There’s some great stuff on the docket today!
Well, one is less eats but more drinks…it was a cold morning so after my regular cup of coffee I enjoyed a relaxing, hot cup of herbal Earl Grey tea from a shop I recently visited: Fuquay Spice & Tea. Y’all, I didn’t even know there WAS such a thing as herbal Earl Grey. It has totally revamped my daily routine as it’s non-caffeinated but still has that lovely bergamot flavor. Now I can enjoy it any time of day without worrying about my caffeine intake…add a dash of sugar or honey & you’re set! I really don’t know what it is about Earl Grey tea…hot, whether it’s black or herbal., it’s just amazing & makes me want to travel the galaxies!
On the literary end I’m currently consuming The Screwtape Letters & Screwtape Proposes a Toast by C.S. Lewis. This is one of the books that was recommended to me for my book-a-month reading challenge for the year. I am thoroughly enjoying it.
The Screwtape Letters were published in a religious newspaper- The Guardian– as weekly insights into Christian theology written in a sarcastic manner from a demon’s (Screwtape) point of view, as though writing to his nephew, fellow demon-in-training, Wormwood. It discusses how Wormwood should handle tempting & leading astray his human, or “patient”, as Lewis calls him. Throughout the letters Screwtape refers to God as “The Enemy,” & as someone raised in the church it took me some time getting used to reading that since I’ve always heard “The Enemy” as a reference to Satan. At the time Lewis published the letters he apparently received a lot of negative feedback from people getting their toes stepped on or taking them a bit too seriously. If you read it with an open heart & mind, & also don’t look at it as a foundation for Christian theology, you will likely find a lot of material that will really lead you to do some reflecting on your own behaviors & temptations.
So far, I’ve only read 3 of the “letters” (chapters) out of 31, but there is already so much to absorb, ponder, & reflect on. All the following quotes are from the 7th printing of the 1966 Macmillan Paperbacks Edition of “The Screwtape Letters and Screwtape Proposes a Toast” by C.S. Lewis. Here are just a few of my favorite quotes, including quotes from the preface:
- “Of course, sales do not always mean what authors hope. If you gauged the amount of Bible reading in England by the number of Bibles sold, you would go far astray.” – p. vi
- “The commonest question is whether I really ‘believe in the Devil.’ Now, if by ‘the Devil’ you mean a power opposite to God and, like God, self-existent from all eternity, the answer is certainly No. There is no uncreated being except God. God has no opposite. No being could attain a ‘perfect badness’ opposite to the perfect goodness of God; for when you have taken away every kind of good thing (intelligence, will, memory, energy, and existence itself) there would be none of Him left.” – p. vii
- “Some have paid me an undeserved compliment by supposing that my Letters were the ripe fruit of many years’ study in moral and ascetic theology. They forgot that there is an equally reliable, though less creditable, way of learning how temptation works. ‘My heart’ – I need no others’ – ‘showeth me the wickedness of the ungodly’.” – p. xiii
- “But what with the weekly press and other such weapons, we [the tempters] have largely altered that [the chain of reason, living by truth]. Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to having a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head. He doesn’t think of doctrines as primarily ‘true’ or ‘false,’ but as ‘academic’ or ‘practical,’ ‘outworn’ or ‘contemporary,’ ‘conventional’ or ‘ruthless.’ Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church.” – Letter I, p. 8
- “By the very act of arguing, you awake the patient’s reason; and once it is awake, who can foresee the result? Even if a particular train of thought can be twisted so as to end in our favour, you will find that you have been strengthening in your patient the fatal habit of attending to universal issues and withdrawing his attention from the stream of immediate sense experiences.” – Letter I, p. 8
- “One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners…Make his [the patient’s] mind flit to and fro between an expression like ‘the body of Christ’ and the actual faces in the next pew. It matters very little, of course, what kind of people that next pew really contains. You may know one of them to be a great warrior on the Enemy’s side. No matter. Your patient, thanks to Our Father Below, is a fool. Provided that any of those neighbours sing out of tune, or have boots that squeak, or double chins, or odd clothes, the patient will quite easily believe that their religion must therefore be somehow ridiculous.” – Letter II, p. 12
- “Work hard, then, on the disappointment or anti-climax which is certainly coming to the patient during his first few weeks as a churchman. The Enemy allows this disappointment to occur on the threshold of every human endeavour…In every department of life it marks the transition from dreaming aspiration to laborious doing…Desiring their freedom, He [God] therefore refuses to carry them, by their mere affections and habits, to any of the goals which He sets before them: He leaves them to ‘do it on their own.’ And there lies our opportunity. But also, remember, there lies our danger. If once they get through this initial dryness successfully, they become much less dependent on emotion and therefore much harder to tempt.” – Letter II, p. 13 & 14
- “Of course, if…the patient knows that…the man with squeaky boots a miser and an extortioner- then your task is so much the easier. All you then have to do is to keep out of his mind the question ‘If I, being what I am, can consider that I am in some sense a Christian, why should the different vices of those people in the next pew prove that their religion is mere hypocrisy and convention?'”- Letter II, p. 14
- “Make sure that they are always very ‘spiritual,’ that he is always concerned with the state of her soul and never with her rheumatism.” – Letter III, p. 16
These quotes really hit home for me. They remind me of the importance, as a Christian, of checking my own heart & actions as they reflect Christ. If my heart & actions distort or disgrace His reflection, others- new Christians & non-Christians- could see that & be driven further from God. They remind me of the importance of clinging to Christ in the hard times & the spiritually “dry” times, they remind me not to rely on my emotions which constantly change, but to practice self-discipline & center myself, my behavior, on Christ, & to consistently, constantly seek Him. They remind me of the importance of serving, meeting, & praying for others’ needs as best as I am able, not just offering “thoughts & prayers”. This may often mean praying for someone’s specific, tangible, physical needs if I’m personally not able to help or resolve them myself. People struggle see God, especially if they don’t already know Him, when they feel like they’re drowning in the middle of their circumstances. If I can be the hands & feet of (& not solely the prayers to) Christ, that may open up so many doors for them to come to KNOW Christ, too.
These “Letters” are challenging me this week to check my own behaviors, thoughts, feelings, actions, & temptations, to make sure I’m not being led away by an invisible “Screwtape” or “Wormwood,” but marching, resilient & focused, towards Christ.
Happy Wednesday, friends.