Till We Have Faces (3): Holiness and Horror

I have invited the readers who visit Living Our Days to join me in reading C.S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces, and to return here each Thursday for a discussion.  If you’re just joining us, you can find the reading schedule here and last week’s discussion here.

Living on this country hill in Maine, it’s easy to feel as if I’m a throw back to an earlier time.  My clothesline and my garden; the rows of canning jars full of colorful vegetables and homemade spaghetti sauce in the furnace room; the daily task of sweeping the bark and wood chips off the floor around the wood stove all tend to keep me well-grounded in the past.

However, a quick reading of the first seven verses of Hebrews 9 lets me know that I am not as comfortable in the past as I might imagine.  The author describes the Tabernacle, it’s furnishings and fittings, the sacred relics in the Ark of the Covenant, and the priestly activities that were part and parcel of relating to God under the Old Covenant.  The words that come to my mind when I picture the scene have nothing to do with worship: foreign, distant, and even frightening seem more descriptive.

I can just barely imagine the priest entering the Most Holy Place, cringing over his own sinful condition, his hands carrying the blood of an animal.  It gives the words “forgive my hidden faults” a whole new urgency, doesn’t it?

When C.S. Lewis created the land of Glome, he gave it a Priest and a religious system whose currency was the blood of bulls and goats.  His main protagonist, Orual, had a good many things out of whack theologically, but her radar was tuned in to holiness, and since the narrative of Till We Have Faces is from her point of view, Ungit’s Priest comes across as both frightening and holy.  His actions in Chapters 4-6 reveal an authenticity that neither The Fox nor the King possessed, and which remained solid even with the King’s dagger pressing against his rib cage.

Plot Summary

After a mere four pages of pure sisterly bliss, Orual and Pyche’s bond seems doomed to destruction.  Famine, pestilence, drought, “certain expectation of war” in Glome, starving lions foraging nearby for food, and the King’s inability to secure a male heir to the throne have made for desperate times and restless subjects.  Rumor has it that Ungit’s son, The Beast, is on the move and must be appeased with the blood of a perfect sacrifice.  The priestly lot has fallen upon Psyche who was immediately imprisoned.  We are introduced to Bardia, captain of the palace guard (and a practical materialist), who is set to secure the prison from all visitors, but who relents and opens the door out of pity for Psyche and respect for Orual, allowing the sisters to have what they believe to be their final visit.

Reflection

While C.S. Lewis’s views on inerrancy were not completely orthodox, it is clear from his writing that he held Holy Scripture as an authority and guide for his life.  A favorite illustration of this comes in The Silver Chair in which Jill Pole is given the four signs that she is to repeat faithfully every single day so that when she needs to know them, she will have them at hand.  It shouldn’t have surprised me, then, to find with this reading of Till We Have Faces that Biblical allusions were jumping off the page at every turn.  I will share the quotes and their corresponding Scripture references below as an invitation for your reflection:

“‘Bulls and rams and goats will not win Ungit’s favour while the land is impure,’ said the Priest.” (45)

Isaiah 1:11 –  “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, Or of lambs or goats.”
Hebrews 10:4 – “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.”

“The Brute is, in a mystery, Ungit herself or Ungit’s son, the god of the Mountain; or both.” (47)

Colossians 2:9 – “In Him (Jesus, God the Son) dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.”

“Our real enemy was not a mortal.  The room was full of spirits . . .” (54)

Ephesians 6:12 – “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

“It’s only sense that one should die for many.” (61)

John 18:14 – Now it was Caiaphas who advised the Jews that it was expedient that one man should die for the people.

Of course there are more.  Did I miss your favorite?

Some Issues to Ponder

Shame is a theme that was rooted in Chapters 1-3, but carries forward full blown into this section.  Orual is continually berated and shamed by the King for her ugliness.  He called her  “curd face,” (18) and “goblin daughter,” (26) , but, sadly, she was hearing words of shame about her appearance before she was even old enough to understand what it all meant, (“See if you can make her wise; it’s about all she’ll ever be good for”). (7)

The tables are turned when the King reveals his true cowardly colors in his relief that Ungit is requiring the death of his daughter Psyche — and not himself.

“(And this is the greatest shame I have to tell of in my whole life.”) His [the King’s] face cleared.  I had thought that he had seen the arrow pointed at Psyche all along, had been afraid for her, fighting for her.  He had not thought of her at all, nor of any of us.” (54)

And later . . .

“King,” said I, “the blood of the gods is in us.  Can such a house as ours bear the shame?  How will it sound if men say when you are dead that you took shelter behind a girl to save your own life?” (60)

Bardia’s fine act of courage at the end of chapter six foreshadows the larger role he will play later in the book, but if that is not enough, what do you make of this heart-stopping line from his warrior’s heart:

“Do the gods know what it feels like to be a man?” (66)

This is yet another example of Lewis’s incredible ability to tranfer foundational Christian verities into strange contexts that make them live in new ways.  When I read Philippians 2 and commentary on Jesus’ coming “in the likeness of man” that we celebrate in the incarnation, I appreciate the truth of the God Man, but when I read Bardia’s wrenching question, soft-hearted mercy from a hard-handed man who leaves matters of the gods to the “great ones,” I can feel the answering “YES” in my very bones.

For me, C.S. Lewis’s writing is an invitation to look along the shaft of light that his metaphors provide, and to see the truth with greater clarity.

Your Turn

I’ve shared what I noticed this week, and now I hope that you will share your thoughts on chapters four through six in the comments below.  Again, feel free to share links to any blog posts that you have written in response, and to pose questions that have come to you in your reading.

Next Time

Next Thursday, I’ll be here having read Chapters 7-9 and will look forward to meeting with you again.

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I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Love, Faith, and Courage in the Killing Fields

“One death is a tragedy.
One million deaths is a statistic.”      ~Joseph Stalin

Banking on this banality of evil, the Khmer Rouge murdered or starved 1.7 million Cambodian citizens during the years in which they were in power, all with an eye toward establishing themselves and their Community ideology. Having wiped out 25% of the population, the Khmer Rouge will go down as history’s most totalitarian regime, for even though Mao and Stalin were responsible for more deaths, no dictator has ever destroyed one fourth of its citizens.

This chilling period of history forms the meta-narrative of Les Sillars’s Intended for Evil, but he has brilliantly shared the harrowing story through the eyes of one man, Radha Manickam who survived the Cambodian Killing Fields.  Of Indian ethnic descent, Radha was born into a Hindu Brahmin family, but came to faith in Christ as a young man in 1973.  Accustomed to a life of plenty, Radha’s world turned upside down in 1974 when Phnom Penh, his home city, was caught in the cross fire of the war between Vietnam and the United States.  As the violence progressed, the Khmer Rouge gained power, adding to the death and destruction.  As refugees streamed into Phnom Penh from surrounding villages, fleeing U.S. bombs and the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror, the population more than tripled and food was very scarce.

Lee Sillars’s journalism background is evident in his skillful reconstruction of the political and historical implications of this period, the pointless movement of the masses and the evacuation of entire cities, the irony of communism’s rejection of an existing social structure only to create their own class system based on “kum, a revenge so brutal that it destroys an enemy so they never can rise again,” (79).

In 1975, year zero of Pol Pot’s “new calendar for a new era,” Radha and the entire Manickam family concluded that there was no future for them in Cambodia, and so they joined the current of bodies flowing from their makeshift camps to the next uncertain stopping point.  When their passports were confiscated, they learned the folly of trusting Khmer Rouge officials and eventually discerned that any mis-step could have devastating consequences, for even gathering food in the woods to supplement starvation rations was considered a “betrayal” and, according to Pol Pot’s brutal rule book, the guilty party “will be crushed,” (99).

Weakening the population through starvation was only one technique of the Khmer Rouge.  They undermined family bonds by separating relatives whenever possible, and they scorned (and ultimately abolished) all religions, including even those indigenous to Cambodia.  Anyone wearing glasses (the sign of an ability to read), possessing an education, owning a business, or practicing a profession was systematically eliminated, leaving behind a bankrupt culture that would take generations to recover.

Our family was introduced to the regime’s lasting effects ten years ago when we hosted a family of missionaries on home assignment following a term in Cambodia.  Arriving in our yard, their kids and our kids poured out of vehicles, mixed and mingled, and then headed straight for the woods to pursue adventure. Witness to the stricken look on their mother’s face, I was surprised at her explanation:

“Land mines.  In Cambodia, the kids can’t just go running off into the woods unless there is a well-marked trail.  For a minute, I forgot that it’s o.k. here.”

In that moment, the legacy of Khmer Rouge terror migrated into a back yard in Maine.

By grace, Radha Manickam’s life was spared because he was able to persevere in forced labor — a city boy, learning by trial and error what to do with the business end of a shovel and how to plant and harvest rice for back-breaking, spirit-crushing hours on end.  The soldiers in charge of his work details were essentially a brute squad who subjected workers to unspeakable torture and cruel indignities while overseeing canals that collapsed and agricultural projects that failed abysmally due to mismanagement and ignorance.

Disease and starvation were all that flourished until the Vietnamese ousted the Khmer Rouge in January 1979.  Tragically, most of Radha’s extended family had already perished, but grace triumphed when Radha learned that Samen, the wife he had been forced to marry in a mass wedding ceremony (set up to breed the next generation of new socialists), was also a believer.  Sponsored by Samen’s family in the U.S., they made their arduous way to California where they began to heal from the years of devastating loss and began to minister to other victims of the crisis in Cambodia.

Les Sillars’s chosen title, of course, brings to mind the biblical story of Joseph, the refugee, slave, and prisoner who found, at the end of his waiting that God had transformed the evil intentions of his brothers and all of his own suffering into a great good — for himself and for the people of Israel.  Brought face to face with the unspeakable atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge, I am forced to question the contents of my own heart.  After all, the people who were conscripted into service as guards and soldiers were just common peasants and farmers, and following the fall of the Khmer Rouge, most of them went quietly back to their homes and families.  There is a sobering subscript to this inspiring story about Radha’s God-given courage under extreme circumstances:  a society can be plunged into evil by the removal of all that is good, and “those surprised by the evil found in human hearts don’t yet know themselves, and those terrified by the discovery have not grasped the grace of God.”

Like Joseph, Radha would affirm that his years of suffering are evidence that what evil men intend for harm, God was able to turn upside down for the accomplishment of His purposes and the advancement of His kingdom.

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This book was provided by Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group,  in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Till We Have Faces (2): Longing for the Grey Mountain

I have invited the readers who visit Living Our Days to join me in reading C.S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces, and to return here each Thursday for a discussion.  If you’re just joining us, you can find the reading schedule here.  

Approaches to C.S. Lewis’s brand of fiction vary widely, ranging from “This is a great story, and I love it.  Please leave me alone and let me enjoy it,” to those who seek a point-by-point application for every possible allegory.  Wherever you fall on this spectrum, it’s clear that Chapters 1-3 set the stage for many of the major themes that permeate the book.  Even if you have not yet started to read with us, this short summary of the first three chapters may serve as a teaser to get you started!

Plot Summary

In the semi-barbaric kingdom of Glome, in a time before the fall of the Greek empire, there lived a homely princess named Orual.  Her mother has died, and the king remarries and fathers, to his dismay, yet another daughter, making three in all.  Transfixed by the baby’s beauty and good nature, Orual raises and dotes on the child who grows in beauty and goodnessand is beloved by the people.  The young Princess Psyche is rumored to have healing in her hands, and chapter three ends with an ominous sense that the jealousy of the middle daughter (Redival), two years of poor harvest, and the onset of an epidemic of fever may, together, signal the end of happy times for Orual and Psyche.

standing

Reflection

The word “standing” reached out from Romans 5:1,2 and chose me for its own this year,

 By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with him, make us fit for him—we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.”

and it leaves me wishing that Orual (and her present day sisters) could see and know this God who “has always wanted to do” good for us, to be “all together” with us so that we would see the wide-open door which He has already flung aside in welcome.

With her opening paragraph, Orual makes it evident that she is (and has long been) at enmity with the gods.  She has concluded that the gods hate her, but clearly, she is not in a position of unbelief:

  • She recognizes but disregards their power to do her harm, and describes Ungit as a “very strong goddess,” (pg. 4).  Dressing traditional Christian concepts in pagan clothing, C.S. Lewis portrays Ungit as a nature goddess and Ungit’s son is the “god who lives on the Grey Mountain.”
  • She acknowledges that the gods have knowledge that is unavailable to humans, “and gods do not tell,” (p. 33).
  • As a child, even the smell of Ungit’s temple was frightening to her, and she continues to refer to it as a smell of holiness, “the Ungit smell,” (p. 11).

By contrast, Psyche seems to have been drawn since childhood toward the Grey Mountain:  “When I’m big,” she said, “I will be a great, great queen, married to the greatest king of all, and he will build me a castle of gold and amber up there on the very top,” (p. 23).  Even when she succumbs to the fever, her delirious ravings are all about the Grey Mountain.

In the midst of these two polar opposites stands The Fox, a Greek slave who has been assigned to tutor the girls.  Spouting rational explanations for all the mysterious actions of “the gods,” and insisting that all the murky evidence for the numinous all around them is “just lovely poetry,” he still trembles before the mystery of death, and fails to convince anyone with his reason-based protests. Throughout the book, we will see that Orual continually struggles to reconcile the teachings of The Fox with the teachings of Ungit’s priests.

C.S. Lewis, in his writing, frequently ties the distant hills to the sense of longing that formed the backdrop to his formative years — “sehnsucht” he called it, a German term that manages to convey deep yearning and nostalgic longing.  The theme permeates much of what Lewis wrote, and at this point in the novel, the longing is tied to the distant hills and their “otherworldliness” that draws Psyche. Of course, C.S. Lewis was famous for having said,

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

Some Issues to Ponder

  1. Do you see any similarities between Orual’s devotion to Psyche and the people of Glome’s failure to look beyond Psyche to the god of Grey Mountain?
  2. Lewis used the term “myth” not as an opposite to the word “fact,” but instead to label a device of meaning-making. For instance, he referred to “the myths of the Bible,” referring to the stories and themes we all know.  Converting to Christianity at the age of 31, Lewis found that Christ “is the reality which all myths are suggesting.”  In Miracles he refers to “a long preparation [of all previous myths which] culminates in God’s becoming incarnate as Man, so . . . the truth first appears in Mythical form and then by a long process of condensing or focusing finally becomes incarnate as History.”  He believed most myths were initially theological; for instance, that all nations’ myths of blood and sacrifice arose from “initial revelation,” all pointing toward the same truth of Christ crucified.   Do you find Lewis’s portrayal of Christian concepts in a strange context to be helpful — or distracting?
  3.   Lewis scholars claim that his wife, Joy Davidman, was quite influential in the development of Orual’s character.  This does give insight to the amazing ability of a nearly lifelong bachelor to develop the interior landscape of a strong female character.  But . . . then there is Jadis in The Magician’s Nephew. And Mrs. Beaver.  And Lucy Pevensie is no slouch either!  Any thoughts on this?
  4. How are you pronouncing Orual’s name as you read?  I’ve always said “Or-oo-all” which is a bit awkward.  Anyone saying “you” for the middle syllable?

Your Turn

I hope that you will share your thoughts on the first three chapters in the comments below.  I will be thrilled if you choose to link up your own blog posts for all of our benefit and enjoyment!

Next Time

On Thursday, January 19th, I’ll be here having read chapters 4-6.

I hope you are enjoying the experience of exploring this beautiful, complex, and compassionate story.

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If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Love Hides Close By

Until I put it on display, love is sometimes hard to see.

Dr. Mary Manz Simon invites pint-sized theologians to embark upon a delightful scavenger hunt, looking for all the places love hides in the daily life of a preschooler.  She does this with precision, because when we demonstrate the love of God to others, it is not with the intention of motivating Him to love us in return or to increase His love for us.  Rather, we love Him (and others) because He first loved us, and all our acts of love or obedience serve to demonstrate the unselfish mercy and grace that is God’s love.

So . . . where does love hide?

Readers will find six replies, hidden under the flaps that have been incorporated into the construction of Hannah Wood’s large, vivid illustrations which feature a rainbow of children who have been caught in the act of being good with actions with which even the youngest toddler can identify.

My grandson’s tiny fingers were well able to grasp and open the flaps, and it turns out that love hides very close at hand, for the revelation of love can come with an invitation to a friend, a sharing of cookies, a cheerfully executed chore, or practical services offered to the weak or the elderly.

Relevant and simply stated Scripture verses make a solid case for each example of loving deeds and will help parents (and grandparents!) to set the example in establishing memory habits as they work together to learn the verses.  A fun way to encourage this would be to let the child pull back the flap and give the answer to the question while the adult says the verse — and then switch roles.

Giving and receiving love involves words as well as actions that lend weight to those words.  After all, God Himself communicated His love to us through the Word, but He didn’t stop there:

“God demonstrated His own love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,”                 Romans 5:8.

When our children join Him in the joy of giving, His love is put on display for all the world to see.

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This book was provided by Tyndale Kids, a trademark of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

This is the third of Mary Manz Simon’s books that my grandson and I have had the privilege of reading and sharing.  You’ll also be interested in discovering God Made the Sun and God Made the Moon. (Click to read my review.)

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews from delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

 

Sacred Ordinary/Ordinary Sacred

Annie Dillard has (famously) said, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”  This is a cautionary saying for those of us who live our days as the sandwich-makers, the sock sorters, and the finders of misplaced library books.  Therefore, Liturgy of the Ordinary has landed upon my reading list like a benediction, for in Tish Harrison Warren’s words, I hear the husky contralto sound track of Peggy Lee’s musical question “Is That All There Is?” Thanks be to God, Tish arrives at a resounding “No!”  The daily, mundane tasks that comprise civilization and self-maintenance on this planet are clearly not “all there is.”  On the contrary, they are shot through with the sacred — even all the repetitive and seemingly Sisyphean tasks that, while admittedly are sacrificial, seem hardly to be sacramental.

Liturgy of the Ordinary pushes back against the dualism that differentiates between answering emails and writing sermons, between talking theology over coffee and talking science fair project over milk and cookies because, for believers, ministry and everyday life are “intrinsically part of one another,” (p. 89).

Trish celebrates the reality that the spiritual disciplines that sustain the following life are quiet, reflective, and homely.  The trappings of devotion, even the elements of the Eucharist, can be found in any North American kitchen, and the inhale and exhale of communion with God around a verse of Scripture can, literally, be done with one’s eyes closed.

Since liturgy is, by definition, “the work of the people,” the faithful have been commissioned to do whatever is needful in the name of Christ.  Tish’s liberating thesis works itself out in the unfolding of the ordinary day of a wife, mum, ministry professional, and friend, a woman who chafes against the routine, who longs for a good night’s sleep, and who delights in the simple beauty of a vanilla steamer alongside a great novel.

The Glory of the Embodied Life

When we wake, no matter how  we wake (instantly bolt upright or groping toward consciousness), we begin our day beloved by God, and the staggering truth is that nothing we do in the course of each day will either magnify or diminish that standing.  Beginning each new day echoes that “first gleam of dawn” which characterizes “the path of the righteous” (Proverbs 4:18) at the outset of the Christian life.

Careening toward the age when it takes twice as long in front of a mirror to look half as good, it is a joyful thing to be reminded that “what we do with our bodies and what we do with our souls are always entwined,” (p. 39).  In taking on flesh, Christ decimated the false notion that the body is an evil burden and not worthy of respectful treatment and conscientious care. 

“Because of the embodied work of Jesus, my body is destined for redemption and for eternal worship – for eternal skipping and jumping and twirling and hand raising and kneeling and dancing and singing and chewing and tasting,” (p. 48).

capture

Tish Harrison Warren writes of the believer’s “everyday work of shalom”; of the “third way” in which we are neither Mary nor Martha, but are delighted to find our worship and our work as one; of the ministry of friendship, the sacrament of coffee, as well as the gift of rest.

I hope that you will click on over to Englewood Review of Books to finish reading my thoughts on this remarkable book in which Tish draws a clear line of connection between the activities of her daily routine and the pursuit of holiness.

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This book was provided by IVP Books, an imprint of InterVarsity Press,  in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Till We Have Faces: Welcome to the Discussion

Ask an author to name his favorite of all the books he’s written, and most will demur, insisting that it’s like trying to choose a favorite child.  

Not C.S. Lewis.

He believed Till We Have Faces to be his best book.

In his novel based on the Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche, Lewis uses the narrative to explore themes such as the limits of reason, the selfishness of natural love, and the nature of faith.

Plot Summary

Orual, warrior queen of Glome, wore a veil.  Tired of the harsh comments, the too-long glances, and worst of all, the pity, she chose mystery, invisibility — and in the process, she gained renown.

Set in a culture in which a woman’s role and status were defined by her beauty, her husband, or both, Orual had neither, but managed to carve out a life for herself based on the love of her youngest sister, Psyche, and the challenge of learning and gaining new skills.  Written in memoir form, Till We Have Faces chronicles Orual’s howling question, “What do the gods want from us?” and the jarring answer she received at the end of her life.

All analysis aside, when C.S. Lewis writes a story, it’s a story.  Just as in the Chronicles of Narnia, readers will bond with particular characters and despise others.   I’ve invited friends who visit Living Our Days to join me in reading the book over the next several weeks.

January 5 (Today!) . . . . . . . . . . .Introductory Post
January 12 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Part I, Chapters 1-3
January 19 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Chapters 4-6
January 26. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Chapters 7-9
February 2. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Chapters 10-12
February 9. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Chapters 13-15
February 16. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Chapters 16-19
February 23. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Chapters 20-21
March 2. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Part II, Chapters 1-2
March 9. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Chapters 3-4

The big challenge in writing about fiction will be for us to discuss the book and to write meaningfully without blowing the unfolding plot for those who are experiencing the book for the first time.   We’ll all do our best!

Reflection

I discovered Till We Have Faces in college and have read it at least a half dozen times since then.  I love Orual’s strength, but identify with many of her weaknesses.  Lewis’s curiosity about longing (Sehnsucht) plays an important part in the unfolding drama and whether we choose to call it myth or allegory or metaphor, his references to the numinous are stunning.

I hear Mr. Beaver’s voice echoing all the way from Narnia in this conversation between Orual and her Greek tutor, the Fox:

Fox:  “Why, yes, child.  The gods have been accused by you.  Now’s their turn.”
Orual:  “I cannot hope for mercy.”
Fox:  “Infinite hopes — and fears — may both be yours.  Be sure that, whatever else you get, you will not get justice.”
Orual:  “Are the gods not just?”
Fox:  “Oh, no, child.  What would become of us if they were?”

Let’s Get Started

I’ll be here next Thursday (January 12) having read Chapters 1-3.  I’ll share a summary to get us started, mention some of my insights, and then throw the door wide open for your input.
How do you participate?
Simply get a copy of the book and read along.  You don’t need to register or commit to anything other than just reading the book!

However . . .  I would love to hear your thoughts as we read, so if you have a blog, I hope that you will write a post about each section and then share it here by copying the URL of that post into the comments section below.  It will be fun — and enlightening — to learn from each other’s insights.  If you do not blog, just share your thoughts directly to the comments.

Don’t feel as if you need to share earth-shattering observations.  Just write about what impressed you in the section we are reading.  If something puzzled you, pose your questions to the group.  Let’s commit to reading the book and learning from it in community!

In the meantime, are you planning to read with us?
Will this be your first time through Till We Have Faces or are you a repeat reader?
What else have you read by Lewis?  Do you have a favorite?
Where are you, who are you, and what do you love?
Do you plan to blog about your impressions?
Let’s begin to get acquainted in the comments below!  

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I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Awakening Courage in Community

Whether it’s feelings of inadequacy, parenting anxieties, or panic over the latest terrorist tactics in the news, the challenge to face down our fears and to move forward into new, healthful, and bold behaviors is a common thread for January writing and thinking.  The problem, however, with this seasonal booster is that the need for courage doesn’t expire on February 1.

Fear Fighting is a year-round calling and Kelly Balarie is a natural born cheerleader, committed to awakening courage in her readers.  She has earned some pretty impressive credentials as a fear fighter in her battles with an eating disorder, depression, financial stresses, and family tragedies.  She has learned, first hand, that transformation is an act of God that takes place in the present tense.  With a raised fist, she trumpets the invitation to be a modern-day Deborah, the fiery woman from the time of the Old Testament Judges who dared to ask questions, listened for God’s answers, ejected the enemy’s lies, timed her move, and then acted in confident belief without fear — because she knew where she was going.

Since no one is completely fearless, everyone can fear less, and learning to live as a fear fighter is best accomplished in community.  Kelly has flung the doors open wide, inviting readers into her story and into a network of like-minded warriors through her website and her blog. (Click to visit!)

Fear fighting is a process and growth happens one step at a time.  The question that comes to my mind is this:  What would you do to a friend who lied to you as often as your fears have?  This helpful filter (p. 64) is a tool for identifying the voice inside your head:

  1.  If it woos with the voice of love, it is God.
  2. If it calls you closer to God, it is God.
  3. If it speaks truth, it is God.
  4. If it wants to beat you, tie you, and throw you out back for always being despicable, it is not God.  

“Anything not founded in love does not equal God.”

It is no surprise to me that thousands of years ago, Isaiah the prophet also expressed the invitation to become a fear fighter:

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand,”  Isaiah 41:10.

In these early days of 2017, it’s a great time to admit to the reality of fears that whisper words of condemnation and failure and to accept the help of others, to learn from their stories, and, most crucially, to enter into the transforming Truth of God’s Word.

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This book was provided by Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group,  in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

captureJoin me here on Thursday for week one of a book discussion group on C.S. Lewis’s novel, Till We Have Faces.

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If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.