Good Friday: a Misnomer?

Today is Good Friday. When I was younger I was confused by this because what was so good about Jesus dying? Shouldn’t it be called Bad Friday? Over the years, I have grown in my understanding of the gospel, and how the bad news is what makes the good news truly good. The bad news of my sin necessitates the badness — the excruciating pain and suffering — of the cross, the cross that is my cross. But the story doesn’t end there. When all hope is lost, Jesus willingly takes my place. And in that Great Exchange, something so terrible becomes something wondrous, beautiful, and Good with a capital “G.”

One of my favorite parts from The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe captures this in the way that only C.S. Lewis can:

…”though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward.”

-Chapter 15, “Deeper Magic from Before the Dawn of Time”

I was moved by this video Passion City Church made for their Good Friday Service a few years back*. Thankful for the creative people who can communicate the power of the cross to make Death itself start working backward, and turn bad news into truly good news.

*They have several other Good Friday videos that are just as moving. 

Reading Testimonial: Narnia Visited and Revisited

It’s been a long while since we had a reading testimonial. Today’s is from Philip, a college freshman from Klesis at Gracepoint Berkeley church, and our first male guest contributer! He and I go way back, and in honor of Narnia November (have you been reading/listening?), I asked him if he remembered our Narnia Challenge from almost ten years ago. I asked him if he would be willing to write a little something for the blog.

Narnia-ChroniclesHardI can remember the first time that I heard The Chronicles of Narnia. It was in the first grade when my “Uncle Mo” (Maurice from Gracepoint Austin church) had chosen the first book to read as a bedtime story. It was The Magician’s Nephew, and while I can’t remember many of the details from that time, I do remember the excitement of hearing about magic rings and crazy adventures. Though I loved reading adventure novels growing up, it wasn’t until much later however, that I read through The Chronicles of Narnia for the first time on my own.

It was during my middle school years, either 6th or 7th grade, when Emily challenged me to see who would be able to read through the entire series first. It was a simple wager with a Barnes and Nobles gift card set as the crown for the winner. I remember reading the books as fast as possible, but at the same time trying to keep a hold of the plot development in order to prove that I truly had read through the entire series! Despite quick reading, and consequently some skimming, the land of Narnia that C.S. Lewis created was mesmerizing. Eventually I won the contest, probably due to my superior intellect (but in reality just due to the fact that I had more free time), and I don’t remember what I spent that gift card on, but I know that I gained so much more from that contest.

It was actually just last year that I decided to reread the entire series with a more developed understanding of literature, and a greater level of appreciation for such thought-provoking literature. The stories had not lost their magic as I felt that I myself had simply returned the land of Narnia that I had discovered as a younger child. It is true, however, that I had my mind blown by all the meaning and the powerful messages that I had missed. Understanding the themes of redemption and loyalty, the struggle between selfish action and sacrifice, and the symbolism that I simply failed to understand before had made the books even more amazing to me. C.S. Lewis had so vividly brought to life the idea that there is a distant land to which I belong as heir to the throne because the true king, Aslan, had made it so. Aslan being the embodiment of justice and right, a powerful terrifying lion, and yet caring and merciful enough to die in order to redeem Edmund, that was powerful for me. The adventures that were shared through loyalty and a striving for good and what Aslan would want, those were adventures that I wanted. I cannot express enough how The Chronicles of Narnia has impacted me, though at first I saw them as “only” children’s stories.

I didn’t know the fuller story of Philip’s history with Narnia. I just remember trying, all those years ago, to think of a way to motivate Philip to read, and even being willing to suffer the humiliation of losing the challenge (I did actually try, but Philip’s superior intellect won out!). It tickles me to read of how he too has experienced what so many of us have as we read and read the series after childhood — that our eyes open to the deeper spiritual truths embedded in what seems to be “only” a child’s fairy tale.

I’m reminded of a couple of my favorite C.S. Lewis quotes about reading:

“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”

“A children’s story that can be enjoyed only by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”

This has been my personal experience with The Chronicles of Narnia, as well as with other great stories for children. I’m especially looking forward to rereading The Horse and His Boy, as I have now tallied six people who count it as their favorite of the series, and for compelling reasons!

Narnia November & NaNoWriMo Begin!

narniaNovember 1st kicks off Narnia November! It’s not an official thing, but I’m hoping it becomes one. The challenge is to read as many of The Chronicles of Narnia books you can this month. It’s open to all ages across all Gracepoint churches, not just Gracepoint Berkeley church. I know November is a busy month, but there’s also Thanksgiving Break, and for some school districts, that’s a whole week of no school! So I think it’s possible.

It doesn’t matter in which order you read the books, whether the one that starts with The Magician’s Nephew or The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I personally like the latter, which is the order of writing/publishing, but no matter. The point is the reading. The last time I read the series all the way through was in 1997, so I’m definitely due for a visit to Narnia.

PrintNovember 1st also signals the official beginning of National Novel Writing Month. This *is* an actual thing, and the goal is for participants to write the novel they’ve always meant to — and the novel needs to be 50,000 words (or more). There is a Young Writer’s Program for NaNoWriMo, in which students can set their own word goals for their novels. I’ve participated (but not completed) several times with different classes over the years. This year some of the 7th and 8th grade girls of Bibliopolis and I will be participating. We’ll see how far I get in my masterpiece. I have the best title and concept ever, but it’s the rest of it that I can’t seem to do! This might be a quantity over quality type of deal, since the goal is to just write. But even if we don’t finish, we’ll challenge ourselves to write more.

Will you be participating in Narnia November? In what order do you read the books? Which is your favorite of the series?