“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations — these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit — immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.”
— C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
The longer I live in this world, the more often I think of the truth of Lewis’s statement. There is a story behind the eyes and in the soul of every person you meet. We cannot imagine what heartache and joy are hidden behind a smile, and what that person would say if given the chance to share those thoughts.
My family volunteers with Honor Flight DC, greeting WWII, Korean, and Vietnam veterans at their memorials. We wait at the WWII Monument with our homemade signs that say “Thank You!” and a backpack full of small American flags. As the buses pull up and the elderly veterans, most of them in wheelchairs, file away from the bus, we look at their precious faces with true history written in each furrowed brow and smile line. There are cheers, tears, and high-five greetings, but the sweetest time is spent talking to them for just a few minutes. We ask as many as we can about their stories. Where were you stationed? What branch of the military? Here are a few answers:
“I was in Germany. We were in charge of clearing the smuggled art out of a cave.”
“I was with the unit that liberated Dachau.”
“I was in the shower onboard my ship in Pearl Harbor when the bombs dropped.”
“I was with Patton when he blew up that bridge.” (shows us a photo of Patton, a jeep, and himself with his foot on the bumper by the rubble of a bridge.)
To look at their smiling faces and humble demeanors, you’d never expect the true stories they share — nearly impossible rescues and friends who died, high glory and deep grief. These are no “mere mortals” we meet, but neither is that lone person who slips into a pew on Sundays. Each holds a story to tell.
We are called to cultivate relationships, creating moments of time to connect with that ‘ordinary’ person who crosses our path. That connectedness may be a few minutes, a day, or might grow into months or years of collaboration to create something grand, but the gift of opportunity is there if we just open our eyes to the wonder in the everyday. Whether we step outside of our own comfortable space to listen to a stranger, reach across time and distance to speak with poetry or music, write a letter, or serve others in mission work, there are extraordinary souls to meet each day. I pray that the special links below will inspire you to bring joy and cultivate love where you are right now and where God will send you.
“To please God … to be a real ingredient in the divine happiness …to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son—it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is.”
—C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
Marginalia – Additional Interviews and Links to Delight and Inform
Christie Purifoy is a rare and beautiful example in this world of someone whose craft of words matches the voice they use in life. She is the acclaimed author of Roots and Sky: A Journey Home in Four Seasons, and Placemaker: Cultivating Places of Comfort, Beauty, and Peace. Get to know Christie and her book Placemaker in this Cultivating interview.
Malcolm Guite is a modern-day renaissance man living out the roles of educator, priest, singer/songwriter, and acclaimed performance poet. The author of Faith, Hope, and Poetry; Sounding the Seasons and The Singing Bowl, he lectures widely to enchanted audiences on the topics of literature, poetry and theology. It is Cultivating’s honor and delight to present this interview with Malcolm discussing a handful of the elements he so eloquently explores throughout this month’s featured book of poetry, The Singing Bowl.
Every C.S. Lewis fan will enjoy the podcast series Pints with Jack. Here is the link to an outstanding episode from the Pints podcast as the hosts interview Diana Pavlac Glyer and the contributors to A Compass for Deep Heaven – Navigating the C.S. Lewis Ransom Trilogy.
And to explore more about Diana Glyer and her work on the Inklings, see our interview with her about her book Bandersnatch!
Lilias Trotter (1853-1928) was a missionary in Algiers, North Africa for over forty years. She chose this life over a successful career as an artist. She wrote, “Never has it been so easy to live in half a dozen harmless worlds at once — art, music, social science, games, motoring, the following of some profession, and so on. And between them we run the risk of drifting about, the good hiding the best. It is easy to find out whether our lives are focused, and if so, where the focus lies. Where do our thoughts settle when consciousness comes back in the morning? Where do they swing back when the pressure is off during the day? Dare to have it out with God, and ask Him to show you whether or not all is focused on Christ and His Glory. Turn your soul’s vision to Jesus, and look and look at Him, and a strange dimness will come over all that is apart from Him.” Lilias reflection inspired Helen Lemmel to compose the hymn “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.”
Additionally, there is a breathtaking devotional called A Blossom in the Desert: Reflections of Faith in the Art and Writings of Lilias Trotter.
For additional information into Lilias’s life and ministry, you will find many resources at this website: https://www.liliastrottercenter.org/resources-1
And you must watch this documentary film about her inspiring life, which includes views of her paintings, journals, and interviews with the woman who devoted years to bringing Lilias’s story to a modern audience.:
Our last issue featured After Humanity – A Guide to C. S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man by Michael Ward. His book is a guide to one of Lewis’s most widely admired but least accessible works, The Abolition of Man. Cultivating just released an interview with author Michael Ward and you can read it here!
The featured image is courtesy of Julie Jablonski and used with her kind permission for Cultivating.
Annie Nardone is a flannel-clad, cowboy boot-shod adventurer who seldom travels with a map because joy and surprise are discovered in the journey! Her sincere passion is the reintegration of the arts and humanities with theology and the Christian imagination. She holds a Masters Degree in Cultural Apologetics from Houston Baptist University and writes for Literary Life and the quarterly magazine, An Unexpected Journal. Annie resides in Virginia with her Middle Earth/Narnia/Hogwarts-loving family, and an assemblage of sphynx cats and feline foundlings who read with her daily. In a poll taken among friends, six things that characterize her include: books, C.S. Lewis, spontaneous adventure, Shakespeare, caffeine, and cats.