Alice and the Chesire Cat
In the Disney animated classic Alice in Wonderland, Alice wanders through a frustrating world of tardy rabbits, singing flowers, and one curious-talking cat. Her visit with the cat begins as she continues down a mysterious darkened trail and stops at a large tree.
The tree is covered with signs that point in every possible direction: “Up,” “Down,” “Yonder,” “Back,” “This Way,” and “That Way.” Poor Alice looks more confused than ever and asks herself, “Now let’s see. Where was I? I wonder which way I ought to go?”
Just then, Alice hears a melodic voice that seems to be drifting down from the trees. She looks all around and finally observes two ghostly eyes and a wide toothy grin floating amongst the boughs of the great tree.
The grinning teeth inquire of Alice, “Lose something?”
“N-n-no, I was just…” stammers Alice in reply.
Suddenly, a pink striped feline body emerges from the branches.
“Oh, you’re a cat!”
“A cheshire cat,” he responds.
“I just want to ask which way I ought to go,” asks Alice.
“Well that depends on where you want to get to,” says the cat.
“Well, it really doesn’t matter,” answers Alice.
“Then it really doesn’t matter which way you go,” says the enigmatic cat just before vanishing into the woods again.
Cairns and Inherited Ways of Prayer and Worship
Years ago, during a vacation in New Hampshire, Jonathan and I climbed Mount Washington, which is notorious for erratic weather. It can change from sunny and warm to snowing in a few hours. The wind is so strong that it once held the record for the fastest wind gust on earth. On our hike, we thought we might be blown off the mountain (we have no photos from that day in which my hair is not blown entirely across my face).
And then there’s the fog, which settles so deep and thick that hikers have gotten lost and died. So the good people of New Hampshire have made cairns along the trail: massive, towering rock structures that plot the course. When the fog descends and the weather is dangerous, hikers can make it to shelter at the bottom of the mountain or at the top by walking from cairn to cairn in the white out.
In times of deep darkness, the cairns that have kept me in the way of Jesus were the prayers and practices of the church. When I could not pray, the church said, “Here are prayers.” When I could not believe, the church said, “Come to the table and be fed.” When I could not worship, the church sang over me the language of faith.
Inherited ways of prayer and worship—liturgical practices—are a way that the ancient church built cairns for us, to help us endure this mystery, to keep us on this path of faith, to guide us home.
Taken from Prayer in the Night: For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep by Tish Harrison Warren Copyright (c) 2021 by Tish Harrison Warren. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com
The Cross at the Heart of the City
At the heart of the city of London is Charing Cross. All distances across the city are measured from its central point. Locals refer to it simply as “the cross.” One day a child became lost in the bustling metropolis. A city police officer (A “bobby,” as they are referred to in London) came to the child’s aid to try and help him return to his family.
The bobby asked the child a variety of questions in an attempt to discover where the boy lived, to no avail. Finally, with tears streaming down the boy’s face, he said, “If you will take me to the cross I think I can find my way from there.” What an apt description of the Christian life. The cross is both the starting place of our new life in Christ, but also the place we must return to, time and again, to keep our bearings in life.
Stuart Strachan Jr.
Do You Know Where You Are Going?
In his book Growing strong in the Seasons of Life, the author Charles Swindoll tells a story about the 19th Century agnostic Thomas Huxley. The story goes like this – Huxley was in Dublin and was rushing to catch a train.
He climbed aboard one of Dublin’s famous horse drawn taxis and said to the driver -“Hurry, I’m almost late … drive fast”. Of they went at a furious pace and Huxley sat back in his seat and closed his eyes. After a while Huxley opened his eyes and glanced out the window to notice that they were going in the wrong direction. Realizing that he hadn’t told the driver where to take him he called out ‘do you know where you’re going’. The driver replied “No your honor, but I am driving very fast.’