Category Archives: Europe

John Wesley — March 2

Surrounded by the mob in Wednesbury, England

Bible connection

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. — Read Ephesians 2:1-10

All about John Wesley (1703-1791)

John Wesley lived for most of the 18th century . He was the world-famous founder of Methodism which is alive and well in many forms all over Creation right now.

John and his brother, Charles, were twentysomethings when they began to meet as the “Holy Club” they founded at Oxford. They read spiritual classics and tried to apply what they read to their lives and encourage one another. It sounds a lot like a cell meeting.

In 1735 John and Charles went on a missionary trip to the colony of Georgia. John returned very discouraged that he couldn’t translate his ideas about God in effective ways for the people of the colony (plus, he fell in love with a local woman and the relationship did not work out very well).

In this period of discouragement, he became friends with a Moravian preacher, Peter Boehler. At a small religious meeting connected to the Moravians in Aldersgate Street, London, on May 24, 1738, John had an experience with God that changed his life. He famously described this experience as having his heart “strangely warmed.” This personal encounter with God prompted John to spend the rest of his life energetically encouraging others to meet God personally. This encounter with God seems to have caused his faith to move from mostly his head to his heart; it activated a deep dependence on God’s grace and a whole new way of living that he then shared with thousands of people.

Wesley’s faith was devoted to social justice as well as preaching. It is hard to overestimate how large a transforming force the Methodists were in England and the United States in the 17 and 1800s. They can be congratulated for being instrumental in the abolition of slavery by England, as well as in uplifting the poor in countless ways.

Notable quotes from Wesley:

  • Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.
  • Earn all you can, give all you can, save all you can.
  • “Holy solitaries” is a phrase no more consistent with the Gospel than holy adulterers. The Gospel of Christ knows no religion but social; no holiness, but social holiness.
  • Every one, though born of God in an instant, yet undoubtedly grows by slow degrees.
  • When I was young I was sure of everything. In a few years, having been mistaken a thousand times, I was not half so sure of most things as I was before. At present, I am hardly sure of anything but what God has revealed to me.
  • Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may. Herein all the children of God may unite, notwithstanding these smaller differences.
  • Catch on fire and people will come for miles to see you burn.
  • God does nothing except in response to believing prayer.
  • Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not whether they be clergymen or laymen, they alone will shake the gates of Hell and set up the kingdom of Heaven upon Earth.
  • As for reputation, though it be a glorious instrument of advancing our Master’s service, yet there is a better than that: a clean heart, a single eye, and a soul full of God. A fair exchange if, by the loss of reputation, we can purchase the lowest degree of purity of heart.
  • Our church did some theology about being radical in 2016 and John Wesley was the example. Check out this material that relates: Radical Energy at 3000 Feet, and Are We Visible Enough?

More

Article from Christian History magazine [link]

2009 film Wesley includes June Lockhart, playing his mother Susannah. There are quite a few films to watch: John Wesley: The faith that Sparked the Methodist Movement (2020 documentary using scenes from 2009 film) and one from 1954 John Wesley.

Interesting look at Methodist history in England [link]

Wesley’s books were best sellers. As he got richer, he got more generous, as the following story about his financial discipline shows.

While at Oxford, an incident changed Wesley’s perspective on money. He had just finished paying for some pictures for his room when one of the chambermaids came to his door. It was a cold winter day, and he noticed that she had nothing to protect her except a thin linen gown. He reached into his pocket to give her some money to buy a coat but found he had too little left. Immediately the thought struck him that the Lord was not pleased with the way he had spent his money. He asked himself, “Will thy Master say, ‘Well done, good and faithful steward?’ Thou hast adorned thy walls with the money which might have screened this poor creature from the cold! O justice! O mercy! Are not these pictures the blood of this poor maid?”

Perhaps as a result of this incident, in 1731 Wesley began to limit his expenses so that he would have more money to give to the poor. He records that one year his income was 30 pounds and his living expenses 28 pounds, so he had 2 pounds to give away. The next year his income doubled, but he still managed to live on 28 pounds, so he had 32 pounds to give to the poor. In the third year, his income jumped to 90 pounds. Instead of letting his expenses rise with his income, he kept them to 28 pounds and gave away 62 pounds. Even when his income rose into the thousands of pounds sterling, he lived simply, and he quickly gave away his surplus money. One year his income was a little over 1400 pounds. He lived on 30 pounds and gave away nearly 1400 pounds.

Favorite works about Wesley:

What do we do with this?

John Wesley caused enormous change in the lives of individuals and in both England and the United States by giving people practical ways to live out radical faith. Many churches today reflect his methods. Do you connect with others to be a force for change, or do you kind of do your own thing? That would be one of his questions for you. [Wesley’s 22 Questions]

Ask God to move you from your head to heart—or just anywhere.

John Cassian – February 28

John Cassian

Bible connection

Read 2 Corinthians 6:17-7:3

Therefore, “Come out from them
and be separate,
says the Lord.
Touch no unclean thing,
and I will receive you.”

And, “I will be a Father to you,
and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty.”

Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.

All about John Cassian (c. 360-c.435)

John Cassian taught: “God can be sensed when we gaze with trembling hearts at that power of his which controls, guides, and rules everything, when we contemplate his immense knowledge and his knowing look which the secrets of the heart cannot evade.”

His writings reflect his adventurous, radical, ever-seeking life. He was born in the Danube Delta in what is now Dobrogea, Romania, in about 360 (some sources place his birth in Gaul/Southern France). In 382 he entered a monastery in Bethlehem and after several years was granted permission, along with his friend, Germanus, to visit the Desert Fathers and Mothers in Egypt. They remained in Egypt until 399, except for a brief period when they returned to Bethlehem and were released from their vows.

After they left Egypt they went to Constantinople, where they met John Chrysostom, who ordained John Cassian as a deacon. He had to leave Constantinople in 403 when Chrysostom was exiled, eventually settling close to what is now Marseilles, France, where he was ordained a priest and founded two monasteries, one for women and one for men.

John’s most notable works are the Institutes, which detail how to live the monastic life, Egypt-style, and the Conferences, which provide details of conversations between John and Germanus and the Desert Fathers and Mothers. These writings have been very  influential from his lifetime until the present.

Cassian also waded into the big controversies of his day. He ably warned against some of the excesses in Augustine of Hippo’s theology when Augustine defamed Pelagius, whose writings Cassian also found extreme, in parts. He also defended the nature of Christ against Nestorius. John Cassian died peacefully in about 435.

John Cassian, like many during his time, was seeking to deepen his relationship with God and to escape a corrupting culture. He tried to balance the tension between pursuing an individual purity, loving God in solitude where distractions were limited, as the Desert Fathers and Mothers taught him, with living in a community with like-minded companions who could guide one’s journey. His life is a testament to seeking holiness individually and to loving God and others in community.

A quote from Conference Nine:

We need to be especially careful to follow the gospel precept which instructs us to go into our room and to shut the door so that we may pray to our Father. And this is how we can do it.

We pray in our room whenever we withdraw our hearts completely from the tumult and the noise of our thoughts and our worries and when secretly and intimately we offer our prayers to the Lord.

We pray with the door shut when without opening our mouths and in perfect silence we offer our petitions to the One who pays no attention to words but who looks hard at our hearts.

We pray in secret when in our hearts alone and in our recollected spirits we address God and reveal our wishes only to Him and in such a way that the hostile powers themselves have no inkling of their nature. Hence we must pray in utter silence, not simply in order that our whispers and our cries do not prove both a distraction to our brothers standing nearby and a nuisance to them when they themselves are praying but also so as to ensure that the thrust of our pleading be hidden from our enemies who are especially lying in wait to attack us during our prayers. In this way we shall fulfill the command “Keep your mouth shut from the one who sleeps on your breast” (Micah 7:5).

The reason why our prayers ought to be frequent and brief is in case the enemy, who is out to trap us, should slip a distraction to us if ever we are long-drawn-out. There lies true sacrifice. “The sacrifice which God wants is a contrite heart” (Ps 51:19). This indeed is the saving oblation, the pure offering, the sacrifice of justification, the sacrifice of praise. These are the real and rich thank offerings, the fat holocausts [a sacrifice in which the offering was burned completely on an altar] offered up by contrite and humble hearts. If we offer them to God in the way and with zeal which I have mentioned we can be sure to be heard and we can sing: “Let my prayer rise up like incense before your face and my hands like the evening offering” (Ps 141:2).

More

Hit all the tabs on this site and you will know eveything [link]

Cassian’s tomb in Marseille [link]

What do we do with this?

John is such a scholar! Let’s think about our own study. What would you do with Micah 7:5? John reads it in a contemplative way, using it to speak into his personal relationship with God. He sees all the Bible as a means to that end. You might say, he starts his reading from his relationship with God, not from the words of the Bible.

In fact (as 21st century people see fact) Micah’s colorful analogy has little to do with relating to God or the devil, the  prophet is talking about not being able to trust your intimates when trouble comes.  John Cassian goes beyond the “facts.”

Do you want to think about what you are doing with these different ways to look at the same sentences? You could start with the prophet, start with yourself, or start with God, or even think of the words as having meaning in themselvesall might be profitable. How do you start your study of the Bible?

John changed his life when he met the Desert Fathers and Mothers, and he had to go to great lengths to meet them! When was the last time you went to meet someone who could inspire or guide you? When did you last go to “the desert?”

Valentine — February 14

Bible connection

 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. — 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (RSV)

All about Valentine (c. 226-269)

The exact history of Valentine is murky. What we do seem to know is that in the 3rd century the emperor Claudius II of Rome outlawed marriage for certain young men because married men were reluctant to leave their wives and go to war.

Valentine continued to marry couples in secret. When the emperor found out, he attempted to convert Valentine to believe in the Roman gods. Valentine refused and attempted to convert the emperor to Christianity. Claudius II responded by sentencing Valentine to death.

While in prison, the story goes, the jailer’s blind daughter visited Valentine. By a miracle, Valentine cured the jailer’s daughter and she was able to see.

Therefore, Valentine’s day is more about resistance, martyrdom, and sacrifice than romantic love. However, his saints day falls around the time that love birds traditionally mate in England, so he became associated with romance.

More

Check out the History Channel: [link]

Rod’s tributes to St. Valentine:

  • A poem about his obscure but courageous-sounding history [link]
  • Making a connection with poor Whitney Houston [link]

From the Roman Catholics:

What do we do with this?

Talk to your mate about martyrdom. Can your relationship bear the trials of faith? Do you hang on more tightly to one another than to Jesus?

Consider how you face the challenges the godless government tries to impose on you. Do you go along with its philosophy of economics and power?

I think Valentine would love it if you celebrated your love with your mate or special someone. Love is better than war. You might say Valentine died for love. His love gave sight to the blind and keeps giving a reason to see love in the eyes of another.

Brigid of Kildare — February 1

Brigid of Kildare

Bible connection

Read John 1:10-14

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

All about Brigid (c. 451-515)

Today is the traditional feast day to celebrate Brigid of Kildare. She was a crucial figure in the 5th Century church, particularly in Ireland. Brigid was a convert to the faith, a nun, an abbess, and the founder of several monasteries, most famously at Kildare. Her powerful office as the abbess of Kildare (an office which held the powers of a bishop until the 12th Century), made her an unusual and somewhat controversial figure.

Her father was a pagan chieftain and her mother was a Christian. Some have said Brigid’s mother was born in Portugal, kidnapped by Irish pirates and brought to Ireland to work as a slave, just like St. Patrick was. Brigid’s father named her after one of the most powerful goddesses of the pagan religion: the goddess of fire, whose manifestations were song, craftsmanship, and poetry, which the Irish considered elements of the flame of knowledge. Despite her grand name, Brigid spent her early life cooking, cleaning, washing and feeding the animals on her father’s farm, the daughter of a slave.

She lived during the time of St. Patrick and was inspired by his preaching. She became a Christian. When Brigid turned eighteen, she stopped working for her father. Brigid’s father wanted her to find a husband but she had already decided she would spend her life working for God by looking after poor, sick and elderly people. Brigid’s charity angered her father because he thought she was being too generous. When she finally gave his jewel-encrusted sword to a leper, her father realized she would be best suited to the religious life. Brigid finally got her wish and entered an intentional Christian community (call it a convent or monastery).

News of Brigid’s good works spread and soon many young women from all over the country joined her community. She founded many convents all over Ireland; the most famous one was built beside an oak tree where the town of Kildare now stands. Around 470 she also founded a double monastery, for men and women, in Kildare. As Abbess of this foundation she wielded considerable power, and was a very wise and prudent superior. The Abbey of Kildare became one of the most prestigious monastic communities in Ireland, and was famous throughout Christian Europe. You can still visit the site, with its striking tower.

Her cross (she’s holding it in the icon above) is a famous symbol of using ordinary things to show God’s love by sharing one’s time and labor — like the famous story of her weaving a cross out of flooring to demonstrate the gospel to a dying man. Here is one version of the story: A pagan chieftain who lived near Kildare was dying. Christians in his household sent for Brigid to talk to him about Christ. When she arrived the chieftain was raving. As it was impossible to instruct this delirious man; hopes for his conversion dimmed. Brigid sat down at his bedside to console him. As was customary, the dirt floor was strewn with rushes both for warmth and cleanliness. Brigid stooped down and started to weave them into a cross, fastening the points together. The sick man asked what she was doing. She began to explain the cross, and as she talked his delirium quieted and he questioned her with growing interest. Through her weaving, he converted and was baptized at the point of death. Ever since then the cross of rushes has been an important symbol in Ireland.

More

A bio from Solas Bhride in Kildare [link]

A bio from the Brigidine Sisters in Australia: [link]

Thoughts from Rod, who “visited” Brigid on pilgrimage [link]

Inspired to a pilgrimage? [link]

What do we do with this?

Brigid reminds us that women have always been esteemed by God as worthy leaders. Men have often denied them their calling, but Spirit filled sisters often break through the injustice. Celebrate the daring women of faith you know!

Brigid reminds us of earth, wind, fire and water. Her home-grown, Celtic Christianity is full of natural elements, including a fire symbolizing God’s presence which she and her band tended in Kildare — one which burned continuously for centuries.

There is a Druid goddess named Brigid, as well. Sometimes the Irish have gotten the saint and goddess mixed up. But we can celebrate how the yearning represented in gods and goddesses are met in Jesus, as Brigid boldly proclaimed. Think about honoring the yearning of people around you. Imagine how you can connect them to Jesus.

Menno Simons — January 31

Menno Simons

Bible connection

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. — James 1:27

All about Menno Simons (1496-1561)

At the height of their persecution, one convert survived to give form and future to the Anabaptist movement. Menno Simons  was a Catholic priest born in modern day Netherlands. While studying the Scriptures for the first time (even though he had been a priest for over a decade), Simons realized he was in conflict with church leaders  about transubstantiation. A few years later, around 1531, Simons heard about “rebaptizing” when Sicke Snijder was beheaded, the first Anabaptist martyr in the Netherlands. He was moved to study the scriptures and found that infant baptism was not in the Bible. He began having more contact with Anabaptists, and while the date of his own adult baptism is not known, those who harbored Simons were arrested for the offense.

The Mennonites, a religious group descended from the 16th century Anabaptists, take their name from Menno Simons. His moderation, after the militant excesses of the fanatical Anabaptist Kingdom of Munster (1534 – 35), restored balance to the movement.

As Simons’ influence increased over the years, the Dutch Anabaptists became known as Mennonites. They developed a distinctive focus on evangelism. The most celebrated of Simons’ work: Why I Do Not Cease Teaching and Writing (1539) reads,

True evangelical faith is of such a nature it cannot lie dormant, but spreads itself out in all kinds of righteousness and fruits of love; it dies to flesh and blood; it destroys all lusts and forbidden desires; it seeks, serves and fears God in its inmost soul; it clothes the naked; it feeds the hungry; it comforts the sorrowful; it shelters the destitute; it aids and consoles the sad; it does good to those who do it harm; it serves those that harm it; it prays for those who persecute it; it teaches, admonishes and judges us with the Word of the Lord; it seeks those who are lost; it binds up what is wounded; it heals the sick; it saves what is strong (sound); it becomes all things to all people.

The Mennonites rejected infant baptism, the swearing of oaths, military service, and worldliness. They practiced strong church discipline in their congregations and lived simple, honest, loving lives in emulation of the earliest Christians. Because Mennonites refused to assume state offices, to serve as police or soldiers, or to take oaths of loyalty, they were considered subversive and as such severely persecuted. These persecutions led at various times to the emigration of Mennonite groups, such as one group’s escape to the American colonies (1683), where they settled in what came to be known as Germantown, now a neighborhood in Philadelphia. At the end of the 18th Century, merging this Anabaptist stream with influence from the Pietist movement, the River Brethren (later to birth the Brethren In Christ) were formed.

Menno Simons died a free man of natural causes on this day in 1561, 25 years after he had renounced his priestly vows. He was buried in his personal garden.

More

Here is all you might want to know from the Mennonite history website. 

Online collection of Simons’ writings.

What do we do with this?

Read through the excerpt from the writings of Menno Simons again. Maybe we should all take a “dormancy” test. Are there an elements of the true evangelical faith that are less active in you or us than they ought to be? Does our relative lack of persecution quench the Spirit among us?

Amy Carmichael — January 18

Amy Carmichael

Bible Connection

The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.
He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken.
Evil shall slay the wicked: and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate.
The Lord redeemeth the soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate. — Psalm 34:18-22 (KJV)

All about Amy Carmichael (1867-1951) 

Amy Carmichael was a well-known missionary during the first half of the 20th century. Her 35 books are loved by thousands.

She was born into a well-to-do, Northern Ireland, Christian family. In her teen years, she was educated at a Wesleyan Methodist boarding school and, at age 13, while still in boarding school, she accepted Christ as Savior. When she was age 18, her father died, leaving the family in difficult financial circumstances, as he had given a large personal loan that was not repaid. The family moved to Belfast. There she became involved in visiting the slums, and seeing the terrible conditions under which many women and girls worked in the factories. She began a ministry with these women. It was unpaid work based on faith in God alone, and the Lord met her needs in remarkable ways.

She became acquainted with the Keswick Movement, and it was there that she learned of a close, deeper walk with the Jesus. The founder of the movement, Robert Wilson, a widower, asked her to come and live in his home and be his secretary. She learned much from that employment. She remembered on one occasion at a Keswick meeting when D.L. Moody preached on the prodigal son. Afterwards, he was talking with Robert Wilson and stopped in mid sentence. He was struck with the moment when the father says to the older son “Son, thou art ever with me and all that I have is thine.” Moody said, “I never saw it before. Oh, the love of God. Oh, the love. God’s love.” Tears rained down his cheeks. Amy never forgot that spiritual truth—”All that I have is thine.” It reinforced her faith that God knew her needs before she asked and wanted to supply them by faith.

She received a “Macedonian call” in 1892 at the age of 24. The following year, she became the first missionary appointee of the Keswick’s missions committee. She went to Japan. But there and elsewhere her missionary efforts met with disappointment. She left Japan for Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), went back to England, and then India, where she caught dengue fever.

In India, she saw that the missionary community was very active but there were no changed lives. She detested the meetings with the other missionary ladies—drinking tea and gossiping, showing very little concern for the salvation of those about them. She felt very alone. In reflection, she wrote:

Onward Christian soldiers,
Sitting on the mats;
Nice and warm and cozy
Like little pussycats.
Onward Christian soldiers,
Oh, how brave are we,
Don’t we do our fighting
Very comfortably?

One day as she fell to her knees in despair, a verse she had learned long before floated into her memory: “He that trusteth in me shall never be desolate.” From there on she found that to be true throughout her long life of ministry in India.

She left Bangalore for South India and with the daughter of her host family and several Christian Indian women, began an itinerant ministry through the villages of Tamil Nadu. They were dubbed the “starry cluster,” because the Indians recognized their sincerity and the light shining from them. The members of the band had no salary but looked to God to supply their needs. Their attitude was, “How much can I do without that I may have more to give?” It was during this period of time that Amy took on the habit of wearing Indian dress, which she continued throughout her lifetime.

A life-changing experience took place in 1901. A little five-year-old girl, named Pearl Eyes by Amy, was brought to her by an Indian woman. Her mother had sold her to the temple, and there she was being prepared for temple prostitution. Twice she had run away only to be caught, carried back, beaten, and subjected to sexual service there. Little Pearl Eyes told her story as she sat on Amy’s lap playing with the rag doll she had given her. She described what was done to her in the temple, demonstrating with the doll.

Amy never forgot that day nor the child’s story. It was the beginning of her work to rescue children who had been dedicated to the temple gods. To do so, she founded the Dohnavur Fellowship. In 1918, they began to also rescue baby boys who were also dedicated to the temple gods and goddesses. Other areas of the work over the years were added such as a hospital, schools and publishing house. Amy was not understood by many of the missionaries in India. She was also greatly resented by the Hindu priests and was frequently taken to court on charges of being a kidnapper.

In 1931 Amy had a fall that left her an invalid for the remainder of her life, and she seldom left her bed. It was during this period of her life that she was most prolific in writing. Occasionally someone would wheel her in a wheelchair out onto a veranda where her children could gather to greet her and sing to her.

Amy was very self-effacing. She rarely allowed her photograph to be taken and never referred to herself by name or personal pronoun in her writings.

Upon a life I did not live,
Upon a death I did not die,
Another’s life, another’s death,
I stake my whole eternity.

More

BBC2 video

Fan video bio focusing on prostitution

Hour-long English bio

Goodreads quotes pages

What do we do with this?

Amy Carmichael’s life reflects a conviction that we should give our “utmost” for God’s “highest.” Her convictions led her to do very unusual things, especially unusual for a woman in her time. She would want you to ponder whether you are receiving the sanctification from God that sets you apart for your best work on the Lord’s behalf. She would want her example to move you to consider how you should shine God’s light and be a conduit for God’s compassion. The whole world is your mission field, even if you end up in a wheelchair!

5th Day of Christmas / Thomas Becket — December 29

Image result for thomas becket
The Murder of Thomas Becket,  hand-painted woodcut.

Bible connection

Some take pride in chariots, and some in horses,
but our pride is in the name of the Lord our God.
 They will collapse and fall,
but we shall rise and stand upright. — Psalm 20:7-8 [Here it is in song]

All about Thomas Becket (1118-1170)

The Fifth Day of Christmas is also a time to remember the faith of Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who was martyred for his defense of the rights of the church against the English king, Henry II.

Like yesterday’s Feast of the Holy Innocents, this day adds the somber foundation for Christmastide, since every incarnation of God’s grace has an opponent waiting to kill it.

The church and the burgeoning idea of the “state” vied for power in Europe as it emerged from centuries of reorganization after the fall of the Roman Empire. Periodically, a leader would have an actual debate about the theology of the matter with some kind of spiritual conviction instead of just managing his power in order to expand it.

Once Becket was made the leader of the English church, he surprised the king with his new set of convictions. Like the surprising Oscar Romero who stood up against U.S.-sponsored death squads and unjust government soldiers, Becket was murdered in his own church building.

Becket had more influence as a martyr than a leader. Within years, King Henry was making public penance at his very popular shrine and pilgrim destination.

Becket’s Well in the 1950’s

Once a saint, Becket’s fame grew around the Norman world. He remains a peculiar, English phenomenon. As a member of the clan who were founders of the mercantile fraternity of Mercers, Becket was much lauded as a Londoner and adopted as the city’s co-patron saint with Paul the Apostle: they both appear on the seals of the city and of the Lord Mayor. The idea of drinking the “water of Saint Thomas,” sprang up, meaning one could buy a miraculous mix of water and the remains of the martyr’s blood. Here’s the story:

A citizen of Canterbury dipped a corner of his shirt in the blood [of Becket], went home, and gave it, mixed with water, to his wife, who was paralytic, and who was said to have been cured. This suggested the notion of mixing the blood with water, which, endlessly diluted, was kept in innumerable vials, to be distributed to the pilgrims; and thus, as the palm was a sign of a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and a scallop-shell of the pilgrimage to Compostela, so a leaden vial or bottle suspended from the neck became the mark of a pilgrimage to Canterbury. — Arthur P. Stanley, Historical Memorials of Canterbury

Local legends reflected Becket’s well-known gruffness. “Becket’s Well”, in Otford, Kent, was said to have been created after Becket was displeased by the taste of the local water. Two springs of clear water bubbled up after he struck the ground with his crozier. The pilgrims to Canterbury (Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales mentions Becket) grew greatly in number.

More

5 minute biography

British Museum’s 2021 retrospective.

T.S. Eliot’s “Murder in the Cathedral” as a 1951 film

Scene from Becket (film, 1964)

Five Golden Rings ... | Manassas Park, VA Patch

It is not without merit that On the 5th day of Christmas my true love sent to me… Five Gold Rings. 

For two centuries after the Reformation, the Catholic structure of the Church was repressed in England, especially. The legend has grown up that, in the spirit of Becket, catechists used this song for children to defiantly teach their polity.

Purportedly, the gift on the fifth day “secretly” represents the Torah, the central five books of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The gift of these books reminds the singer of humanity’s fall from grace and of God’s response by creating a people to be a light to the world into which THE Light of the World would be born.

What do we do with this?

 Pray: Guide me on the difficult path of discernment and trust

Christians often talk a good game when it comes to “speaking truth to power” but we mostly keep to ourselves. We even have problems talking to each other! So we can get locked into going with whatever the latest graceless thing the government is doing, even acting as if political power is all that matters. This day calls us to change our perspective.

Pray with your journal and ask the Lord to show you what you actually trust. It might be the fear-led defenses that protect you from experiencing lack of trust! It may be some substitute for God that promises safety in a troubling world.  It may be yourself. “Who or what do you actually trust?” is a basic question we all need to answer, right?

C.S. Lewis — November 22

Bible Connection

And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables. — Mark 4:11 (KJV)

All about C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)

Clive Staples Lewis was born in Belfast, Ireland in 1898. His mother, Flora, was the daughter of a Anglican priest (Church of Ireland). His father, Richard, immigrated from Wales and worked as a lawyer (solicitor). He and his brother Warren had a dog named Jacksie, who was killed by a car when Lewis was four years old. He decided that he would take the dog’s name in his mourning, eventually allowing his family to call him Jack—the name friends would refer to him by for the rest of his life.

He was privately tutored and sent to the notoriously abusive Wynyard School in England for two years with his brother after his mother died. He came back home to Belfast and attended Campbell College (for boys 11-18) only to drop out because of respiratory problems. He was sent to a health-resort town back in England where he attended preparatory school. It was there, while he was 15 that he decided he was an atheist. Later in life he would reflect that this decision was largely based on being mad at God for not existing.

His interest in mythology, beast fables, and legends developed—especially Norse, Greek, and Irish mythologies. In them, he sensed what he later named “joy.” He was bound for Oxford to study when he volunteered to fight for the British Army in the trenches of France during World War I. The trauma and horrors during the war confirmed his atheism. Lewis was injured during an accidental friendly fire explosion that killed two of his comrades. He had a pact with a close friend that if either died the survivor would take care of the other’s family, and after “Paddy” Moore died Lewis took care of Jane Moore until her death in the 1940s. The two had a close relationship, during both Lewis’ recovery and the period before Moore’s eventual death. Lewis often referred to her as his “mother.”

He resumed studies at Oxford in 1918. He excelled academically and began getting published. In 1929, largely because of the influence of friends and colleagues J.R.R. Tolkien and Hugo Dyson, Lewis decided to “admit God was God,” kneel, pray, and admit he was a Theist. Two years later he had a conversion experience with the two friends playing a huge role in his shift to becoming a Christian. He would later recall in Surprised By Joy, “When we set out [on a motorcycle trip to the zoo] I did not believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and when we reached the zoo I did.”

Two years later, the three friends along with some others began a group they called “The Inklings” which would meet up once or twice per week for 16 years. For most of 1941, Lewis published 31 weekly Screwtape Letters, donating the proceeds for them to charity. He began giving radio talks on the BBC that developed from “Right and Wrong” to a later series about “What Christians Believe” and then “Christian Behavior”—these later became his enduring classic Mere Christianity. He published The Great Divorce in weekly installments. In all, he wrote about 60 books, most of which are non-fiction, often apologetics of the faith. It was perhaps in his fiction, like the Space Trilogy, where he did his heaviest theological lifting.

In 1956, Lewis and his intellectual companion, Joy Davidman, entered into a civil marriage so she and her two sons could stay in the U.K. She was separated from her abusive husband. Later that year, after discovering her advanced-stage bone cancer, the two had a Christian marriage ceremony. Joy died in 1957 while on a family holiday. Jack raised her sons as his own. Four years later, Lewis had kidney issues that developed shortly into renal failure. He died on November 22, 1963 a week before he would have turned 65 (the same day as John F. Kennedy — book by Peter Kreeft).

Quotes

  • I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.
  •  I have found a desire within myself that no experience in this world can satisfy; the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.
  • There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, ‘All right, then, have it your way.’
  • It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.
  • If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.
  • 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.
  • Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.
  • God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.
  • Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.
  • Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.

More

Christian History biography

BBC biography

C.S Lewis’s surviving BBC radio address

C.S. Lewis – from atheism to theism

Mere Christianity — Internet Archive

The Great Divorce — audio book on YouTubePDF online

Till We Have Faces — PDF online

The Silver Chair (BBC dramtization) — Episode 123456

The Most Reluctant Convert (Movie – 2022). Buy or rent on YouTube

What do we do with this?

C.S. Lewis was a brilliant apologist for Jesus in the mid-20th Century. Some of what he wrote is beginning to sound dated. Most of it is timeless. Some of it has been perverted by marketing and profit-taking. If you have never read one of his adult books, try one: Mere Christianity is a compilation of his radio productions. Screwtape Letters and The Great Divorce are allegorical tales about life and death. Till We Have Faces is his last work that makes a Christian story out of a Greek tale.

Consider the time it takes to think deep thoughts. Lewis learned about Jesus before there was TV. After TV, our information started coming to us in ever-decreasing bites. Plan for a few hours to read, pray and think. Plan some time when there is no plan. Those are good times to be freed from your “silver chair.”

Eberhard Arnold — November 22

Eberhard Arnold

Bible connection

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” — Matthew 5:43-45

All about Eberhard Arnold (1883-1935)

Eberhard Arnold was born in 1883 to a middle class family in Königsberg, Germany (now Kalinigrad of the Russian Federation). After a rambunctious childhood, he experienced an inner change at the age of 16. He became active in evangelism and had acted with  compassion for the poor.

He married Emmy von Hollander. They would have five children. Both grew increasingly discontent with the new movements of urbanization and industrialization in Germany. They criticized the state church of Germany for various reasons. Later their critique would provide a model for a new movement. In 1915 Arnold became editor of Die Furche (The Furrow) and became a sought-after speaker in his region.

Arnold supported Germany during the first World War at first, even enlisting for a few weeks before being discharged for medical reasons. He sent copies of The Furrow to young people at the front lines. The returning soldiers had a profound influence on Eberhard, and he had an increasingly difficult time reconciling the gospel with war.

During the war, the Germans sustained incredible losses. Afterwards, hunger protests and strikes were common responses to the political upheaval and national shame. Among groups working for change, the Youth Movement inspired Arnold with their love of nature, rejection of materialism, and aspirations towards joy and love.  Eberhard and Emmy began meeting with Youth Movement people once or twice a week in homes.

In 1920, the couple along with Emmy’s sister Else moved to the village of Sannerz to found the Bruderhof (place of brothers) community with seven adults and five children. Their community was founded on the Sermon on the Mount and the witness of the early church. The community grew and needed a bigger farm. Eberhard’s writing continued and he became well-known. He began corresponding with the Hutterite Brethren, an Anabaptist group that had fled to and flourished in the United States and found common cause. The Bruderhof’s values now also included a common purse as well as pacifism.

The rise of the Nazi party was a catalyst for the Bruderhof to send their children (school age and draft age) out of the country. The rest of the community eventually also fled. During the travel Arnold sustained a leg injury that led to his death on this day in 1935. The Bruderhof groups re-assembled in England before being forced out of the country. The Mennonite Central Committee helped them relocate to Paraguay, the only country that would accept a pacifist community with mixed nationalities. The Bruderhof Communites are now in four states in the US as well as Germany, Paraguay, and Australia.

Quotes:

“Love sees the good Spirit at work within each person and delights in it. Even if we have just been annoyed with someone, we will feel new joy in them as soon as love rules in us again. We will overcome our personal disagreements and joyfully acknowledge the working of the good Spirit in each other.”—printed in Writings 

“Only those who look with the eyes of children can lose themselves in the object of their wonder. ”
“Truth without love kills, but love without truth lies.”
“Even the sun directs our gaze away from itself and to the life illumined by it.” —Salt and Light: Talks and Writings on the Sermon on the Mount
 “We must have the love that exists among children, for with them love rules without any special purpose.” ―Salt and Light: Talks and Writings on the Sermon on the Mount
“The whole world is shaking at its joints. We have the frightening impression that we stand before a great and catastrophic judgment. If this catastrophe does not take place, it is only because it has been averted by God’s direct intervention. And the church is called to move God—yes, God himself—to act. This does not mean that God will not or cannot act unless we ask him, but rather that he waits for people to believe in him and expect his intervention. For God acts among us only to the extent that we ask for his action and accept it with our hearts and lives. This is the secret of God’s intervention in history.”—Salt and Light: Talks and Writings on the Sermon on the Mount
“We kill at every step, not only in wars, riots and executions. We kill every time we close our eyes to poverty, suffering and shame.”—Salt and Light: Talks and Writings on the Sermon on the Mount
“We must live in community because we are stimulated by the same creative Spirit of unity who calls nature to unity and through whom work and culture shall become community in God.”—Why We Live in Community: With Two Interpretive Talks by Thomas Merton

More

Biography and more: [EberhardArnold.com]

The Bruderhof website [link]. Bio from the Bruderhof [link]

One of five interesting videos on Bruderhof history. Here’s one on Arnold:

What do we do with this?

Arnold was a deep thinker who was open to the movement of God’s Spirit. He did not just think, he acted. His life was an incarnation of his convictions. He formed communities that had an influence much greater than their size might justify. Let his example inspire you to express your own faith and devotion in your troubled day.

You can visit the Bruderhof https://www.bruderhof.com/connect

Leo Tolstoy — November 20

Leo Tolstoy

Bible connection

Read Luke 17:20-37

“The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.”

All about Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910)

Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy was the fourth of five children born to a family of old Russian nobility in 1828. His mother died while he was young, so he and his siblings were in the care of his aunt. His father then died, followed by his aunt and caretaker. He and his siblings moved under the care of another relative.

Tolstoy struggled in school. He eventually became a farmer until his brother convinced him to join the military, where his writing began to develop. He grew into one of the most celebrated novelists of all time. His two greatest works War and Peace and Anna Karenina are considered masterpieces.

After he enjoyed some success, Tolstoy fell into a deep depression that ultimately led to his conversion to following Jesus. He tried joining the Russian Orthodox Church, which he found corrupt. His treatise on this corruption, The Mediator, got him kicked out of the Church in 1883 and put him under surveillance by the secret police. He decided to give away all of his money and renounce his aristocratic titles. His wife did not agree with his newfound beliefs, causing problems in their marriage. He gave away nearly all his wealth, but took care of his wife by signing over to her the copyrights and proceeds from his writings pre-1881.

During the last 30 years of his life, his richest spiritual work and international movement-building flowered. In 1894 his magnum opus The Kingdom of God Is Within You inspired practitioners of non-violent resistance, as it continues to do. Gandhi cited the book as one of the three texts that most influenced him. The two developed a relationship in which Tolstoy strongly urged nonviolence as a means of social change.

Tolstoy’s beliefs and regular visits from disciples plagued his wife. He finally fled with his daughter and began an incognito pilgrimage that he was never able to complete. He died on this day in 1910.

Quotes:

On revolution: There can be only one permanent revolution—a moral one; the regeneration of the inner man. How is this revolution to take place? Nobody knows how it will take place in humanity, but every man feels it clearly in himself. And yet in our world everybody thinks of changing humanity, and nobody thinks of changing himself.

On progress : People usually think that progress consists in the increase of knowledge, in the improvement of life, but that isn’t so. Progress consists only in the greater clarification of answers to the basic questions of life. The truth is always accessible to a man. It can’t be otherwise, because a man’s soul is a divine spark, the truth itself. It’s only a matter of removing from this divine spark (the truth) everything that obscures it. Progress consists, not in the increase of truth, but in freeing it from its wrappings. The truth is obtained like gold, not by letting it grow bigger, but by washing off from it everything that isn’t gold.

On passions: The whole world knows that virtue consists in the subjugation of one’s passions, or in self-renunciation. It is not just the Christian world, against whom Nietzsche howls, that knows this, but it is an eternal supreme law towards which all humanity has developed, including Brahmanism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and the ancient Persian religion. And suddenly a man appears who declares that he is convinced that self-renunciation, meekness, submissiveness and love are all vices that destroy humanity (he has in mind Christianity, ignoring all the others religions).

On Nietzsche: One can understand why such a declaration baffled people at first. But after giving it a little thought and failing to find any proof of the strange propositions, any rational person ought to throw the books aside and wonder if there is any kind of rubbish that would not find a publisher today. But this has not happened with Nietzsche’s books. The majority of pseudo-enlightened people seriously look into the theory of the Übermensch, and acknowledge its author to be a great philosopher, a descendant of DescartesLeibniz and Kant. And all this has come about because the majority of pseudo-enlightened men of today object to any reminder of virtue, or to its chief premise: self-renunciation and love — virtues that restrain and condemn the animal side of their life. They gladly welcome a doctrine, however incoherently and disjointedly expressed, of egotism and cruelty, sanctioning the idea of personal happiness and superiority over the lives of others, by which they live.

More

The School of Life on Tolstoy:

A postmodern takedown if you feel like cancelling Tolstoy [2022 book review]

More bio from GradeSaver: [link]

Movies adapting his fiction masterpieces: Anna Karenina (2012), War and Peace (2016)

The Tolstoyan Movement uses his philosophy as a liffestyle guide [Wiki]

Tolstoy and Gandhi [link]

What do we do with this?

Depression led Tolstoy to faith. Often depression is not an enemy, it is our heart speaking to us about change, about redemption, about unknown possibilities. Consider your own depression. Some of us have chronic conditions that need the help of doctors. Others are self-medicating what needs to be heard.

After Tolstoy wrote his masterpieces, he found his deepest calling. While his literature remains influential, it could be argued that his influence for nonviolent resistance did more to change the world. What are you growing into? Do you dare consider what your legacy will be and who you might influence for good?