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Category Archives: Spirituality

The Screwtape Letters

screwtape-lettersC.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters has been on my mental list of books I should read for years. Boy, do I regret not getting to this witty, wise book sooner.

Written from the point of view of a modern devil, Lewis’ book is a collection of letters between Screwtape, an uncle mentoring Wormwood, a young tempter as he tries to win a human over to the side of evil. The letters are clever as well as perceptive. Screwtape must make his thoughts on temptation and salvation clear to Wormwood, who’s something of a blockhead. Screwtape makes it crystal clear that for the Devil to win, he doesn’t care about the “quality” of the fallen as much as about the quantity and the modern world where people’s thinking have become sloppy and morality fuzzy, allows for evil to win boatloads of souls. The book takes you on an interesting journey as Wormwood bungles his mission.

Reading from Screwtape’s point of view was tricky. I had to constantly remind myself that for him the “Enemy” was God and that he flipped his opinion of Above (heaven) and Below (hell). I’m used to seeing as the Above being the home of the good guys.

Much of the book examines modern British society’s failings but Lewis’ criticisms are still true, at least they fit in the US where morals have been shrugged aside as irrelevant, education’s been watered down and the word “democracy” is misunderstood.

Here are a few quotations:

“Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts,…Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape.”

“It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.”

“Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality.”

“Prosperity knits a man to the world. He feels that he is finding his place in it, while really it is finding its place in him.”

“When two humans have lived together for many years it usually happens that each has tones of voice and expressions of face which are almost unendurably irritating to the other. Work on that. Bring fully into the consciousness of your patient that particular lift of his mother’s eyebrows which he learned to dislike in the nursery, and let him think how much he dislikes it. Let him assume that she knows how annoying it is and does it to annoy – if you know your job he will not notice the immense improbability of the assumption. And, of course, never let him suspect that he has tones and looks which similarly annoy her. As he cannot see or hear himself, this easily managed.”

 

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Posted by on August 30, 2018 in book review, fiction, postaweek, Spirituality

 

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Child in the Manger

child manger

By Liesbet Sleger, A Child in the Manger is a wonderful book to introduce young children (2 – 4 years old) to the story of Jesus’ birth. It’s a simple telling with few words that’ll need explanation.

The illustrations look almost like a child’s drawing with their bold outlines. The colors are cheerful as is the tone.

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2017 in British Lit, Children's Lit, Religion, Spirituality

 

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Good Stories: What Christian Writers Can Offer

Yep, Barabara Nicolosi, founder of Act One and professional screenwriter, is right. I agree that we need to work and think really hard to offer the world the sort of stories Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, Françoise Mauriac, Dostoevsky and Victor Hugo offered. But it would be worth it.

This weekend I finish my library class and start writing in earnest. Promise.

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2013 in book lovers, Christianity, classic, Nobel Prize, Spirituality, Theology, writers

 

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The Promise of Paradox

I’m a Parker Palmer fan and couldn’t resist picking up The Promise of Paradox: A Celebration of Contradictions in the Christian Life when I saw it in the little library here at the Ghost Ranch. This book was first written in 1980 and has been updated and rereleased.

In the first third of the book, Palmer reflects on Trappist monk,Thomas Merton‘s writing on paradox, concentrating on Merton’s image of living his life in the belly of a paradox, on how the cross urges us to hold contradictions, e.g. you must lose your life to keep it, together in tension.

Ironically or providentially, tension and contradiction came up in a discussion I had earlier the day I read this. We have this desire to resolve tension, to get rid of it. We don’t like holding oppositions in our minds and hearts.

Well, Palmer and Merton urge us to be patient, to see that the cross symbolizes and teaches us to bear these tensions. The book is full of potent quotations and is quite engrossing in the beginning.

As the book continues, I lost interest as Palmer moved onto other themes. The part on his Way of the Cross was relevant. However, as the book veered into discussions on education, my interest waned. I felt I’d read this before in other places and that it was just filler. Though I agree with Palmer’s opinions, I felt the end of the book didn’t fit with the beginning. Perhaps if I read his introduction, I’d get what his reasoning was for the last section, but I feel a reader shouldn’t have to read the introduction, that the intro is just an extra. The main text should be sufficient onto itself. Perhaps the cover should bill this as a collection of essays.

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2011 in contemporary, Spirituality

 

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Five Books

Just five, huh? Well, that’s not easy, but I’ll follow the rule to be fast and add a guideline that if it’s been that influential, it’s probably a book I’ve read a few times. Last week I got a novel I thought was wonderful out of the library and when I began rereading it, I thought, “Boy, what’s with all this over done description.”

Here goes:

  1. The Great Gatsby: it’s importance lies in the language, which I’d say is perfect. The story’s compelling too.
  2. Pride and Prejudice: it’s a classic written by a woman and one I can read again and again and still enjoy and find more humor or insight. Each time I read it, I’m delighted.
  3. Catcher in the Rye: I like the jaded, yet sensitive Holden Caulfield. And each time I read it I get more connections between characters and symbollism.
  4. Brideshead Revisited: it’s a perfect book that I’ve read three times. What an amazing understanding of people, society and grace!
  5. The Bible: well, that seems like something people have to throw in if they’re Christians of a certain ilk. I never had a problem with the Bible and I’ve grown up with it, but until recently it was a good book, but not one I’d put on this list. It’s not one I’d read for the heck of it. Yet, I did challenge myself to read it cover-to-cover a few years back and have also met some friends who really know it. As a Catholic school student, I had some required Bible reading but the accent seemed to be on required. Reading it by choice and learning the cross references and Greek translations, has changed how I consider the Bible. Last fall I learned about Habbukuk, a prophet. Whoa, he has a great dialog with God, where he really tears into God. It’s criminal that we bypassed that in Sr. Mary Rose’s class. Even if there isn’t time for everything, make time for Habbukuk, he’s so relevant. Teens would wake up.
     
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Posted by on July 25, 2011 in American Lit, British Lit, Spirituality

 

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