Wednesday, January 18, 2006

GD - Ghosts on Vanity

This is a bit of a different post -- it's a creative writing assignment where we had to write a conversation between a "ghost" and a "solid" (a la the styel of The Great Divorce) and submit it. For your enjoyment.

As the ghost stepped painfully across the grass, she made an odd, scratching sound that I finally realized she meant as a laugh.

“I say,” she said, addressing no one in particular, “This would help exfoliate my feet.” Before she could speak again, a solid came rapidly towards her.

“Christine?”

“Emily! How did you get all shiny like that? Are you using some new sort of moisturizer?”

The solid took a step back, dropping her arms and realizing that the ghost had no desire to embrace, but only to look over her physical appearance.

“And where on earth did you find that lovely gown? I’ve been looking for something new for ages!” the ghost gushed, but her words hung thinly in the air.

“I didn’t find it on earth,” answered the solid softly, her shining robe glittering in the soft breeze.

“Oh, of course not. Silly me. Now that we’re all here, in this dreadful place, I’m sure it must be hard to find anything that isn’t scratchy or pokey or—well, you know.”

“I don’t, actually,” murmured the solid, her voice silky smooth against the prattle of the ghost.

“Well it’s not like it’s much better down there. Have you ever been? No? Well, I suppose you wouldn’t know what it’s like where it’s so dry and my hair frizzes so and it’s awfully hard to find new clothes. I just want to look pretty all the time and it’s so hard when it’s always grey and you can never find a mirror when you need one! How do you keep your skin so fresh, Emmy dear?”

I don’t, He does,” answered the Solid. “Don’t you see, Christine?”

“See what?”

“Whatever you do to make yourself beautiful down there doesn’t matter?”

“Whatever do you mean? I found this lovely new powder just last week, and I think it does add a little glow to skin, don’t you?” She tried to flash a smile and then look coy, but only succeeded in looking very silly, like a little girl who is wearing clothes much too big for her. “Come on now, tell me your secret! What have you been using on your face?”

“It’s not what I’ve been using on my face, it’s what’s inside me. It’s all bursting out.”

“A new type of diet? All vegetables? I do admit I’ve been eating too many sweets lately, but I’ve been wearing mostly black to camouflage it.”

“Not a diet. More like—like a new heart.”

“Surgery? Now Emily, you know as well as I that I’ve had everything tucked and smoothed that the doctor’s could do—in fact, I came to this place while I was getting my eyes done.”

“It’s a very different sort of surgery, if you even want to call it that. If you come with me, Christine, you can become more beautiful than you can imagine.” The solid held out her hands entreatingly.

“Oh, well now! How should I go about that?”

“You’ll have to take off all your powders and fancy clothes and allow someone else to take your place.”

At this, the ghost again let out her cackling laugh. “Deprive the world of my beauty? Oh Em. I’ve worked for years to look this good.”

“But He is more beautiful than anything you have ever seen. He gives us His beauty!”

“He? You must have forgotten everything I taught you when we were girls. Never trust a man who tries to advise you about fashion. They never seem to get it quite right.”

“What you taught me isn’t important now. Don’t you want to come where beauty never fades?”

“I just don’t trust a man. Thanks anyway, love. Good to see you again! I better be getting back to the bus. I have an appointment at the hair salon soon. G’bye!”

The ghost turned back to the bus, her fading, painful attempt at beauty so overwhelmed by the glory around her.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

SL - "Feel Good" Evangelism

Joel Osteen, the pastor of a church that averages 30,000 attendees every Sunday, avoids questions about controversial theology, instead telling people that God simply wants Christians to “live [their] lives happy.” (Beliefnet.com) This feel-good evangelism might create many “converts,” however, it robs these “converts” of a true knowledge and understanding of God, to the point that they might not even understand how God saves them from sin. C.S. Lewis said “theology is like a map,” (136) and although it does not have the same charm and beauty as the real place it represents, without that map someone could not understand a place as well as he could with a map. In some cases, a person needs a map so that he can even understand where he stands. The Westminster Catechism reminds Christians that the chief end of man “is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” However, if a Christian has no understanding of God’s Holiness and his own sin, he cannot glorify God to the fullest.

Many pastors today avoid preaching on topics like sin and hell, because they desire for people to remain comfortable and feel happy. The problem comes when someone sees himself as fairly good, and sees God as only a great “grandfather in heaven,” (Surprised by Joy) whom can they can pray to whenever they need anything. A Christian who, instead, understands the depth of his own sin and stands utterly amazed at God’s grace, can further glorify God through that understanding of theology. If he recognizes his own sin, God becomes greater, and he becomes appropriately smaller. Without theology, Christians can develop a distorted view of God and themselves, which will ultimately dilute the depths of relationship they could have with God through Christ.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

SJ - Friendship and Segregation

As C.S. Lewis discusses one of his childhood friends, Arthur, in Surprised by Joy, his quick observation on friendship points the reader back to biblical truths, and also helps show some of the folly in our largely “age segregated” culture. Although Lewis’s friendship

“began from an identity or taste on a particular point, [he and Arthur] were sufficiently different to help each other.” (pg. 122)
In The Four Loves, also by Lewis, he asserts that “friendship must be about something,” (p. 66) and his friendship with Arthur initially based itself on their love of Norse mythology. However, because Lewis sees friendship as a side-by-side journey, friendship cannot revolve around the thing that initially drew the friends together, but must “fight [together], read [together], [and] argue [together.]” (The Four Loves, pg. 71) In this way, the friends can help each other onward in life. Arthur helped show Lewis how to function in more chaotic home life, and taught him how to love the countryside.

The Bible spells out this principle of friends helping each other in two ways: through proverbs and with many examples. In Proverbs, Solomon spoke of how friends spur each other on, “as iron sharpens iron.” (Proverbs 27:17) Other Proverbs tell people to consult “a multitude of counselors” (Proverbs 11: 14) because presumably these counselors will have differing life experiences and therefore differing knowledge to help the friend make decisions. One example of friends helping each other comes in 1 Samuel when David, a young shepherd boy, and Jonathan, the prince of the land, become close friends. Jonathan’s father begins to hate David, but because of Jonathan’s insights into his father’s character, he helps David wisely avoid the wrath of the king. History and literature hold many other examples of friendships helping both friends as they work towards a common goal.

In our society today, people have placed a growing emphasis on segregating groups by age. While this can help the participants, it can also cut them off from valuable friendships where someone “sufficiently different” could help them. For many years, schools operated with different grades in one room. Because of this, older children could help younger ones, and friendships could develop across age lines. Today, every school is divided strictly into grades, separating students from nearly everyone not the same age. Some might say “oh well, in other parts of life they can meet other people,” but this often does not occur. In many churches, they have begun separating children into age group classes for the entirety of church, not allowing them to worship with the “adults” at all. Some churches go so far as to segregate the small groups, so that single adults only meet with single adults, married couples only meet with married couples, youth only meet with youth. While this can benefit the participants because sometimes they can discuss topics which might not apply to the other groups, it can also create a wall around each group, giving each division little or no organized ways to fellowship, worship, or serve together with the others. Of course, anyone can work to befriend anyone else, but it becomes more difficult when the church offers them no opportunities. In this way, a youth can miss many of the “sufficiently different” singles or married couples who might offer great insight into their lives and help them, and vice versa. “Friendship (as the ancients saw) can be a school of virtue” (The Four Loves, page 73) but in our society we must work to cultivate friendships all types of people, not just those in our peer group.

MC - The Degradation of the Incarnation

As Lewis finishes a discussion on the humility Christ showed by coming to earth as a human, he says
If you want to get the hang of [the humility needed for Christ to become human], think how you would like to become a slug or a crab.
This short, seemingly "off hand" comment made a point that I had always "known" truly come alive for me. While, on one hand, I understand that Christ had given up His heavenly glory to come and become a man, I subconsciously figured that the actual birth and life as a human could not be too terrible--after all, that's what I am! I did not realize how thoroughly this idea had pervaded my thinking until Lewis' words showed me, in some small way, the degree that Christ humbled Himself.

Whenever I think of slugs, I always think of these huge pots we used to have in our front yard. Slugs would climb up the pot and would eat at whatever flowers Mom had planted in the pot. In an effort to dissuade them, we set out jelly roll pans full of salted beer. (I guess beer attracts the slugs, and then the salt kills them.) Slugs are disgusting, slimey, and pretty dumb, since they would jump into those pans and essentially kill themselves.

I cannot fathom loving a slug. Slugs destroyed what Mom had created. I cannot fathom becoming a slug. Slugs were nasty. And yet, we committed a sin infinitely more heinous than eating flowers when we sinned against a holy God. Let us never forget the amazing sacrifice Christ made by "[becoming] flesh and [dwelling] among us."

Depth of mercy -- can there be?
Mercy still reserved for me?
God, the Just, His wrath forebears
Me, the chief of sinners, spares!
-Charles Wesley

Welcome + Purpose



Welcome!

For the past several years, I have taken classes from The Potter's School, an excellent Christian online school. This year, I am privileged to be taking Works of C.S. Lewis from Dr. Sharon Bridwell.

While the class involves intensive writing assignments, oftentimes there are thoughts or things that I would like to discuss about the books we are reading that simply cannot be discussed in class or in the assignments due to time constraints.

I hope to use this blog to publish thoughts on Lewis and his writings, specifically Surprised by Joy, Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce, and Till We Have Faces. For the purposes of clarity, I will use the the abbreviations SJ, MC, SL, GD, and TWHF in the subject lines of my posts to show which book inspired the thoughts.

The title "In the Great Sculptor's Schop" came from a quote in Mere Christianity. Lewis says
"And that is precisely what Christianity is about. This world is a great sculptor's shop. We are the statues and there is a rumour [sic] going round the shop that some of us are some day going to come to life."