your “brother” sins against you:

If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. (NIV)

And then we get Peter asking how many times we must forgive someone (seventy times seven, says Jesus) and the parable of the unmerciful servant.

The interesting part to me is the authors’ interpretation of treating someone like a pagan or a tax collector. They point out that many churches use this passage as instructions for (or justification for) kicking someone out of the church. However, how did Jesus treat pagans and tax collectors? Levi/Matthew WAS a tax collector who became Jesus’ disciple. And Jesus was well-known for treating outcasts with love.

I think this book is great for anyone with a fairly orthodox theology who’s interested in the emerging church, or the future of the church in the 21st century and beyond. I found it easy to read, but also thought-provoking and spirit-stirring. I definitely recommend it.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a review as part of The Ooze Viral Bloggers program.

This is life: noisy, dirty, dangerous. And it’s the best we get in this fast-paced, hard-nosed, crazy-making world. But is there more than chaos, commotion and calamity? Is there some majesty even in the dust?

In this unique compilation of journey notes, new author Krista Finch asks these questions, speaking honestly about herself and the world around her. With curiosity and passion, she digs into ordinary moments for the truth about awakening and reawakening. Brokenness and beauty. Ruins and restoration. And what she keeps finding in the clumps and clods is nothing short of glory. Welcome to life as is – unfinished but beautiful.

As Is by Krista Finch is a well written series of notes and vignettes. It’s just not really my thing. I prefer to read something with an overall story and/or structure, and this is really just a series of short pieces. If you enjoy short, beautifully-written vignettes, you might really like this book. It just didn’t work for me.

I received a free copy of this book from The Ooze Viral Bloggers in exchange for this review.

How can I BE Christ in the world?

This is one of those weeks where I’m thinking “Well, I didn’t really do anything to be Christ.”  Sure, I did a lot of stuff. But did any of it matter?

Well, everything matters, I suppose. But that doesn’t change how I feel.

Mostly I’m just really tired lately. I wake up (not early enough) and go to work. When I get home, I feel sleepy and/or physically ill. And so I revert to being selfish. I don’t want to do anything that involves getting up and moving, either for myself or for others. I do things on the computer. I read and process email, and blog, and keep my calendar current. I do things for the Portland WordPress User Group, or for the local community dinner. But I push housework and gardening and things that would actually help my family out of my mind.

Summer was great. I could take things at my own pace. But right now, I really need help managing this.