A man in his early sixties told me, “I used to think the best way to go through life was to expect the worst. That way, if it happened, you were prepared, and if it didn’t happen, you were pleasantly surprised. Then I was in a car accident and my wife was killed. Needless to say, expecting the worst didn’t prepare me at all. And worse, I still grieve for all of those wonderful moments we shared and that I didn’t fully enjoy. My commitment to her is to fully enjoy every moment now. I just wish she was here, now that I know how to do that.
— A gut wrenching story, but one we need to hear. From Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly.
For the sake of their workers, please do not participate in Wal-Mart’s Thanksgiving Day sale.
Wal-Mart will begin its Black Friday sale on Thanksgiving evening this year. Please, please do not participate. It effectively cancels the day off for many Wal-Mart employees, many of whom may have to work hours before the store opening in order to prepare. Surely Wal-Mart can afford to give all of its employees the entirety of Thanksgiving Day off work. And surely we can all refuse to participate in this orgy of consumerism for the sake of Wal-Mart’s workers.
Litany of the Saints from St. Augustine’s Prayer Book
The Godward movement [of prayer] has many aspects. It includes the use of mind and imagination which we call meditation, it includes the counting of God’s mercies which we call praise and thanksgiving, and self-abasement which we call confession. But try to think of it more simply: it means putting yourself near God, with God, in a time of quietness every day. You put yourself with him just as you are, in the feebleness of your concentration, in your lack of warmth and desire, not trying to manufacture pious thoughts or phrases. You put yourself with God, empty perhaps, but hungry and thirsty for him; and if in sincerity you cannot say that you want God you can perhaps tell him that you want to want him; and if you cannot say even that perhaps you can say that you want to want to want him! Thus you can be very near him in your naked sincerity; and he will do the rest, drawing out from you longings deeper than you knew were there and pouring into you a trust and a love like that of the psalmist—whose words may soon come to your lips. Forgive me for putting this so clumsily. I am trying to say that you find you are “with God” not by achieving certain devotional exercises in his presence but by daring to be your own self as you reach towards him.
— Michael Ramsey, The Christian Priest Today, rev. ed. (London: SPCK, 1985; 1st ed. 1972), pp. 14–15, emphasis original. Found here.
to a Young Child
Margaret, are you grieving
— Gerard Manley Hopkins’ astonishing poem “Spring and Fall”
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What héart héard of, ghóst guéssed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.
I like to walk alone on country paths, rice plants and wild grasses on both sides, putting each foot down on the earth in mindfulness, knowing that I walk on the wondrous earth. In such moments, existence is a miraculous and mysterious reality. People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child - our own two eyes. All is a miracle.
— Thích Nhất Hạnh, *The Miracle of Mindfulness*
It is sometimes said that Mormonism is to Christianity as Christianity is to Judaism. Both Mormonism and Christianity established themselves by reinterpreting a preceding faith. Christianity build on Judaism but emphasized the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; Mormonism began with Christianity but accepted new revelation through a modern prophet.
Ironically, many of the most distinguishing characteristics of Mormonism are Hebraic. In a sense Mormonism differentiated itself from Christianity by returning to Christianity’s roots in the religion of ancient Israel. Joseph Smith claimed to have recovered the Hebrew priesthoods of Aaron and Melchizedek and to have revived the prophetic tradition of Moses and Isaiah. Going back to the rituals of ancient Israel, Smith restored temple worship under the direction of a sacral priesthood. Smith even adapted instructions for ordaining priests in the book of Exodus for portions of Mormon temple rites.
Throughout Smith’s life, the Old Testament was a major source of inspiration. His restoration can be thought of as purging the Hellenistic influences in Christianity and reviving the Hebraic. When he undertook to educate his unlearned followers, Smith passed over the classical languages and hired a Jewish instructor to teach them Hebrew. In the end, Joseph Smith’s restoration pressed Christianity into an Old Testament mold.
— Richard Lyman Bushman, Mormonism: A Very Short Introduction, p 63.
These are the unspoken legacies we inherit when we belong to a people: not only luminous visions of eternal expanses of lovingkindness, but actual human histories of exclusion and rank prejudice. We inherit not only the glorious history of our ancestors, but their human failings too, their kindness, their tenderness, and their satisfaction with easy contradictions; their wisdom as well as their ignorance, their arrogance, and their presumption, as our own. We inherit all the ways in which our ancestors and parents and teachers were wrong, as well as the ways they were right: their sparkling differences, and their human failings. There is no unmixing the two.
— Joanna Brooks, Book of Mormon Girl, p 30
For Lewis, this meant that what commonly passed for self-awareness or self-examination was something of a delusion. All we can hope for is a habit of prosaic honesty, ready to learn over and over again where we have been deceived by ourselves or others. “As long as we have the itch of self-regard,” he wrote in a letter of 1954, “we shall want the pleasure of self-approval; but the happiest moments are those when we forget our precious selves and have neither but have everything else (God, our fellow humans, animals, the garden and the sky) instead.” And developing the habit of undeceiving ourselves so that we are free from self-regard and self-approval is inseparable from the habit of openness to God, openness without “agenda”, a plain willingness to received what is given, co-existing with a peaceful agnosticism about who I really am - a question whose resolution is indisputably and solely in the hands of God.
— Abp Rowan Williams, The Lion’s World
Rowan Williams on the problem of Susan
Lewis is often castigated for how he presents Susan in The Last Battle: “She’s interested in nothing nowadays except nylons and lipstick and invitations. She was always a jolly sight too keen on being grown up.”
Williams acknowledges that the charges against Lewis of sexism are more difficult to counter. But he says the charge that Susan is “damned for reaching sexual maturity” is unfair.
We have already met (in The Horse) a mature Narnian Susan, courted by the heir to the Calormene throne. Her failure is not growing up. It is the denial of what she has known, rooted in her “keenness” not to grow up but to be grown up, a very different matter. “It is the stupidest children who are the most childish and the stupidest grown-ups who are most grown-up,” we are told in Chapter 16 of The Silver Chair. Susan is guilty of what Edmund in The Lion is initially guilty of, no more and no less, which is the refusal to admit the reality of Narnia when you have actually lived there. In The Lion this denial is one of the things that open the door to Edmund’s more serious treachery (so it is hardly a gender-specific matter); the issue is precisely that truthfulness which again and again - as we shall see - emerges as the central moral focus of the Narnia stories.
It will not do to see Lewis as a simple misogynist. It is tempting to say that the further he gets away from theorizing about gender characteristics, the better he is in depicting women; the problem with the ill-starred Jane in That Hideous Strength is - as Stella Gibbons once again observes - that she has to carry an uncomfortable weight of theory in the very complex plot of that strange work.
Lewis once referred to certain kinds of books as a “mouthwash for the imagination”. This is what he attempted to provide in the Narnia stories: an unfamiliar world in which we could rediscover what it might mean to meet the holy without the staleness of religious preconceptions as they appear in our culture. The point of Narnia is the help us rinse out what is stale in our thinking about Christianity - which is almost everything. There are of course many fine strands of hint and allusion that connect us back to the language we know, and we shall be noting a few of them as we move on. But the essential tihng is this invitation to hear the story as if we had never heard it before.
— Abp Rowan Williams, *The Lion’s World*
Narnia, unlike its immediate neighbors, is inhabited by talking animals, who are clearly shown as companions, in some sense equals, in the service of Aslan. Just as in the science fiction stories, especially the first, we are made to see humanity in a fresh perspective; the “natural” pride or arrogance of the human spirit is chastened by the revelation that, in Narnia, you may be on precisely the same spiritual level as a badger or a mouse. Narnia is thus not only about encountering God in a new way; it is also about thinking of your humanity in a rich and surprising context. The “holy nation” includes those whom we think of as outside the all-important human story. But, as in the alien planets of the earlier trilogy, it is crucial to be able to look on humanity as, at best, part of a wider story, always in need of help from those with whom the planet is shared, and, at worst, a positively toxic presence, dragging its neighbours downwards. Lewis would have had plenty of questions to ask of fashionable environmentalism, but he sketches out with great prescience just the set of issues that more recent thinkers have brought into focus about the effects of certain conceptions of human uniqueness.
— Abp Rowan Williams,The Lion’s World
A sharp-eyed reader will soon realize that “Narnia” is both a name for the whole of this world and the name of one particular kingdom within it. But this is not careless writing: the kingdom of Narnia is where the action of Aslan is most clearly present and recognized, where the decisive things happen that shape the destiny of the rest of this world. And this means that the kingdom of Narnia is itself the “Church”, the community where transforming relation with Aslan becomes fully possible.
— Abp Rowan Williams, *The Lion’s World*, chapter one
I am not out to decode images or to uncover a system; but I do hope to show how certain central themes hang together - a concern to do justice to the difference of God, the disturbing and exhilarating otherness of what we encounter in the life of faith; a relentless insistence on self-questioning, not so as to understand ourselves in the abstract or as “interesting” individuals, but simply to discover where we are afraid of the truth and where we turn away into self-serving falsehood; a passion to communicate the excess of joy that is promise by the truth of God in Christ.
— Abp Rowan Williams,The Lion’s World: A journey into the heart of Narnia. That sentence alone is worth the price of the book.