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The Great Divorce (Part 1)


Here is an excerpt from The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis. My thoughts will follow in Part 2.

"God!" said the Ghost, glancing round the landscape.

"God what?" asked the Spirit.

"What do you mean, 'God what'?" asked the Ghost.

"In our grammer God is a noun."

"Oh-I see. I only meant 'By Gum' or something of the sort. I meant . . . well, all this. It's . . . it's ... I should like to paint this."

"I shouldn't bother about that just at present if I were you."

"Look here; isn't one going to be allowed to go on painting?"

"Looking comes first."

"But I've had my look. I've seen just what I want to do. God!-I wish I'd thought of bringing my things with me!"

The Spirit shook his head, scattering light from his hair as he did so. "That sort of thing's no good here," he said.

"What do you mean?" said the Ghost.

"When you painted on earth-at least in your earlier days-it was because you caught glimpses of Heaven in the earthly landscape. The success of your painting was that it enabled others to see the glimpses too. But here you are having the thing itself. It is from here that the messages came. There is no good telling us about this country, for we see it already. In fact we see it better than you do."

"Then there's never going to be any point in painting here?"

"I don't say that. When you've grown into a Person (it's all right, we all had to do it) there'll be some things which you'll see better than anyone else. One of the things you'll want to do will be to tell us about them. But not yet. At present your business is to see. Come and see. He is endless. Come and feed."

There was a little pause. "That will be delightful," said the Ghost presently in a rather dull voice.

"Come, then," said the Spirit, offering it his arm.

"How soon do you think I could begin painting?" it asked.

The Spirit broke into laughter. "Don't you see you'll never paint at all if that's what you're thinking about?" he said.

"What do you mean?" asked the Ghost.

"Why, if you are interested in the country only for the sake of painting it, you'll never learn to see the country."

"But that's just how a real artist is interested in the country."

"No. You're forgetting," said the Spirit. "That was not how you began. Light itself was your first love: you loved paint only as a means of telling about light."

"Oh, that's ages ago," said the Ghost. "One grows out of that. Of course, you haven't seen my later works. One becomes more and more interested in paint for its own sake."

"One does, indeed. I also have had to recover from that. It was all a snare. Ink and catgut and paint were necessary down there, but they are also dangerous stimulants. Every poet and musician and artist, but for Grace, is drawn away from love of the thing he tells, to love of the telling till, down in Deep Hell, they cannot be interested in God at all but only in what they say about Him. For it doesn't stop at being interested in paint, you know. They sink lower-become interested in their own personalities and then in nothing but their own reputations."

"I don't think I'm much troubled in that way," said the Ghost stiffly.

"That's excellent," said the Spirit. "Not many of us had quite got over it when we first arrived. But if there is any of that inflammation left it will be cured when you come to the fountain."

"What fountain's that?"

"It is up there in the mountains," said the Spirit. "Very cold and clear, between two green hills. A little like Lethe. When you have drunk of it you forget forever all proprietorship in your own works. You enjoy them just as if they were someone else's: without pride and without modesty."

"That'll be grand," said the Ghost without enthusiasm.

"Well, come," said the Spirit: and for a few paces he supported the hobbling shadow forward to the East.

"Of course," said the Ghost, as if speaking to itself, "there'll always be interesting people to meet. . . ."

"Everyone will be interesting."

"Oh-ah-yes, to be sure. I was thinking of people in our own line. Shall I meet Claude? Or Cezanne? Or-----."

"Sooner or later-if they're here."

"But don't you know?"

"Well, of course not. I've only been here a few years. All the chances are against my having run across them . . . there are a good many of us, you know."

"But surely in the case of distinguished people, you'd hear?"

"But they aren't distinguished-no more than anyone else. Don't you understand? The Glory flows into everyone, and back from everyone: like light and mirrors. But the light's the thing."

"Do you mean there are no famous men?"

"They are all famous. They are all known, remembered, recognised by the only Mind that can give a perfect judgment."

"Of, of course, in that sense . . ." said the Ghost.

"Don't stop," said the Spirit, making to lead him still forward.

"One must be content with one's reputation among posterity, then," said the Ghost.

"My friend," said the Spirit. "Don't you know?"

"Know what?"

"That you and I are already completely forgotten on the Earth?"

"Eh? What's that?" exclaimed the Ghost, disengaging its arm. "Do you mean those damned Neo-Regionalists have won after all?"

"Lord love you, yes!" said the Spirit, once more shaking and shining with laughter. "You couldn't get five pounds for any picture of mine or even of yours in Europe or America to-day. We're dead out of fashion."

"I must be off at once," said the Ghost. "Let me go! Damn it all, one has one's duty to the future of Art. I must go back to my friends. I must write an article. There must be a manifesto. We must start a periodical. We must have publicity. Let me go. This is beyond a joke!"

And without listening to the Spirit's reply, the spectre vanished.

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Americanism 8: Oprah's Big Give


It may seem Godly and sacrificial, but don't be fooled. The view Oprah has is that poor, unfortunate people with very little "stuff" deserve a better and happier life. The assumption is that people are naturally good, and goodness merits happiness by means of more stuff. Poverty, or not having lots of stuff, is simply a result of misfortune, being born into the wrong kind of family, or just not having the resources to overcome financial hardship. The problem with this mentality is many-fold, but here are three:

1. Poor, unfortunate people don't deserve a better life. All people, both poor and rich, deserve much worse, death. There is none good. Only Christ is good, and we inherit his righteousness through His death.

2. Getting more stuff doesn't make people happier. In most cases, in fact, it makes people more miserable. I wonder how miserable Oprah really is. For one thing, her riches have led her far from Jesus Christ. Only the treasure of Christ's body and blood can take away our misery and bring lasting joy.

3. Oprah gives for the sake of her own glory. To Oprah, god is self, so doing things to exalt the self are most spiritually beneficial. It's like giving back to Christ for the sake of one's own financial increase, rather than for the work of His Kingdom. There is nothing sacrificial about it, just self-gain.

Oprah believes that God cannot and must not be believed in, but felt. To hear it from her own lips click here (Disclaimer: Watch the video for the Oprah content, not the agenda of the video maker). Recap: god is self, self is good, goodness deserves stuff (hence the "Big Give"), stuff brings happiness, happiness is a feeling, feelings lead to god, god is self...

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Christ Plays on Sabbath


As a church staff we have been going through Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places by Eugene Peterson. His poetic writing style makes for a beautifully enjoyable read. This is his first book in a series of three, the second of which is Eat This Book. I can't wait to read it, but for now, here are a couple quotes from Christ Plays about worship and Sabbath:

"The primary way in which we cultivate fear-of-the-Lord is in prayer and worship--personal prayer and corporate worship. We deliberately interrupt our preoccupation with ourselves and attend to God, place ourselves intentionally in sacred space, in sacred time, in the holy presence--and wait. We become silent and still in order to listen and respond to what is Other than us. Once we get the hang of this we find that this can occur any place and any time. But prayer and worship provide the base.

"'Fear-of-the-Lord' is the best term we have to point to this way of life we cultivate as Christians. The Christian life consists mostly of what God--Father, Son, and Holy Spirit--is and does. But we also are part of it. Not the largest part but still part. A world has been opened up to us by revelation in which we find ourselves walking on holy ground and living in sacred time. The moment we realize this, we feel shy, cautious. We slow down, we look around, ears and eyes alert" (41).

"If there is no Sabbath--no regular and commanded not-working, not talking--we soon become totally absorbed in what we are doing and saying, and God's work is either forgotten or marginalized. When we work we are most god-like, which means that it is in our work that it is easiest to develop god-pretensions. Un-sabbathed, our work becomes the entire context in which we define our lives. We lose God-consciousness, God-awareness, sightings of resurrection. We lose the capacity to sing 'This is my Father's world' and end up chirping little self-centered ditties about what we are doing and feeling" (117).

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Two Things About American Idol


1. Did anyone hear the contestants sing "Shout to the Lord" to close Idol Gives Back last night? What did you think? I would probably have a different opinion about this if I didn't witness it firsthand, but it made me very happy to watch them sing it live. Immediately before they sang it, Mariah Carey sang about her Jesus, and immediately after "Shout to the Lord" Ben Stiller cussed and cussed, not about the song, but something totally unrelated. Were the producers just throwing a bone to the evangelical audience so as to include all worldviews in the show? Probably, but I was still happy to hear it, even though they did change the second word from "Jesus" to "shepherd."

2. I submitted a song to American Idol Songwriter, but it wasn't chosen as a top 20 song. Click here if you want to listen to my song, then click here to listen to the top twenty (you'll have to register to vote, but you don't have to vote). I really tried to write a shallower song than I normally would, but I guess it was still too deep. I should have used the word "dream" or "moment" or "believe." Oh well.

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