Mere Christians

Douglas Gresham (C.S. Lewis's Stepson & Exec. Producer of Netflix's Narnia Series)

Episode Summary

How C.S. Lewis became a master of one

Episode Notes

Jordan Raynor sits down with Douglas Gresham, C.S. Lewis's stepson and Executive Producer of Disney and Netflix's Narnia series, to share a detailed account of C.S. Lewis’s daily routines as he pursued mastery of his craft, Doug’s surprising first encounter with his soon-to-be stepdad at the age of 8, and which Lewis book Doug gives away most frequently.

Pre-order Jordan's new book, Master of One, and enter to win a European cruise for two, dinner with Jordan in Barcelona, and a private tour of the magnificent La Sagrada Familia:

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Episode Transcription

[0:00:05.3] JR: Hey there, welcome to The Call to Mastery. I’m Jordan Raynor. Hey, I’m thrilled to announce that Master of One is now officially in bookstores everywhere. The book launched yesterday, it is a total of one day old, technically. I know I’ve said it the last few weeks but if you’re loving the podcast, I promise you’re going to love the book, you can go pick up a copy at Barns & Noble, at Amazon, at Books-A-Million, wherever in the world you shop for books. You can go buy right now and you still have a few more days to enter to win this incredible trip to Europe that I’m giving away.


I’m going to personally be paying for somebody, hopefully a listener of this podcast, and a friend of your choice to go on a seven-night European cruise, you’re going to tour La Sagrada Familia, the world’s largest church which I write about in the book. Then you’re going to meet me in Barcelona for dinner. You’ve got until January 27th, 2020 to enter the sweepstakes, you got to do it right now at


Hey, this is a special week, this is the book’s birthday and so I have been saving a very special episode of The Call To Mastery for this week. I’ve been wanting to share this for a long time because I know so many of you are huge C.S. Lewis fans like myself. So today, I am incredibly privileged to share our conversation I recently had with my good friend and C.S. Lewis’s stepson, Douglas Gresham.


If you’ve ever seen the movie Shadowlands with Anthony Hopkins, you know that C.S. Lewis was married later in life to Joy Davidman, who is Douglas’s mother. Through marriage, Lewis really became the father figure in Douglas’s life for more than half of his childhood. He’s the last person alive who personally knew C.S. Lewis, which is incredible to me.


Listen, he’s a masterful culture creator in his own right, Doug has really been the chief champion for stepfather’s legacy, he’s the head of the C.S. Lewis Company. He has been the producer of all those Narnia films that Disney produced back in the mid-2000s and he’s the producer of a new set of films that Narnia is going to be in production with Netflix. Doug and I sat down, we talked about C.S. Lewis’s daily routines and how he pursued mastery of his one thing, we talked about Doug’s surprising first encounter with C.S. Lewis when he was at the age of eight.


I’m just going to warn you right now, the audio quality of this episode is pretty rough, much rougher than usual, given that Doug and I were calling in from his home in Malta but I don’t’ think you guys are going to mind. Bear through the audio challenges as the content and the substance of this conversation is one of my all-time favorites on The Call To Mastery. Please enjoy this conversation with Douglas Gresham.




[0:02:52.1] JR: Hey Douglas Gresham, thank you so much for joining me, what is it, afternoon there in Malta?


[0:02:58.3] DG: It’s 10 minutes to three.


[0:03:00.9] JR: Okay, perfect. Perfect, well thanks so much for joining me for the conversation, a few weeks ago, I had our mutual friend Kelly Stuart on the podcast and yeah, by the way, have you read her new book?


[0:03:14.3] DG: Yeah, I have, I have indeed.


[0:03:16.9] JR: Yeah, it’s fantastic, we were talking about the dinner that we had at the Goring hotel in London with me, you and Kelly’s husband.


[0:03:25.0] DG: Kelly wasn’t there unfortunately.


[0:03:26.5] JR: Kelly wasn’t there, yeah. It would have been a lot more fun with her, right?


[0:03:30.5] DG: Yeah, I met up with her later and I actually wrote a blurb for one of her books, for both of them, I think. Because they are fantastic pieces of writing, excellent pieces of writing.


[0:03:38.8] JR: She’s an incredible writer but I’ve got to say, after that time at the Goring hotel, you got some pretty incredible taste in hotels, is the Goring your favorite hotel in the world?


[0:03:48.3] DG: Probably yes, been going there for over 30 years now, kind of like one of the family.


[0:03:53.0] JR: Yeah, I could tell when we were there, am I misremembering this, or did you once have a run in with the queen at the Goring? I seem to remember some story –


[0:04:00.5] DG: I wouldn’t say I had a run in with the queen. I met the queen on a couple of the gala premiers for our movies as well. But yes, I met her and she was in the Foyer one time and I just asked her if she needed any help, I said you know, “Can I help with anything?” And she said, “No, I’m fine, I’m just taking a breather.” And that was it.


[0:04:18.3] JR: Considering the Goring’s right around the corner from Buckingham palace.


[0:04:23.4] DG: I think the queen probably used it to some extent as a getaway from Buckingham palace when she wants to get out from under. There is a royal suite at the Goring hotel that’s available to her at any time.


[0:04:33.1] JR: Interesting. I know she likes to have dinner with her staff there around Christmas time and yes, seems like a pretty nice getaway from the palace, yeah. I think everybody listening to this podcast knows and loves C.S. Lewis and many are familiar with his story, but they might not be familiar with yours which I find truly fascinating.


[0:04:58.7] DG: Buy my book and read it. Buy lots of copies, spread it around, and read it.


[0:05:02.1] JR: You can buy Lenten Lands.


[0:05:03.7] DG: I have to warn you of something, we’ve just had a huge thunderstorm approach toward the palace, so you may hear some weird noises in the background.


[0:05:10.7] JR: No worries, I don’t think our listeners will mind. Let’s talk about your story, which you told so well in the book Lenten Lands. Lenten Lands inspired the movie Shadowlands with Anthony Hopkins, is that right?


[0:05:21.2] DG: I think so, yes.


[0:05:23.2] JR: For those who haven’t read the book, let’s get the quick version of Doug’s stories. Let’s start here, how did you go from being born in America, living in London and ending up with C.S. Lewis as your stepfather, how did this all happened?


[0:05:38.3] DG: Well, to start with, it wasn’t my fault, I was eight years old when my mother and father sort of parted company and my mother had already gotten to marry Jack when she was – Jackie is a family nickname and he’s had it most of his life. We left America after my father decided he wanted to be with someone else, someone who I’m very fond of actually, was very fond. She’s dead now.


When it happened, when my father decided he was going to be somewhere else, with someone else, they got divorced and my mother decided she would take myself and my brother to England because everything was cheaper over there at the time, it’s probably the reverse at the moment.


She liked the people, she liked everything about it, and she’d been there earlier, trying to find a publisher for her book, and smuggle them out of England. I think she succeeded too. But she got to meet Jack a couple of times and that’s the first clue. When we went over there, one of the first thing she wanted to do was to introduce me, particularly me and my brother, as well to this great man who had written The Chronicles of Narnia by that stage, about two or three of them. And who knew, my imagination, knew King Peter personally, as well as Aslan. I was only eight years old.


Anyway, back to America, you can’t cross the whole Atlantic ocean on an ocean liner, which we did end up in the middle of a north Atlantic storm at one stage. I had my birthday on the ship. We arrived in England, and if you grew up in America at that age and came across The Chronicles of Narnia, and having it read to you –


Perhaps you had read a little bit of Nights of King Arthur and so you’d expect everybody to be riding on horses and carrying swords and stuff. When we got to Kiln, the first time that we went to visit Jack, when you get there, you suddenly meet this astute, proper looking gentleman with long nicotine stained fingers.


He just did not look like I thought someone who was on speaking terms with King Peter and so forth. I was initially quite disappointed. It was only a matter of two seconds really, until I noticed this enormous personality and his great charitable way of dealing with things, eradicated any deficiencies in my mind about his appearance.


I lost an illusion and gained a very good friend and he was a friend until he died. Well, he’s had the most influence in my life as anyone I’ve ever met or known. All of that influencing in his case was for the good.


I was a bit of a rough guy in my youth, but I have sort of stuck to what Jack taught me ever since and been working on that premise basically. Which resulted, eventually, in me turning my life, and everything I am and everything I have, over to Christ. Which is the only sensical way to live when you actually experience it.


[0:08:17.7] JR: I’ve heard you talk about your spiritual journey before. Can you recapture that? When did this happen, what was Jack’s role in that process of you coming to the faith in Christ, what did that look like in your own life?


[0:08:30.5] DG: It was so simple it’s almost impossible to describe; it was just Jack living a Christian life really closely and trying to live everything he preached, everything he taught. I didn’t really understand that this wasn’t just an elderly professorial gentleman doing the right thing as you thought.


I was a young teenager, and in those days, didn’t grow up that way, and still in my early 20s and probably to my 30s, I was a bit of a rat bag as well, a rascal actually to be honest. Rode motorcycles, not always legally, I get up to all sorts of mischief but then, really, when I had to look around at myself and what was happening to me, I went through a terrible case of PTSD from all the deaths and so forth, I presume that’s what it was, in my younger days.


I suddenly realized, I’d tried to help someone and let it all go wrong. All my life I’d loved to help people. I’d done it all wrong in this case and hurt a lot of people. I suddenly sort of had to look around at myself and how I was behaving, how I was thinking, and realized, this was not the way to go.


I was a farmer at the time. I’m still a farmer, although I’ve stopped being a farmer in one way or another. I worked it out in my mind and suddenly if stops in the middle of the field and you’re plowing something or bailing hay or something, you get your tools out and then you fix it. If you can’t figure out how to fix it, you go and look at the manual for the tractor, which will tell you how to fix things.


When I realized I was making a complete mess of my own life, trying to run it myself, the problem was, if you live as a child, up to eight years old, around eight years old, and your mother and father split up and there’s been lots of rows in the house and so forth, and you go across a foreign country and then in a short while after you get there, your mother starts to die from terminal cancer and she does die at the end of that. About 18 months later, you get a message from America telling you that your father has committed suicide and then about 18 months after that, your stepfather is going to – who you love and honor and really enjoy being with – die.


When you go through that, you got a pretty heavy burden of PTSD to deal with. I realized, whatever I was doing wasn’t working. I then looked for a maker’s manual and the maker’s manual of the human race turned out to be the gospels of Jesus Christ.


I turned my life over to Jesus and he took care and it’s been very different ever since.


[0:10:49.9] JR: You were eight when you met Jack for the first time, how old were you when your mom and Jack were married?


[0:10:56.0] DG: I would have been about nine and a half or closer on 10 I guess at that stage, probably 10.


[0:11:00.9] JR: Yeah, you, your brother, your mom came over the England, eight years old, a couple of years later, they were married and you were at the Kiln’s from eight years old until basically when you left after school, 17, 18, right?


[0:11:12.3] DG: Well I left school and then applied for college and so I was 18.


[0:11:17.1] JR: All through those years, I mean, I’m sure those were happy years with Jack and with your mom but also very tragic, your mother passed away when you were 14. During this time, your biological father had committed suicide and then Jack died three years later. You left the Kiln’s shortly after Jack’s death, is that right?


[0:11:32.6] DG: Yes, I was given a home by my mother’s best friend in that area, lady friend called Jean Wakeman, who is a motoring journalist, this is probably where I got my fascination with cars from. I lived there for several years I think until I finally decided that I didn’t like being where I was, at the agriculture college.


I wanted to get into agriculture college to learn how to be a farmer, eventually, I wound up with a college that was teaching me mostly how to get subsidies from the government, things like that, which I wasn’t the least bit interested in. At that stage, I had met someone incredibly beautiful and it’s the funniest thing about it actually. When I was a little boy in America and from there on, I had a problem with my brother who was going out to be a schizophrenic and a violent and a dangerous one.


Most of his aims and things he wanted to do when I was a little boy was to get rid of me and he tried that in many ways over the years. Not only did we have the death of all my parents but the fact that my brother was trying to bring mine about. Eventually he died, Christmas day in 2016 in a sealed environment in a psychiatric hospital in Zurich, Switzerland. I missed him. I cried over his death despite the fact that he had spent the extent of his life trying to get rid of me.


But in any case, all of that going together, tends to mess you up a bit. I did hugely enjoy the time we spent when my mother was in remission from her cancer which lasted about four years actually, hugely enjoyed being with mother and Jack and Jack’s elder brother. It was a wonderful environment to live in.


I often wish that I’d been able to record the conversations somehow that went on at that dinner table and the laughter that rocked the house almost, we also had lots of fun.


[0:13:13.7] JR: What were some of those conversations around the dinner table that you remember, some of the memories there at the Kiln, at C.S. Lewis’s house, that you’re particularly fund of?


[0:13:22.7] DG: Well, my favorite memory of dinner at the Kiln’s was when my mother asked Jack if he’d remembered to do something she’d ask him to do. He said, “Of course I did my darling, what do you take me for a fool?” My mother said, “No Jack, I took you for better or worse.” Things like that. They were terrific people to be with.


My mother and Jack enjoyed to playing the game Scrabble. I’m not sure you’re familiar with that, but they have their own rules. They would take the board for one Scrabble set and then they would take all of the better tiles from two scrabble sets and proceed to play Scrabble using all known languages, factual or fictional.


They would just always be on the lookout for the other one cheating. Because that was part of the game for them, to get away with it. One occasion when I was watching them play this extraordinary form of Scrabble, Jack put down a word that mother didn’t recognize and she immediately accused him of cheating. Jack came up with some cock and bull story about the origin of this word, I think it was Ancient Egypt or somewhere, I can’t remember where it was, and she still didn’t believe him.


He looked at me and said, “What do you think?” I said, “Don’t ask me, ask Warnie.” Warnie is Jack’s elder brother. I went down to Warnie’s study and came back up to the color room in the house. The sitting room as they called it. They asked him to look at this and see what his viewpoint was, and he studied the word very carefully because he also was a writer and a darn good one.


He said that he would penalize Jack a large number of points for cheating and equally penalize my mother with the same number of points for calling out for catching Jack cheating. The whole thing was such a laugh filled atmosphere.


Even when my mother was on the brink of death, the house was full of laughter. But there was sober and somber times as well when she was in pain, that was the hardest thing to take of course, when she was in agony. Some interesting and miraculous things happened during those times. I know one time, my mother was losing her teeth with calcium of her bones through osteoporosis, which is a partial side episode of cancer, most people get it without having a cancer but hers was accentuated by the cancer.


Jack prayed that if there was any way he could be allowed to help with this, and all he could do so. He promptly started to lose the calcium in his bones to osteoporosis and he suffered for the rest of his life. And my mother started gaining the calcium in hers. Now, there’s no explanation for this except for the transfer was officiated by Jesus Christ, my God. That was one.


Then there was another time I can remember when Jack was sitting with my mother and the pain in her legs were absolutely excruciating and she was trying so hard not to cry, not to scream, and Jack told me afterwards that if he prayed, prayed to God that he might be able, at least for a short time, to accept the pain so that my mother wouldn’t have to suffer the pain –


He was praying that God would make him accept the pain rather than my mother. Almost instantaneously, he felt the most agonizing pain in his legs and my mother was free of pain. Those kinds of things are not things you laugh about, they’re things that bring you incredible joy and sudden understanding of Jesus’s presence. I never gave up on Christ when I was being a rat bag kid, riding motorcycles, and getting up to all kinds of mischief.


I never gave up on him at all, but one time, when I finally realized that I couldn’t fix this machine, I handed my life over to Christ completely and it’s been a totally different life. We tend to do all kinds of daft things, but I turn to Christ when I feel temptation coming in my way.


[0:17:03.8] JR: Those years at The Kilns, incredibly formative, and then another time, shares the story, well, people can go read Lenten Lands to hear the full story. After The Kilns, you’ve had such a fascinating career, from radio broadcasting to farming in Australia, you guys had the house where you were ministering to women with post abortion trauma.


Here’s what I’m curious about though, what led to you – I mean, the work you’re doing today, essentially being the chief champion of Jack’s legacy through The C.S. Lewis Company, what led to you focusing so much time and energy on that work, on producing films and plays and other resources that will extend Jack’s legacy?


[0:17:43.2] DG: For starters, when you’ve known and loved the man as a father, as I did Jack. You actually love his works almost as much as the man, and I’ve read most of his work, if not all of them over the years. And then, he dies, and you inherit I think a moral responsibility to take care of his works and ensure he’s not forgotten. Make sure he is still known, still doing good work, even though he may not be there to see it himself, he may be looking down from Heaven, who knows.


But the point being, that there has to be somebody to keep the work going, to keep the work in front of the public, to keep the work expanding and there was no one except me to do it, I guess. I quite willingly plunged into it because I thought that Jack deserved as much as I could give him back.


[0:18:29.8] JR: Yeah, you’ve been doing this work for a while, you gotten to produce a number of films, I know a lot of people listening have seen the films with Disney in the mid – what was that, mid-2000’s that those Disney Narnia films came out?


[0:18:40.9] DG: Yeah, no good asking me. I never did them even though I was in it.


[0:18:45.9] JR: Exactly right.


[0:18:47.8] DG: That was one of the many things with Narnia. I worked with – I still work with Harper Collins quite a lot. When they come out with a new idea to bounce off me and discuss it and so forth. There are publicists of course. I’ve described – it’s just something I feel that God wants me to do and it makes me feel that Jack might be smiling at me.


[0:19:06.7] JR: For all the Lewis work, the C.S. Lewis Company owns the copyrights for all those works, is that correct?


[0:19:12.7] DG: Yes, it is. The words are now translated I think it almost 50 languages. That’s something I’ve tried to promote as well. We probably have, in terms of Narnia, I think we probably have a reading audience of somewhere near 400 million people in different languages all over the world.


[0:19:27.6] JR: That’s unbelievable and incredible.


[0:19:31.4] DG: If you think about it, a lot of years have gone by since those books were originally released, and they were only in English. We speak about, myself and my righthand man, for example, and others in the company, have worked very hard to help them become published in other – the advantage is all over the place.


I remember the one time when I was in an American university which shall remain nameless. It was after I had done a bit of a talk and all the students came up to me in a great mass. One girl looked at me and said, “Can I ask you a question?” I said, “Certainly.” She said, “Those Centaurs you have in Narnia, were they real?” I just couldn’t resist. We were almost gravely planed in New Zealand where we shot those pieces and there’s forest around it. You must have remembered the battle scene, the wonderful place we shot the battle scene.


Anyway, I said, “Suddenly, while we were looking out to see if it was the right place to be and we had a couple of helicopters we had flown in over the roads at the time.” I said, “From nowhere, under the trees, we saw these strange looking people coming out…” and finally everybody just erupted with laughter except this particular girl and I just looked at her eyes. She figured out that I was having a go at her, you know? She laughed about it in the end, I gave her a big hug, she gave me a big hug and was all friends, thank God.


She did make a complete jerk of herself imagining that – it’s beautiful because I wish there were really Centaurs that we could talk to.


[0:20:54.4] JR: I know a lot of Narnia fans were really excited about the news we heard recently that for the first time, one company has the rights to produce films on all seven books and that company is Netflix of course. So, what can you tell us about what we can expect from that deal? What is the latest on this partnership between Netflix and the C.S. Lewis Company?


[0:21:12.1] DG: Yeah to be honest, I can’t tell you very much at all. We did the deal quite some months ago and I haven’t heard a word since. I mean, I am listed as the producer, but I’ve heard no word on what they plan to do or how they plan to do it or when they plan to do it for that matter. Looking at things, I don’t know whether Netflix is ready to rock ‘n roll on this or not, but we will find out in due course. I am sorry I can’t help.


[0:21:33.9] JR: I think that deal was done a while ago, right? I mean we are looking at more than a year ago since the deal was executed, is that right?


[0:21:39.0] DG: Oh no, not that long. It was a quite a few months back. I don’t think it was a year. I’m very bad on time but I don’t think it’s been a year though.


[0:21:47.1] JR: We all hope there is news very soon. We are recording this in November, but we are actually releasing this episode the day after my new book, Master of One, hits bookstores. I think some people are really drawn to the title, but a lot of people are intimidated by it. I think there’s this question of how can there be just this one thing that I am going to master vocationally? I found our conversation, gosh, this is going back a year and a half ago about Jack’s vocational, one thing to be tremendously helpful.


I remember I was asking you to confirm whether or not Jack’s one thing was writing but you disagreed with that. You said that his one thing was much broader than that. He was really a masterful teacher and he applied that in different contexts throughout his career. Can you talk about that? Why do you say that rather than writing, teaching was the thing that Jack was most masterful at?


[0:22:41.2] DG: Well I think the writing thing was a product of his teaching, when he found a dilemma right in front of his eyes of some sort, he would start to write down how he would interpret the dilemma in science fiction, or some other form, certainly in The Narnia Chronicles. Other forms, but every single thing he wrote was instructed to us if we wanted to learn it. He wouldn’t force things on people. I don’t know if you’ve read ‘Till We Have Faces. I think it is one of the finest books he ever wrote.


In fact, it was a joint effort between my mother and him, they wrote this together but there are so many layers of meaning in that book. He doesn’t trump you with it all at once. The more times you read that book, the more you’ll understand at what he is getting at and this huge depth within it. The center prize to almost all of his writings, the science fiction trilogy for example, Out of The Silent Planet and Perelandra and the last one escapes me at the moment.


But that hideous strength is right there but those books, they’re teaching books, I think everything that grows out of his fiction turns out to be something to be learned from. Of course, all of his Christian books is mere Christianity and if we take note on all of those are just blatant. Teaching us how to avoid the pits of Satan and how to get closer and closer to Jesus. It is not something that is difficult to read. It is not something that – he is not preaching in any way to people.


It’s just that’s the facts, so he ran out of the end of his pen and formed the words on the page and the result is that we can learn so much from his works and I am still learning from his works. I have been reading them most of my life now. I am getting pretty old. I will be 74 in a week’s time. I mean there is so much we can learn, and I don’t think we can get to the bottom of his writings. More and more information, the more often you read them.


[0:24:26.3] JR: Yeah, so as I talk about in the book, masters of any craft tend to be pretty disciplined people and tend to have pretty steady routines. Jack appears to be no exception to that. Can you talk us through your observation, your living at The Kilns with Jack as your stepfather, what does his day looked like? What did his daily routine look like from the moment he woke up to the moment he went to bed?


[0:24:50.0] DG: Well he got up very early often before dawn as I do because he was probably out of bed at about four, he would go down to the kitchen and make himself a pot of tea and take it through to his study, and there he would proceed to answer the previous day’s letters. He had enormous correspondence from people all over the world. In fact, there are three large books which contains most of his letters, or the ones that were salvaged anyway.


So, he wrote back to anyone who wrote to him, except raving lunatics of course and everybody gets one or two of those nowadays. But he was hugely compassionate with people who had problems, or were in trouble in one form or another, or just sad and dreary, and just people who were desperate to talk to somebody. He was always there to answer the letters. So that was his first thing in the day. He would get up and he had his cup of tea or his pot of tea and probably a couple of biscuits and get to work.


With a Bic pen and a bottle of ink and he never used the fountain pen because the problem with fountain is it malforms and it would become a thing to load it with to fill the ink, in those days, to fill the ink satchel inside it. He would work on until he got through all of his mails, and that might take him an hour. It might take him through lunch time, sometimes it would take him until midafternoon depending on what was happening.


[0:26:02.5] JR: But he would always go from start to finish? He would always finish whatever that correspondence was, interesting.


[0:26:07.6] DG: He would finish what he finished, or I mean when he ran out of letters to answer. Occasionally, he would put a very, very good letter aside for later study or a very, very bad one and say, “How the heck am I going to answer this?” Mostly he would just work on until he got them done. There were a lot of letters, which were of minor importance that came in, and those would go down to Warnie’s study and he’d put them on Warnie’s desk and leave it until Warnie got up.


Warnie would type them with two fingers, one on each hand, but at least they would be more legible than Jack’s handwriting, which is very difficult read unless you are as familiar with it as I am. I can recognize his handwriting, which is a good thing. But it was until he was practically finished and usually that was sometimes late in the morning or up to lunch time or something like that. Then after lunch, he might spend about, I suppose an hour or so reading something that he needed information from or style from or something from.


Then he would sit down and write whatever he was writing at the time and he would write through the afternoon. He would go for a walk about halfway through the afternoon, come back, and have his afternoon tea, which consists again of a large pot of tea and he has lunch of course at mid-noon, a large pot of tea, and many biscuits, about four or five biscuits sometimes, and then he would retire back to his office.


If he had something pressing that he needed to write off, sometimes a writer mustn’t stop. You get to a certain stage at something you’re writing and you just keep writing it until it is finished that paragraph or that chapter or whatever it was because otherwise you’ll know if you have an experience in this and you do, but if you go to bed without finishing it, it may well vanish in your mind and that will be a great loss to you and to your audience.


But Jack would make sure that he didn’t stop at a point that he would lose anything. So, he would often write and sometimes he would write on until late in the evening. Most often than not, he would come down to supper. Now, dinner was around 7:00 at The Kilns, so he was always there if he was in the house and Warnie too, and myself, and sometimes other people but that was more or less his day. When he was at home and when he was at college of course, he was teaching half the day, or most of the day, and writing some of the day.


And of course, they had wonderful evenings, Inklings Meetings in Oxford. Some days they would get together in Cambridge but much less often because it was a long way from Oxford. Sometimes Jack will usually come home from Cambridge University, from Mortland Cambridge, every weekend and he would have a long weekend at home and that was when he would go to an Inklings Meeting or something and be with my mother.


He would spend lots of time with my mother during those very difficult days, very hard. But at the same time holy years that he went through.


[0:28:38.1] JR: What time does he go to bed? If he is up at four, what time is he typically going to sleep?


[0:28:42.1] DG: He would still be up by about 10 and then probably sleep about 10:30 and I know that because I would be in my bedroom upstairs, which had been his once and I would have a light on. I would be reading. He would come out of the backdoor of The Kilns and come around the steps that lead up to the balcony outside of what was now my bedroom and he’d shout, “Lights out darling!”


So, I’d then turn the lights out quickly and shout, “Yes Jack and good night Jack!” And as soon as he was gone, I would sneak the light back on again and read more pages or whatever the chapter was on the book that I was reading. It was a wonderful place to live –


[0:29:15.9] JR: It was one of my favorite places I have ever visited. It is such a – I visited your bedroom and Jack’s bedroom.


[0:29:22.7] DG: Well that was only my bedroom at one time. I slept in almost every bedroom in the house, with the exception that I never slept in what would have been my mother’s bedroom. I didn’t want to do that. But I slept in what is now called The Music Room. I slept in the room off the kitchen which was my bedroom for quite a while. I slept upstairs in the room that had been Jack’s study. I slept in Jack’s bedroom later on. So, I really moved around the house at different stages quite a lot.


I am not sure why at this stage, but in my bedroom off the kitchen – I was always a messy kid. There were always clothes all over the floor and bits and pieces of junk because I was building or whatever – and I was suddenly lying on the bed and reading a book. I suddenly heard a voice inside my head that said, “Look at the ceiling.” I looked up. I saw a square about two yards of square of the ceiling falling, moving its grip on the rafters, and starting to come down.


And I was off the bed, across the room, and out of the door, and into the kitchen before the rafter hit the bed. It had slipped under that patch because you are going to see that it is cracking around the edges again. I thought that we had better move the bed next time anybody stays at The Kilns because it might come down again.


[0:30:28.8] JR: Wow, well for our listeners that haven’t been to The Kilns, you really do have to go visit. It is an exceptional place. You already know this because you have seen the advance copy of Master of One, but in the book, I take on the “Christian film industry,” pretty strongly, right? Arguing that entertainment that is made by the Church and for the Church is seeing by basically nobody outside of the church.


[0:30:51.0] DG: I have been saying that for years.


[0:30:52.6] JR: Yeah, I like telling this because everyone has to know – you haven’t seen the – so why don’t you talk about this, well we talked about –


[0:30:58.1] DG: Well it’s also an awful lot of books are written with a Christian theme and advertised by publishers and other artists as being “the new Christian novel,” or whatever. The problem is nobody is going to read it except the Christians. It is simple, you don’t go to see a Christian movie unless you are a Christian. What we need is movies like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which is not a Christian movie, but it has some hugely powerful Christian messages build into it, as do most of Jack’s works.


I think that it is essential that the so-called Christian movie industry simply close up shop and go away and let those of us who are really dedicated to Christ make movies that aren’t advertisable as Christian movies, that you will learn about how Christians think, how Christians work, or how they should work, and so on, simply by watching these movies. I know a lot of movies that have done that in the past and I hope there will be a lot more in the future.


Because it is the only way you can get people to really understand what Christianity is all about. I have seen some fabulous movies. One of the best ones that I thought that I have seen is I Can Only Imagine, taken from a beautiful song. It makes me cry every time I hear it. I think that is the sort of movie we need. It is a Christian movie in a sense but it isn’t in another senses and there is a way that –


[0:32:14.7] JR: It is isn’t in a sense – and I haven’t seen the movie – but I have heard that it is well done and that is the point I am making in Master of One. When we prioritize preaching our message above mastery of our craft, we usually end up with pretty bad cultural good, that aren’t as human to anybody, right?


[0:32:31.9] DG: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. We do. If we stop trying to preach to our movies deliberately, why not let the movie tell its own story in a way which will project not preaching so much but the fact of what happens when you become a Christian?


[0:32:46.2] JR: I think a lot of people are going to struggle with this because you say The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe is a not a Christian movie. It is not a Christian book and I agree. It is pretty clear that Jack was not intentional about writing a “Christian allegory” but the film reveals truth. The film reveals goodness, the film reveals the gospel, how does that happen? How did that happen in the life of Jack? Like when he sat down what was he trying to accomplish in writing that book, if not to explicitly or implicitly preach the gospel?


[0:33:16.7] DG: Well if we can start by saying that the Christianity in it was not deliberate. He didn’t set out to write a Christian book as we say. We were having a discussion with J.R. Tolkien on stage about children’s books that were being written at the time, they were discussing, this would be in the late 40s or mid 40s and they both decided that the children’s books being released to the public at that time were absolutely rubbish.


There is no way either of them would have wanted to have read those books when they were children. So, eventually they decided that they would have a go themselves and Jack eventually came out with The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, of course Tolkien wrote The Hobbit, and neither of those are Christian books. But boy, do you learn about yourself. You learn about what you ought to be, you learn about how you ought to behave, what you ought to do under very, very difficult circumstances being chased by trolls or something.


All of this stuff is there, and it is always in the shadows of it. You can feel the goodness of them in writing that. You can feel the fact that what they’re teaching is not Christianity per se, it is how to behave as a real human being, a child of God, and that is so incredibly valuable.


[0:34:26.9] JR: Yeah it is. In Master of One you quoted Jack who used to say, “We don’t need more people writing Christian books. What we need is more Christians writing good books.”


[0:34:36.9] DG: I remember Jack saying that. Yeah, it is pretty true, that’s what we do need, more Christians writing good books, more Christians making good movies is what we need.


[0:34:45.3] JR: That is exactly right. Hey Doug, three real quick questions I like to end every conversation with. First, which book do you recommend most frequently to others or maybe give as gifts to others most frequently?


[0:34:57.7] DG: Well, it depends largely on the circumstances, but I give away copies of A Grief Observed in batches. I mean really, I’ve got – which reminds me, I’ve got to buy another six because I ran out. That book is so hugely beneficial to those going through the agonies of losing a deeply loved person, someone they absolutely adore and seeing him or her suddenly taken away by disease or accident or whatever. I mean it really knocks you sideways.


And then out comes this book by C.S. Lewis, which probably wasn’t first published under his own name probably under a pseudonym but this description of how you can feel with these horrible circumstances that come into your life and he shows you that you can get through them and come out the other side back to being the normal, cheerful, loving, and loved, human being. That book is valuable. I think it probably should be published in sheets of gold, mind you people would just take the gold off the book.


That is one of the books I usually I give away when I have the need to do so. I must remember to buy some more. I also give away lots of The Narnia Chronicles usually to the children of people I know or have met and have liked. In fact, there is a guy working on my house at the moment in Ireland. I am going to send him a set for his two young boys and it’s just what I do, you know? I also think if I had time I would buy and give away books all the time. I really am very happy to send them.


[0:36:21.6] JR: It is one of the best gifts to give, right? Books change people’s lives. We have this very romantic attachment to books. I remember some of the big turning points in my life are books that people gifted. It is one of my favorite things to give away. So, I ask every guest this next question. I am really interested to hear your response to it. So, what one person would you like to most hear talk about the intersection of their faith in their work?


Maybe somebody in Hollywood, I think you know that world pretty well, who is a Christ follower in Hollywood that is producing really great work that you would love to hear talk about how their faith impacts what they create?


[0:37:00.9] DG: To tell you the truth, I don’t know that many people in Hollywood, or in the movie business outright, it is only the ones that I work with and very few of them are Christian at all. Some were, I think. But we don’t need more Christians making movies, we need more Christians making good movies, it is as simple as that. I think if you ever get to the stage, I think Ralph Winter is a Christian for example, top dude too by the way, a nice guy.


I enjoy his company and honestly on very rare occasions I only see him. We need more people like that. We need more people who are prepared to get up and make a really good movie without saying, “Go to Jesus everybody!” every five minutes.


[0:37:35.6] JR: The last question Doug, what one piece of advice would you give to somebody – so the people listening to this podcast they are pursuing mastery of their vocations, they are pursuing mastery as film makers, as entrepreneurs, as leaders – what one piece of advice might you give that person who is trying to pursue mastery of their craft for the glory of God and the good of others?


[0:37:55.8] DG: Well, I think the most important thing of all no matter what your craft is you are trying to achieve the mastery of, is to use it as a reflection of the master of all of us. He died for us on the cross and he came back. We need to know, and we need people to know in our work, that we revere this idea of the fact for example – there is a couple of things really. For example, love. I think we got this all wrong and love in society. Love is your benefit at my expense, end of story.


That is the kind of thing that we have to get across. It’s got nothing worth ever got to do with sexuality. Sexuality has nothing to do with love. Love is your benefit at my expense and that what he’s done. I don’t think Jack ever used the phrase. I came up with it. But it is what Jack taught, love is your benefit at my expense. We need people who are prepared to go into their great career, whatever it might be, keeping that in the forefront of their mind at all time.


What did Jesus do? He expended his whole life for our benefit and how big of his expense it was? That is real love.


[0:38:53.5] JR: That’s beautiful. I just want to commend you for the exceptional work that you do. Thank you for such being a great champion through the work of your mother, your stepfather. We didn’t even get to talk about your mom, but your mom was such a fantastic writer in her own right. Thank you for working hard to ensure that Jack’s work remains accessible to the world and by the way, even to my kids I have a five-year-old and a three-year-old, thank you for making sure that they are going to grow up in a world filled with Narnia.


Just thank you for your commitment to the ministry of excellence, of writing great books and making great films and producing great plays. Hey, if you want to learn more about Doug’s story, I really truly cannot recommend enough Lenten Lands. It is an exceptional book. How long has the book been out Doug? Has it been a decade? Two decades, how long has it been out?


[0:39:37.4] DG: It was about 30 years now, I think.


[0:39:39.0] JR: 30 years.


[0:39:39.7] DG: It was amazing to me that people keep buying it because it has been on the market for ages.


[0:39:43.9] JR: That is an exceptional book. It was so well written. It is basically Doug’s story but of course, you can’t tell Doug’s story without also telling the story of his mother and of Jack as well. Doug, thank you so much.


[0:39:54.4] DG: I’ll tell you one funny thing, I wrote a book called Jack’s Life as well, which is a biography of Jack, written for children. One of the reviewers said, “I don’t quite understand Mr. Gresham, it is almost as though he was writing for kids.” Which my reply was well was “Well, duh.”


[0:40:12.5] JR: Also, a very short, a very condensed version of Jack’s story. But again, go pick up Jack’s Life and Lenten Lands. Doug thank you so much for taking a few minutes to chat. I always appreciate it.


[0:40:23.1] DG: You are very welcome Jordan. It’s been good to talk with you.




[0:40:27.1] JR: I hope you guys really enjoyed that conversation with Doug. Doug was so kind to endorse Master of One. He really wrote one of the more heartfelt endorsements of the book that I am just so incredibly grateful for. He is one of the most generous people I know.


Hey, if you go order the book right now at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, wherever you buy books, head over to after you made that purchase and enter to win this trip I am giving away to Europe. Thank you guys for listening to this very special episode of the Call To Mastery.


Thank you for pushing through the technical challenges and the poor audio quality. I promise, next week the audio quality will be much better as we record it in Dave Ramsey’s studio. So, you guys have that to look forward to with my guest, Luke Lefever next week. I’ll see you then.