Monday, January 18, 2016

In Another's Eyes

Our Creator would never have made such lovely days, 
and have given us the deep hearts to enjoy them,
above and beyond all thought, 
unless we were meant to be immortal. 

- Nathaniel Hawthorne 

Hello, hello.

Thank you for your kind words about the new living room rug. It continues to bring our family great joy. A few pieces to compliment the  rug are in transit. Shhhhhh.

Last week I made a triumphant return to the classroom. It was indeed a triumph that I was on time for my first class Tuesday morning as I stayed up late Monday night watching what was a decent title game. The only thing worse than watching Saban win another title is watching Saban run all over someone on his way to winning another title. With my thirty-ounce Yeti filled to the brim, I made it through my, Hi. Here's your syllabus. Read it & be an adult & I'll treat you like one, speech three separate times Tuesday.

The rest of the week is kind of a blur. I recall taking the kids to their Bible classes Wednesday night. I know I taught my classes Thursday because in my eleven o'clock class we spent nearly half an hour discussing Alan Rickman's amazing voice. I always go through the textbook at the beginning of the semester & briefly discuss which chapters we'll cover. At some point during my discussion of the chapter on voice & public speaking (which is one of my favorite chapters) we segued into Alan Rickman.

I usually scoff & sneer at people who cry & carry on when a celebrity dies, but I don't think I'll be so judgmental in the future because I was devastated Thursday morning when I read of his passing. Likely the reason Thursday remains a blur for me is because I spent the afternoon vocally encouraging the children to get along while I hid in my room eating these no-bake peanut butter/chocolate cookies I picked up at the Brookshire's Bakery & watching all things Alan Rickman on YouTube.

I apparently took few pictures last week, but I do have a handful from Saturday to share.

Saturday marked the second anniversary of Reagan's diagnosis. As we did last year on the date, the kids & Trey & I joined the four grandparents for dinner & dessert.

Last year's dinner at Cracker Barrel:

This year we went to Warehouse. For those of you who're not local, Warehouse is an excellent dining establishment located on the banks of the Ouachita River in an old . . . warehouse. Reagan's first choice was Scott's. The Scott's in Ruston has an ice cream machine so if you eat inside, everyone gets free ice cream after their meal. This is of course Nirvana for Reagan & she can't imagine why anyone would want dessert anywhere else. 

After promising her a dessert somewhat more decadent than Scott's soft serve ice cream, she agreed to Warehouse. 

Eating her favorite appetizer, crackers:

And, as promised, a chocolate dessert:

I know, after reading that title, you're likely humming the song to yourself. When I was seventeen, Trisha Yearwood released the song "In Another's Eyes." It features Garth Brooks, & I really love it. I loved it then, & I love it now. Sometimes.

Garth & Trisha are vocally sensational together. If you've never sung "Shameless" alone in your car while barreling down the Interstate, you need to do that stat. I struggle (intellectually that is, not vocally) with "In Another's Eyes," sometimes. Some days I listen to it & I belt it out unthinkingly, but other days, when I've had a lot of sleep & am thinking too much & too deeply, I don't listen to it. This has always been the case, but even more so now that I'm no longer an unthinking teenager, & Garth & Trisha are married to each other instead of being married to their former spouses, you know? I'm not going to segue into tabloid gossip, but, you know what I mean.

Here's a snippet of the lyrics:

In another's eyes
I'm someone who 
Loves her enough to walk away from you
I'd never cheat, I'd never lie
In another's eyes

The song has been on my mind as I've been making my way through The Screwtape Letters, which the book club is set to discuss in one week's time. One of C.S. Lewis's many excellent works, this book is not a pleasure to read, but it is, in my opinion, a necessary read. It makes you think. Hard. It is uncomfortable to read at times, but hey, so is the Bible.

More than one recent study has concluded that reading fiction is linked to a person's ability to empathize, encouraging the reader to see the world through someone else's eyes. If this is the case, how valuable is fiction that encourages the reader to see himself through Satan's eyes? That is what The Screwtape Letters does. It is sobering, to say the least.

There are three insights that stand out to me from my recent reread of this novel. First, Satan wants us to be miserable. Screwtape, a demon & the author of the letters that comprise the book, concludes one letter this way, ". . . there are other, and more indirect, methods of using a man's sexuality to his undoing. And, by the way, they are not only efficient, but delightful; the unhappiness produced is of a very lasting and exquisite kind."

Second, Satan wants us to use & abuse possessive pronouns. Since this is a blog & not a paper I'll be submitting for a grade, I'm going to grossly over quote Mr. Lewis from chapter XXI:

Men are not angered by mere misfortune but by misfortune conceived as injury. And the sense of injury depends on the feeling that a legitimate claim has been denied. The more claims on life, therefore, that your patient can be induced to make, the more often he will feel injured and, as a result, ill-tempered . . . zealously guard in his mind the curious assumption "My time is my own." 

The humans are always putting up claims to ownership which sound equally funny in Heaven and in Hell, and we must keep them doing so . . . the word "mine" in its fully possessive sense cannot be uttered by a human being about anything. In the long run either Our Father or the Enemy will say "mine" of each thing that exists, and especially of each man. They will find out in the end, never fear, to whom their time, their souls, and their bodies really belong - certainly not to them, whatever happens."
I know. Whoa. I hear the word "mine" often. Often it's preceded by a loud, "That's."

In children, we see our base nature as humans, & right now I daily witness our inclination toward claims of ownership. I don't break up fights with, No, that train is the Lord's!, but I do try & impress upon the children that they are blessed beyond what some children can even imagine, & that the toys they're so quick to label as their own were purchased with money they did not earn, & can be taken away as I deem necessary. After reading the above quoted chapter of Lewis's, you can imagine my double alarm when I hear the cries of Mine! echoing through the house. I am all over it now, occasionally even slipping a pronoun lesson in the mix.

I think Satan is riddled with glee at the moment at the extent to which he's successfully convinced entire generations of the idea that they are owed things. I think that it would be tremendously beneficial for Christians (of all ages) who're blessed to live in America to identify as such - - a Christian who happens to live in America, rather than an American Christian.

View your American citizenship as a blessing, rather than as a ticket to be demanding & ornery. Yes, I do believe we have rights as Americans, rights many men & woman have died protecting, & it's fine to voice our opinions about those & vote for men & women we believe will protect those rights. However, however, there will be legions of people in Heaven who never set foot in America (like Paul & Moses & Jesus), people who never voted in an election, people who lived their entire life ignorant of the blessings heaped on the heads of Christians who're fortunate enough to live in America. Use your privilege for the Kingdom; use your Internet access & your excess funds & your right to vote & your right to own a gun & your right to speak your mind for the Kingdom.

This year, in his Sunday morning sermons, my preacher is focusing on the Kingdom of Heaven, on Christians' citizenship in Heaven, & I find it quite the appropriate topic in this rancorous election year that's unfolding around us. Come & listen to him at Jackson Street church of Christ in Monroe (classes begin at nine thirty with worship following shortly thereafter around ten thirty). He is young & spunky & an excellent public speaker. Also, he sometimes drops pop culture references that are fantastic.

Steer yourself away from the "Mine" mindset. Wake up every day & say, "Thank you, Lord, for the gifts you have given me, the gifts you will richly bless me with this day." The gift of time with which I can often do what I please, be it worship, read, be silly with my children, exercise outdoors - - the list is endless, & no item on it should be taken for granted, or viewed as something that is mine, that I am owed or that I deserve. I deserve (& you deserve) hell because my sins crucified the Son of God; if we wake with that mindset, rather than thoughts of what we are owed that day, imagine the beauty of each day as it unfolds, its rich gifts from the Father lavished upon us anew.

Finally, Satan wants you to see Christianity as a means to some other end (a great earthly nation or political party, for example). Christianity is the end. Period. It is not to be viewed as a means to an earthly anything, not a nation or a school or a cool band. Are those things bad? No, & they can potentially lead people to Christ, however, they're not necessary & should never be treated as such. Jesus just said, ". . . make disciples of all the nations," not, "Establish governments by which disciples might be won." We fall into the trap of thinking we need a political party or a certain politician or certain men or women on the Supreme Court in order for Christianity to spread & flourish, & that is laughable. God has never needed governments; He needs men & women willing to work.

So, those are the things on my heart as I conclude my second read of The Screwtape Letters. I am so thankful we have Lewis's words. Often it is said that writers & other artists achieve an immortality others do not, via their words, their music, their paintings, their films. I read & think on & yammer about the words of many men & women who've long passed from this world, & I love that we have pieces of them to enjoy & to inspire us. 

I love that it is proper to reference the work of a deceased person in the present; "Hemingway is saying such & such in A Farewell to Arms," or, "Alan Rickman's performance in Sense and Sensibility is . . . " Though Rickman was a British actor, his work is, because it is still with us. One of the saddest moments for me Thursday was seeing the verb shift on Rickman's wikipedia page. "Alan Rickman is," became "Alan Rickman was . . . " That's how you know you're an English major; the conjugation of a be verb brings you to tears.

No doubt I'll continue to enjoy the work of Alan Rickman. Thanks to technology, his voice will continue to haunt & delight me, & will one day haunt my children. They will watch & listen as Professor Snape takes a week to utter the word Obviously in reply to Dolores Umbridge in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

I encourage people to write, if only for the purpose of creating something tangible for your children & other loved ones to one day enjoy, but you don't have to write a book or record music or make a movie to become immortal. You are immortal, & you belong to someone, & someone will lay claim to you. Right now these someones are invisible & intangible to us, but they walk among us daily, no doubt. I encourage you to read The Screwtape Letters if you have not. We like the thought of angels walking among us, comforting us, protecting us, but I guarantee they are moving about in a crowded realm, & I think The Screwtape Letters provides excellent insight into the myriad of ways Satan attempts to make us his.

Live in such a way that when you hear, Mine, your immortal soul will rejoice.


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