C.S. Lewis on Being Nice

Being Nice Matters | Psychology Today

Hey TD!

Over the decades of serving in TD, I’ve noticed that it seems that being nice is thought of as being THE primary characteristic of being a Christian.  While it is absolutely necessary for Christians to actually be nice and kind, that is not to be confused with our position before God and our need for salvation.  For some reason, though, it often is.

Here’s a helpful reminder from CS Lewis on being nice. – Arthur

‘Niceness’—wholesome, integrated personality—is an excellent thing. We must try by every medical, educational, economic, and political means in our power to produce a world where as many people as possible grow up ‘nice’; just as we must try to produce a world where all have plenty to eat. But we must not suppose that even if we succeeded in making everyone nice we should have saved their souls. A world of nice people, content in their own niceness, looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as desperately in need of salvation as a miserable world—and might even be more difficult to save.

For mere improvement is not redemption, though redemption always improves people even here and now and will, in the end, improve them to a degree we cannot yet imagine. God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man. It is not like teaching a horse to jump better and better but like turning a horse into a winged creature. Of course, once it has got its wings, it will soar over fences which could never have been jumped and thus beat the natural horse at its own game. But there may be a period, while the wings are just beginning to grow, when it cannot do so: and at that stage the lumps on the shoulders—no one could tell by looking at them that they are going to be wings—may even give it an awkward appearance.

From Mere Christianity
Compiled in A Year with C.S. Lewis

Mere Christianity. Copyright © 1952, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright renewed © 1980, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. A Year With C.S. Lewis: Daily Readings from His Classic Works. Copyright © 2003 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

 

“We Must Play” (a must read)

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Chloe closely guarding her mom while Elijah tries to help – 2018 TD Ultimate Tourney

Hey TD!

One of the virtues of our Asian heritage is the valuing of hard work.  And yet, like anything else in life, a virtue can become a vice if emphasized too heavily.  In this humorous and compelling Slice of Infinity, dear friend, Jill Carattini, draws upon the mischievous side of CS Lewis to highlight our God-given need to play; and play we must.  Looking forward to playing with you more in the months ahead! – Arthur

We Must Play 

In August of 1963, due to his ailing health and increasing responsibilities, C.S. Lewis announced his retirement from Cambridge. His stepson Douglas Gresham and friend Walter Hooper were sent to the university to sort out his affairs and bring home the two thousand or so books that lined the walls of his Magdalene College office. Knowing the house was already filled to its bursting point with books, the pair wondered all the way home where on earth they would find the space to put them. But Lewis had already contrived an intricate plan for their use.

A nurse named Alec had been hired to stay up nights in case Lewis fell ill and needed his assistance. As the men returned with the enormous load of books, Alec was asleep in his room on the ground floor. As the truck pulled into the driveway, Lewis appeared, cautioning them to silence. “Where’ll we store the books?” Hooper whispered, to which Lewis responded with a wink. Carrying each stack with tedious concern so as not to wake the sleeping victim, the three men piled the works around the nurse’s bed, sealing him in a cocoon of manuscript and literature. When they were finished, the books were stacked nearly to the ceiling, filling every square inch of the room where the snoring nurse still slept.

Much to the relief of the anxious culprits who were waiting outside, Alex finally awoke. From within the insulated tomb, first came sounds of bellowing, and finally the tumbling of the great literary wall. An amused nurse emerged from within the wreckage.

The characters in this story are every bit as spirited as some of the playful personalities from Lewis’s imaginary worlds. These are the whimsical scenes—fiction and non-fiction—that seal in my mind the many weighty lessons I have wrought from him. But perhaps namely: Christianity is a religion with room—and reason—for life and laughter.

Henry Ossawa Tanner, The Banjo Lesson, oil on canvas, 1893, Hampton University Museum.(2)

Much of the thought and work of C.S. Lewis wrestles with the existential evidences of the life-giving presence of God and the winsome invitations around us that beckon us to participate in this life. I am not alone in saying it was Lewis who first taught me to move toward the questions that reappear though we bury them and to at least be honest about the logical outworkings of the philosophies we hold, even loosely. It was Lewis who taught me to search after God with both heart and mind and energy, but with the wonder and imagination of a child who is able to be startled by the very thing she is looking for. A former atheist, Lewis came to believe with everything in him that Christianity gives an explanation—and a face—to the joy we stumble across, joy that “flickers on the razor-edge of the present and is gone.”

On the one hand, if life is but time and happenstance, why do we laugh or wonder, or experience a desire to play, however fleetingly at all? Is the encounter of delight simply the mind’s attempt to distract us from pain? What good is joy, what purpose is humor or laughter or beauty, if life is but a series of instincts to survive and the universe at a cosmic level is meaningless? On the other hand, if we are made in the image of a holy, loving, imaginative God, how wonderful that God has made us with both logic and laughter, with intrinsic worth and immortal wonder.

Nearing the end of one of his most remarkable lectures, in which he spoke hauntingly of the glory of the God and the immortality of the soul made in God’s image, Lewis added a word of warning: “This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously.”(1)

The resurrected, vicariously human Son of God invites us in to such a story, a creator who made us to live fully, coming in person to confront our desolation and to be our consolation, that we might encounter what the very word means. What if the door on which we have been knocking all our lives will one day open at last? Seeking and playing, finding and living may well be among life’s greatest efforts.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

TD Fri – “The Books We Love”/mp3’s

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Hey TD!

We’ve had a great summer series hearing from some of TD’s leaders in “The Books We Love”!

This Friday will be the series finale, as we hear from Kathy, Daniel, and Rebecca! Don’t miss it!

Last week, we had a blessed time hearing from Abigail, Robert, and Sandra 🙂 You can listen to their “book reports” on mp3 below, including a full-reading from Sandra:

Abigail (incl. an intro on reading from Arthur) – The Lord of the Rings (mp3) by J.R.R. Tolkien

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Robert – The Scarlet Letter (mp3) by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Sandra (full reading) – The Velveteen Rabbit (mp3) by Margery Williams

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TD – Let’s Read! – “The Books We Love”

This Friday at TD, we’ll be hearing from Abigail, Robert, and Sandra, who will share about some books that they love. Don’t miss it!

Hey TD!

Good reading is on the decline in our nation, giving way to videos, social media, blogs, etc.  It’s not a coincidence that the decline in prolonged quality reading has resulted in a declining ability to stay with thoughts and ideas for any meaningful length of time.  The consequence of that is a declining capacity to stay in God’s Word for meaningful lengths of time.

Reading is a skill, a discipline, and … a necessity for thriving deep relationship with the Lord, for Jesus did not come as the video; He came as … the Word.  He is the Word made flesh (Jn. 1)

Many of you are admittedly not readers, but we would like to encourage you to work on it and learn, grow, be amazed, be held in suspense, go to new places, experience new worlds and cultures, learn from others’ lives.

Reading is a skill, a discipline, and … a necessity for thriving deep relationship with the Lord, for Jesus did not come as the video; He came as … the Word.  He is the Word made flesh (Jn. 1)

If I ask you to commit to reading 6 books a year, you’d be overwhelmed.  But broken down into daily bites, you’d see that it’s doable.  If you simply commit to reading 5 pages a day, you’ll read about 6 books a year!  That’s doable, right?  “But what should I read?” you may be asking.

Enter …

TD Summer Series: “The Books We Love”

We had a great start last month to our summer series, “The Books We Love.”  You can listen to Clara, Calvin, and Katherine share about books that have impacted them, with a Q & A at the end: The Books We Love – Clara, Calvin, Katherine.

Clara – Bonhoeffer (0:00 – 9:10)

Calvin – The Horse and His Boy – (9:50 – 29:22)

Katherine – Christ For Real – (29:38 – 35:52)

Q&A – (36:15 – 56:25)

Bonhoeffer: Pastor Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas (2009)

The Horse and His Boy by CS Lewis (1954)

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Christ For Real by Charles S. Price (1987)

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Let’s get reading, TD!  We’ll see you Friday! – Arthur

TD Friday – “Everywhere and Nowhere”

Hey TD!

What do we mean when we say that God is omnipresent? It means much more than “God is everywhere.” Join us this Friday as Sandra uniquely leads us into greater depths of understanding and apprehending God’s omnipresence!  We’ll be studying Psalm 139:7-12. I have seen her material and this is going to be an amazing lesson.  She will be using a lot of visuals that will not be posted online afterwards.  So, make sure you come!

We will also be having our TD Pre-Meeting Party at 7:15!  Come join the fun and see you on Friday!

In the meanwhile, read through this passage thoroughly and meditatively in preparation:

Psalm 139:7-12

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in [f]Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
10 Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will [g]overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,”
12 Even the darkness is not dark [h]to You,
And the night is as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are alike to You.

– Arthur

Building Character Even in Your Thirsts

Hey TD’ers!  How many of you often end up coming to the River, yet find yourself coming short of actually drinking from it? Or how about going into a situation with the intention of doing right, but not getting yourself to actually do right?  Or committing to giving God your best, but not being able to actually give up what it takes to do so when presented with that sacred opportunity?

It is the decisions we make during those times of testing that reveal what we’re really made of, who we really are.  They reveal our character.  If you are in need of strengthening your character, please remember that true character is developed one choice at a time, and that every decision made informs your habits and begins to shape your character … for better or for worse.

Romans 5:3-5 speaks powerfully to this and shows why the true Christian can exult, even in tribulation; because “tribulation brings about perseverance; 4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5 and hope does not disappoint.”

But it all starts with taking the first step of trusting and obeying God, even and especially in the most fundamental area of our lives: our hungers and thirsts.  You all know where that hits home for you.  Will you surrender and obey Him in the deepest parts of you?  No one is better to listen to and obey than God Himself. – Arthur

CS Lewis depicts this elementary struggle well in The Silver Chair: 

“Are you not thirsty?” said the Lion.

“I’m dying of thirst,” said Jill.

“Then drink,” said the Lion.

“May I—could I—would you mind going away while I do?” said Jill.

The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience.

The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.

“Will you promise not to—do anything to me, if I do come?” said Jill.

“I make no promise,” said the Lion.

Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer.

Do you eat girls?” she said.

“I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.

“I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill.

“Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion.

“Oh dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.”

“There is no other stream,” said the Lion.

It never occurred to Jill to disbelieve the Lion—no one who had seen his stern face could do that—and her mind suddenly made itself up. It was the worst thing she had ever had to do, but she went forward to the stream, knelt down, and began scooping up water in her hand. It was the coldest, most refreshing water she had ever tasted. You didn’t need to drink much of it, for it quenched your thirst at once.