September 30, 2014

A Mountain Scrapbook

This weekend I had the immense and wonderful pleasure of packing into the car with my family and driving up the steep and amazing mountains of Colorado.  We went to see the leaves, and though I saw leaves, I saw a whole lot more. And so I will share with you the sights and beauties, through the art of words and photographs, in the hope that you might enjoy them with me too.

Each picture I took has its own little story to tell, so I shall let them do it in their own way.

"Once upon a time, there were mountains that stood big and strong in the hill-land of Colorado.  But people began to move there with saws and axes, horses and carts.  
They wanted to take a shortcut and move quickly through the mountains.  And so they started digging, blasting, and pushing their way through the hill, supporting it with heavy beams and strong logs.  And then the work was done;  noisy cars traveled through, whipping up dust, and stirring around dirt.  And still, after that once upon that time, the tunnel still stands.  I know, because I saw the light from the other side."

The floor of the forest is covered with a nice quilt of colorful leaves.  They keep the tree roots warm and tenderly tuck the vines and plants into their winter nap.  The leaves are all sizes, shapes, and hues fluttering down to the ground like snowflakes.  Maybe they are trying to be the snowflakes of autumn, knowing that they will never survive to the cold white of winter.  The aspen trees observe this happening, shaking their heads in mirth.  And as they shake, more leaves fall to the distant ground, floating and dancing on the chill mountain breeze.  The leaves are king, there in the woods, and they enjoy themselves, while they last...

"Home is behind, the world ahead,
And there are many paths to tread
Through shadow to the edge of night,
Until the stars are all the light.
Then world behind and home ahead,
We'll wander back and home to bed.
Mist and twilight, cloud and shade,
Away shall fade! Away shall fade!
~ J.R.R. Tolkien ~

September 25, 2014

The Sound of A Rose

I have written descriptively about the mysterious darling known as The Moon, and so I shall now try my hand in the garden.

Roses intrigue me as they sit quietly in a flower bed soaking up warm sunshine.  I don't know why, but my heart feels emotionally attached to the flowers.  What would life be without roses?

Red roses, pink roses, yellow, orange, white...There are so many different colored roses, variations, and breeds.  I wonder where they shop for such velvet ornaments as their petals.  I believe that roses must be very rich and wealthy if they can afford such sweet perfume and bright gowns.

Of course, a rose is known for its lovely smell, though some have more of a fragrance than others. And they're edible, too.  Thinking of a rose as a personification, it seems terrible to eat a delicate rose.  But if you think of them as sweet-scented, nice looking, flowers, I can imagine that they must taste rather nice.

Roses have a wonderful texture on their petals. They are like furless velvet cloaks surrounding them in a veil of color.  And the green stalks on which they stand so erect are smooth and woody, until you reach their dark, curved thorns.  The thorns on a rose have always surprised me; to think that such a lovely flower could have such an uncomfortable side, too.

I have puzzled over this matter and spent many brain cells trying to understand.  Perhaps it is that a rose is such a lovely prize, that they must protect themselves with their prepared thorns. Perhaps it is that a rose is the most human of flowers; they have hard and ugly faults on the outside, for all the world to see.  When the blossom opens, unfurls its tender petals, we can finally see the heart, and the bloom outshines our thorns. Or perhaps, the thorns of a rose were designed to be a mystery that we weren't meant to understand; God gave the rose a thorn like He gave a Zebra stripes, just because He wanted to.

I think that a rose has sound, if you listen carefully enough.  There is a haunting, melodic song that radiates from its center, that seems to permeate your soul.  I think the song is in a minor key, delicate and soft, but mysterious and lovely at the same time.  Roses are an orchestra or a choir, playing a song to which my heart dances.

"...But he that dares not grasp the thorn
Should never crave the rose."
~ Anne Brontë ~

September 23, 2014

What is White?

What is White?
Inspired by Mary O'Neill
Written By Janelle Spiers

White is a snowflake
Falling down to the earth,
A six-pointed treasure;
Frozen birth.
White is sweet, lighthearted mirth.
White is ash,
In a cold fireplace
White is a doll
White is a pawn,
A fox, a bright sky,
A flying swan.
The sound of white is
“Purr! Purr! Purr!”
A sleepy cat
With soft, sleek fur.

White is pure – 
A wave of grace,
It washes o’er
And sins erase.
White is a hymn
And piano keys,
A clock, a rock, an ocean breeze
White is a carol
Sung by a choir,
Melodic voices
Filled with strong fire.
White is a ball gown
And a jar of glue.
White is a gift,
All for you.
White is hope:
A quiet appeal
Tearful prayers
On our knees we kneel.
Think of old photos
And bright city light…
Puffy clouds, sugar cubes,  
If they couldn’t dazzle with


September 18, 2014

The Screwtape Letters ~ A Book Review

The Screwtape Letters
Book By C.S. Lewis
Review by Janelle A. Spiers
August 29, 2014

“It is funny how mortals always picture us putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.” ~ Screwtape, Letter IV

“Indeed, the safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” ~ Screwtape, Letter VII

WARNING:  Please be aware that if you continue reading this Book Review, you may be subject to reading spoilers and or secrets of the original book.  However, all attempts shall be made to hide the crucial points, in the event that this review encourages you to read this book.  Any information divulged will be deemed by the author of this review necessary to the review, or, not capable of ruining any major surprise. 

            The Screwtape Letters were written by C.S. Lewis as a series of epistolary correspondence between two devils.  Screwtape writes to his young nephew, Wormwood, instructing him and condoning him on how to do his work efficiently and well.  As we learn from Screwtape, the work of a demon is to govern a human patient and protect him from the Enemy that threatens to destroy their hard work.
            The theme of these fiendish missives covers a huge range of topics and personal themes.  Lewis was able to manipulate his plot to follow along with several key Christian topics, such as temptation, grace, faith, handling fear, and the difference between good and evil.  Although this is written from a demon point of view, the topics ring true, however twisted they appear.
            There is a very simple plot line in The Screwtape Letters, as this was not intended to be a plot-driven novel.  However, Lewis does follow the life and times of one particular man from his becoming a Christian, to falling in love with a girl through the eyes of his demons.  Other correspondence between Screwtape and Wormwood shows us that war rages in Europe, and we also get a small taste of life as a demon.  Screwtape makes several references to his nephew in regards to his college education and occupational work.
Screwtape is the writer of the letters, and though we never see any of Wormwood’s letters, we learn that Screwtape is a very brusque uncle, but he does care about the well-being and success of his nephew.  Screwtape has a habit of getting quite angry at Wormwood, to the point that in one letter, he cannot finish writing, and his secretary must continue because Screwtape changes into a giant centipede.  This is rather startling to see how much Screwtape can evolve due to his emotions.
            We also learn through the messages Screwtape writes about the Enemy.  Because The Screwtape Letters is based upon a Christian foundation, the Enemy is actually the Holy Trinity and His angels.  Screwtape goes to great lengths to warn Wormwood at what the Enemy is capable of, how to avoid detection when working against the Enemy, and what the Enemy wants for the humans He created.  Screwtape has a horrible hatred of the Enemy, but he is also forced to confess his fear and the overwhelming sense of power that the Enemy wields.
            Wormwood is a very young, inexperienced, and as we learn from Screwtape, pitiful excuse of a demon.  Wormwood is continually admonished for his swift actions and his inability to keep his human under their control.  Several times he pleads to his Uncle to spare him punishment for allowing his patient to fall further from the ways of the world, but he is not given any mercy.  Wormwood is not good at what he does, and in the end he pays dearly for his poor workmanship.
            The writing quality of The Screwtape Letters is excellent.  Lewis is a wonderful wordsmith, and crafted his lexical knowledge with skill and expertise.  Lewis hit a wide variety of emotions through Screwtape’s communication with his nephew, chief among them, anger, sarcasm, and fear.  He allows the reader to feel Screwtape’s frustration with his nephew, but he can also send chills down your spine as Screwtape celebrates the successes of his evilness.
            For people unaccustomed to reading classic works, the wordiness of Screwtape’s letters could be overwhelming.  It can be hard to comprehend for younger readers, due to subject matter and older, out-of-date words.  Nonetheless, for those who do enjoy older writings, it is fairly easy to follow. 
            The Screwtape Letters were not given any awards or notable recognition.  However, The Guardian, a newspaper in England, did publish the letters, but it was not widely accepted.  Lewis mentions in his forward that The Guardian lost at least one reader due to the publication of such wicked and far-out writing.

            Clive Staple Lewis was born in Belfast, Ireland, in 1898.  He wrote both fiction and non-fiction, and is possibly most famous for his Chronicles of Narnia and Mere Christianity.  He became a Christian in 1931, and the conversion was greatly influenced by the writing of George MacDonald and G.K. Chesterton, also arguments he had with his close friend, J.R.R. Tolkien, for whom The Screwtape Letters is dedicated.
            Lewis published The Screwtape Letters in 1941, where they were weekly published in The Guardian newspaper.  Later, the letters were published as a book in 1961 where an additional toast by Screwtape was published.  The Screwtape Letters has been made into film, stage, and comic book adaptations, in addition to an audio drama produced by Focus on the Family Radio Theatre.
            The worldview of this book is purely from a Christian standpoint.  The book does delve into the worldly ideas and beliefs of that time, but it is from a Christian mindset throughout.  Lewis does do an excellent job of torqueing common Christian beliefs and broadcasting them through the mind of a very crafty demon.
            The Screwtape Letters is very clean when it comes to language or profanity.  Nevertheless, for those who find the word, hell, offensive, it is mentioned sundry times, mainly because that is where Screwtape is writing from, and where he is trying to help Wormwood lure his patient.  The word damnation also appears, in regards to a human soul.
            There are a few letters within this collection of writings discussing the topic of sex and lust.  Screwtape encourages his nephew to use the human desire to their own destruction, and the idea is portrayed that if the patient loses his virtue, they have achieved a major victory.  Nothing descriptive or explicit is ever mentioned, but the subject does rise in several places.
            There is little violence/death contained in the book.  War is alluded to, and death is also spoken of very briefly, but no one is ever seen dying or being physically hurt, although it is hinted at, in the last letter, that Wormwood would pay dearly for a grave mistake.  It is likely that if the story were to continue, Wormwood would be sorely injured or killed as his punishment.
            The ebb and flow of The Screwtape Letters is very consistent.  The plot line moves clearly in one straight forward direction, although it does leave us wondering what would have followed, had Lewis continued his letters.  The characters are also quite constant in attitude and posture.  Screwtape is continually peevish with his sniveling nephew and the imminent power of the Enemy looms over the demons like a cloud.  The quality and depth of the writing continues to be just what we expect of Lewis, and he does not disappoint.
            As a Christian myself, my personal beliefs were challenged when I realized that the Enemy was in truth, my Savior and Lord.  I quickly came to understand Lewis’ reason for that reference, as it is from a demonic point of view; the Enemy is clearly not going to be in league with the devil and his forces.  It was hard to switch my mindset, but I do appreciate the consistency Lewis obtained on his stance on God.
I shared the same common belief with the themes and topics Lewis brought up, and I was quite pleased with the entirety of the book.  It caused me to stop and to ponder how often I allow the devil to influence my thinking, or lack of thinking, on certain matters.  I also had a moment of curiosity at Lewis’ suggesting that each human has a demon constantly at his heels.  I have continued to wonder about that idea since I finished the book and I look forward to continue my musings on the matter.

The Screwtape Letters proves itself as a very unique book.  The demons are fictitious and a lot of guesswork and imagination went in to the creating of the demon world, but the Christian truths and beliefs were very thought through and biblically correct.  I would recommend reading this book and exploring your own personal beliefs and see how they are challenged by C.S. Lewis’ work of art.

(Based on a rating system entirely made up of pros and cons, I judge by different categories to ensure that the reader of this review can aptly choose if this book is an appropriate for themselves or others.)

Theme ~ Positive! (For excellent topics that are meaningful and applicable to life.)
Plot Line ~ Undetermined! (This work was not intended to be plot-driven)
Characters ~ Positive! (Very memorable and extremely consistent)
Writing Quality ~ Positive! (For thoroughness and well executed work)
Mature Content ~ Negative! (Some topics may be unsuitable for a young or sensitive audience.)
Congruency ~ Positive! (For extreme consistency in plot, characters, and quality)

The total score for The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis is 4.5 out of a possible 6 positive points.

September 16, 2014

To Love or Be Loved ~ Part 5

To Love or Be Loved ~ Part 5
Janelle Spiers

We are drawing to a close in the story of Marjorie J. Riley and Evelyn O'Hara.  Check back with these links to previous installments to continue to relive this Roaring Twenties Story.

To Love or Be Loved ~ Part 1

To Love or Be Loved ~ Part 2

To Love or Be Loved ~ Part 3

Marjorie J. Riley

Charity is a Curse
What am I supposed to do with a tiny child? 
What can I do that his family couldn’t? The
child moans softly in my arms as I sit in my
parlor.  His warm little body feels strange in
my arms.                                 I don’t know if 
I like it,                                    his holding on,
wet tears                                 on my dress. He
is quiet                                    now, in the
stillness                                   of my house.
His breathing deepens, and I feel sure that he
has cried himself to sleep. What do I do with a
tiny sleeping boy? “Make a bed, Ann.  He’s  
asleep.” I say, but mother wouldn’t approve.

Evelyn O’Hara

I stagger through the darkness
back to the alleyway where I came from.
I feel cold, hurt, and sick. My body shakes.


I lie down on my blanket and try
to feel warm, but I don’t have my warmth.
I left behind the only thing to warm my heart.

Marjorie J. Riley

What Have I Done?
What have I done to deserve this child? His
eyes are round and large and they watch me
silently as I watch him. He is so young and
small. Ann                               feeds him often, 
trying to                                   fatten him up.
Ann knows                               what children
are like. She                             had two, before
the war, but now they are gone. If I didn’t
have Ann, I never could keep this child. Keep
this child? I can’t keep him. I... I can’t....

Evelyn O’Hara

I cannot get up, my body is too weak.
I will lose my job at the factory, but it does
not matter.  Nothing does, now. He is gone.


John is gone, just like Phillip. John is happy, just like 
Phillip. They are both in a better place. I will see my 
husband soon, in a better place.

Marjorie J. Riley

What He Wanted
“Iss mamma wif de angels, now?”
His timid voice, the first words he had spoken,
they broke my heart. Is mamma with the
angels, now?                           “I don’t know.”
I have to say.                          His face is
grave. “My                             mamma see
God?” The child thinks his mother will die.
The poor boy. He wriggles closer to my side. 
I know now, relieved, Father would approve.

Evelyn O’Hara

I shiver and shake. I moan and cough. Night is 
growing darker, the chill is growing colder.
I think of my John, warm in a light house.


I pray to God to hide my boy from pain.
I pray to God to love my boy forever.
I pray to God to help me fight the shadows.

Marjorie J. Riley

Sweet Dreams
I pull Mother’s quilt over the little boy.
His eyes look sleepy but he holds my hand.
I smooth back his brown hair and kiss his
head. “Don’t go,”                    he says softly.
“It’s time for                           sleep.” His eyes
blink slowly.                           I dare to ask a 
question, heavy on my mind, “What’s your
name?” He sighs deep and holds tighter to me. 
“John.” Namesake of my father, given to me.


Evelyn O’Hara

So much pain racks my body, but nothing like my 
Savior suffered. I see His face as I lie in the cold, lie 
in the dark, lie in the alleyway.