Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volumes 1-3 (Harper San Francisco, 2004, 2004, 2007)
Reviewed by Jessica Shaver Renshaw
“I think you and I ought to publish our letters (they’d be a jolly interesting book by the way)…”
– C.S. Lewis, age 17, to Arthur Greeves, March 14, 1916
     I’ve wondered what C.S. Lewis was like as a person. He was a colossus as thinker and author, able to sever knots of intellectual and theological difficulty (and stuffiness) with insightful words, offering truth in clear, sensible, emotionally satisfying chunks.
     But I’ve often thought he would have been an intimidating man to hang out with. He and his wife Joy played Scrabble in five languages, including Chaucerian English. Lewis kept up a correspondence with an Italian priest in Latin, the only language they had in common. Of the hundreds of books in his library, a visitor could pick one at random, start to read aloud any sentence - and listen to Lewis quote the rest by memory.
I couldn’t possibly match the breadth of his literary allusions, his powers of articulation. And then there’s his early snobbery, when he felt that Americans and women were inferior beings. I am both. He preferred the camaraderie of men, especially accompanied by a pint in a smoke-filled pub. He would have awed me and I would have bored him.
     But by reading his letters, I can look over his shoulder as he writes. I can stop him and say, “So that’s where you got the idea for Aslan.” Or I can ramble contentedly with him on walking tours through England on winter mornings with mist as “tangible as treacle” or on summer evenings with golden light so “liquid” one can almost drink it. Through his letters I can become his friend, without his even knowing I’m there.
     C.S. (”Jack”) Lewis would have had no patience with what we are about to do: discuss his personal life.  “I have no natural curiosity about private lives,” he wrote to one friend and to another, “…we begin thinking about the private life of the actors when the play ceases to grip us.”
     In response to a request for “background information” from an American minister in 1948, the British author of The Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity, A Space Trilogy, and The Chronicles of Narnia wrote back, in a rare burst of pique, ‘Ought you, as a Pastor, to encourage the public demand for quite irrelevant facts about authors?… I can’t abide the idea that a man’s books shd. be ‘set in their biographical context’ and if I had some rare information about the private life of Shakespeare or Dante I’d throw it in the fire, tell no one, and re-read their works.” In the same letter he declared, “…the only thing of any importance (if that is) about me is what I have to say.”
     But since, at 17, he was the first one to suggest publishing his letters and since in those letters he gives us glimpses of his private life, he might not mind our extracting from them what he had to say about himself.
     Now edited and annotated, The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis (HarperSan Francisco, 2004, 2004, 2007) show the progression of the man intellectually, professionally, and spiritually. The three volumes, totaling 3,600 pages, consist of Family Letters 1905-1931; Books, Broadcasts, and the War 1931-1949; and Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy 1950-1963.
     To children, Jack described himself at 55 as "tall. . . double-chinned, black-haired, have a deep voice, and wear glasses for reading." "I look awful. Imagine a marsh-wiggle gone fat and red in the face. And deaf and bald. I talk far too loud." He excused himself from his goddaughter Sarah's confirmation with "I am afraid you might have found me very shy and dull." He called himself and brother Warnie "two crusted old batchelors," "old square-rigged types(s)," "quiet ruminants."
     He couldn't drive, couldn't type: "I'm no good at any sort of machine." An abnormality in his thumbs made him "clumsy," "unhandy and messy." He couldn't tie knots. When "putting up a parcel. . .(i)t always looks like a bundle of old clothes. . .and my fingers are covered with sealing wax." "Why did I become a writer? Chiefly, I think, because my clumsiness of fingers prevented me from making things in any other way."
     To the Milton Society of America in 1954, he described himself more seriously. His books may appear "a very mixed bag" but they have "a guiding thread": "The imaginative man in me is older, more continuously operative, and in that sense more basic than either the religious writer or the critic. It was he who made me first attempt (with little success) to be a poet. It was he who, in response to the poetry of others, made me a critic. . . It was he who, after my conversion led me to embody my religious belief in symbolical or mythopoeic forms, ranging from Screwtape to a kind of theologised science-fiction. And it was, of course, he who has brought me, in the last few years to write the series of Narnian stories for children. . . because the fairy-tale was the genre best fitted for what I wanted to say."
     His earliest loves lasted his whole life. His first extant letter written when he was nearly eight years old begins: "My dear Warnie[,] Peter [Jack's canary] has had two un-fortunate aventures since I last wrote, however they came out all right in the end. . ." he goes on to describe other animal "aventures," fun with fireworks and apples at Halloween, studies in French and Latin: "Tomorrow I decline that old 'Bonus,' 'Bona,' 'Bonum' thing. . ."
     Observations about animals, seasons, scholarship--these themes echo throughout his letters for the next 57 years. As Jack wrote of his friend Arthur Greeves' letters, his own are "full of enthusiasm about books and music and scenery" as well as "walking tours," seasons, "bathing," animals, and writing--marvelous, lengthy descriptions from which deciding which gems to offer in a review like this one is hopelessly (and frustratingly) limiting.
     Volume 1 closes with Jack embracing a new love, Jesus Christ, which will permeate everything he writes from then on. Each new radio broadcast or publication brings him increased numbers of invitations to write and speak (many from America), almost all of which he turns down as redundant. There are book galleys to edit, personal requests for advice, unsolicited poems and stories to critique, and "a great number of theological letters. . .which can't be neglected because they are answers to people in great need of help & often in great misery." Many of these letters are too carefully reasoned for a mere extract to do them justice.
     By the end of Volume 2, letter-writing consumes more and more of his time, giving him less time for the things he loves to do: the conversations with peers, the walking tours, the trips back to Ireland. He is increasingly becoming the "crusted old batchelor." His peeves are becoming more evident: correspondence; cities; TV; newspapers; modern novels, poetry, and theology; movies; Americans.
     Two new loves revived Lewis in the last 13 years of his life (Volume 3). He accepted the invitation from Magdalene College of Cambridge University to assume the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance English, a position created for him (although, ironically, he did not believe in the Renaissance), and he married Joy Davidman Gresham.
     Joy Gresham came into his life and his letters in December 1952. She went from being "a guest, asked for one week but staying for three, who talks from morning till night," to "a visitor. . . very nice but one can't feel quite free," to "a lady from New York," to "our queer Jewish, ex-Communist, American convert. . . at any rate, not a Bore."
     During that time his attitude toward America softened, probably without his realizing it. But he still didn't realize he was falling in love with an American. On August 1, 1953, Jack wrote Mary Willis Shelburne, "I do most heartily agree that it is just as well to be past the age when one expects or desires to attract the other sex." Three years later she was the second correspondent to whom he confided (with no intervening mention of Joy, love, courtship, or marriage in his responses to her frequent letters), "I may soon be, in rapid succession, a bridegroom and a widower." But there was a reprieve in that timeline.
      Joy had a remission, and during that period Lewis wrote to Dorothy Sayers, "We soon learn to love what we know we must lose. . . My heart is breaking and I was never so happy before" and a week later, "The house ripples with laughter and esoteric jokes. . .O God, if there were no such thing as the Future!" Of their "belated honeymoon' to Ireland in July 1958 (it was his first flight: "after one initial moment of terror, enchanting"), Jack wrote, "We visited Louth, Down, and Donegal, and returned drunk with blue mountains, yellow beaches, braying donkeys, peat-smell, and the heather just then beginning to bloom."
     After her death in July 1960, he called her "my dear Joy" and "the great love of my life."
     His nearly 60 years of letters show that people became more important to Lewis as he matured. At 16, he wrote Arthur, "I find that the people whose society I prefer to my own are very few and far between." At 33, he wrote, "(T)here is hardly a year in which I do not make some real friend. I am glad to find that people become more and more one of the sources of pleasure as I grow older." By the age of 37 he could write, "(F)riendship is the greatest of worldly goods. Certainly to me it is the chief happiness of life. If I had to give a piece of advice to a young man about a place to live, I think I shd. say, 'sacrifice almost everything to live where you can be near your friends.'" 
     Of his friend J.R.R. Tolkien, whom he called Tollers, "I don't think Tolkien influenced me, and I am certain I didn't influence him. That is, didn't influence what he wrote. My continual encouragement, carried to the point of nagging, influenced him v. much to write at all with that gravity and at that length. In other words I acted as a midwife not as a father."
     With maturity also came humility. In his 30s Jack looked back with "humiliation" at the letters he had written Arthur, recognizing in them "egotism" and "affectation": "I seem to be posturing and showing off in every letter." During the period of his transition to Christianity, he wrote Arthur that pride was his "besetting sin." "I have found out ludicrous and terrible things about my own character. . ."
     By 1940, he had apparently learned that lesson well. Buried in a letter to Arthur, he mentioned what would become one of his finest and best-known works, "I have published another book, only a little thing called The Problem of Pain." When his godson wrote to congratulate him for being conferred with a doctorate, Jack deflected the praise, "The most interesting thing about that was the place I went to be made a Doctor--Saint Andrews. It is a most lovely little town with the sea breaking just under the windows of some of the colleges. There is a ruined castle and a ruined cathedral and miles and miles of sand. . ."
     In later years, he would thank his fans with remarks like "There is a great element of chance in fame" or, in telling a child about his newest Narnian story, The Silver Chair, add, "Don't look forward to it too much or you are sure to be disappointed." To Walter Hooper, who would become editor of his Letters, "I am glad if I have been the instrument of Our Lord's help to you: in His hands almost any instrument will do. . ."
     Jack corresponded for years with a woman who was filled with anxieties and complaints. Finally, weighed down with his own medical problems which would take his life five months later, he wrote a reassurance to her fear of death, "Don't you think Our Lord says to you 'Peace, child, peace. Relax. Let go. Underneath are the everlasting arms. Let go, I will catch you. Do you trust me so little?'" His letter must have been life-transforming, since eight days later he was able to write, "I am overjoyed at the blessed change in your attitude to death. . . now that you know you are forgiven. . ."
     He, too, had had a similar experience with God's forgiveness, believing in it for years before he felt it: "Then, one blessed day, it suddenly became real to me and made what I had previously called 'belief' look absolutely unreal. It is a wonderful thing. . . This real belief in the truths of our religion is a great gift from God."
    In August 1963, Jack had a heart attack and was thought to be dying but (according to his brother) he regained consciousness "and asked for his tea." Home again, he wrote a friend, "It seems almost a pity, having reached the gate so easily, not to be allowed through--" Three months later, on November 22, he was "allowed through.' His last letter, written the day before, was to a child, "Thank you for telling me that you like my books, a thing an author is always pleased to hear. It is a funny thing that all the children who have written to me see at once who Aslan is, and grownups never do!"

     "The good things even of this world are far too good ever to be reached by imagination. Even the common orange, you know: no one cd. have imagined it before he tasted it. How much less Heaven" (C.S. Lewis, 55, August 7, 1956).

     What a zest for this life he had and what an eagerness for the next! After reading almost all his books plus nine-and-a-half pounds of his personal correspondence, I'm sure when we do meet, I'll feel right at home with Jack--and Joy. We'll have eternity to discuss substance; the chaff will blow away. And we'll all be awed by Jesus.

The Passions of C.S. Lewis as seen in His Collected Letters

A Collection of Essays Presented at the Sixth FRANCES WHITE EWBANK COLLOQUIUM on C.S. LEWIS & FRIENDS, Taylor University 2008
Upland, Indiana

Jessica Shaver Renshaw

Rather than speaking about C.S. Lewis, we will let Jack speak about himself through his letters: what he loved, such as books, seasons/weather, walking tours, "bathing," Ireland, animals, convalescence, Joy, and writing; what he loathed: writing letters, Americans, cities, TV, newspapers, movies, modern novels/poetry/theology; what he feared; what he didn‘t understand; and what he regretted, as well as his descriptions of what he looked like, what he did well, what he did badly. I will force myself with Great Difficulty (because of all the choice bits I will have to leave out) to limit these tastes of his sixty-year, three-volume, 3,600-page, 9-1/2 pound correspondence to what can be savored in twenty minutes!

Jessica Shaver Renshaw

     "You are one of the great English letter writers," C.S. Lewis once wrote to Dorothy Sayers. "But I‘m not" (2:682-3). "You write such excellent letters that if I were a bad man I should lure you into an epistolary controversy and you wd. find you had written a book for us without knowing it: I shd. simply publish the letters" (2:728).
     Instead, and without being lured, Lewis has "written a book for us without knowing it" and Walter Hooper has superbly edited and "simply" published it: the three-volume Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis (2004, 2004, 2007). Volume 1 chronicles Jack‘s intellectual development up to his being hired at Oxford and becoming a Christian, Volume 2 his blossoming career as teacher, writer, and speaker, and Volume 3 the burdensome demands of his publishers and fans, the loss of his wife, and growing health problems, all of which turn his heart from this life to the next one.
      With this publication, we now have all sixty years--three volumes, 3,600 pages, and 9-1/2 pounds--of Lewis‘ correspondence, from which to extract glimpses of Lewis, the man. Jack himself would have no patience with what we are about to do. "I have no natural curiosity about private lives,' he wrote to a friend (2:980) and to another, '. . .we begin thinking about the private life of the actors when the play ceases to grip us'' (3:877).
     But most of us do have a natural curiosity—don‘t we?--about private lives, especially about the life of someone like C.S. Lewis, who could write books as varied as Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, A Space Trilogy, and The Chronicles of Narnia, a man who through his writing could spar with intellectuals—even in Latin--and stir the imagination of children, always with grace and humor.
      In this paper we will extract from those letters what Lewis LOVED, what he HATED, what he FEARED, what he REGRETTED and what he DIDN‘T UNDERSTAND.
     But let‘s start with his own descriptions of himself. To a Miss Coffey, who had asked for a picture of him, ''Sorry, but I‘m out of photos. Which is perhaps just as well, for I look awful. Imagine a marsh-wiggle gone fat and red in the face. And deaf and bald. I talk far too loud." (3:1429-30) He called himself and his brother Warnie "two crusted old batchelors" (3:394), "old square-rigged type(s)" (2:350), and "quiet ruminants" (2:368). Yet he was always young at heart. To a 12-year old he wrote, "Parts of me are still 12 and I think other parts of me were already 50 when I was 12. . ." (3:362).
     In his own words, what did he do well and what did he do badly? He wrote a child, "I am amused you should think 'my hand must be good at making things'. In reality I‘m the clumsiest and most ham-handed person in the world! I can‘t make anything—words are the only tools I am any good at" (3:1424). He never learned to drive or type: "I‘m no good at any sort of machine" (3:615). He couldn‘t tie knots (3:1193). A missing joint in each thumb made him "unhandy and messy" (3:4). To a Miss Mathews, he mourned, "If Man is defined as a tool-using animal, I am not human" (2:981).

Books: "My dear Arthur," Jack wrote his friend Arthur Greeves when he was 16, "Do you ever wake up in the morning and suddenly wonder why you have not bought such-and-such a book long ago, and then decided that life without it will be quite unbearable? I do frequently. .." (2:94).
     Jack‘s letters to Arthur (as Jack says of Arthur‘s letters to him) are "full of enthusiasm about books and music and scenery" (1:287). They read like an annotated bibliography of the Great Books. Jack must have read at least a book a day--in English, French, German, Latin, Greek, Italian, Old French and Old English. He considered "re-reading old favourites" one of his greatest pleasures: "indeed I can‘t imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once" (2:54). Authors he re-read included Milton, Spenser, Malory, Dante, Austen, Wordsworth, and George Macdonald.
     Years later, an author himself, he wrote his publisher that he did not "have for the bodies of my own books the same reverence I have for the bodies of all other books. For it is a curious fact that I never can regard them as being really books: the boards and print, in however mint a condition, remain a mere pretence behind which one sees the scratchy, inky old MS [manuscript]" (3:546).

Seasons: Jack often describes the weather in his letters: The beginning of winter "always excites me; it makes me want adventures" (3:659). He notes winter afternoons "when the sky is the colour of putty and the rain comes down in sheets for hour after hour" (1:247).
     Early spring is "that thin, tingling, virginal weather" (2:181).
     As for summer: "I am not and never will be a hot weather man—having been reared in the north of Ireland, by the sea, where fifty degrees is a cold day, and seventy a very hot one" (3:32-3). He informs an American, "If you have any friends who think of coming over, tell them that the English summer generally falls in the third week in June." (3:15)
     Autumn was his "favourite:" "Anyone else may have all my summers if they‘ll give me their autumns. . ." (2:980) "Everything horrid that ever happened to me was in an August. But courage! Divine September, the grey mornings, the beady cobwebs, the delicious hint of frost in the evening, is at hand" (2:875). In autumn, the pond is "sprinkled, or rather paved with bright leaves" (2:128).

Nature, scenery: Jack took at least two "walking tours" per year, which were planned rambles or hikes with a few friends through country and town, feasting at a pub on "bread & cheese, beer, and a following cup of tea," perhaps spending a night or two at tucked-away inns. His descriptions of these, which go on for pages, exude pleasure: "We drank tea at the tiny hamlet of Stoke Pero where there is a little grey church without a tower that holds only about twenty people. Here, according to an excellent custom of our walks, one of the party read us a chapter of Scripture from the lectern while the rest of us sat heavily in the pews and spread out our mackintoshes to let the linings steam off. . . Best of all was after tea when we struck inland again over the moor in one of those golden evening lights that pours a dreamlike mildness over the world: light seemed to be a liquid that you could drink. . .We had done well over twenty miles and felt immortal" (1:895).

Ireland: "I was with a friend in Donegal which is a v. fine, wild country with green mountains, rich secretive valleys, and Atlantic breakers on innumerable desolate sands. But alas!, they get less desolate every year and it will soon be just a holiday resort like so many other places. (One always disapproves of all holiday-makers except oneself!)" (3:797)

"Bathing" (swimming): Until his physical ailments prevented it, Jack swam daily, sometimes naked, in ponds: "I wish you could join me as I board the punt in the before-breakfast solitude and push out from under the dark shadow of the trees onto the full glare of the open water, usually sending the moor hens and their chicks scudding away into the reeds. . . with a delicious flurry of silver drops. Then I tie up to the projecting stump in the middle and dive off the stern of the punt" (1:963) Or in the ocean as it "knock(s) one head over heels in great green, ginger-beer-coloured waves" (2:969). He also liked bathing in the tub. As he wrote his delighted goddaughter: "I like getting down like a Hippo with only my nostrils out" (3:407).

Animals: Jack usually wrote about animals only to children and although his household at the Kilns had, at various times, dogs, cats, hens, geese, rabbits, hamsters, and a white rat this is one of his few references to the pets: "Our (Siamese cat) adores me because I lift her up by her tail—an operation which I can‘t imagine I should like if I were a cat, but she comes back for more and more, purring all the time" (3:1044) More often he mentioned wild animals in the surrounding woods. He describes to his godchildren a wild rabbit yawning "a very bored triangular yawn in the middle of a long hot afternoon" (2:819) and a hedgehog which came into the kitchen, drank a saucer of milk and then "got into the saucer and settled down to sleep" (2:751)

Convalescence: "Unless it is (a) very painful or opressive [sic] illness I always get some pleasure out of 'keeping my bed.' Especially if you are sick enough to have a fire! There is something beautifully cosy about meals brought up on a tray. . . I love to pile up my pillows, call for a choice pile of bright volumes and settle down to an endless read: if there be snow falling so much the better." (1:293)

Writing fiction: "I enjoy writing fiction more than writing anything else. Wouldn‘t anyone?" (3:1214)

Correspondence: "(I)t is just when one would be most ready for a talk in the odd hour of the day when one shoves ones work from one and lights the pipe of peace, that one is least ready to sit down and write a letter," Jack complained to his father in early 1921. "I often wonder how the born letter writers whose 'works‘ fill volumes, overcame this difficulty" (1:518). Perhaps they did not, as Jack did, take it upon themselves to personally answer every letter they received—by hand, preferably with a pen which had to be frequently dipped in ink—even after he developed rheumatism and struggled to write legibly.
     He called correspondence "the chief burden of my life" (3:1023), "very laborious" (3:1043), "the ghastly, daily grind" (3:1123), "the bane of my life!" (3:1297). "Yes," he wrote one lady, "I have many other correspondents: some, alas, lunatics!" (3:581)
     In 1949 he fusses to fellow author Dorothy Sayers, "Oh the mails: every bore in two continents seems to think I like getting letters. One‘s real friends are precisely the people one never gets time to write to" (2:1014). He dreaded Christmas time, when mail was delivered every half-hour. Yet he dutifully answered every letter and card during what he termed (1959) "that utterly galley-slave hour or so every day" before breakfast (3:1076).
     Exceptions: "No author minds having to answer letters in praise of his own book" (3:447). "But fan mail from children is delightful. . . They want to know whether Aslan repaired Tumnus‘s furniture for him. Lovely" (3:65).

Cities: "How horrid all great cities are for more than a fortnight!" (3:907).

Newspapers: "I never read the papers," (3:63) but "Warnie in his usual way of encouragement, reads me paragraphs. . . at breakfast about liners wind bound in the Mersey and waves 6-1/2 feet high off the Irish coast." (3:102).

Modern novelists (such as Graham Greene) and poets (Dylan Thomas, Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot): "Why should one read authors one does‘nt like because they happen to be alive at the same time as oneself?" (3:83)

TV: "(W)e have‘nt got a set, and don‘t propose to get one; it is I think a very bad habit to develop" (3:350).

Movies: "I have actually been to the films to-day!—to see Cavalcade!!" Jack wrote Arthur in 1933. "This is one of the most disgraceful confessions I have ever made to you. . . There is not an idea in the whole thing from beginning to end: it is a mere brutal assault on one‘s emotions. . . I have come away feeling as if I had been at a debauch" (2:114-5).
     In 1951, he summed up film as "an astonishingly ugly art. I don‘t mean 'ugly‘ in any high flying moral or spiritual sense, but just disagreeable to the eye—crowded, unrestful, inharmonious" (3:105).
     As far as we can tell from his letters, the only movies Jack had ever seen besides Cavalcade were Snow White and Bambi! He critiqued these as he critiqued everything. Of Snow White, he wrote a long paragraph, conceding, "[A]ll the terrifying bits were good, and the animals really most moving: and the use of shadows (of dwarfs and vultures) was real genius. . ." (2:242) Of Bambi, he admitted being impressed by the "loveliness" of an American autumn on the screen (2:884).
     In response to the suggestion that he allow the Narnian stories to be filmed: "Aslan is a divine figure, and anything remotely approaching the comic (above all anything in the Disney line) would be to me simple blasphemy" (3:491). To one young fan, he explained, "The whole Narnian story is about Christ. That is to say, I asked myself  'Supposing there really were a world like Narnia, and supposing it had (like our world) gone wrong, and supposing Christ wanted to go into that world and save it (as He did ours) what might have happened?‘
     "The stories are my answer. Since Narnia is a world of Talking Beasts, I thought He would become a Talking Beast there, as he became a Man here. I pictured Him becoming a lion there because (a) The lion is supposed to be the King of beasts: (b) Christ is called 'The Lion of Judah‘ in the Bible: (c) I‘d been having strange dreams about lions when I began writing the books" (3:1244-5).
     But is there anyone who loves "the Narnian story" with its Christ-figure Aslan (which means "lion" in Turkish: "I chose it for the sound" (3:519).) who doubts that C.S. Lewis would have thoroughly approved of what Walt Disney Pictures and Walden Media have done with The Chronicles so far?

     He chose not to attend Queen Elizabeth‘s coronation in 1953: "I approve of all that sort of thing immensely and I was deeply moved by all I heard of it; but I‘m not a man for crowds and Best Clothes" (3:340). He did attend the Queen‘s garden party in 1956. "Croquet is not mentioned in the invitation," he wrote Ruth Pitter, "but I am well-read enough to know that a royal garden party will involve hedgehogs, flamingoes, soldiers, Headsman, and the grin of a Cheshire cat." He reported afterward, "I learn from the papers that I was one of 8,000 guests and also that the Queen was present, a fact of which I had no evidence from my own experience. . . (T)he crowd round the refreshment tables was reminiscent of Liverpool Street Station on an August bank holiday. . . In a word, it was simply ghastly. Two pints at the little pub on Praed St. were necessary afterwards." (3:769, 771).

Change: "I would like everything to be immemorial—to have the same old horizons, the same garden, the same smells and sounds, always there, changeless. . . I suppose all these changes shd. prepare us for the far greater change which has drawn nearer even since I began this letter" (3:1383).

Velvet: "I can‘t enjoy velvet as a sound, lovely though it is, because I hate the stuff" (3:1440). He also disliked politics, biographies, and being alone (3:1431).

Americans: In 1916 he wrote, "What a pity such a genius (Nathanael Hawthorne) should be a beastly American!" (1:259) and in 1917 he described "Yanks" as "a set of squatters and damned money grubbing puritans" (1:266). In 1933 he still looked down on Americans: "I am . . . supervising a young woman who is writing a thesis on G(eorge) MacDonald. . . The girl is, unfortunately, quite unworthy of her subject: apart from everything else, she is an American" (2:96-7).
     He would have been shocked to know he would someday marry one!

HE FEARED: "(P)overty frightens me more than anything else except large spiders and the tops of cliffs." (3:359)

Mathematics: "I am also bad at Maths. . .I get muddled over my change in shops."

(3:882) Economics: "I am very ignorant of the ways of 'big business‘. . . We are as frightened of (a recession) as you, for apparently—for reasons I can‘t follow—a recession in America will automatically reproduce the same conditions over here." (3:906)

Housecleaning: To writer Ruth Pitter: "I didn‘t know arm chairs were ever cleaned: should they be?" (3:101)

HE REGRETTED: "I treated my own father abominably and no sin in my whole life now seems to be so serious" (3:445).

HE WAS DISAPPOINTED that The Screwtape Letters became so popular: "On my own view Perelandra is worth 20 Screwtapes" (3:627). His favorite, besides Perelandra, was Till We Have Faces: "I think it far and away my best book but it has, with the critics and the public, been my one great failure: an absolute 'flop‘. No one seems to have the slightest idea what I‘m getting at in it" (3:1148).

     At the end of Volume 1, Jack has a new love which will color everything he does and writes the rest of his life: "I have just passed on from believing in God to definitely believing in Christ," he writes Arthur (1:974). "My puzzle was the whole doctrine of Redemption," of one man‘s death effectively providing salvation for others through "something . . . very mysterious expressed in those phrases I have so often ridiculed ('propitiation‘ -- 'sacrifice‘-- 'the blood of the Lamb‘)" (1:976).
     Jack described how he, with friends J.R.R. Tolkien and Hugo Dyson, spent most of one night in September walking the grounds of Magdalene College, Oxford, discussing (among other things) "metaphor and myth' (1:970).
     "Now what Dyson and Tolkien showed me was this: that if I met the idea of sacrifice in a Pagan story I didn‘t mind it at all: again, that if I met the idea of a god sacrificing himself to himself. . . I liked it very much and was mysteriously moved by it: again, that the idea of the dying and reviving god (Balder, Adonis, Bacchus) similarly moved me provided I met it anywhere except in the Gospels. . . Now the story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us in the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened. . ." (1:976-7)
     During his transition to Christianity, Jack looked back with "humiliation" at the letters he had written Arthur, recognizing in them "priggery" and "affectation": "I seem to be posturing and showing off in every letter" (1:973). Of his thoughts, "one out of every three is a thought of self-admiration. . . I pretend I am carefully thinking out what to say to the next pupil (for his good, of course) and then suddenly realise I am really thinking how frightfully clever I‘m going to be and how he will admire me. . ." (1:878) "You have no idea how much of my time I spend just hating people whom I disagree with—tho‘ I know them only from their books—and inventing conversations in which I score off them" (2:125-6).
      His conversion brings about other humbling insights about himself. In one letter, he identified with Arthur, who had apparently had a manuscript rejected: "The side of me which longs . . . to be approved as a writer, is not the side of us that is really worth much. . . I would have given almost anything—I shudder to think what I would have given if I had been allowed—to be a successful writer. . . I think the only thing for you to do is absolutely to kill the part of you that wants success" (1:924-7).
     One of his most poignant letters shares his own struggles before he was hired as don (tutor) at Magdalen College, Oxford University. To his godson Laurence Harwood, who had just failed the preliminary exam for entrance to the university, Jack wrote in 1953: "I remember only too well what a hopeless oyster to be opened the world seemed at your age. I would have given a good deal to anyone who cd. have assured me that I ever wd. be able to persuade anyone to pay me a living wage for anything I cd. do. Life consisted of applying for jobs which other people got, writing books that no one wd. publish, and giving lectures wh. no one attended. . .Yet the vast majority of us manage to get in somewhere and shake down somehow in the end" (3:353).

     Two new loves revived Lewis in the last 13 years of his life (Volume 3). He accepted the invitation from Magdalene College, Cambridge, to assume the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance English, a position created for him (although, ironically, he did not believe in the Renaissance), and he married Joy Davidman Gresham.
     Joy came into his life and his letters in December, 1952. She went from being "a guest, asked for one week but staying for three, who talks from morning till night" (3:268), to "a visitor . . . very nice but one can‘t feel quite free" (3:285), to "a lady from New York" (3:394) to "our queer, Jewish, ex-Communist, American convert. . .at any rate, not a Bore" (3:450).
     During that time his attitude toward America softened, probably without his realizing it. For the first time he expressed interest in visiting the country. As he wrote another American lady, "How wrong you are when you think that streamlined planes and trains wd. attract me to America. What I want to see there is yourself and 3 or 4 other good friends, after New England, the Rip Van Winkle Mts., Nantucket, the Huckleberry Finn country, the Rockies, Yellowstone Park, and a sub-Artic [sic] winter. And I shd. never come if I couldn‘t manage to come by sea instead of air: preferably on a cargo boat that took weeks on the voyage. I‘m a rustic animal and a maritime animal: no good at great cities, big hotels, or all that. . ." As a postscript, he added, "I‘d love to see a bear, a snow-shoe, and a real forest" (3:377) He never did travel to the States.
     But he still didn‘t realize he was falling in love with an American. On August 1, 1953, Jack wrote Mary Willis Shelburne, "I do most heartily agree that it is just as well to be past the age when one expects or desires to attract the other sex." (3:352). Three years later she was the second correspondent to whom he confided (with no intervening mention of Joy, love, courtship, or marriage in his responses to her frequent letters), "I may soon be, in rapid succession, a bridegroom and a widower" (3:808).
     Even after the wedding in December, 1956 he referred to Joy as a lady "who is very ill, too probably dying" (3:825), "a lady suffering from cancer" (3:826), and finally, after five months, "my wife" (3:830).
     During Joy‘s remission Lewis wrote to Dorothy Sayers, "We soon learn to love what we know we must lose. . . My heart is breaking and I was never so happy before" (3:862) and a week later, "The house ripples with laughter and esoteric jokes. . . O God, if there were no such thing as the Future!" (3:864)
      After her death in July, 1960, he called her "my dear Joy" (3:1170) and "the great love of my life." (3:1223)

     Cambridge University, anticipated: "I think I shall like Magdalene better than Magdalen. It‘s a tiny college (a perfect cameo architecturally) and they‘re so old fashioned, & pious, & gentle and conservative—unlike this leftist, atheist, cynical, hard-boiled, huge Magdalen. Perhaps from being the fogey and 'old woman‘ here I shall become the enfant terrible there" (3:521).
Cambridge University, honeymoon period: ". . . (I)t is so small that I feel I‘d like to take it to bed with me or have it swimming in my bath!" (3:600)
Cambridge University, 18 months later: "(M)y medieval mission at Cambridge is, so far, a flop d’estime. A few dons come to my lectures but far fewer undergrads. I‘ve never had such small audiences before. Must be frightfully good for me" (3:793).

     If pride was his "besetting sin" in the first third of his life, humility characterized the last two-thirds. To an American who wrote glowingly of both his and Tolkien‘s works, he responded, "Oh, but believe me, you are still only paddling in the glorious sea of Tolkien. Go on from The Hobbit at once to The Lord of the Rings. . ." while thanking him "for all the nice things you say about my own little efforts." (3:980-1) He wrote one fan, "I‘m so glad you liked my amateurish little book on the Psalms." (3:1017) and in telling a child about his newest book, The Silver Chair, he warned, "Don‘t look forward to it too much or you are sure to be disappointed" (3:310).
     To a priest: "Yes, God has been v. good to me and allowed my work to reach more people than I would have dared to hope. But I always remember that He can preach thro‘ any instrument—Balaam‘s ass is the example I keep in mind." He has an asterisk after "Balaam‘s ass" and adds a footnote, "Can‘t you get it canonised?" (3:1387)

     In August, 1963, Jack had a heart attack and was thought to be dying but (according to his brother) he regained consciousness "and asked for his tea." Home again, he wrote a friend, "It seems almost a pity, having reached the gate so easily, not to be allowed through. . ." (3:1452)
      Three months later, on November 22, he was "allowed through." His last letter, written the day before, was to a child: "Thank you for telling me that you like my books, a thing an author is always pleased to hear. It is a funny thing that all the children who have written to me see at once who Aslan is, and grown ups never do!" (3:1483)">

Prayer for self or others

Dear Heavenly Father, I pray ________________ will know and believe that:
--You are the one true God,
      omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent,
        eternal, unchanging, living and personal,
          all-wise, all-just, all-good, faithful, trustworthy, patient,
            loving, compassionate, merciful--You have designed and created all things
      and uphold them by the word of Your power,
--You have designed and created us for a purpose,
      that we may humble ourselves to seek that purpose,
        to seek You where You may be found,
--Everything we have is from You
     and You will hold us accountable for our use of it
--You have designed and created us
      in Your own image, with a family resemblance,
--You can be known, You want to be known but
     You are holy and we are not,
       we fall short of Your perfect standard.
      We can reach up to You
         but we cannot reach You.
      You must reach down to us--

--and You have!
You have provided Your written word
   which shows us our need for salvation,
You have provided Your spoken word, Jesus Christ,
    the sin-bearer,
    who met our need for salvation
      by giving Himself for us, the just for the unjust,
        that He who knew no sin would be made sin for us,
          that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him,
    who is the one Mediator between God and man,
       the only One through whose name we can and must be saved
You have provided the Holy Spirit, who lives His life through us
and You have provided the church, his body,
  for our direction, accountability, support and encouragement.

I pray that
--we will have ears to hear Your truth
--You will remove all deception, delusion, distortion, and distraction from our minds
      and remove any veils or scales over our understanding.
--You will speak truth to the lies we believe
--we may know the truth and it will set us free
--the enemy's agenda will not be realized in or through us but
--Your agenda will be realized in our lives.
--________ will be born again, receiving Your son Jesus Christ as their savior,
    Yeshua as their Messiah

Convict us of our idols, so we will forsake them, having no other gods before You,
Convict us of our sins, so we will renounce them, confessing whatever we need to confess,
Convict us of our grudges, so we will forgive whoever we need to forgive.

I pray we will commit everything we have to You, our
--past, present, and future
--personal agendas, dreams, ambitions, aspirations, and desires

I pray for Your personal impact on our lives, that we will
--seek Your guidance and wisdom
--recognize and receive it when You give it to us
--come into a deeper relationship with You.

I pray You will infuse our decisions with
--a strong moral dimension
--a commitment to use the mighty power of whatever our field to
--walk uprightly
--be assets to society,
preferring others and respecting their property
--uplift, inspire
--exalt truth and righteousness
--be and provide good role models
--do all things with excellence
I pray those of us who know You will
--abide in You
--read, study, understand, believe, remember, meditate on and obey Your word
     reflecting You clearly,
     in everything giving thanks to You
--advance Your kingdom, enduring until the end,
--and bring You glory.

Father, thank You for exposing and thwarting all terrorist, false and evil agendas.
Please continue to expose and thwart all terrorist, false and evil agendas.

In Jesus' name,

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Daily Warfare Prayer

     Heavenly Father, I humble myself in worship before You. To Your holy name be glory, honor and praise forever! You are worthy of my adoration, devotion and thanksgiving. I commit myself to love You with all of my heart, mind, soul and strength--including my energy output and all of my best efforts. I submit myself to You (and to my husband/wife) whom You have given me to love. I yield my money, sex, power, imagination, emotions, appetite and health to You. Here is my body as a living sacrifice, consecrated to You and made holy as a temple of the Holy Spirit. I give myself to You completely and without holding anything back.
     By faith I claim the protection of the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ around and within me. I give myself to abide and remain in Christ during this day. In union with Christ, I take my stand against all efforts of Satan and his demons to hinder me in this time of prayer and in this day.
    Righteous Father, by faith and in obedience to Your command, I put off the old self which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires and put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. I resist all the forces of darkness that stimulate the desires of my sinful nature. By the power and authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, I retake any ground given to the devil and release its full control to the Holy Spirit.
     I confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. I claim the power of His crucifixion on my behalf as an astoning sacrifice for all my sins and not for mine only but also for the sins of the whole world. I claim the victory of His resurrection and the power of His intercession for us. I submit to His authority as the head of the church and rejoice in His rule and reign in the universe. For this day I appropriate the fullness of the Holy Spirit. I bring all this power to bear against Satan, his forces of evil and his strategies against us.
     In obedience to the command in Your word, I commit myself to be strong in the Lord and His mighty power. Thank You for the full armor of God that You provide. Right now I put on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness and the boots of readiness of the gospel of peace. I hold up the shield of faith that extinguishes all the flaming arrows of the evil one. I put on the helmet of salvation. I grasp the sword of the Spirit, the word of God. Train me to use it with superntural ability. Stimulate me to pray on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.
     Heavenly Father, with the divine power of these weapons that You give in Christ, I tear down Satan's strongholds in my life and in the lives of those I love. I demolish the plans of Satan formed against us today. I smash the strongholds of Satan against my mind, my will, my soul, my spirit, my body, my heart and my emotions. I reject the ideas and phrases that make sin attractive and plausible. By faith I claim the mind of Christ. I take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. I release every negative emotion, replacing it with the peace of God that transcends all understanding.
     Thank You, Lord Jesus, for loving me and laying down Your life for me. Open my eyes today to the opportunity to love (my husband/wife and) others and to lay down my life for them, using my spiritual gifts in a spirit of humility, joy and service. Help me to take my focus off myself and to fix my eyes on Jesus Christ. Show me what You are doing, Holy Father, and allow me to be used of the Holy Spirit as a part of it. I enter this day with thanksgiving and praise.
     I pray all this in the confidence of the wonderful name of our Lord Jesus Christ who is able to keep me from falling and to present me before Your glorious presence without fault and with great joy.

(Note: I believe the original prayer was written by Derek Prince. We have edited it down and modified it somewhat. We read it aloud together every morning. It takes about five minutes.)