Lewis takes on Blake

It’s just like me to skip the preface. I know some people who read every printed word of1409691_sunset_sky_with_dramatic_clouds a book, from the preface to the acknowledgments, from the contents to the appendix, from the teaser to the “Also by”…

Not me. Though I have my compulsions and perfectionist tendencies, those do not extend to my reading habits. Hence, in my now fourth reading of C.S. Lewis’ book, The Great Divorce, I am only now discovering the logic behind the title. I have recommended this book to dozens of people, but never followed my curiosity about the title to its logical end…read the preface.

“Blake wrote the Marriage of Heaven and Hell. I have written of their Divorce,”.

Of course, that meant I had to find out what the, Marriage of Heaven and Hell, was all about. The combination of Heaven and Hell was Blake’s ambition. Lewis’ intent was to prove their complete incompatibility. We must chose.

…in some sense or other the attempt to make that marriage is perennial. The attempt is based on the belief that reality never presents us with an absolutely unavoidable ‘either-or’; that, granted skill and patience and (above all) time enough, some way of embracing both alternatives can always be found; that mere development or adjustment or refinement will somehow turn evil into good without our being called on for a final and total rejection of anything we should like to retain.

There were a couple things contained in the brief two page preface that solidified my need to read this book again and to share it, piece by piece, with you.

First, the title revelation:
Just as in his book, The Screwtape Letters, Lewis expresses an uncanny foreknowledge, peeking right into our bedroom windows, as it were, listening to our modern discussions of morality, politics and religion. Either that, or, the same issues that plague us today were of concern to his generation as well. Issues such as absolute truth.

Absolute truth…I think that little nugget can be found at the root of nearly every philosophical debate, and certainly at the root of every religious argument. For, each side of the discussion is bent on convincing their opponent of their exclusivity of their own truth. And if there is absolute truth then one opinion is necessarily excluded.

Even those who argue, “Anything goes. What is true for you may not be true for me,” are espousing a specific, exclusive worldview – namely that subjective truth is the standard, disallowing objectivity.

We are not living in a world where all roads are radii of a circle and where all, if followed long enough, will therefore draw gradually nearer and finally meet at the centre: rather in a world where every road, after a few miles, forks into two, and each of those into two again, and at each fork you must make a decision.

As we mine the contents of this fascinating story, I challenge you to make your choice. It is either Heaven, to which there is only one objective path, or Hell. But blessed be our Savior, who being not willing that any should perish, has indeed been patient, giving each one long enough to make that critical choice.

2 Peter 3:9
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

We’ll touch on my second observation in the preface next time (:

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Insights from a Demon

In the wake of the Boston Marathon tragedy, I almost hesitate to write this post. But maybe it’s more appropriate than ever to question, “What is evil?”

They [humans] of course, do tend to regard death as the prime evil and survival as the greatest good. But that is because we have taught them to do so. Do not let us be infected by our own propaganda. Uncle Screwtape from C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters

What causes us to revile death is the foreboding of the unknown. Let us rejoice that in Christ, even death is no mystery!

“For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
1 Cor. 15:56-57

Another quick thought from Uncle Screwtape addresses something I hope dig into deeper later this year. This is the presence of beauty, the distinct fragrance of God’s love for us and His goodness toward all mankind, even in the most secular.

Even if we contrive to keep them ignorant of explicit religion, the incalculable winds of fantasy and music and poetry-the mere face of a girl, the song of a bird, or the sight of a horizon-are always blowing our whole structure away. They will not apply themselves steadily to worldly advancement, prudent connections, and the policy of safety first. So inveterate is their appetite for Heaven that our best method, at this stage, of attaching them to the earth is to make them believe that earth can be turned into Heaven at some future date by politics or eugenics or “science” or psychology, or what not. Real worldliness is a work of time-assisted, of course, by pride, for we teach them to describe the creeping death as good sense or Maturity or Experience.

“Let us set our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him…” Heb. 12:2

God has dripped Heaven into our atmosphere. Even on the ugliest of our days, the sun still stretches its fingers over the horizon. Even in the face of our enemy, is the astounding creativity of our Perfect Creator. Yes, Heaven is not far from us. But, let us not be willing to stay here forever either. The greatest JOY will be seeing Jesus face to face.

(Screwtape is the demon in C.S. Lewis’ book, The Screwtape Letters. The book is a collection of Screwtape’s advisory letters to his nephew, a young tempter.)

Problem of Prayer

Have you picked up The Screwtape Letters yet? I hope I have piqued your interest onimages some level. Here’s a questions we’ve all asked…

Does prayer work?

Actually, that aside, do you want prayer to work?

C.S. Lewis makes an insightful case against many of us who engage in prayer for any reason.

Don’t forget to use the “head I win, tails you lose” argument. If the thing he prays for doesn’t happen, then that is one more proof that petitionary prayers don’t work; if it does happen, he will, of course, be able to see some of the physical causes which led up to it, and “therefore it would have happened anyway”, and thus a granted prayer becomes just as good a proof as a denied one that prayers are ineffective.

It has frequently been noted that there are no atheists in fox holes. In other words, in the midst of dire or uncontrollable circumstances, almost anyone, for however brief a moment will resort to belief in God, and will, in sincerest tones, beseech the once blasphemed Creator to HELP!

We saw this happen at 9/11. It happens with every tsunami, hurricane and mass shooting. But then what?

It has also frequently been observed that the very ones who recently cried out to their Creator, just as quickly attribute His response to coincidence.

My husband and I are moving in a couple months. Not having children and not being high maintenance, and knowing that we’ll only live in our new domain for a year, we decided not to travel to GA to pick a house. Instead, after a few days of culling Military By Owner and realtor websites, we settled on one that seemed perfect. Actually, more honestly, we settled on one that I really felt God had “given” us.

When we called the owners, we were informed that there was another couple interested in the property and they were able to move in sooner, thus paying an extra month’s rent. If by chance, this first family fell through, we could rent the home.

How I prayed! “Lord, I really believe you said this is our house. It meets all our needs and it’s in our price range. Father, please allow us to rent this house!

Until the last minute, we waited. No word. I was pretty sure we’d lost our chance and I assumed that I had misheard God. Then, late on the last night, I got an email, “We’re sending the lease for your review. It looks like you’ll be our renters.”

Whew, that was close! And I almost did it. I almost thanked the owner and blessed my lucky starts.

But Father, thank you for knowing exactly what we need and providing it. And thank you even more, that you do speak to me, that you are wiling to speak to my heart even when my faith is weak. Lord, I believe. Take away my unbelief.

What Does He have to do with You?

“When the humans disbelieve our existence we lose all the pleasing results of direct terrorism and we make no magicians. On the other hand, when they believe in us we cannot make the materialists and skeptics.” C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

To the most reasonable mind, if there exists a God, there must necessarily exist a supernatural source of evil. And vice-versea. To believe in Satan, by consequence, and observation of the natural world, one must believe in a supernatural source of good. The war between these forces is evident in every waking moment.

  • a normally comforting mother screaming at her child
  • murder and law enforcement
  • generosity and desperate poverty

Humans only know one, good or evil, by its contrast to the other. So, for Satan to convince man that he has no Creator, no Advocate, no moral directive, no eternity, no Savior, no God, then he must simultaneously insinuate that he, himself, is a figment of a weak mind.

“I have great hope that we shall learn in due time how to emotionalize and mythologize their science to such an extent that what is, in effect, belief in us, (though not under that name) will creep in while the human mind remains closed to belief in the Enemy [God].”

This morning in my quiet time, I digested a passage that I have read more than 100 times. Jesus entered the synagogue in Nazareth, his own home town and read from the book of Isaiah. There, He declared Himself to be the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy about the Messiah. The Jews were furious at this blasphemy and tried to push Jesus over a cliff. But, without a dramatic show, He simply passed through the crowd and left.

In Capernaum, He entered the synagogue again. Immediately, He was confronted by a man with an evil spirit. “Go away! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” (Luke 4:34)

The phrase, “What have you to do with us,” is a Greek idiom, similar to, “I will have nothing to do with you,” or, “Have nothing to do with us.”

In this tantrum, the demon screamed through the man, “I know who you are. You are the Holy One of God!” Wow. Talk about proof! You would think that in such a cosmic display of good and evil, everyone would have collapsed on their faces in worship of the Deliverer. However wonderful that would have been, it would also be insufficient, that would not accomplish salvation. Jesus doesn’t want mere acknowledgement, and Satan knows it.

Yes, salvation is found in believing in Jesus, the only begotten Son of God (John 3:16). But, Christ came for so much more than that. Jesus wants us to love Him with all our heart, souls, minds and strength. Jesus wants everything to do with us. So Satan’s most vicious tactic is not to convince us that God does not exist, or that Jesus is not the Son of God, but to persuade us that God wants nothing to do with us, that relationship is impossible.

Jesus had to die and rise again in order to pay for our sins and restore our right relationship with God. Our God is personal and has everything to do with us! Praise the Lord!

Starved and Bored

“You don’t realize how enslaved they are to the pressure of the ordinary.” C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Sounds a lot like last week’s post, Stripped of Chaos.  However, humbly I admit that Lewis does a far more thorough and creative job of warning against this sneaky syndrome. Business, turmoil, digital content, hectic schedules, deadlines, productivity, expectations, urgency, all lend to distract us from the one purpose of our life.

Q. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
Westmister Shorter Catechism

Most of our hurry has become ordinary. But interestingly, another word for ordinary is humdrum, which Webster’s relates to boring, mundane, drab, blah, lifeless, insipid.

In Lewis’ book, Dear Uncle Screwtape, tells his protege a story about his golden years as a master tempter. He once had a patient hungry for knowledge. This man found himself in the museum feasting on books and historic truths. Suddenly, this ambitious young man was drawn to a fundamental truth, a truth that threatened the fabric of deception Screwtape had laid. In the quiet of a museum, the calm of solitude, what recourse did the demon have to distract his patient? Only the ordinary.

“I struck instantly at the part of the man which I had best under my control and suggested that it was just about time he had some lunch.”

The subject of interest was much to important to tackle on an empty stomach, so persuaded by his grumbling stomach, the man laid aside his book and left the museum in search of food. As soon as his shoes clipped the pavement, the man caught sight of a bus, then an advertisement, and heard a newsboy’s urgent call.

“I had got him into an unalterable conviction that, whatever odd ideas might come into a man’s head while shut up alone with his books, a healthy dose of ‘real life’ (by which he meant the bus and the newsboy) was enough to show him that all ‘that sort of thing’ just couldn’t be true.”

Ordinary chaos. Daily distraction. Buses, newspapers, hunger. I’m well aware of how distracting my humdrum life can be. In fact, I am sitting, even now, at Starbucks to write this post, because I find the dailiness of  home distracting. There is that hot-pink, sticky note t0-do list on the refrigerator that condemns me for sitting down to write. At home, there is a pair of sappy puppy eyes that accuse me of neglect (even though he already went of a 2 mile walk this morning). There is a hungry husband, a perpetually full laundry hamper and for some reason I am compelled to attend to the phone while within the four walls of my home. If I am this easily drawn away from my work, how easily am I lured away from my God?

If what deserves my full, momentary attention can be avoided, do I tire of and avoid the God that deserves my constant admiration?

Do not imagine me waggling my finger in your face admonishing, “Shouldn’t you be reading your Bible right now?”

But don’t you wonder how Job ever came to say, “I have not departed from his commands, but have treasured his words more than daily food.”? Job 23:12

And Jeremiah, “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts.” Jer. 15:16

Jesus is an unordinary joy, an extraordinary magnetism. There may be a time of tasting. Like trying a new food, it requires digging into something that might look a little bland. But do not turn back to your common diet. To whet one’s appetite on Jesus is to never be able to get enough.

February in poetry

Snowflakes, fingerprints of heaven fall
A cross between drips of creamy milk and pin-sized shards of tinsel
Soft, liquid, hard and brittle
Till touching dirt, the life of manORGANIZERBLANK2012daveramseyfan
Where it melts and dies
Or, the lucky ones to fall on stream
And add their tiny life
To the rush over rocks, gentle bumps against bank
Now brown as blue, water and clay
Till lapped for refreshment
Then carried by wind, or carried by stream
Or born on critter’s paw

Launching into February, full steam ahead. I’m actually kind of sad to have finished a full month of One Word 2013, Naked. There’s so much more to say, so I will intersperse it with themes of coming months. For most of February, I will take a close look at C.S. Lewis’, The Screwtape Letters. 

A virtual monologue, it is a one-sided conversation between the head demon and his budding protege nephew. Lewis skillfully slices open the gray matter of deceit that divides absolute truth and lies. It is a microcosm of everything I wish to share here on Predatory Lies. Uncovering the lies that destroy our lives, so that we can live in the unfiltered light of truth.

Join me!

Naked in 2013

Welcome to 2013!

I have been bumbling this morning, trying to encapsulate everything I want to share with you. A chronic problem of mine, (I’ve had it since college) is that I don’t know how to procrastinate or to manage time. My only mode is NOW! If I have an agenda of things to share, I am hard pressed to place them on a timeline of 365 days.

I want to talk to you about nakedness. Nakedness in all its forms: Spiritually, “Who told you that you were naked?” That time-warping moment in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve were first embarrassed at their unclothed image – that same image that they inherited from their Creator.
Nakedness now: How and why we still cringe and cover ourselves and our sins with anything we can find to avoid the shame of exposing our essences, the good and evil.
The nakedness that is uncensored in the month of January. With New Year’s resolutions on everyone’s minds, we are suddenly exposed to the “perfect” nakedness that we are encouraged to aspire to. Even as I sat down to write to you, I passed seven magazines with prominent displays of nearly naked beauties. All of them declare in bold, 46 pt. font, “Your Best Body Now!” Ironically, stacked on top of several of these magazines was an issue of Life magazine simply titled, “Jesus,” the Creator of our nakedness. And another lay nearby, “The Self-Esteem Companion.”

This topic will inevitably lead to discussion about the lies we believe concerning our bodies. You know my personal story, a vicious battle with anorexia for 18 years. I almost consider myself an expert on body image lies. With the helpful resource Finding Balance, I will continue to help you find the truth about your intrinsic, and yes, Naked worth.

Our primary focus at Predatory Lies is to expose the lies that destroy women’s lives and  replace those lives with life-giving truth. Recently, I was lucky to see a play rendition of The Screwtape Letters. This is C.S. Lewis’ imaginative dialogue between a head demon and his protege. The entire conversation is a pack of lies, through which the truth becomes glaringly, even sarcastically obvious. This is the perfect tool to exploit here at Predatory Lies! So I expect to do a slow, personal and applicable review of this book in the coming months.

It’s a start. I will continue to share with you the things I am learning about and sharing with Haven Journal, She Loves Magazine, Finding Balance and Start Marriage Right. 

May I pray for you?

Jesus. It’s strange to pray for people I feel as if I know personally and yet whose faces I have never seen. It’s strange for a feeble mind to understand that each person I hear, see or touch is a SOUL. There is nothing impersonal about them to you. I ask you Jesus to give me a clearer understanding of the value, eternal quality, Christ-image of each person – those I know and love and those I don’t. Father, I seek your slowness, your peace, your patience, your passion, you compassion, your HEART.

Jesus, more than anything, I want each of those who read this blog to hear YOU. I want your voice, the voice of truth to be louder, more gently compelling than anything I have to say.

Jesus, you are beautiful. May these key strokes inscribe your matchless worth on the pages of lives connected only by digital conversation. May no one who reads this blog escape the truth that they are reconciled to God by Jesus. Their only small step into immediate eternal life to believe in Jesus, your Son.

In Jesus Name, your daughter