Posted in Book Review, Life

Comparing Myself to C.S. Lewis

 

As I read the short commentary on C.S. Lewis’s life by Perry Bramlett, I found myself making vows and plans to be a better Christian. I saw myself as a Christian failure in comparison to C.S. Lewis.

I read that C.S. Lewis rose early to pray and didn’t like to pray at night because he felt he was too sleepy to do it justice. He also like to pray scripture, adding his own “festoons” to make the text more personal to his own heart. For example, he would pray “hallowed be thy name” and add “with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.” This chapter about C.S. Lewis’s prayer life made me want to be more fastidious about my own prayer life, and I vowed to try his methods of prayer.

Then I read how C.S. Lewis read a bit of his Bible every day, and I looked guiltily at my unopened Bible. I made a vow to get back on track with reading something every day.

The next part of his life that I read was how C.S. Lewis was a great friend. Dagger to my heart. He spent nearly all of his free time with friends, and he scheduled regular times to meet with each of his friends. He even answered every letter that anyone sent him, friend or stranger.

As I concluded the book feeling beaten and worthless, Perry Bramlett, the author, began commenting on his own journey to the land of C.S. Lewis and what he had learned studying Lewis’s life. He said, “In retrospect, I know now that I was a very poor student of C.S. Lewis (and probably of the Scriptures)” That’s exactly how I was feeling after only reading a mere 72 pages about C.S. Lewis’s spiritual life. He followed that statement by immediately saying:

“Lewis’s ‘life at the center’ was a gift from God, a gift of grace. God gave Jack the vehicles of prayer, the Bible, and good friendships to help him become a little more like God’s son, who is the Christ. Lewis came to know that this takes time, constant obedience, and perseverance; for him, it took a whole lifetime. He also knew that ‘being spiritual’ is not a ‘happening’ or an ‘event.’ He knew from long experience that he could never be so presumptuous as to try to ‘plan’ spirituality. (C.S. Lewis: Life at the Center by Perry Bramlett)

I let out all of the air and tension I was holding in. How true and freeing were those words. I will never have C.S. Lewis’s relationship with God nor will my spiritual life look similar because I am not C.S. Lewis. Both of those are personal between me and God. God will reveal to me the inconsistencies of my heart and help me to grow in him. Bramlett also points out that this journey took Lewis an entire life. The parts of the book that I ignored were the parts where Lewis struggled with his faith and almost abandoned it. That last statement is particularly poignant; I can’t plan my spirituality. I have to let God lead my growth.

Posted in Book Review

Perelandra

Perelandra, the second book in C.S. Lewis’s space trilogy, is a creation story slightly different than the Genesis creation story. It is a battle between good and evil played out on another planet. Lewis tells the story of Ransom, who in the first book visited Mars (Malacandra), being called once again to visit another planet. This time he is taken to Venus, known as Perelandra where he discovers a planet just starting to come to knowledge of itself. He meets a beautiful woman and introduces her to many earthly concepts such as death and pain.

FieldofArbol

While much of the novel passed over my head and I often got lost in trying to keep an image of this new place in my head, I did enjoy much of the symbolism and parallels created by Lewis. One of the most telling scenes is when the evil character is trying convince the Lady that she should visit the Fixed Island. Maleldil, which I interpret to be the equivalent of God or Jesus, has commanded the lady to not live on the Fixed Island but has never given her a reason for this command. This brings to mind the command God gave to Adam and Eve to not eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil but did not tell them exactly why. This evil character tries to convince the lady by saying “Is not Maleldil showing you as plainly as He can that it was set up as a test–as a great wave you have to go over, that you may become really old, really separate from Him.” She has some doubt, but the evil character persists. Ransom steps in to explain that possibly Maleldil has given this law so that she can experience the joy of obedience. I think that through this scene Lewis is stating that while we may not always understand the laws of God, we should follow them. God wants us to experience the joy that comes from being obedient to him without any other motivation.

This won’t rank on my list of favorite books or even at the top of my favorite books by C.S. Lewis, but I appreciate what Lewis has created here. If someone likes science fiction and particularly space travel, I think he might find it to be a very enjoyable book.

cs-lewis-with-walking-cane

Posted in Book Challenge

A Favorite Desecrated

The challenge for today is to choose my favorite writer. I prefer the word author to describe those who pen books, but we’ll go with writer for the sake of the challenge. I’m really stalling here because “favorite” is a scary word. I can’t choose just one favorite because there are authors that I like some of their books but not all, and it always depends on my mood. For example, I like C.S. Lewis for his thoughtfulness. John Steinbeck is good for real characters. Margaret Atwood and Kurt Vonnegut are good for extended metaphors and allegories. Jane Austen is good for some predictable romance. Ted Dekker provides a thrill. The list could go on and on, but you get the point. My “favorite” author depends on my current needs and desires. Today, I’m thinking solely of the books I have on my bookshelves, which if you’re wondering are organized by genre/time period and author as well as books I have read and want to read. Based on those books alone, it would appear that Jodi Piccoult is my favorite author because I have so many of her books. They take up an entire shelf on my smaller bookshelf. Piccoult writes real-life dramas usually involving mystery or court cases in some way. Her books are well-researched and well-written. She tends to follow a specific writing style in which she alternates between various perspectives in each chapter. Sometimes it takes me a while to discover how the characters connect to one another. The books are a quick but intense read, and typically I can re-read them after some time because I forget how the story plays out.

Book Challenge

Speaking of Jodi Piccoult, the next challenge is a book that was turned into a movie but completely desecrated. Can I just pause here to say what a wonderful word “desecrated” is? It might be used a bit out of context here. I suppose if I was to answer the prompt in a way that reflects the sacredness this word connotes I would have to choose a movie based on a book of the Bible. I’m going to take the word more loosely though and stick with the theme of this post to say that Jodi Piccoult’s My Sister’s Keeper was completely ruined by the movie industry. I remember being so very excited when the movie was released. We were reading it in my creative writing class at the Governor’s Scholar Program during the summer before my senior year of high school. After convincing the teacher to schedule a field trip, we left the movie theater disappointed that the book wasn’t respected. They changed the entire ending! I completely understand taking out scenes, adding characters, or even re-ordering scenes, but it’s just wrong to change an ending to a book. The story was perfectly fine as it was written in the book. Why change it?

Posted in Book Challenge

For Narnia! Part Two

As promised, today I will reveal my favorite Narnia book. Drum Roll please….

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader!

Prince Caspian gains a close second, but there are some scenes in Dawn Treader that make it more noteworthy. As a caveat I should say that I have only read The Last Battle once, but I remember it being slow.

Before you read further,  please know that the newer movie version of this book changes some major points. There is no silly green mist in the book and there are many more stops taken in the book.

Dawn Treader doesn’t include the older Pevensies but it does include my two favorite Pevensies and their  oh-so-endearing cousin Eustace.

It’s a book about temptations, and some of my favorite scenes are when each of the characters are tempted.

  1. Eustace and the gold. The scene where Eustace is un-dragonfied is possibly my favorite scene in this book, maybe the entire series. The movie does not do it justice because the movie cannot get into Eustace’s brain. He talks of how no matter how many times he scratched off the skin, it grew back hard and scaley. It took Aslan’s power to completely remove the skin, and it hurt when the skin was taken off. The metaphors abound!
  2. Lucy and her desire to be pretty. This is one scene that the movie does well. In the movie, Lucy wishes to be like Susan so much that she actually dreams that she is Susan. Aslan appears and shows her that being herself is most important.
  3. The Dufflepuds. Oh they’re so funny.
  4. Reepicheep gets to go to Aslan’s country.

 

 

Book Challenge

Posted in Book Challenge

For Narnia!

My favorite series? Well that’s easy!

The Narnia Series by C.S. Lewis.

I seriously don’t know why I didn’t read more of these as a child. My fifth-grade class read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe together and watched the movie, but I never picked up more of the series. As an adult though, my roommate and I read the series together one chapter at a time.

narnia

Reasons I like the Narnia series:

  1. The Biblical metaphors abound
  2. The adventures are full of adventure.
  3. The characters are likeable (see points below).
  4. It’s British.
  5. Good triumphs over evil.
  6. There are good words like “bivouac”.
  7. It’s fun to read aloud.
  8. C.S. Lewis is a brilliant author.
  9. My copies of the books are pocket sized.

collier-chronicles-of-narnia-box10. Some editions have cute drawings.

11. The newer movies are somewhat accurate.

12. Eustace…oh Eustace!

13. And Mr. Tumnus. My heart got sad when he was turned to stone.

14. And other loveable but we can’t show our love characters like Reepicheep and Trumpkin.

trumpkin15. Marshwiggles. The name alone makes me giggle.

16. ASLAN. “He’s not a tame lion, you know.”

17. It makes me believe that there really might be a Narnia out there.

18. The books connect to one another in mysterious little ways.

19. The world is created and destroyed all within a series.

20. It has a very clear ending that also happens to hint at a beginning of something new.

NarniaMap-e1324285473899

Watch out tomorrow for a post about my favorite book in this series. Now that will require some thought.

Posted in Book Review

The Chronicles of Narnia Part One

It’s been so long since I made a post here that WordPress has changed its entire format. Say what? Just because I haven’t posted doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading. I have, just very slowly.

I’ve actually been re-reading the Narnia series. Somehow I read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe in fifth grade and then never read any more of the series. I finally read the entire series with my roommate during college. It was a sweet bonding moment for us, even if I think I fell in love with the books more than she did (I think she liked them though). This time through I’m reading in publication order, mainly because I keep getting stuck on The Magician’s Nephew. I’m currently in The Silver Chair, which is the fourth book he published.

This series is a beautiful, somewhat realistic image of God’s relationship with us. There are passages that make me sigh with joy because I can see how C.S. Lewis is using imagery to remind his readers of God. I’m going to list a few of my favorite Narnia moments below in no particular order.

  1. When Eustace describes his transformation from a dragon to a boy. Eustace tells the others how he kept trying to pull off the dragon skin himself, but he couldn’t. He finally realizes that he can’t remove his scaly skin on his own; he needs Aslan. This passage reminds me how we need God in order to take off our old self.
  2. When Jill Pole wants a drink of water but has to turn her back to Aslan. She is scared of the lion, but she’s also really thirsty. In order to get a drink, she has to trust him. Sometimes in order to get what we need or want, we have to trust God is right behind us and not going to hurt us.
  3. When Reepicheep gets to go to Aslan’s country. Actually everything about this little mouse is adorable, although he would hate that word being used to describe him. He is faithful to Aslan through and through.
  4. When Lucy realizes she should follow Aslan regardless if the others do or not. Sometimes following God is difficult, but especially so when those closest to you claim that their way is better. Just as the others finally saw Aslan leading them, God will reveal himself to everyone eventually.

Those are just a few of the finest moments in the Narnia series that immediately come to mind. Now remember I haven’t re-read three of the books yet so there might be more in the future.

For now,

Cheers!

Posted in Bible Study, Literature

Cleaning our Swords

“You have forgotten to clean your sword,” said Aslan.
It was true. Peter blushed when he looked at the bright blade and saw it all smeared with Wolf’s hair and blood. He stooped down and wiped it quite clean on the grass, and then wiped it quite dry on his coat.
“Hand it to me and kneel, Son of Adam,” said Aslan. And when Peter had done so he struck him with the flat of the blade and said, “Rise up, Sir Peter Wolf’s-Bane. And whatever happens, never forget to wipe your sword.”
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. C.S. Lewis. Chapter 12.

Even though C.S. Lewis claims to have no intention of writing an allegory or even Christian symbolism when he set out to write The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, I see symbolism oozing from these pages. This part about cleaning the sword stumped me for a bit, but if you’ll bear with me I’ll attempt to put my insight into words.

In the Bible, the sword symbolically refers to the word and truth of God. (Ephesians 6) We are equipped with that piece of armor in order to fight spiritual battles. These battles come at us as Christians from all sides: the mind, the flesh, and the spirit. For me, my battles are mainly fought in the mind. The devil tries to get me to believe all sorts of lies about myself or about the situations God has placed me in. If I am not diligent about keeping my focus on God and using the armor God has provided, those lies start to feel true. It’s a battle to keep the lies in perspective in my head, to remember that they’re lies that don’t define me. It’s a hard battle because Satan is good at disguising them to look like discipline from God until I begin examining them closer against God’s truths. Once I recognize the battle has begun I must use all of the armor provided. The other pieces of the armor mentioned in Ephesians help me to stand against the attacks and the sword provides me the ability to fight back.

Just like Peter in Narnia had wolf guts on his sword after fighting, I think we can get dirty in spiritual warfare. During the battle in my mind pieces of the lies can work their way into my head. Just enough that if I allowed them to stay there they could hinder my ability to keep fighting other battles.

In order to clear my head of those bits of lies, I have to return to God and symbolically clean myself so that I am always prepared for battle. This means I have to remain close to God through personal Bible study, prayer, and Christian fellowship/discussion. The sword is God’s word so the best way to keep prepared for battle is to continually study it. In this way, I am ensuring that it is clear and fresh in my mind and not clogged up by pieces of Satan’s lies.

The symbolism may not be entirely perfect because Peter cleaned his sword and there is no way I can make God’s word better. My cleaning is of my understanding of God’s word. Regardless of the symbolism, Lewis’s message rings clear. As he said in Mere Christianity, we have to continually remind ourselves of our faith so that we don’t drift away. Based on this passage in Narnia, I would add that we must also continually remind ourselves of our faith in order to be prepared for battle.