Inklings

Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis | Inklings Series Discussion

(The Inklings Series is a monthly series featuring the works of my two favorites, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, or books about them. But I don’t want it to be just me chatting about these books, so that’s where y’all come in! I’ll announce the book at least four weeks in advance of when the discussion post will go live, so you have plenty of time to get the book and read it. Then, the following month, I’ll post a discussion post and let the fun begin!!)

“A violet yellow sunset was pouring through a rift in the clouds to westward, but straight ahead over the hills the sky was the colour of dark slate.”

How have I not read this until now? I feel like a fake fan! It was a fabulous read to kick off the series and I look forward to reading the other two in the series, but first to discuss!

The first book in C. S. Lewis’s acclaimed Space Trilogy, which continues with Perelandra and That Hideous Strength, Out of the Silent Planet begins the adventures of the remarkable Dr. Ransom. Here, that estimable man is abducted by a megalomaniacal physicist and his accomplice and taken via spaceship to the red planet of Malacandra. The two men are in need of a human sacrifice, and Dr. Ransom would seem to fit the bill. Once on the planet, however, Ransom eludes his captors, risking his life and his chances of returning to Earth, becoming a stranger in a land that is enchanting in its difference from Earth and instructive in its similarity. First published in 1943, Out of the Silent Planet remains a mysterious and suspenseful tour de force.

Here’s a fun fact to kick things off (in case you didn’t catch last month’s read): Tolkien and Lewis once flipped a coin deciding who would write a time travel story and who would write an outer space novel. Thanks to that coin toss, Lewis wrote Out of the Silent Planet and Tolkien wrote The Notion Club Papers (a time travel set in the future of the 1980s :).

I wish I had a better way to say this, but the way C.S. Lewis paints a story is rad. I constantly found myself pausing during the book and just thinking how talented and gifted he was as a writer (and by my description of “rad,” you can see we’re on slightly different playing fields).

Like this:

“Pulsing with brightness as with some unbearable pain or pleasure, clustered in pathless and countless multitudes, dreamlike in clarity, blazing in perfect blackness, the stars seized all his attention, troubled him, excited him, and drew him up to a sitting position…

…now that the very name “Space” seemed a blasphemous libel for this empyrean ocean of radiance in which they swam.”

I mean….

Now onto the actual storyline :). Not only did we once again see the creative and imaginative genius of Lewis, but I found myself wishing all the creatures on the planet were real and that one day I could hang out with them (add that list to Narnia and Middle Earth). I loved what got Ransom to speak with Hyoi was he heard him speaking and his love of language took over, especially since both Tolkien and Lewis loved languages.

I laughed quite a bit too, like with this line: “For a moment Ransom found something reassuring in the thought that the sorns were shepherds. Then he remembered that the Cyclops in Homer plied the same trade.”

When Hyoi was shot and killed (which, by the way did not see coming 😦 ), I thought Lewis portrayed the aftermath in such a poignant way. How do you explain someone kills something for no other reason than they wanted to?

As I mentioned before, I haven’t read the rest of the series, but I hope there is more to come battling Weston and the forces behind him.

“…our cry is not merely “Hands off Malacandra.” The dangers to be feared are not planetary but cosmic, or at least solar, and they are not temporal but eternal. More than this it would be unwise to say.”

I also really enjoyed the Postscript and the letter between Ransom and the writer. Not only was it a creative way to gain more insight into the world Lewis created, but I like that we got more of what it was like when Ransom returned home.

Here’s some questions I was thinking about:

1. How the hey was Jack (aka Clive Staples aka my BFF) so creative?!
I mean, geez, save some genius for the rest of the world. Obviously this isn’t really a question I expect answered, but I still needed to get it off my chest :).

2. How does this rank against Lewis’ other fiction books for you?
It might be too early for me to make this statement (since I have to read the others), but I think Narnia still holds the top spot for Lewis’ fiction work. But please don’t take that to mean I didn’t enjoy this – I thoroughly did. It’s just hard to beat Aslan. 🙂

3. I love that Lewis used a sci-fi novel to take a look at humanity. Did that stick out to any of you?
It could be because I’ve been watching Breaking Bad and I love The Walking Dead, two shows that reveal both the bad and good of humanity in different/unique/dire circumstances, but that kept popping up. Take Weston. He’s arrogant and refuses to truly learn about the lives he encounters. He only sought power and dominance. Devine clearly didn’t grasp mo’ money, mo’ problems. Greed drove him, even when he encountered something no one else from planet Earth had. Then there was Ransom. Sweet Ransom. The complete opposite of the other two. I kinda think Lewis wrote pieces of his personality in Ransom’s character too.

4. Did you have a favorite of the Malacandra beings? Between the sorns, hrossa, Oyarsa and pfifltriggi?
I want to pick the pfifltriggi based solely on their name. I have no idea how to pronounce it, but it makes me laugh! This really is a tough one though, but I think I might have to go with the hrossa. They were the first we really encounter, so that probably has something to do with my bias.

What about you readers? As always, please share any other insights as well! Looking forward to reading what you thought of the book!

Where to buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Christian Books

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Inklings

Tolkien and C. S. Lewis: The Gift of a Friendship by Colin Duriez | Inklings Series Discussion

(The Inklings Series is a monthly series featuring the works of my two favorites, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, or books about them. But I don’t want it to be just me chatting about these books, so that’s where y’all come in! I’ll announce the book at least four weeks in advance of when the discussion post will go live, so you have plenty of time to get the book and read it. Then, the following month, I’ll post a discussion post and let the fun begin!!)

I wasn’t sure how reading a book not written by one of the boys would go, but I enjoyed reading a book diving more into the lives of Tolkien and Lewis. It a lot of ways, it helps me appreciate their works all the more. Now how to keep this discussion from turning into a dissertation…

First off, I think there should be an official holiday on May 11th (1926). This was the day Tolkien and Lewis first meet. All I’m saying is there could be some epic Middle Earth and Narnia mashup shenanigans happening. Or maybe we can all have a pint for the boys :). If these two weren’t a part of each others lives, we wouldn’t have LOTR or Narnia. What a dark and dreary world that would be.

I also feel we need to take a moment to appreciate the fact that it took 17 years for Tolkien to write LOTR. 17 YEARS PEOPLE. Tolkien admitted “it is written in my life-blood, such as that is, thick or thin; and I can no other.” So I dare someone to say it isn’t a well written or an entertaining story….

Both Tolkien and C.S. Lewis are literary superstars, known around the world as the creators of Middle-earth and Narnia. But few of their readers and fans know about the important and complex friendship between Tolkien and his fellow Oxford academic C.S. Lewis. Without the persistent encouragement of his friend, Tolkien would never have completed The Lord of the Rings. This great tale, along with the connected matter of The Silmarillion, would have remained merely a private hobby. Likewise, all of Lewis’ fiction, after the two met at Oxford University in 1926, bears the mark of Tolkien’s influence, whether in names he used or in the creation of convincing fantasy worlds.

They quickly discovered their affinity–a love of language and the imagination, a wide reading in northern myth and fairy tale, a desire to write stories themselves in both poetry and prose. The quality of their literary friendship invites comparisons with those of William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Cowper and John Newton, and G.K. Chesterton and Hillaire Belloc. Both Tolkien and Lewis were central figures in the informal Oxford literary circle, the Inklings.

This book explores their lives, unfolding the extraordinary story of their complex friendship that lasted, with its ups and downs, until Lewis’s death in 1963. Despite their differences–differences of temperament, spiritual emphasis, and view of their storytelling art–what united them was much stronger, a shared vision that continues to inspire their millions of readers throughout the world.

This book was a little different than I expected. It not only discusses the friendship between the two, but also looks at key works of each, when they were written and the influence of those novels. Whether it be Till We Have Faces or The Hobbit, Duriez provides overviews of their works, which readers will find helpful if they haven’t read the books discussed. I knew a bit about their friendship before reading this, but there were some things I didn’t have a clue about, so if you’re interested in learning more about these two, I definitely recommend this read!

“My happiest hours are spent with three or four old friends and old clothes tramping together and putting up in small pubs – or else sitting up till the small hours in someone’s college room talking nonsense, poetry, theology, metaphysics over beer, tea and pipes.” C.S. Lewis

I think one of my favorite parts was reading all the ways they influenced each other, from Tolkien’s guidance to C.S. Lewis’ spiritual awakening to Lewis’ constant encouragement for Tolkien to finish the Lord of the Rings. I also loved that they each dedicated some of their greatest works to The Inklings. And guess what? They were both avid readers (although I do believe Lewis takes the cake), meaning WE WOULD HAVE BEEN BEST FRIENDS.

Moving on. 🙂

I’m also pretty sure they were meant to be best friends from birth. Why?

  • They each have rad names: John Ronald Reuel Tolkien and Clive Staples Lewis
  • They both lost their moms at a young age.
  • Tolkien’s dad died earlier and Lewis’ Dad withdrew after his mother’s death and sent Clive to a boarding school (their relationship would later be restored).
  • They also both fought in WWI.

It’s pretty crazy to think of early life happenings became a connection point for them later.

Now some facts I deemed worthy to point out (also solidifying my love for these two):

  1. Tolkien commented late life that “he sought to create a mythology for England, but arguably he also tried to create a mythology for the English language.” I vote he was successful on both accounts. I would add he created a mythology for the universe. Unbiased opinion of course.
  2. There had been plans between the two to collaborate on a book together. This project never materialized and I bet it’s because they knew the universe would probably explode from the sheer amount of awesome a book like that would have contained.
  3. I’m sure there will be other books we read about C.S. Lewis’ conversion to Christianity, but I have to point out one fact: after he became a theist in 1929, by 1930, he was exploring Christianity more (with John Bunyan’s works) and decided to start reading the Bible almost daily. He started reading the book of John. What’s so exciting about that? He read it in GREEK. You know, like I’m sure we’ve all done.
  4. I love this quote by Tolkien: “In the Gospels, art has been verified.”

I can barely handle the levels of genius, internet.

“The two friends had a tangible confidence that the separation of story and fact has been reconciled, which led them to continue in a tradition of symbolic fiction, telling stories of dragons and kings in disguise, talking animals and heroic quests, set in imagined worlds.”

Some Items to Discuss

Honestly, I don’t have a ton of questions, but I am curious of any reactions, so here we go!
1. What were some of the most surprising facts?
I was surprised and found it interesting that Tolkien didn’t approve of Lewis’ role as a popular theologian. I understand where it comes from (with different church backgrounds), but still found it interesting. Yet, again, I appreciate how much they still respected each other with the differences.

2. There were several works discussed in this book and I wish I could read them all RIGHT NOW. Were there any that stuck out for you?
I think mine would be The Notion Club Papers. Did you catch the title page?

Beyond Lewis
Or
Out of the Talkative Planet
Being a fragment of an apocryphal Inklings’ saga,
made by some imitator at some time in the 1980s

3. Closing thoughts about friendship:
As I mentioned, there were a few things I had heard before about their friendship, but I felt like people made them much more dramatic than they were. Yes, their friendship shifted in later years, but as the book pointed out, with C.S. Lewis’ death, it was a “wound [Tolkien] knew he [would] not lose, as one loses a falling leaf.” Even years after Lewis’ death Tolkien wrote about Lewis: The unpayable debt that I owe to him was not ‘influence’ as it is ordinarily understood, but sheer encouragement. He was for long my only audience. Only from him did I ever get the idea that my ‘stuff’ could be more than a private hobby. Same with Lewis (just read his thoughts on friendship). They prove that through thick and thin, friendship is a powerful force we all need in life.

I love that their different personalities, instead of separating them, helped them to connect on a deeper level.

“They were enormously important to each other, and had obvious affinities that helped each to keep alive his vision of life.”

I’d love to hear your thoughts about these two!

Where to buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Christian Books

Inklings

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis | The Inklings Series

Welcome to our first post in The Inklings Series! I’m so glad you’re here 🙂 First, I feel we all need to take a moment to appreciate the dedication of this novel:

Seriously. Way too much genius for one friendship circle.

Alright, now onto discussing this fabulous book! Although written in 1941, the lessons and wisdom from this book apply just as much as today as it did then. That alone blows my mind. It’s an original and genius piece of work, whether you consider the truths Lewis wrestles with, the names (Our Father Below (satan) vs. The Enemy (God) ) or any other aspect of this book. I want to include every quote I highlighted, but that would quickly escalate into the world’s longest blog post, so instead I’ll settle for some key points :).

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis is a classic masterpiece of religious satire that entertains readers with its sly and ironic portrayal of human life and foibles from the vantage point of Screwtape, a highly placed assistant to “Our Father Below.” At once wildly comic, deadly serious, and strikingly original, C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters is the most engaging account of temptation—and triumph over it—ever written.

There were several times throughout the letters where it seemed as though it was written just for me. Today. Here and now. That’s when you know it’s a classic. Whether the chapter on prayer (I was rather encouraged to become “very far advanced in the Enemy’s service.”), humility (i.e. becoming proud of one’s humility) or modesty (which he called what modern day advertising would become decades before it happened), each chapter had me thinking through plenty of things.

“For if he ever comes to make the distinction, if he consciously directs his prayers ‘Not to what I think thou art but to what thou know art thyself to be’, our situation is, for the moment, desperate.”

One of the biggest themes (or tools of “The Father Below”) I found was one of distraction. That’s definitely how I become complacent in my faith and in my life. Never does temptation come across as a little devil on our shoulder with a pitchfork, but as Lewis so eloquently points out, it’s in a quieter, almost non-noticeable way. Those times of simply getting people to focus on daily life distractions. Before we know it, something good has become twisted.

“It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.”

“Everything has to be twisted before it’s any use to us.”

This is one of my favorites:

“You will say that these are very small sins; and doubtless, like all young tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness. But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy. It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts…” (emphasis mine)

On the other hand, God isn’t about removing things, but rather filling us up. A great example of the opposite of this is Screwtape’s anger toward Wormwood reveals how satan works (i.e. when he gets so mad he turns into a centipede). Yet, Lewis gives us hope in the truths that God wants to make our lives beautiful and full.

“The real centre, what the Enemy calls the Heart.”

“We want cattle who can finally become food; He wants servants who can finally become sons. We want to suck in, He wants to give out. We are empty and would be filled; He is full and flows over. Our war aim is a world in which Our Father Below has drawn all other beings into himself: the Enemy wants a world full of beings united to Him but still distinct.”

“To get the man’s soul and give him nothing in return – that is what really gladdens Our Father’s heart.”

I’ll close out my thoughts with this quote – I love the description of the Patient’s understanding upon reaching the heavenly realms.
“But when he saw them he knew that he had always known them and realised what part each one of them played at many an hour in his life when he had supposed himself alone, so that now he could say to them, one by one, not ‘Who are you?’ but ‘So it was you all the time.’ “

Alright, here’s some questions to open up discussion:
1. If you could sum up the message(s) of this book in a sentence, how would you? Think elevator pitch for this book. 😉
2. What are some of your favorite quotes?
3. What did you think of the ending? It’s been so long since I’ve read it, I totally forgot how it ended! Anyway, would love to hear what you thought!

And here’s my answers:
1. I’ll just sum it up right quick: That what God wants for each of us is better than we can imagine. That when he asks you to “lose yourself” in Him, it’s so we can gain something much more beautiful. On the other hand, satan seeks out ways to destroy our souls. (Like when Screwtape asks Wormwood “And anyway, why should the creature be happy?”). Also, satan’s attacks are much more subtle and dangerous than blatant attacks.

2. Since I’ve already included about 57,000 quotes, here’s one more that had me laughing out loud:
“For we must never forget what is the most repellent and inexplicable trait in our enemy; He really loves the hairless bipeds He has created…” (I wasn’t laughing at the part of He loves us – because internet high fives all around for that – but the part where Screwtape calls humans hairless bipeds. Cracked me up!)

3. I forgot that the Patient was killed during an air raid. It takes a skilled writer who can create a character with no name, yet one the readers (or at least me) become attached to. And was that not a fantastically creepy way to sign off a letter? “Your increasingly and ravenously affectionate uncle”…aka “I’m going to eat you.” Have I mentioned I love this book?

Just because I really enjoyed reading C.S. Lewis’ thoughts on writing this book (and in case your version didn’t include C.S. Lewis’ thoughts on writing it), here they are:
“Though it was easy to twist one’s mind into the diabolical attitude, it was not fun, or not for long. The strain produced a sort of spiritual cramp. The world into which I had to project myself while I spoke through Screwtape was all dust, grit, thirst and itch. Every trace of beauty, freshness and geniality had to be excluded. It almost smothered me before I was done. It would have smothered my readers if I had prolonged it.”

Please feel free to include any other thoughts or questions! I’m all about a good discussion 🙂

Where to buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Christian Books

Family Life, Travel Adventures

A Japanese Legacy

One of the favorite parts of my trip to Japan this past summer, was when we went to hang out with Mariko’s grandparents.

We hopped on the train and headed over to their house (which they’ve lived in forever) and spent such a relaxing and wonderful afternoon. Do I speak Japanese? Nope. (Unless you count “I eat rice in my house,” then yes, I’m fluent). Do Mariko’s wonderful Grandparents speak English? Nope. But were we able to have an amazing time? Why, yes we were! With Mariko translating, it worked out perfect.

There was one time during lunch when the chopsticks weren’t being my friend, so I attempted to be stealth and just grab the cucumber with my fingers. I figured that was better than trying to stab it with the chopstick. Totally thought no one was paying attention to me, but nope…totally busted. How’s that for immersing myself in the Japanese culture? But they simply laughed.

But more than that, I’m so thankful and blessed to have had the opportunity to learn from them, be encouraged by them and simply get to know more of their story. A legacy is the only thing you’ll leave behind and I promise you, the one they have started has already made an incredible impact on the world!

My hope and prayer is that this glimpse into the lives of Shizuko and Saichi Ohashi inspires and encourages you as much as it did me.

As a teenager during World War II, Shizuko still can recall the constant bombings on her city and watching the B-29 Superfortresses fly over their city. It’s hard for me to even imagine what that would have been like. To have a never ending fear of a bomb falling from the sky. To not know when it would end. What if my country, instead of unleashing the power of the A-bomb, was victim to it? How would my heart have handled losing such a war? I believe she said it best: That while losing was a blow to Japan, simple put, war is never a good thing.

Yet, even while having lived through that history, joy abounds from each of them.

But our time there wasn’t all sadness and dark times from decades past. Most of the time we spent chatting about family, our adventures and faith. Both came from Buddhist backgrounds, but after their two daughters became Christians, they started going when they were in their fifties. At first they started going because Christianity wasn’t about money (as their experience with Buddhism had been). That led to discussions with several pastors and finally one led them both to Jesus.

Two quotes that stuck with me? “Believing in Jesus and being a Christian is joy” and “We have Jesus to protect us.” Said with such conviction and decades of life experiences behind them, it was such a great reminder of Truth.

What a joy and privilege it is for me to be able to share some of their wisdom, story and to spend time with them, even if only for one summer afternoon.

To end, I’ll close with a very special 4 Questions with Shizuko (some the same, some a bit different!)

1. What is one thing that you would go back and do differently if you could?
When I was growing up, I didn’t have the option or choice to get an education. If I could go back, I would like to study all kinds of topics. I especially want to learn to speak English so I can communicate my grandchildren, great grandchildren and more American friends.

2. What is one of the happiest moments of your life?
As you know it is very important to have a son to carry on the family name in Japan. We didn’t have boys, but God blessed us with wonderful and God-loving son-in-laws.

3. What is one thing you want the next generation to know?
I want the next generation to know this most important thing: If they could, meet Jesus when they are young and memorize as much of God’s Word as you can.

And you know me, being the romantic that I am, tossed in a couple of extras for the interview!

4. How did you and your husband meet?
I was sewing clothes for family and friends with my free time back then. There was a country rail road employee apartment near our house and Saichi asked the apartment manager if he knew a good seamstress to sew his clothes. She recommended me to him, so he started to come over and that’s how we met!

5. What’s your advice for a lasting marriage?
Trust each other. Don’t talk back to each other, but share your opinions. Care for each other, especially when it comes to healthy living.

(Interviewed with the help of Kumiko Barnes)

We’re best friends now.

Thanks so much for reading! I never get tired of hearing people’s stories! So who has inspired you? What about your grandparents?

Love and Faith

The Valley of Vision

A couple of years ago around Christmas, my church did a sermon series based upon prayers from this book. It was an incredible series. Valley of Vision is composed of prayers and meditations that have been a great edition to my devotional times.

While I could probably type out every day’s prayer, here’s a few of my favorites:

Take of the things of Christ and show them to my soul;
Through thee may I daily learn more of His love, grace, compassion, faithfulness, beauty;
Lead me to the cross and show me his wounds, the hateful nature of evil, the power of Satan;
May I see my sins as
the nails that transfixed Him,
the cords that bound Him,
the thorns that tore Him,
the sword that pierced Him.
Help me to find in His death the reality and immensity of His love.
– The Spirit’s Work

Increase my faith in the clear knowledge of
atonement achieved,
expiation completed,
satisfaction made,
guilt done away,
my debt paid,
my sins forgiven,
my person redeemed,
my soul saved,
hell vanquished,
heaven opened,
eternity made mine.
– The Spirit’s Work

Yet thy compassions yearn over me,
thy heart hastens to my rescue,
thy love endured my curse,
thy mercy bore my deserved stripes.
The Precious Blood

Thy name is excellent,
thy glory high,
thy compassions unfailing,
thy condescension wonderful,
thy mercy tender.
– Living for Jesus

Grant me never to lose sight of
the exceeding sinfulness of sin,
the exceeding righteousness of salvation,
the exceeding glory of Christ,
the exceeding beauty of holiness,
the exceeding wonder of grace.
– Continual Repentance

I thank thee for the temporal blessings of this world –
the refreshing air,
the light of the sun,
the food that renews strength,
the raiment that clothes,
the dwelling that shelters,
the sleep that gives rest,
the starry canopy of night,
the summer breeze,
the flowers’ sweetness,
the music of flowing streams,
the happy endearments of family, kindred, friends.
Things animate, things inanimate, minister to my comfort.
My cup runs over.
– Evening Praise

Strengthen me to give thee no rest until Christ shall reign supreme within me,
in every thought, word and deed,
in faith that purifies the heart,
overcomes the world,
works by love,
fastens me to thee,
and ever clings to the cross.
– Meeting God

Have you ever heard of Valley of Vision? What do you think of some of these meditations? I hope you are encouraged like I was!

Author Interviews

4 Questions With New York Times Bestselling Author Sally Lloyd-Jones

(This interview is part of my 4 Questions Project, where I get the chance to chat with authors and tell stories of people, life, and adventure. Be sure to check out previous interviews here!)

I’m so excited to share this interview! Why? Because she’s British! I mean really, what more is needed right? There’s that and the fact that she is an award-winning and bestselling children’s author. If you have children and are looking for an amazing bible to share with them, you need to check out Sally Lloyd-Jones’ bestseller The Jesus Storybook Bible. And her newest?? Awesome! And as I mentioned in the review of Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing, the book is beautiful! It’s a beautifully illustrated and beautifully written collection for children about spiritual/biblical truths and faith. I want one for myself! Besides being British and an incredible author, she was born in Africa. What a story right?!

It’s great to be able to connect with Sally and learn more from this creative and insightful author!

Sally Lloyd-Jones is a leading writer of inspirational books for children, with an expertise in conveying biblical truth to young children. She is the author of three bestselling children’s Bibles, including the Gold Book Award-winning Baby’s First Bible and, most recently, the Moonbeam Award-winning The Jesus Storybook Bible. She has written many picture books for children, including Handbag Friends, Time to Say Goodnight and the critically acclaimed How to Be a Baby: By Me, the Big Sister. A native of England, Sally lives in New York City and can be found at http://www.sallylloyd-jones.com.

1. What is something about your life right now that you would never imagined 5 years ago?
That I would be “Playing the Ryman”.

Musicians say when they Play the Ryman—(because you don’t “play at the Ryman”, you “play the Ryman”)—they are humbled thinking of the legends who trod the same boards before them. Legends including Elvis, Johnny Cash (who met his wife June Carter for the first time back stage at the Ryman) and Patsy Cline. They all played the Ryman. Emmy Lou Harris, Neil Young, Mumford and Sons, Coldplay have all played the Ryman.

And now me. Yes, I “Played the Ryman.”

The last two years, I’ve found myself on that same legendary stage looking out at the audience—standing alongside my wonderfully talented musician friends—and having really no idea how I got there. I’m a children’s book writer. This is not part of what we do.

And yet—there I was “Playing the Ryman.” (Not singing you’ll be relieved to hear—just reading from my books). I was honored to be part of Andrew Peterson’s moving BEHOLD THE LAMB OF GOD Christmas concert.

I’m still pinching myself and so very grateful.

2. What is one thing that you would go back and do differently if you could?
Live less afraid. I’d like to have more quickly got to the place where I’m “living out loud”.

But then again how can you really say that? Because all the things you’ve been through have made you who you are today. Grace and joy are at the heart of things. So I prefer not to look back like that. I believe even the awful things are worked together and redeemed and will be turned around ultimately. And the joy will be greater for it all once having been so sad. It’s what Tolkien spoke about—everything sad coming untrue.

3. What is one of the happiest moments of your life?
That’s hard. How on earth do you choose? Actually, I can’t. Life is too full. I read a quote this week that said, “Write on your heart that every day is the best day of your life.” And it’s true. I’m happiest when I’m happiest right now today. Some of the happiest moments are the small surprises. One of my favorites? When it snows. My heart leaps. I feel like I’ve been given a free day. I want to run outside and play. I’d like to live every day as if is a snow day.

4. What is one thing you want the next generation to know?
That the dream you keep deep down inside your heart—the thing you most want, the dream you may never have told anyone—may just turn out to be the very thing you were born to do. It may be the dream God planted in your heart.

It won’t look exactly the way you imagine it. It may take a long time to come. It may even come in disguise.

But keep your eyes out for it.

Fredrick Buechner says it best when he says: “listen to the voice of your deepest gladness”.

Author Interviews

4 Questions With Bestselling Author Liz Curtis Higgs

(This interview is part of my 4 Questions Project, where I get the chance to chat with authors and tell stories. Of people. Of life. Of adventure. Be sure to check out previous interviews here!)

Her website is Liz Curtis Higgs, An Encourager and that couldn’t be more true! By simply perusing her website, I felt like Liz Curtis Higgs was a friend and we were meeting over tea (sorry, not a coffee kind of girl) while she was encouraging in me as a woman, as a believer and as the person God made me to be. Plus we’d 100% be friends, because our cats would probably be friends.

Seriously, check out the “Liz’s Journey of Faith” section on her website. She’s open and honest about her life, her past and journey! I can only imagine the encouragement and truth people have been blessed with who have met her! I’ve read a couple of her books years ago (Bad Girls of the Bible  and Really Bad Girls of the Bible), but I’m excited to start some of her historical fictions and other bible studies.

She’s the author of thirty books in several genres, with more than three million copies in print (New York Times Bestseller!). Her fiction includes two contemporary novels, six Scottish historical novels, and her new Victorian Christmas novella, A Wreath of Snow. Connect with her online at http://www.MyScottishHeart or @MyScottishHeart on Twitter.

I’m so excited to share with 4 Questions with Liz Curtis Higgs! I hope you are as encouraged as I am!

Photo courtesy of Liz Curtis Higgs

1. What is something about your life right now that you would never have imagined 5 years ago?
Though I’ve been to Scotland fifteen times to do research for my novels, I would never have pictured myself leading a tour there! With the release of A Wreath of Snow: A Victorian Christmas Novella, I took a leap of faith and put together two week-long tours for my readers. We’ll land in Glasgow, then tour Loch Lomond, Stirling, and Pitlochry, before taking the train (very Victorian) into Edinburgh. I’m SO excited. Is it December yet?

2. What is one thing that you would go back and do differently if you could?
Depends on how far back we’re talking about. ;>) From a very personal standpoint, I wish I’d taken better care of myself physically in my thirties, so I wouldn’t be dealing with bad knees in my fifties. From a career standpoint, I wish I’d listened to my heart in the early years and not been pulled this way and that by the opinions of others. But I’m not someone who wastes time with regret. The past is gone, and tomorrow is yet to come. Whatever paths my life took, they were meant to be taken. All we can work with is this day, this hour, this minute.

3. What is one of the happiest moments of your life?
All the usual ones: the day I married my wonderful Bill, the days I gave birth to our dear son and daughter, the day we moved into our nineteenth-century farmhouse, the day I held my first published book in my hands, the first day I stood on the platform for Women of Faith. The list is really, really long! But THE happiest moment of my life was February 21, 1982 when I made a confession of faith and embraced the grace God freely offers.

4. What is one thing you want the next generation to know?
That the God of the Bible is real and his words are true. That he loves us with an everlasting love. That we were created in his image and meant to live in relationship with him. That nothing the world calls pleasurable can measure up to the peace of knowing and loving a God who knows and loves us completely.

A Wreath of Snow: A Victorian Christmas Novella by Liz Curtis Higgs

Thanks so much for sharing Liz! A pleasure to host you on the blog!

Book Reviews, Photography

Some of My Favorite Photography Books

If you have had a chance to meander on over to the ever cleverly named tab “About,” you already know that along with writing about my favorite reads, I take pictures (in another life I was a wedding photographer). I love photography as much as I love reading. As I was going through my book inventory I found some favorites I think you’ll enjoy even without having to own a camera.

Cats of the Greek Isles – If you don’t like cats, then I don’t recommend this. But if you like cats and Greece, this one is a winner. It seems like cats there rule the streets and photographer Hans Silvester knows a thing or two about how to creatively capture them.

100 Photographs that Changed the World – Images have the power to speak thousands of emotions and story. This is a collection of some of the most powerful. Photojournalism at it’s greatest.

Bible Road: Signs of Faith in the American Landscape – I heart Jesus, I really do, so this book was a rather interesting and intriguing collection by Sam Fentress. Some people are creative in the ways they share about Jesus and if we’re being honest, some are rather strange.

Great Photographs of World War 2 – My passion in history can be thrown in with the rest of the reasons why I love being a nerd, but this books has hundreds of photos from the last great war. Some pretty powerful stuff.

Did I miss any?

Book Reviews, Inklings

Kicking it Off With Some Clive Staples | A Look at Mere Christianity

One of my favorite authors is C.S. Lewis. His creativity and writing style captivate me. I love reading the Chronicles of Narnia at least once a year. Powerful themes of life and love, yet incredibly enjoyable too.

I first read Mere Christianity when I was a teenager and while I remember enjoying it, I don’t really think I grasped a majority of it. So I figured it was time to read it again. I should have a better understanding at 30 right? I’m glad I did. While written in 1943 (and in Britain no less :)), there’s still so many provoking thoughts and ideas.

I’m not sure how any of these blog posts will go (let’s be honest, this is my second post), but I’m sure each one will look nothing like that last. So to kick off my first official “book review,” here’s some of the quotes I thought were worth highlighting.

“Put right out of your head the idea that these are only fancy ways of saying that Christians are to read what Christ said and try to carry it out—as a man may read what Plato or Marx said and try to carry it out. They mean something much more than that. They mean that a real Person, Christ, here and now, in that very room where you are saying your prayers, is doing things to you. It is not a question of a good man who died two thousand years ago.”

“It is a living Man, still as much a man as you, and still as much God as He was when He created the world, really coming and interfering with your very self; killing the old natural self in you and replacing it with the kind of self He has. At first, only for moments. Then for longer periods. Finally, if all goes well, turning you permanently into a different sort of thing; into a new little Christ, a being which, in its own small way, has the same kind of life as God; which shares in His power, joy, knowledge and eternity.”

“Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also that only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.”

“Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

“If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next, the Apostles themselves, who set foot on the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English evangelicals who abolished the slave trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.”

“If Christianity was something we were making up, of course we could make it easier. But it is not. We cannot compete, in simplicity, with people who are inventing religions. How could we? We are dealing with Fact. Of course anyone can be simple if he has no facts to bother about.”

What’s your favorite(s) of Mr. Lewis?