Reflections on the Grey Days of Fall in the South :: Friday Feet

We can’t seem to escape from these cloudy grey days down here, but it could be far worse, we could be somewhere farther north where it’s got to be colder. My Friday Feet today came from an impromptu photowalk around my the block, so to speak. I was taking a very needed break from writing one of three research papers that are due by next Friday.

One of the subjects of photography I have always loved to look for are reflections. Reflections are one of the more rarely photographed views basically because you have to search them out, and then try to make the subject useable. Reflections are everywhere, and they look great when they show up naturally. We have a small pond in the back of our place that has very little water in it right now, and consequently, it’s very black and still.

As I walked around the property I found a great combination, and created the shot below of me with my iPhone. There isn’t any special filters or photoshopping done to the image below, just a little boost to the contrast to bring out the leaves (see exif metadata here). The reflection of myself comes from the water, just like the trees above my head. The color and texture comes from the leaves sitting on the mud bottom of the pond, so the shot is both translucent, and reflective. The shot just below of me holding my iPhone out over the pond is my :2012 (Project 365) image today for Day 11. All shots in this post were taken on my iPhone. Have a great weekend everyone.

A Much Needed Lazy Day 4th of July This Year

Today was a much needed day to do nothing but sit at home and read and enjoy a day off, so Ebby and I sat out on the patio and read and did much of nothing. Funny, this is pretty much what she does on a daily basis, to her there was no difference today than there was yesterday except maybe more time with me and less time with Deborah. Looking forward to the fireworks in Auburn tonight. If you are in Auburn and haven’t been yet it’s always a good show (see some shots from a previous year). Don’t think I am going to have the energy to post the fireworks photos from tonight after we get home but they will be up in the next few days. Enjoy tonight and get out and see some fireworks celebration in your area if you can.

What is Maundy Thursday Other Than Communion and Feet Washing?

We hear this all the time, come to worship, or come to God being expectant or with an expectant heart, but what should we be expecting, and what exactly is Maundy Thursday? For several years now this week has been a time of the year I look forward to all throughout the year. Holy Week, and Maundy Thursday in particular, is observed in many different ways around the world, but it’s a unique night for our Cornerstone family. Personally, I do prepare for the night in advance. I bring at least one Moleskine and a pen or pencil, expecting God to be there with me as I go through the night. The last few years I have written names of people I pray for while I’m in the room along with areas of my life I want to give back to the Lord.

I just love dedicated times of Christian meditation (or reflection) since they are so few and far between for our world today. Christian meditation is the counter opposite of what we do in our culture today, so it almost makes us uncomfortable at this point. Both Joshua 1:8 and Psalm 1:2 among many others, tells us to meditate on the scriptures day and night, so one night out of the year on Maundy Thursday is a great launching point for the rest of the year.

What is Maundy Thursday?

Maundy Thursday is of course the day before Good Friday, which is the day Jesus was crucified on the cross. It is also called “Holy Thursday”, which is part of the greater week called “Holy Week” or Passion Week. The date changes according to the schedule of Easter, which changes each year. Maundy Thursday is the date that Jesus celebrated the passover, which became known as the last supper, and instituted what we know as communion. The two main events if you will that occur on Maundy Thursday are washing of feet and communion. The washing of feet was done by Jesus after supper was over (John 13:3-17) to give his disciples an example of humility and to show them a great act of love, providing all of us with an example of how we should treat others.

Scholars agree that the English word Maundy comes from mandé, from the Latin mandatum, or “command”. The first word of the phrase “Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos” (“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you”), the statement by Jesus in the John 13:34 where Jesus explained to the Apostles the significance of his action of washing their feet.

How Will We Observe Maundy Thursday

In our church specifically, Maundy Thursday is a time period from 8pm to 8am set aside as a time of meditation and reflection. Much in the same way Jesus prayed in Gethsemane on that Thursday night as described in Matthew 26:36-46 before Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion. Matthew 26:36-46 is part of a larger story of course, but a few sections earlier we see that Jesus celebrates the passover with his disciples and then institutes The Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:17-25 and Matthew 26:26-29 respectively).

Because the bible doesn’t mandate or command (or deny) the observation of Maundy Thursday specifically, observing this night is something that some churches do and some don’t. Before we came to Auburn I don’t really remember being in a church that observed Maundy Thursday night into Good Friday quite like this, but it is an experience I would hope everyone could go through.

In a world increasingly busy and full of distractions how can we ever stand still long enough to just be an awe of God and his brilliance. Maundy Thursday is that night, at least for our church. Each year I hope to pull a little more momentum from that night into the remainder of the year, trying to remember God also finds us in our silent meditation of his word.

What is Ash Wednesday and the Season of Lent?

Ash Wednesday 2011 is this coming Wednesday, March 9th, and as often is the case with specific days that we observe as Christians, people often ask why we observe these days over others. Ash Wednesday comes the day after Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), and is the first day of the season of Lent. Ash Wednesday in particular is observed by the Church body on the seventh Wednesday before Easter Sunday.

A Day of Reflection in Preparation for Holy Week

This begins a time of reflection for God’s people to prepare for Holy Week and occurs 46 days (40 days not counting Sundays) leading up to Easter. Ash Wednesday is a more somber reflection, which starts a season of soul-searching and repentance and both Ash Wednesday and Lent have a long history going back to the earliest church fathers. It is presented formally in the The Apostolic Constitutions, Book V, Section III here where it says:

the fast of Lent is to be observed by you as containing a memorial of our Lord’s mode of life and legislation. But let this solemnity be observed before the fast of the passover, beginning from the second day of the week, and ending at the day of the preparation. After which solemnities, breaking off your fast, begin the holy week of the passover

As explained here it’s name comes from the ancient practice of placing ashes on worshippers’ foreheads as a sign of humility before God,  and is symbolic of mourning and sorrow at the death that sin brings into the world. It not only prefigures the mourning at the death of Jesus, but also places the worshipper in a position to realize the consequences of sin. Ash Wednesday is a day of reflection on what needs to change in our lives as we grow to be more Christ-like in mind, heart, and soul.

In the early church, ashes were not offered to everyone but were only used to mark the forehead of worshippers who had made a public confession of sin and sought to be restored to the fellowship of the community at the Easter celebration. However, over the years others began to show their humility and identification with the penitents by asking that they, too, be marked as sinners. Finally, the imposition of ashes was extended to the whole congregation in services similar to those that are now observed in many Christian churches on Ash Wednesday. Ashes became symbolic of that attitude of penitence reflected in the Lord’s prayer in Luke 11:4:

and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.

Personal Reflection on the Season of Lent

Different churches and believers observe Lent in different ways, but not all churches observe Lent today, especially if you come from a Southern Baptist Church (although see Some Baptist churches will celebrate Lent this year and also More Baptist churches looking to Lent for community, confession, cadence). Sometimes anything the Catholics do the Baptists don’t, and this generally revolves around rituals not specifically found in scripture (like Ash Wednesday or lighting candles, but that’s a whole different post).

Without getting too much into the denominational battle, I spent years in the SBC where my particular church never observed Lent, and I never really understood or gained an appreciation for a specific time of reflection to prepare for Holy Week until recently.

In an upcoming post I will go through what our particular church is doing to observe Lent this year, starting with Ash Wednesday, but this is not a “church” thing.  If you are not part of a local church, you can observe a time of repentance and reflection right where you are, or here with me on my blog, as I walk through the next 40 days of Lent right here.

For a look at what we are doing at Cornerstone please read The “I AM” Lenten Reader During This Season of Lent.

Jordan-Hare Stadium on Gameday as Seen from a Macbook

The photo of the day today comes from just outside Jordan-Hare Stadium about an hour before kickoff for the Auburn vs ULM game.  It was such a beautiful day that Deborah decided to try to get some of her work done outside before we went in for the game.  I love reflections but this one, taken with my iPhone, shows one of the good functions of high reflectivity on those Apple screens.

Critique of Reflections on the Psalms by C.S. Lewis

This week I finished up a review and critique of a book I have been wanting to read for quite some time, Reflections on the Psalms by C. S. Lewis. I find it very difficult to actually provide an adequate “critique” of someone, like Lewis, who was obviously so much farther advanced in his own understanding of scripture, but this was the task at hand.

Part of reviewing books like this is now, fifty years since Lewis wrote Reflections on the Psalms, it almost has to be looked at in a synoptic fashion, taking all of Lewis’ works into account.  Lewis at the time hadn’t written a serious “religious work” in almost ten years.  He had received a scathing review of Miracles, published in 1947, and some say this was the reason he hadn’t written another “religious work”.

Nevertheless Reflections was, overall, a great book, and one that every Christian should try to read at some point.  If there was one aspect of Reflections that made me take notice, it was Lewis’ somewhat Anglican-esque view of scripture where he refers to some of the Psalms as “evil”, and slightly questions it’s proper place in the cannon.  I have always known Lewis’ theology to be slightly less than a “Reformed Theology“, but in Reflections it was made more apparent than in his other books I have read so far.

Below you will find part of the academic critique I gave on the book.  You can read the essay in full located at Book Critique of Reflections on the Psalms by C. S. Lewis.

Critique and Review of “Reflections on the Psalms”

Lewis’ Reflections has been widely criticized and praised, by both scholars and lay people, since it was first published in 1958.  With fifty years hence, an emotional review of Reflections’ strengths and weaknesses can be somewhat more objective than it could be in the late 50’s.  Lewis certainly provides a unique perspective on the Psalms, one that can still be seen as a unique study fifty years later.  His writing style, much like his other works, is easy to read, yet deep in thought.  Reflections transitions well from one subject to another, but the author has a tendency to move back and forth between sections of negativity to those sections, which contain a more positive evaluation.

Early on, Lewis tries to remove his own history of apologetics and religious knowledge from the rigors of scholarly criticism by stating the book is written for lay people, basically by a layperson, but this is hard to take at face value.  For an author of apologetic works likes Mere Christianity, and a professor at the prestigious University of Oxford in England, this request may have at the time, fallen on deaf ears.  If the reader is to take Reflections as a serious literary work on the Psalter, a conclusion hard to argue against, one must also evaluate the arguments and suppositions of Reflections as such.

Lewis’ use of modern day “common” language, or perhaps crude in some cases, which is used throughout the book, like “priggish”, goes towards his approach to appeal to the more modern lay reader, but his scriptural references and ideas have a much deeper meaning.  Lewis claims in the introduction to only be “comparing notes” and not to “instruct”, but Reflections helps the reader to understand ancient poetry and literature, and takes an more Anglican approach to the Psalms that is almost foreign to a modern day evangelical Protestant.  In this respect, Reflections largely instructs from beginning to end.   Lewis does not gloss over the most difficult issues presented, though he does leave the reader wondering what he has left out “as his own interests” led him to do.[1]

Where Lewis leaves himself open to criticism is in his view, and somewhat veiled ideas, of scripture.  As previously quoted, early on Lewis states that “all Holy Scripture is in some sense – though not all parts of it in the same sense – the word of God” leaving open to the reader which parts of the “Holy Scriptures” Lewis finds to be the true “word of God” and which parts he does not.[2] Only a few pages later Lewis explains.

At the outset I felt sure, and I feel sure still, that we must not either try to explain [the Psalms] away or to yield for one moment to the idea that, because it comes in the Bible, all this vindictive hatred must somehow be good and pious… and we should be wicked if we in any way condoned or approved it, or (worse still) used it to justify similar passions in ourselves.

So should the reader understand the Psalms “as the word of God in a different sense than Romans”, and if so, in what sense are they different?[3] This phrase, “in some sense”, is not isolated to Reflections.  In one of Lewis’ letters, written to Clyde Kilby on May 7, 1959, just after Reflections was published, Lewis again stated “if every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of Lights, then all true and edifying writings, whether in Scripture or not, must in some sense by inspired.”[4] This interpretation of the Psalms may not adequately take into account the enormous context of the Psalms being a large collection of poems, written by many different authors, dating back to at least King David.  While the task of trying to summarize such context into a small book would be difficult on any account, Lewis’ view of the evil portrayed from within the scripture could need further examination, especially in light of current Hebraic poetry research, which has come about since Reflections.

Overall, Reflections shows itself to be a worthy and valuable text when taken in it’s own context of mid-twentieth century Anglican scholasticism.  Although Lewis may not have wanted to see Reflections viewed as a scholarly work, it is hard to put aside a masterful author such as Lewis, and he more than accomplishes his goals from beginning to end.  Reflections in the 21st century may be best viewed as one part of a whole in the complete works of C. S. Lewis, but it still instructs and teaches a better understanding of the Psalms.  In a short but thoughtful work, Lewis “helps to remind us [that] we worship the one true and eternal God.”[5]

[1]Lewis, 6.
[2] Ibid, 19.
[3] John W. Robbins, “Did C. S. Lewis Go to Heaven?,” The Trinity Review (Trininty Foundation), no. 226 (November, December 2003), 2.
[4] W. H. Lewis, ed., Letters of C. H. Lewis, Revised Edition, ed. W. H. Lewis (New York, NY: C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd., 1988), 480.
[5] Lewis, 44.