The Cross of St. Dimas

[Beliefnet, April 19, 2006] The Gospels don’t tell us much about the two thieves crucified with Jesus. Tradition calls the “Good Thief” Dimas or Dismas, while the “Bad Thief” is named Gestas. Dimas’ legend reveals a little more. As a young man he was the leader of a robber band in Egypt, and encountered the Holy Family during their sojourn after Jesus’ birth. He discerned something special about the Jewish family, we’re told, and ordered his men to spare them. Thirty years later he saw that child once again, nailed to a cross beside him.

Why We Need Hell

[Beliefnet: March 23, 2006] Hell has never been a fashionable destination, but it in recent years it's met a fate that even the most passé hotspots don't endure; people suspect it doesn't exist. Or, if it does exist, it attracts no customers; “we are permitted to hope that hell is empty” is how this is sometimes phrased. Even the most conservative Christians have a hard time putting a positive spin on a wrathful God who flings evildoers into flaming torment.

Loving the Storm-Drenched

[Christianity Today, March 2006]Selected for Best American Spiritual Writing, 2007 If you hang around with Christians, you find that the same topic keeps coming up in conversation: their worries about “the culture.” Christians talk about sex and violence in popular entertainment. They talk about bias in news reporting. They talk about how their views are ignored or misrepresented. “The culture” appears to be an aggressive challenge to “the church,” and Christians keep worrying over what to do about it.

Rising Victorious

[Atonement Anthology, 2006] Jesus is standing on the broken doors of hell. The massive portals lie crossed under his feet, a reminder of the Cross that won this triumph. He stands braced and striding, like a superhero, using his mighty outstretched arms to lift a great weight. That weight is Adam and Eve themselves, our father and mother in the fallen flesh. Jesus grasps Adam's wrist with his right hand and Eve's with his left, as he pulls them forcibly up, out of the carved marble boxes that are their graves. Eve is shocked and appears almost to recoil in shame, long gray hair streaming. Adam gazes at Christ with a look of stunned awe, face lined with weary age, his long tangled beard awry. Their limp hands lie in Jesus' powerful grip as he hauls them up into the light.

When a Miracle Doesn’t Happen

[, January 4, 2006] “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12), and as I write I hear the angry voices drifting in from the television in the next room. There are sick hearts tonight in Upshur County, West Virginia. When miners were trapped a few days ago, initial hope of a rescue gradually waned. Then last night, unbelievable news arrived of a miracle, that 12 of 13 were still alive, was shortly followed by the shattering revelation that the toll was in fact the reverse, and only one had survived. And so what might have been a time simply of grief has gone rocketing from exultant confidence in miracle to resentment and rage.

C.S. Lewis: The Reluctant Convert

Beliefnet asked me to contribute a short biography of C S Lewis to their “Narnia package”, which just went live today. My contribution is titled “The Relucant Convert”. It looks like a great collection of articles. Expect Narnia saturation in the next couple of weeks! I will be going to see the movie at an advance screening this afternoon with my daughter Megan. I started recording the Narnia books on tape for the Maryland Radio Reading Network for the Blind a couple of years ago (at one hour per week, it takes awhile) and expect to finish “The Last Battle” before Christmas. The books are extraordinary, and even better when you read them out loud.

CS Lewis, the Reluctant Convert

[Beliefnet, November 29, 2005] In later life, C. S. Lewis – “Jack” to friends and family – would say that it all began with a toy garden. He was seven years old when his older brother, “Warnie”, brought to their playroom a biscuit tin he had decorated with tiny twigs, moss and flowers. As Jack gazed at the miniature fairyland

Stepping Out In Faith

[Kairos Journal, November 17, 2005] In 1991, my husband I made a difficult decision to leave our denomination for theological reasons. It was, for us, a matter of integrity. Bishops were denying the Resurrection, the Virgin Birth, and other basic tenets of the faith. After twenty years in the Episcopal church, first with both of us in seminary, and then with Gary serving as a pastor, we knew it was time to look for a new church home. What Gary discovered was the Eastern Orthodox Church. The most striking thing about this church was its determination to adhere to the faith and worship of the early Christians.

The Characters of Narnia

[Rick Warren's Ministry Toolbox, October 20, 2005] When news came out that the first of C. S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, ”The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,“ was being made into major motion picture, Christians were understandably delighted. We have loved these stories for a long time. They're the ”bed-time stories" of evangelical Christianity. Most of us in pastoral ministry have read these seven short novels, maybe more than once. We've shared them with our children, and found more than one sermon illustration in their pages.

Our Transfiguration

[Beliefnet, August 6, 2005] Summer days in the Holy Land are hot and still; the relentless sun beats down on green-gray shrubs and dusty rubble. It was on one such day - on August 6, as the church remembers - that Jesus took his closest disciples, Peter, James, and John, and led them up the side of “a high mountain.” It is Mt. Tabor that claims this honor. Perhaps the three were used to being taken aside for private conferences. But they weren't prepared for what happened next.