Learning from Perelandra. Part II

This is a longer section from ‘Perelandra’ (book two of C. S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy), which challenged me on a number of topics, especially my response when circumstances don’t turn out as I had expected or hoped.


‘ [The Lady speaking:] “But how can one wish any of those waves not to reach us which Maledil is rolling towards us?”
Against his better judgement, Ransom found himself goaded into an argument.
“But even you,” he said, “when you first saw me, I know you were expecting and hoping that I was the King. When you found I was not, your face changed. Was that event not unwelcome?”

[The Lady speaking:] “I have been so young until this moment, that all my life now seems to have been a kind of sleep. I have thought that I was being carried, and behold, I was walking.” Ransom asked her what she meant.
“What you have made me see,” answered the Lady, “is as plain as the sky, but I never saw it before. Yet it has happened every day. One goes into the forest to pick food and already the thought of one fruit rather than another has grown in one’s mind. Then, it may be, one finds a different fruit and not the fruit one thought of. One joy was expected and another given. But this I never noticed before – that at the very moment of the finding there is in the mind a kind of thrusting back, or setting aside. The picture of the fruit you have not found is still, for a moment, before you. And if you wished – if it were possible to wish –  you could send your soul after the good you had expected, instead of turning it to the good you had got. You could refuse the real good; you could make the real fruit taste insipid by thinking of the other.”

“…you could send your soul after the good you had expected,
instead of turning it to the good you had got.
You could refuse the real good;
you could make the real fruit taste insipid by thinking of the other.”


[the Lady speaking:] “…the first picture does stay in the mind quite a long time – many beats of the heart – after the other good has come. And this, O Piebald, is the glory and the wonder you have made me see, that it is I, I myself, who turn from the good expected to the given good. Out of my own heart I do it. One can conceive of a heart which did not: which clung to the good it had first thought of and turned the good which it was given into no good.”‘


 

Is there a good you have been expecting which hasn’t come? Have circumstances turned out differently than expected?

Don’t cling to the expected good and miss the good that God has for you now.

What good has God given to you which you never would have expected?

(These questions are as much for me as for anyone else reading this. And if you have never read Perelandra before, why don’t you give it a try?)

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Learning from Perelandra.

I just finished reading C. S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy; if you haven’t ever read it, I can highly recommend it! My favourite by far was the second book, ‘Perelandra’, partly because of the beautiful, almost poetic, prose throughout the book. Also, there were a number of passages that were very thought-provoking or illuminating.

I thought I’d share with you some of my favourite parts:

‘ “Don’t imagine I’ve been selected to go to Perelandra because I’m anyone in particular. One can never see, or not until long afterwards, why any one was selected for any job. And when one does, it is usually some reason that leaves no room for vanity. Certainly it is never for what the man himself would have regarded as his chief qualifications…” ‘

 

‘Sleep came like a fruit which falls into the hand almost before you have touched the stem.’

 

‘But he was restrained by the same sort of feeling which had restrained him over-night from tasting a second gourd. He had always disliked the people who encored a favourite air in the opera – “That just spoils it” had been his comment. But this now appeared to him as a principle of far wider application and deeper moment. This itch to have things over again, as if life were a film that could be unrolled twice or even made to work backwards… was it possibly the root of all evil? No: of course the love of money was called that. But money itself – perhaps one valued it chiefly as a defence against chance, a security for being able to have things over again, a means of arresting the unrolling of the film.’

 

There is another longer section that challenged me, but it requires some explanation. There’ll have to be a Part II of this post!

 

Seeing Beauty in the Chaos: Enjoying Imbrication.

(This is a linguistics post, but it has reminded me of the wonderful creativity of God. Skip to the end for this part!)

Lately, one of the problems I have been working on has been figuring out the reasons behind some very strange word endings.

In Kabwa (as in all Bantu languages – the big language family that Kabwa belongs to), pieces can be added onto words to add meaning (this is called “agglutination” – sounds like glue and acts like it too!).

This means that you can have a lot of fun, especially with verbs, adding together different endings to change the meaning slightly.

Sometimes the pieces stick together in a nice row, and it is obvious what pieces have been added.

However, sometimes the sounds in the different pieces like to play around and a totally different ending is created.
This is one of the difficulties I encounter when I’m checking the spelling of some Kabwa words.

One specific ending /-iri/ is used in some past tenses; /-iri/ really likes to play with its neighbours …

(For these examples I used the Kabwa verb /rih/ which means ‘pay’)

The pieces:

The outcome:

Swahili:

English:

a-rih-iri

arihiri

amelipa

He has paid

a-rih-ir-iri

arihiiri

amelipia

He has paid on behalf of someone else

a-rih-i-iri

arihirye

amelipisha

He has avenged (or made to pay)

a-rih-w-iri

arihirwe

amelipwa

He has been paid

a-rih-ir-i-iri

arihiirye

amelipishia

He has avenged on behalf of someone else

a-rih-ir-w-iri

arihiirwe

amelipiwa

He has been paid on behalf of someone else

a-rih-i-w-iri

arihiibhwe

amelipishwa

He has been avenged on behalf of someone else

 

But then it gets more confusing, because sometimes the same ending (or almost the same) can be created from different pieces being added together, without the /-iri/ piece …

The pieces:

The outcome:

Swahili:

English:

a-rih-ir-e

arihire

alipie

He should pay on behalf of someone else

a-rih-ir-i-e

arihirye

alipishie

He should avenge on behalf of someone else

a-rih-ir-w-e

arihirwe

alipiwe

He should be paid on behalf of someone else

a-rih-i-w-e

arihibhwe

alipishwe

He should be avenged on behalf of someone else

 

Those of you who have made it this far might be interested to know that the technical term for these pieces of words playing and overlapping is “imbrication“. This term can also be used to talk of actual overlapping in sedimentology, tiling, and surgery – fun!

 

At first, the mixture of all these different endings seemed like such a mess to me. But now that I can see the pattern, it really does seem sort of beautiful!

It has reminded me that often our lives can seem to be in a bit of a mess; we can’t make sense of everything; we can’t see the reason and the plan behind it all.

But the same God who created the universe, who created the wealth of intricately beautiful languages in the world, he created us. He wove us together and he has woven our lives together. We may not always be able to see the rhyme and reason, but he does, and sometimes that has to be enough.

Psalm 139 talks about this as well (verses 13-16) (NIV):

“For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

 

A Thankful Thanksgiving

Last week I celebrated Thanksgiving for the first time, thanks to living with a number of Americans here in Musoma!

This year, I’m very thankful for the friends that God has given me.
I’m thankful for the new friendships that have grown here in Tanzania.
I’m thankful for the old friendships, with people back home, which God has helped to sustain.
I’m thankful for the modern technology which enables easy communication with friends and family far away.

I’m thankful for the recent visit of a friend. I’m thankful for God’s beautiful creation in and around Musoma which we were able to enjoy:

 

I’m thankful for this group of new friends who introduced me to an American Thanksgiving last week:

thanksgiving1

Praise God for his wonderful provision!

What are you thankful for this year?

The Flowers of the Field.

“See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you – you of little faith? So do not worry … for your heavenly Father knows that you need these things.” (Matthew 6: 28-32)

Well, these aren’t exactly flowers of the field but they are growing fairly wild in the hedges here in Musoma.

bougainvillaea1

These are bougainvillaea and they are my favourite flowers in Tanzania. They come in a huge variety of colours, and if permitted can spread pretty far. You can even find them up trees!

bougainvillaea2 bougainvillaea3 bougainvillaea5 bougainvillaea4

I walk pass these particular bushes on my way to and from the office every day and, if I remember to lift my eyes and soak them in, they never fail to lift my heart in thankfulness to God for his beautiful and varied creation and how he daily provides and cares for me.

What do you see every day that reminds you of God’s blessings?

Blast from the past

Last weekend I went to a school reunion; I really enjoyed catching up with old friends and teachers.

However, what has stayed in my mind most is one of the songs we sung in the service in chapel. It’s a hymn I’m pretty sure I haven’t sung, or even heard, since school. I remembering enjoying it at the time, but it felt particularly pertinent singing it again now.

I will be with you, wherever you go,
go now throughout the world.
I will be with you in all that you say,
go now and spread my word.

Come, walk with me on stormy waters.
Why fear? Reach out and I’ll be there.

I will be with you …

And you, my friend, will you now leave me,
or do you know me as your Lord?

I will be with you …

Your life will be transformed with power,
by living truly in my name.

I will be with you…

And if you say, “Yes, Lord, I love you,”
then feed my lambs and feed my sheep.

I will be with you…

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour.” (Isaiah 43:2-3)

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

Altars of Remembrance

This has been something brought up twice so far this week in devotional times at college, but I’ve also been thinking about it a lot myself.

The Jordan River

The Israelites often set up altars, not for sacrifice, but to mark and remember important events, times when they saw God’s faithfulness to them. A particular example of this being in Joshua chapter 4; after God has parted the river Jordan for the Israelites to cross it, together they built an altar of 12 stones, one for each tribe.

“[Joshua] said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. … He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.” “

 

I’ve been feeling quite challenged by this, because often I am SO forgetful! God will do something amazing in my life, and for maybe a few days, a few weeks, I will remember and be thankful, but after that I easily forget.

Any one know what this is? For those who don’t, it’s a thumb splint.

DSCF1369

In school, I wrote so much that I developed a repetitive strain injury in my hand (yeah I know, what a geek!).

Sort of funny, except the injury lasted through my GCSEs, A-levels (which I got through with a lot of physio and pain-relief) and throughout my degree. I wore this splint to try to minimise the strain I was putting on my thumb, but it still got worse.

A fortnight before my finals my arm was in a sling and I couldn’t write at all (this was a bit of a problem since I revised mainly by writing).

I went to a meeting at my church, and at the end a lady came up to me and said she was wondering if I had a problem with my arm because she felt she should pray for it. I certainly did not object to this; I’d prayed a number of times for my hand before, and a lot of times the pain had lessened considerably, so I thought, “What harm could it do?” The pain did lessen, and I thought “Great!” and went back to college to get some revision done.

However, when I sat at my desk and put my splint on, the pain came back again. This puzzled me since it had been fine the whole way home. Just as an experiment I took the splint off again and tried writing without the support; it was fine! I just kept writing with no pain at all, and in my head I was thinking,  “Oh yeah! I can write! I can write! Oh yeah! Woohoo!”

And now? It hasn’t hurt since!

For the next few weeks after this, every time I picked up a pen, or a plate or mug with one hand, it would remind me and I’d be so thankful. Yet, then I somehow forgot. I got distracted by other things, and the fact I could write without pain became normal.

Last week I found my splint whilst I was packing up my desk in Cambridge, and suddenly I remembered again. I’ve felt really challenged to try to not forget again, to try to build an ‘altar of remembrance’ to remind me of just one example of God’s faithfulness.

And no, I’m not going to build an actual altar (although maybe if I did it would be out of mugs and pens with the splint right on the top!). But I would like to try to remember more often, perhaps sometimes when I write, or carry a mug with my right hand. Of course, I won’t remember every time, but if I make an effort now, I hope I will remember more often.

So what would your altar of remembrance be? When has God been faithful in your life?
Challenge of the day: build an altar.

(and if you build an actual altar, I would love a picture!)

 

“His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness!” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

“For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” (Psalm 100:5)