Friday, May 17, 2019

The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis

The story of The Great Divorce is deceptively simple. A group of strangers board a bus going to heaven and their various reactions to celestial realities show their true character. C.S. Lewis brilliantly imagines and describes what heaven might be like, but I have to confess that I sometimes found myself wondering, "What in the world is going on here?"

Although short, and not as theologically hefty as some of his apologetic books, The Great Divorce requires patient reading because of our limited human understanding of spiritual realities. Lewis does not pretend to know what heaven is really like, but he does his best to show that it is more real than anything we've ever experienced on earth. Since everything earthly is a shadow of things to come, he makes everything much heavier in Paradise. The little flower was hard, not like wood or even like iron, but like diamond

Standards of beauty and power are turned on their heads. (The first shall be last, etc.) A plain woman who lived a quiet selfless life on earth is practically a princess in heaven. When a man asks an angel if he'll be able to meet any famous artists, the angel replies that he's not sure he's seen any...

"But surely in the case of distinguished people, you'd know?
"But they aren't distinguished - no more than anyone else. Don't you understand? The Glory flows into everyone, and back from everyone like light and mirrors. But the Light's the thing." Nobody's famous in heaven and nobody cares because only One is worthy of praise.

The sensation that Lewis' character sees most often in the heavenly creatures is joy. They also are dwelling in love in a way that makes the human idea of being "in love" look infantile and anemic. In fact, Lewis shows several passengers from the bus whose love for others is purely selfish or lustful.

How to describe how achingly beautiful everything is? Lewis emphasizes that human senses can't take in all the glory, but will adapt to it as time goes by. He describes a group of singers: If I could remember their singing and write down the notes, no man who read that score would ever grow sick or old.

A fascinating read!


Friday, May 10, 2019

Stories as Truth Teachers - Quote by Andrew Peterson

If you want a child to know the truth, tell him the truth. If you want a child to love the truth, tell him a story. (Andrew Peterson quoted by Sarah Mackenzie in The Read-Aloud Family)


Friday, May 3, 2019

What I Read and Watched in April

I read a mixed bag of genres this month (Christian fiction, Christian classics, non-fiction, and vintage), which I'll list in order from least liked favorite:

Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts by Bonds (I would have enjoyed this more if the author had not spent an inordinate and unnecessary amount of time bashing non-Calvinists. It was a definite distraction from the main subject.)
Interior Life by Upham (some good insights on the holy life, but outdated in language)
Secrets of a Charmed Life by Meissner (fabulous writing for CF, but lacking in theological heft. I hate preachy books, but this one had a fluffy take on forgiveness.)
Read-Aloud Family by Sarah Mackenzie(Gives reasons for reading together and many book lists)
The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis (much easier to read than I expected!)
Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller (The best book I've ever read on the subject. Review forthcoming)
Fair Harbor by Joseph Crosby Lincoln (1922 fiction that had me rooting for the hero and chortling at all the foibles of the townspeople. Free for Kindle)
The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer - An absolute must-read for any Christian. Reviewed here. (Free for Kindle)
The Princess and Curdie by George MacDonald (audio narrated by Ian Whitcomb. Pure delight. E-book is free for Kindle)

We avoid most new movies so I cannot explain how we happened to watch these three within a seven day span. The Avenger's End Game was overlong but fun. Since we hadn't watched Ant Man, Black Panther, Guardian's of the Galaxy, and Captain Marvel, we were lost some of the time. Next we watched The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, a true story of a young Malawian boy who brought an end to drought in his village with his home-made invention. Lastly, we watched The Return of Mary Poppins and were delighted with most of it. (The topsy-turvy song with Meryl Streep was a low moment.)

Did you read or watch anything that you'd recommend?


Friday, April 26, 2019

The Cultivation of Godliness - quote by A.W. Tozer

Last week I reviewed Tozer's classic, The Pursuit of God. There were too many wonderful passages to squeeze into one brief review, so I saved this choice quote for a separate post. He writes of shallow Christianity in 1948. If he only knew what distractions we face now!

The idea of cultivating a relationship with God, so dear to the saints of old, has now no place in our total religious picture. It is too slow, too common. We now demand glamor and fast-flowing dramatic action. A generation of Christians reared among push buttons and automatic machines is impatient with slower and less-direct methods of reaching their goals. We have been trying to apply machine-age methods to our relationships with God. We read our chapter, have our short devotions, and rush away, hoping to make up for our deep inward bankruptcy by attending another gospel meeting or listening to another thrilling story told by a religious adventurer lately returned from afar. (p. 54)

Lord, help us.


Friday, April 19, 2019

The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer

If you have tasted God's holy, immediate presence,
you will not have much use for life without that intimacy.
- Dr. Dennis Kinlaw -

What a delight to revisit Tozer's classic, The Pursuit of God, after many, many years. As Tozer so aptly puts it, Our pursuit of God is successful only because He is forever seeking to manifest Himself to us. We find Him only because He is eager to be found. (Jeremiah 29:13-14)

Many Christians believe in God, but don't live in intimate fellowship with Him. Their ideas are brain-deep, not life-deep. What makes some people so much more sensitive to the Holy Spirit's promptings and correction? What makes some people so willing to give up all this world's "toys" to serve selflessly and wholeheartedly? Tozer proposes that those who actively pursue Him, put into place certain attitudes and actions that help them to cultivate their life in Christ. Their receptivity may be increased by practice or destroyed by neglect.

One hindrance to communion with Christ is what Tozer calls "hyphenated sins." They are not something we do; they are something we are, and therein lies both their subtlety and power. The self-sins are these: self-pity, self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-admiration, self-love, and a host of others like them. These hidden sins must be rooted out if we are to live in glad obedience to our loving heavenly Father.

Another hindrance is lack of faith. Why do we know so little of that habitual conscious communion with God which the scriptures seem to offer? The answer is our chronic unbelief. Faith enables our spiritual sense to function.

This devotional classic is chock full of admonitions and insights such as, Religion has accepted the monstrous heresy that noise, size, activity, and bluster make a man dear to God. If you want to go deeper in your relationship to Christ, Tozer will point you in the right direction. But be warned, if you are used to fluffy Christianity that requires little or no effort on your part, you may be offended by what Tozer has to say. I'll close with one of the prayers in the book:


Friday, April 12, 2019

A Well-Read Christian - Quote from Dennis Kinlaw

One day when my son was home during his medical training, we had a conversation about his work. I said to him, "In medicine you have found what you want to do. You are going to give your life to it, and you will love it. But you must be careful. The first thing you know, you will wake up and be fifty years old, and the only thing you will have between your ears will be human anatomy and how to cut into it. That is a pretty thin ration on which to live intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. You need to start forcing yourself every day to read something that is not medical so that when you are fifty, you will be a human person as well as a surgeon

(from Feb 13, This Day with the Master devotional book, Zondervan)


Friday, April 5, 2019

These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder

I'm not a huge fan of young love. The sighs, blushing, sweaty palms and goosebumps irritate me. I prefer the steady, time-tested love of such couples as Elizabeth and Darcy, Anne and Wentworth, and Jane and Rochester. So I was a bit dubious when vlogger Kate Howe  listed her favorite literary couples and most of them were teenagers. I watched her video, which included Almonzo and Laura, just before I started These Happy Golden Years

And I have to agree with her. Their courtship is exceptionally sweet without being saccharine. Almonzo is several years older than Laura and she has trouble seeing him as a possible suitor. When she gets a teaching job 12 miles away from home, he kindly offers to pick her up and take her back each weekend so that she can see her family. She is thrilled to have a way to escape the hardships of her job and accepts, but later decides to give up these rides because she doesn't want to give him any false hopes. She showed a lot of integrity in making that tough decision and he showed just as much in his response. To her surprise, he insists on taking her back and forth anyway saying, What do you take me for? Do you think I'm the kind of fellow that'd leave you out there at Brewster's when you're so homesick just because there's nothing in it for me?

In his gentleness and persistence, he finally wins her. All the pains he takes to make the kitchen of their new home agreeable to her may not be romantic to some people. But being married to a man whose love language is "acts of service" has taught me that they were swoon-worthy.

Another aspect of the Little House books that I've enjoyed has been the underlying faith of the Ingall's family. Wilder is never pushy about Christianity, but shows it as the natural part of their daily lives. When Pa gets out his fiddle to play, he plays a mix of Scottish ballads, American folk songs and hymns. The family attends church even when they don't particularly like the preacher. They pray, trust God, and persevere through trials. When Mary comes home from college where she has learned many skills including doing bead work and reading braille, she gives hand-made gifts to each family member. Later she tells them that having memorized Bible verses as a child had helped her in her studies: Knowing them was a great help to me, Ma. I could read them so easily with my fingers in braille that I learned how to read everything sooner than anyone else in my class. "I'm glad to know that, Mary," was all that Ma said, and her smile trembled, but she looked happier than when Mary had given her the beautiful lamp mat.

This was meant to be the end of the original 8-book series and I highly recommend it as such. The ninth book, The First Four Years, was published after Wilder's death and was a rough draft that she never completed. It is completely unlike the other books in tone and was a huge disappointment.