All, Bookworm, Faith

Musings on Narnia

NOTE: I wrote these reflections a few summers ago after I had re-read “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.” I thought that they would possibly make a decent blog post, so now that I actually have a blog I decided that I would share with y’all.  Edits and additions have been made.  Hope you enjoy these ramblings/informal book report from a bookworm! 😉

I feel like the older I become the better I can appreciate C.S. Lewis’ genius, his societal commentary, and the very spiritual Christian insights he incorporated into his writings.  He is, undoubtedly, one of my favorite authors.  The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (the third book published in the Chronicles of Narnia series but the fourth in Narnia chronology), like all of the Narnia books, is simple, beautiful, profound, and enjoyable for both children and adults.

During the first chapter, it struck me how much pointed humor his series contains.  When I was younger, I could not appreciate it as much, but now some comments stand out to me that were previously less conspicuous.  An example is Lewis’ description of Eustace’s family: “They were very modern and up-to-date people.  They were vegetarians, non-smokers, and tee-totalers.”  This is not intended as a compliment.  Eustace is obnoxious, bratty, and arrogant.  He has no imagination, believing solely in science and rational facts.  He and his family have abandoned the timeless truths and principles of wonder, respect, and belief in a Higher Power.  They are politically correct, but they are insufferable.  It’s not that being a vegetarian, a non-smoker, or a tee-totaler was necessarily wrong.  The problem is more that they have no permanent foundation of beliefs for their lives.  Instead, they go along with the latest trends, whatever is in vogue at the moment.eustace

Eustace ridicules Lucy and Edmund for their belief in Narnia.  Even when Eustace experiences the wonder of Narnia firsthand, having entered this other world through an enchanted picture frame, he seemingly cannot give his assent to the substantiality and rationality of this fantastic realm.

Eustace continually tries to hold Narnia to the limited standards of his legitimate but incomplete world of science-only.  A world of chivalry and monarchy where a girl is given deference over men when it comes to living quarters is unfathomable to him. (Lucy was given the use  of King Caspian’s room while Caspian, Edmund, and Eustace bunked below the Dawn Treader’s deck.)  Eustace tries to tell King Caspian that this is demeans girls, not seeing how this simple distinction does not diminish femininity but actually shows respect for Lucy.

How often do we behave in a way similar to Eustace?  We measure God by our own limited, finite vision, experience and life.  Often we are blind to His work in our lives even when it is right in front of our eyes, like Eustace when he first enters Narnia.

We must strive to adopt the attitude of Edmund and Lucy Pevensie, who not only continually pondered and spoke of Narnia, but also always hoped and expected to experience it once more. Their faith was rewarded, and, thankfully, Eustace was pulled along with them for the adventure of a lifetime.

The crucial moment that begins Eustace’s journey of conversion is when he is transformed into a dragon.  Having wandered away from his traveling companions during a respite on an island, Eustace stumbles onto a dragon’s lair and falls asleep upon a mound of enchanted treasure.  During his sleep, he undergoes a metamorphosis into a dragon: “Sleeping on a dragon’s hoard with greedy, dragonish thoughts in his heart, he had become a dragon himself.”  His outside now reflected his interior disposition.

However, Eustace’s time as a dragon is a bit of an epiphany for him.  He recognizes how beastly he has been behaving and for the first time experiences true loneliness and a longing for companionship. Once he is able to communicate who he is to the others, he becomes most helpful, bringing them food and a massive tree from which to fashion a new mast for the Dawn Treader.  He also offers his services (the fire in his belly) as a source of warmth on cold nights.

Eventually, Eustace is transformed back into a boy, and the process by which this is wrought is filled with Christian symbolism.  Aslan, the mighty lion and Christ figure,  appears to Eustace and tells him to “Follow me.”  Aslan leads him to a well that is filled with water and directs him to bathe in it after undressing first, meaning after removing his dragon skin.  Eustace tries three times to scratch away his skin on his own, only to find that there is more underneath.  At last, Aslan says that Eustace must be undressed by him.  When recounting the encounter to Edmund, Eustace explained that this process hurt, but it was a good pain: “And when he [Aslan] began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt.  The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off.”  Aslan then tossed him into the well water, which also smarted and hurt at first but then became “delicious.”

One can easily compare this scene to repentance and Baptism. We must first shed the “dragon-ish” parts of ourselves, namely,  our sins and shortcomings through repentance.  However,  we cannot remove them ourselves.  If we try, we are only frustrated by our failure.  We must let Jesus and His grace work the transformation in us, a process that can be painful sometimes but that ultimately brings joy and peace.  We are ready to accept God’s forgiveness and be made clean in the waters of Baptism, which we will ultimately find “delicious.”

Eustace is frequently described by Lewis as a “beginner.” Baptism is meant for Christians at the beginning of their faith journeys, either as infants or as adult converts.  In fact, it is one of the Sacraments of Initiation.  Lewis says that Eustace was mostly a completely changed person after his encounter with Aslan, but he still had slip-ups and it would be more accurate to say that he was becoming a better person.  When we first make a commitment to Christ and to the faith, we often do have setbacks and slip-ups but we are now striving and improving and have hope rather than remaining in our mess.  Indeed throughout our whole lives and faith journeys, we must continuously strive for conversion and re-commit ourselves to Christ through prayer, the sacraments, and acts of charity.

Lastly, Eustace’s conversion was prompted first by being immersed in a world of believers, by being immersed in the world of Narnia.  Lewis mentions that the good effects of Narnia began to work on Eustace without him even realizing it; case in point, when he is struggling to climb a mountain, he perseveres to the end instead of giving up like he would have been wont to do before experiencing Narnia.  This small event exemplifies both the importance of evangelization as well as the reality that both our chosen companions and environment have an affect on our attitude and ways of thinking.  Secondly, his conversion was motivated mainly by an experience of hardship, that is, becoming a dragon.  Eustace’s suffering impelled him to make an examination of conscience, so to speak. He realized his nastiness and wanted to be reconciled and be friends with his companions once more.  So often in the real world, it is suffering and trials that drive people to conversion or to a re-awakening of faith.  We take a hard long look at ourselves and our lives and realize where we have fouled up and who we have wronged, and we desire to make amends.

These musings only cover a small portion of the insights contained in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader as well as the whole Narnia series.  If you have never read these books or if it’s been a while since you’ve read them, pick them up again and discover the beauty that C.S. Lewis has to offer!

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Images taken from the Chronicles of Narnia page on Facebook.

 

 

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All, Culture/Life, Family

“Off to the Fair!”

Now that we’re in the “bleak midwinter” (even though winter has felt very spring-like in my neck of the woods), I thought it’d be fun to do a #throwback blog post of sorts about visiting my local county fair this past summer with my brother.

Going to the county fair was an annual event growing up in my house.  My mother’s grandmother lived in the country, and my mom has many sweet memories of visiting and playing on the family farm with her cousins.  My father also lived on a farm when he was a small boy.  Consequently, both of my parents wanted my brother and me to experience even a taste of what they knew as children.  Though never huge, our county fair used to be much larger than now with numerous rides and games and live musical acts. I remember always listening for the screams of the people riding one particular ride that would swing them back-and-forth to an almost vertical line.  It was one of the tallest rides and looking and listening for it was a staple part of our fair experience.  Of course, every year had its own special memories and moments. One year, we even were able to watch a lady being shot out of a cannon!  Pretty dang amazing. One of the funniest memories I have of the fair is a cow sneezing on my brother.

Sprawled out in wide, expansive green fields beneath the grand Blue Ridge Mountains, the tents and rides were truly in a picturesque setting.  The earthy animal smells and sweat only added to the whole exhausting, exhilarating experience.

My parents weren’t able to join my brother and me this year; nevertheless, I was so glad to return to the fair as we hadn’t gone in several years. It was a steaming hot and humid August day, the kind where you just surrender yourself to the heat and feel your clothes slowly dampen with streams of sweat, when my older brother and I set off.  Due to a change of location, our fair had been greatly downsized, but some of our favorites were still there–the animals, the local art and photography exhibit, the farm-grown vegetables exhibit, the massive John Deere tractors with tires as tall as I am. We saw pigs being hosed down -did I mention it was hot?-fluffy baby chicks, and adorable miniature therapy horses, among other farm denizens.  The day we went there was even a blacksmith demonstration taking place.

Although my brother and I both agreed that we are glad we grew up with the fair as it used to be, going back lifted my spirits.  I am finding more and more that I love being out in the country and surrounded by nature, its simplicity and its bigness.  To borrow a phrase from Fulton Sheen, “the fecundity of life” is everywhere.  That day at the fair, I found myself feeling friendlier toward people and more confident–no expectations or pretensions of mankind.  It seems to me that man can be more himself and yet be drawn out of himself more readily in the country.  I loved seeing the 4-H club kids tending their animals and the sweaty, rosy-cheeked babies reaching out to pet their furry friends.  I was ready to move to a farm and enroll my non-existent, future children in 4-H.

At the risk of sounding melodramatic, that day I felt the country stir my soul and speak to my heart.  Out in God’s country, it’s not as if one’s problems or worries vanish, but suddenly, it’s like the weight of them is lifted.  One knows that they will be solved and that one will have the strength to handle them.  There is more freedom and space to breathe.

I would love to live in a more rural setting one day and when I am hopefully blessed with children, I would not completely disregard the idea of them participating in 4-H.

Man today is so deracinated (to use a fancy, college word), meaning he has lost his connection to the soil, to nature and its rhythms, to nature’s Creator and as a result, he is losing touch with himself and those around him.  Of course, both country and city-living have their pros and cons and one shouldn’t idealize or romanticize either one, but I think it would do this stressed-out, over-technological, consumerist society a world of good to return a bit more to the serene glories as well as the raw realities of the country.

In the meantime, please enjoy some photos from my brother’s and my excursion to our county fair!

 

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A beautiful summer crepe myrtle!
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A soft sheep sans his wooly fleece!
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A ribbon-winning rooster named Frank!
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Adorable baby chicks, which we were not allowed to touch.
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A fluffy rabbit!
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This picture may be my favorite!  This little piglet decided to rest in the water dish.  I guess the heat was too much for him!

 

P.S. The title for this post is the name of a chapter in the children’s literature classic Charlotte’s Web, one of my favorite books!

 

All, Culture/Life, Faith, Family

Fighting for Life

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are LIFE, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” (emphasis added).  These immortal words are proclaimed in one of America’s founding documents, the Declaration of Independence, yet they are still not wholly lived out in our country due to such tragedies as abortion.

The topics of abortion and the pro-life cause are, undoubtedly,  multi-faceted, sensitive, and complex subjects, which encompass science, religion, philosophy, morality, economics, and politics.  There are so many angles from which one can look at these issues, and they are obviously much too big and important to begin to cover sufficiently in one blog post.  All that being said, I would like to endeavor to put in my two cents and write a bit about what has resonated with me most of late regarding these topics.

Firstly, I know many of you reading this may not agree with the pro-life position.  All I ask is that you consider some ideas behind a differing point of view.

Secondly, this post is not at all meant to be a condemnation of those who are suffering from their past decisions regarding a pregnancy.  If you or someone you know is need of information regarding resources for post-abortive women as well as men, you can find them, here. on the website of the organization, Silent No More.  Please know that you can find healing and restoration.

Though I was not personally present, I was so heartened and energized by the recent witness of the 44th annual March for Life on Jan. 27 in Washington, D.C.  For those who might not be familiar, this massive pro-life rally is held each year on or around the anniversary of the Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide.  People from all over the country gather, no matter the weather or inconvenience, in order to protest peacefully this ruling that has since resulted in millions of deaths through abortion.

Have you ever wondered what all those babies would be doing right now?  What would they be contributing to society?  In our own lives, what cherished loved ones are we missing because they were aborted?

To me, it defies logic for a society to mourn with a woman who suffers a miscarriage and yet still say that a woman has the right to terminate her own pregnancy.  The objective value and worth of the unborn child did not change, only the subjective desires surrounding the pregnancy.

To paraphrase a quote I once read, let’s remove the crisis from the crisis pregnancy not the pregnancy itself. Shouldn’t we be working to alleviate the circumstances that lead a woman to consider abortion instead of just pushing abortion as the way out of a difficult situation?  Shouldn’t we be working to support those facing unplanned pregnancies in adverse circumstances, helping them to have the resources they need to choose life?  Shouldn’t we be advocating adoption?  So many post-abortive women testify to the fact that they felt they had no choice; they were coerced into abortion by boyfriends, husbands, parents, etc.  They did not have a support system and they did not want to do what they did.

Shouldn’t we be working to dismantle the diabolical lie that abortion is somehow a “right”? The truth is that a woman, indeed no person, is empowered or liberated through the degradation or demise of another person and certainly not through the purposeful death of an innocent child in the womb.  Women are not empowered when their unique and life-giving ability to carry a child is treated as a problem or a weakness or a hindrance to their supposed success in life.  The truth is that abortion hurts women.  Again, many women attest to the fact that they suffered emotionally, psychologically, physically and spiritually for years following an abortion. Often, it took a long time for them to make the connection that their difficulties were connected to their abortions.

Perhaps it is time that we remember that early suffragettes, such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who fought for true women’s rights, were themselves against abortion.  And that a main catalyst in the work of Margaret Sanger, the founder of abortion giant Planned Parenthood, was racist eugenics.

The pro-life movement is not perfect, but despite its flaws, its work is crucial.  I think Vice President Mike Pence’s speech at the March for Life was particularly encouraging to those devoted to the cause of life.

He said,

“…life is winning in America.  And today is a celebration of that progress that we  have made. You know I’ve long believed that a society can be judged by how we care for its most vulnerable, the aged, the infirm, the disabled, and the unborn.

We have come to an historic moment in the cause for life.  And we must meet this moment with respect and compassion for every American.

Life is winning in America for many reasons.

Life is winning through the steady advance of science that illuminates when life begins, more and more, every day.  Life is winning through the generosity of millions of adoptive families to open their hearts and homes to children in need.  Life is winning through the compassion of caregivers and volunteers at crisis pregnancy centers and faith-based organizations who minister to women in towns across this country.

Life is winning through the quiet counsels between mothers and daughters, grandmothers and granddaughters, between friends across kitchen tables, and over coffee at college campuses.  The truth is being told.  Compassion is overcoming convenience.  And hope is defeating despair. …

So I urge you to press on.  But as it is written, ‘Let your gentleness be evident to all.’ Let this movement be known for love, not anger.  Let this movement be known for compassion, not confrontation.  When it comes to matters of the heart, there is nothing stronger than gentleness.

I believe that we will continue to win the hearts and minds of the rising generation if our hearts first break for young mothers and their unborn children, and if we each of us do all we can to meet them where they are, with generosity, not judgment.”

This blog is named after my Great-Uncle George, who held so strongly to his convictions that he joined the Royal Air Force in Canada in order to fight in World War II even before the United States entered the fray.  He was bold enough to act upon his beliefs.  Those who believe in the pro-life cause do so with conviction and with passion.  It is something very near and dear to their hearts.  Let us follow the example of Uncle George who courageously fought for what was right even when others around him were not yet doing so.

And let us be encouraged by the words of Jesus, “Whoever accepts a little child in my name, accepts me.” (Matthew 18:5).

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