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C.S. Lewis: Rifle, Hospital, and Some Advice

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12

“My feeling about people in whose conversation I have been allowed to play a part is always mixed with awe and even fear: such as a boy might feel on being first allowed to fire a rifle. The disproportion between his puny finger on the trigger and the thunder and lightning which follow is alarming. And the seriousness with which the other party takes my words always raises the doubt whether I have taken them seriously enough myself. By writing the things I write, you see, one especially qualifies for being hereafter “condemned out of own’s own mouth.” Think of me as a fellow patient in the same hospital who, having been admitted a little earlier could give some advice”

C.S. Lewis in “Letter to Sheldon Vanauken” dated 22 April 1953 in A Severe Mercy (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1977) 134.

I got to shoot a long-range rifle last week in South Dakota at a friend’s ranch. The target was 450 yards away. I was simultaneously excited and scared to pull the trigger.

Imagine the extremes. That’s what Lewis is trying to get us to grasp.

God is giving me perspective on life and work. He is calling me to a deeper place of humility. It’s hard to describe which is why I identify with how Lewis uses the rifle and hospital motifs.

As kindness was my word last year and compassion this year, it interesting that humility is often coupled with these traits. Perhaps that will be my word for next year? Undoubtedly, these traits are interconnected.

Lest our words and actions condemn us, we need to pause to discern how we ourselves are clothed.

As we start another week, I want to remind us all that if we are generous or help others grow, we must avoid thinking to less or too much of ourselves. We are not the message but only His messengers.

And if we do offer advice, let’s do it like this: “Think of me as a fellow patient in the same hospital who, having been admitted a little earlier could give some advice”








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C.S. Lewis: Plenteous and Superfluous

Therefore openly before the churches, show them the proof of your love and of our reason for boasting about you. 2 Corinthians 8:24

“In God there is no hunger that needs to be filled, only plenteousness that desires to give… God, who needs nothing, loves into existence wholly superfluous creatures in order that He may love and perfect them.”

C.S. Lewis in The Four Loves (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1960) 175-176.

God gives love because He is love. Giving flows out of who He is. The same is true with us. As we receive God’s love and as He perfects us, giving flows from who we are.

God needs nothing from us. We need to give. When we do, we become who we already are in Him and reflect His love to the world. If this sounds confusing, hang with me.

Too much of giving is based on ‘needs’ in a backwards way. Most ministry communications sound like God’s workers have a deficiency because people are not supplying.

What’s wrong with this picture? Everything. God is the Supplier and His work never lacks. Messages should call God’s people to ask God to supply and to participate as God leads.

The idea of ‘needs’ should be directed heavenward, because as Lewis states, “In God there is no hunger that needs to be filled, only plenteousness that desires to give.”

Our plenteous God wants us, as superfluous creatures, to bring every need to Him. As we receive His love, our giving and participation is the proof that He is perfecting us.

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C.S. Lewis: Wholly His

Then He said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23

“When He [God] talks of their losing their selves, He only means abandoning the clamour of self-will; once they have done that, He really gives them back all their personality, and boasts (I am afraid, sincerely) that when they are wholly His they will be more themselves than ever.”

C.S. Lewis in Screwtape Letters: Letters from a Senior to a Junior Devil (Samizdat University Press: Quebec) 26.

Denying yourself is setting aside your desires.

A good practice for this is fasting. Take a few meals a week and skip them to fast from food. In those moments, ask the Spirit to show you what the “clamour of self-will” looks like and root it out. God won’t do it for you.

It’s like weeding the soil of our hearts, and we all get weeds. All of us.

This shapes our generosity because when self-will is rooted out, we become more the people God desires us to become. His Spirit in place of self-will, makes us into generous conduits of spiritual and material blessing.

The tricky part is that self-will looks different for all of us.

We tend to desire different things. Except if we walk into an In-N-Out Burger, then we may be on the same page. Anyway, when we exchange our self-will for what God’s desires, we become better selves and more wholly His.

God, we set aside our desires. Make us wholly yours and more ourselves than ever. Amen.

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C.S. Lewis: Highest Prudence

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33

“If human life is in fact ordered by a beneficent being whose knowledge of our real needs and of the way in which they can be satisfied infinitely exceeds our own, we must expect a priori that His operations will often appear to us far from beneficent and far from wise, and that it will be our highest prudence to give Him our confidence in spite of this.

C.S. Lewis in “On Obstinacy in Belief” in  The World’s Last Night: And Other Essays (New York: Harper Collins 1959) 24.

Most Christians say they trust God, but their lives demonstrate that they really believe it is their job to look after themselves rather than trust in His beneficence.

Honestly, we all struggle with this at times. We overcome it by remembering that when God became flesh and dwelt among us, He said, “Seek God first.” He’s got us.

God, help us live like we believe You are caring deeply for us, even in hard times. Help us make our highest prudence be to put our confidence in You! Amen.

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C.S. Lewis: Give a Piece of Advice

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

“Friendship is the greatest of worldly goods. Certainly to me it is the chief happiness of life. If I had to give a piece of advice to a young man about a place to live, I think I should say, ‘sacrifice almost everything to live where you can be near your friends.’ I know I am very fortunate in that respect.”

C.S. Lewis in The Letters of C.S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves (1914-1963) (Springfield: Collier, 1986) 477.

I just spent quality time with old friends and new ones in South Dakota. As topics came up, we would share advice. Advice is a gift we can share generously, but we must avoid giving it in unsolicited ways. We can navigate this by asking good questions to demonstrate we really care. So, think of good questions and give advice generously.

Consider the value of friendship, especially during COVID. It’s really hard to get together with people. If this is something that you are fortunate to enjoy, be sensitive to the needs of others as many are lonely and suffering during COVID. Many are really missing those they love. Reach out to people in friendship and find happiness in return.


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C.S. Lewis: Embarrassed

Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere him. Psalm 33:8

“When we want to be something other than the thing God wants us to be, we must be wanting what, in fact, will not make us happy. Those divine demands which sound to our natural ears most like those of a despot and least like those of a lover, in fact marshall us where we should want to go if we knew what we wanted.

He demands our worship, our obedience, our prostration. Do we suppose that they can do Him any good, or fear, like the chorus in Milton, that human irreverence can bring about “His glory’s diminution”? A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word “darkness” on the walls of his cell.

But God wills our good, and our good is to love Him (with that responsive love proper to creatures) and to love Him we must know Him: and if we know Him, we shall in fact fall on our faces. if we do not, that only shows that what we are trying to love is not yet God — though it may be the nearest approximation to God which our thought and fantasy can attain.

Yet the call is not only to prostration and awe; it is to a reflection of the divine life, a creaturely participation in the divine attributes which is far beyond our present desires. We are bidden to “put on Christ”, to become like God. That is, whether we like it or not, God intends to give us what we need, not what we now think we want. Once more, we are embarrassed by the intolerable compliment, by too much love, not too little.”

C.S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain (Samizdat University Press: Quebec, 2016) 29-30.

What do worship, obedience, and prostration have to do with generosity? Everything. Our God is so good, “whether we like it or not, God intends to give us what we need, not what we now think we want.” Our only right response is worship, obedience, and prostration.

Think of how this comes into view in our relationship with Him and then with others. He gives us the grace and forgiveness we need, so we get to dispense it to others. He lavishes us with love, so we get to shower it on others. He wants us to be like Christ in the world, so what are we waiting for?

Today I return home from Sioux Falls where I have had meetings with amazing people the last few days. I’ve tried to take a posture of worship, obedience, and awe while traveling. What if we dispensed so much love and generosity that we embarrassed people wherever we went?



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C.S. Lewis: Empty Enough to Receive

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21

“God gives His gifts where He finds the vessel empty enough to receive them.”

C.S. Lewis in “Williams and the Arthuriad” as recounted in The Quotable Lewis, edited by Wayne Martindale and Jerry Root (Wheaton: Tyndale, 2012)  272.

In response to a recent quote by C.S. Lewis that posted here this week, my friend Doug Christensen sent me today’s Scripture. Soak in it for a while. It was a gift to me.

If you are not sure what to do in life, remember that God is with you leading and guiding. We must be attentive to what He says and receive whatever He gives.

Generous givers are people who empty themselves to receive what is good and true and right. And upon receipt, they realize that their job is to enjoy and share God’s blessings.

Father, I empty myself. Exchange my will and desires for yours. By your Holy Spirit, fill me with the fullness of your love. Hear my prayer in the name of Jesus. Amen.



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C.S. Lewis: Capacity to Receive

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7

“I have gradually been coming to feel that the door is no longer shut and bolted. Was it my own frantic need that slammed it in my face? The time when there is nothing at all in your soul except a cry for help may be just the time when God can’t give it: you are like the drowning man who can’t be helped because he clutches and grabs. Perhaps your own reiterated cries deafen you to the voice you hoped to hear.

On the other hand, ‘Knock and it shall be opened.’ But does knocking mean hammering and kicking the door like a maniac? And there’s also ‘To him that hath shall be given.’ After all, you must have the capacity to receive, or even omnipotence can’t give. Perhaps your own passion temporarily destroys the capacity.

For all sorts of mistakes are possible when you are dealing with Him [that is, God]. Long ago, before we were married, H. was haunted all one morning as she went about her work with the obscure sense of God (so to speak) ‘at her elbow,’ demanding her attention. And of course, not being a perfected saint, she had the feeling that it would be a question, as it usually is, of some unrepented sin or tedious duty. At last she gave in—I know how one puts it off—and faced Him. But the message was, ‘I want to give you something, and instantly, she entered into joy.”

C.S. Lewis in A Grief Observed in The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics (San Francisco: Harper One, 2002) 455.

Today’s post touched me.

We all struggle with various things in life, and COVID seems to have made things more complicated for most of us.

I am taking some time at a retreat to sit with God.

Rather than ask him to sort my challenges or do the proverbial talking, he nudged me just to listen to him, to receive from Him.

Can you relate to this today?

If so, I suggest you take some time to sit with God. Just receive whatever He has for you. Rest in this. It will be good because He is good.

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C.S. Lewis: Two Kinds of Love

We love, because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19

“There are two kinds of love: we love wise and kind and beautiful people because we need them, but we love (or try to love) stupid and disagreeable people because they need us. This second kind is the more divine because that is how God loves us: not because we are lovable but because He is love, not because He needs to receive but He delights to give.

But the other question (what one is loving in loving a country) I do not find very difficult. What I feel sure of is that the personifications used by journalists and politicians have very little reality. A treaty between the governments of two countries is not all like a friendship between two people: more like a transaction between two peoples’ lawyers.

I think love for one’s country means chiefly love for people who have a good deal in common with oneself (language, clothes, institutions), and it is that way like love of one’s family or school: or like love (in a strange place) for anyone who once lived in one’s home town…My mind tends to move in a world of individuals not of societies.”

C.S. Lewis in “Letter to Mary Van Deusen dated 25 May 1951” in Yours, Jack: Spiritual Direction from C.S. Lewis, edited by Paul F. Ford (New York: Harper One, 2008) 166-167.

Today’s post seemed fitting, at least for Americans, as there is a lot of political talk with November elections drawing near and there is a need for people to love one another. How do we think about these things and their relationship to generosity?

Let’s start with those who bless us. Who are the “wise and kind and beautiful people” in your life? Make a mental list. These people touch you with their sensitivity and love! Send at least one person who comes to mind a text expressing gratitude for their generosity.

Now, can you think of people to whom you give love because they need you? Consider their names and needs at this moment. Give thanks that God resources you to bless them, and think about what you could do for them today. Follow God’s leading in action.

Lastly, when it comes to politics, we will do well to ponder this. What if, like Lewis, we moved in the world of individuals rather than societies, since this world is not our home? Let us see ourselves as citizens of heaven and align with other such citizens.

From there, let us express gratitude for those whose wisdom, kindness, and beauty touches us. And for those who appear “stupid and disagreeable” for holding different views, rather than hurling words like tomatoes at them, let us love them like God chose to love us.





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C.S. Lewis: Happiness

Happy are the people with such blessings. Happy are the people whose God is the LORD. Psalm 144:15

“What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could “be like gods” — could set up on their own as if they had created themselves — be their own masters — invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. and out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history — money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery — the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.

The reason why it can never succeed is this. God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. a car is made to run on gasoline, and it would not run properly on anything else. now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”

C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity (Quebec: Samizdat University Press, 2014) 31.

When we serve anything but the Lord, we as humans do not work like we are supposed to. As Lewis notes, just trace the implications through human history to see that this is true.

On the positive side, when the Lord is our fuel, we operate with a happiness and peace that the world cannot comprehend. We exhibit generosity rather than hold on to money.

Many want to go back to normal (life before COVID), back to being the Lord of their lives, back to being “like gods.” Let us instead live, breathe, and find our being in God alone.

We discover happiness and peace there, which may be the greatest thing we could enjoy and share with a needy world. Share happiness richly, please.

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