C.S. Lewis Was a Secret Government Agent

A CS Lewis Scholar recently found an unknown vinyl record of a CS Lewis radio broadcast for sale on eBay. The record has several of his lectures that were broadcast to Iceland. The British invaded Iceland during WWII to prevent the Nazi’s from gaining the upper hand in the North Atlantic. Lewis’ role was to try to further the peace between the British and the people of Iceland via literature. A fascinating episode of history.

“How Lewis came to be recruited and by whom remains a secret. The records of the Secret Intelligence Service, known popularly as MI6, remain closed. Perhaps one of his former pupils at Oxford recommended him for his mission. It was an unusual mission for which few people were suited. J. R. R. Tolkien had the knowledge base for the job, even beyond that of Lewis, but Tolkien lacked other skills that Lewis possessed. Perhaps someone had heard Lewis lecture on his favorite subject in one of the two great lecture halls in the Examination Schools building of Oxford University. At a time when Oxford fellows were notorious for the poor quality of their public lectures, Lewis packed the hall with an audience of students who were not required to attend lectures. In the 1930s, Lewis was the best show in town. Somehow Lewis had developed the skill to speak to an audience and hold them in rapt attention, in spite of his academic training rather than because of it.”

Source: C.S. Lewis Was a Secret Government Agent | Christianity Today

Essentialism Chapter 7 Discussion Questions

The Value of Play

 

Questions for Essentialism Chapter 7

Download a printable pdf version here.Essentialism Questions Ch. 7

This is a list of discussion questions to help work through the content of the book “Essentialism” By Greg McKeown.

Major principles:

Recreation and play does not threaten a productive life, it is vital part of helping us grow and become more creative.

Key examples/illustrations

  • The story of Mr. Banks from the movie Mary Poppins. His dreary life is transformed by something as simple as flying a kite
  • Author Ken Robinson has expressed how our education system is killing creativity in children.  This transformation arrived with the Industrial Revolution.
  • Stuart Brown and the National Institute for Play. He has published scientific research about the impact of play on our brains.
  • The correlation between survival in animals (like the grizzly bear) and rates of survival.
  • Edward M Hallowell, psychiatrist, speaks about the effect of play on the executive function of the brain.
  • Throughout history many great discoveries happened during times of play.

Questions

  1. McKeown defines play as, “Play, which I would define as anything we do simply for the joy of doing rather than as a means to an end.” What are some activities in your life right now that fit this description? Use this definition to make a list of things you have done in the last 6 months for play.
  2. As children we did not need to be taught how to play.  Children play at all times, even during sickness and tragedy. What does this suggest to you about the importance of play?
  3. It is easy to view play as a waste of time.  Highly driven people and teams may even consider it something trivial or unproductive. What is your view? How do you feel about playing? What does your inner voice say to you when you stop work to engage in recreation?  What pressures or beliefs are communicated to you by your peers and culture regarding play?
  4. There are some people that are “all play and no work.” These excesses may prevent us from seeing the virtues and benefits of play.  Do you know someone in your life that is a productive and playful person? Someone who is highly effective and yet takes time for hobbies and recreation? Describe this person and their productivity as well as their play.
  5. The author uses the term imaginative play. What does this mean to you? Is there a difference between imaginative play and other kinds of play? Is one better than the other?
  6. Sir Ken Robinson says that imagination produces achievement. If imagination is a muscle, then play exercises that muscle. Do you agree with this?  Why? In your experience how has play helped you to develop your imagination?
  7. You have probably heard someone explain how they ruined a hobby by turning it into a “for profit” business.  How can you guard your important hobbies or play from the obligations that might destroy them?
  8. Stress kills creativity. Play can help to decrease stress. What stresses are you facing currently? How can you use recreation and play to decrease your stress?
  9. Which activities help you to feel light and free? Which activities help you to forget your problems?
  10. Many great discoveries and inventions happened during play. Have you ever had a breakthrough during a time of play?
  11. Many successful companies incorporate play in their corporate structure.  Examples include Google, Twitter, Apple, etc.  does your business or work encourage play? Why or why not?
  12. What activities outside of work do you must enjoy? Which activities would you like to try? Make a list
  13. How can you add these activities to your calendar next week?
  14. Which activities were your favorite as a child? Explore this.  Does this play history reveal anything about you or what you enjoy doing?
  15. How can you use this knowledge to help you learn how to play as an adult?

Is Hearing More Important Than Seeing?

“Helen Keller maintained that the gift of hearing was far more important than the gift of sight because hearing allows the gift of speech, and speech allows the nurturing of relationship. language connects us to the heart of others in a way nothing else can.”

This is a quote from “Minute of Margin,” a book by an author that has had a huge impact on my thinking.  My wife and I are currently reading the book together for the second time. It is about overload, burnout, and the peaceful life. Dr. Swenson wrote another book called “Margin” that covered the same general topic. But he turned the content into daily readings for more accessibility. Evidently most of the people that need to hear about rest and margin are too busy to read a whole book on the topic.

Swenson, Richard A. A Minute of Margin: Restoring Balance to Busy Lives. Colorado Springs, CO: NAVPRESS, 2003. Print.

When Father Is A Monster: Stalin’s Daughter

Joseph Stalin was a monster who often treated his friends worse than his enemies. What was it like to be his daughter? Horrible.

Here are some snippets from a NYT review of a new biography on Stalin’s Daughter. It looks fascinating, but at over 600 pages, only serious history lovers will read it. But it looks fascinating.

 

“But as she [Stalin’s daughter] gets older, she starts seeing and hearing more, and sinister shadows creep into the light, dimming it little by little. The aunts and uncles begin to vanish one by one. Her grandmother says: “Where is your soul? You will know when it aches.” Her mother draws a little square over the child’s heart with her finger and tells the girl, “That is where you must bury your secrets”; then, before the girl’s seventh birthday, she shoots herself in her own heart with a Mauser pistol. The little girl’s world is shattered, never to be the same. Troubled and lonely, she will spend decades trying to escape the horror of her past, the terrible weight of history. “You can’t regret your fate,” she will say later, “though I do regret my mother didn’t marry a carpenter.” She is Svetlana, her father is Joseph Stalin, and her extraordinary story is the subject of “Stalin’s Daughter,” Rosemary Sullivan’s thoughtful new biography.

“In 1967, 14 years after Stalin’s death, Svetlana Alliluyeva created an international scandal by defecting to the United States, only to return to the Soviet Union in 1984, then run away again in 1986, each escape taut with cloak-and-dagger suspense worthy of any spy thriller. She fell in love disastrously and often, had three children from three of her four failed marriages, published several books, made a million dollars, lost a million dollars, moved from home to home with the restlessness of a nomad, abandoning the past again and again, driven by eternal disquiet, “always leaving things all over the globe,” in the words of her younger daughter, Olga, before dying nearly destitute in Wisconsin, at the age of 85, under the anonymous name of Lana Peters. Olga scattered her ashes in the Pacific Ocean. The historical context of Alliluyeva’s unsettled life, the immense monstrosity of Stalin forever looming behind her, makes her story impossibly haunting and equally impossible to put down.”

via ‘Stalin’s Daughter,’ by Rosemary Sullivan – The New York Times.

God Loves Me & So Does My Dog, But It’s Different

God Loves Me,And So Does My Dog. But 2

I have a 1-year old chocolate colored poodle. She’s a great dog and she’s always happy to see me. Wait, that’s an understatement. She goes nuts when we come home.  She is so excited that often she wets herself.  We feed her, and pet her.  We take her for walks occasionally. We play with her and hang out together. And that’s enough, she thinks we are wonderful.  She jumps on the bed in the morning and licks my face to wake me up. She always wants to play. And even when we aren’t playing she just wants to be near me. She follows us around the house and lays at my feet.  And all her enthusiasm and love is great for my self-esteem.  And she does this even when we ignore her. Sometimes we have to lock her up in a crate for most of the day to keep her from destroying the house. But when we come home and let her out, it’s a celebration.

For some Christians, this is a close description of how they understand God’s love.  He is really excited about us, makes hardly any demands, and won’t mind if we lock him away in a crate when we have better things to do. They have attempted to tame God, and as a result his love is… Well… Just okay.  But it doesn’t match the love we see at Calvary where we see Christ pouring out his life for an unfaithful spouse.   The puppy-dog  kind of love doesn’t produce the (seemingly) irrational joy, worship, and sacrifice we see described in scripture.  It doesn’t buoy up the soul in the face of great sin and suffering.

I am slowly working my way through “Yawning At Tigers” by Drew Dyck. He writes about this phenomenon, and our tendency to domesticate God.  Writing about modern preachers, he says:

“Unfortunately, in our efforts to make the Bible interesting and relevant, we try to normalize God. We become experts at taking something lofty, so unfathomable and incomprehensible, and dragging it down to the lowest shelf. We fail to account for the fact that God is neither completely knowable nor remotely manageable”

Unfortunately, in our efforts to make the Bible interesting and relevant, we try to normalize God.

He says that we are often uncomfortable with the mysterious, and transcendent descriptions of God. They are too strange or even unpleasant to our American sensibilities, so we explain them away.  Again, he writes “Here’s the beautiful irony: making God strange actually enables us to know him more. Once we have marveled at his magnitude and mystery, we are able to achieve the deep intimacy that grows out of a true appreciation for who God is. Instead of treating him as an equal, we approach him with reverent awe. Only when we’ve been awestruck by his majesty can we be overwhelmed by his love.”

I love my dog, and enjoy the way she worships me. And that would be the best word to describe it!  But God’s love is different, it’s not about his infatuation with my greatness.  One of the reasons we are “yawning at tigers” is because we are not impressed with the love of God. And we are underwhelmed with his love because we don’t understand his holiness, majesty, and greatness. If we did, we would understand our own sin as well and see just how much it cost him to love us.  And that would make his love something to live for.

Book Review- First Seals by Patrick O’Donnell

 

Seals book

The First Seals by Patrick K O’Donnell

I have read a number of books about special operations history, it is a kind of a hobby.  Some of these were personal memoirs and others books about unit histories.  The First Seals certainly ranks as one of my favorites.  It tells a believable story that is still amazing. And it does it without too much machismo or chest pounding.  It gives a broad history, but also focuses enough on specific individuals that you can understand the characters.  After reading this one, I want to dig into the rest of O’Donnell’s works.

If you like books about military history, read this book. 

If you like books about World War II, you will love the the back story. There are aspects of the war told in this book that I haven’t read anywhere else. Who knew that the Italians were the best in underwater demolition?

If you like books about sabotage, espionage, and partisan warfare, read this book.

If you like books about entrepreneurship, and people creating new things… If you like the books about people solving problems and taking risks, read this book.  Not all creative people work in business.

If you’re one of those people who likes fiction, but thinks that truth is often better than fiction,  you will enjoy this book.

Toward the end of the book when Lt. Taylor (one of the central figures in the story) is rescued from the Mauthausen concentration camp, I teared up. If I hand’t been driving, I would have cried. It is a great story not only of the units and tactics that would become the US Navy Seals, but a great example of American Heroism in the fight against fascism. What is amazing is that so many of the other prisoners sacrificed their lives to keep O’Donnell alive because they knew that the world would be more likely to believe an American officer.  Taylor would later serve a key role in the investigation and prosecution of Nazi war criminals.

I sound like a fan… I know.  But this was a truly great read. I consumed it on Audible.com and the reader was terrific as well. You can find it here 

You can watch original footage of Jack Taylor’s interview the the US forces liberated the Mauthausen Concentration Camp. He begins talking at 50 seconds into the video.

I first heard of the book in an article by O’Donnell in National Review that you can read here.  “Christmas with America’s First Seal in A Gestapo Prison.”

 

What is the Bible All About?

I just came across this great book, which was previously a series of lectures by DA Carson called “The God Who is There.” I am not sure if this is a title connection between Francis Schaeffer’s famous book. Anyway, the idea is to take a jet tour of the big story of the Bible in 14 lectures. Carson is a very learned, clear, and informed communicator and these talks are good! I have been challenged and refreshed. Best of all the talks are intended to be accessible to people who do not have a lot of previous bible knowledge.

Here is the first talk:

The God Who Is There – Part 1. The God Who Made Everything from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

Book Reviews: the Shack


OK, I haven’t read the book…but I saw it at Borders. I read the line on the bottom by Eugene Peterson (comparing it’s importance to Pilgrim’s Progress) and it made me scratch my head. So what is this all about? I went to Tim Challies’ site to see if he had anything to say…unfortunately it doesn’t sound good at all. Challie puts lots of quotes in his write up, and he is a balanced reviewer. His conclusion…don’t waste your time.

The world is going crazy over this, but it doesn’t appear that the answers provided by the shack to the problem of evil (depicted in the murder of a little girl) are really Biblical answers. Doug Wilson also gives it a thumb’s down (to put it lightly), he is not one of my favorites, but he is a literature guy.

Here is another review from the guys at Mathias Media. Paul Grimmond politely shoots down the book but says that each of us really need more “shack time,” meaning time in the presence of the real God. The more I read about this book, and read quotes from it the more upset I get…

For anyone still reading….Al Mohler did an episode on his radio program analyzing the book. I think this will become something of a fad with some emergent folks and hopefully only a minor distraction in the long run. What is not a minor distraction is the mindset that it grows out of…the post modern, group hug, everyone is right and no one is wrong mindset.

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Some Highlights from a Good Book

I have been reading this book recently and it has really fed my soul. Sooo….in order to convince my pastor friends and aspiring preachers and church planters to buy this book, I decided to read a few excerpts to give you a flavor. There are about 7 minutes of highlights here, I hope you enjoy!

I have loaded it here: