Ana Scott, October 18th, 1845

Week two of the devotional! This week, our verse comes from Ana Scott, written on the same day as E. Scott’s chosen verses from Proverbs. What a day it must have been on October 18th, 1945 in the Scott household! E. Scott, reveling in words from the Lord spoken in due time, asked his wife to choose the scripture that spoke to her own heart. Maybe they sat together in front of the Bible as she turned his attention to Numbers 6:24-26. Maybe he read it out loud to her so she wouldn’t miss a word as she wrote it down in his notebook: “The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.”

Imagine the context of this scripture, which is usually referred to as the Aaronic blessing, in Numbers. This blessing was written during a time that was associated with Israel’s wandering in the wilderness as punishment for their rejection of God. Chapter 6 is associated with the year after the Exodus, at the very beginning of Israel’s forty year exile. Seeing this blessing in the context of Israel’s disobedience and their wandering in the wilderness makes me think of how similar each of us is to Israel, and how God is still gracious in His blessings over us.

I often think of the early tribe of Israel pretty negatively. I mean, look at all God did for them in their escape from Egypt. These are people who witnessed an entire sea stand at attention, all by God’s will to rescue them! They witnessed miracles! I catch myself wondering in disbelief at how on Earth they could ever reject God or fear anything at all. In these moments, God tends to remind me that Israel and I are alot alike. After all, I’ve seen God work miracles. I’ve felt God’s presence, and I’ve heard His voice. And yet, I still reject God, I turn to other things instead of him. I embrace fear, uncertainty, and worry. I choose my way, and fall back on my old sins, just like Israel does.

And what does God do in the face of all this rejection? He teaches lessons, yes, but he also pours out blessings, and second chances. Can you imagine how many second chances Israel is afforded by the Lord? How many blessings and promises, how many times the Lord commands us not to fear, even knowing that more often than not, Israel (and ME) is going to choose something other than God. Faced with this reality, God’s message to his children is a promise that He will protect them, that he will show them his face, and that he will give them peace, if only they would turn to Him.  

I like to think that when Ana chose this verse and signed her name to it, she was thinking of how faithful God was to her, even though she probably rejected Him all the time, the same way you and I do. I hope Ana found security in God’s promises to Israel, because I know I do.

Also, check out this Hebraic explanation of the Aaronic Blessing that I really appreciated!

If you have a faith story to share, email me at personalfaithstory@gmail.com, or click here!

Advertisements

The Punishment of Eustace Scrubb

One of my first posts was about Eustace Scrubb, a central character in C.S. Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the fifth installment of his famous Chronicles of Narnia series. There are many fascinating characters in Lewis’s work, many of which I hope to write about eventually, but Eustace has always stood out to me. Maybe it’s because he’s one of the most insufferable characters imaginable. Maybe, as I wrote about last time, his self-centered bad attitude reminds me of myself when I’m at my worst. Whatever the reason, Eustace is a character that has taught me lessons as I’ve gone back and read his story, and I find that the most interesting thing about Eustace is how he was punished for his hardheartedness, and essentially transformed into a new person.

After a series of events in which Eustace acts as predictably greedy and selfish as possible, he finds himself transformed into a huge scaly dragon. By his own actions and his own greedy, dragonish heart, Eustace manages to turn himself into even more of a monster than he was in the first place! Based on his previous reactions to every hardship, I expected that this episode would cause Eustace to rage and complain, to orate to himself about how incredibly unfair everything is. But this transformation marks the start of something remarkable in the makeup of Eustace’s character. Almost instantaneously, Eustace feels a deep, crippling loneliness accompanied by the realization that he has been wicked. He thinks of the others, who he has been so unkind to, and longs to be a part of the group. In a single moment, Eustace’s heart, his perspective, have been altered for the better. With his new perspective cemented, Eustace returns to the group with no way to turn himself back into a human. Eustace spends days stuck this way, only now he finds himself useful and eager to help his friends. He brings them food and a new mast for their ship, and for the first time in his life, he begins to build relationships, even though he can’t speak.

This punishment that Eustace endures has always struck me, mainly because I hardly see it as a punishment. Yes, being transformed into a giant dragon is less than optimal, but look at how quickly Eustace changes! I like to imagine that Aslan knew exactly the effect that becoming a dragon would have on Eustace. Every aspect of Eustace’s punishment was designed to bring him closer not only to the others, but to Aslan himself. Eustace was stripped of all his security and his pride when he became a dragon, and even after learning his lesson, he was still made to endure that state. I believe this is because for Eustace, learning to be a friend required the pivotal lessons of servitude, and listening. Eustace was entitled when he came to Narnia, and as a dragon, he learned to serve the needs of the others and put them before himself. Being a dragon gave him the tools to learn a heart of  servitude. Similarly, as a dragon, Eustace couldn’t speak. Previously, every word or sentiment from Eustace’s lips was full of toxicity. In being made to live as a dragon, Eustace finally learned how to listen, even to listen to those he once considered his enemy.

Eustace’s punishment is a perfect example of the way God handles each of us with unique care and love. I think it shows how God doesn’t just punish for the sake of punishment. He leads us in a way he knows will reach us. Aslan knew that Eustace’s heart would react to his transformation. Aslan knew that Eustace would benefit from being silent, the same way that God knew Zechariah would benefit from being silent after expressing unbelief about the upcoming birth of his child. It warms my heart to realize how much care, thought and perfection goes into Aslan’s discipline of Eustace. You don’t go to such lengths to redeem someone that you don’t love dearly. It reminds me of how much love and care goes into God’s discipline of those He loves, and how intimately God knows us and what we need. Turns out that in Eustace’s extreme case, scales and wings were the only way to prepare the heart for redemption.

Has God changed your heart through hardship or taught you a lesson you know you needed to learn? Share with us at personalfaithstory@gmail.com, or click here!

October 18th, 1845

Welcome to week one of the devotional! Yesterday I gave a short introduction to my Ferrier and Trench Diary from 1845. As promised, I’m going to dedicate a post each week to a different page of the diary, mainly because I’m fascinated by the endurance of the scripture. I want to share the way that these verses were collected, I want to use them as a way to learn and study each week. I’m hoping they’ll serve as a reminder of how many faithful Christians came before, and how enduring the faith has been. The people who wrote these pieces of scripture down where human beings just like us, with problems and worries. Their help came from God and His word.

Like I mentioned yesterday, the first page is dedicated to scripture chosen by E. Scott. The first verse is written above the date, and I like to think that Scott chose it as a flagship verse for his collection: “Every word of God is pure.” It comes from Proverbs 30, verse 5. Call me an idealist, but I imagine E. Scott sitting in his study somewhere in Edinburgh, opening his brand new notebook by candlelight. Maybe he brought it specifically for this purpose, or maybe he had it laying around for a few years before being struck with a reason to use it. Either way, as he thought of asking his friends and loved ones to write their favorite verses,  this is the scripture that came to him. “Every word of God is pure,” and beneath it, a scripture from Proverbs 15, verse 23. “A word spoken in due season, how good is it?” Imagine the hope and confidence that filled Scott as he started this little project. Just by the choice of these two verses, it is painfully clear. It brings to my thoughts two different points.

The first point is my own established doubt that every word of God is pure. I’m a skeptic and a doubter. My faith has grown through many obstacles and challenges, but still sometimes the idea that the word of God could be pure sounds like nonsense. After so many years? After so many chances to tamper with the scripture and so many ill-intentioned people in this world? It’s something that I still find difficult to believe. It’s something that I know could cause my words to be discredited in the eyes of some believers, but I won’t let that stop me from being honest about it. I don’t want to pretend that it’s the easiest thing in the world to believe that every word of scripture is entirely pure. To do so would be a disservice to my own personal faith story, and to any person who may read this that just can’t believe that the Bible is the real, unchanged word of the actual Creator of the universe.

The second point that E. Scott has brought up for me is about Proverbs 15:23. “A word spoken in due season, how good is it?”  Despite my confessed trouble believing that the word of God is pure, God has still led me and cared for me through words spoken in due season. In times of distress or trouble, God has made himself present in my life by bringing me to scripture that leads me through, all stumbled upon with the perfect timing.

It’s entirely possible that E. Scott believed wholeheartedly that the scripture is the absolutely infallible word of God. We’ll never know for sure, but it seems he understood that goodness exists in the words of scripture, even thousands of years after it was first written.  God uses the Bible to show us that he is present, being there for us at the exact right moment. God loved E. Scott for his faithfulness and his belief, but God does not only love and care for those with unwavering belief. God cares for those who sit awake at night and wonder if there even is a creator. God cares for people who struggle to believe that the Bible is anything more than a myth. I’m living proof of this. God was caring for me and bringing me words spoken in due season long before I even considered that the Bible could really be inspired by Him. God is not after people solely believing that the Bible is pure. God wants to instill in us a confidence that He is pure.

Has God given you “Words spoken in due season”? Have your prayers or doubts been answered with scripture? Share with us so that others might benefit from your stories! Email me at personalfaithstory@gmail.com, or click here.

Ferrier and Trench Diary Devotional

fcb765db-7e15-49b5-8e97-bfca45aab2eaOne of my favorite hobbies is collecting old books and historical diaries. Aged books that have seen more years than anyone alive always feel like they hold secrets, knowledge that’s ready to be rediscovered! Sometimes it’s hard to imagine how far and wide books can travel, and seeing handwriting from more than a hundred years ago is always enchanting to me, as if I may be able to imagine the lives of the hands that wrote the words there.

My goal for this blog is to share aspects of my own faith story, and (I hope) to eventually find others willing to share parts of their story. I want to write as I study and learn, and I want to hear from anyone with different opinions! Contemporary faith is inspiring and encouraging, but I also want to spend time looking back, catching glimpses into the lives of Christians who have long since passed away. The best way to do that is to look at the things they left behind.

I’d like to start this by dedicating a post each week to a  diary that was given to me as a gift several years ago. It was bound in Edinburgh, Scotland by Ferrier & Trench Stationers and Bookbinders sometime before 1845. There are two main areas of use, one in the front of the diary, and one in the back. For now, I want to focus on the first 40 pages. Each page is dedicated to a different bible verse, each one written by a different person. The first page was written by E. Scott, on October 18th, 1845. Assuming that E. Scott  was the person who collected all the verses, he spent nine years asking people to write down their verses of choice. I want to spend time each week considering the verses chosen by E. Scott and the people he came across. I want to share their handwriting, and learn from the same verses that a collection of people, thousands of miles away in a different century held sacred two hundred years ago. Check back tomorrow for week one to see what verses E. Scott chose!

 

If you have a personal faith story to share, email me at personalfaithstory@gmail.com, or click here!

Don’t be a Eustace

 

lrg_dsc00173

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

I’ve read hundreds of books throughout my life, but I have to say, this first line of C.S. Lewis’s Voyage of the Dawn Treader is by far my favorite opening sentence of any book I’ve ever picked up. Throughout the entire Chronicles of Narnia, the series that this book belongs to, I don’t think any character is more unfortunate or unlikeable than Eustace, and the way he’s introduced to us is hysterical in it’s honesty. From the very beginning, Lewis wants us to think poorly of Eustace, and he makes it as easy as possible. Throughout the book, Eustace and his cousins Edmund and Lucy find themselves on a voyage led by Caspian, the King of Narnia. Caspian swore to find the missing Lords of His father’s court, and is hoping to sail to the end of the world. Throughout their journey they encounter mysteries and oddities, and Aslan is never far away.

Just imagine it! Eustace is pulled out of his regular life along with Edmund and Lucy, and thrown right into an adventure in Narnia. It’s every kid’s dream, to suddenly find yourself in a different world filled with adventure and glory, with a mission to reach the end of the world! And yet, Eustace is miserable. He’s been spoiled and pampered, and the parts of the story we get that are from his point of view show us just how skewed his perception of the world is. Everyone is out to get Eustace, everyone else is wrong, and Eustace is right. Eustace is the only one around here who has any sense, if only all these idiots would just listen to him!

Throughout the beginning of the voyage on Prince Caspian’s boat, Eustace is sick and grouchy, finding no pleasure in the open sea, even after Lucy cures his seasickness. Eustace has only contempt for Reepicheep, the talking mouse aboard the ship, and often finds himself being threatened by the mouse’s sword in retaliation for being so nasty and generally unpleasant. Eustace famously plays the victim, an act that makes him so undesirable, even the slavers who capture him on the island of Doorn want to return him. Eustace is on a journey of unfathomable potential, where new uncharted islands filled with discovery and riches lay just beyond the horizon. He’s in a spot where Aslan could be around any corner, waiting to work on his heart and make him new. And yet, he’s nothing more than a miserable complainer.

Have you ever looked in the mirror and realized that you’ve been a Eustace Clarence Scrubb? I have. Have you ever been in the middle of an ocean that seemed endless, with endless potential, and found yourself with nothing but complaints and contempt? I have. Looking from the outside, watching Eustace make an idiot of himself, I want to reach into the page and shake him. He’s in a new world! He could be anything or anyone there! But maybe the reason this character strikes me so much isn’t because of his own miserable attitude, but my own. Aren’t most of our lives just like Eustace’s? Aren’t we all thrown into a journey with endless potential, endless opportunities to land on islands of joy, adventure, and love? Isn’t God just waiting around the corner, just like Aslan is waiting for Eustace, ready and willing to bring us joy if only we would get out of our own way? Eustace Clarence Scrubb may almost deserve his awful name, but I think if I’m honest, I deserve it too. At times, we all do.

Do you have a personal faith story to share? Email me at personalfaithstory@gmail.com or click here!