One More Thanksgiving Post — C. S. Lewis


Yesterday was the infamous 55th anniversary of the death of three notable men: President John F. Kennedy, writer Aldus Huxley, and Christian author and scholar C. S. Lewis. I don’t see many people talking about this milestone, but five years ago, JFK was still receiving the largest slice of media attention. Aldus Huxley, a brilliant writer in his own right, seems to be fading in memory and impact. But C. S. Lewis? His words and his impact live on in every writer who was ever influenced by him, in every person who was touched and changed by his books.

I’ve just started reading The Language of God by Francis S. Collins. This famed scientist who headed the Human Gnome Project chronicled his transformation from atheism to “unshakeable faith in God.” As it happens, a big part of this change resulted from reading C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity.

Collins’s story is just one example of a person who was transformed when he encountered this literary scholar who had himself come from atheism to belief in God as Savior.

Others, like myself, already believed, but Lewis deepened and clarified that belief, sometimes through his nonfiction and sometimes through his fiction.

My top four Lewis books include two fiction and two nonfiction. That’s if I set Narnia aside and don’t count it at all. Which I ought not do. How do you set aside an author’s seminal work?

When I think of the books that Lewis wrote that influenced my spiritual life most, I think of Surprised by Joy, The Great Divorce, Til We Have Faces, Mere Christianity, Screwtape Letters, and Narnia.

When I think of his books that influenced my writing, I think of Narnia. Just Narnia. I loved the idea of a secret world that existed to be discovered, of the good King who ruled. I loved each adventure that expanded the mythos of the world. I wanted to write like Lewis.

Well, not like him. I wanted to create myth like him. I wanted my stories to point to Truth like his do. I wanted to imagine memorable characters like he did. In so many ways his fiction was a map that showed me what great stories should look like.

I’m not saying I’m there. In fact, I’m not saying that any writer is there. In truth, only one C. S. Lewis has existed or will ever exist. But no doubt, God has used him to impact a generation of Christian writers for such a time as this.

Perhaps no genre has captured the imagination of the general public as has fantasy. The Harry Potter series became a nationwide hit, first as books for which readers waited in line at midnight to acquire, then as movies that showed in living color the wonderful imaginative world which J. K. Rowling invented.

Not long after came the urban fantasy of Twilight, followed by the dystopian blockbusters by Suzanne Collins (Hunger Games) and Veronika Roth (Divergent).

Countless Christian writers have made small ripples in the bottomless fantasy lake, and many, if not most, will include C. S. Lewis as an author who influenced them.

He was a great thinker and greatly imaginative. He had a grasp of the way story works, of how to make the large ideas simple enough for a child to grasp.

He was only 65 when he died, and I’d say he died too young, except Psalm 139 says our days are ordained for us, “when as yet there was not one of them.” God knew the impact Lewis would make, that dying in the shadow of the assassination of an American President actually might grow his legacy, not overshadow his accomplishments.

God knew that a set of children’s books would speak to generations of kids even when they became adults. God knew that this atheist convert would understand how to answer the objections of atheists better than any other apologist could.

I am so grateful for C. S. Lewis and his stories, his thinking, his example. May his legacy grow.

Statue photo By “Genvessel” – https://www.flickr.com/photos/genvessel/149269475/in/set-72057594139281324/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=826864

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Gratitude, Day 11—Children


I’m specifically thankful for little children, toddlers, infants, preschoolers. Little people.

I spent over thirty years teaching the big kids, and I loved doing so. But the little people are the ones with no guile. True, they might be shy, but chances are, if you smile at a little person, he will smile at you. They haven’t learned the art of deception yet, and they aren’t looking for deception from those they meet. Other children are playmates. Other adults are question marks, unless we give them some attention. Then they giggle, and run, and sparkle.

Infants, of course, can do nothing but lie there and look cute. And that’s all great—because I’m not in a position to change diapers or give baths or get up in the middle of the night with a colicky, crying baby. But even when I was the aunt who took a turn doing those jobs, it was not burdensome.

There’s an element of hope. This little bundle of crying cuteness is a person. A wonderful person with all kinds of unknown potential. There’s joy in the discovery.

It’s great to watch children learn. The world is all so new to them and they want so much to do what the grown-ups in their lives do. That’s how they learn to talk—by imitating. That’s what makes them want to read or color or build with the Legos someone has given them.

They’re also filled with creativity and wonder and joy. Well, besides thinking the whole world revolves around them. But there’s just so much potential in little people.

But I have to admit, I also like little people books. The art, the simple wording, the unhidden point made on each page. Take Hannah C. Hall’s God Bless books, such as God Bless Our Fall, for instance. The first page reads

The trees are dressed in gold and red.
Their colors seem to call,
“God decorates what He creates.”
We say, “God bless our fall.”

Simple. Straightforward. Nothing too hard to understand there. And yet profound. That’s the kind of kid-book I like.

Of course there’s the very important truth that children are the future. They are! Which is why I don’t understand adults who don’t take time to build values into their children.

God told the people of Israel as they came out of slavery, to remind their children about God and what He’d done for them. They were to talk about God’s Law day in and day out. They were to display it visibly. They were to hold celebrations for what God provided, what He accomplished for His people. In other words, the children were to receive instruction from the adults about more than how to tie their shoes or how to make their bed.

Our culture has lost the importance of instructing children about morals, ethics, standards. At one point some noted psychologists taught that newborn were essentially blank slates and we could imprint whatever society wanted. Children are certainly NOT blank slates as the baby study at Yale showed. At the same time, they are not equipped with the experience, wisdom, and knowledge to make up their own minds about morality!

Interestingly, a series of commercials have popped up here in California urging parents to talk, read, sing to their children. It’s good advice, a needed correction. Because too many postmodern, and now post-truth, parents care more for what they want than they do for raising their children. Just recently I learned of a mom who essentially neglected her little one while she self-medicated with the drug of her choice. And her child? Delayed in speech, for starters. Who knows what else, given that so much of human development takes place in the first five years.

But we must not stop short with talk, read, sing. Content matters. At least to people it does. On the other hand, I can pretty much say anything to an animal—“You mangy, no good, ugly excuse for a dog. You act more like a cat”—as long as I say it with a winsome, engaging voice.

Children aren’t like that. They might not know what the words mean until years later, but if they receive negative values such as pride and selfishness and greed and division and hate and bigotry and abuse and dishonor and rudeness and such, long enough, their little hearts will bend with their sin nature. If they are neglected and left to devise their own values, they’ll bend to their sin nature.

Instead, children need to receive moral education along with the knowledge they receive that enables them to get through life.

But of course, that’s really on the adults in their world. Kids don’t usually cry because they aren’t receiving moral instruction. They don’t even understand that they need it. Unless the adults in their world harm them, children grow up filled with all kinds of laughter and curiosity and desire and expectation. They’re just waiting to be nourished.

When I see kids thriving like that, what a blessing. What a joy. It’s then I’m especially mindful of how thankful I am for children

Published in: on November 15, 2018 at 5:40 pm  Comments (2)  
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Looking For Christmas Gifts?


I’m a big fan of giving books as Christmas gifts, and children’s books are the best. The thing is, they offer hours of pleasure for years to come. And for little kids, they are fun when they get the gift because they can look at the pictures right away, and they are fun every night they ask for the new book as their bedtime story.

I thought I’d mention the picture books by Hannah C. Hall as great gifts for the little ones in your life—kids, grandkids, nieces or nephews, neighbors. You name it, I think these books are some of the best.

Of course, Hannah is best known for her God Bless Books. They are seasonal or tied to a familiar activity. So now the book that’s most popular is God Bless Our Christmas. But the newest in the series is God Bless Our Family (pictured above).

Perhaps her best, though, is one not in that series. It’s called Would a Worm Go on a Walk? Here’s the description of that one:

“Would a worm go on a walk, if you could lead him down the street?
Would he wear his tiny tennies, if he had two worm-sized feet?”

So begins this humorous and imaginative picture book that introduces children to the idea that animals are uniquely created by a loving and wise God. Would a Worm Go on a Walk?, with its colorful, comical illustrations, is a fresh, fun way to teach young children that God created all things very good. He gave all the animals, and children, too, wonderful qualities and unique strengths. Children will giggle over the ridiculous scenarios presented, and they will come away with the knowledge that we all are loved and special. Ages 4-7.

I don’t think you can go wrong buying one of Hannah’s books this Christmas. And the cool thing is, the adults will likely get as much enjoyment as the kids.

Published in: on December 8, 2017 at 4:45 pm  Comments Off on Looking For Christmas Gifts?  
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Open Letter To Christian Publishers


ReadingDear Christian Publishers,

I’m not a happy customer, and I think it’s time I stop complaining to my friends and come right out and say what’s bothering me.

The problem leaked out as I wrote my review for Wayne Thomas Batson’s recent (excellent) middle grade / YA novel Dream Treaders. At one point I said that middle grade boys were an under-served reading market, but that’s only partly true. In reality, all children are under served by Christian publishers!

I find this to be a horrible state of affairs. The few books I see in book stores and in publisher catalogs more closely resemble Sunday school material than entertainment. Don’t misunderstand—I’m a big fan of Sunday school. I just don’t think kids like going to school—no matter what kind of school it is—when they want to play and imagine and get lost in a story.

I understand from discussions on agent and editor panels at writers’ conferences that the topic of the paucity of children’s books comes up from time to time. In explanation, industry professionals identify two problems. First, there are so many clean books available in the general market that there is no real need for Christian children’s books. And second, Christian children’s books simply don’t sell.

I find the first reason to be reprehensible. Yes, reprehensible. Since when is Christianity limited to moral living? Do believers have nothing else to say about life except, don’t use bad words, obey your parents, and be nice to the little disadvantaged boy who lives next door?

I mean, really. Are we content to let the world tell our children how they should think? That’s precisely what we do when ALL their entertainment—TV, video games, movies, and books—espouse the same humanistic agenda. The two hours children spend at church on Sunday (and it’s a pretty shaky assumption that they do spend two hours there), is not enough to counter the multiply hours they spend every day hearing that they are good (not sinful), need only look inside (not to Jesus) for strength, can do whatever they put their mind to (not what God has gifted them for), and many other principles that fly in the face of Scripture.

Who, I ask you, Mr. and Ms. Publishing Professionals, will counter the humanist, postmodern worldviews that children are being taught?

Ah, someone is bound to suggest that parents are tasked with that job. I couldn’t agree more. Moses certainly gave parents the responsibility of teaching the Law to their children:

These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deut. 6:6-9)

The idea is that parents are to use every occasion to teach their children the things God wants them to know. Every occasion. Including their reading time.

Yes, parents can use reading time, like they must for movies and video games and TV and public education, to teach how the worldview behind the stories and games and curriculum is false. But is it too much to ask that Christian publishers give parents a better tool than negative examples?

Seriously, why aren’t all Christians up in arms at the poor pickings we are offering up to our children?

Which leads to the next issue. Publishing professionals say that parents don’t buy Christian books. Well, here’s the thing: some don’t know any Christian books exist. What’s more, the few books that are on the shelves in book stores may not be geared toward the needs of the parents who are looking. If there’s one book about pumpkins at Halloween time, for example, what does the parent do who is looking for a book for her little boy who loves horses?

The other “not buying” issue is price. Publishers say, all that color and thick paper for children’s books make printing children’s books prohibitive. Their print runs aren’t big enough to bring the cost down, so given the choice of buying a cheaper general market book and an expensive Christian market book, parents go for the less expensive.

Both these issues can be taken care of if you, Mr. and Ms. Publishing Professionals, would think creatively and take seriously the need for adults to pass on the Truth of God and His love for the world to the next generation.

First, the not knowing. There are plenty of women buying Christian fiction by everyone’s calculation. Why not package a popular author with a children’s book? You could work with an author who is best-selling and might be willing to contribute to this cause. The idea would be to give Popular Best-selling Author’s latest book away for free to everyone who buys brand new children’s book–for a limited time, if you choose.

That’s just one idea, but I can guarantee you, women who love Popular Best-selling Author will buy that children’s book and therefore discover Christian children’s books.

As for price, there are ways to cut costs. Like making the pages of children’s books smaller (that’s already being done by at least one publisher, and if I recalled which one, I’d stand up and applaud).

And of course, cost isn’t really an issue for middle grade or young adult books. Those don’t have the expensive art work or the glossy paper or any of the other high cost elements.

For teen and pre-teens, it’s really a matter of letting readers and their parents know the books are available. So why not do a little bit of old-fashioned promotion? Why not set up an author to speak at schools, selling books along the way? A few fantasy writers have done this, and teen Christian fantasy came into being.

It’s doable, Mr. and Mrs. Publishing Professional. It’s really a matter of whether or not you think it’s important enough to work at it and make it happen.

And here’s a secret. If you invest in this next generation, chances are, they’ll become your customers of the future. And when they do, please work to keep them happy.

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