Friends Forever

There’s a statement by C. S. Lewis from The Four Loves which has great currency for me. It says:  “Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought that no one but myself ….'” Wisdom from the pen of Lewis rarely disappoints. This statement is no exception.Terri

Back in the mid-1960s, I became acquainted with one of the new girls in my class at junior high school. Little did I know that our friendship would deepen and grow, that eventually my older brother would marry her, and that we’d sustain a lifelong bond of friendship that only grows sweeter as we grow older.

Through the years as we’ve both raised our families, we’ve experienced similar (though separate) lives. After marriage, the stages of work and childbearing and completing education and more work and more education and moving to different cities as our husbands made career changes and the loss of parents in death and … all those common milestones of life, we always seemed to have the “What! You too?” moments between us. Continue reading “Friends Forever”

Domestic Violence

If you expect this post to be another in the long list of comments and criticisms and criminalities of a once-football player, please stay tuned. I’m going to suggest there’s another kind of domestic violence that doesn’t scandalize the masses even though it should.

FROM:  http://tiny.cc/jz7xlx
FROM: http://tiny.cc/jz7xlx

Reading the excellent September 5th post at askthebigot.com, I found myself once again dismayed at the nightmare that masquerades as the state of California! This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of this lunacy. However, because I live in the middle of the country, what goes on at the margins doesn’t always earn my front-burner attention. But “The Bigot” wrote compellingly about why California’s birth certificate makeover is political correctness writ large and disastrous!

This, my friends, is domestic violence. Every boy and girl deserves to know who he or she is. We’re not just talking a name here. Who are their parents? What are the bonafides that uniquely connect them to an identity? What are the family ties and cultural underpinnings that have created that synergism of biological connectedness? Continue reading “Domestic Violence”

A Hole In The World

Fifty-one years. That’s how long they were married before the wife died late last year. In the months since, he’s struggled, attempting to understand his place in this world. His adult children have wrapped their arms around him and included him in every aspect of their lives so he’s rarely at a loss for something to do … but he’s lonely. Female friends have invited him out – dinner, dancing, movies and he’s gone a time or two, but then the realization overpowers him … even in the company of others, he suffers from loneliness.

FROM:  http://tiny.cc/5wbulx
FROM: http://tiny.cc/5wbulx

For this man (whom I met today), his struggle with loneliness is complicated because his wife was housebound and eventually bedridden for several years with him as her sole caretaker. The routine he’d adopted created a familiar pattern and meaning for his world. However, as he’s navigated the last ten months, the loss of pattern thrusts him into meaninglessness. Whatever efforts he’d made to care for his wife during her illness, he did so for her benefit. Today, like a rudderless boat, his striving seems without clear direction. When he was telling us about his present pain, tears came to his eyes and the rest of us sharing lunch with him were deeply moved by his obvious suffering.

Sometimes the world simply doesn’t make sense. We can live with someone for fifty years or more and their habits and actions can be endearing (at certain times) as well as exasperating (at other times) but their absence – especially the suffocating separation of death – is so jarring, it causes a wrenching amputation unlike anything else we’re ever likely to experience!

Continue reading “A Hole In The World”

Asleep At The Pen?

During my writing life, I have subscribed at various times to writing blogs:  how-to write blogs, how-to publish blogs, how-to market your writing blogs. These various online resources provide their take on a plethora of writing-related topics, and many offer helpful tools and information.

tweety-bird-slippers-2-lgI’ve noticed whenever a gaggle of writers gathers, sooner or later, the conversation turns to talking shop and within a short while turns to discussion about processhow do you do what you do? This comparing-notes aspect of writerly minutiae can be as mundane as (1) writing a thousand words a day, (2) composition before noon, editing after noon … or as esoteric as wearing plush Tweety-Bird slippers while you work. (Oops! Now you know my secret!)

Habits. We all have them, not just writers. Sometimes, our habits enhance our level of production, but not always. But it’s not uncommon for us to examine the habits of others with the precise idea that emulating their habits may help us to become a better writer or increase our production or marketability or … whatever.

When I came across the brainpickings.org website, I was fascinated by its digest of “interestingness” (their word). One of their posts from last year is titled “Famous Writers’ Sleep Habits vs. Literary Productivity, Visualized.” It rarely hurts to include an illustration, and brainpickings proves its value by including an illustrated chart they’ve developed. Though their database was limited to those writers (over time) who’ve given information about their sleep patterns, the chart doesn’t disappoint.

A couple days ago, when I posted a few clues about my own sleep/wake habits, I hadn’t seen the chart. (Ha! Much to the shock of all, my name was left off!) But I was gratified to see that my favorite writer, C. S. Lewis, was a later sleeper than my normal routine reflects.

What about you? Do your rising habits put you on course for the Pulitzer? Finally, and most importantly, do you favor Tweety-Bird or Sylvester-the-Cat slippers? (Your secret is safe with me, I promise!)

Useless Dragon

It’s no secret that I greatly love the The Chronicles of Narnia, a series of seven books by C. S. Lewis.

Screenshot 2014-04-25 23.09.39I’m working on a group of sonnets that will feature the characters in these books. I plan to post the sonnets in no particular order — mainly because I don’t have an expected order for their completion. Today’s post will be the first with others to follow as I’ve satisfactorily completed them.

I love this book cover with its sympathetic depiction of Eustace Scrubb, the dragon. In spite of his unappealing nature at the beginning of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, something about this picture captures the vulnerability of Eustace that lies hidden beneath his initial characterization … “dreadful cousin,” an imperious child of progressive parents (whom he addresses by name).

These and other clues help the reader to understand Eustace is a self-centered child and also illustrates why the Pevensie cousins (Lucy and Edmund) aren’t fond of him. Further, despite all Eustace’s progressive education, he is initially unfamiliar with a dragon’s lair (Lewis points out) because he has “read only the wrong books.” With this statement, the child-reader easily comprehends the depth of Scrubb’s educational deficit.

Something else I enjoy about the above book cover is the diminutive and valiant Reepicheep standing guard between the dragon’s claws. Regardless of how Eustace has previously treated him, Reepicheep (a student of chivalry) will faithfully stand by Eustace and keep him safe for the sake of Lucy and Edmund.

Dawn Treader is a wonderful adventure tale … for children of all ages. (See my previous post about it here.)

Narnia, Eustace Scrubb, dragon, Aslan, windswept isles, fairy, sonnet, poetry, poem
Sonnet: Eustace Scrubb: Dragon Rights

In the sonnet below, I’ve very briefly described the transformation of Eustace. Even for readers who find Eustace an unpleasant character in the early chapters, I think Lewis created an interesting character with whom children easily identify. Scrubb’s subsequent transformation doesn’t sand off all the rough edges (nor bring Eustace anywhere close to perfection) but children see a petulant child whose behavior becomes more tolerable and likable. It’s a partial transformation, one that will continue to unfold in the book that follows, The Silver Chair.

 

What’s So Good About Good Friday?

Crucifixion Day. People know this day as Good Friday, the day on which Jesus Christ was nailed to a cross. The Good Friday designation may be a better slogan, less jarring to the public perception, I suppose, but it should go without saying, this day was anything but good for its central figure, Jesus Christ.

As a specific point in history, Good Friday was unquestionably a day like none other. It was, in fact, decidedly worse than Alexander’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Way more devastating than the damage done by rampaging hordes of the Middle Ages or the raping, pillaging conquerors of Genghis Khan‘s day. (No, my intent is not to make light of Good Friday, but rather to acknowledge, in a world where terrible, horrible, awful things happen every single day, the Crucifixion event belongs in a category all its own.)

The Creator of all mankind didn’t design the world with Death. Adam and Eve were created to enjoy and thrive in a perfect garden. They were given a luxurious pristine world, but the couple chose to reject God’s provision. By rejecting God (believing instead the lies of a serpent), their act of rebellion (sin) brought Death. From that moment, everything on the planet − everything − was forever tainted by Death’s decay.

Yet, even before the two humans were expelled from Eden, God himself provided a way of escape:  blood was shed to clothe the pair. Blood, the only means for reconciling man to God, the proof and promise from God that for a now-broken world, all was not lost.Bible_006

Fast-forward the narrative to Holy Week. Jesus has already demonstrated the power to call a man, Lazarus, out from the grave! Lazarus had been in the grave four days; when Jesus instructed the tomb be opened, Martha balked. She reminded Jesus there’d be a stench after four days of decay.

The Jews in his company recalled an earlier miracle when Jesus healed a blind man, and they were quick to suggest Jesus might have kept Lazarus from dying … if only he’d been there. The multitudes following Jesus had witnessed the earlier healing and were amazed by the miracles. (In fact, many who continued to follow Jesus into Jerusalem were just as interested in seeing Lazarus, knowing he was the man Jesus had raised from the dead!)

Mary echoed the crowd’s lament:  “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

But nobody (not Mary, not Martha, not the disciples in his company, not even the multitudes who witnessed other miracles) ever supposed Jesus would do what he did, saying “… with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth.'”

Because nobody − NOBODY! − had yet understood Jesus, the one and only son of God, held power over the grave. This was beyond their understanding … this was what C. S. Lewis aptly described as “the deeper magic from before the dawn of time.” (From chapter fifteen, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.)

The blood shed back in Eden foreshadowed the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ at the Crucifixion. Because the sin of Adam (and Eve) was perpetrated by humans, animal sacrifice was never an effective (once-for-all) solution. Human sin called for human amends. Adam couldn’t volunteer to die for Eve’s sins … when he died, it was the just punishment for his sins. Nor could a sacrificial act by Eve cover Adam’s sins … she had her own sins, and the penalty for them was Death.Bible_007

A Human, one sinless (perfect) human, could die for all − which is exactly what happened on the day of the Crucifixion. God became man in the person of Jesus Christ. He lived a perfect life (being “tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin”) and he suffered an ignominious death on the Cross … not because Jesus sinned but rather to pay the penalty of my sin!

When my kids were younger, they’d have exclaimed, That’s not fair! Why should Jesus die for me (or them)? And they’re right … it wasn’t fair, but sin required payment. Jesus paid the penalty in my place.

Consider this though:  it wouldn’t have meant anything at all for Jesus to simply die, just another poor sap in the long line of human history who died an inglorious Death. Three men were crucified that day. All three of them were buried but the bodies of two men remained in their pauper’s graves.

Jesus did not remain in the grave!

Jesus had to go t-h-r-o-u-g-h Death … dying wasn’t enough! Recall that memorable scene from Braveheart when William Wallace says “All men die but not all men really live.” In his humanity, Jesus did what all men do:  he died. In his deity, Jesus did what no man can do:  he defeated Death!

In my earlier post, A Life On Loan, I recounted the ultimate sacrifice of one soldier (Sgt. Daniel Ferguson) to spare the lives of his imperiled associates. The Crucifixion demonstrates the greatest love, Jesus laying down his life for all.

In yesterday’s post, I noted The Resurrection of Jesus Christ was (and continues to be) a transformative event.” Allow me to restate my observation with added emphasis:  The Resurrection of Jesus Christ was (and is) THE singular, most transformative event in human history.

Death has been vanquished, once-for-all! The horrific tragedy of Crucifixion Day made Resurrection Day possible. Why would anyone knowingly choose to die for their own sins when Jesus Christ, the perfect Lamb of God, has already paid the penalty in his flesh?

Made For Heaven?

Lewis_legscrossedOver the last six weeks, my Beloved and I have been participating in a class on C. S. Lewis. The moderator (a physician) is a man whose love for Lewis is like an infectious disease − communicated orally. It was such a pleasure to be part of this class!

Today (in spite of the nasty weather), we enjoyed warm conversation discussing a sermon, The Weight of Glory, which Lewis delivered at an Oxford church on June 8, 1941. The timing of this speech coincided with the middle years of World War II, less than two weeks after the British had successfully sunk the German battleship Bismarck and on the heels of Germany’s air assault that failed to bring Britain to its knees during the Battle of Britain. In other words, these were generally sober days and the outcome of the war was still in doubt.

The Weight of Glory is rich with insight and reasoned discussion. Whether you’re a Lewis fan or foe, please read it and reflect on his points. It’s worthy of study.

Not surprisingly, Lewis touches on longing, the sehnsucht about which he often wrote. In this discourse, he makes an early point that “if we are made for heaven, the desire for our proper place will be already in us, but not yet attached to the true object, and will even appear as the rival of that object.” He goes on to develop this idea through the rest of the sermon.

I suspect I may ruffle some feathers as I agree with Lewis that we are made for heaven. This is (in my view) the reason why human beings (no matter how separated they are from faith and religion) still hold to some personal view of right and wrong (absolutes). Because we are made for heaven, even little children have a keen sense of what is “right” (and most especially, what is “wrong”) − long before they’re capable of articulating why. Right and wrong has been embedded in the soul … by our Creator.

I frequently read posts by agnostics and atheists in which they share their reasoning for holding to their particular worldview. And yes, I’ve read numerous posts from formerly religious individuals who have rejected faith. Okay.

I’ve even gotten into hot water here on my blog for comments considered intolerant or unkind. Again, okay.

To date, however, the question still begs:  why absolutes? why right and wrong? why a code of moral behavior if (as Dr. Carl Sagan famously claimed) “the cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be?” In other words, why would anyone choose to be moral? Not for eternal rewards, certainly.

The sonnet I’ve chosen for today is one I wrote a number of years back. Please don’t construe the lines as argumentative. They pose an honest, rational question. And when I refer to “primal goo,” that’s not a put-down. “Primordial soup” is a term used to describe theories of origin, but the term didn’t fit well into my iambic pentameter structure.

Enlightenment, monster from the id, absolutes, passions, sonnet, poetry, poem
Sonnet: Enlightenment

I love the way Lewis concludes his discourse, The Weight of Glory. He states: “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.” Again, I agree. Knowing that you are (as I am) “made for heaven,” the joy of the Lord is set before us as a choice, a potential for desire fulfilled. Lewis argues this desire is one “no natural happiness will satisfy.”

Why should we be satisfied making mud pies when a holiday at the shore would be desire truly and completely fulfilled?

What’s Your Mission?

safetyHere’s another quirky film I watched this week. Safety Not Guaranteed from 2012 provides an intriguing premise:  an unusual want-ad sets three magazine employees on the trail of a reclusive (perhaps deranged) fellow who insists he can time-travel … and means to do so with a companion he hopes to hire via his want-ad.

Of the four main characters in this film, not one of them was familiar to me. I note that Aubrey Plaza is a cast member of Parks and Recreation (a television comedy series I’ve never viewed). In this movie, she demonstrated great timing and subtlety. Then there’s Jake Johnson, a comedian whose resumé includes other shows I don’t know. Mark Duplass plays the recluse, again, not someone I recognized. Karan Soni may be the least recognizable of them all.

In some regard, my unfamiliarity with these four actors may have increased my enjoyment of the film. I had no expectations or preconceptions (based on a familiar body of work). This left me free to engage with the film.

The film is strange in places and the actors give uneven performances. Especially with the slightly off-center situation, there were moments when I wasn’t comfortable liking any of the main characters. From the beginning, I wanted to like (sympathize) with them, but at points they didn’t earn my sympathy. I wanted to trust the mysterious recluse, tried to convince myself he wasn’t driven by lunacy. I felt stuck in a kind of limbo, unable to say I liked the film, but equally unable to dislike it.

Perhaps that’s due in part because the premise made me want to like it and see the premise successfully implemented. Continue reading “What’s Your Mission?”

Happy Birthday, Edgar Allan Poe(t)

poeToday, I mark the two-hundred-fifth birthday of Edgar Allan Poe. As one of the earliest American writers of renown, Poe’s life unfolds a cautionary tale in our general understanding about the struggles and motivation often thought to be required of a writer. In some respects, he epitomized the stereotype of a tortured soul driven to express his passion and loneliness on the printed page.

One might easily understand the angst that seems a significant part of his existence. Born in 1809, his father “disappeared” early (so described in at least one source, while others say the man died … who can say for certain?) and then his mother died, both events occurring before Poe had reached his third birthday.

After Poe became an orphan, he was fortunate to have a well-to-do family (John and Frances Allan) bring him into their home though he was never formally adopted. Like so many relationships in Poe’s life, this one was fraught with grief.  Frances Allan died when the lad was barely twenty. Poe’s relationship with John Allan had serious ups and downs. The foster father provided funding for Poe’s top-notch early education, but there were often clashes and estrangement resulted. Gambling debts and instability were major points of contention between the two. Continue reading “Happy Birthday, Edgar Allan Poe(t)”

D-I-V-O-R-C-E

As a culture over the last hundred years or so, we’ve witnessed marriages dissolve with such regularity as to see the matter become commonplace. Some readers might consider it harsh for me to suggest divorce is, in fact, another manifestation of the Brave New World. Though I think it applies, I will refrain from using the title this time.the_divorce_by_t_u_l_p-d3btlfj

I’m thankful to be married to the same man who caught my eye (and shortly after that, my heart) more than forty-four years ago. Part of the marriage vows we repeated to each other (and all who attended our wedding) promised we would love and cherish one another “… so long as we both shall live.” We both meant what we promised that day.

Has it always been easy? Hardly. The way I’ve always viewed it though, when a person gives his or her word, that’s as good as gold; there’s no turning back.

I recall a time when my children were young. My daughter was in conversation with one of her playmates and they were talking about their dads. The young playmate suddenly exclaimed:  “You mean your dad lives here … with you?!” (Her tone and body language implicitly communicated, “How weird is that?”)

That conversation must have taken place some thirty years ago, perhaps more. I was struck by the unpleasant realization that children in our home town were growing up in households where Daddy was just a sometime visitor. As most everyone knows, this is the situation across much of our country today, a fact of modern life.

Yep, I’m old-fashioned. Children need their daddy and they need their mamma. As the website anonymousfathersday explains so clearly (and other resources concur), children have an innate need to connect. This need doesn’t recede just because they have “loving parents” (not always blood-related) to raise them. It doesn’t go away when they reach adulthood.

Divorce powerfully shatters a child’s world. I think it’s no exaggeration to say children of divorce know almost immediately their lives will never be the same again. Even if they’re too young to verbalize the extent of their loss, they understand it.

ASIDE:  Please don’t mistake my words. I’m not casting blame, but I grieve terribly for children who suffer in what I can only describe as a suffocating swamp. (There’s no way out, just an ongoing struggle not to be swallowed up any further.) Yes, children bounce back from the worst experiences, but many also carry lifelong scars.

Through the years, I’ve known many children scarred by divorce. Even acknowledging the deep wounds they’ve sustained, they’re not the only ones who get pounded.

I’ve known numerous adults who experienced divorce and some with multiple divorces. No matter how “amicable” the divorce was supposed to be, lingering regrets and distress are an ongoing plague. It’s the nature of broken relationships to turn us into broken and tormented people. It is, plain and simple, a death unlike any other.

Whenever a friend tells me about his or her divorce, I’m prone to cogitate on and internalize details they share; I can’t help it and often their stories turn into subjects for my poetry. The sonnet below pictures how one father addressed his pain. (I suspect he’s not alone in coping with his loss as described in the poem.)

The-Closet, Christmas, gifts, presents, despair, broken relationships, sonnet, poetry, poem
Sonnet: The Closet

 

Whether for a child or an adult, there’s purpose in the pain. As C. S. Lewis put it:  “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”