Friday, July 20, 2012

The Perils of Dressing - Part 1

I hate getting dressed in the morning. I dread it. I put it off as long as possible and do every last possible morning task in my pajamas before commencing with this unfortunate social requirement. Once it is done, I certainly enjoy the results (if it turns out well) and very much appreciate other's tasteful fashion. But some days I envy the plight of Cinderella...happily scurrying about the house, completing her assigned tasks, singing to herself and not bothering about what she looks like to anyone else. Also unfortunate is my lack of a Fairy godmother to dress me when an important event does come along. When these events do come, and I plan far enough ahead to consider the night before what I should wear, I inevitably discover when the day comes that whatever I have selected simply will not do. After staring blankly into the closet for an inordinate amount of time, arms akimbo and head tilted in frustration, I generally end up wearing what I had picked out the night before. Why this process qualifies for my top 5 most exhausting daily tasks list (especially considering that the general weekday result is khaki shorts and a solid tee) is another discussion. But it might possibly explain why I already have a sort of vague discomfort with the implications of Ephesians chapters 4-6. There is simply too much discussion about taking things off and donning proper replacements.

Paul begins the admonition like any good southern Mamma would: "Now you were taught..." 

1) To put off the old self (corrupted by deceitful desires)
2) To be made new in the attitude of your minds
3) To put on the new self. Why? Because it is created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

At home, I occasionally have help with the first on this list. I have been repeatedly "helped" with the disposal of certain beloved but worn out elements of my wardrobe. The mysterious disappearance of a  certain striped and hooded sweater specially comes to mind. But in Paul's context, this first command carries the most personal weight of the three. This is a bit ironic in a way. While the "putting off"or forsaking is often the most keenly felt part of sanctification it is also impossible through sheer will power. Being a hopeless Narnia aficionado, the first thing that comes to mind is, of course, the "undragoning" of Eustace in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I will never forget the first time the significance of that scene first exploded across my mind. I was shriveling towards prune status in a Saturday night bath while my sister (kindly) read chapter after chapter to me from the VOTDT at tub side. But when we got to the passage about Eustace realizing his need for Aslan to "undress" him after many futile attempts by his own claws, I sat bolt upright and my sister and just started giggling with wonder and delight at the beautiful complexity being captured in the narrative.

             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 nearly desperate now. 
             So I just lay flat down on my back to 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 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. 
             You know - if you've ever picked the scab off a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh 
             but it is such fun to see it coming away. Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right 
             off  - just as I thought I'd done it myself the other three times only they hadn't 
             hurt and there it was lying on the grass - only ever so much thicker, and darker, 
             and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth 
             and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been.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 threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a 

The letter to the church at Ephesus speaks in much more detail and with a directness that is in most ways far more applicable to daily life than this passage from the VOTDT. (We explored some of these details and their implications during our Summit session this afternoon). But there are a few phrases in Eustace's description that I find instructive to my own heart regarding this first command to "put off the old self." The first is that Eustace was at the point of desperation. The task before us to "put off" and the list which follows it can only be accomplished when we realize that the consequences for not doing so are dire. In Eustace' case, the motivation may have been primarily to ease the pain in his swollen arm. But the desperation with which it was pursued at any personal cost must be adopted as our own. Paul's one goal, to know Christ and the power of His resurrection, was pursued with no less vigor. All else is skubala compared with this necessity. And to attain the knowledge of the fullness of Christ one must put off the old self. And this is the second thing I find astounding about Eustace's account: with the desperate willingness to do whatever it takes to put off the old dragonish self came the realization that he was incapable of accomplishing this task. The inherent tension here has always troubled me. I am passionate by nature, and any problem that cannot be solved by bursts of resolve frustrate me endlessly. So I emerge from this narrative with a sharp reprimand for my apathy towards putting off the old dragonish self day by day, as well as the reminder that this putting off is accomplished first and foremost through patient submission in small choices and over the long haul to my King. Right now, I find these small denials of the old fleshly cravings to "hurt like billy-oh". But I look forward to one day watching my King peel the beastly stuff off, that I may know Him.

(I hope to explore Parts 2 and 3 of "What you were Taught" here over the next few days should you care to join me. Until then, you are each in my prayers as we continue with dangerous daily business of dressing.)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Long Walks, Laughter and London

Some of my favorite memories from the last week with some of my favorite people!

 The girls at The Trout Inn

British so good!!

Jordan pensively absorbing the Trout atmosphere :P

Travis (pre-snap)

Dessert at The Trout

What was waiting at the flat when we got back from our long, delicious walk through the Oxford Countryside. 

Or, for some, OVER the Oxford Countryside. 

A few of the many houseboats that call the River Thames home. 

My Oxford Sisters: Cathy and Laura

A few of those dreamy spires in the distance. 

One of the neighbors which greeted us (in multiple ways) along the path. 

Another curious friend :) 

What I feel like when I'm out in this countryside. 

I love getting to soak in these incredible slices of nature with these people!!

Those hills. So beautiful in real life! I wish I could capture them here...they just take the breath away. 

Will, taking in the view. 

Flowers everywhere.

Inside the Trout

Summit Family (minus the photographer, Will)

The Ruins at sunset. 


My girls

Playing Hymns at our Summit Base in Eynsham

Many Laughs in London this weekend. Many...

Westminster Abbey where we had the real pleasure of attending services in the Morning.

Post Service Lunch Stop. I'd packed Lunch so I settled on this massively tasty cup of hot chocolate. 

After lunch we ended up at the British Museum. 

Parliament Building.

Big Ben (obviously :)

In it's beautiful context.

One day I will remember to take off my sunglasses for pictures :P

More Laughs before catching bus for the beautiful drive back to Oxford.