C. S. Lewis and Tamara Natalie Madden: Two Quotes

I want to give thanks today for all those who inspire us daily to live in faith, hope, and love.

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for those who inspire us, as do Lewis and Madden, from very different generations, cultures, classes, life experiences, gender, color, and yet, one faith.

Two artists.

Two communicators in two different mediums.

C. S. Lewis (“Jack”) through his words on a broad canvas of scholarship, Christian apologetics, and science fiction and fantasy works. Tamara Natalie Madden through the portraits she lovingly brushed on a painter’s canvas, where people emerged from their ordinary guises to reveal the immortal souls they bore.

Jack died on this day in November 1963 at the age of 64 in Oxford. Tamara died on November 4, 2017 at the age of 42 in Atlanta, succumbing to cancer after suffering from illness much of her life.

Jack lost his mother at the age of nine and, having married late in life, his wife Joy after only four years of marriage. Tamara received a kidney transplant by “the grace of God”1 that enabled her to live another seventeen years painting and writing, counting “survival from illness, and my willingness to listen to God and pursue my art”2 her greatest achievement.

Both artists remind us not to take ourselves too seriously, or others too lightly. Tamara clothed her subjects in the colorful African and Indian fabrics of royalty. Jack read every one of the hundreds of letters he received from the Christian and non-Christian readers of his books, and replied to each one by his own hand with unfailing kindness and courtesy.

What a blazing legacy they have left us, to live brightly, however briefly, whatever our challenges, heightening our vision to see we are all royalty, bearing the image of God. We are all immortal and destined for immortal ends.

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“Ransom. Ransom. Ransom. Ransom. Ransom.” (Perelandra)

Matthew 16:26/Mark 8:36/Luke 9:25 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?

Of C. S. Lewis’s The Space Trilogy, my favorite for mostly personal reasons is Perelandra. The plot unfolds around a newly formed planet, loosely modeled after Venus, undergoing an Edenic beginning with a man and a woman and a multitude of new creations. Into this is sent Elwin Ransom, the protagonist from earth, charged by God (Maledil) with the mission of thwarting the attempts of Satan (Black Archon) to tempt the newly created Queen to rebel against Maledil and bring about a Fall, the agent of which is another man from earth, the staunch materialist Professor Weston who becomes a demoniac.

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Not Good Works, But God’s Work

I was one of those who was brought up to believe that life’s fullest purpose was to serve mankind, to do good works, that the most joyful life was the most productive life of service. Two fellows who were often quoted to me were Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Rabindranath Tagore, for self-evident reasons, but here’s a sample of why:

Let us, then, be up and doing, With a heart for any fate; Still achieving, still pursuing, Learn to labor and to wait.  (Longfellow, last stanza, “A Psalm of Life,” 1838)

I slept and dreamt that life was joy, I awoke and saw that life was service, I acted and behold, service was joy. (Tagore, 1861-1941)

Yet I had seen enough folk as I was growing up with a stoic sense of responsibility who were as joyless as the day is long, but who were happy enough to criticize those who lived for the joy of the coming life in eternity with their Lord as if their constant desire for heaven was somehow a serious flaw in their character. Escapists and weaklings, they were said to be, with no true love of humanity, living for the joy of what is yet to come when Christ returned instead of the practical demands of the day.

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Leave-takings

 

Savannah Church Door

It is no wonder that Virginia Woolf entitled a collection of essays on writing “A Room of One’s Own” since not only does a writer’s room occupy a space all its own, like a creative work or an individual’s life, but it maintains the boundaries of that space with enclosing walls formed at its conception. Only a doorway admits entrance or exit both to the occupant and visitor. And whatever that “room” may be, however modest or grand, private or public, man-made or natural, we leave one room only to enter another which in turn we leave for another. It is this sense of leave-taking that we see played out in our lives and in our occupations, but also in the interior spaces of the imagination as artists and storytellers, scholars, and critics.

In our lives, we pass through places, events, times, and histories, our own history intersecting with others’, passing from one day to the next until time stops. As writers we leave the “real” world with its ready-made structures and demands into a self-created world which may or may not bear a resemblance to any we have known.

But leave-taking in its many forms is not an easy job, and the dynamics of its interplay between the leaving of one room for another creates an uneasy tension.

There is an entrance that must be made and, more often than not, what we see is a closed door. Maybe even locked. Perhaps only slammed shut by an unceremoniously hostile exit echoing with the finality of rejection. It doesn’t matter that you yourself may have slammed it shut, stung by criticism or scorn or frustration at fruitless effort. The closed door dares you to approach it once more and make your entrance.

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