Category: Books and Literature

“Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear; nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves and another among Men.”
(Aragorn, in J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1994. Print.)

While flying to the Midwest recently, I read a charming and thought provoking little book, Neil Gaiman’s 2013 The Ocean at the End of the Lane. The author noted for Coraline here weaves a tale of a man who returns home to a country house to attend a funeral, and remembers the mysterious events that took place when he was a child. He recalls that he visited a neighbor girl named Lettie, whose family are really ancient and otherworldly beings in disguise. With Lettie he visits another dimension, and accidentally brings back a sinister being named Ursula. In the end, he finds he is under attack by powerful scavenger beasts that nearly kill him until Lettie intervenes.

While there are Christian themes, such as sacrifice and redemption, don’t mistake me as saying that this is a Christian story or allegory. It’s pure fantasy. However, a part of the story that leapt out for me is this lovely prose, which I would take to be a picture of Christianity’s heavenly joy:

I have dreamed of that song, of the strange words to that simple rhyme-song, and on several occasions I have understood what she was saying, in my dreams. In those dreams I spoke that language too, the first language, and I had dominion over the nature of all that was real. In my dream, it was the tongue of what is, and anything spoken in it becomes real, because nothing said in that language can be a lie. It is the most basic building brick of everything. In my dreams I have used that language to heal the sick and to fly; once I dreamed I kept a perfect little bed-and-breakfast by the seaside, and to everyone who came to stay with me I would say, in that tongue, ‘Be whole.’ and they would become whole, not be broken people, not any longer, because I had spoken the language of shaping.

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(Image credit: Wassily Kandinsky, Ohne Titel, 1923; public domain, obtained from Wikimedia Commons)

In the book White Oleander by Janet Fitch there is a fascinating scene in which the protagonist, young Astrid, is taken to an exhibit at the art gallery by her foster mother Claire, practically the first loving mother figure in this otherwise sad tale. The exhibition is a collection of the work of Kandinski.

We walked arm in arm through the show, pointing out to each other the details that recurred, the abstracted horsemen, the color changing as a form crossed over another form. Mainly, it was the sense of order, vision retained over time, that brought me to my knees.

I imagined Kandinsky’s mind, spread out all over the world, and then gathered together. Everyone having only a piece of the puzzle. Only in a show like this could you see the complete picture, stack the pieces up, hold them up to the light, see how it all fit together. It made me hopeful, like someday my life would make sense too, if I could just hold all the pieces together at the same time.

Christians feel the same way about God–he is the Kandinsky in this metaphor, and the universe is the art gallery.

The tragic and mysterious demise of a beloved child star is still under investigation. Erin Moran was adored by millions as “Joanie” in the 1974-84 sitcom “Happy Days”, and its spin off show “Joanie Loves Chachi”. The web is full of stories today about her troubles following the end of her sitcom TV family.

One lesson to learn here is that fame and stardom don’t guarantee a good life or a happy end. Those who reached out to her have said that she rebuffed their attempts. Paul Peterson, a former child star and child-actor advocate, has been quoted as saying, “Erin had friends and she knew it. Abandonment was not the issue… We did our best with the resources available to us, but it was a very dark room. Some don’t find the light switch in time.” (Fox News). Her inner demons apparently included hard drinking, and it was partly drinking and partying that led to her becoming destitute.

Also, there appear to have been issues with her husband. People magazine reported in 2002 that “Moran later married Steve Fleischmann, a Walmart employee, in 1993. The couple moved into Fleischmann’s mother’s trailer in Indiana so Moran could act as her caregiver.” On the surface this might appear to be a compassionate act, but a 2013 public altercation reported by a tabloid calls this into question:

Steve was so angry he stormed out of the bar, and an intoxicated Erin hurled insults at him, like “Get the hell out of here, you big crybaby! Go home, crawl into bed and suck your thumb as you cry yourself to sleep, you mama’s boy!” (National Enquirer)

If this incident truly happened then it raises a question whether she may have been the victim of a “MEM”, or a “mother-enmeshed man”. (Of course this would be but pure speculation here).

What are we speaking of? A mother enmeshed man is the human wreckage left of someone raised by a narcissistic or otherwise domineering mother. A MEM is a man who in many ways is “married to mom”–some of these ways are obvious (particularly if she still calls the shots) and many are much less so (manifesting perhaps as emotional distance, or difficulty with trust). Such a man may be emotionally eviscerated and still controlled by the first great relationship of life–the mother-child relationship. (This can happen to daughters also). By the way, full disclosure here, it hurts me to speak of this, because I may have a whiff of this in my own life, my own marriage.

If you are in a relationship with a MEM, or if you are a man who feels that this may be you, then seek professional help. A helpful 2007 book on this subject is When He’s Married to Mom: How to Help Mother‑Enmeshed Men by Kenneth M. Adams.

Of course, we at this site would remiss if we did not advocate much prayer. And if you are in a covenant of marriage, the closer each of you grows in your relationship to God, the further and dimmer will be the other troubles, and the easier it will be to set healthy boundaries and overcome dysfunctional influences.

(In many churches, March 25 marks the Feast of the Annunciation, which commemorates the visit to Mary by the archangel Gabriel, to announce that she would bear Jesus).

I have been reading Lionel Shriver’s interesting book We Need To Talk About Kevin, a tale of the birth and development of a (fictional) boy who would go on to become a monster, a psychopathic killer. The story is told from the mother’s perspective in a series of flashbacks contained in letters to her husband. I was struck by the descriptions of how Eva reacts to her pregnancy. Even though her son’s birth would be legitimate, emerging out of union with her husband, she looks upon it with dread. She fusses. She mourns that she can no longer quaff a glass of wine:

Although I didn’t think I had a problem, a long draught of rich red at day’s end had long been emblematic to me of adulthood, that vaunted American Holy Grail of liberty.

… I did not care so much about being deprived of a glass of wine per se. But like that legendary journey that begins with a single step, I had already embarked upon my first resentment. A petty one, but most resentments are. And one that for its smallness I felt obliged to repress. For that matter, that is the nature of resentment, the objection we cannot express. It is silence more than the complaint itself that makes the emotion so toxic, like poisons the body won’t pee away. Hence, hard as I tried to be a grown-up about my cranberry juice, chosen carefully for its resemblance to a young Beaujolais, deep down inside I was a brat.

She muses about how pregnancy is depicted as infestation in horror movies such as “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Aliens”:

In Alien a foul extraterrestrial claws its way out of John Hurt’s belly.

She feels humiliated, demoted to an inferior state, from “driver to vehicle, from householder to house”, for a “nine month freeloader.”

She frets about the effects of pregnancy on the woman’s body. She recalls a meeting with a young mother:

…she had recently given birth to her own first child, and I needed only to say hi for her to begin spewing her despair. Compact, with unusually broad shoulders and close curly black hair, Rita was an attractive woman — in the physical sense. With no solicitation on my part she regaled me with the irreproachable state of her physique before she conceived.

Apparently she’d been using the Nautilus every day, and her definition had never been so sharp, her fat-to-muscle ratio was unreal, her aerobic conditioning topping the charts.

Then pregnancy, well it was terrible! The Nautilus just didn’t feel good any more and she’d had to stop—. Now, she was a mess, she could hardly do a sit-up, much less three sets of proper crunches, she was starting from scratch or worse—! This woman was fuming, Franklin; she clearly muttered about her abdominal muscles when she seethed down the street. Yet at no point did she mention the name of her child, its sex, its age, or its father. I remember stepping back, excusing myself to the bar, and slipping away without telling Rita good-bye. What had most mortified me, what I had to flee, was that she sounded not only unfeeling and narcissistic but just like me.

In a sense, the character of Eva speaks for us today. She expresses our individual and cultural ambivalence toward motherhood — nay, toward parenthood of any sort:

“Motherhood was harder than I’d expected,” I explained. “I’d been used to airports, sea views, museums. Suddenly, I was stuck with the same few rooms, with Lego.”

Compare this now with the reaction of Mary to her upcoming birth, as recorded in the Bible. She had good reason to look upon her role as the bearer of Jesus with some degree of dread. Her son’s birth would most likely be perceived as illegitimate, since she was not yet married and Joseph wasn’t involved in the conception. People in ancient Israel were not any more gullible than we are. Mary faced ruin and scandal. She faced abandonment by her family, and by her fiancé, Joseph, who could have walked away.

And yet, she responded to the angel Gabriel with firm assent: “be it unto me according to thy word…” (Luke 1:38) Lest there be any thought that her “fiat” was grudging, this was followed by an outburst that revealed that her heart was singing with joy. Her “Magnificat” has been read, recited and sung for centuries: “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit rejoiceth in God my Savior…”

As one pastor stated, “a teenage girl has shown us all up.”

“Jesus is the answer!” So proclaims numerous road signs, Facebook posts, and bumper stickers. For those posting such things, it is an expression of their faith, of their confidence in Jesus. It a touchstone of peace and happiness for them and perhaps also for many who see it–but not for everyone. To a great many others, this statement provokes rather a sense of bewilderment, and begs a follow up question: “If Jesus is the answer, then what is the question?”

This thought brings to my lips a smile as I recall the analogous situation in Douglas Adams’ humorous Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, in which a planet-sized super computer named “Deep Thought” was constructed and directed to come up with “the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything”. The program ran for millions of years, and finally returned an answer: “42”. Unfortunately neither the Deep Thought nor his designers knew what the ultimate question happened to be. The pan-dimensional beings seeking this answer were then forced to construct another planet-sized super computer to figure out the ultimate question.

Ash Wednesday is a Christian celebration that reminds us of the question for which Jesus is the answer. Or, more accurately, we are reminded of the problem for which Jesus is the solution; That is, the problem of death:

“Remember, o man, dust thou art, and to dust shalt thou return.”

Thus intones the priest in many a ceremony as ashes are imposed upon the foreheads of penitent Christians, these words echoing God’s curse in Genesis 3, pronounced upon humankind as punishment for sin.

Death is literally the bane of our existence. It destroys all that we hold dear. Try as we might to banish it from our thoughts, death catches us all. We recoil from it as we simultaneously yearn for permanence and significance. The idea of the extinction of our consciousness into an eternal nothing is difficult for us to fully grasp, for “God has set eternity in the hearts of men.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

Death is universal. We all die, because of our sin. Death is universal because sin is universal.

Fortunately, Ash Wednesday is merely the prelude to Easter. Whereas Ash Wednesday reminds us of our mortality, in essence saying, “Ye are dead”, Easter tells us: “Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).

The good news of Christianity is that God has set eternity in our hearts for a reason. It isn’t a dreadful taunt, or a meaningless musing. Jesus, the Christ, has died our death, in order that we might live his life. “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

As the old Easter canticle proclaims:
“But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.”
(This comes from 1 Corinthians 15)

Jesus’ resurrection from death foretells our own liberation from it, and not only in the future, in an eternity after physical death. We may be liberated from its shadow, and its dread, and its power over us even in this life.

In the light of this good news, St Paul exults in his first letter to the Corinthians: “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”

As John Donne, the 16th century poet we recently profiled, elaborated so eloquently:

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

(Sonnet X)

John Donne Effigy

(John Donne Effigy by Nicholas Stone, 1631, at St. Paul’s Cathedral, London)

 

Valentine’s Day once again turns our thoughts to romantic love. Interestingly, one of the UK Telegraph’s “10 Best Love Poems” was penned by a man of seeming contradictions: A man who could capture erotic impulses in words that resound in elegance, he also embraced the Christian faith, becoming a priest and one of his era’s best spokesmen for the faith.

John Donne (1573-1631) was born in the Elizabethan era, a time of prosperity and of the flowering of literature in England. Donne’s writings shine along with those of his contemporaries William Shakespeare, Ben Johnson, and Sir Francis Bacon.

The poem selected by the Telegraph for special honor is “The Good Morrow” published in his 1633 collection Songs and Sonnets. I love the second stanza:

If ever any beauty I did see,
Which I desired, and got, ’twas but a dream of thee.
And now good-morrow to our waking souls,
Which watch not one another out of fear;
For love, all love of other sights controls,
And makes one little room an everywhere.

For Donne it was a deep and abiding love that altered the course of his life. While working for Sir Thomas Egerton, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, he fell in love with Anne More, Egerton’s niece. They secretly married without the approval of her father, for which Donne was fired and prevented from obtaining a government position. He lived in poverty, struggling to provide for a rapidly growing family (Anne bore him 12 children). In 1614, formally blocked by King James I from any employment outside of the Church, John Donne took on holy orders.

By all accounts, Donne was a very devoted husband. James Kiefer, in his online sketch of the life of Donne, has opined: From the above information, the reader might conclude that Donne’s professed religious belief was mere opportunism. But the evidence of his poetry is that, long before his ordination, and probably beginning with his marriage, his thoughts were turned toward holiness, and he saw in his wife Anne (as Dante had earlier seen in Beatrice) a glimpse of the glory of God, and in human love a revelation of the nature of Divine Love.

Donne was devastated by Anne’s death in 1617. He vowed never to marry again, despite the troubles that would cause in raising his children. He threw his energies fully into his priestly work, rising quickly to the post of Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. He gained fame for his sermons, and was regarded in his day as the best preacher in England. Phrases from his writings remain familiar to us today, such as “death be not proud”, “for whom the bell tolls” and “no man is an island”. Here is an excerpt:

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promentory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were. Any man’s death dimishes me because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. (John Donne–meditation 17)

He fell ill of stomach cancer, but managed to rise from his death bed on Feb 25, 1631, to deliver a final sermon entitled “Death’s Duell,” to a stunned audience at Whitehall Palace. Izaak Walton, in his The Life of Dr. John Donne, wrote: “When to the amazement of some beholders, he appeared in the pulpit, many of them thought he presented himself not to preach mortification by a living voice, but mortality by a decayed body, and a dying face.” His publisher called it “The Doctors Owne Funerall Sermon.” Donne exhorted his hearers with these final words:

There we leave you in that blessed dependency, to hang upon him that hangs upon the cross, there bathe in his tears, there suck at his wounds, and lie down in peace in his grave, till he vouchsafe you a resurrection, and an ascension into that kingdom which He hath prepared for you with the inestimable price of his incorruptible blood. Amen.

A marble effigy of Donne made soon after his death can be viewed at St Paul’s cathedral, where it survived the 1666 Great Fire of London. He is remembered with a feast day in the Anglican Church calendar, on March 31.

Santa Claus, that chubby old chuckler who flies around on a sleigh pulled by reindeer, and drops through chimneys delivering gifts, has become the iconic symbol of Christmas. There is an almost perverse cultural overemphasis on “believing in Santa”, even as the incarnation of Jesus the Son of God falls further and further away from our collective consciousness.

The spectacular fantasy film “The Polar Express”, based on the beloved children’s book by Chris Van Allsburg, is a good example of the cultural pressure to uphold the Santa myth. The protagonist, a boy who is struggling with doubts about the reality of Santa, is invited to ride on a mysterious train to the North Pole. A creepy hobo he meets on the train asks him, “What’s your take the big guy?” The whole point of the yarn is of course to decry disbelief in Santa. A web page on WikiHow tells you how to “Keep Your Child Believing in Santa.”

Even Christians play along with the Santa myth, as it is passionately defended in an article I ran across entitled “Why I Believe in Santa (And My Kids Will Too)” by Hannah Giselbach:

You get where I’m going with this. The thought of having an intervention every time your children use their imaginations is ill-advised and rather silly. Why, then, are we so afraid to let our children imagine and pretend when it comes to Santa Claus? Pretending isn’t always lying. One very sad and dismal day, your children won’t play with dolls anymore. They won’t run, elated, arms flailing when they see Mickey Mouse at Disney World. One day, your children will grow up and understand that all the things they used to play with and pretend with are not actually real. I beg of you, don’t take away that magic prematurely. It will happen when it happens. And I’ve never once met an adult who felt betrayed by their parents who “lied” to them about Santa when they were children. Not once! I have, however, met adults who feel deprived of a major part of childhood because their parents felt the need to dispel their belief and encourage their questioning doubt at a very young age.

This approach, of winking and saying “it’s a good lie” or “it’s just pretend” makes me a bit squeamish. Also it seems unnecessary. In my own family we have reveled in the imagination of “Harry Potter” and “Star Wars” without trying to maintain that they are real and true. I don’t want to be a spoiler of enchanting ideas, or an enemy of imagination, but neither will I tell a bald-faced lie to someone, especially a child. Especially as Christians, the myth of Santa is not the place to stake our flag of truth, lest we lose all credibility on more important things, such as the Resurrection.

This is not merely a frivolous worry. Philosopher David Kyle Johnson, associate professor at King’s College, Wilkes-Barre, PA, wrote an opinion article entitled “Sorry, Virginia” in the Baltimore Sun, in which he stated:

Parents should stop teaching their kids to believe in Santa Claus. Reading stories about Santa is fine, and encouraging generosity and imagination is great. But tricking children into believing that an omniscient fat man, with a red suit and rosy cheeks, will slide down the chimney bestowing presents on Dec. 24 is just flat-out immoral. First of all, it’s lying. It’s one thing to lie to save someone’s life, but stop kidding yourself. “It’s fun to watch the kids get excited” is hardly a noble cause. Nor is it harmless. I’ve amassed recollections of “finding out the truth about Santa,” and many were stories of genuine embarrassment and resentment. The systematic deception makes children feel taken advantage of or like the butt of a joke. In contrast to the opinion of Ms. Giselbach, prof Johnson has collected stories of harm done by the lie, and you can read about this here.

An article published in Lancet Psychiatry also hypothesizes that lying to kids about Santa may be harmful. As reported in The Guardian:

Kathy McKay, a clinical psychologist at the University of New England, Australia and co-author, said: “The Santa myth is such an involved lie, such a long-lasting one, between parents and children, that if a relationship is vulnerable, this may be the final straw. If parents can lie so convincingly and over such a long time, what else can they lie about?”

Even more, from a Christian perspective, is this: The more of our time and brain space we give to the “Santa” myth, and by extension to the plastic and commercial “X-mas” of our culture, the more we distract from–nay, rob from–the glory of Christ’s birth. Pastor and author John Piper, of “Desiring God” fame, responded to the question of Santa by first recounting the fact that Christmas celebrates that Jesus came to seek and save the lost, that he came to give his life a ransom for many, and that through his death he might destroy the one who has the power of death.

So the birth of the Son of God, the very God, very man, is simply stunning and glorious and infinitely serious, an overflow of the happy news. The angel called it “good news of great joy” — great joy, not small joy, not a little bit of joy, but great joy (Luke 2:10).

…It is mindboggling to me that any Christian would even contemplate such a trade, that we would divert attention away from the incarnation of the God of the universe into this world to save us and our children. . . . Not only is Santa Claus not true — and Jesus is very truth himself — but compared to Jesus, Santa is simply pitiful, and our kids should be helped to see this.
(Desiringgod.org).

I’ll return to the question posed by that ghostly hobo, “What’s your take on the big guy?”

When this came up for me, when my kids were toddlers, I pondered how to honor Santa, without lying, and without sucking away the magic of the season. I purchased a lovely little book by Julie Stiegemeyer entitled Saint Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend, published by Concordia Publishing in 2007. This is a very readable book with charming illustrations, which I found helpful. It links Santa with the historical St. Nicholas, relating him to the real meaning of Christmas at the end of the story.

If asked, “do you believe in Santa?” or “is Santa real?” I will say “yes”. “Santa” is real of course, as he is based on a real person known to us as St. Nicholas, a fourth century Christian bishop in the town of Myra, now part of modern day Turkey. He was recognized as a “saint” by the church. He was remembered for his generosity of spirit, and so giving gifts in his honor is fitting. St. Nicholas now lives, presumably, in heaven. That “Santa” is as real as you and I.

However, if I am pressed and asked whether Santa is literally a fat guy in a red suit from the North Pole who drops down chimneys, then I can’t lie about this. My answer is “no”; that “Santa” is as real as Darth Vader, Princess Bubblegum, and Mickey Mouse. I’m not going to pretend otherwise.

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O Myghell! by grace of Cryst Iesu
Callid among angelis þe hevenly champioun,
Be a prerogatyf synguler of vertu,
Held a batayll, venquysshed the dragoun,
Be thow our sheld and our proteccyoun
In euery myschef of daungeris infernall,
Dyffende our party, presente our orisoun,
Vp to the lord that gouerneth all.

– John Lydgate

(Image and verse are Public Domain)

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(photo by “R4vi” from London, UK, obtained from Wikimedia Commons and used in accordance with Creative Commons 2.0 license)

“Would you like me to take a picture for you?” I asked a group of 20 somethings, who seemed to be struggling to get a picture. I was at the Grand Canyon, snapping photos with my family. “No thanks,” one replied, “we’ve got a selfie stick.”

At every turnout, the magnificent colors and jagged contours of the canyon were a backdrop for people who seemed to be standing, alone or in groups, wielding their telescopic wands with smartphones stuck on the end. It looks goofy to my old fashioned eyes (I still lug a cumbersome DSLR around when I go to places like the Grand Canyon). But I must grant that it is simple and effective. It’s a brilliant invention. I will probably own one at some point.

The selfie stick has exploded in popularity in the past couple years. “Invented” in 2014 (though similar devices date from many years ago), it is now ubiquitous. The selfie is ubiquitous. According to Travel Weekly, 300 million selfies have been uploaded to Instagram as of June 2015. Never has snapping a pic of yourself been easier.

And just like that, one more way of interacting with others is gone. No one needs an outside person to stop and do an act of kindness–“no thank you, we have a selfie stick.”

As a society this may be seen as emblematic of a fundamental problem with our growing addiction to mobile technology: as individuals we are self absorbed (these tools have apparently been dubbed “narcissticks” according to this New York Times editorial), and some would say that we now have a “selfie culture”. Technology has allowed us to become increasingly disengaged from others, even as ironically we are addicted to the facebook posts and Twitter feeds of countless “friends” scattered across the globe. Unless we fight it, our focus is ever drawn down into our devices, into an endless reverberation of our own likes, thoughts, and desires.

By the way, I mean it when I say “we”–I am no cyber saint here. I must cry “mea culpa” as well: I take selfies. I have had dates with my wife in which I can’t resist the urge to get out my iPhone–and that isn’t because she is not lovely and interesting (she is!). My own kids tend to spend most of their vacation days looking at their devices regardless of how breathtaking the scenery around them may be.

If this self absorption is a problem, it is not new. Self-centeredness is a primordial element of the human story (recall the tale of that wretched apple seized by a man who wanted God’s knowledge for himself). The selfie is but a new and more democratic iteration of the time honored self portrait, or the bust, or the thrill of being on-stage. Although, given its intentional impermanence and nonchalance, it might be more accurate to say that the selfie is reminiscent more of “Kilroy was here”, scratched on pixels rather than walls (variants of this sort of thing can be found in antiquity). It is humans saying, “look! I was here! I matter!”

This brings suddenly to my recollection the fallen statue of King Ozymandias, whose decaying selfie was powerfully memorialized by poet Percy Bysshe Shelley:

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: `Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear —
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.’

Most of us (fortunately) aren’t tyrants. We know that our selfies are destined for nowhere glorious. Our “friends” will glance past them in a microsecond, or maybe linger long enough to click the “like” button. If really fortunate maybe someone will pause and comment, perhaps just to say, “OMG I was at the Canyon a week ago!” Then they will move on. It will take seconds, not centuries, for the significance of the selfie moment to fade. We know this but can’t resist the urge to keep doing it. It is the way of the self absorbed. It is our way. “Look, I was here. I matter!”

This is why Christians have a story to tell. Have you become a Christian? Have you been adopted into God’s family? If so, you matter, because you have God as an audience. When you become a Christian, your cosmic portrait will never fade. Unlike your snapshot of yourself against the Grand Canyon, you won’t disappear from God’s in-basket in a few minutes. Your name won’t be blotted from the great Book of Life.

But, the next time you are at the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls or wherever, if you see a handsome bearded 40-something with a charming family approach you at a scenic overlook, don’t run. Instead take pity on us and agree to snap our picture. I’ll show you how my clunky DSLR camera works.