Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis

You are indeed teaching me about kinds of love I did not know. It is like looking into a deep pit. I am not sure whether I like your kind better than hatred. Oh, Orual–to take my love for you, because you know how it goes down to my very roots and cannot be diminished by any other newer love, and then to make of it a tool, a weapon, a thing of policy and mastery, an instrument of torture–I begin to think I never knew you. Whatever comes after, something that was between us dies here.

For Week 11 of the 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge I read Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis.

In this retelling of the myth of Psyche and Cupid, C.S. Lewis writes from the perspective of Psyche’s oldest sister; Orual. She is a brilliant but hideously ugly woman who loves Psyche to the depths of her soul. In fact, her love is obsessive, jealous, selfish, and in the end, looks more like hatred than love.

Orual is writing this book as a complaint against the gods. She is bringing charges against them for being unkind, unjust, and inscrutable. They hide themselves from mankind unless they wish to punish and make them suffer and Orual is convinced that they have wronged her and taken everything from her.

The tendency most people have when engaging Lewis’ work is to search hard for the allegory. They think all of his works are very much like The Chronicles of Narnia in that there is direct symbolism for elements of the Christian faith. That is not what Till We Have Faces is like and if you go looking for it you will be disappointed.

That is not to say there is nothing of the Christian faith here. There is. All truth is God’s truth and it can be found in a myriad of places including this book. Who has not asked the question; “If there is a God, why doesn’t He reveal Himself in a clear and obvious way?” Or, “If there is a God and He is good, then why do people suffer?”

Those questions are universal and they appear in the pages of this novel. However, I don’t get the impression that Lewis was working hard to answer these questions for us, nor do I get the impression that this was the point of the novel. Rather, these questions, are the backdrop against which the story is played out. They provide the motivation for the protagonist.

What I took away from this story was Orual’s pride and selfishness. She consumes and destroys what she claims to love. She is utterly selfish in her motivations all the while claiming that she is sacrificing for others. She uses people and demands too much from them and then is furious when they do not meet her outrageous expectations.

In short, it is not just her face that is ugly. Her soul is ugly too.

I found it easy to judge Orual in her ugliness. That is until I realized that her ugliness is mine also. It is everyone’s ugliness because we all “love” the way Orual loves; selfishly.

There are a couple of scenes in the story where Orual is forced to behold her own hideous face in a mirror. It is meant to shame and ridicule her and you feel sorry for her. But the truth is, we all need to be forced to face our own ugliness of the soul.

In that way, the novel did in fact point me to God. He is the only source of true, good, and pure love and I can only love in a good and true way because He loves me first.

Book Links: March 15, 2017

Here are some interesting links on books and reading from around the web.

Do you hear characters from books inside your head? There is a name for that. It’s called experiential crossing and it’s pretty normal.

Having books in the home is important; any reader and lover of books will tell you that. But did you know that having books in your home is just as important as formal education for your child? It turns out that it’s even more important than where your family is from and the education level of the parents. That’s pretty important.

Meet Daliyah; she’s read over 1,000 books. Oh, and she’s four years old.

If you want to raise your intake of books through audio books but have friends who tell you that is cheating, don’t worry; it’s not. In fact, reading and listening to someone else read affects your brain in the same way.

However, you would do better to read on paper rather than on your screen. All us book lovers are now wearing a smug look on our faces.

Illuminate by Nancy Duarte

Stack Of BooksFor week 10 of the 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge I read Nancy Duarte’s book Illuminate: Ignite Change through Speeches, Stories, Ceremonies, and Symbols.

Nancy Duarte is brilliant. Truly.

When it comes to writing about creating and delivering presentations in ways that motivate and transform audiences, she is in a class by herself. I keep her books Resonate and Slide:ology on my shelves in my office and consult them often. This book–co-authored with Patti Sanchez–is going to go on that same shelf and consulted often.

With Illuminate, Duarte and Sanchez deliver an excellent resource. It follows the hero’s journey and teaches you how to motivate your audience at every step in that journey in order to start or transform a company, launch a new product or service, complete a major project, or even change the world.

The book is set-up in a linear fashion and yet is filled with creativity. So regardless of how you best engage this kind of subject matter, you are going to be able to connect to it and learn from it.

Not only that, this book is LOADED with case studies. You examine everything from Apple and Chik-fil-A to the Civil Rights Movement. The case studies serve as the illustrations for how the concepts in the book work. Not only that, they add gravitas to the concepts in the book. It’s like they are telling you; “this stuff is real and it should be taken seriously.”

I think this book would make an excellent college course text-book. If you can learn and apply the concepts Duarte and Sanchez are teaching here, then you are going to take your leadership skills into a whole new level of amazing.

Seriously, buy this book. Buy it and read it.

None Other by John MacArthur

Stack Of BooksFull disclosure: I am not a huge fan of John MacArthur’s writing. It always strikes me as a sort of patch-work quilt of his sermons more than a cohesive, well-written book. HOWEVER, I am a big fan of MacArthur’s no-nonsense, Scripture-laden, theologically on-point messages and his obvious love for God, the Bible, and theological accuracy. That is why I read this book and I was not disappointed in that regard.

NONE OTHER is a short read at only 123 pages but it is power-packed. It takes truths about God such as His sovereignty, love, saving work, and holiness and examines them in light of the Scriptural witness and in contrast to what some Christians have reduced them to.

The idea is that to make God more palatable to a sin-broken world, we have reduced God to something we can handle and explain more easily. We want to avoid questions like; “If God is good then why does evil exist in the world?” Or, “If God is loving then why doesn’t He just save everyone instead of sending some people to Hell?”

The problem of course is that this is a false god. This idol is not the God of the Bible and therefore this idol is utterly unable to save anyone from sin.

MacArthur shows us in this book that these powerful truths about God must not be shunned or watered-down, they must be embraced and rejoiced in because this is who God has revealed Himself to be and that is glorious.

I would recommend this book to someone who is discipling a new believer in Christ. There are some pretty weighty theological concepts in here. They are not beyond the layperson’s ability to understand–MacArthur is a pastor after all and wants these truths communicated in a way that they can be understood and embraced. However, the power and complexity of these truths is such that it would be good to have a friend along the journey of reading them for discussion and prayer.

Much Ado by Michael Lenehan

Stack Of BooksI fell in love with the theater when I was in the 6th grade at Grandview Elementary School in Charleston, WV.

The 6th grade classes (there were only two) put on a Christmas play (now I guess it would be called a “Holiday” play). I was cast as the understudy for the lead role. The lead–a bully named David–got the flu and missed the majority of the rehearsals so I stood in for him and got bitten by the theater bug HARD.

Alas, it was not meant to be. David somehow made a miraculous recovery a few days before the performance and I spent the whole show sitting in the audience mouthing the lines and wishing I was on stage instead.

I went on to to do some other shows, mostly Christmas pageants for church and the like, nothing anyone would call real theater. But it was fun.

Flash forward 3 years and I am sitting in church watching a play called WHERE HE LIES and I remember thinking; “I could do that…I WILL do that!” I meant something real, something hard, something artful and powerful.

The next 12 years found me in and around the theater as much as I could. I just LOVED it so much.

I did everything from star in shows, play minor characters, direct plays, even work as an usher for every single performance of The Crucible just so I could watch my girlfriend (the amazing woman I would one day marry) say two lines.

When I went back to college to finish my degree I was a husband with three young sons and a full-time job. Something had to go and theater was the thing I let go of. I did so without regrets. I was doing what was best for my family. I never once felt like I was making any kind of a sacrifice.

That was 12 years ago.

I devoured Michael Lenehan’s book Much Ado: A Summer with a Repertory Theater Company.

It is expertly written in short, snappy, engaging chapters and it made me fall in love with the theater all over again. It was rather like rediscovering something I had lost or set aside and forgotten about and there is joy in the rediscovery of the lost thing. That is what I experienced reading this book.

It is the story of how the American Players Theater (APT) staged Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.

APT is located in Spring Green, WI; population 2,000. The company has been proclaimed “the best classical theater company in America” and their annual audiences of over 100,000 patrons would seem to reinforce that tagline.

Just as an aside here; I have added seeing a show at the APT to my Bucket List.

I loved this book because it takes you through the process theater people go through. It turns a spotlight (see what I did there?) on the craft of staging a play. These are people who take theater seriously. You see that serious attitude in the choices they make because that is what theater is really; it’s making choices and there are thousands of choices that can be made and each one takes the show in a different direction. It’s all very exciting.

The book is filled with little tidbits of theater history, jargon, traditions, and processes. It uncovers some great stuff about Much Ado itself and about the unique challenges that come with staging a play by Shakespeare. It never once failed to hold my attention, even when the author spent a whole chapter talking about making wigs or precisely what shade of red a dress should be.

It has never ceased to amaze me how hard so many people have to work to stage a show that is worth going to see and yet they work hard simply out of love for what they are doing. That is revealed in this book; the labor of love that is theater.

I think it also points to the importance of theater. I think in our electronic, online, digitized world something that is living and real and vibrant like theater is important and necessary. This book points to that but in a subtle way. I am sure the author believes this and the members of the APT company and audience most definitely believe it, but that is not the point to this book.

I think that is what makes it easy to see and accept. You get that theater is important because the author and his subjects really believe it is important and they live like it is important, not because they are bludgeoning the reader over the head with that belief.

While I would love for a lot of people to read this book, it’s probably not for everyone. However if you are involved in theater in any way, shape, or form, you really should give it a read. You will not be disappointed and you may just find yourself falling in love all over again.