Musings: April 2019

A worn banister sits at the center of a colonial-era farmhouse in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. There, the winter of 1777-78 brought deep suffering, privation, and grueling labor in freezing cold with the goal of building adequate housing for the Colonial Army–two thousand small cabins. Once his men were settled, George Washington took up residence–along with twenty-five of his aides, servants, and slaves–in a nearby farmhouse that became his home and his headquarters for the duration of that six-month stint of military maneuvers.

As the docent shared the historic details, I wondered about all the hands that had touched that banister on their way up and down the stairs. Hands, black and white, slave and free, male and female, would have grazed or gripped that sturdy piece of wood in the run of their day, completely oblivious to the historic significance of their presence in that home or of that period. Like them, we have no idea how significant our actions may be when seen in the rear view mirror of history.

A break from the routine is one of the greatest gifts of vacation time, and it was encouraging to drive south toward daffodils, green grass, and trees in full blossom.  We laughed together and listened to The Chronicles of Narnia as we traveled, and Tucker was a good dog. We enjoyed catching up with friends and quiet evenings with books in our laps.

And then it was good to come home for a celebration of Good Friday and Easter Sunday with our church family.

Parenting and Poetry

In May, I will celebrate 29 years with my unreasonably patient husband. If I do the math, factoring in the ages of our children, the years before kids, the gardens planted, and the gray hair in the mirror, I know this makes perfect sense. And all this goodness has come to someone who had neither the good sense nor the optimism to pray for it.

The rhythms of married life have come quite easily to us, and we’re grateful. There was very little seismic adjustment at the outset, and even though I am not the easiest person in the world to live with, apparently my faults are commensurate with my husband’s capacity for forbearance.

Parenting, however, has been a different story.
Not that God didn’t give us four great kids.
He did.
But there’s nothing like pouring yourself out in four different directions 24/7/365 to show up all your selfishness and theological inconsistencies.

It’s easy to feel isolated in this inadequacy, to feel as if you are the worst mother in the country and in the top ten for worst in the world. If you feel that way and you enjoy reading poetry, you’ll find a friend in Rachel Donahue, because she wrote Real Poems for Real Moms: from a Mother in the Trenches to Another in the small spaces between the real challenges of her own mothering life.

Who else but a mother in the trenches could come up with a seven-part haiku series on the rigors of diaper changing? With feverish relevance, Rachel writes about the multitude of topics that trigger mum guilt, and, fortunately, she also knows about grace, the only known solvent for stubbornness and fear.

Dyed-in-the-wool poetry geeks will recognize overtones of Browning, Frost, Hopkins, and others tucked into tongue in cheek renderings and more somber reflections because the truth is that motherhood is a fleeting season. We rejoice and lament by turns, and somehow, in the days of mundane faithfulness we are amazed to find ourselves growing in grace and being transformed from the inside out by the miracle of our love for our children.

April Reading and Writing

A Melody Above the Noise of Your Grief–
A counselor challenged Aubrey Sampson and her husband to lean into the invitation suffering offers, to stop trying to “handle it,” fix it, understand it, or explain it away and, in the presence of the deep loss, to allow, “the unanswerable to remain unanswered while still declaring that suffering will not have the final say.” (11) I had been eagerly awaiting Aubrey’s thoughts on lament, and I was not disappointed!

Why It’s Great to Be a Woman–
Elisabeth Elliot famously said, “The fact that I am a woman does not make me a different kind of Christian, but the fact that I am a Christian makes me a different kind of woman.” Now, Abigail Dodds has added her own calm voice of reason to the conversation about just exactly what it means to be a Christian AND to be a woman. “How we feel about being a woman doesn’t have any bearing on what we are. We may feel like we don’t fit the mold, but God calls us to live in a way that shatters the world’s expectations.” (61)

Knowing God in the Midst of Our Pain

Published nearly four years after Elisabeth Elliot’s death, Suffering Is Never for Nothing has been adapted from a six-part series Elisabeth taught and which was recorded on CD at a small conference. Readers familiar with Elliot’s message will recognize her voice in the printed page as she asserts that it has been through “the deepest suffering that God has taught [her] the deepest lessons.” (1) “And let’s never forget,” she continues, “that if we don’t ever want to suffer, we must be very careful never to love anything or anybody.” (9) Beginning with lessons drawn from the life of Job, Elisabeth Elliot challenges believers to rejoice in the possibility of presenting our “whys?” to God, and to be ready to receive God’s answer in the form of His presence there with us in our misery–the answer we need more than any other we might have sought.

What if Christians Became the Best Advertisement for Jesus? Scott Sauls invites readers to mind the gap between the life of faith described in the Bible and the one that gets practiced here on the ground in the 21st century. With so much at stake, and so much good that could be done, Sauls describes what it means to abide in an “irresistible Christ” (1) and to live in such a way that we do not contradict his teachings at every turn. I was captivated by this description of an irresistible faith that comes from drawing close to Christ, taking His righteousness, and thinking His thoughts after Him by immersing our brains in Scripture and allowing this to shape our affections and our understanding of suffering and success.

April snow

 

April snow makes the longing for spring more poignant. Finally, the snow is gone and the crocuses and daffodils have made their appearance! Hope for spring is on the move!
What a great gift when our celebration of Easter reminds us of all the ways Christ’s resurrection exceeds our hopes and our hopelessness.

Rejoicing with you in hope,

Michele Morin

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Oswald Chambers’s Message of Hope in the Midst of War

One hundred years ago, the war to end all wars ended, leaving the world a very different place, and, ironically, setting the stage for the next world war. Geographic boundaries would shift and entire countries would be swallowed up or renamed, but even more seismic changes were at work in the spiritual realm as hearts were softened and minds were startled awake by the devastation and loss of life.

Oswald Chambers is best known for the classic devotional work My Utmost for His Highest, but some of his most important pastoral work happened against the backdrop of World War I as he ministered to troops stationed in Egypt. In A Poppy in Remembrance, Michelle Ule, author of the biography covering the life of Chambers’s wife Biddy, has applied her sanctified imagination to a subject she knows well–the lives of Oswald and Biddy Chambers–and has created a cast of realistic and relatable characters who were impacted by the Chambers’s ministry.

A Story and a Message

Claire Meacham grew up to the staccato of typewriters and the echoing excitement of whatever was in the news as she traveled the world with her father Jock, collecting stories for the Boston Newspaper Syndicate. Radcliffe-educated and American-born, Claire ached to see her own byline in newsprint, but, stationed in a conservative London newsroom, found herself perpetually thwarted by cultural bias and her parents; insistence that she devote herself to more “appropriate” womanly pursuits. Given the task of transcribing notes from her father’s war reporting, Claire was haunted by the appalling numbers of casualties and the descriptions of war on a colossal scale, and, after hearing biblical truth through Chambers’ ministry, she turned to Christ, first as a coping mechanism to survive the war, but ultimately as a Savior and reliable Guide for her future.

Ule anchors her characters in early 20th century England and France with vivid multi-sensory descriptions of honking taxis and rumbling horse drawn transports that combined for nose-assaulting bedlam — this along with an affluent socialite aunt who played bridge with “Clemmie” Churchill and a worship service in which Robert E. Lee’s disenfranchised daughter turns up veiled in black and wandering Europe.

Relevant Counsel from Chambers

Chambers’s counsel to Claire in her spiritual pilgrimage comes directly from the pages of his sermon notes, so not only does it ring true, but it applies to present day believers as well:

“I find it helps to brood on the unknown and let it sit in your soul.” (33)

“Sanctification means intense concentration on God’s point of view. Every power of body, soul, and spirit are chained and kept for God’s purpose.” (121)

Through Claire’s eyes, the reader experiences the heat, the lice, and the drills of soldiers deployed in Egypt and also the heartache and terror of the European front that hit close to home and left grief in its wake. With nearly 17 million deaths all tolled, many emerged from their experience of World War I without hope. Even the poppies that sprouted from soil churned by tanks and soldiers’ boots were taken as a symbol of the war and a sign that beauty can, indeed, survive ugliness, but lasting hope comes only through submitting one’s entire life to the God who already owns it.

Our yesterdays present irreparable things to us; it is true that we have lost opportunities which will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. Let the past sleep, but let it sleep on the bosom of Christ. Leave the irreparable past in His hands, and step out into the irresistible future with Him.”        ~Oswald Chambers   (397)


Many thinks to the author for providing this book to facilitate my review which is, of course, offered freely and with complete honesty.

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase A Poppy in Remembrance or Mrs. Oswald Chambers: The Woman behind the World’s Bestselling Devotional, simply click on the title here or within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Photo of poppies by Monica Galentino on Unsplash

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Following the Trail Back to Hope

Sometimes it’s the very thing that makes you wild, the thing that feels as if it may be your undoing, which ultimately saves your life. For me right now, the pebble in my shoe is a 15-foot speed boat parked parallel to the north side of our house. The college-aged son is a project magnet who resurrects dead motors for fun and profit, so this is just the latest in a parade of snow mobiles, outboard motors, go- carts, and things that go vroom which have come to heighten the hillbilly panache of this country hill in Maine.

On the other hand, when I recall that his tinkering has made him eminently employable, and when I consider all the lesser things an almost-19-year-old could be doing with his free time . . .

And so, annoyance finds its grumpy way back to gratitude, and I follow its trail to the other transitions–much grittier and more sensitive–that need to happen around the fault lines in my following life:

  • The dizzying yo-yo of the number on the scale holds me in awareness of this truth: It is only by grace that we ride the bucking bronco of temptation to its mastery;
  • An overwhelmed middle-age brain keeps me depending upon God for strength in my weakness and for the next sentence whenever I teach or write;
  • My slow-to-hear-quick-to-speak way of finishing peoples’ sentences and igniting small, unnecessary brush fires reminds me every day to put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience just as I put on my shoes or my makeup.

Meaningful change often follows on the squeaking hinges of regret and repentance.

The Transition to Hope

In the waning weeks of Israel’s existence as a nation, Jeremiah tutors my soul in this spiritual discipline of transitioning from annoyance to hope. The record shows that he had invested 23 years of his life faithfully delivering an unpopular message of God’s impending judgment to a people who much preferred happy talk from lesser prophets with dubious motives. His reward for services rendered was a sentence of house arrest in the palace of disgruntled King Zedekiah.

Transition into Hope, G.K. ChestertonAs Babylonian armies camped around Jerusalem and hammered together their siege ramps outside the city walls, Jeremiah purchased a field in an act of unreasonable hope. Of course, according to G.K. Chesterton, “It is only when everything is hopeless that hope begins to be a strength at all.”  Pushing against hopelessness, Jeremiah handed over his seventeen shekels because, in his mind, God’s promise of restoration and return to the land was as real as the shining silver in his hand.

When the siege ramps of despair are already leaning against the walls of my heart, that trail back to hope seems like more of a journey than I can manage. And of course, it is–apart from God. Likewise, reading on, I see Jeremiah, by a power that was not his own, transitioning into a glorious paean of praise:

“Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You.” (Jeremiah 32:17 NKJV)

Seeing this, the “Ah” of Jeremiah becomes an “Aha!” on my lips as I discover, as if for the first time, that there is nothing—no transition, no messy in-between—too complicated for God. He stands ready to help when I lean into the impossible or find grace to forgive the unforgivable. His Great Power is put on display in surprising ways as His outstretched arm effects the miracle of another day’s transition into hope.


 

Thank you for joining me today on the path toward hope,

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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.

Musings: February 2018

On a day when snow was sticky and ankle deep, I took kitchen shears and lopped branches off a bush that grows in disarray outside the dining room window. The rush of school and schedules had bowed to the will of February vacation, and suddenly there was time for hope. Three fourths of the way through a winter season feels like just the right time to remind myself that naked branches can sprout vivid yellow blossoms, internally luminescent and unlikely as warmth in winter.

Bare twigs await spring.
Where only memory gives hope,
Faith sees greening leaves.

February Reads

In February, I reviewed four books that run in four very different veins.

First, Carol Kent’s real life story is heartbreaking, but in He Holds My Hand: Experiencing God’s Presence and Protection, she shares the truth that carried her through her son’s arrest and imprisonment for murder.

For anyone who has struggled with fitting into Christian culture or embracing their role in a church family, Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community offers an understanding ear coupled with a firm push to set aside our petty preferences and to remember that worship is about God and not about us.

Alan Jacobs challenges believers to a life of cognitive courage in How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds. He’s a C.S. Lewis scholar and a skilled thinker himself, so I appreciated his words on what it means to think well in a world where the informational fire hose is on full blast.

The life of Walter Wangerin, Jr. has been populated by memorable characters, and he has skillfully woven together a collection of stories to demonstrate the truth that there is always grace shining behind our darkness.  Wounds Are Where Light Enters: Stories of God’s Intrusive Grace is a glance into the rear view mirror in which theology and biblical narrative lie just beneath the surface.

February Discussion of Orthodoxy

There were some great February conversations at Living Our Days, probably the liveliest centering around the monthly post on G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy. 

Parenting After the FallChesterton is laugh-out-loud creative and stop-you-in-your-tracks sobering on the topic of original sin. He maintains that it’s “the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved,” and I’ve certainly done my part in providing evidence for humanity’s fallen condition. As a parent who is in the middle of preparing (with fear and trembling) to teach a parenting workshop here in Maine, I was thankful to spend some time pondering the plight of sinners parenting sinners.

February Hospitality

It’s always a stretch and a great grace to be invited into the writing space of on-line friends. This month, I offered a compilation of two book reviews on racial reconciliation to the readers of The Redbud Post. If you’re not already a subscriber to this monthly collection, I encourage you to take advantage of this regular infusion of good writing and thinking from The Redbud Writer’s Guild.

Diversity and the Church: A Culture with No Excuse

Decoding the Beauty in the Universe

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Perennial Gen is a gathering of readers and writers “of a certain age” so I wanted to introduce them to one of my “book mentors,” Luci Shaw through her wisdom found in  Thumbprint in the Clay: Divine Marks of Beauty, Order and Grace. Well into her eighties, Luci is a poet who writes with skill about a life of decoding the rich presence of purpose, design, and beauty in the universe.

On Vacation!

Cinnamon rollsTo be honest, there’s nothing relaxing about vacation here on this country hill. This recap will be shorter than usual because this morning, the most important writing task is to scribble white glaze across the top of cinnamon rolls.

The week has been full and fun:

  • A day of tiny cars and thick tempera paint with the adorable grand boy;
  • A great visit with our second son and his wife, which included the bonus of a long listen, both coming and going, to the audio book To Kill a Mockingbird;
  • Extra time to soak in Jeremiah’s warnings against false messages from voices who claim to speak truth for God;
  • The great satisfaction of finishing the purging, cleaning, and organizing of bookcases!

Michele Morin Living Our Days

We’re still a month away from the calendar’s demarcation of the season of greening leaves. While the official beginning of spring is an empty promise here in the northeast U.S., it’s a reminder that the snow won’t last forever. Thank you for your eyes here and for the encouragement of your reading, commenting, sharing, and inspiring contributions to the discussion.

Blessings and love to you,


I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase any of the books mentioned in this post,simply click on the title here or within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you:

He Holds My Hand: Experiencing God’s Presence and Protection,

Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community,

 How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds

Wounds Are Where Light Enters: Stories of God’s Intrusive Grace 

Thumbprint in the Clay: Divine Marks of Beauty, Order and Grace

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 field at the top of this page.

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A Day Like No Other Day

It was a day like any other day in the life-long ministry of Zacharias the priest.  With Elisabeth’s goodbye kiss still warm on his cheek, he went about his business, reporting for duty in his scheduled commitment to serve in the Temple.

It was a day like no other day when the honor of entering the most holy place fell to Zacharias, and his aging eyes found the burning incense eclipsed by angel light. Startling and strange, the heavenly messenger’s words hooked unbelief, earning Zacharias a nine-month sentence of mute pondering.  God’s four-hundred year silence was broken, leaving an elderly couple blinking and gasping at this new way of understanding the word impossible.

“Well stricken in years” is the delicate, traditional rendering, a state that would have made for a challenging pregnancy in any era — even if you are carrying the forerunner of the Messiah.  Like a spavined barn with tar paper siding, Elisabeth’s olden frame would have been covered with skin already stretched and sagging, but with joy she bore the bone-on-bone pain of an aging back and a heavy load.

Did she understand that her glorious passage from barren to fruitful was more a rending of history than a miracle of gynecology?

//

It was a December day like any other.  There was dog hair that needed to be vacuumed.  There were lessons that needed to be prepared.  There were emails unanswered and dishes unwashed.  By my calculation, Advent season includes the routine preparation of at least seventy-five meals on top of all the other holiday baking and decorating.

It was a December day like none before. Sitting at the dining room table with my Bible open to the pages between the Testaments– the ones that follow the scalding prophetic words and precede the red letters of grace–I imagined myself into the sandals of the faithful. Pausing in this liminal space, I wondered about waiting and the nature of a sinewy watchfulness that keeps on trusting in the fulfillment of a centuries-old promise in spite of all evidence to the contrary.

From the outside, I think it must look like everyday life:
–Elisabeth, hands resting upon implausible roundness as she tries to decipher Zechariah’s chalkboard scribbles;
–Mary, silently pondering a secret that would rock her teenage world and send the tongues of Nazareth wagging;
–Anna, keeping her open-ended vigil, not knowing that the waiting would soon be over and her eyes would see salvation in an infant’s small appearance.

Attending to the faithfulness of these women of Christmas puts parentheses around a moment, as I try to identify with the generations who lived their days in the in-between. Sure, God had promised that a Messiah would come, and those who knew the Scriptures seemed to have a lot of details about it. Even so, for those who held the promise close to their hearts, it must have seemed as if God had pressed history’s pause button, and they had been left standing in a freeze frame, waiting for deliverance.

Fast forward over two thousand years from the dawn of Anno Domini, and we’ve lost that connection between expectation and faith. High-speed internet and Amazon one-day shipping are relics of my forward-leaning Religion of Next. I wear my hurry like an ill-fitting cassock, proclaiming by my words and deeds the counterfeit gospel that God is in the slowest hurry I’ve ever seen. In a fast-forward life, anticipation fades like childhood memory and the long-forgotten sound of Christmas bells.

When Christmas becomes separated from Truth, it lands in my December like a burden–just one more thing in the multitude of things that need to be checked off my list. But, if I stay present to the wonder of Word made flesh, my blunted perception is sharpened just enough to hear God’s present-day proclamation in words that bypass angel lips and star song, but land in power on the believing heart:

Nothing shall be impossible.”
God is with us.”

Words spoken into that long ago in-between resonate for today’s waiting.
Simple Truth schools me in the authentic gospel of expectation in which the power and the presence of God bursts through all the shallow frippery and hoopla of a holiday run amuck.
Entering the holy place of the in-between, Truth feeds an advent of belief. For, like Elisabeth, I, too, live in hope for that which is yet unseen, my heart pregnant with anticipation of the Coming that is yet to come.

//

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This post appeared first at SheLoves Magazine.

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God Moves Mountains When Women Pray

Last year, I started keeping a list of prayer requests, dated and described, and then, to my great surprise — answers!  Clear direction for a son, help and success in a ministry opportunity, a new and wonderful job for my husband.  Reviewing the list from time to time, I’m reminded to give thanks, and I’m reinforced in my thinking that when it comes to prayer, there is always something new and fresh God wants me to know.

Women Who Move Mountains by Sue Detweiler is clear and comprehensive enough to serve as a primer on prayer for the uninitiated, but Sue has shared so many deeply insightful stories and has woven them so beautifully with Scripture that those who are further along on the journey will also find a rewarding read.  Twice in the gospels, Jesus talks with His disciples about mountains moving at their command.  Of course, this is not a matter of showcasing the disciples’ great faith, but rather, the power of God at work on behalf of those who believe.

I have been guilty of praying small and safe, so it was a challenge to hear Sue’s rallying cry to pray with confidence, boldness, and grace.  The book is set up with odd-numbered chapters covering real and raw stories of women who witnessed mountain-moving responses to their prayers, while even-numbered chapters pose questions based on living the principles here at ground level.

Belief in the ever-present, always-available Maker of Heaven and Earth is the foundation for a vibrant prayer life.  Unfortunately, fear, shame, anxiety, perfectionism, entitlement, and timidity often derail us in the mountain-moving life.  Staying close to Truth is transformational, and this becomes evident in the lives of women whose childhood wounds have been healed and whose “orphan mindset” has been replaced with assurance that in God’s eyes, they are a much-loved daughter.

Sue hammers on one truth about this following life that almost cannot be overstated:

“Just because you obey God does not mean that it will be smooth sailing forever and ever.”

Our obedience opens the door to God’s help and connects us to God’s plan, but prayer requires trust at every level.  Offsetting the vending-machine-God mentality, Sue reminds readers that Jesus suffered greatly in His time on this planet.  The following life is not lived above emotional pain and loss.  Women who feel like the walking wounded are encouraged to turn to God rather than blaming God for their wounds.

Biblical examples of women like Hannah who prayed for a child and Esther who prayed for the rescue of her people demonstrate that prayer is a powerful weapon, that it launches us into our destiny, and that — amazingly — it is as simple as a conversation in which we transparently come before God bearing “our stuff.”

Just as conversation builds relationship between people, prayer is a day-long interaction with God.  And since it is not simply prayer or my puny faith, but rather GOD who moves mountains, I want to press into that relationship and know the heart of this powerful God.  Indispensable to our prayer life is a right understanding of who He is, and Sue has shared rich Scriptural insights:

  1.  Jesus is uniquely equipped to comfort and strengthen us when we face rejection.  Remember what happened in Nazareth?  When He challenged the hometown crowd, they were ready to drive Jesus off a cliff!
  2. It’s an American idea that if God calls you to a task and if He is truly in it, then success always follows.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer said it well:  “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”  Some of our most enriching spiritual growth experiences come through failure.
  3. Jesus always had choice words of condemnation for the Pharisees in the crowd and set the example for us.  “Becoming a woman who moves mountains means you care more about what Jesus thinks than the Pharisees in your life.”

F.U.N.K. and H.O.P.E.

Sue employs a couple of creative acronyms to stimulate readers to prayer that results in renewed thinking and powerful life-change.  The next time you feel as if you are in a funk, realize that you are Floundering Under Negative Knowledge.  Everything that seems dark and wrong may be very true, but staying close to God’s truth fights the slide into the pit.

Likewise, when the dark tunnel seems endless, hope says, “Hold On, Pain Ends!”  God offers His hope when ours has long ago sputtered to a stop.

God-confidence gives perspective for the long haul of praying in light of God’s specific promises.  There is so much that He wants to do as He trains us in righteousness, so many good works, prepared beforehand, that are waiting for us who walk with Him. Thanks be to God that we have been invited to come before Him in confidence, boldness, and grace.

//

This book was provided by Bethany House via Interviews and Reviews 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.”

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Long Live the Queen! Till We Have Faces Discussion Group Week 8

Today we come to the end of Part I!
With only four chapters remaining in Part II, I’m amazed at how quickly the time for this discussion group has flown!

Plot Summary

Queen Orual has plowed into her new role with gusto, handily defeating Prince Argan with her sword, celebrating her victory as a lone woman in a place of power among men, and then settling into the routines of running a kingdom.  Her identity as the ugly princess is continually being swallowed up into that of the mysterious, veiled warrior Queen who leads her soldiers into battle and implements far-reaching economic and social reforms.  Even so, Orual is there behind the veil, haunted by grief and weighted down with the futility of a life devoted only to a dutiful completion of the day’s round of tasks.

A long recreational journey alleviates Queen Orual’s restlessness and brings something close to joy — until she stumbles into a secluded temple and learns that the story of the goddess who “resides” there is based on the story of Psyche with some important changes in the narrative details that settle once and for all Orual’s conviction that the gods hate her.  She resolves to set the record straight by writing the story from her own perspective and by bringing before the gods her charges against them for their injustice.

Reflection

Orual is a brilliant leader, and part of her brilliance lies in recognizing the importance of tapping into the wisdom of her counselors, Bardia and the Fox.  In her own right, however, she is enthusiastic, progressive, and a lover of justice, so even though there is no joy  or satisfaction in it for herself, Orual rules well. Lewis’s friend Screwtape would grudgingly admit that his Enemy (God) would be pleased with this human who does what is required, day after day, purely from a sense of duty.

Her veil, the “treaty made with her ugliness,” serves her well as a tool of intimidation and also advances Orual’s disappearance into the identity of The Queen.  All the grief, unhappiness, and bitterness can go on behind the veil while The Queen soldiers on, keeping up appearances.  She speaks with strong verbs that unmask her self-hatred, saying that she will kill Orual (225), that she has “locked Orual up” and “laid her asleep as best [she] could” (226).  As Orual’s face is lost to the world, queenship becomes her new face.

As with any addiction meant to deaden and smother pain, Orual’s ceaseless work and her string of accomplishments don’t satisfy her for long.   Her longing for the slaking of thirst and the old memory of satisfaction comes through clearly (and poignantly) with these words:

“Oh, for that bowl of milk, drunk alone in the cool dairy, the first day I ever used a sword.”

Some Issues to Ponder

Desperate to gain some relief from the sound of wind-blown chains that sound like Psyche’s weeping, The Queen builds a formidable stone wall around the well. Later, she refers to this building project in the same breath as triumph in the Battle of Essur (235).

“I heard Psyche weeping no more.  The year after that I defeated Essur.”

The Queen may have succeeded in walling up grieving Orual, and she may have felt powerful in the face of what she perceived to be  a “weakened” version of Ungit who smelled “cleaner and less holy” (234).  She may even have been rich enough and broad-minded enough to contribute silver to the temple for the fashioning of a new replacement for the “old, hungry, faceless” Ungit.  However, it was not long before she discovered that the gods were clearly at work behind the scenes, striving to have the last word.

Remember:  Orual had told NO ONE that she had seen Psyche’s palace.  Imagine her horror when she heard in the sing-songy repetition of the “gods’ version” of her story that it included the detail that the sisters had seen the palace and, yet, still enticed their sister away from her husband.

Orual had learned on the banks of the river near The Tree, when she saw the god’s face and experienced his power:   The god of the Grey Mountain is “no tame lion.”  Moving into Part II in which the Queen plans to argue her case against the gods,  it seems certain that we’re in for some sorting of the truth and revealing of motives:

“Let no one lightly set about such a work.  Memory, once waked, will play the tyrant . . . The past which I wrote down was not the past that I thought I had (all these years) been remembering. (253)

These are cautionary words for us as well, for it is God who writes our story and it is His prerogative alone to “set the record straight.”

 Some Issues to Ponder

If readers in the U.S. are busily completing tax forms, Orual’s attitude about her sacrifices to Ungit may have struck a chord with you.  She considers the task burdensome and the temple requirements to be an odious chasing after the prosperity of others.  Whatever we might think about the demands of the IRS, we know that whatever we give to God is simply a return of what is already His in a glorious affirmation of our free will and of our design for worship.  Sadly, this is not the case in Glome.

Orual’s heaviness and gloom reminded me of the writings of Paul the Apostle who did not lose heart — whatever hardships he endured — for he considered every difficulty to be light and momentary when weighed against the “exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”  In Chapters 19-21, The Queen has her own tragic system of measurement.  On one side of the balance scale rest the adulation of the people of Glome, her huge impact for good, and all the daily doings that go into the management of  a kingdom.  They land, in her estimation, like feathers on the scale when weighed against the howling wasteland of a life without Psyche, of a relationship of cool professionalism with Bardia, and the piercing loneliness of an existence in which, in her own words, “one little stairway led me from feast or council, all the bustle and skill and glory of queenship, to my own chamber to be alone with myself — that is with a nothingness.”

We live an a world full of Oruals who keep themselves busy and fill their lives with stuff and accomplishments in order to quiet the questions and mask the ache of longing.  This ending to Part I leaves me feeling sad for our main character and her present-day sisters — and wistful about finding a way to share the hope Paul wrote about, “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” which gave him the ability to view this world with its trials as light and momentary, which indeed it is.

Your Turn

I would love to read your thoughts on this section — or on Part I as a whole.  Join the conversation by linking up a blog post or by commenting below.

Next Time

On Thursday, March 2, I’ll be here having read Chapter 1 and 2 from Part II.

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