Made for Heaven: and Why on Earth It Matters

made for heaven

I’ll keep this brief, because the book is brief.

Made for Heaven is a C.S. Lewis book for dummies. Kind of like What Christians Believe, this book collects a few essays or chapters from his other writings, puts it in an easy-to-read font and format, and allows you a glimpse into Lewis’s arguments without making you wade through a few hundred pages of high-falutin’ philosophy. This one discusses why Lewis considers human being to be inherently divine, and why we seem to yearn for something greater than this life.

It’s very good. But if you want something complex, skip it and read Lewis’s other stuff. (You’ll get everything from this book in his other stuff, anyway, since this one is just collected from those ones.) ♦

The God Who Weeps

the god who weeps

I started reading The God Who Weeps for a book club. I didn’t finish it on time, due to a combination of bad time management and the authors’ dense language. But I did enjoy the book and the book club, and I did manage to finish it.

The God Who Weeps, by Terryl and Fiona Givens, is a philosophical explanation of Mormon doctrine concerning God and His relationship to us down here on Earth. It is very thorough, and the language is very academic (which is one reason I had such a hard time finishing it on time for book club). I would highly recommend it to anyone who’s confident with denser material and wants to know more about what Mormons believe. I would also highly recommend it to any Mormon who’s confident with denser material, because it highlights and stresses our ability to have a strong connection with God, even though we’re not perfect.

I feel like there’s something lacking here, however. Everybody in book club said they would recommend it to all their Mormon friends and most of their other friends. I just kind of sat there for a while, and then finally asked, “Am I the only person who has friends who wouldn’t understand a word of this?”

I’m not saying I have stupid friends. I’m just saying that most of my friends – and I – use the words “Taco Bell” more often than we use the word “cosmos.” This book is so academic that I don’t think I would recommend it to anyone who doesn’t consider themselves an intellectual. The writing is about as dense as C.S. Lewis.

On the flip side, I’m not sure how much I appreciated it as an academic work, because the sources were cited poorly. I know I’m being super picky – but I’m a huge stickler on citations, and the authors don’t even specify which quotes come from where – they just have a huge amalgamation of “where we got our stuff” at the back of the book, and you have to go digging through it if you want to find anything specific.

I would still recommend this book – but only to those who are looking for a good, introspective, philosophical look at the nature of God. If you want something just as dense (or denser), but with better notes, history, and citations, read James E. Talmage’s Jesus the Christ. If you’re looking for something a lot less dense, pick up a copy of Preach My Gospel (the missionary manual), or a Gospel Principles manual. ♥

Surprised by Joy

I love C.S. Lewis. I loved The Chronicles of Narnia, I loved The Abolition of Man, I loved Mere Christianity, and I picked up his autobiographical conversion story because I love the way he views Christianity – surely, I would love hearing about his conversion.

The book is called Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life, and the version I picked up has some of the weirdest cover art illustrations I think I’ve ever seen (and I work for a bookstore!) But hey – never judge a book by its cover, right?

surprised by joy

Seriously – who designed this?

It started off a little dry, talking a lot about his early childhood, how much he loved solitude and reading, and how hard it was to get along well with his father, who was a well-meaning man but a bad listener. I muscled through.

Then he talked about his boyhood days at a boarding school, which was miserable, and then his teenage days at another boarding school, where apparently they were required to play sports (which he hated) and some of the boys pimped themselves out to those who were most sexually frustrated (which he sees in retrospect as sinful, but apparently isn’t concerned about abuse at all).  I muscled through.

Then things got Classical. Lewis spent a lot of time obsessed with Norse mythology, (about which I know little more than the Avengers has taught me), learning Greek and Latin (I once took a Latin class and nearly failed out of college), and a whole lot of classics I’ve never even touched. Some of them I haven’t even heard of. At this point, Lewis felt “joy” – a kind of beautiful longing for something spiritual – but didn’t really understand it.

Then things got Philosophical. At this point, I completely had no idea what the man was talking about anymore. I feel like I got plunged into a think tank full of classical literature professors – the kind who keep lapsing into medieval Latin phrases and making punny jokes in Greek – and I never got a chance to come up to the surface and breathe.

Here’s the problem: the book is about Lewis’s conversion to Christianity. But his conversion, as far as I understand it, came through a series of classroom experiences where he kept comparing philosophies and realizing they all came short. And I simply haven’t taken the prerequisites to understand this process. And he seems to assume that everyone else has taken the prerequisites.

To be fair, he was educated in Britain in a very Classics-heavy time period, and I was educated in modern American public school. I can type 100 wpm, but don’t ask me about the Aeneid.

Still – the thing was so obscure that I can’t tell you why C.S. Lewis became a Christian. He apparently had some philosophical journey that resulted in a belief in God, then a belief in Christ. Most or all of it was logical. Little to none of it was emotional. My religious experience is completely different from his, because my personality is completely different from his.

The biggest takeaway message I took from this book was this: I love Lewis’s essays. He explains Christianity to others so well it’s ridiculous. But we would not have gotten along on a personal level. In fact, I don’t even know if we would have had a clue what the other was saying.

I highly recommend any other book by C.S. Lewis. But not this one. ♦

Give More Than You Take

So I was thinking just now about how much people expect out of life.

I mean, some of it’s good. We expect some basic respect, and an end to discrimination, and human dignity and living space and enough food to eat. But I think we also expect some weird things: we think sexual gratification is a right, so the porn industry skyrockets. We think our food has to taste good, so restaurants make gads of money. (Technical term: gads.)We expect people to listen to our thoughts, so we write blogs (cough) and Facebook posts and comment on other people’s thoughts when we really want to get somebody’s attention. And how many of these things are really “rights”? More importantly, what are we missing while we’re screaming for them?

happy

Storytime: I went to eat sushi a while ago with my dad. We had a great time, and when we got back, my mom asked how it was. “They never brought our soup!” I said immediately.

The sushi was all-you-can-eat. And my dad paid the check. I got free, unlimited seafood – cooked for me and delivered to my table while I chatted with my dad – and my first reaction was to criticize the experience. What?

If you told your kids they were only getting a $20 gift for Christmas, how many people would have epic tantrums to deal with?

In comparison, I know a homeless guy who was offered a free meal, declined on principle (because he already had enough), then changed his mind, picked up the meal, and gave it to another homeless guy. This man has needs like I’ve never had, but he didn’t feel them – at least not as much as he felt the responsibility to help.

I’m not advocating everybody live on the street, stop giving Christmas gifts, or throw out the Thanksgiving turkey. I just think we’d all enjoy our lives a little more if we put things in perspective and realized that we’re living the high life. (If you’re reading this, you have access to a computer. Think about that.)

There are still things wrong with the world – but I think we’ll all have more to be grateful for when we start being grateful for the things we already have. If we recognize how many things we have, and don’t need, we’ll feel a little less needy. And that puts us in a better position to recognize and help the needs of others. So take a few minutes to notice. Thank your dad (thanks, Dad) for the free meal instead of complaining about the service. Read a book, and point out the parts you like to your neighbor on the train. Wear your favorite perfume, instead of hoarding it for a “special occasion.”

You’re alive! It’s a special occasion.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! ♦

6iyXxERAT

The Nightly Scream-a-thon

My son is crying himself to sleep. Correction: screaming. Screaming himself to sleep.

He’s been going through this phase lately, where he’s perfectly fine until I come into the room. Then he sees me, screws up his face, and turns on the faucet. Tears everywhere. I need Mom to hold me. I keep racking my brain to figure out if I’ve been  rewarding the wrong behaviors, but I usually only give him significant attention when he’s happy (or at least, calm enough to breathe normally).

I’m beginning to understand the term “crybaby,” and hoping he’ll grow out of it. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that most of us never really grow out of it; we just get a little more articulate.

Five-year-old: I need attention. I’ll pick a fight with a sibling, get hit, and whip up some tears.

Ten-year-old: I need attention. I’ll tell Mom and Dad all about the bully who picked on me at school.

Fifteen-year-old: I need attention. My life is in shambles. I don’t know who I am, what hair color I want, which gender I’m supposed to be, what my (chosen or biological) gender is supposed to be angry about, and my parents are ruining my life.

Twenty-year-old: I need attention. I’ll go post a vague status update on Facebook, with some song lyrics that may or may not be depressing/suicidal.

Thirty-five-year-old: I need attention. I’ll post something on Facebook about how overwhelming my kids are – but I’ll make it funny enough that people will stop to comment.

Fifty-year-old: I need attention. I’ll post pictures of my grandkids. People will tell me they’re adorable.

Seventy-year-old: I need attention. I’ll talk about my medical problems and brag about the days of yore.

We all do it. So here’s my takeaway question: is it really a problem? Is this a thing we’re supposed to get over entirely (and don’t), or is this really just something that’s supposed to change with time? I mean, I’d like to think I’m independent enough not to need validation from the world around me…

…but I am writing a blog. ♦

Is the Devil Afraid of Me?

godvsdevil

I was reading Jesus the Christ this morning, by James E. Talmage (which is super long, and might take me a long, looong time to finish), and something struck me that I’ve never really noticed before. Talmage is talking about Jesus enduring the devil’s temptations: Satan asks Jesus to prove His Godhood by turning stones into bread or by throwing Himself off of the temple and expecting His Father (God) to rescue Him. Jesus answers “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord, thy God.” And then Satan changes tactics, and offers Jesus power and glory:

8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceedingly high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;

9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.

10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.

(Matthew 4:8-10)

So Satan shows Jesus the kingdoms of the world, and promises to give them to Him in exchange for worship. Now here’s what Talmage says about it:

“The effrontery of his offer was of itself diabolical. Christ, the Creator of heaven and earth, tabernacled as He then was in mortal flesh, may not have remembered His pre-existent state, nor the part He had taken in the great council of the Gods; while Satan, an unembodied spirit – he the disinherited, the rebellious and rejected son – seeking to tempt the Being through whom the world was created by promising Him part of what was wholly His, still may have had, as indeed he may yet have, a remembrance of those primeval scenes.”

Jesus tempted

So let’s break this down, because Talmage is rather – shall we say – verbose. Jesus created the world. Then He was born, forgot everything (as mortals are wont to do), and slowly learned He was the Messiah. So Satan came to tempt Him, offering Him the worlds…that He created. It would be like somebody stealing your bike and trying to sell it back to you. But on a much, much bigger scale.

And that’s where I really started thinking. If Jesus existed before He was physically born, it stands to reason that we all did, right? And if Satan used Jesus’s strengths – the things He already had – as temptations, why wouldn’t the devil use the same tactic on me? Let’s say, for example, that I was really good at music in a previous life. Now I’m here, and I’ve forgotten how great I was at music. But I’m still the same person, so I still care about music – so Satan tries to convince me that I’ll never succeed in the music industry unless I go all Miley Cyrus about it and throw all morality to the wind.

Are you following me? We don’t remember what happened before this life – that’s why this life is such a test of character – but Satan remembers, because he rebelled and opted out of the test (or rather, dropped out of school). And now he tries to use our strengths against us.

Now, this isn’t doctrine, as far as I’m aware. I’m speculating. But let’s just pretend for a second that I’m on to something. If I’m right, what does that say about the millions of women struggling with self-image? If the devil puts dark thoughts in your head that you’ll never be pretty enough, is that because he knows exactly how beautiful you already are? If he tells you you’re untalented, does he remember how invaluable you are to those around you? If he tries to convince you you’re stupid, is that because he’s jealous of your intellect? What if he tells you that nobody cares? That you’ll always just be a mindless follower?

What does the devil know about you that you don’t? What is he trying to hide from you?

And what does God know about you – that He desperately wants to remind you – that you’re not taking the time to remember?

Jesus loves you more than you know

I believe that if anybody knows our full potential, it’s God – our Creator. He remembers who we were before this life, and He knows who we are now, better than anyone. And He knows it, free of the screaming sounds of the media telling us what we should be buying and who we should be idolizing and why we’ll never be as good as [insert fabulous celebrity here]. He knows us. And I believe He’s willing to show us who we are, if we just spend enough time talking with Him to learn. But how will we ever learn if we won’t take the time to listen?

This week, I want to spend some time on my knees, just asking questions and quietly listening. I want to know what kind of person God knows I can be – what kind of person He knows I already am. ♥