Living in the shadowlands, of course God wins….and I won’t keep silent…

We live in the Shadowlands.
David Robertson


(Scottish Pastor David Robertson of The Wee Flea fame)

I don’t think David will mind, but I’d like to share an overview from a recent post
offered from his Wee Flea blog…

Well, it’s actually a revisiting of sorts…an offering of a re-visit to an older post offered
when recently posting a video for SOLAS (Solas Centre for Public Christianity based in Scotland)
answering the question “Where is God When It Hurts?”

It’s been about 5 years since I started this little blog of mine and in turn,
it’s been just a few short years now that I “found” David Roberston.
When I started following David’s blog, The Wee Flea.

I can’t actually remember how I found David or his blog, but I think it most likely came
from one of the ‘random’ Word Press crossmatching of like-minded words picked out from
one of my posts.
Of which probably had something to do with Evolution vs Creationism since David wrote the
popular book refuting Richard Dawkin’s and his atheistic approach to evolution with the book
The Dawkins Letters: Challenging Atheist Myths

Curious I obviously clicked, read, liked and followed…and I’ve never looked back.

A born and bred Episcopalian /Anglican who sounds the praises of a Scottish Free Chruch Presbyterian.

Given the fact that I often share what I glean from David’s writings,
it might seem a bit odd that I would offer a disclaimer before sharing again…
but this posting of David’s is very personal.
It’s a story that I did not know and it is a powerful testimony to life, death, and faith.

So I’ve decided that this post is really going to be a Part 1.
In part, because David’s words reminded me of something I needed to do…
something I need to ask all of you…but my asking will wait…it will be Part 2…
but it is about a concentrated time for a joint prayer

But for now, we will concentrate on
Shadowlands…

David stated that we are living in the Shadowlands.

One of my all-time favorite movies is Shadowlands…the 1993 movie starring Sir Anthony Hopkins as
C.S. Lewis and his relationship with American poet Joy Davidman (played by Debra Winger)—
a story about their friendship, eventual marriage of convenience, a belated courtship, a budding love
all of which was crushed by her untimely death from cancer…
all of which sent Lewis on a spiral of faith.

Shadowlands…according to Merriam Webster, “the realm peopled by shadows or submerged in shadow:
such as
a : the abode of spirits or phantoms”

A place that rests between dark and light.
The place we, the children of God, currently live…
a place in between both Heaven and Hell.

A place our friend the Wee Flea journeyed through more closely than most…

In a post offered on January 1, 2015, David shared the story of a major health scare
suffered in 2011.

His story began a bit backward…he was sitting in an airport preparing to fly to
Kuala Lumpur, then off to Australia.
He recalled the lost Air Asia flight lost in the waters off the coast of Malaysia–
a thought that reminded him of his fear of flying.

A fear of both life and death…a fear most of us share.

David’s thoughts raced to another time, a time when he was attending a conference in the
northern British town of Thurso. A time when a scientist attending the same conference told
David, just before David was to deliver a talk, that he did not believe in God…in part
because he had never met a person who was ever healed by prayer.

David relates that when that statement was uttered, he actually tore up his prewritten speech
and decided to share his own true life to death story.

I’ve linked the full post at the bottom of this post…

David’s tale begins one October in 2011 just following a wedding he had officiated.
Following the wedding, he was not feeling particularly well so he asked his
wife to drive him home.
Yet annoyingly his son had realized he’d left his phone back at the church so….
they turned around and went back to the church.
David, upon getting out of the car, suddenly collapsed in a pool of blood.

It was later discovered that David had two bleeding ulcers with one right over a major artery.
In other words, David was quickly bleeding out.

By Divine Providence, having returned back to the Chruch had placed David right near the hospital.
Had this happened by the time they’d gotten home…David would have bled out and died.

His tale is lengthy as it is a harrowing time of balancing a tight rope between both life and death.

Several times the doctors told his wife that David may or may not make it…
with a disclaimer that if he did survive, he might be severely brain damaged or permanently
physically impaired.
He had but a 50 / 50 chance of survival.
50% chance to live or 50% chance to die—
Ottimista vs Pessimista

He was in a medically induced coma.
He incurred e-coli of the lungs.
He incurred a deadly strain of pneumonia.
In an attempt to protect the brain from extreme blood loss, David was given heavy psychotic drugs.
He was delusional.
He often trudged through the dark night of the soul,
days where he found himself unable to pray.
Each time they thought a ray of light was beginning to shine, David’s health fell drastically backward.

Things did not look good for David’s survival.

And so David shares that his church sent out a request…

The Free Church clerk of Assembly then sent out this e-mail to all our churches –
In the light of the most recent posts regarding the serious and worsening physical condition
of Rev. David Robertson, a request has been made that the whole church pray earnestly to God
on David’s behalf at the same time on this coming Lord’s Day at 10.30am or 12 noon
(this would embrace churches that start at 10.30am, 11am and at 12 noon).
Along with him being a family man, our brother in Christ and a loyal servant of the Free Church,
we also appreciate the intense role he has been fulfilling as an effective defender of the
Christian faith in our secular society.
Please pray for David, for his healing,
his family and his church.
Pray that God will be glorified in and through this dark experience that
we are facing as a church.

The churches responded.

You can call it coincidence.
But from that weekend on I began to get better.
How one interprets that will depends on your pre-suppositions.
The non-theist will just simply state it was the doctors and the science
(perhaps with a bit of luck) which healed you.
At least some of the professionals involved disagree.
After getting out of hospital when I phoned my surgeon [*a Muslim]
to ask him if he would be willing to come to a thanksgiving service,
his wife said ‘of course’.
I told her that she had made my day because her husband had saved my life.
Her reply?
“That’s not what he says.
He says there was nothing he could do and that it was God who intervened”.

One of the major problems that so many people have,
Christians and non-Christians alike, is that they do not grasp what faith is.
I’m sure there are people who think my story is that I, or others,
had enough faith and therefore God rewarded that and healed me.
X hours of prayer equals Y healings.
That is not how the God of the Bible works.
And that is not faith. It’s also why prayer is not open to laboratory experiments.

The best example of what real biblical faith is came from my son, Andrew.
One day he came home from the hospital and wrote the following Facebook post:
An update on Dad:
There hasn’t been much said in the past few days because things haven’t been going well.
His sedation was increased on Sunday and they’ve had him asleep since then.
The damage to his lungs is still severe and today mum was told by the doctors that it’s 50/50
whether he’ll live or die.
I write this with great anguish and a heavy heart but not without hope.
There is still a hope that he’ll make it through this,
but there is a better hope he has and we have. A hope that does not waver and is 100% certain.
That is the hope of eternal salvation through Jesus Christ.
Jesus has already removed Dad’s biggest problem,
it’s not the deterioration of his lungs but something more deadly… his sin.
Christ has saved him from that. Tomorrow I go down with Becky to Dundee,
knowing that this may be the last time I see my Dad…
till Christ returns and “everything sad is made untrue.”
1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

At the Thurso conference mentioned above I finished off my story by telling them of my son’s words.
The scientist responded “but that’s not fair.
If God heals you that is an answer to prayer and if he did not heal you that is an answer too.
That means God wins every time”.
He was so right.
Of course God wins.

Before I knew it in my mind, now I KNOW it in my heart.

David continues about his life and his mission following this brush with death…
The Word of God is my meat, drink and medicine.
That by the way is why I am so strong in defending it –
especially from those Christians who thinking that they are making it more palatable,
water it down and distort it, in order to ‘reach’ the modern generation.
No. Just as I fight the ‘traditionalists’ who want to imprison Christ in an idealised box of
their own making, so I will fight to the end those who distort the Word of God and thus
take away from the beauty and glory of Christ.
Whether it is ‘conservatives’ adding to the Word of God, or ‘liberals’ taking away from it,
to me makes no difference. They are both poisoners of the pure word.
And I plead with the Lord that he will never allow me to use deception or distort the Word of God.

I am also determined to continue my battle against the increasing secularisation of our society.
Not because the secularists attack the Word of God and mock Jesus –
what else can you expect non-believers to do? ‘Liberal’ Christians damage the Word of God.
Atheist and secularist philosophies damage those made in the image of God – all human beings.
As GK Chesterton pointed out, once you cease to believe in God, you also cease to believe in humanity.
I am a committed anti-fascist, anti-totalitarian and I believe that no matter the ‘nice’ words said,
if our society moves away from its traditional Christian roots,
then we will end up with an increasingly illiberal, confused and authoritarian society.
I won’t keep silent.

Please read the full harrowing and triumphant tale here:

https://theweeflea.com/2015/01/01/the-shelter-of-the-most-high-new-year-old-hope-a-personal-testimony/

Tomorrow I will offer Part 2—my part..the part that David’s story proved to be an
exclamation point reminding me of something most important we need to be doing.

Either / Or..it’s mere Christianity

“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.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust.
But how had I got this idea of just and unjust?
A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.
What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?”

― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

According to our friends at Wikipedia,
Mere Christianity is a theological book by
C. S. Lewis, adapted from a series of BBC radio talks made between 1941 and 1944,
while Lewis was at Oxford during the Second World War.
Considered a classic of Christian apologetics, the transcripts of the broadcasts
originally appeared in print as three separate pamphlets:
The Case for Christianity (Broadcast Talks in the UK) (1942),
Christian Behaviour (1943), and Beyond Personality (1944).
Lewis was invited to give the talks by the Reverend James Welch, the BBC Director of Religious Broadcasting, who had read his 1940 book, The Problem of Pain.

Growing up as an Episcopalian, under the umbrella of the Anglican Church, I was first
introduced to C.S.Lewis when I was in about the 8th or 9th grade or so…
Our Sunday School class was assigned a book to read as part
of our Sunday School “curriculum.”

The book was The Screwtape Letters.

A book first published in 1942.
A time when Great Britain was in the throes of some of her darkest days…the midst of WWII.

This was a paperback book we were given and the cover actually scared me.
I made a point of always putting the book facedown when reading it.
I was not a huge fan of devils nor Satan for that matter…no fan of demonic images…
and with The Exorcist movie making its debut just about the same time,
I wasn’t having anything affiliated with Satan too close for my sense of comfort.

For you see, even early on in my life I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that we were
living in a fallen world.
And in that fallen world we were (are) actually living in the middle of a massive
spiritual war…a war that was, and is, raging all around us.

Satan is very much real and will very much do what he can to thwart his mortal Enemy
who just so happens to be the Creator of both dark and light and of life and even of death…
And yet death with this Creator of ours is not a permanent predicament—

So in all of this, that being Spiritual war, there will naturally be casualties.
Casualties of a fallenness, a brokenness, a darkness and a sinfulness…in turn marking those
casualties prisoners of war.

The problem in all of this is that once captured and the battle finally ends with the Victor
coming again in triumph…the prisoners who fall to the whims of the dark enemy are then at the
point of being forever lost.

There is a narrow window in which one can choose which side of the battle one wants to be…
and sadly many have, as well as continue, to choose the wrong side.

If you scoff at such a notion…that’s fine.
But don’t ever say you weren’t informed.

And no that’s not Christianity being all about the big, the bad and the scary with a skewed
psychological tactic of punishment as its basis…it’s actually a matter of that being
exactly what it is—-that being the facts behind the story.

And so our Wikipedia friends once again explain that…
“The Screwtape Letters is a Christian apologetic novel by C. S. Lewis and dedicated to
J. R. R. Tolkien.
It is written in a satirical, epistolary style and while it is fictional in format,
the plot and characters are used to address Christian theological issues,
primarily those to do with temptation and resistance to it.”

First published in February 1942,
the story takes the form of a series of letters from a senior Demon Screwtape to his
nephew Wormwood, a Junior Tempter.
The uncle’s mentorship pertains to the nephew’s responsibility in securing the damnation of a
British man known only as “the Patient”.

Funny that most young folks learn of Lewis from his Chronicles of Narnia and with me,
I actually learn of him from the writings of devils.

There’s something to be said for that…and I think its because God always knew that I would
need to pass the allegorical early on, cutting straight to the chase.

Life has been that way for me.

However is wasn’t until when I was an adult that Lewis really came alive for me.
It was when I watched the 1993 movie Shadowlands…
a movie starring Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger.
I’ve written about the movie before and if you’ve never seen it…
it is worth tracking down.

The movie is based on true events in Lewis’ life…such that I came away knowing that he totally
“got” this thing we call life.

Life with all of its curve balls…Curveballs that it loves to throw at those who call
themselves Christians as well as to the nonbelievers…it’s just that most folks scrutinize the
Christians when the bad things come—gauging their responses and reactions…
Nonbelievers like to mock and scoff Christians who suffer and hurt…sneering “where is your
God now?!”

But Life does not discriminate.
Life is hard.
It is not fair.
It often hurts and it can tempt us until we actually go practically mad.

And note that I say Life….not God, not Jesus…but rather simply Life…

For God nor Jesus torment.
Nor do they tempt or threaten or wreak havoc in our worlds…
That is merely the role Life plays in our lives.
Think back to what I said about living in a fallen world…

So when I read this latest quote by Lewis…I thought here is a man who despite speaking to us
from the depths of days long past…a man who spoke during a raging world war…
his observations are still very much current.

As this quote is particularly timely for our oh so modern 21st century smug
attitudes towards a no hold bar approach to sexuality.

“Chastity is the most unpopular of the Christian virtues.

There is no getting away from it;
the Christian rule is,
‘Either marriage, with complete faithfulness to your partner,
or else total abstinence.’

Now this is so difficult and so contrary to our instincts,
that obviously either Christianity is wrong or our sexual instinct, as it now is, has gone wrong.
One or the other.
Of course, being a Christian, I think it is the instinct which has gone wrong …
God knows our situation;
He will not judge us as if we had no difficulties to overcome.
What matters is the sincerity and perseverance of our will to overcome them.
Before we can be cured we must want to be cured.
Those who really wish for help will get it;
but for many modern people, even the wish is difficult…
We may, indeed, be sure that perfect chastity—like perfect charity—will not be attained
by any merely human efforts.
You must ask for God’s help.
Even when you have done so, it may seem to you for a long time that no help,
or less help than you need, is being given.
Never mind.
After each failure, ask forgiveness, pick yourself up and try again.
Very often what God first helps us towards is not the virtue itself but just this
power of always trying again.
For however important chastity (or courage, or truthfulness, or any other virtue) may be,
this process trains us in habits of the soul which are more important still.
It cures our illusions about ourselves and teaches us to depend on God.
We learn, on the one hand, that we cannot trust ourselves even in our best moments,
and, on the other, that we need not despair even in our worst, for our failures are forgiven.
The only fatal thing is to sit down content with anything less than perfection.”

— C. S. Lewis, p. 95
An Excerpt From
Mere Christianity

Moving on, to the next

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times.
But that is not for them to decide.
All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
J.R.R. Tolkien


(the mounded rocks to help break the storm waves at The Breakers Hotel /
Palm Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2017)

“It was too perfect to last,’
so I am tempted to say of our marriage.
But it can be meant in two ways.
It may be grimly pessimistic—
as if God no sooner saw two of His creatures happy than He stopped it
(‘None of that here!’).
As if He were like the Hostess at the sherry-party who separates two guests
the moment they show signs of having got into a real conversation.

But it could also mean ‘This had reached its proper perfection.
This had become what it had in it to be.
Therefore of course it would not be prolonged.
‘As if God said,
‘Good; you have mastered that exercise.
I am very pleased with it.
And now you are ready to go on to the next.”

― C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

In that place of sheer isolation and utter vulnerability,
deep within the quagmire of mourning and sorrow of which we find ourselves
sinking helplessly into the quicksand of our losses and suffering…
we humans are fast and keen to denounce the omnipotent God..
we proclaim Him to be most cruel, sadistic and menacingly cold hearted.

For we are hurting for heaven’s sake….
can He, does He, not see…
does He not know…
or worse….
does He simply not care…??

As C.S Lewis reflects on the loss of his wife—
he, in such typical Lewis fashion, expresses the thoughts and feelings that
are our own…
that of our angst and misery culminating from the overwhelming painful experience
we all eventually experience from our living, death and loss…

As he sums it up nicely in one wonderful notion…

“Good; you have mastered that exercise.
I am very pleased with it.
And now you are ready to go on to the next.”

And so we are…ready to go on
on to the next….
to the next whatever…
the next whatever God has in store…
all the while nursing our wounded hearts,
we move on, by His Grace, to that which comes next…

(for a wonderful movie about Lewis, his marriage, the death of his wife due to cancer and how Lewis wrestles with God…see the 1993 movie Shadowlands staring Anthony Hopkins and Deborah Winger—a marvelous and timeless movie)